Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My Favorite Room In The House

Baby Z's nursery is finally done. So now she can show up whenever she pleases!

*You hear that Baby? You're officially 1 week overdue and your mom is terribly uncomfortable. Any day now would be swell!

The nursery has become my favorite room in the house. Not just because of the fun colors and patterns, but because so much of it is handmade. Every piece in the nursery has a reason and a meaning and Chris, my mom, and I worked so hard to bring it all together. It's great to be able to look at a room and know how much love was put into it. I cannot wait to see Baby Z grow up and play in this bright and beautiful room!

It's crazy to think that a room that started out like this:

Has been turned into this:

Now let's go for a little tour!

Here is Baby Z's crib, our Christmas present from my mom. The Ugly Doll blanket is courtesy of our friends, the Smiths.

Hung above the crib is one of the DIY mobiles I made.

On the wall above the crib, we hung the colorful collage that I made for Baby Z.

To the left of the crib, a little mushroom stool hangs out. My mom got if for us at Meijer, scored on sale for only $15!

In the corner of the room, we set up the reading nook. I made the wall decoration with phonic cards and clothespins and the forward-facing bookshelves are spray painted spice racks from Ikea.

The rocking chair is a $25 Salvation Army find that my mom painted white and re-upholstered with fabric that we chose from Jo-Ann Fabrics & Crafts. She used leftover fabric to add brown accents to the white roman blinds that we already had in the room. We were lucky to have a very sweet neighbor donate tons of books for Baby Z, and I stacked the extras behind the rocking chair in a brown bin that we received at the baby shower. The little guy on the chair is the biggest Ugly Doll we had. I got the brown footstool at Target on sale for $20 and it's currently hiding burping cloths and bibs. I figured it would be convenient to have those on both floors of the house, especially if I plan on feeding Baby Z on the rocking chair.

To the right of the reading nook is a little bookshelf area. The ABC poster was a gift from a friend and we bought the white bookshelf at Ikea. The bookshelf holds two more plush ugly dolls, some Ugly Doll figurines that used to be on my desk at work, a humidifier, and a frame that I painted at a pottery studio. 

We got the bins for the bookshelf at Target. Technically they are monkey bins, but I think that they look more like monster bins. Right now, we have Baby Z's rattle toys and stuffed animals in the bins. Later on, we'll probably establish a "once the bins overflow it's time to donate some toys" rule, to avoid a cluttered room.

On the right, below the larger window, we placed the changing table. The window has another piece of brown fabric that my mom added to the white curtains. The rug that we placed in the middle of the nursery was probably the biggest splurge, discussed during The Great Rug Debate post.

The changing table is actually an old dresser that we repainted. I bought a changing pad and cover and another brown bin for all of the changing supplies (can you tell I love bins yet?). The little knit doll was a gift from Chris' brother and his wife and we scored the little lamp from Ikea for just $5! We figured it would come in handy for late night changes that would require a little less lighting. Best of all, it's plastic! So if the little one accidentally knocks it over by kicking, there's no need to worry about broken glass on the floor.

Above the changing pad, we hung another DIY mobile to keep Baby Z entertained while we change her.

We hung the rest of the Ugly Dolls on the wall to the right of the window, using different shaped shelves I found at Target. They all look like they are standing on their prize pedestals and it makes me smile :)

The last part of the nursery is the closet.

I really didn't like the closet doors so I decided to remove them and replace them with curtains. They were just too bulky and curtains were a cheaper and better option than purchasing new doors. I bought a rod and two sets of white curtains and my mom helped hem the ends and add more brown fabric detail. We used clip-on rings for the rod so that if she ever decided to hang from the curtains, the rod wouldn't come crashing down on her head - a little bit of advice I got from Young House Love

And just to show you that I'm not hiding any massive messes in that closet, here's a glimpse of the inside once the curtain is pulled back.

