I stripped! *furniture*

Remember my Goodwill mid-century tables that I discussed in this post?  Well, progress has been made (cue applause).

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After my sad cry for help as to what to do with these small furniture gods, I took the generous advice given and purchased an orbital sander.   We literally just chose a mid-range sander at Lowe’s and ran with it.

I started with the coffee table… Now, as I’d expressed before, I was very, VERY nervous about sanding through the thin wood veneer on top, so I used 220 grit sandpaper and sanded very slowly…

It took a good hour or so, but (wait for it) I succeeded in getting down to the bare wood without destroying the veneer (joy)

Once I’d finished, I examined my work closely and broke into celebratory dance, respirator and all (it was a fist-pumping-Hammer-dance-combo).  And our neighbor saw me.  I panicked and nearly blurted out something about “table dancing!”, but fortunately, my brain caught up in time to stop that little nugget of awesomesauce from escaping.  Instead, I went with the always-smooth, ever-popular “Um… Hi. (awkward pause) …How’s it goin’?”

Right.  Way to get down with my socially-awkward bad self.  Welcome to my life.

Anyways, my original plan was to use Polyshades because I never-in-a-million-years thought that I’d actually get down to bare wood that could be stained with REAL STAIN.  But I did.  So, it was on.

Next, I proceeded to hand-sand the base of the table.  Which took FOR-ever. I literally got one of the short sides done and decided that I’d go the chemical stripper route .

I’d never used chemical stripper before, so it was a little scary for me.  I was wholly afraid I’d do it wrong and be scarred for life.   But, then I did it anyways.

This is the stripper I went with (it claims to be low odor = Bonus)…

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I decided that since I’d already partially sanded the coffee table, I’d start with chemically stripping the end table because I wanted to see the difference between using the stripper and sanding.  I also wanted to be sure that I was making the right decision by switching methods mid-job on the coffee table.  As a reminder, here’s how the end table looked when I bought it (um, forgot to take a shot of the whole thing (mybad), but here’s the top)…

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The main issue was this part of the finish…

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I hoped that stripping the table would allow me to be able to refinish it with stain (fingers crossed!).  The damage seemed to go deep into the wood, so I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to pull it off, but figured it was worth a shot (…I told you… I’m a pathetic sappy when it comes to vintage finds #gottadoit).

I started by brushing on the stripper…

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I waited about 2 hours (the directions said you could scrape in as little as 30 minutes or as long as 24 hours).

And I scraped…

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And scraped and scraped, but found that scraping the rounded areas and details was somewhat difficult.

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And although the directions stated that the stripper remains wet for up to 24 hours, my guess is that these statements were not made in the Texas heat.   Granted, I chose to do this during the polar vortex when it was 85 degrees (In July!  In Texas??!), under the shade of the garage.   But the areas facing the driveway still became gummy and difficult to scrape in that time frame.

So, I switched to the second method recommended on the bottle.  Abrasive pad plus mineral spirits…

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This did the job, but took quite a bit of time and elbow grease.  And murdered a few innocent bystanders…

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And these were the heavy-duty gloves, folks!  TIP: Buy more gloves than you think you need.

I used toothpicks for the little grooves…

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And then (ahem!) a few days later, I gave the table one last scrub down with the mineral spirits.

There were areas where the stripper dried in the crevices…

But I found that simply wiping on a little more stripper was enough to moisten the residue…

…so that it could be scraped out using a very small, pointy screwdriver.

The top of the table looked pretty good at this point, but felt wavy to the touch where that large damaged area was. So, I took the orbital sander with 220 grit sandpaper to it.

I got the top pretty smooth, but not perfect since I was afraid of sanding through the wood veneer.

I lightly hand-sanded the base of the table with more 220 grit in areas where I felt there was still residue. And then went over it again with mineral spirits.   By this point, I had pretty much come to terms with the fact that stripping furniture is a time-consuming task no matter how you slice it.   It’s definitely doable, though.  And I was happy to see that I’d likely be able to stain the table after all my hard work. With that said…

Ladies and gentlemen, if you’re bashful I implore you to avert your eyes….  I give you naked furniture…

(applause! applause!) 

I will say that the damaged spot is still mildly detectable (although it’s hard to see in the pictures)…

The texture is different from the rest of the top and the wood is slightly darker, but all-in-all it’s a vast improvement.   I’m just curious if it’ll absorb the stain differently than the rest of the top.   I guess I’ll just have to do it to find out.

I still have to finish stripping the coffee table, but decided to fully finish this little end table first to be sure it comes out well once stained.  Since I want the two tables to match, if staining the end table doesn’t work out, I’ll paint it, thus there’s no point in wasting time stripping the coffee table if this is the case.  So, I’ll update ya’ll once that’s done.

So anyways, that’s my story… Have ya’ll ever stripped furniture?  Any stories to tell??  Tips??

 

Linked up at: Houseologie, Brepurposed, Anything & Everything, Home Stories A to Z, Lines Across, Sugar Bee Crafts, Home Coming

The DIY Dreamer

How to escape decorating paralysis (Aka: our mudroom is prettier now)

Making decor decisions can be a daunting task, even for the most DIY-driven. I hope that by now, most of my readers know that deciding on decor is not an overnight thing for me. I mean, I’m definitely no expert.   Decorating in my world happens little by little, one project driving the next decision, and so on and so forth.  When it comes to making decisions like these and learning about home decor, it’s been exceedingly helpful for me to observe other peoples’ thought processes.  What drives them and how they look at things.  The small steps they take to turn blankness into beauty.  So, I thought that instead of doing a normal before/after type of post like I normally would, it may be fun to break down my laundry/mudroom progress in a more detailed way.  How I’ve been making those decisions.  Step by step. To the end(ish).   Just on the off-chance that this might help someone else to break out of that decorating paralysis.

So, let’s start with how we left the laundry/mudroom.  Last we spoke about it, I had just cleaned and organized the space…

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Though, I was thrilled to have the space clean, I wasn’t a fan of the multitude of brown tones in the baskets, thus, I wanted to change up the decor. My one challenge was that I needed to use what I already had. No new purchases. I had to make do with the current basket situation.

Honestly, I stared at this space A LOT. Indecisive. Unsure of how to proceed. I’d walk in.  Stare.  And walk out none the wiser.  After weeks of this, I finally reached a point where I said “Okay, Christina. JUST DO SOMETHING.”.

Even though I hadn’t figured out everything I wanted to do, one thing I DID know was that the basket on the middle shelf needed to change.  He was the odd man out on the brown-tone spectrum. The baskets on the bottom shelf coordinated with each other as did the ones on the top.  So, out with the middle-man.

I decided to use my DIY pear art as inspiration and painted the basket with the same green paint as the pears (it’s an oops paint which I purchased on clearance).  Which left this….

Loved the pop of color.   And decided that I was on the right track, though the scale of the baskets on the bottom shelf felt off, so I swapped them.  And decided to try adding some functional art.   I’d seen those laundry symbol cheat sheets on Pinterest, and thought that a nice, framed version would be just the ticket.  I dug through my stash of misfit frames and came up with this….

Obviously… it was brown.  Ugh.  More brown.  Thus, it needed to be painted, but I was unsure what color to paint it.  While I marinated on that, I chose to add some green to the lower left basket.  So, I added stripes…

Hmmm… Okay, okay…  It was okay.  I wasn’t jumping for joy, but I wasn’t completely offended either.   So, I decided to sit on that while I tackled the frame.   I still had no clue what color to paint it, but figured that I’d never gone wrong with white before. And if I hated white, it would simply act as primer for my next color. Win-win.  So, white it was.  I printed out this printable on plain ole’ computer paper…

…set it on the shelf, and moved the white vase to the other side of the middle basket to help balance out the lighter tones throughout the space…

Loved the art, but not the placement.  So, I hung it on the wall..

Much better.   But now, I felt that lightness was lacking on the striped basket. So, I painted the trim and handles white…

Ugh. No. NONONONO.

Just. No.

Upon placing it back on the shelf, I realized that I’d inadvertently transformed my basket into a Kardashian. He was trying just a bit too hard to get attention.  So, I did what any decent person would do.  I apologized to my basket and painted the white trim green.  Then, I flipped it around to the non-stripey side and added a faux sage plant in a galvanized bucket…

Better.  Much better.  Now we’re getting somewhere.

At this point, I felt I was making some progress, but that lower basket on the right was still bugging me with its brownness.   So, I busted out some leftover fabric from my Target-inspired bench.

Problem??

I only had scraps.

But, have no fear… this was a job for (insert announcer voice) Iron-On Hem Tape…

I simply ironed a nice finished edge on the bottom and any sides that would be visible…

And used the hem tape to connect the scraps…

…to basically form a loop of fabric.

…Which would then be inserted into my basket to create a nice, patterned top border.   Essentially, I’d created a dickey for my basket.  Howard Wolowitz would be proud.

I simply folded the finished edge of my fabric over the top of my basket and secured the inner corners with straight pins…

Which left this…

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If you had a longer strip of fabric, you would only need to bond the fabric in one place to form a loop.   Super easy.

Here’s where the laundry/mudroom stands now…

And just so you don’t have to scroll back up, here’s a little before and after…

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It’s so much brighter and MUCH less brown.  Woo-hoo!   Lucas LOVES it.  He walked in there and exclaimed “Did you do this ALL BY YOURSELF??!!”  and “Is so prerry!!”.   Love that kid.

So, seriously, if you’re ever cursed with the dreaded decorating paralysis, my motto is: JUST DO SOMETHING.

What something, you ask? Here are a few ideas to get the wheels turning…

1. Start with a clean slate. I didn’t include this step this time because I’d already done it previously, but clear the area of all things. Then start fresh in putting things back. You never know what ideas may come once you have a blank space to work with.

2.  Collect ANY item you may want to use and set them all in one place.  Basically, shop out of your stuff.   Having everything at arms reach might inspire ideas that you may not have had otherwise.

3. Move stuff around. Play. Experiment. Utilize different placements to see what speaks to you. This not only applies to shelves, but to rooms. Time and time again, I’ve been at an utter loss for what to do with a space, then I simply rearrange some furniture and suddenly, IT’S ON. And I know exactly what to do. In fact, I had this exact issue with both our living room and Lucas’s room. You can read about both of those struggles and the end results here and here.

4. Paint things.  You can always paint them back later if you don’t like them. It’s a simple and free/cheap way to reuse stuff you already have, but make them shine in a whole new way. Another take on this concept is adding ribbon, fabric, or otherwise embellishing items to make them better suit a space.

Basically, the point is to just do something to get the ball rolling until you reach a point where you like what you see.   You never know what little tweak might trigger the inspiration to start flowing.

And, I’ll be honest… these shelves still aren’t exactly where I want them.  I’d like to do something with those top baskets, as well.  Or possibly change them out for something that seems a little lighter visually. I’m still tossing that around. In fact, I’ll probably be noodling with these shelves for quite a bit until I reach my own little happy place.   But, at least now I’m WAY closer than I was when I started.   And that’s something in itself.  Progress… such a sweet, sweet word.  Even if there were a few hiccups along the way (*coughcough*stripedbasket!).   But, hey, that’s the beauty of paint (and Craigslist… people will buy anything. Heehee!).

So, how do you overcome decorating paralysis? Any decor noodling going on in your neck of the woods?

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Linked up at: Houseologie, Brepurposed, Anything & Everything, Home Stories A to Z, Lines Across, Sugar Bee Crafts, Home Coming

The DIY Dreamer

Hey, throw me a throw!

I feel grown up.

I purchased my first throw blanket.

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 Are you impressed? ;)

Haha!  Seriously, I know it’s not a big deal to most… But to me??  Big Deal.

As resident cheapo in this establishment, I’ve always had issues buying things like this because I felt that they weren’t a necessity.  I’ve always admired them, though.   I’ve wistfully gazed at gorgeous pics on Pinterest and my favorite blogs and noted these chic throws which, I’ll admit… I pretty much drooled over.   Then, I wondered what they cost, ’cause let’s face it.   Throw blankets can be pricey.

Time and time again, I’d carry a pretty throw around a store.   Let it sit in my cart for an undetermined amount of time as I mulled over whether to part with my precious dough in exchange for this beauteous piece of fabric.  And always.  I put it back.  Returned it to the shelf.  The guilt over spending money over something extraneous won out.  Every.time.

Now, I’ll admit… I have a few throw blankets.  They’re all hand-me-downs though.  And none really suit our home as it is now.  So, I’ve coveted the newbies.  But never allowed myself the pleasure of actually buying one.

Until now.

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I found this throw on clearance for $13 at Target.  And I was sold.  The perfect color with just enough pattern at a STEAL of a price.  Done.  It goes swimmingly in our bedroom.   The perfect compliment to our freshly painted chair and Target-inspired bench

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I love how throws are like the trays of seating.

Need color?  Add a throw.

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Need texture?  Add a throw.

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Need softness??  Add a throw.

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Need to camouflage greasy toddler fingerprints?? Add a throw.

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A good throw can add style and texture to any room in a very non-permanent, changeable way.   Switch it up, leave it be.   Whatever floats your boat.

So, I did it.  I added a throw.  And I’m not looking back.

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I. Heart. You. Throw. (kisses)

 

 

 

 

Laundry/Mudroom Progress

I need to take Claritin D more often.

It makes me organize. It’s like me + Claritin D = organizational soulmates.

Of course, when it wears off I’m all…

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But for the first few hours, I’m like an organizing, calorie-burnin’ machine of hyperness.

After organizing No Man’s Land, the craft closet and Lucas’s room, I had every intention of taking a little break. Then, I caught The Black Plague (or maybe that’s just me being dramatic) and thought I was dying.  So, I took a Claritin D out of desperation and went from a useless lump on the sofa to the flippin’ energizer bunny for about 2 hours time before the germies caught back up to me, rendering me once again completely useless.

In my drug-induced haze, I decided to tackle the laundry room. I’ve never posted about this space before (aside from a few pics in our house tour), so let’s start from the beginning(ish). After we moved in, I painted our beige walls with a blue-grey Oops paint and then snapped this picture….

But, there was a problem (Imagine the following scenario with the top shelf ONLY like in the picture above.)…

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The original shelf and cabinet were way too tall for my vertically-challenged self (and that’s me on my tip-toes, ya’ll).

So, we DIYed two additional shelves by having 1×10 unfinished shelf boards cut down to size at Home Depot. I primed and painted everything with leftover trim paint left by our builder. We used cute ikea brackets for the middle shelf and cheapo L brackets on the lower to allow us to get the bottom shelf as close to the washer and dryer as possible (they’re low enough that you can’t see them easily anyways)….

This get-up worked much better for us, but over time, the room turned into this…

Just full o’ crapola.

That nasty looking stuff in the large beverage dispenser is old laundry detergent. Once upon a time ago, I decided to be brilliant and poured my detergent in there. I’d seen the idea on Pinterest, and thus, figured it HAD to be genius. Alas, not so much. Turns out the detergent we use looks completely nasty. People often asked (with expressions of poorly-suppressed dubiousness) what the urine-looking substance in the jar was. Then, after a while, the detergent started to separate. I wonder if it’s like hydrogen peroxide where it loses it’s potency if not sealed from light or something. Now, I know that laundry detergent comes in opaque containers for good reason. Thus, ours will forever stay in the store-bought jugs. And Pinterest is not always right. It was a noble try, though.

Instead of being a grown-up and cleaning out the jar in a timely manner, I decided it simply pretend it didn’t exist by hiding it behind closed doors. Gosh, I’m gross. So, it was time. I finally cleaned out the jar thoroughly and freed up a ton of glorious cabinet space.

I went through all the baskets and rid ourselves of unused junk. Most of the stuff just really needed to be put back in their respective rooms. The laundry room had pretty much become a catch-all drop-zone of laziness. Then, I gave everything a thorough wipe down with my water/vinegar spray. I even went so far as to magic erase the smudges off the washer and dryer. Spic n’ span. Oh, yeah.

Then, I put stuff back in ways that made much more sense.

Now that the cabinets were clean, I had room for detergent, bleach, etc, so they’re no longer out in the open. I decided to reuse a short glass cylinder for storage of smaller items instead of a basket because, as previously demonstrated, I’m short.  And could never see what was in the solid basket that was in there before, so I figured clear storage would be best.  I left most of the top shelf empty for when we restock paper towels.

