One Room Challenge Week Six: Our Home Office REVEAL!

It’s the final week of the Fall 2020 One Room Challenge! We’ve been pouring our heart and soul into our home office and I’m so excited to show you how it turned out!

Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane, shall we? Two months ago, the room looked like this:

Fluorescent light, barely functional window shades, mismatched storage – yikes. It was a hot mess combination of storage/overflow/office/extra guest bedroom and unfortunately due to the French doors, we saw the room every. single. day. Since the day we moved in, I’ve been dreaming of this being a cozy home office + library and it makes me so happy to see this vision come to life!

After removing all the old trim and beadboard paneling, Justin and I took primed shiplap and ran the planks vertically all around the room and on the ceiling. We put extra effort into making sure the ceiling planks lined up with the wall planks, and I think that effort was definitely worth it! I chose the color Treron by Farrow and Ball and had it color-matched at Lowe’s for all the walls, ceiling, trim, and built-ins.

The olive green color strikes just the right balance for me – not too dark, not too light, not too brown, not too green. It’s a bit of a chameleon color and changes a little depending on the lighting but it’s just a nice warm that makes the room feel so cozy.

Without a doubt, the star of the room is the gorgeous built-in. This showstopper took the room from no storage to tons of storage. The bottom portion is Ikea cabinets with Semihandmade doors and I love them so much. They look custom-made but for a fraction of the price! If you’ve been following along in my Instagram stories, you know that I had two different options for hardware but didn’t feel like either was quite right so I ordered a third set. I’m still waiting on those cabinet pulls and knobs to arrive and I think they’ll be the perfect finishing touch. Stay tuned!

Back in the planning stages, I debated on whether to do a built-in desk or keep it freestanding, then whether to do all cabinet doors or have a section of drawers as well. I’m so happy with my decision to do a freestanding desk and include a section of drawers in the middle. It provides tons of easily accessible and functional storage and with the desk in the middle, the room actually feels perfectly proportioned.

Justin and I worked together to build the bookshelves from scratch and we are both thrilled with how well they turned out. I intentionally tried to pull in other colors and textures throughout the bookshelves, especially with light colors and natural fibers to break up all the olive green throughout the room. In addition to all our books, the shelves are filled with special mementos, heirlooms, family pictures, and artwork from travels, so it very much feels like us.

I also have functional items throughout – closed storage boxes holding office supplies, decorative jars filled with pens and pencils, trays for papers, etc. The shelves strike the perfect blend of meaningful, beautiful, and functional for us.

I think of this room as a home office and library all in one. As I imagined shelves full of books, I also imagined a cozy area to read them in. The bay window area provided the ideal place to add a comfy reading chair. I had been on the hunt for a reading chair in either yellow/gold, rust, burgundy, or something along those lines but everything I found was super expensive. Then a few weeks ago, I saw someone share a post from the thrift store in my hometown. One of the items pictured was a set of vintage yellow chairs circa 1970s (sold separately for $50 each) and my heart immediately leapt. I sent my mom on a mission to the thrift store to see if the chairs were comfortable and in good shape. They were, and I convinced her to buy one for me for Christmas. Score! Here’s the chair when it first arrived – my parents thought I was crazy, but I knew it had potential.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I performed a little cosmetic surgery on the chair to remove the flap of fabric at the bottom and this made a huge impact in making it seem more modern.

I brought down the little side table from Vi’s room, but I eventually plan to replace it with something else (I’m feeling a little round table?) and I’ll also add a floor lamp at some point. For now, I’m happy with this space!

In addition to replacing the baseboards, we also tore off the old window casing and added new trim in a style inspired by Jenni Yolo at ISpyDIY. I also painted the existing window frames and grille inserts Tricorn Black by Sherwin Williams.

We had a slight fiasco with the bay window curtain rod because we didn’t realize that the side bars only extended 36″ max and we needed about 42″ but Justin came up with the brilliant idea to buy two cheap telescoping curtain rods and screw them into the angled attachment on the middle window’s curtain rod. This worked like a charm! The curtains are Ikea Ritva. I got them in 118″ length and then used hemming tape to shorten them a bit (I like a little pool at the bottom, but it was originally like 8″ too long). I hung them by attaching pleating hooks to the curtains and then hooking them through the eyelets of curtain rings. Rather than just putting the curtain rod through the loops of the curtain, this gave them a little extra oomph.

Another issue I ran into was rug size. Because of the bay window and angled doorway, the room is anything from square (don’t even get me started on how hard figuring out the crown molding was!). It left an awkward amount of floor space that I really needed a 6×9 rug for, but many of the rugs I loved only came in 5×7’6″ or 7’6″x9’6″. It was a frustrating search! Finally, I decided to try a layered rug look with a simple jute rug at the 6×9 size I needed and a patterned rug I loved in a 5×7’6″ size on top. This solution ended up working so well and I think it helps give the room a casual and cozy feel.

I am so so happy with how this room turned out! It is the room I was most excited about when we first moved in and it is now without question my favorite room in the house.

And it wouldn’t be a reveal without a few final before-and-afters, right?

