Playroom Makeover

When Thomas was born, the office transitioned into an office and a space for his equipment to hang out so it wasn’t in our main living space. As he started playing more and more, the office became half playroom/half office, and it worked alright. It wasn’t pretty, but it was functional.

This summer, we added the baby equipment back to the playroom mix and it was no longer functional…and far from pretty. So one night two weeks postpartum when Mr. B was at school and Nell was actually asleep, I moved furniture around. And by around I mean from all over the house into the room, out of the room into different rooms, out and then back in.

My thought process was: 1) We still need a small corner devoted to the computer because I still work from home and B needs a space to study and do homework, but for where we are in life right now, a fully dedicated office space just isn’t the best use of our square footage. 2) We need open floor space for playing with cars and trucks and big puzzles. 3) We need a sturdier table for craft projects and puzzles and 4) If it could all look somewhat nice, I’d be happy.

Being that I was two weeks postpartum on unpaid maternity leave, this needed to happen for a budget of $0. Okay, more realistically, it needed to come in under $50 a month (the amount that I allocate to spend on the house each month in our envelope budget). I came in at $62.99 for the whole makeover…not bad.

Before, it was mostly office with a little playroom mixed in. It was okay, but the furniture wasn’t so much my style now as it was 5 years ago when we bought the house.

Now? Mostly playroom with a little office.

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My desk got moved to the wall closest to the archway – sometimes it housed the leaning bookshelves, sometimes it was empty. 

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The new table and stools I found on Craigslist for $50. They normally retail for $300 for the table and $150 for the benches. They were honey oak, but a few cans of paint (that I already owned) fixed that. It’s a much sturdier table, and it’s big enough that I can sit on one of the benches to finger paint with Thomas or work on puzzles with him.

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Recognize our banquette? I wanted a storage bench in the playroom, but given the budget, I was going to have to wait awhile on that. While I liked the softness the banquette added to the kitchen nook, I didn’t like the practicality of climbing in and out of a bench. So I just slid it into the playroom, tried it in a few spots, and settled on it below the three square windows. It makes so much more sense in this room for our lives right now.

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Most importantly, there’s lots of floor space. For doing puzzles:
Shooting hoops:

 And growing up way too fast:

 That’s our playroom as it stands today.  I like it a lot, it’s a drastic improvement over where it was. We spend most of our time in this room when we’re not outside, so it needed to be functional and make me happy. For zero-ish dollars. Mission accomplished. What do you think?

The Never Ending Office Saga

I’ve been working on finally (it’s been in progress for a year) getting the House Tour page of the blog up-to-date. And in doing so, I realized I have no pictures of our office/playroom since long before it was a playroom – and long before I actually used it as an office on a daily basis. For the first 3 1/2 years that we lived here, our office was pretty much just a deadzone – the unused space. But as our family grows – and now that I work from home – we’re using up every inch of our 1900 square feet.

Disclaimer: This is my least favorite room in the house, and the room that T and I spend the most time in during the day.  I’m just sharing the pictures because it represents reality right now, not because I’m proud of the space.
When we moved in, this room was pretty much the only room that we didn’t have hand-me-downs to fill, so it was one of the first rooms we purchased furniture for – a black writing desk and two black leaning bookshelves.If we’d waited even six months to buy furniture, I can almost guarantee we wouldn’t have picked the furniture we did. What’s the problem then? It’s been 5 years, just upgrade. Well, Mr. B does love it. And we’re a team, so his opinion matters. 
When I started working from home, my mom and I made the giant pinboard. I love the pinboad…and that’s about it.  But anyway, this room isn’t on the top of our priority list to change, so this is how it sits for now…

After Thomas was born, the office morphed into an office/playroom. The entire bookshelf on the left is home to Thomas toys now. I rotate toys about once a month between the playroom and storage in the basement to keep the toys we have fresh and interesting – and to prevent toy overload on the mainfloor of our house.

Santa brought Thomas this table last year for Christmas – I have a hunch Santa shops at Swedish super stores. Santa also customized it with blue paint and a chalkboard surface – but Santa didn’t wait long enough between primer and paint and as a result there’s a lot of surface peeling happening, so the table needs to be completely redone…or we just need to get a new table. I don’t love the table overall – it’s really lightweight and the chairs tip easily as T’s climbing in and out of them, but it does the job for now.