Here’s a full view of the newly clean space….

One basket now stores sidewalk chalk, bubbles, water balloons and other outdoor toys for Lucas, one basket holds batteries, and a third holds things like sunblock and other odds and ends. The top baskets are empty for growth.

As far as I’m concerned, leaving the decor as-is isn’t an option.  The differing brown tones kill me. I’ve said various versions of this statement in SO many other posts…. Mismatching brown undertones is one of my biggest pet-peeves and it’s an ongoing issue in this house. Our last house had a very Tuscan color scheme with browns, taupes, greens, reds, etc. and we had a huge mudroom with floor to ceiling shelves.  I’d purchased tons of baskets to organize them, which is why I have SO many baskets leftover in various tones of brown. I refuse to buy new ones because that’s just a waste, so I’m reusing what I’ve got.

Now, I’ll let you in on a little secret… I’ve already made the decor changes.   I’ll have another post up soon with details.  I just didn’t want this post to reach novel-length, so I decided to split it in half.

To round out our mudroom tour, we have my DIY pear art (the inspiration for which I got here) that I completed pre-blog, along with some fun paperclip hooks that I found on clearance at Target.

On this tiny wall, I simply hung an old mail sorter with hooks for keys, sunglasses, wallets, etc.

For the most part, our laundry/mudroom works really well for us. I’d like to figure out some shoe storage solutions in the future, though. And possibly some hanging storage behind the door to the kitchen (not shown) for brooms, mops, etc.

In any case, I’d say this organizational stint was a success being that Joey’s first statement upon seeing it was “Wow!  Who knew our mudroom was so big?” (Itsnot. Butthanksbabe.).   :)

So, what kind of organization projects have you guys got going on?  Any mudroom revamps?   Anybody else enjoy the effects of Claritin D? :)

 

Lucas’s Room: Organized (Woot! Woot!)

Words I never thought I’d hear our 3 year old say:

“I have too many toys. I want to give them away to the other boys and girls.”

Say, WHAT??

Over the past few weeks, Lucas had stated this proclamation multiple times to both me and Joey. And both of us just stared at him open-mouthed as we wondered who this little guy was and what he’d done with Lucas.

Now, don’t get me wrong… We agreed. The kid was up to his ears in toys. And like many kiddos, he really only played with a few consistently. But, then he stated, “I wanna give ALL my toys away.”

Um… (Insert look of doubt)

So, last weekend, we took him at his word and Lucas and I got going….

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I asked him to put all the toys he wanted to give away into a large cardboard box, and the rest stayed in his toy box. We slowly weeded our way through his entire toy box until we were finished.  I actually found myself stating “You sure you wanna get rid of that?” numerous times.  But he was on a mission.  And incredibly decisive about the whole matter.  So. Strange.

Color me shocked when this is where we ended up at the end of the process….

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Give-Away Box

(And just to clarify the size of this box… It surpassed the height of his bed, although it may not look like it from this angle.)

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Toy box

I moved his dress-up clothes here from the closet since there was so much space.  The foam battle ax was the first gift that my brother gave him, so I made Lucas keep it, though he doesn’t play with it often.

I’ll admit, I held back a few extra toys that I guessed he’d ask for eventually. I hid them in baskets in his closet to reintroduce as “new” later.  And I plan to leave the “give-away box” in the garage for a good month or so just to make sure that he doesn’t ask for anything before we donate them. But, I was so proud of our little guy. He really seemed to know what he was doing. For the small amount of items he wanted to keep, he had good reason for keeping them (“I keep stuffed soccer ball because Mac gave it to me.”, etc.)

Also, no need to think our little man is deprived of toys. The ones he plays with day-in and day out usually end up here….

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Or here…

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(And, yes.  That’s still my reindeer print in the collage wall… Just when you thought our house was de-Christmassed! Haha! I maintain that Christmas in July is totally a thing. As well as Christmas in every other month. ;) )

Other remaining toys (various puzzles, arts and crafts, Legos and train tracks) are stored in/on his Expedit units…

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And in the basket beneath his Map table….

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Ignore the race track… I’ll get to that in a sec.   It’s kind of funny… Part of me thinks it’s really freeing to walk into his room and not be accosted by a giant pile of toys.  The other part feels slightly sad because it’s sort of empty in there now.  Though, weirdly enough, Lucas seems to be really happy about that.  I’m still scratching my head a little on this one, but I’m not complaining either.

Since we were on a roll, I also made major headway in his closet. It started out looking like this…

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And after some purging of clothes that no longer fit, and organizing his remaining toys, we ended up here….

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I FINALLY have enough room in there to fit his giant race track.  I was secretly hoping he’d want to part with it (it was the ONE and ONLY toy I truly hoped he’d give away), but much to my dismay, it’s staying.   Before, it had to live out in his room on the floor because it was too large for anywhere else.  I was constantly tripping over it, it fell apart on a regular basis, and Lucas didn’t really play with it often enough to make it worth it.  But the kid just willingly gave up the majority of his toys, and he wanted it, so it stays.   But now… It’s in the closet.  Heehee! (Glee) 

And since I’m sort of on a toy rant anyways… do any other parents out there wonder why Melissa and Doug puzzles have no lids??  It drives me absolutely batty. Those pieces get EVERYWHERE. Ugh. But Lucas loves them. So, they stay, too. And let’s face it… They don’t devise crippling plots like the foot-torturing Legos.  So, they’ve got that going for them. Which is nice.

Anyhoo, other miscellaneous and out-of-season items went up high in various baskets and containers in his closet, and the only clothes remaining are ones that fit him well (These are only “dressier” clothes… his other clothes are in the dresser).

