Sep 22, 2017

Living Room Bookshelves: Phase 1

As part of our playroom reorganization project, we have new living room bookshelves!

Let me back up for a minute though. In the living room Mike and I always talked about doing real built-in bookshelves on the back wall facing the playroom, just like we did in the nursery, but realistically we have never had the time. We thought we HAD to do custom built-ins because our old house is full or wonky sloping walls and funky angles. All stock bookcases are too wide to fit between the door frame and the walls, so we thought that it would never work.

Then with the playroom redo we wanted to put a bookshelf in the playroom. I realized I didn’t want to buy a new bookshelf for this heavy-use space when we could use one we already had. I briefly considered bringing up the third brown bookshelf from the basement (they were actually a set of 3), but it’s really useful in our basement and loaded with books and supplies. It slowly dawned on us that we should just replace the living room bookshelves with new white ones. Yes they would be too wide for the doorframe, but so were the current brown ones. And then one brown bookshelf could go into the playroom and the other one could go downstairs to provide even more storage space (they are the perfect height for the low ceilings down there). And once IKEA’s new summer catalog came out with reduced prices on their already well-priced Billy bookcase system, that just cinched it for us.

We bought 2 white bookshelves with height extenders and four half doors, one for each side. The doors ended up being a bit of a splurge (compared to the cost of the bookshelves) but I think it’s totally worth it. It makes the whole thing look so nice with the doors on them - it doesn’t look or feel like IKEA anymore. And the ability to hide away the clutter of blankets, games, electronics, etc. is THE BEST. We added faux-Anthropologie style knobs from Target in gray and antique bronze to dress the doors up further. We added four inexpensive LED lights and I am completely and totally in love.

We toyed with the idea of painting the back of the bookcase the same gray as the walls (Benjamin Moore Rockport Gray), but in the end after living with the dark brown here for 7 years, I wanted light, bright white-on-white-on-white. It makes such a huge difference! The room feels so much lighter and brighter now. I hadn’t realize how dark those bookshelves made this end of the room.

I’m not sure if we’ll keep the slipper chair here or not, but I like having a place to sit in this location. It’s adjacent to the playroom, the boys playtime spills out into this part of the living room a lot and it’s also in a direct visual line with the dining room. We sit here a lot and so do guests. I do think the floor lamp is going to be relocated, but I’m giving myself time to think it over. Right now both fit between the bookshelf and the radiator cover and I can still open the doors all the way, but it feels a little crowded.

Also... I titled this post “Phase 1” because this is only the first half of the project. Phase 2 will be the cross bookshelf piece over the playroom doors to finish the look and provide additional storage, using the narrow billy bookcase, heavy-duty brackets, some crown molding at the top and a little customization. We’ve purchased all of the pieces, but we expect this to be a little labor intensive (compared to just putting together basic IKEA shelving), so we’re holding off until after we get our time-sensitive seasonal projects finished outside.

I’m really excited about this - it already looks so good and I know it’s going to look even better when it’s all done.

Sep 20, 2017

The New & Improved Playroom

A few weeks ago I shared the plans we received from the professional toy organizer who has helped save my sanity. We went to IKEA and bought the necessary shelving and bins from our shopping list. While I hate spending money on things we don’t really "need" when our budget is tight these days, this really became something that we needed. For my sanity. For the kids to be able to play. And the best part is that this room can grow with them now through different phases.

A cozy place to read? Check. A place for books and puzzles? Check. Art supplies? Check. Hooks for superhero capes? Check. Enough of the right kind of bins that the kids can actually find their toys? Check. Storage for toys for two boys at totally different ages? Check. A room that’s easy to clean up? CHECK!

It ended up working out that the room looked great with cube shelves 8 across and 3 high, even though it blocked a little bit of the windows, it doesn’t feel too tall. And it’s totally worth the extra storage space, especially for the oversized toys. The saying that kids will only play with toys that they can see is so true - the boys play with SO many more of their toys now that they can easily see them out or in the shallow bins.

We moved one of the living room bookshelves in here to hold books, puzzles and games. It also keeps the choking hazard toys like legos out of reach. Even with the new chair there the kids still pull everything out easily.