So that’s how the office looks right now. I’d love to go the direction of a more built-in desk setup under the square windows where both Mr. B and I can work when we need to – with concealed storage and lots of floor space for TMac to play. But we have to juggle our wants with practicality – like how long we’ll live here and what impact a new baby will have on our use of space.

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Pinspiration…Depending on Who You Ask

I repined this picture via Sarah on Pinterest last night and showed it to Mr. B.

Me: This would be PERFECT for our office/playroom.
B: Looks nice.

[30 minutes later.]

Me: Seriously, this wouldn’t be that hard. Basic desks on the far wall with some storage, an art and puzzle table for Thomas in the middle, a cute little window seat under the window for toy storage and lots of floor space for playing.
B: [Pointing at the black writer’s desk and leaning bookshelves that we currently have in our office] What would we do with these? 
Me: Craigslist?
B: I hate Pinterest. Worst invention ever.

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I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it used to drive me crazy that there was only really one configuration for my living room. I’m used to changing furniture around on a monthly – sometimes weekly, basis. But I finally realized that there were more options – sure, the sofa can really only be situated in two locations, but the accent furniture? The possibilities are endless. So, because I was feeling the need for change, I replaced the big green chair with the two cane back chairs I redid two years ago. Our living room now has realistic seating for 6. Warning: I did not clean up before taking these pictures. There was time for one or the other, and the ol’ blog was feeling a little neglected.

 Do you love Casco’s toy box behind the chairs? This is real life, people. Glamourous.

IKEA’s finally in Denver. And I love me some IKEA. But now that it’s here, I’ve had a heart to heart with myself. I said “Self, IKEA’s great for cheap basics. But you don’t want your house to look like an IKEA ad, so don’t go overboard.” But that black and white Stockholm rug? I’ve been eying it for four years. And it now belongs to me. 

And because IKEA rugs are inexpensive, I picked up a white cotton rug for the dining room. You know, so the chairs now actually fit on the rug.

Baby socks and golden retrievers. Real life.

So. the beloved big green chair now resides in my office/B’s study zone/Thomas’s playroom and physical therapy room. T and I read books on the big green chair before his afternoon nap, and B will sit there and read his textbooks to keep me company if I’m working after Thomas goes to bed. It’s working out well, even though aesthetically this room is not anything to be proud of. But sometimes, you just have to go with what works for your family’s needs at the time. And my baby needed a mat to practice crawling and falling on in our hardwood floored house.

So that’s the latest around here.

Office Space: Inspiration

So, I went back to work in September.  The first week was tough, but I’m very good at compartmentalizing my life so when I was at work, I was at work – not dwelling on what I was missing.  But, my job was not my dream job and I knew that if I was going to be working, I should be doing something that I loved.  At the end of September I was offered an opportunity to work in the Marketing industry I love part-time.  It just so happens to be from home, as well.  It’s kind of like the stars aligned for me – working in a job that I love, part-time so that I can spend more time with Tommy but keep myself in the working world, too.
Tommy’s still going to daycare – I need to focus on work and that’s difficult to do when tending to a 4 month old.  Plus, we love our daycare situation and feel very lucky to have found it – you should have seen me the day we told our daycare family that we’d be going from five to three days a week.  I was a wreck – and Mr. B did all the talking.

So, I’m returning some of my attention to our home office.  Because I spend at least 3 days a week – and some naptimes and evenings – in the once ignored room.  Anyway, I was looking for inspiration and found Emily’s (great name) office at Jones Design Company

What I love about this is that it makes such a graphic statement without much of an expense (you know, other than days of your time).  I love that Emily has a black desk like I do.  I love that she left floor space – I’m always tempted to float our desk and it never looks right. Mr. B hesitated when I showed him this and mentioned that it was a bit “girly”.  I was caught up in a daydream of a room that was all mine – forgetting B studies in the office – so girly worked for me.  So, we won’t be going this exact route, but it’s still inspiration. I want a graphic statement, a workable floor plan and a place where I can focus on my work.
So that’s what’s on my mind when I’m not tearing out pictures of kitchen banquette seating and hanging out in the lumber aisle at Home Depot.  Any office inspiration pictures I should see? 

