Thursday, September 24, 2015

ikea hacking

Our house has a total of two closets: one attached to our master bathroom and one in the guest bedroom. We have no closets on the main floor... no coat closet, no linen closet, no pantry. Because we have limited options for storage, I am constantly battling against the accumulation of STUFF. Our house is "at capacity," which means that I try to maintain an equilibrium between the amount of stuff coming in vs. going out. I do a pretty good job with most things; the Goodwill near our house is reguarly restocked with DVDs, clothes, and shoes from our shelves. However, I have completely lost the battle in one area: books. This became even more apparent after our trip to the Public Library book sale this summer. The stacks were piling up on top of our already overstuffed bookshelf, and I couldn't convince myself or Dan to toss even one old paperback to free up some space. When Dan referenced the oft-cited study that books in the home mean smarter kids, I knew the battle was over. Time to retreat, regroup, and come back with a different strategy: Instead of less books, we needed smarter storage.

Designing our new bookcase, I had a few goals: shelves to hold all our current books, deep enough space to hold my giant scrapbooks, and spacious hidden storage for things like games and DVDs. Oh, and it had to look pretty, too. I searched high and low for something to fit my requirements and finally settled on a customized (or "hacked") IKEA BESTÅ unit. After mounting two shelf units on top of a TV stand, we added IKEA STUBBARP legs, HANVIKEN doors, FÅGLAVIK handles, and FLODHÄST hinges (I only made one of those up, but you have to figure out which one). For a slightly more custom look, we attached crown molding at the top. I filled the gaps with caulk and wood putty and applied a couple coats of color-matched paint. Finally, I filled in the front row of holes for the adjustable shelves with a tiny bit of light-weight spackle to make them less noticeable (but still easy to drill out if we decided to change the shelf positions in the future). We mounted the whole thing to the wall for safety, especially since our floors are so uneven. The adjustable legs were also very helpful to ensure a stable base.

cozy birdhouse | ikea hacking: our customized ikea besta bookshelf

The new bookcase holds all our board games and most of our DVDs. I plan to rescue our stash of hats and gloves from the Spider Hotel (a.k.a. basement) and store them in the now-empty drawer space in the entry way table.

cozy birdhouse | ikea hacking: our customized ikea besta bookshelf

We moved the old shelf into the family room to replace a boxy IKEA EXPEDIT, which served us well for many years but was too deep for the space. I'll take my time arranging my little treasures and ornaments in my new-old shelf until I'm happy with it. We'll re-home the EXPEDIT in keeping with my "stuff equilibrium" theory: one bookshelf comes in, one bookshelf goes out.

This project only resulted in one late-night meltdown of frustration on my part, while attempting to install the door hinges. I finally took my tear-streaked face to bed, while Dan struggled a bit longer and eventually gave up for the night. The next day, which happened to be our 3-year anniversary, I came home from work, ready but reluctant to have another go at the hinges. Dan greeted me with a huge smile and invited me into the living room, where he had successfully installed the doors and hidden a vase of flowers inside. Best anniversary gift he could have given me!

Now pardon me, I'm going to admire my pretty bookshelf.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

felt birds

Ahhh... That feeling when you finish a project that's been shelved for over six months. Wonderful.

cozy birdhouse | felt birds

I started on this back in February while on leave from work. It was the only thing getting me out of bed some days. I'd wake up, trudge downstairs, settle on the couch, and stitch these birds while watching Lie to Me on Netflix for hours. I finished them quickly, but the little felt flock sat in my project basket for months while I pondered how to display them. The birch branch came home with me from Michael's in late March and waited in the living room corner for inspiration to strike. All summer, I mulled over various layouts in my head. Finally settling on the design and method of construction, I whipped it all together over the course of a week. The creative process simply cannot be rushed (is what all great procrastinators say).

cozy birdhouse | felt birds

The bird designs are all available (for free!) from Downeast Thunder Farm. There are dozens of patterns available, but I selected my 9 favorites, which I resized on the computer, printed and traced onto freezer paper, ironed onto wool-blend felt sheets, and cut out. After assembling and embroidering, I attached a shiny black bead eye, stuffed lightly, and attached a loop of embroidery floss for hanging. I sawed the birch branch into three sections which I mounted together with eye hooks and jewelry chain.

This project was fun and therapeutic, and I absolutely love how it turned out. It's currently hanging next to the door in our front hallway and will probably stay there until the Christmas wreath goes up!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

sun, sand, seagulls

Usually we visit Dan's parents at their beach house much earlier in the summer, but I'm pretty sold on switching to a late August vacation from now on! Every day we spent the cool mornings relaxing at the house, the afternoons splashing in the warm waves, and the evenings sipping cocktails while trying to get water out of our ears.

cozy birdhouse | brigantine beach

We enjoyed a few days with Dan's parents, then his siblings joined us for the weekend. We lounged on the beach, went for walks, and boogie boarded on the waves (my first time!). I even caught a little crab who was scuttling across the sand near a jetty. I scooped it out of the shallow water (careful not to get pinched!) and gave it to a kid to hold in his beach pail.

cozy birdhouse | at the beach

Ok, time for some bird photos!

cozy birdhouse | seagull, on the rocks (not a drink)

We saw no sandpipers during last year's visit, so I was thrilled to find flocks of them up and down the beach this year. I think that most were Sanderlings (the cutest sandpiper in my opinion), but I also saw a few loners with dark bands across their necks (perhaps the Semipalmated Plover?).

cozy birdhouse | sandpipers

cozy birdhouse | sandpiper

This little guy managed to snag a squishy little sea critter and was prepared to defend his catch at all costs. This reminded me so much of the seagulls from Finding Nemo who shout, "mine! mine! mine!"

cozy birdhouse | sandpipers

Finally on our last day, we took one of my favorite group selfies ever... See you again soon, family!

cozy birdhouse | family selfie