I had so much fun participating in the Fall One Room Challenge! You can check out all the other fun projects that happened here.

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And if you missed any of my previous posts on this challenge, you can check them out here:

Week One: The Office Plans

Week Two: The DIY Built-ins!

Week Three: Halfway Point Progress

Week Four: All About Shiplap

Week Five: Cabinet Doors Installed

Sources

Note: Some of these product links are to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This means if you purchase something through the Amazon link I provided, I may earn a small commission. None of my recommendations or decisions are based on any commission I might receive from your purchases, they are all things I actually bought for this renovation. The decision to buy something is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy one through the link I provide is completely up to you. Thank you!

Paint Color: Treron by Farrow and Ball (colormatched at Lowe’s) in Eggshell finish (walls + ceiling) and Satin finish (trim + built-ins).

Window Color: Tricorn Black by Sherwin Williams in Satin

Base Cabinets: Ikea

Door and Drawer Fronts: Semihandmade DIY Shaker

Sputnik Chandelier

Chandelier Lightbulbs

Shiplap

Baseboards

Crown Molding

Curtain Rod (keep in mind, we changed out the side window rods with a longer telescoping curtain rod!)

Curtains

Pleating Hooks

Curtain Rings

Olive Tree

5’x7’6″ Patterned Rug

6’x9′ Jute Rug

Desk

Desk Chair is old – this one is similar

Black and White Butterfly Print

Letterfolk Board

Stackable Black Paper Trays

White Storage Box

Almost everything else in the room is thrifted, heirloom, or bought a long time ago.

One Room Challenge Week Five: Cabinet Doors are on!

It’s the second-to-last week of the One Room Challenge and now that all the shiplap is finished, things have really picked up!

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One thing that got checked off the list this past week was the completion of the window trim. We had trimmed out each window with a 1×4 and Justin then ripped a board into 1/2 inch strips and nailed it around the edges. This helped hide any gaps left in between the shiplap and the 1×4 and gave everything a nice, finished look.

Other than that, the biggest change that has happened this week has been the addition of our cabinet doors!

When we first started planning out the built-ins, we contemplated DIYing cabinet doors. I’m so glad that we ultimately decided to outsource that project because these Semihandmade door and drawer fronts are perfect and were a breeze to paint and install!

Semihandmade is a company that makes different styles of door and drawer fronts that are fit to the same specifications as an Ikea cabinet door. This means you can purchase the Ikea base cabinet, which is a very inexpensive, and then add different doors to create a more custom look. I’m really impressed with how it elevates the look of the cabinets without breaking the bank!

You can order doors in various colors but I went for the unpainted DIY version so I could paint them the exact same color as the rest of the built-in: Treron by Farrow and Ball that I color-matched at Lowe’s. Before painting, I did rub a fresh tack cloth over the fronts and backs of all the doors, because they shipped from the factory covered in a fine layer of sawdust.

I placed each door face down on top of paint cans (so they would be elevated off the ground) and started painting all the backs. I highly, highly recommend painting the backs first so that when you flip them to paint the other side, the back is the painted side that touches the paint cans – if one side is going to get nicked or scratched or stuck after painting, you definitely want it to be the side that rarely gets seen!

(Apologies for the quality and angles of these pictures – I didn’t take photos of this process so these are just screen grabs from the timelapse videos I posted on Instagram).

I used a paint + primer so I did not do a separate layer of primer. I used an angled brush to trim out the edges of each inset . . .

. . . and then I used this six inch foam roller on the rest of the doors to create a really smooth finish.

I painted all the backs of the doors, waited about 3 hours, and then painted a second coat. I let them dry overnight and then flipped them over to paint the fronts. I did the exact same process of two coats, this time also rolling the door sides, and let them dry again overnight. The next morning (probably about 18 hours later), we attached them to the cabinets using the hardware we bought from Ikea. They were very simple to install!

Yesterday, I spent time in the afternoon playing around with arranging the shelves. I’m definitely not done with them, but it was fun to get started with different placements. As you can see, we still need to finish assembling the drawers in the middle, but so far, I’m really pleased with the look!

Other things we need to accomplish this week:

-add the final trim pieces around the door frame

-add thin piece of trim between cabinets and the wall

-paint + install crown molding

-paint + install baseboards

-install cabinet hardware

-paint countertop (while I like the natural wood look, up close it looks silly because we had to use two boards to achieve the length and it’s just too obvious to leave natural)

-paint outlet covers and duct vent to match wall color

-paint the inside of the window frames

-install curtain rod + hang curtains

-move in the rugs, desk, chair, and finishing touches!

Can we get all this done in one week? We’ll see! In the meantime, you can check out all the other guest participants in the One Room Challenge here.

October 2020 Book Reviews

Good morning!

It’s been a while since I’ve had a non-One Room Challenge blog post and that’s because both on the blog and in real life, the month of October was dominated by work on our home office. It’s been such a fun room to design and work on (see our most recent progress here), but it has meant that I don’t have much free time to do things like reading. I only finished two books in the month of October, but I’m hoping that once the office is wrapped up, I’ll have lots of time to read in it!