How to Accessorize Bookshelves

Bookshelves are tricky. But I finally found a system I like for decorating them. And I thought I’d walk you through the two year process it took me to get there. First, an after:

All I knew when I decided the shelves needed work was that I didn’t like bookshelves crammed with books. And Mr. B doesn’t read for enjoyment and I try to use the library (except right now because I owe $0.80 and I hate the shame they make you feel when you go in to pay your fine), so we don’t have a lot of books laying around anyway. But I also don’t like shelves crammed with things.
How did I know this? Oh, it took trial and error.

It was a nightmare. I cannot believe I allowed people in my home just a year ago with things looking like this.
The first thing I tackled was the amount of stuff. My mom helped me with the organization piece last fall while I was unemployed. It is our study, afterall, so storage couldn’t be ignored. We replaced the college plastic bins we still had with black storage boxes, assembled the chartreuse magazine holders and file boxes I already had, and mostly just pared down. Translation = toss the crap.
But I still didn’t love our study. And the main reason for that was the bookshelves…which just pissed me off because we’d spent money on them (another reason why I’ll never buy furniture without living in a new space for a few months first) and I’d spent all 2 weeks of unemployment trying to like them.
I had to love them again. And the only way I decided I could do that was if they worked together as a cohesive team – and not flanking the desk like I had always arranged them. Luckily, the little wall in our office was just the right length to accommodate the ladder shelves.
I promise you the only change I made before taking this photo was to remove a few dust bunnies – this new setup is totally liveable.
Then I reordered the shelves. The big black boxes and printer on the bottom shelf to blend in with the unit more. The lighter and less bulky pieces on upper shelves. And mostly, open space. Shelves need a little room to breathe.
So here’s what I know about how I like my bookshelves:
1. Love where the physical shelves are. They need to work for you aesthetically as well as functionally.
2. Commit to your shelves not being a dumping ground – they serve both a useful and decorative purpose, find the balance and stick with it.
3. Figure out what that purpose is. Are these in your dining room? Maybe you want them to serve as decor and a functional drink station. Family room? You might need to work some entertainment electronics in. Study or Home office? Storage is going to be a big deal.
4. Don’t fill every square inch – everyone likes room to breathe, even inanimate objects. Decide what you need to make the shelves work for your purposes and stick to the minimum. I needed two regular sized file boxes in black, the rest of the things I could pull from around the house.
5. I count 23 non book items on my shelves and 6 books. Math wasn’t my major, but I think that’s about a 4 to 1 ratio of non-books to books. Kind of sad for a girl who’s major was English Literature, but that’s a whole ‘nother Oprah. I think this ratio could work better 3 to 1, but I have to go find some books for that.
6. Pick a theme. In the before pictures, I had just about everything – white, black, green, clear plastic. It was ugly. With black and green being the only two statement makers here the few things that don’t match – like my beloved Maine shadowbox look eclectic and purposeful instead of thrown together.
7. Group like-objects together. The green magazine files would look less purposeful if they were spread out among each shelf, but together they make a color statement. And to take it a step further, I like groups of 3.
8. Mix it up – have some book stacked on top of each others lined upright. I don’t really care about color groupings, but some people do.
9. Be patient, be flexible and be open to things like your husband’s bachelor party golf photo taking up an entire shelf. Any photos of me asking a police officer to handcuff me at my bachelorette party framed in our office? I don’t think so.
Any tips you’d like to add? What works for you?

Double the Fun

I’ve been looking for months for the perfect accent chairs for the office. The white chair just wasn’t cutting it for me camping out in the corner of my black and green office, and I wanted a seating area, not one chair. So the white chair headed upstairs (more on that later).

I had been scouring Craigslist with little luck. I wanted something with classic appeal – something worthy of HW Home – for not a lot of money.

All of these fabulously classic chairs from HW Home.

And then I came across a posting for two barrel shaped cane back chairs. I dragged Mr. B with me to look at them. Not because I wanted his approval – that’s not how this marriage works, friends – but because I’d let my car registration expire and wasn’t willing to risk another ticket 5 days after getting caught zipping through Boulder. I realized later that just because the registration on my car is up doesn’t mean that I can’t drive another car and I could have just taken B’s car. Sometimes I’m not the sharpest crayon in the box. Only sometimes. Oh wait, were we talking about chairs? Sorry.

