23 February 2015

The Toy Closet (AKA The Best Idea I've Ever Had)

(Embarrassing side note: Please ignore the obvious fact that we STILL have yet to paint the wall behind the stairs. That will be happening with the entire upstairs hallway repaint we hope to do in the next few weeks.)

It's been a while (a loooong while) since I've found the time to write a post (no joke, this one took me a week to write). I miss it, I really do! Life has been a whirlwind filled with preschool, working from home, holidays, crappy weather and sickies after sickies. Most of my days are long and it's usually just the girls and me for 12-14 hours while Jordan is at work. When the girls go to bed, I usually start my work day. Working from home and working at night has left little to no time for blogging. If you follow me on Instagram, you can see how I fill my days.

I'll admit that at mid-February we are starting to go a bit stir crazy. We've had snow, rain, bitter cold, nasty winds, anything and everything keeping us indoors. We try to sneak outside when the weather cooperates (which is rare these days), but often we are stuck inside and have to make do with the toys and crafts we already have. With Christmas came a whole new set of toys, and while they are great for entertaining our kids, Jordan and I definitely had a "where are we going to put all this stuff?" moment. 

Little by little I still try to work on our house. Sometimes it's a simple as Mila takes a nap and I'm zoning out, staring at the wall drunk on no sleep and a caffeine buzz and I get a sudden idea to create a gallery wall in our upstairs hallway. Being at home all day, every day can be a curse for a DIYer like me who is constantly surrounded by all the things I want to change/paint/replace/decorate. Not only that, but having two young kids and being surrounded by toys everywhere was starting to wear on me. You can see in some photos of our living room that we have a coat closet under our steps that lead to the second floor. For the first few months of living here we used it as that, a coat closet.



We also used some of the narrow space under the steps to store extra toys that didn't fit in the baskets and toy box that we had in the living room.



My parents bought us an awesome new console table for Christmas from CB2 to replace the vintage dresser we had against the kitchen wall. That simple swap has started to transform our living room/entryway into a real space and I quickly decided that the toys had to go. Don't get me wrong, I love/adore/cherish my kids, but when you enter my front door I don't want you to know I have them (kidding.. sort of). Jordan and I hate clutter, and kids = toys = clutter. The toys needed a new home.


Since we enter the house through the garage/mudroom, it's really inconvenient to have a coat closet by the front door. Jordan and I agreed that it would be a better use of space to turn that closet into a toy closet. We took out the coat hooks and moved them into the mudroom. We then purchased a few pre-cut, stainable shelves from Lowes (the same wood I used for the fauxdenza) and some simple brackets. Within a few hours of hanging brackets and organizing toys, we had this:


Lucy calls it her 'closet room'. It's beautiful and organized and all the toys with the exception of the oversized ones like bouncer, walker, etc. fit in here. Lucy knows where they go and each night before bed all the toys go back in the closet. It's AMAZING.


There isn't a ton of reasoning behind where I put things with the exception of keeping toys with small parts either up on a higher shelf or stored in zip lock baggies in the baskets on the floor. The wicker baskets hold a lot of Mila's toys for easy access since these days she wanders into the closet and starts digging around. Books, board games and puzzles are grouped together but aside from that, things find their way back on some shelf in some order and I'm ok with that.


The set-up was easy. Because of the slope in the wall, we had to do some quick thinking to make it work and still look nice. The closet simply has a 3' shelf, and two 4' shelves, one of which connects perpendicular to an already existing 3' shelf that I installed months ago. 




The photo below shows the pre-existing shelf. We decided we wanted it to butt up against the existing shelf, which left a gap on the left side. It conveniently worked out that we could use that space to tuck away fold up tents and tunnels. It seemed almost like it was meant to be that way. 


With the exception of board games and puzzles, I like to discard the boxes that toys come in. So if you know me personally you've probably heard Jordan make fun of the fact that I have a freezer bag addiction when it comes to organizing toys. Things like tea sets, magnet dolls with a million articles of clothing, My Little Pony and their dozen hair accessories, and other toys that come with too many pieces are neatly zipped up and put away in the striped baskets. It saved me a lot of anxiety when we had the toy box as I hated the idea of a box full of loose toy parts.


I even added hooks to hang Lucy's Doc McStuffins costume and any of her princess dresses she might bring down for the day. I snagged those lion hooks on clearance a year ago from Anthropologie for $3 each, knowing I would eventually find a home for them. 


Our new home is the perfect size for our family, but it isn't huge. Living in a house without a basement or 'playroom' dedicated to all things toys, we need to maximize our space and do it in a smart way. I really think that the toy closet was the absolute perfect solution to our toy storage situation. It might seem that for two kids we don't have a ton of toys, and maybe we don't. That's sort of intentional as I have learned that too many toys means that 75% of them don't ever get played with. Also keep in mind both girls have a number of toys that are kept upstairs in their bedroom closets as well for days when we are playing upstairs. My craft closet keeps us fairly busy on some of those cabin fever days, too. 

You can see in the first photo we snagged the bench from the mudroom and put it along the steps where I had originally put my Target bench (now in our master bedroom). With the toy box empty, it replaced the mudroom bench to double as storage for hats, mittens, scarves, etc. 


The girls now bring their toys out and play on the rug while I make dinner, do dishes, even clean. It actually makes the perfect little play area.

It feels good to post! I hope this post is the start of more to come. Bear with me. :)

03 November 2014

Mila Jane - 6 Month Milestones



We are halfway to having a one year old! 6 months seems almost unbelievable. I am truly trying to soak up every minute, while at the same time I'm loving each milestone. I'm a little late posting this but I figure better late then never. At least she hasn't turned 7 months yet!

  • Just about 15lbs. Gaining weight beautifully and eating great as usual.  
  • Sits up. Can only last a minute or so before she needs a little bit of assistance, but she's getting stronger each day. 
  • Can stand with mild assistance when holding onto something.
  • Is starting to really like her walker and bouncer. Is sitting in each for longer and longer periods of time. 
  • Really focuses on toys and holding them, grabbing them, and of course putting them in her mouth.
  • Starting to use her consonants - dadadadada
  • Reaches toward people when she wants to be held/picked up. 
  • Very clingy to mommy.
  • Less drool (woohoo!), but no teeth yet. Has starting chewing her tongue a lot, so I'm thinking they could be on the way.
  • Loud, loud, loud! Squeals and shouts.
  • Best laugh ever. Her laugh is so genuine and hearty. I don't remember Lucy's laugh being so 'real' at this age. I love hearing it several times a day. 
  • Eats rice oatmeal each night for dinner. Otherwise breastfed. 
  • We've tried 4 solid foods so far (squash, banana, avocado, apple) and she doesn't like anything! She doesn't even want to taste when she sees something other than cereal on her spoon. I even tried mixing with cereal, breast milk, etc. Girl doesn't want anything but milk and oatmeal.


21 October 2014

Fauxdenza (Part 2) - Staining and Styling


Our fauxdenza is finished and we couldn't be happier. In the last post, I showed you how we built the cabinets and hung them along the wall in our kitchen. 


For fun, let's rewind even more and see how things looked pre-shelves. Back when we just had a teeny bar cart.


Don't get me wrong, I love that bar cart and it was an awesome thrift find. Unfortunately, things looked so awkward when we just had the bar cart alone because it was so small and that space is so large. We were in need of a larger, more practical storage solution.


Now that the fauxdenza is finished, that side of the kitchen finally looks complete. The fauxdenza looks like its always been there. I can't quite explain why, but that part of the kitchen also looks larger to me, now. I think choosing a narrow storage solution that ran along the length of a big wall was a smart choice over adding a hutch or large piece of furniture that came over a foot from the wall. 

We spend so much time in our kitchen that it feels good to have this project complete. (Now to find time to work on those french doors next..)


So how did we finish it? 

Once the cabinets were hung, all we had left to do was stain and install the top. I found this gorgeous solid wood panel at Lowes. It was made for staining and the design of the wood planks is gorgeous. By luck, it just happened to be 1'x6', the exact measurement of our fauxdenza. (As a side note they also had other sizes with smaller or larger lengths and widths. )


Once I saw the planked design I was sold and you couldn't convince me to get a piece of wood cut down to size. Here is a closer look at the design of the wood, pre-stain.


And how things look mid-stain. The color I chose was Rust-Oleum American Walnut. I wanted something that would compliment the kitchen table set and my usual go-to for all things stain (dark walnut) just wasn't going to cut it here. I needed a warm, red tone. This is actually the color I should have done our dressers in our bedroom to better match the nightstands, but oh well. 


Three coats of stain and two coats of polyurethane (with a very fine sand between, this is key) was all it took before the top was finished. I couldn't wait to put the top on and start filling up those cabinets and styling the top. We decided right away that this was going to serve as a bar in our kitchen.


We opted not to add wood pieces to the sides of the fauxdenza because we liked the look of a single wood top better. For the look of our kitchen the wood sides would have been too much. The styling of the fauxdenza needs some tweaking, but for now I'm happy with how it looks. I also love the pop of color from my Honey Lake Studio print. 


To prevent drips from ruining the finish of the wood, I'm storing all our bottles in this metal tray I scored from Target a few months back. I'm excited to finally get to display some of my pretty glassware from Anthropologie.


A big pro to having this fauxdenza is that we now have a lot of additional storage space in our kitchen. I wanted to be able to store glassware and other bar accessories in the same area as our 'bar' as opposed to keeping them in the dresser in the adjacent room. Now we finally have everything in one place. 


You can see the vast amount of storage we now have. I'm not done filling those shelves, yet, but I was happy to clear our cookbooks off the top of our fridge and to be able to tuck some of the lesser used bottles away.


Yes we have a lot of booze, but Jordan and I both work (well I used to work) in the booze industry. In the words of Bethenny Frankel "Booze bought this house." So for us it's totally appropriate to have a piece of furniture dedicated to our booze.  