I’ll be honest…  I’m half expecting him to reconsider and ask for all his toys back tomorrow.  It’s been about a week so far, though, and he’s only asked for his small Dusty “Cropgrover” (aka: Crophopper) figurine, which I fetched for him.  He hasn’t so much as mentioned the other toys even though the box is located in plain view in the garage.  So, I guess we’ll see.

For the most part, I think he’s pretty excited about it…

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And yes, we only take pics in our pajamas.  I swear I dress him upon occasion.  ;)

So, that’s one more organizing task marked off the list!  Woo-hoo!  Slowly but surely, Casa de Spragins is getting whipped into shape.

Finding inspiration in the face of writers block

Any of you guys ever suffer from writer’s block?   I have to say that I’ve been pretty blessed since starting Operation Home in that it hasn’t happened often… though it definitely has happened.  And when it has, I’ve found myself at a loss for how to solve it.    I’m such a DIY-obsessed person that the wheels are constantly turning with ideas for projects to take on and things to do.  But sometimes, just… nothing.   Empty brain.  Nada.

And it’s an inner battle for me because I’m definitely a textbook Type A personality.  I like schedules.   I like reliability.  I like trying to stay with a somewhat predictable posting schedule so that all you lovely folks will know what to expect from my little outlet here.  But sometimes, life gets in the way… or, of course, the dreaded writer’s block.   And I’m faced with the question… Do I find something to post for the sake of posting??  Or submit to the continued silence emitted from my little slice of internet??

Long ago, I decided that posting for the sake of posting wasn’t really my bag. It never really interested me.  I felt like I wouldn’t be nearly as sincere or passionate in writing those posts and that ya’ll would see right through it.  I also didn’t want to complete projects that wouldn’t really work for us simply because I needed something to post about.  That just seemed like a waste of time and resources.  So, I’ve never justified doing that either.

During these timeframes of utter brain blankness, I’ve asked myself  “Self, how on earth do I find inspiration for useful projects that would benefit our family and home in the face of writer’s block?”  Obviously, in the context of this blog, writer’s block also = project block.

So, I started to brainstorm ideas that might help get the wheels turning again.   And, I thought I’d share what ended up working for me…

1. I started a running list.  Every time I’d think of a project that I wanted/needed to happen, I’d write it down.  It didn’t matter if I had writer’s block or not.  Just any time something came to me, I’d add it to the list.  I actually created a draft post called “project ideas” so that it’s right here for easy reference.  Whenever I felt a loss of inspiration, I referred to the list to see if there was something I wanted to knock off.  That way, I constantly had a useful list of projects that were applicable to us and our home.  Upon occasion, the list ran short… Or only contained projects that didn’t suit our budget or schedule at the time. In those cases, I continued with the following steps…

2.  I trolled Pinterest.  Both my current boards and pins yet to be seen.  I looked at my inspiration rooms that I’d pinned.  Examined what I liked about them and didn’t.  Different elements that caught my eye and aspects that would be practical for us and our lifestyle.   I looked at my “Craftiness” board for potential projects, since I’d pinned those guys for a reason.   I searched for new inspirations, DIY crafts as well as art inspiration ideas, etc.   It’s during one of these searches that my alphabet art came to be…

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2.  I went through all of our junk.   First of all, adding a little organization never hurt anyone.  Plus, it also gave me a clear idea of the items I already had, ones I wanted to tweak, etc.   Inspiration City, especially when you had a veritable Monica Gellar Closet to contend with.   This process is how Lucas’s Lack Map side table was born…

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3.  I visited thrift stores.  You never know what diamonds-in-the-rough may present themselves and throw project ideas your way.  I can’t even tell you how many projects I’ve encountered simply by visiting a thrift store.   My spray-painted trays for one…

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My mid-century tables for another…

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4.  I visited my favorite “pretty” stores.   Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel, Anthropologie, and the less-expensive-but-still-totally-droolworthy Target.  When I saw this bench on display, it churned in my mind for several weeks…

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I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  And it was during a period of writers/project block that I remembered the bench that we had in the attic and realized that I could transform it into my own version

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So, visiting the store gave me the initial inspiration, but really, the reason why this project presented itself at the time that it did was…

#5. I RELAXED.  I decided to just forget about it.  To stop trying to think up something brilliant.  To just BE OKAY with the fact that I deviated from my posting schedule.  To just be.  Enjoy our house.  Chill with my men.  Do nothing.  And BAM!!!  DIY Bench was made.  And I have to say, it was a project that improved our space.  It prettied up the view into the bedroom.  Provided seating. Was cost-effective (under $8!).  And was an overall useful improvement in our home.  And it happened because I didn’t force it.  I think this was the hardest lesson to accept, but one of the most important.

After a bit of soul-searching, I realized that (for me) quality beats quantity any day.  I thought of some of my favorite blogs, and realized that schedules don’t really matter.  Some post daily, some 2-4x/per week, some once per week, some every few weeks.  In every single case, I look forward to getting that email notification of a new post, regardless of what their schedule may be.   A DIY diary is a DIY diary.   Sometimes projects get done in quick succession, sometimes activity slows.   Such is the case with inspiration.   We can’t all be geniuses all the time (at least I can’t).   All I can do is be true to myself and do what I can.

So anyways, these are some the techniques that have helped me find inspiration.  I know everyone is different and what works for one may not work for everyone, but I figured this was worth putting out there.  Just in cases (name that movie!).