Don’t the books look SO GOOD on our new home office bookshelves? šŸ˜‰

My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren

My Favorite Half-Night Stand by [Christina Lauren]

Millie and her four best guy friends all need dates for an upcoming work event, so they decide to all create profiles for an online dating site. After a very unsuccessful first round of suitors, Millie tries her luck again with an alter ego, “Catherine.” This time, she gets matched up with her best friend Reid, and what started out as a joke to see if Reid would figure out who she was turns into a way for Millie to open up to Reid in a way that she never has been able to before. Add in the fact that Millie and Reid do have a bit of a friends-with-benefits thing going on in real life and . . . things get complicated.

I always go into Christina Lauren books with high hopes because the first book I ever read by these authors (it’s a writing duo – Christina and Lauren!) was The Unhoneymooners and I loved it. Unfortunately, so far that’s the one I’ve enjoyed the most and each book afterwards seems mediocre. I really liked all the characters individually (the friend group was so funny!) and loved that the authors did things like including their group chats – it was a fun way to see everyone’s unique personalities and make the reader feel like one of the group. I also liked the idea of Millie and Reid, but I got a little annoyed by parts of the plot and ended up skimming several sections. Overall, this one falls pretty middle-of-the-road for me. If you’re in the mood for a decent, fluffy read that you can skim and finish in a day, this is a good option.

How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids by Jancee Dunn

This book was selected as a book club book for a podcast I listen too (HERself – highly recommend!) and while the title is definitely a little aggressive (I definitely do not hate Justin), this was a really interesting read. The author details the struggles of her marriage after becoming a parent – the feeling of carrying most of the weight of parenting and housework duties, the frustration of asking for help with chores only to be told an noncommittal “later,” the lack of romance and passion, and the intensity of arguments and fighting. She’s incredibly vulnerable and transparent about the struggles she and her husband faced and then details the information she learned from seeking the opinions of others: everyone from marriage therapists to credentialed researchers to FBI negotiation experts to her friends and family. She slowly starts to implement various strategies and notices how her marriage, her personal happiness, and her family life all improve afterward.

I really enjoyed this book. I was fascinated by her sessions with therapists and appreciated that she addressed the more obvious aspects of relationships (sex, money) and also some of the sneakier aspects as well (clutter, kid chores). There were a lot of little nuggets of wisdom that I gleaned from reading and I think this is a book I’ll come back to again someday. There’s just a lot of great takeaways that can benefit whether you’re a parent to one newborn baby or five teenagers or anything in between. I highly recommend it as a read for parents! And as a side note: I also really enjoyed the HERself podcast episode with this author and definitely recommend that as well!

The One Room Challenge finishes up in two weeks, and just in time because a bunch of my holds from the library recently came in. I’m excited to break in my cozy reading chair in the brand new office soon!

One Room Challenge Week Four: All About Shiplap!

We are four weeks into the One Room Challenge and have finally met a big milestone: all of the shiplap is finished!!

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This has been a huge project and the shiplap needed to get finished before we could move on to other things like baseboards, crown molding, and final window trim so it was an important thing to check off our list!

Today I’m going to share about the process we used to install shiplap on all the walls and ceilings – it’s the first time we did something like this and we’re really happy with how it turned out!

Items Needed:

Liquid Nails

Caulk gun

Shiplap (we used 8 foot pieces for the walls and 12 foot pieces for the ceiling)

-Nail Gun (we used 1 1/2″ nails for walls and 2″ nails for the ceiling)

-Level

DryDex Spackling and Nail Hole Filler

Receptacle Spacers

Justin also used his miter saw (to cut boards to length), jigsaw (to cut notches for outlets and window trim), and table saw (to rip boards to smaller widths when needed).

Installation:

It made the most sense for us to start in the middle of the wall rather than in a corner because every wall in this room is wonky. Our walls are a touch over 8 feet high, which was nice because there was no need to cut the shiplap for just a plain stretch of wall. We used our liquid nails and caulk gun to run adhesive along the back of the shiplap.

For shiplap on the walls, we used this liquid nails but for the ceiling, we used the heavy duty one since the ceiling boards would be pulled down more by gravity.

This shiplap is super easy to work with because it interlocks and automatically creates the perfect gap between boards.

We also didn’t need to repair any of the walls first (old nail holes, glue from the beadboard we ripped out, etc). All we needed to do was slide in each piece! Since we have those wonky walls, we used a level to ensure each board was running straight up and down.

Then we used a nail gun to attach each board solidly in place.

When we got to outlets, Justin just measured and cut out a notch to fit around the box. We then used receptacle spacers to bring the outlet out from the wall to be flush with the shiplap.

I’d love to say the process was “easy as that” and truly, it is easy to work with this shiplap. If your room is a square, it would be fairly simple to just click each board into place and move around the wall pretty quickly. Our room is not at all that straightforward since we had a bay window and a slanted entry wall to contend with. We also decided to put the window and door trim up first to avoid gaps from the window/door frame and the trim. This meant having to be very meticulous with measuring. We dealt with a lot of funky angles and crazy cuts like this:

It took many hours and a lot of double and triple-checking all our measurements, but I’m incredibly proud of how Justin managed to work with all the crazy angles to make everything fit so perfectly!