So Mr. B and I headed to a sketchy part of West Denver. Mr. B did not see how the chairs could be anything but hideous, but he wasn’t along for approval (although I did ask his opinion on the comfort of the chairs since he was along for the ride. I know, I’m so giving). After realizing we were loading them into the car no matter what, Mr. B bartered the guy down from $50 for both chairs to $40. He’s good at that. I’m not.

I got them home and immediately removed the seats so I could paint the chairs. Foam brushes are my new FAVORITE tool for painting furniture. And with a quart of free black Glidden paint on hand from their paint giveaway in July, I got started right away.

The next day I ventured to the fabric store – with either my signature chartreuse or a black geometric print in mind. And I fell in love with the Houndstooth. They also had it in chartreuse, but I figured I’d go classic with black.

Now, I’m not going to be one of those bloggers that acts like they invented recovering the seat of a chair with a staple gun. My mom taught me this trick when I was in utero, and you know she learned it somewhere. I guess the beauty of blogging is that you can pretend you invented an age old trick, but that’s not going to happen here. If you want to change how your chair cushions look, unscrew the cushion, pull out the old staples (proof that stapling fabric to seats is not a new fangled upholstery trick), remove the old fabric and staple the new on in its place.


I love these chairs. They fit the window perfectly, I love the rounded barrel shape and the airiness of the cane back, and I love that I bought two chairs and painted and recovered them for a total of $50. What do you think? And please excuse the beige chest of drawers in the photo above, they’re a work in progress as we try to move our imperfect cottage away from TV trays as side tables.

Office Makeover – Part 2

Hello, there! Did you think I’d forgotten about you? I’m back with part two of our office makeover. We’re not done yet, but it’s in a livable state. And I’m no longer totally embarrassed that this room is one of the first you see when you walk in our front door. There’s a lot to do, but we’ll get to that later.

Let’s take a quick look at the very cluttered, unorganized and purposeless befores:

Yikes. Anything’s an improvement on that, right?

Freckles Chick pulled together two different idea boards for me to work from. She’s amazing. I’m temporarily working from the first mood board because it didn’t involve painting or new furniture and I was facing unemployment at the time of this makeover 🙂

We ended up having to move the bookshelves from the windows in order to make the long skinny room work. Still needed: window treatments, manzanita branches to add height, re-pot the plant and new lamps and accessories.I kept the three memory boards for now until I make a decision on window treatments. I like that the three boards mimic the window, but not enough to keep them. So we’ll see where that takes us.

And, the chair. This chair and blanket held me through nailbiting teenage vampire stories.

So that’s our office for now. No huge changes, but furniture rearrangement and organization goes a long way. What do you think? Thanks again, F.C. You’re one of a kind!

Office Makeover Part 1

Remember when Freckles Chick put tons of time into helping me figure out what to do with our home office? First things first, I needed to find a chair. And while my first thought was to road trip to Utah to get the IKEA chair FC suggested, I thought there might be a way to get that white slipcovered chair without risking my life to an ice storm on I-80.

My mom had this low green chair with modern lines sitting in the storage side of the basement at my parent’s house:

AllI needed was some inexpensive white cotton duck:
And 10 yards of draping, cutting, pinning, tucking and sewing later, we’ve got this:Please forgive the wrinkled, loose slipcover and unhemmed edges – it still needed a run through the washing machine and a quick hemming job. You’ll see the very finished product when I finally take good pictures of the sort-of finished office.

Tackling the Home Office

When I posted the house “before and afters”, I mentioned that my office was my arch nemesis. My blog friend (and sort of neighbor with real life mutual friends) Freckles Chick commented that she loved my office and that it had tons of potential. I commented back asking if she’d lost her mind.

Imagine my absolute excitement when I got an email. It was the middle of a workday when we’d learned that there would be layoffs. Seeing the subject “Hi! It’s Freckles Chick!” made me smile and think, job schmob, I’ve got my blog friends. Anyway, FC wanted to know if she could whip up an idea board for our office. I was very excited. Then, she sent me the finished product, and she had whipped up TWO idea boards. They were amazing, and now I get to make them a reality

Go here to see FC’s awesome idea boards.

So, plans firmly in place, it’s time to tackle the office. Beginning with furniture rearrangement and trashing of unnecessary clutter. It will be a multi-step process.

But, here are the embarrasingly cluttered, purpose lacking and abandoned room befores:

Stay tuned!