Before I sign off for today, there’s one more thing I’d like to know… After 11 months of blogging, I realized that I’ve never really asked ya’ll your opinions… What do YOU want to read about??  What topics interest you the most?  Project posts? Simpler decor ideas? Personal stuff?  Any questions you have for me?  Also, what helps you battle the all-consuming writer’s block?   Leave me a comment and let me know your take on things.  I’d sure love to hear read it.  :)

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Linked up at: Tatertots and Jello, Lines Across, I Should Be Mopping the Floor, Anything & Everything Turn It Up Tuesday

A Craft Closet!!

Leaps and bounds.

This is the current position of the closet in No Man’s Land.

Leaps and bounds better than before.

Before, you ask??

I know… It was so bad that you’ve blocked it from your memories out of self-preservation.  Allow me to refresh…

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Let’s take a moment of silence for our closet’s previous state.

Since this point (ofsadness), I’ve organized No Man’s Land and made total headway on this closet.  It’s not done yet, but here’s where we are so far…

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Eh??… Eh????…  SO much better, right??!   (Enter cumulative sigh of relief)

While taking on this project, I kept in mind that I wanted a space for all of my craft supplies as well as gift wrap products and other miscellaneous items.

My goals were:

1. Reuse what I already had
2. Spend zero dollars

So, basically, stay true to myself and remain the cheapo that I am.   And I have to say that I was successful on both counts.

As you can see, I reused this shelving unit from our master bedroom for storage…

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I decided to use it to store gift bags, large and small, as well as miscellaneous knobs, handles and other hardware that may come in handy someday…

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Yet another painted basket that I gave a coat of aqua to, holds my art supplies, glue, spray adhesive and craft paint….

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On top of the unit, I reused a Boholmen dish drainer from Ikea to hold things like iron-on letters, cork tiles, prints that haven’t found a home yet, and sponges. I used the silverware portion for paintbrushes…

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I won this desk organizer at a Keno game at my mom’s house a while back…

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I forgot to take a before pic… Imagine it sans paint smudge.   This organizer wasn’t really my style and I didn’t have space for it on our desk anyways.  So, I decided to use it a little non-traditionally.   I painted it coral with some craft paint, then topcoated it with some Polycrylic to protect the finish.    And then I turned it into a gift wrap station…

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It fits the gift wrap perfectly, along with folded tissue paper, gift wrap scraps, scotch tape, and markers for labeling.   I had an extra slot, which I plan to fill with labels and tags, but until I refill my stash, I thought it would be a good place for my hot glue sticks.

Remember that time a while back that I created a drop-zone behind Lucas’s door?  And I nixed the hook plaque for aesthetic reasons? Well, I saved it all this time and combined it with some leftover hooks from our bathroom makeover

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I painted it with some blue all-purpose craft paint, added the hooks, and mounted the entire contraption to the wall……

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…to create some low-profile hanging storage for scissors and such.   Our hot glue gun got its own little “holster” using a galvanized bucket and some picture-hanging wire…

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Our previous nightstand (which is actually a cd rack) was repurposed for fabric storage…

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I simply turned it on its side and removed the adjustable shelves (they would’ve cut the long slots in half to make perfect squares).  I have to admit… I felt pretty brilliant when I came up with that one.  It’s the little things, ya’ll… ;)   As for the blue buckets… I purchased these about a year ago from Goodwill.   To maximize hanging storage space, I removed the hanging bar and threaded it through the basket handles, easy-peasy…IMG_6312

I’m currently using them to store various odds and ends such as corks, ribbon scraps, paint chips and random crafty items.

Another form of ribbon storage that I utilized was this idea that I saw on Pinterest…

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I just threaded the ribbon onto a pants hanger.   Super simple.

Lastly, above my new fabric storage I placed my sewing machine and sewing kit.

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My grandmother gave me this kit when I got married and I love it.  The pattern and color is adorable.   I actually used this as my inspiration piece when it came to choosing paint colors for the smaller painting projects in the space.

Needless to say, I’m absolutely thrilled with the closet so far.   There are a few more tweaks I’d like to add in the future, but as of now, it’s like a breath of fresh air.  I know where everything is, and it looks kind of cute to boot. IMG_6306

So, I have to admit… right now, I pretty much feel like this…

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Linked up at: Tatertots and Jello, I Heart Organizing, Lines Across, I Should Be Mopping the Floor, Elizabeth Joan Designs, Home Stories A to Z, Anything & Everything Turn It Up Tuesday

TDC Before and After

”Epic

Nanny

Why is it that I feel like I’m either writing about DIY or a tribute of some sort?

Suffice it to say, it’s been a pretty rough seven months for our family. First, the very unexpected loss of my brother in November, then the passing of Billie, our family pup of sixteen years, and now Nanny. My grandmother.

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Wasn’t she beautiful?

She’d had some health issues over the last few years and was in the hospital for the last few weeks. There were ups and downs throughout her hospital admission. And then last Tuesday while I was at work, it came.

The Call.

The fact that it wasn’t completely unexpected definitely didn’t make it suck any less.

A day and a half later I found myself on a plane to New York for the services. And this is where I’ve been for the past 4 days.

I’ve never really talked about my upbringing on the blog (aside from that which related to my brother), but here’s the abbreviated version. I was born on Long Island, NY and lived there for the first 12 years of my life until my dad’s job relocated us to Texas.

I come from a very loud, very large Italian family. Picture My Big Fat Greek Wedding but with Italians. My mom is one of nine and my dad, one of three. Between the two families I have 25 first cousins and 8 second (or is it once-removed?). And we’re loud. Did I say that already? :)

My dad’s parents, whom my brother and I always called Nanny and Nono, immigrated from a small Italian town after my Aunt Sera was born.  This is Nanny’s passport photo…

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Leave it to her to look gorgeous in a passport pic.   She was holding my Aunt Sera here.   This photo actually has a stamp from Amantea on the back, which is the small village in Italy where she was from.