When it came to the ceiling, it was a true team effort. We had to use 12 foot boards and each stand on a ladder to get the board in place. Justin used a stud finder to locate all the ceiling joists which was helpful because we could nail directly into the joists for an extra secure hold.

One of us held the board in place while the other nailed and this kept it from sagging before the liquid nails started to dry.

The ceiling was a little more straightforward than the walls. We did have to deal with the angled walls again but knowing that crown molding would cover the gaps between the shiplap and the wall allowed us to have some flexibility with our cuts. The only cut we had to make was for the light in the center of the room, which was much easier than cutting around multiple outlets.

Once the walls were done, it was time to fill the hundreds of nail holes. I tried a different process and I’m really happy with how it worked!

I started out with this spackling and nail hole filler:

I squeezed just a small dab of spackling on my finger

and pressed it into the nail hole.

After making sure the hole was filled, I just swiped it a bit to cover the area.

I waited just a few minutes until it had started to dry a bit, the gently sanded off the excess with my fingers until it was smooth.

The spackling dries white within a few hours and then it’s ready to paint!

I chose the color Treron from Farrow and Ball and got it color matched at Lowe’s. It’s just the perfect olive color: not too deep, not too green, not too brown, and it brings a touch of moodiness and character to the room. If you look really closely, you can see a few of the nail holes but for the most part, it looks great!

Now that the shiplap is done, the project is going to start moving quick! We have two weeks left of the One Room Challenge and lots to do! Stay tuned for more updates!

One Room Challenge Week Three: Slow and Steady Progress

We’re another week in to the Fall One Room Challenge and since last week’s update a LOT has happened! And yet, nothing has been finished.

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We are very much in the messy middle of this project and if I’m being honest, it feels a little frustrating to not be able to check anything off our list. Our cabinet doors arrived and they are so pretty! But they’re still not painted or attached to the cabinet. We took our ugly fluorescent light down and our new fixture arrived! But it’s not installed yet so we just have wires hanging from the ceiling. We’ve started the window and door trim and I’m loving the new look! But we still need a couple final pieces of trim to complete each one. So many things are in progress and nothing is fully complete, but it feels like we’re nearly to the top of a steep hill and once we get there, we can roll down and everything will pick up speed.

The thing we really need to do in order to reach that hill top is finish all the planking. So much is waiting on that: installing the ceiling fixture, crown molding, window and door trim, baseboards, painting, etc. The planking needs to be done first before we can tackle anything else.

The reason this step is taking so long is because we’re covering all the walls and the ceiling and there’s a lot of measuring and troubleshooting involved. None of our walls are square, we have a bay window, and there are so many tricky little cuts involved.

Just look at the photo below. Between the three windows + trim and the bay window + all the angles on the wall and ceiling, you can see its a lot of precise measuring and cutting with each board used. We’re cutting out notches, figuring out angles, finagling wonky corners – it’s a time-consuming, meticulous process.

It’s also not really a one-person process. The walls are one thing, but the ceiling is absolutely a two person job. We’re using 12 foot planks and there’s just no way for one person to be able to hold the plank in place and nail everything at the same time. So I not only need Justin to be home to keep making progress, but we need our kids to be napping or have someone else watch them in order to work. Needless to say, we’re working with small, inconsistent windows of time to get things done.

This weekend, LJ is going to visit my parents so we’ll have some extra time when Vi’s napping to hopefully finish out the rest of this planking. From there, progress is really going to pick up so I have a feeling that next week’s check-in is going to be full of finished updates! I can’t wait!

Make sure to stop by the One Room Challenge blog to check out all the other projects in progress!

One Room Challenge Week Two: Our DIY Built-ins!

Another week has come and gone in the Fall 2020 One Room Challenge and buckle up because today is a doozy of a post: it’s all about our DIY built-ins!

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I went back and forth several times with whether to have the desk as a standalone piece of furniture or incorporate it into the built-ins. After mapping out both options with painters tape and placeholder furniture, I decided to go with a full wall of built-ins and a standalone desk to maximize storage.

We started out with base cabinets from Ikea. We went to their kitchen center and one of their employees drew out our plans using software. The software made it so easy to visualize and it was nice to play around with a few different combinations! We settled on four 30″ cabinets with doors and one 15″ cabinet with four drawers to go in the center.

The first step when we got home was ripping out all the beadboard (demo is so satisfying!) and trim. We were not concerned about the residual glue on the wall because we knew it would all be covered up eventually.

I assembled all the cabinets and arranged them in order. My grandpa also came over one day and helped us by moving the electrical outlet in the center of the back wall up a few feet so it would be accessible above the cabinets. Justin attached the cabinet legs and adjusted everything to the correct height. Our purchase from Ikea included a metal railing to attach to the wall and then hook the cabinets directly onto for extra stability. Justin put a lot of work into all those details to make sure the cabinets were level and sturdy!

He also used a jigsaw to cut out a hole in the far left cabinet so that it would be accessible to hook up our printer. Other than the outlet that my grandfather moved, this was the only outlet behind the cabinets so I’m thankful we can still use it!

Once everything was fastened in place, we attached vertical paneling along the walls around the cabinets (today’s post is long enough – I’ll cover this step in more detail in a future post!) and were ready to tackle our biggest DIY yet – the bookshelves!

Our first step was installing a countertop. Butcherblock would have been an easy choice, but it would have also been an expensive choice so we decided to use this edge-glued pine panel instead (making the countertops less than $70 instead of over $300). The option Lowe’s had in store was not quite deep enough, so Justin measured the extra depth we needed and cut a long thin board to match that size exactly. We screwed that board into place against the wall using the metal rails on the Ikea cabinet underneath.

We then used a kreg jig to create screw holes in the bottom of the large panel so we could screw the panel to the long, thin board, creating a deeper counter. We also used screws to attach the front of the panel to the Ikea cabinets, again using the cabinet’s metal rails.

After all this work, we discovered Menard’s had a similar panel that would have been deep enough and saved us all the extra trouble creating and attaching the back piece. Live and learn: always shop around!

The countertop was nearly twelve feet long and there was no way to finagle two six foot pieces so the seam would be hidden underneath a bookshelf support, so Justin used a circular saw to cut two panels to length to meet in the middle.

We used a flat bracket underneath to create stability at the seam between panels. This picture below gives you a good idea of how everything was connected: metal railings to attach counters to cabinets, kreg jig screws to attach the panel to the extra back board, and a flat bracket to attach the two panels to one another.

Since there’s going to be quite a bit of weight on the bookshelves, we also created extra support by screwing metal L brackets to the cabinets and counters.

Once the top was f.i.n.a.l.l.y. in place and as sturdy as possible, we sanded it down so the back board was as flush with the rest of the panel as possible. Then we started on the vertical supports. Justin took 1 x 12 boards and cut them to length, then we used the kreg jig to create three screw holes in the sides. We measured the placement of these holes strategically so that they would be hidden underneath the eventual shelves.

After triple checking that each board was square to the wall and as level as possible, we screwed the boards directly into the wall.

This step involved LOTS of precision and measuring, because we want each vertical support to line up with the line of the cabinet doors (which are ordered and hopefully shipping soon!)

It was finally time for the shelves! We measured and marked (and triple checked) where each shelf was going to go. Justin used scrap oak boards from our garage to cut down thin support pieces. We used premium interior wood screws to attach these pieces to the side boards and back wall where each shelf was going to go. This step was tedious because we had to make sure each and every board was level and in the correct spot so our shelves would all eventually look symmetrical!

Once all the supports were in place and we had checked to make sure everything was level, Justin took 1 x 12 boards and cut them all down to the correct shelf length.

We used a nail gun to nail each shelf into the support pieces. Because the shelves were so long (the only way we could make things look symmetrical), Justin cut extra scrap support pieces and used a kreg jig to attach them to the middle of each shelf.

Next, Justin took very thin plywood and cut it to the same size as each shelf. Using a nail gun, we attached this plywood to the bottom of each shelf so all the support pieces were hidden.

We used scrap pieces of wood to tuck in between the top board and the plywood to correct any bowing so everything looked nice and level.

Then it time to trim out the shelves. Justin took 1×2 primed boards and cut everything to the correct length. He used a nail gun to attach these trim pieces to all the vertical boards first, then went through and cut all the shelf trim pieces to length and nail to the front.

I used plastic wood to fill in all the nail holes and sand them smooth so they’re ready for painting

The end result was that each shelf looks like one nice, thick board. I’m so thrilled with how they turned out!

Justin used his table saw to rip down the scrap pieces of baseboard that we tore out of the room to create thin trim pieces to hide the gap between the vertical panel and top of the wall. Now the only thing we have left to do is install crown molding across the top and the cabinet doors when they arrive (hopefully within the next week or two) and it will be time to PAINT!

I’m so so proud of all our hard work with this project. It was the largest scale DIY we’ve ever attempted and it came with a ton of meticulous measuring, working with wonky walls, and problem solving. But we did it and I love it so much!

Check back in next Thursday to see our continued progress on this room! In the meantime, you can see all other ORC participants here.

Fall 2020 One Room Challenge Week One: My Dreamy Office Plans!

I am so excited for another round of the One Room Challenge!

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After tackling our basement kitchen renovation in the spring challenge, I was inspired to choose another space to renovate for the fall challenge. If you’ve been following me on Instagram lately, you know I’ve chosen to renovate our home office and make it the dreamy office + library of my dreams.