On top, we have more bins for items like hats and blankets. I also put some of her other stuffed animals up there, until she is old enough to play with them. The tiny clothes that hang are separated by size with the help of these homemade closet dividers. On the floor is a blue plastic bin I picked up from Target for only $5. I plan on using it as her laundry hamper. It's not your typical laundry hamper, but I wasn't willing to spend $20 or more on a laundry hamper and figured it would do the trick while her clothes were still itty bitty. Other items like her activity mat and her backpack (a gift from grandma) have their temporary residence on the floor. To the right of those, I have several plastic bins that I picked up on super sale at Target. The large bin is for the clothes that people have been kind enough to loan to us. The smaller bins are for the other clothes that she eventually grows out of. Having the bins in the closet will force me to stay on top of putting things away once she outgrows them and that way I can make sure I return things to people in a timely manner.

One last thing: the little bird hanger that we put behind the door at "kiddo" level - a present from grandma from Jo-Ann Fabrics & Crafts. Once she's tall enough, she'll be able to hang her little things up there.

And that's it!
Now we just patiently await her arrival!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

DIY Mobile

Bear with me while I explain the reasoning behind the Ugly Doll nursery we set up for our baby girl.

More than a year ago, my husband started traveling to NJ every week, Monday through Friday. It sucked. But every Friday when I picked him up from the airport, he always had a present for me :) He started getting me Ugly Dolls because he said they reminded him of me. Hopefully not in a "you're ugly like they are" kind of way but more of a "you're true to yourself" kind of way. Some weeks it was medium sized Ugly Dolls, other weeks it was the mini versions, the Clip On kind. In the end, we ended up with 30+ of them. So when we found out about baby Z, the nursery theme was a no-brainer. I knew that I wanted to have the larger Ugly Dolls up on the walls, but I thought 20 or so mini ones would seem cluttered on the wall. So I decided to make mobiles with them - they were the perfect size!

These are my instructions for the DIY mobile I made for baby Z's nursery. I used Ugly Dolls but you can pretty much use anything you can think of: mini stuffed animals, paper cutouts, felt flowers, etc. You'll need the following:

-Yarn (I chose two different colors but you really only need 1 regular sized ball of yarn)
- 2 wood embroidery hoops (one smaller than the other)
- Scissors
- Glue gun
- Needle
- Embroidery floss to match (again, I used two different colors but you don't have to)
- Your choice of hanging objects
-Hook to attach mobile to ceiling

You'll only be working with one part of the embroidery hoop; the part without the clasp. Attach one end of the yarn to the embroidery hoop with a knot. Very slowly, start wrapping the yarn around the embroidery hoop and continue to do this until the whole hoop is covered in yarn. Finish it off by tying a knot and use your needle to gently tuck the knot in between the yarn so that it is hidden. Do the same for the second embroidery hoop. It will look like this when you are done:

Then, use your embroidery floss to attach the two embroidery hoops together. I chose to put the small hoop on top, but you can really do it either way. Cut a piece of the floss that will give you a good distance between the two hoops and tie a knot at the end. Using your needle, thread the floss through the yarn on the hoop and pull it through until it attaches with the knot. Attach the same piece of floss to the other hoop pulling the floss until you are happy with the distance between the two hoops.

Finish that one with a knot as well. You'll want to do this 3 more times spaced evenly around the hoops. At this point it becomes more of a guessing game. You'll have to hold one hoop up and play around with different floss lengths until the two hoops are attached at evenly spaced points.

Figure out the distance between your ceiling hook and the crib and cut 4 identical pieces of embroidery floss to match that distance. Using your needle, attach the 4 pieces of floss to the top hoop, evenly spaced. Once your mobile is done, you'll use these four pieces of floss attached together at one end to hang the mobile from the hook on the ceiling.

Now you're ready to attach the Ugly Dolls (or other hanging items). After threading your needle with a piece of embroidery floss, poke it through the top of the Ugly Doll. Then tie the Ugly Doll around the bottom hoop with a couple knots.

Do the same for the other hanging items.

To make sure that none of the knots would ever come loose and cause the plush dolls to fall into the nursery and become a choking hazard, I used my glue gun to add a good amount of glue to every knot on the hoops. That way, each knot, thread, and doll was secured to the yarn hoop and wouldn't risk coming undone. It's not the prettiest option, but once the mobile hangs, you can't see the glue.

And there you have it! A DIY mobile!

I ended up making two since I had so many little Ugly Dolls; one for her crib and one for the changing table. 

