Aug 22, 2017

Repainted Play House

A while back, friends of ours gave us their daughter’s old playhouse. We painted it aqua and teal with spraypaint and it’s been great. Here it is almost 2.5 years ago, freshly redone:

Oliver has loved it the past two summers and this year Matthew’s enthusiasm for playing in it has renewed Ollie’s interest as well. The only thing was that the spray paint started to flake off. A little here, a little there. A little more. After a particularly bad rain I noticed Matthew came out covered in little bits of paint chips and I knew we absolutely had to repaint it immediately.

I powerwashed the heck out of it, scrubbed it with soap and a bristle brush, then washed it again. It knocked off a lot of  paint. Anything that was going to come off anytime soon had to go.

The teal only had one coat of spray paint on it (vs. the aqua which was aqua on old pink) so that stuck around a lot better. This section really needed touchups and a fresh coat on the table where water pooled from rain.

I decided I wanted to keep the teal parts as they were because it matches our teal chairs. But I let Oliver pick the colors for the rest and he chose bright green for the house and light gray for the inside chairs, door and plant pots. We're once again leaving the roof unpainted because it's already blue and in good shape.

Repainting went really fast. I wasn’t too fussy about keeping the driveway clean since we have to reseal it anyways - I just threw down a few contractor bags and got to work. I also learned from the first time that the easiest way to spray it is to do it with the walls standing up. I think it took longer to scrub the green paint off my bare feet than it did to paint the house. The last step was to put a coat of outdoor clear spray paint sealant on it while Mike took the kids for a bike ride to keep them away from the toxic cloud. (That stuff is nasty and floats around!)

Here’s the playhouse put back together:

(also ignore how dirty our driveway is! We've had a ton of rain that's washed a lot of mud/mulch/grass down the slope away from the house and then I took these pictures before I cleaned the driveway of the paint flecks!)

The kids are thrilled. They've been playing in it together every day now for a couple of weeks. And I’m just glad no one is coming out of it with little bits of paint stuck to them anymore...!

Aug 16, 2017

Oliver’s Room Rearranged and Reorganized

When the toy organizer came to our house, she also made amazing yet simple recommendations for Oliver’s room (see his room before here). To start, she urged me to swap the dresser and the kitchen set to open up the room and make it feel less crowded. She said simply, “a room feels cramped and closed-in when furniture touches.” It makes so much sense! So we swapped the pieces around and I moved the mirror behind the door - the room does feel more spacious now.

The organizer also had some great recommendations to reorganize Oliver’s toys. Everything is more easily accessible and cleaning up is faster and easier. We condensed the books, made more room for toy baskets. Oliver’s collections brought together. Action figures together, little toys that aren’t baby safe together. Role playing toys together. In the cube shelf there’s now a cube for art supplies all together, games and puzzles together, little toys together. It’s hard to show well in pictures, but everything suddenly fits better, flows better. It’s easier to get things out to play, it’s easier to clean up. (Part of why we get so frustrated with the playroom is how much better the bedrooms now function!)

We added a much needed reading light to Oliver's nightstand - it's something we meant to do for a while but I wanted to find "the perfect" one. For now he has a small light that was in our basement until the right one comes along (and it's made such a difference for reading stories to him at bedtime! How did we ever live without one there?!).

Also adding the big mirror on top of the dresser (that used to be where the map decal is) helps to make the room feel larger and brighter. I leaned Oliver's little treasure shelf against it to keep all the tiny toys away from Matthew's eager hands.

Oliver is so tall now he doesn't need the step stool to get onto his bed, but we keep it in here so he can reach things on top of his dresser or on the bookshelves higher up. Matthew likes to use it to climb onto Oliver's bed too, so we keep it there. They spend a lot of time playing together in here.

Aug 14, 2017

The Nursery Rearranged

Last week I shared the recommendations for our playroom from the professional toy organizer. She also made awesome recommendations for the boys room that were simple, easy and only used what we already had. I implemented these recommendations right away and it made such a difference! First we rearranged Matthew’s room to give him room to play. I can’t believe we never did this before - especially when Oliver was in here and had moved to a toddler bed. It’s so simple, and yet it creates so much more usable space. All we did was move the crib to the corner where the rocking chair used to be and the put the rocking chair to the foot of the crib. It's so simple it's embarrassing.