Here’s where we started at the beginning of this challenge:

One Room Challenge Home Office Renovation

When we first moved in, this was one of the rooms I was most excited about. From the first moment I saw it, I knew that this could be a special room. First of all, I think the French doors (which aren’t really pictured but you can see a bit of them in the first image) set the stage for a dramatic space. My heart was immediately invested in the idea of built-in storage along the far wall and I could picture this being a warm and cozy space to work on a computer or relax and curl up with a good book. Unfortunately, this room was not high on our priority list so for the first year (yes, year!) of living here it looked more or less like this:

I joked that this was our “Room of Requirement” (Harry Potter anyone?) because it had all the unpacked boxes from our move. All the extra stuff that we didn’t need yet was stored here and whenever I needed to find something random, this was usually where I found it. It was a hot mess of a room and didn’t get fully unpacked until July (14 months after moving in). Throughout that time it rarely ever got used as an office – I would typically just work in the less-cluttered kitchen – but it did sometimes double up as an overflow guest room. The picture below shows how last fall, my in-laws stayed in here because our guest room was mid-renovation AND a couch from our living room had to get moved in as well because of our Christmas tree in the living room. All our boxes were shoved either behind the couch or under the desk on the left side of the room. Suffice to say, this room has been a workhorse for us.

Now that we’ve tackled a few of the more pressing needs in our house, it felt like the right time to address this room and I can barely contain my excitement! My goal to create storage with the built-in cabinets + bookcases while still allowing plenty of room for a desk and office chair. I’m also hoping to create a cozy reading space tucked in the bay window area.

The Plans

This is the largest-scale DIY room renovation that Justin and I have ever tackled on our own. Justin was admittedly nervous that my plans would be too difficult to actually implement ourselves (in all fairness, I do tend to make things sound like they’ll be easier to do than they actually are haha) but so far we’re cautiously optimistic about completing this project! Our to-do list includes:

-remove all existing beadboard

-DIY built-in storage along the back wall with closed cabinets on the bottom and open bookshelves on top

-install vertical planks from floor to ceiling on all walls (and hopefully the ceiling too!)

-replace window and door trim

-replace baseboards

-add crown molding

-PAINT!

-replace light fixture (that fluorescent one has got to GO)

-finishing touches: curtains, cozy seating, all the fun stuff!

We’ve already ripped out all the beadboard and the built-ins are underway! If you follow me on Instagram (@simplifythechaos) you can see all the progress there. We just finished all the trimming out and plan to fill all the nail holes this week. I’ll share all the details on the DIY built-ins next Thursday! For now I’ll leave you with this little sneak peek:

I’m SO excited to transform this space into the office + library of my dreams. Check back here on Thursdays to watch the progress unfold! šŸ™‚ In the meantime, you can check out all the other ORC participants and their chosen rooms here.

September 2020 Book Reviews

While I can hardly believe tomorrow is going to be October, I am also excited because that means it’s book review day!

This month I read five books (one of which was actually a re-read from a few years ago) and as usual, genres were all over the place. Let’s dive in!

The Last Flight by Julie Clark

The Last Flight: A Novel by [Julie Clark]

Claire has been searching for a way to escape her abusive marriage, so when she meets Eva, who also seems desperate to escape her life, in the airport, switching tickets seems like the perfect solution. That is, until Eva’s plane crashes. With no money, no identity, and no one to ask for help, Claire decides to assume Eva’s identity until she can figure out her next steps, not realizing that Eva was keeping some dark and dangerous secrets of her own.

This book was fast-paced and heart-pumping! I was immediately hooked from the start and raced through this book. I loved the alternating perspectives and the fact that Claire’s story mostly happened in the present while Eva’s focused on the past. Knowing Eva’s secrets and history before Claire did made me that much more eager to keep reading and see how things would unravel for her. I wasn’t necessarily expecting twists, but there were definitely a few towards the end of the book that I did not see coming and that made things even more interesting. While this book definitely got my adrenaline going, it wasn’t downright scary and I was able to read it alone at night while Justin was away without needing to sleep with the lights on. It was thrilling without being creepy and I really enjoyed it – highly recommend!

Her Last Flight by Beatriz Williams

Her Last Flight: A Novel by [Beatriz Williams]

When I searched my library for The Last Flight, this book also came up in my search. As soon as I saw it was a Beatriz Williams book, I requested a hold. I’ve raved about past books of hers (A Hundred Summers, The Secret Life of Violet Grant) and books she’s co-authored (The Glass Ocean, The Forgotten Room) so I was excited for this one and it did not disappoint!

Janey Everett is a journalist in pursuit of a story: after finding the wreckage of legendary pilot Sam Mallory’s plane, she discovers that he may not have been alone in his final crash and sets off to find the groundbreaking female pilot Irene Foster, who famously disappeared a decade earlier. This reads like biographical fiction even though it isn’t – it feels like a loose adaptation of Amelia Earhart’s life. I loved this book! The alternating timelines were a fascinating way to watch Sam and Irene’s lives unfold and I liked that it wasn’t directly Irene’s first person perspective but read like a novel. The characters, the historical details, the mystery – Williams just nailed it. My one complaint is that one of the “twists” was too easy to guess (and was guessable waaaay too early) but since this isn’t a suspense novel, I’ll let it slide. Overall, this book was a really enjoyable read and I’m adding it to my list of highly recommended Beatriz Williams novels!