Hopefully my instructions weren't too confusing. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Dresser That Started It All

This is the dresser that got the ball rolling. Before this dresser, the notion of upcycling was like a completely different language for us. Sure, I had read up on the subject, I'd seen many a blog posts about redoing pieces of furniture, but if it had a ding in it or looked slightly used, I didn't think it was possible for it to make a full transformation. But seeing Sherry and John succeed with their Chesterfield dresser inspired us to reuse a piece of furniture and save some insane dough in the process (most dressers can run up to $300 or more, we spent less than on $100 on supplies). 

I'll be honest: when we received this dresser, I thought all hope was lost. Half painted and half banged up, it seemed impossible to redo. It's really difficult to see a used piece of furniture and believe that it can be turned into something beautiful with work and time - I think it's an acquired talent. But, we had gotten the dresser for free courtesy of Chris' sister and after the success with our nursery rocking chair, it was worth attempting. Who knew that this...

Could become this...

After some hard work and determination, the ugly duckling of a dresser was turned into a solid piece of furniture with beautiful curves that could double as a changing table. Needless to say, we're incredibly thrilled with the results and totally psyched to start on our next furniture upcycling project.  

*By hard work and determination, I mean my pregnant butt had nothing to do with this project aside from watching it progress. The dresser transformation was courtesy of my husband and my incredibly helpful father-in-law.

For those of you interested in attempting this on your own, here are the steps we took to redo the dresser:

First, Chris removed all the drawers and marked the inside of each drawer. That way, once the dresser and drawers were painted and done, getting them back into their appropriate slots wouldn't be a huge challenge. Whatever work he did on the actual dresser, he also did on the outside of the dressers. Then he removed all the knobs and the handles. Our plan was to save even more money by avoiding the purchase of new knobs and simply spray painting the old knobs. Sanding started with 100 grit sandpaper to remove the paint and smooth out the roughest portions of the surfaces. The nasty painted surfaces like this:

Began to look like this:

Who knew such nice wood would be under all that gross exterior? Luckily, my father-in-law let us use his orbital sander with an attached vacuum to make sanding quick and mess free. Hello lovely!

Then, Chris filled all the holes and dents using Carpenter's Wood Filler.

Since some of the corners on the dresser were a little busted up, he also recreated some broken corners with the wood filler. 

After the wood filler dried, Chris sanded the whole thing again with 180 grit. This smoothed out the finish even more and helped to even out the filler. He couldn't use rougher grit on the filler because it would rip the filler right out of the holes, a medium grit like 150 or 180 is best. Several of the curved surfaces (like the top two drawers) were a challenge to sand with the machine so they were sanded by hand. He fashioned a couple of sanding blocks to match the curved surfaces, like using an old pill bottle and wrapping a piece of sand paper around it. The final sanding was done with 240 grit, a fine grit best for finishing the dresser and leaving it a smooth, glass-like surface. 

Once he was ready to paint the dresser (white, to match the rest of the nursery furniture), he fashioned a paint shield out of old cardboard pieces in order to protect the other things we had in the garage. The last thing we'd want is a burgundy Mazda speckled white. 

He primed the surfaces and let it sit overnight to dry. To make things easier, he used my father-in-law's paint sprayer. Paint sprayers cover surfaces extremely well, so only one coat of primer was needed. In fact, Chris was so impressed with the paint sprayer that he went out and bought himself one! 

Then he painted the dresser and drawers with two coats of Behr Ultra Pure White, waiting overnight between coats. Everything was sealed with a coat of Polyurethane stain blocking sealant. 

He stuck the knobs and handles into a styrofoam block for better coverage and spray painted them with a Rust-Oleum all purpose spray paint. 

Once the knobs and handles were put back on the dressers, we were almost finished. I didn't love the look of the bare and speckled drawer insides and decided to paint them as well. 

I painted the inside of each drawer with two coats of primer, waiting overnight between coats. Before doing this, I also made sure to mark the backs of the drawers since the paint would be covering Chris' original markings. Since I wasn't so keen on Baby Z's clothes touching the paint in the drawers, I sealed the inside of each drawer with Mod Podge, a water-based and non-toxic sealer and finish. 

Easy peasy! 
I can say that because I didn't do much thanks to my "I'm pregnant" excuse...tee hee.