I also managed to squeeze in a small metal shelf from the basement for more toys and smaller bins under the windows. We’ve been keeping a lot of Matthew’s smaller favorites in there, easily within his reach. In the corner we have the sword collection all together. I had been searching for a good way to store them and it turns out we already had the perfect container in the room - one of the red stools we’d been using as a table. It’s the perfect size, height and the bars hold everything in while still allowing the kids to look inside and see what they want. Putting things away is a cinch and the stool fits perfectly in that spot.

One thing that didn’t work out the way we expected was the shoe bin on the wall for at supplies. It turns out that between the light switch, thick door molding and radiator cover, the shoe bins didn’t fit on the wall within a reasonable height. However, the space on the floor ended up being just right for one of the old Trofast toy units (the ones we were replacing). So we converted it to hold just art supplies with 4 small green bins for crayons/markers/paint and 1 medium white bin for paper and coloring books. It’s worked quite well actually. The other 3 Trofast pieces have new lives elsewhere in the house - one in the dining room by the back door (with 3 medium-sized white bins to hold sunscreen, dog towels, bug spray, gardening stuff, etc.) and then one in each of the boy’s closets upstairs to hold outgrown clothes (each with two large blue bins). It’s worked out quite well! And the shoe organizers are working out elsewhere in the house to organize papers, school work and supplies.

This room has become a much more livable space. It feels larger, brighter. I love how it’s so easy to clean up and declutter. The boys have more room to play. We love curling up together and reading in the chair (and the chair is really comfortable!). We’re all so much happier - especially me because I no longer have to look at masses of toy clutter when I look in the direction of the playroom! The boys can clean things up themselves too with this design. (Well Oliver can… Matthew isn’t quite there yet.)

Sep 14, 2017

Cape Cod

Our annual family trip to Cape Cod was moved and shortened to accommodate Oliver's new school schedule and kindergarten, but we crammed a lot of great things into a week. Beach time, swimming in the pool, kayaking, hiking, shopping, ice cream, shave ice, fresh seafood. Quality time with our extended family. We stayed in a new location on the other side of town - new places to explore. It was beautiful as always.

The beaches had small cliffs above them, huge dunes and wooded areas to walk through with trails - it was really lovely and scenic.

The beaches didn't have a lot of sea shells. We found a few good ones at low tide in these mud flats, but really the beaches were full of cool rocks.

We found several cool rock specimens to display.  Oliver said he thinks the white ones are diamonds.

 I'm partial to the colorful ones with pink and purple in them.

Sep 11, 2017

The Highlight Reel: Best of Spring & Summer

We've had a few crazy weeks around here. The last week in August we were on vacation in Cape Cod (it was wonderful!) and then last week we started several reorganization projects (like the playroom!), unpacked, Oliver started kindergarten, our regular nanny returned, we've juggled crazy work schedules. I have so much to  once I've caught up!

One thing I've been meaning to share are a few highlights from the past few months. Things have been so fine lately, spring and summer were really good to us. The days were long and warm, we spent lots of time outside. Everything all lush and green, the flowers blooming. There's so much to celebrate and enjoy. Our life has continued to be chaotic and a bit challenging (like Georgia's health declining, a pipe bursting in our kitchen, etc.) but it's been so full of happy things too. I love this time of year.

Some of my favorite highlights...

Matthew turned one!

Oliver celebrated his 5th birthday with a Justice League themed triple layer vanilla cake. It wasn't my best cake design but Justice League logos are really hard to do in frosting. At least it tasted good.

The boys had their birthday party at the zoo (it was a massive combined party because I couldn't handle doing two parties a month apart, so we did one big party in between both of theirs). We had a face painter and it was awesome.

We've gone to our favorite NJ beach. We went to Baltimore for a family wedding and took the boys to the National Aquarium. We've gone to the zoo multiple times. We went to the pool at least three times a week. We celebrated the Fourth of July with a parade, sparklers, fireworks and a BBQ. The kids play in our backyard with each other and friends, the swings and sprinklers get heavy use. We go to the playground. We've caught fireflies at dusk. Made s'mores. I putter in the garden almost every day for at least a few minutes. We take walks. Visit friends' pools. The boys take bike rides with the bike trailer.

It's been good.

Catching fireflies