The Royal We by Heather Cooks and Jessica Morgan

The Royal We by [Heather Cocks, Jessica Morgan]

American college student Bex Porter sets off for a study abroad adventure at Oxford only to find herself dorm-mates with Nick, aka Prince Nicholas, third in line for the throne of England. While romance is the last thing on her mind, she can’t ignore the close bond she feels towards Nick or the way their friendship soon feels like something else.

I actually read this book several years ago and loved it, so much so that it landed on my Ultimate Book Recommendations list. It’s like a fan fiction re-imagining of Prince William and Kate (if Kate was an American) and there are a lot of obvious parallels to the real life royal family (like Nick’s younger, rebellious, redheaded brother). It’s binge-y, it’s fun, it’s got characters you fall in love with and want to be friends with. I had forgotten how long it is though – I’m not sure 450+ pages was necessary and there definitely could have been things edited out. The length keeps it from being a true easy, breezy, light beach read simply because it does take effort to get through the whole thing. But even so, I really enjoyed it the first time and it was fun to re-live it again the second time. I would wholeheartedly recommend it with one caveat . . .

The Heir Affair by Heather Cooks and Jessica Morgan

The Heir Affair (The Royal We Book 2) by [Heather Cocks, Jessica Morgan]

. . . I hated the sequel. So much so that I think it makes me like The Royal We a little less.

When I first read The Royal We, it read like a standalone book. Even though there were still a few loose strings at the end, it very much ended in a way that allowed you to draw your own conclusions and feel happy and hopeful about the way things played out. Only to turn to The Heir Affair and realize you got it all wrong. I wanted this book to be about so many things – I feel like the authors could have taken a sequel in a lot of directions – and honestly, I just hated the direction it took. It took away my happy hopeful feelings, it made me frustrated, and it made me angry at characters I had once loved.

There were still some fun, cute moments that felt reminiscent of The Royal We, but not nearly enough. I kept holding out for an ending that made things make sense, that made me feel that same sort of happy, hopeful, “complete” sense I felt after reading The Royal We and I not only didn’t get it, but was so unsatisfied by the ending. Again, this book was long (450+ pages) and that’s a lot of exasperated reading. I find myself torn with whether or not I want another installment of this series. Maybe a third book could redeem all the things that I felt went wrong here . . . but also maybe not. My suggestion is to read The Royal We, draw your own conclusions, and then just move on without this sequel. šŸ˜‰

The Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

After the death of Truviv’s CEO, all eyes are on the short list for his replacement. Ames Garrett is at the top of that list and while he appears to be a stellar candidate, there are a few women in the office who feel very differently. There are many secrets that have been buried, but with the impending nomination, it’s starting to feel like they need to come to light . . .

This book read like a murder (maybe?) mystery meets thriller meets expose of workplace sexual harrassment. To be honest, I’m not sure if I technically enjoyed it. It was really frustrating and hard to read, and I’ll never understand why women aren’t believed first, but at the same time, that was kind of the point. It shows just how hard it is to come forward with sexual harrassment or assault claims and how swift and severe the pushback can be. I think this would be an interesting book to discuss in a book club. It feels like a page straight out of the #metoo movement and I think it can be an important piece of the conversation. It’s certainly not a light, fun book but I flew through it even when it was frustrating.

As we’re entering fall, I’m really looking forward to lighting a candle and curling up under a blanket with a good book! Send all the cozy recommendations my way!

Happy Birthday Ruthie!

Today’s blog post is a special one – this weekend my youngest sister turns 27 (on the 27th – golden birthday!) and I wanted to take some time to give her a shout out. So if you’re not Ruthie, feel free to skip this one šŸ˜‰

Ruthie is the biggest, most loyal supporter of my blog. She refreshes my site daily to look for new posts, she is always super encouraging, she gives me ideas for new posts, she finds my typos, she celebrates milestones and cheers me on every step of the way. Simply put, she’s my ultimate hype woman and it only feels right to surprise her when she refreshes the site today with a post about her.

I feel very lucky to have the type or relationship where Ruthie is not only my sister but one of my best friends. Even though we now live 800 miles apart, we talk multiple times a week and are very much a part of each other’s lives. Ruthie is a safe space for me to be wholly myself and I can share my stresses, triumphs, failures, worries, joys, and everything in between with her. She’s supportive, she’s non-judgemental, she’s thoughtful, she’s compassionate, and she’s always willing to give perspective when I need it or just listen when I don’t.

Ruthie is an intentional friend, sister, daughter, and aunt. She sends my kids little notes in the mail and makes sure they feel special and loved even from afar and it makes my heart so full!

Ruthie is also the life of the party. She’s energetic, she’s outgoing, and she can make friends with absolutely anyone. She’s just a fun person to be around. To know her is to love her, and man do I love her.