My grandparents entered New York by way of Canada, which is where my father and uncle were born. And they came with nothing. They skrimped and saved and worked to give their kids what they never had.

One of my favorite stories from this era is that my grandparents came speaking only Italian. Italian was the first language learned by my Aunt, Uncle, and Father. When Aunt Sera went to kindergarten, she learned English. And from this point forward, Nanny instructed Aunt Sera to only speak to her in English. And this is how she learned the language.

Nanny was a housewife with cooking skills that could make a grown man weep with joy (Joeydid). She grew her own garden which erupted with ginormous tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, figs and don’t even get me started on the grapes. THE GRAPES. Every year, my brother and I anxiously waited for the grapes to be ready. They were so ripe and juicy that they would just pop right out of the skin. Oh, what I would give for those grapes right now. Seriously. Just one. I’d settle for one.

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Here’s Nanny modeling one of her huge home-grown tomatoes.

Whenever we’d visit Nanny and Nono’s house, we knew to come hungry because… Boy, was there food. And good food that made it criminally negligent to leave leftovers. Actually, this is how Joey earned major brownie points with the fam. He finished off everybody’s plates and became known as “The Cleaner”. I’m told that Nanny often stated (Insert Italian accent) “Joeeey, he eat everything!”. That’s right. The whopper of Italian compliments.

As I got older, I’d joke that you had to lose five pounds before visiting because you’d surely gain it back by the time you left.

Reason being…

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Yup. Pretty much.

I laughed so hard when I saw this movie because it reminded me of my family so much. A friend of mine also shared this link with me, which pretty much nails it.  I was always just so amazed at how Nanny could take the most basic, simple ingredients and whip up a gourmet meal.

When we were kids, Nanny and Nono would come to our house in the evenings, often times unannounced. Alex and I loved it! Partly because we knew we’d get to stay up late but also because it was just fun. My mom would bust out the Entenmann’s cookies, milk and espresso and we’d play board games or sometimes Alex and I would put on shows (that were usually prompted by me). As first grandchild on that side, I LOVED being the center of attention. You’d ever guess that now, right? ;)

Next to cooking, Nanny was also a lovely artist and seamstress. She painted landscapes and flowers mainly. And her works adorned all of our houses. My dad says that she sewed all of their clothes growing up to save money. I remember her hemming my pants and being amazed that there was no trace of a hem on the outside. Incredible! Clearly, she did not pass on her talent for sewing to me.

One thing she did pass on, though, was her thrifty nature. If anyone knew how to stretch a buck, it was Nanny. The deals she found never ceased to amaze me. And she never splurged. Never bought anything extravagant. Never took pricey vacations. She and Nono lived modestly, so that they could provide for their children and grandchildren. Give us things they never enjoyed themselves. They’re two of the most selfless people I’ve ever encountered.

Another thing that I hope to carry on is the value she placed on the items she felt fortunate enough to have. Allow me to elaborate…

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Say hello to my cousin Anthony and Nono… who are sitting with a 41-year-old outdoor umbrella and tablecloth.

Not. Joking. We figured out the age of the set with my grandfather when I was in town last week. 41 years. I remember this set from when I was a small child and it still looks BRAND NEW. As in, the fringe is in perfect condition, the material in perfect shape. No fading. No tears. Just immaculate. And it’s 41 YEARS OLD. 41!

All of my grandparents’ stuff is like this. Perfectly maintained. They were not only thrifty, they never took any of the gifts they had for granted. This is something that I’d love to instill in Lucas.

…Lucas. Speaking of Lucas… Their only great-grandchild. When I was at the end of my pregnancy, they called almost daily. Just to see if there was any news. It was cute. They were so excited. They came to visit a few weeks after he was born and it was awesome to see their faces as they held him.

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Even as he crabbily fussed.

The last time we saw Nanny was last summer. And I’m so glad that we got to spend time together so that she could see Lucas older and get to know his bouncing personality better.

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Here are a few more of my favorite pics…

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nanny pregnant with Anthony

This is Nanny with Aunt Sera and my dad as kids… Doesn’t my dad look like Ralphie from A Christmas Story?

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Nanny and Nono when Aunt Sera got married

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And, of course, a picture of her cooking.  I couldn’t end this post without one.  She just loved it too much.

Nanny was 83 years old when she passed. I wish we could’ve had more time with her but I’m so grateful for the time we did have. She will be forever missed and the great memories that I have because of her will be cherished forever.

A bit of Midcentury table success!

So as of late, I’ve been working on restoring my newest crushes…

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My Goodwill mid-century tables.

And I’m excited to announce that I’ve actually made progress on one of them!  Granted, it was pretty easy.  But still… nothing like a hint of success to lift the mood and get things rolling around here.

I haven’t finished the coffee table yet, but I will say that those of you who recommended an orbital sander deserve a huge thank you. That thing rocks. After sanding the top, and a fast-lived attempt at hand-sanding the base, I’ve decided to try my hand at using stripper for the rest. The larger side table will also need to be fully stripped, since the finish on that is worse than the coffee table.  I’m not even sure if I’ll be able to stain it, to be honest.  The top is THAT bad.  I haven’t actually gotten around to stripping yet (Ahem! Stripping the tables.  THE TABLES.)… It’ll be soon, though.   I get the distinct feeling that Joey’d like the use of the garage back at some point before he’s grey.  Heehee!  My bad.