A few shots of the beautiful wood top, because I'm pretty proud of my stain job here. I have definitely improved my staining skills since tackling the dressers. This top is so much smoother and looks so much nicer than my last project. As I mentioned above the key is a good, fine sand between poly coats. Makes a huge difference in the feel of the finish.


Many of the tutorials I read used a veneer edging on their wood tops, but we liked the look of the raw edge and decided to keep it as is. 


I'm still deciding if I want to keep the shelf and frame on the wall next to the french doors. The hooks are convenient for holding the dog collar and leash, but I'm wondering if it looks too cluttered now with the fauxdenza. We are also still contemplating installing a long shelf above the fauxdenza to store some of our pretty glassware. This would mean we would need to find a new home for our painted canvas.


What do you all think? Keep the painting or install a shelf? Keep the small shelf or find a new home?

09 October 2014

Fauxdenza (Part 1) - Building & Installing the Cabinets

I hope you're ready for a photo overload because this post is jam packed. Side note: if you don't already, but sure to "like" A Simple Kind of Life on Facebook (link to the right). Throughout this process I was posting sneak peek shots of our progress. I also often share behind the scenes photos that don't make to the blog and sometimes not even my Instagram account.


Part 1 of our fauxdenza DIY is complete. We have all three cabinets built and hung securely on the kitchen wall behind our table. We still need to stain and install the wood top, but I wanted to share our progress so far. Tuesday was fauxdenza day in our house. My mother in law took the girls for a few hours so we could tackle the project.


The cabinets themselves were actually very easy to assemble and with us doing them together, took no time at all. We did not attach the doors or insert the shelves at this point as we needed to hang them on the wall first.


Once the cabinets were together, it was time to hang. We purchased a suspension rail from Ikea to mount the cabinets. Each cabinet measures two feet wide, totaling 6 feet for the entire fauxdenza. The suspension rail is about 80" wide so it needed to be cut down.


Since our floor isn't smooth we stacked the cabinets vertically so we could line the suspension rail up against the cabinets and mark where to cut. Our reason for measuring against the cabinets and not just cutting at 6 feet is that we wanted the rail to be slightly smaller than 6 feet so you wouldn't see it from the sides of the fauxdenza.


Ikea suggested using a regular manual saw to cut the suspension rail, but we quickly saw that option wasn't going to do the job. Instead, Jordan used a scroller saw and with the exception of a few hiccups where the blade came out, the saw worked great and was pretty quick to cut the rail.


With the rail cut, we now needed to decide the height that we wanted the cabinets so we could measure where the rail was going to have to be installed. Because of the length of the fauxdenza (6 feet), we lucked out that we were hitting 4-5 studs in the wall meaning this was going to be pretty secure. Using the instructions from Ikea we marked out the spots on the wall and prepped to hang the suspension rail.


That's when we hit a bump in the road. We always have a bump in the road with every big project we tackle.

Drill round one. 


Whoops. Apparently when I took photos of our mudroom progress I forgot to plug the drill charger back into the wall to charge the battery. That and the backup batter was already dead. It wasn't long before we realized that our progress was stuck and we didn't have enough juice to install the anchors for the rail. After a lunch break and the realization that it was going to take several hours to charge the drill enough to do what we needed, Jordan decided to run to Lowes and purchase a drill that could be plugged in.

Drill round two = success!


After hanging the suspension bar we attached the cabinets, using Ikea's instructions. Once all three cabinets were hung, we noticed a slight gap between the the middle and right cabinets. This is when we realized that our wall isn't completely flat. 


The gap was too big to just let be (we wanted it to look as seamless as possible from the front so you couldn't tell that it is actually made of three separate pieces), so we opted to adjust where it would be easier to hide.


We lifted the suspension bar away from the wall until the cabinets were flush. It looks like a huge gap, but it's actually less than an inch (about .75"). We briefly considered shimming the gap with some wood, but because the rest of the cabinets are so secure, we didn't feel it was necessary and also didn't want people to see the wood looking sloppy. The screw is long enough that it is still very secure into the wall, plus it hits an anchored stud for extra support. In addition, there are 5 very secure screws along the rest of the fauxdenza to hold it in place on the rail. 


As you can see the results were much better. The Ikea cabinets came with screws so you could screw side by side cabinets together in the inside, also tightening any gap that may show between. 


Once finished the cabinets looked great and smooth.


Here's a shot of how our kitchen looked most of the day while we tackled the project. 


The last two steps were inserting shelves and installing the doors, both of which were fairly simple and straightforward. This is the point where we decided to call it a night. It was past dinner time and the kids were home at this point.



So you can see where we stand with the fauxdenza. It already looks amazing and I'm excited to finish the top, fill those shelves and style the storage unit.



This morning I stop by Lowes and picked up all the supplies needed to finish the fauxdenza. I'm hoping to finish this weekend with results first thing next week. 


What do you all think so far?