Happy birthday Squirt. You’re one of my favorite humans on this planet and I hope your weekend is as golden as you are. ā¤

Tackling DIY with Little Ones at home

If you’ve been following my blog for really any length of time, you know that I love a good DIY project. I often get asked how I have time to do these projects with small children around, and while I frequently use evenings after my kids are asleep, I also do quite a bit during the days. Today I thought I’d just talk about some of the ways I make this happen. I’m not going to pretend that these are the best ways or the only ways, but these are the things that work best for me personally in tackling DIY projects as a stay-at-home mama to two children under the age of three.

Dual Nap = Naptime Hustle!

Probably my biggest strategy is the “naptime hustle,” which just means that the moment my children are sleeping, I jump into project mode.

This has obviously varied a bit with the ages of my children (newborn sleep is a whole different ballgame!) but I have worked really hard to keep our daily routine as consistent as possible so both kids are used to napping at the same time each day. There’s a lot that I’m pretty relaxed about in motherhood but sleep is not one of them. We’re consistent with our routines, we’re consistent with the time, we’re consistent with being home in the afternoon (no afternoon playdates!) – I try everything I can to provide a solid foundation for my kids to nap well. If there is one day we are out of the routine, it’s not a big deal; however, that does mean that I make sure the next day is right back on track. For the most part, this has worked really well and my kids are both great nappers. Right now, they both go down around 1:00. Vi will sleep about 1.5-2 hours and LJ usually sleeps about 3-3.5 hours.

Screen Time is not the Enemy

I think sometimes screen time gets a bad rap and society makes us feel guilty for allowing any TV time, but there is no shame in my mama game to say TV has been a wonderful tool for us to use in moderation. When Vi goes down for her morning nap (usually about 9-10:30 or 11), I have no problem letting LJ watch a couple shows so I can have some time to work on a project. Justin and I both credit TV for actually helping him with language and learning – so many shows have value with teaching new words, showing how something works, teaching simple problem solving, or introducing concepts like letter sounds, counting, etc.

Do projects in small chunks

It’s almost never safe to just leave things out when I’m not working on them because my kids will inevitability get into the tools, paint, wood, screws, etc. Whenever possible, I try to break up a project in small chunks so that it’s easier to get the task completely done in my small work window and then quick clean up when I’m finished. It makes for smaller bursts of work at a time, but that adds up to help get a project finished.

Set up nearby activities

Before Vi was walking, I would often set her up in the pack n play next to wherever I was working on anything, DIY or otherwise. Sometimes LJ would want to join her in there and they’d play together -contained but nearby.

Now that she’s bigger, I’ll try to set up an activity in the next room that I can monitor. As I worked on putting together our Ikea cabinets for the office, I broke apart the box and gave LJ markers to draw on it right outside the room (the doors have glass so I could see) while Vi watched and played with the box. When I worked on the basement kitchen, I blocked off the couch area using boxes and end tables so the kids could play there while I painted cabinet doors on the other side. Neither child is old enough for unsupervised independent play longer than about two minutes so finding ways to partition them from the project while still keeping them nearby has been a big strategy for working while they’re awake.

Let them help!

In each project, I try to find at least one small thing that LJ can help with. This often means letting him help me paint a wall or use something simple like a screwdriver.

In my current project of working on the office, he was thrilled to get a small hammer and helped pound in a few tiny nails into the back of the cabinets. He may only be two but it’s teaching him responsibility, it’s encouraging him to have a sense of pride and ownership, and often, it helps satisfy his urge to meddle in the project, haha! When a project is forbidden, it just increases his curiosity to get involved. When he’s allowed to have a part in it, he’s happy and then will move on and go play with something else and leave my project alone. It’s a win for both of us!

And speaking of help . . .

Childcare is a huge help to me when I’m in the midst of a project. As a stay-at-home mama, every little bit of outside help makes a huge difference for me. LJ recently started preschool and is now gone for three hours two times a week. Since Vi usually naps during this time, it gives me a bonus naptime hustle. My parents live about an hour away and they have also been incredibly helpful to me with childcare. They like to take the kids for a day or two every once in a while and they’ve also come here to watch them so I can get things done. This is especially helpful when I’m in the middle of a large scale project like painting tile floors or kitchen cabinets and need blocks of time beyond what a naptime provides. Pre-pandemic I also hired a babysitter twice a month to come watch the kids for a few hours so I could get a little work done without interruptions.

Recognize other areas will slip

The reality is, when I’m in full-on project mode, other areas of my life often slip a bit. I don’t try to do everything, and my time gets prioritized differently. Our house isn’t as clean. I have bigger piles of laundry because I’m not doing it as frequently. I don’t have the free time to read. I can’t do it all, so I’ve had to just recognize that sometimes these seasons of projects mean other areas are a little more lax and that’s okay.

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Of course there are seasons where DIY projects aren’t as feasible (looking at you again, newborn stage) but I truly believe that just because you have small children at home doesn’t mean you can’t tackle a project if you want to. Start with a simple job like spray painting some frames or swapping out hardware. When you start small, you learn to roll with the punches, find out what works best for you, your family, your daily schedules, and then you can work your way up to larger scale projects. DIY with small children around is not without its challenges, but it can be done and I’m cheering for you!

If you have finished a DIY project with small children around, what tips and tricks did you use to accomplish it?