Anyways, the guy in question for today is the smaller side table….

Ya think I would’ve learned to get the ENTIRE piece of furniture in the shot by now.  Well, I showed you. ;)  Anyways, after cleaning it thoroughly, I realized that there was a chance that the original finish could be salvaged.  The damage was a lot less than I’d previously thought. As a refresher, here’s some of the damage…

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When I examined the damage on the top tier closely, I realized that the finish was still intact for the most part. These were just water-rings. I remembered reading something on Pinterest about using mayonnaise to remove water rings from wood finishes, so I looked it up and learned that you simply schmear mayo on the offending stain, wait a few minutes and wipe off.

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So, I did that.

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And it helped a lot! The stains were MUCH less obvious.  I only left the mayo on for about 2 minutes or so, but I suspect that if I’d left it on longer, the rings would have vanished even more.   And I must point out that the remaining damage actually shows up more in the pictures than they did in person.  I was really impressed by how well this worked.

After removing the mayo, I wiped down the table thoroughly with my go-to water/vinegar spray and tried my hand at applying a little Restore-A-Finish plus Feed-n-Wax.  It absolutely worked wonders in unifying the finish and bringing it much closer to it’s original state.  You can still see some darker areas where the damage had been, but I like it that way.  It adds character and tells the story of the life this little table lead….

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I wrote a full tutorial for how to use these products back when I found my beloved mid-century desk chair, so check that out if you’d like more details on how to use them.

I can’t even tell you how absolutely thrilled I am that I was able to keep the original finish on at least one of the tables.  And I’m even more psyched that it was the table that I wanted to keep the most. So, where did he end up, you ask??

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That’s right. He replaced the little black cabinet in our front room. I never really liked that thing anyways. For now, I’m hiding our modem and all the wires in the painted basket beneath the table. I’m hoping to move the modem somewhere else sometime soon so that the table can stand alone, but in the meantime, I can deal.

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I’d love to do something different with the large storage cabinet now that my newest mid-century love is in the picture, but I haven’t quite figured out what yet. And don’t even get me started on that light fixture. It came with the house and although it isn’t a bad fixture in general, it definitely doesn’t suit the style of the room. It’s on the list as well.

So with that, Part One of Mission: Midcentury Tables is complete. Now, it’s onto the other two. What I do with them will depend on whether or not the smaller end table is stainable.  I definitely want those two to match each other. So, fingers crossed that the damage isn’t all-encompassing. And seriously, wish me luck!  I’ve never used stripper before, so I’m hoping I don’t mess this up. Any tips I should know before I begin?

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Linked up at: Tatertots and Jello, Elizabeth Joan Designs, Lines Across, Say Not Sweet Anne, I Should Be Mopping The Floor, Tip Junkie, Home Stories A to Z, Upcycled Treasures

TDC Before and After

Feelin’ Shelfish

Howdy folks!    So, the last time I posted about Lucas’s Room was when we added a pair of Expedit shelves with a little pop o’ green behind them, which transformed the “play-zone” part of his room into this…

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Back then, I stated something along the lines of “next will be shelves between the units”.  And I’m happy to say that a whopping five months later “next” is finally here!

This is gonna be more of a “before and after” post rather than a tutorial since I was a bad blogger and didn’t take proper pictures.   It all started when I found two shelves on clearance at Target for $4 a piece (marked down from $14.99).  They were the perfect size and color (similar to the Ikea white of the units) for the space above Lucas’s toy trunk.   So, I possessively shoved them into my cart and chauffeured them home.

I threw a few ideas around for brackets, but in the end, cheap won out.   I purchased four of the brackets below from Lowe’s for just over a dollar a pop…

Style Selections 6-in x 1-1/2-in White Shelf Bracket

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I spray-painted them gold with leftover spray-paint that I had from when I created my Target-inspired bench.  I wanted the brackets to play off of the gold accents on Lucas’s toy trunk…

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The pic above was taken about halfway through painting.  After the brackets had cured, Joey hung the shelves above the toy trunk, level with the shelves on the Expedit units…

I’ve thought about dabbing the screws with a smidge of gold paint, but really… they don’t bother me that much.   Once the shelves were hung, I loaded them up with a few accessories that I’ve been saving for this very occasion…

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…A few jugs to play off of the other orange accents in the room, a two-dollar painted mirror from Goodwill to bounce some light around…

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…his little guitar that had been precariously teetering in his closet for far too long, a wooden dinosaur that we brought back from Mexico and some model cars (of course). :)

Here are a few wider shots…

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And just as a reminder of where we started… a before shot taken just after we moved in…

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Here’s a pic with the toy chest lid open just to demonstrate our reasoning for shelf placement…

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There’s plenty of space for Lucas to rummage about his toys without the shelf crowding the lid.

I’m pretty much loving it. The new shelves provide additional storage and brightness and offer a great space to display larger items that were taking up space in his closet.  They also act as a visual bridge between the two Expedit units which makes it feel more cohesive. For a smaller bedroom, I really feel like we’ve made pretty good use of the space for storing Lucas’s toys in easily accessible ways, which in turn, leaves more room for concealed storage in the closet. Win-win in my eyes. Thus, I hereby dub this play-zone complete (for now).  :)

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So anyways, I hope everybody has a fantastic weekend!

Linked up at: I Heart Organizing I Heart Nap Time, Lines Across, Say Not Sweet Anne, I Should Be Mopping The Floor, Tip Junkie, Home Stories A to Z, Upcycled Treasures

TDC Before and After