The old layout (with the crib centered on the wall) was ideal for a baby that needed nighttime feedings and only used the room for nursing, sleeping and changing. This new layout is ideal for a toddler - there’s now room to sleep, read books in the chair and play. Matthew can pull out books and toys from the baskets on the bookshelf shelves. We also added a lamp to the bookshelf as a reading light, it makes the room a lot cozier - I never realized how important task lighting was until we added it in (how did we live without it?!).

The storage ottoman and the baskets contain the toys. The room cleans up really fast, which is so important for my sanity. (And it’s the biggest problem we have with the playroom - not enough storage so the room never really gets cleaned up!) While there isn’t enough room for Matthew and Oliver to really spread out (most of their playing happens in Oliver’s room), the fact that they play in here at all is a miracle considering how TINY this room is at 7’x10’! It’s the first time they’ve ever been able to play in here, it’s so great!

Long term the centered-on-the-wall gallery wall of artwork is now out of sync with the crib, but I’m not going to worry about it for now. It doesn't look terrible (though I now realize the frames need straightening!) and before we know it Matthew will be in a toddler bed anyway - that will be a better time to reassess artwork.

We’re really happy with this new room layout. I can’t believe we never thought of it before!

Aug 8, 2017

The Toy Tamer & The Playroom Plan

We have a problem that I've been hesitant to share because it's grown so overwhelming... Our playroom is drowning in toys. It looks nothing like that photo above from our house tour anymore. I know this is a common problem for parents, especially ones like us in a small house with kids. I don't think we have an unreasonable number of toys in our home (we do edit, rotate, donate) - it's just that they playroom is small, the bedrooms are small, we don't have a closet on the first floor. We don't have one of those finished basements where the boys can go and be wild. In a larger space the collection would probably even look small, but in a tiny room it feels overwhelming. In a small house we have to be smarter and more efficient with storage to make things work. It's not easy.

Back in May, I finally called in a professional who specializes in toy organization. I met her at a designer's showcase and was really impressed. She calls herself the toy tamer and made some amazing recommendations for the playroom, Matthew’s nursery and Oliver’s room. All using existing furniture and a shopping list for IKEA. The woman is a genius.  One thing I really liked about her was that she didn’t recommend further purging the boy’s toy collection to fit our space, her goal was to maximize our storage and use the space in the most efficient way so that the kids would have room to play and I wouldn't lose my mind with the clutter.

The toy tamer’s plan (which she provided and I redrew with a few modifications) is to use our space as efficiently with lots of good storage and leaving room to play. Here’s the diagram:

The first recommendation was to replace the IKEA Trofast toy storage system we have in here. When we first bought it, the concept sounded so great in theory when we were converting this room from a sun room to a playroom (tubs that slide out! In different sizes! It’s so versatile and can be rearranged!), but in reality the system is awful. We bought the catalog sales pitch hook, line and sinker without doing our research - we were exhausted new parents in a rush to just GET.IT.DONE. The system was livable when we had just one kid, even if half the toys didn’t fit in the bins and the lids never stayed on and they wouldn’t slide if any toys stuck out even ¼” from the top (seriously it’s so frustrating). With two kids and two sets of toys though? Impossible. Now toys are just piled up everywhere all the time with nowhere to go. The toy tamer came in, pointed to the Trofast shelves and said, “don’t you hate those things? I love IKEA but that toy storage system is the absolute worst.” It made me feel a lot better - at least it wasn’t just us!

The Trofast system will be replaced with Kallax cube shelves, like the one we use in Oliver’s bedroom. The room is wide enough to fit two units across. We’ll fill the cubes with bins and boxes of different sizes and shapes for small toys and put larger toys directly inside the cubes. Down the road we might get a few door and/or drawer inserts as their toys and needs change (one thing I like about this system is how flexible it is). In addition to the cube-sized bins, we will also pick up a few other larger basket/bins/buckets to corral larger toys, stuffed animals, etc. For art supplies we are going to repurpose two wall-hanging shoe bins on the wall (they are the perfect size for this - I saw it at the toy tamer’s exhibit at a designer’s showcase and was so impressed!).

Here's a visual version of my shopping list:

The only big decision we have to make is how tall we want the Kallax shelves to be along this wall. We don’t want to do the 4x4 system because it’s too tall and will block too much of the windows. The 2x4 will fit nicely under the windows, but might not be enough storage for the long term. The toy tamer recommended we buy two 1x4 units as well (they can attach with brackets you can buy at IKEA). We can use these to build our own 3x4 shelf and block part of the windows (which we keep closed most of the time anyway to avoid the view directly into the neighbor’s driveway) or we can put one of them in front of the radiator (since they are open backed) and then use the other in Oliver’s bedroom to give his bedroom more toy storage. Either way, we will have 8 additional cubes of storage in the house.

Here’s the alternate floorplan:

The second big recommendation from the toy tamer (which I'm sure you noticed from the pictures) was to replace the big couch with a cozy armchair for reading. The couch takes up a lot of room and we really only use a chair’s worth of space on it - the bulk of the couch is used as a landing strip for blankets, pillows and stuffed animals. In theory the sleeper sofa worked as a place for overnight guests, but in reality the room is too small and crowded/cluttered for guests to actually stay. By replacing the couch with a chair we suddenly have a lot more room to work with.

I’m not sure what we are going to do for a rug yet in here. The toy tamer recommended carpet tiles because they are easy to clean and if that fails, replace. I’ve also seen some really fun inexpensive options at IKEA and on Amazon. No matter what we decide though, we are holding off until Georgia is no longer with us because we cannot put anything new down on the floors with her constant incontinence issues. So for now we will live with what we’ve got.

My change to the floorplan was to eliminate a dedicated dress up area (with a big basket, hooks and a mirror) and instead put a bookcase on that wall. I know it will fit nicely in that spot because it currently lives on the other side of that same wall in the living room. We need more book storage for the kids downstairs and a high-up storage spot to keep choking hazard toys like legos out of Matthew’s reach. It would also be a great place for storing games, puzzles, etc. I want to move the dress up hooks under the windows between the chair and the cube shelves and then put the rest of the stuff in a big cube shelf bin next to it.

So far, the only part of this plan we’ve implemented is removing the couch. It’s actually back in the living room, just like when we first moved in. The living room couch we bought was very pretty but it was not kid-friendly. At all. Unwashable and prone to stains. A frame that couldn’t handle boisterous boys - the cushion wrapping separated from the frame in front so that we couldn’t take sitting on it for very long. Plus it didn’t provide enough seating for a family of 4. So we gave it away to Matthew’s summer nanny who we adore and happened to be moving into her first apartment (and needed a couch!). The old couch might not be the ideal size or shape for this room, but it’s A LOT more comfortable and the beige slipcover is removable/washable when sticky jelly fingers attack. Long term I still really want to get a small sectional in here, but that’s a post for another day (especially since IKEA has finally created the sectional of my dreams - modular pieces to build a size/shape that fits our weird room, reasonably priced, and kid-friendly removable washable covers!).

Anyways, we have a great plan in place. But just so you know how bad things have gotten, here's the ugly truth about the playroom... this is what it looks like RIGHT NOW. Without the couch.

Without a good storage system in place, this room is still a disaster. All we've been able to do is make room for the tent in here. I have rearranged everything several times in hopes of finding a more livable solution until we go to IKEA, but it's an impossible task. We are hoping to implement the rest of the playroom changes and give it a full overhaul in early September - the Kallax system will be 15% the last week in August so it’s the perfect time to pick them up. Also Oliver will be in school full time after Labor Day which will *hopefully* give me a better chance at doing some real organization in here!

Jul 28, 2017

Garden Growth

Recently I was going back through the blog archives to find the size of our pergola (answer: 12ft x 10.5 ft) and found this post about how the garden had grown from 2010 to 2013. It made me realize how much the garden has grown since then. So many plants have reached maturity since then and I now spend more time keeping plant and shrub growth in check. And the trees are now so big and established. I thought it would be fun to compare the old photos to now.

The rose bush part of the garden -
September 2010 when we first planted it:

September 2013 when the garden was finally taking real shape:

Now the rosebush is a giant monster, the peonies are full grown.
Summer 2017:

The crepe myrtle and quince next to the deck -
Summer 2010 when the tree was first planted and the quince was a twig:

September 2013 when the quince was finally looking like a bush and the crepe myrtle like a tree:

The crepe myrtle needs some reshaping after it finishes blooming, but it's so tall now! The quince is as tall as the fence, though it's completely blocked by the asparagus (which I never should have planted there - it was a mistake!).
Summer 2017:

The thujas along the fence were slow to start -
Spring 2011:

In three years they reached the height of the fence and were finally filling in -
September 2013:

The thujas are 6-8 feet tall now and a beautiful wall of green -
Summer 2017:

The redbud tree was so small when we planted it - it's now so wide and full!
Summer 2010:

September 2013:

I never thought a redbud could spread this wide. It provides some lovely deep shade.
Summer 2017: