I long for a life with everything neatly sorted into the equivalent of a 3D spreadsheet. I long for it in the same way, and with the same futility, as I long for stick-straight hair, a surprise growth spurt, and smaller boobs.
Creativity is messy. I find it in piles of seemingly unrelated objects, sorted with a system that makes sense. To me.
Living in a small house has its challenges, but at least we have two bathrooms. Well, sort of– I’m currently storing boxes of tile and antique light fixtures in one shower. The same shower that needs to be re-tiled, but not the same shower I have already re-tiled. I’ve spent the past few months collecting tile (white subway tile, from thrift stores) for that project. Spending $8 instead of $60? Yes, please. JB didn’t realize that there was a relationship between the tile collection and the shower project, which irritated me at first. Then I had to wonder what it meant that he waited 3 months and 6 boxes of tile before commenting.
But I needed to finish the hall bath before destroying the master bath. So I did. Except for a linen shelf. But there was this metal locker…
Thrift shopping is hoarding. Estate sales/thrift purchases require immediate commitment. We need storage, like shelves. But I want to use the scrap wood in the basement first. And I sure don’t want to pay more money for fake wood. I just don’t.
We find the perfect couch, huge, old, non-toxic foam (bonus!), cheap ($550), and in pristine condition. Like that couch spent the first 40 years of its life under a plastic slipcover. But it need end tables. Midcentury modern, two-tier end tables are all the rage, but I cannot force myself to pay $200 for items that I ignored in my grandmother’s house. Plus, all the rage means everyone will have them. Meh.
Then I find two project tables. What was once the bottom of an antique vanity that some other creative person hobbled together into a column of drawers. They’ll need to be stripped and sanded, stained, and sealed. It needs matching legs. And a top. But they are the perfect size, and…different, because they’ve never been tables at all. Which means I’ll never see these tables in anyone else’s house. Ever.
The metal locker. The slightly rusty, in need of paint, locker. The 6 foot tall, single column locker, with individual doors/cubbies. The one that just so happens to fit in the linen shelf space of the hall bathroom. The one that, when I am done with it, will solve the 2 months of bath towels piled on my bedroom floor problem.
Speaking of bedrooms, I painted the master, got a new mattress, and have, within the past few days, accepted that “antique wrought iron” and “queen” don’t exist in this dimension. So I spend an evening whining about my headboards with a mostly-tolerant, mildy-irritated husband, because I am an “eclectic” and he’s a “traditional”. Somehow we both agree on a concept being used in tiny house construction (not a loft). But it needs to be built first. Which is another project.
And I want to sew, having acquired a fabric-store’s worth of vintage fabric. But the crap from my master bedroom is in piles in my studio, so I can’t get to the sewing machine. Don’t talk to me about writing. I’m freezing on a stone patio, because the one activity where clutter and creativity cannot coexist is during sentence writing.
The November birthdays. Elliot, my youngest, who turned 6 today. The boy that continues to delight us with the full-speed joy and enthusiasm he’s shown since his unintentional, un-medicated birth. And Zach, whose birthday is not for another “6 of the longest days in the world”. The boy who will turn 8, and can always be counted on announcing to anyone that will listen how “mom, we could MAKE that.” The kid that was mad because I went to the Reuse Store without him.
My life? It’s messy and cluttered and busy and stressful. And also, creative and inspiring and energizing and interesting.
Small Sofa? Settee? Large Chair? I’m going with sofa. This post will show you how to repurpose a crib into a mid-century inspired sofa. Taking trash to treasure ranks in my Top 10 of all favorite things.
Not even an expensive, convertible crib. Nope, nothing but the least-expensive-but-still-safe sleep prison for my precious darlings.
I ended up spending $80 total– for a gallon of paint, two new brushes, and $30 bucks a yard upholstery fabric (then 50% off!) and some extra foam. To date, I’ve spent a max of $7 a yard, it took me several days to work up the nerve to even cut the fabric!
My office needed a chair, but not an overflowing monstrosity like the one above. Something comfy, but practical. Something, um, free.
I’ve seen many crib-into-bench ideas and since the mattress also sat in my basement, I decked it out at a little couch.
It looked like a crib and crib mattresses aren’t particularly comfortable to sit on when one weighs more than a baby.
I poked around the internet, looking at couches, choosing a few mid-century modern couch designs as inspiration. Nice clean lines– furniture whose footprint matches its function, nary a superfluous poofy cushion in sight.
I’m going to tell you the truth- if you’ve ever cut a piece of wood with a power tool; sewn a semi-straight line; and used a stapler– this project is doable.
Step 1: Shape the arms of your sofa.
Our crib had those high, arched sides. No good. I used a jig saw and cut down at an angle. I like easy, so the highest point of my incline meets the back of the sofa.
Step 2: Let’s Get Stable!
You weigh more than a baby; is the crib sturdy enough? You can see the original bottom of the crib under the cedar bunkie boards (yup, had those in the basement; I got them for $5 at a thrift store 3 years ago). If you don’t have random bunkie boards, cut 2 x 4s to length, and screw them into the frame.
Glue and nail a thin piece of wood to stabilize the wobbly spikes to stabilize your arms. This also gives the flat, mid-century modern form when you start to shape with the foam.
Step 3: Foam strip, a lot of glue, and even more tape.
Sidebar: Some 13ish years ago, adventurous friends helped me take a reciprocating saw to an over-stuffed couch, which is when we all learned that even pre-made furniture is largely shaped with cardboard.
Step 4: Cardboard for shape. Cardboard for stability. Cardboard 4 life.
Your goal here is to give a solid foundation to shape the cushions. I had a few heavy duty shipping boxes (see above about not throwing things away).
Step 5: Padding
Turtles? What the what? So. My mom made custom crib bumpers for the still-gestating first grandbaby. I tied them so tight– no choking!– that they had to be sliced off with a very sharp knife, rendering them useless as crib bumpers. For years they’ve hung out in my scrap fabric project box just waiting… to be put back together with the crib. I used the bumpers to fill in the padding on the sofas arms. Reunited, and it feels so good.
Step 6: Assemble the first layer of padding.
Padding inserted, everything’s nailed or glued down. Incidentally, this is about when I headed downstairs to look for a heavy-duty stapler. That stapler is my new BFF. Get a good stapler. Tack nails and tape cannot replace a good stapler. If they take my stapler then I’ll set the building on fire*…
Step 7: Estimate your fabric needs by making a pattern.
Large sheets make great slipcover/upholstery pattern pieces. Unless, like me, you choose a fitted sheet. You can’t fold fitted sheets into neat squares because they are the devil’s work. Therefore, if you can’t fold it into a square, they will not make nice rectangles. But it did help me estimate my yardage (a king sized sheet is about 3 yards; I bought 4).
I ended up asking my first grader* about vertices and then drew out the geometry. At the most basic, most furniture is nothing more than a simple quadrilateral.
*I’m only sort of kidding.
Step 8: A little more cushion, please.
Cardboard and thin foam isn’t very snuggly. I intended to make a padded cushion with extra lower back support using scrap “mom, that’s too babyish for us” fabric and some of the 5 pound box of fiberfill I got on sale– 2 years ago. THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN EASIER HAD I JUST BOUGHT FOAM*. Unless you are trying to prove something to yourself, just buy the foam.
*That deserved a yell. I overstuffed the back cushion only to really notice the lopsidedness when I dry-fitted the upholstery fabric. I’m not a perfectionist, but it was bad even by my standards and I had to rip out some of my precious staples to adjust the cushion stuffing because sofa Spanx doesn’t exist. Lumpy is neither mid-century modern, nor comfy. When I reupholster other furniture, I will just buy the foam.
Step 9: Embrace flexibility.
Remember how fitted sheets can’t become rectangles? This is when old patterns come in handy. Speaking of– have I mentioned that I can’t sew by following a pattern? I can take stuff apart and make new things from it; I can look at an object and determine how to make the fabric piece together, but patterns– with their darts and seam allowances– make me all sorts of weepy.
Step 10: Foam on top
Take coupon and buy 2 yards of foam to smooth out the pillow. Hey– they DO make soda Spanx! I stapled this stuff on top of my scrap-fabric cushion.
Step 11: Attachment
Staples– too many is not enough; so many 3/8 inch staples in this bad boy. The fabric on the arms took the longest. It’s in two pieces– the inner trapezium* meets the flat top of the outer trapezium.
*Seriously, that one I did learn from 1st grade common core math.
Step 12: Remember
You’ll say to yourself, naw– I’ve pulled the fabric too tight (you didn’t), and I’ve got enough staples (you don’t).
As for the edges? I found it helpful to think about neatly wrapping a present (not something I do much of– the neat part). It’s the same sort of concept when wrapping a sofa.
Step 13: Details
I found button making thingys (that is the scientific name for them– my brain is spent after trapezium) on clearance for 97 cents. I find absurd joy in making buttons. I could make buttons ALL DAY LONG.
Step 14: Get a mascot and “borrow” your oldest child’s sonic screwdriver.
I haven’t put the knob back on the TARDIS door yet, which means you can’t get in without a flat-edged tool. It’s funny until you actually lock yourself in there without a screwdriver one evening.
A few weeks ago I locked myself in on purpose as the boys left for karate.
Elliot: “Daaa–aaaddd! Mom locked herself in her TARDIS again!”
Zach: “Mom’s just gone to another dimension. She’ll be back by breakfast.”
Which would be hilarious enough, right? Until several hours later, when this happened:
Elliot on his way to bed whispers through the door: “Breakfast is at 7, Mom. Don’t be late.”
Pure childhood memory gold, right? Yes– except Elliot, at 5, has a grasp on reality somewhere in between loosey and goosey. A few days after my dimension field trip, Grumpy Cat (aka Tartar Sauce, aka TARDIS Sauce) showed up on my sewing table. Why? BECAUSE I NEEDED A COMPANION. Hard not to love that kid; he thinks JUST LIKE ME.
“I’m going to paint my office door to look like the TARDIS,” I said to my husband the other night.
“MMMhmmm, ” he muttered never lifting his eyes away from his precious, the college basketball.
Thus notified he offered no argument which therefore implies consent (I also watch Law and Order).
The door– like all of its matching friends– pays homage to the late Sixties obsession with brown paneling. So ugly.
I used scrap printer paper to hold the places for the beveled panels.
Using dark paint in one corner creates the illusion of beveling on a flat surface. I will use this trick again.
I used shiny laminate paper for the top panels since I had, you know, accidentally painted them blue instead of leaving them white.
I had about two hours before needing to pick up my oldest from school. The hall looked so bare around my TARDIS. It needed…something. A painting of a planet and its moon*, yes.
*No I’m not giving you a step by step of this part. I didn’t use spray paint, but otherwise followed the steps in the aforementioned link.
I could have stopped, but the planet and moon looked lonely. It needed something more. Something intergalactic for the planetary. Like a nebula!
Nebulae (see what I did there? Fancy!) are really shockingly simple to paint. I did all of this with acrylic paint and lots of blotting with paper towels.
My kids wanted to make their own outer space paintings (naturally). Here’s a pictorial on How to Make a Space Nebula in 9 Frames (the planet instructions are on that other link; no need for me to repeat her work.)
Doing a crappy job with spray paint (e.g., creating the stars) proved to the most complicated part of the entire thing.
I love it. Everyone should enter their office via a TARDIS flying through a nebula toward the Planet Orangeish Thing. And how glad am I to have Beastie Boys as my background music, finally displacing the week-long ear worm of “Everyone is Awesome”?
Here are the Before and After pictures of my DIY Intergalactic Planetary TARDIS Office.
The case for Displaying Imperfection in the Living Room. Yes, even your child’s art.
Last week I enjoyed having a man-cold. And by man-cold I mean, ermahgerd-snot-can’t-breath-is-this-sinus-cancer cold and by enjoy, I mean laid in bed trying to remove mucous from my nose with the infant snot-sucker thing. I whined and reclined, a lot. Which, when that other parent’s home is fine, and less fine the rest of the time. Not-sick-Elliot became independently motivated and, um, created things. Like this Halloween ghost I found taped by the front door in my living room.
Since he started the morning of October 1st with, “where are the decorations? It’s HALLOWEEN MONTH Y’ALL” I’m not surprised to find evidence of his enthusiasm. Not surprised, and frankly quite pleased. I like holidays, sure, but I don’t drag all of this festivity out for myself. Nope.
Okay, maybe a few for myself. For example, my window eyeballs.
And fine, I’m the one that taped the place mat on the bearded dragon cage.
Some of these have become tradition. Like the milk-jug, curtain-sheer ghost that hangs by the front door. I never intended for this to be permanent, but here you go. This isn’t really my holiday, ya know?
I never intended to hang skeletons in the shrubbery. Have you noticed how very little children care about adult intentions?
Coloring pages decorate random spots all over my house. Kids with access to both tape and push pins, and a mother that thinks children should see their art all over the place.
Come on– you know you like the polished pinterest (or more accurately– what Martha’s been doing for a really long time)?
Sure, theoretically. I mean, I like to look at other people’s pinable houses, but that level of effort (both in the doing and the maintaining) just isn’t compatible with my life. Or my parenting style.
In the way I’ve come about each Really Important Life Lesson, I first needed an epic fail.
It’s October 2011, and the boys and I are unpacking the Halloween decoration bin. When I pull out Zach’s Halloween chain from the previous year I flinch, and glance over in time to see his smile wilt. We stand there, both staring at this orange and black construction paper chain, remembering how frustrated we had been that day. Him trying to cut and staple–for the first time– and me blisteringly impatient with the sloppiness of his scissor work, his careless stapling.
He was three (one month to four), but he was three at the time. Three. And I was angry with him for not trying hard enough. I remember snapping at him, “you’re not even trying to make it look nice!” More importantly, I absolutely remember the look on his face.
He. Was. Three. And I was old enough to not be that invested in the outcome of construction paper.
But there it is, every October when I pull out this chain (last year he added a small one, I’m going to repeat that this year), I’m reminded that constant criticism of children murders their creativity. Kills their self-confidence. Might ruin a future artist’s dream.
The artistic plane, unlike the dinner table, is an amazingly easy place to praise and support your child. Really. Stupidly. Simple.
And this is why you will find an odd piece of what might first assume is trash accidentally stuck to the door. Because that’s not trash at all– that, my friends, is Elliot’s reduce, reuse, recycle ghost.
1 cup ground cinnamon
1 cup applesauce
1/4 cup white school glue
Preparing the Dough
Mix ground cinnamon applesauce and glue in a large mixing bowl
Mix ground cinnamon with applesauce and white glue in a large mixing bowl.
If the mixture feels too stiff, add a touch of water.
Knead the clump together and wrap it in some plastic wrap, allowing it to sit for about an hour.
Making the Cookies
Sprinkle some cinnamon on your prep area and roll the dough out to about 1/2″.
Use your cookie cutters to create fun shapes in the dough; or
Make coils of dough and sculpt your own designs such as letters and shapes.
Be sure to punch a hole in the top of each shape with a straw or pencil.
Drying or Baking the Ornaments
You can either let them dry naturally over a period of 3 to 5 days, or you can bake them in an oven at 200 degrees for about 2 hours (making sure you flip them halfway through).
This year’s ornaments. Yeah, I know– Martha’s job is totally safe. Hint: if the results of a for-child craft look perfect, it was likely not made by children. But the stars are mine, wink.
This year we added names in the hopes of preventing a repeat of “I don’t know which candy cane is yours” argument.
For better or worst, we make these ornaments (or the salt dough version) every year. Handprints. Shapes. It’s fun, it’s easy*.
*Yes, it IS easy. With one child, calm children, or adults.
I realized today that the Making of the Ornament marks a milestone stored in the oldest Small Person’s head: CHRISTMAS IS ALMOST HERE.
So yes, they want to make the ornaments. They love to see the previous year’s ornaments when we decorate the tree.
However, the ACT of ornament-making with twitchy little boys sort of feels like I’m being punk’d by Santa.
On the bright side, tasting the dough isn’t a temptation (to me!) because of the glue. Also, the cinnamon in the oven smelled more festive than dirty dog feet and little boy farts.
Oh, did I neglect to mention that a contest of competing farts was the Funniest.Thing.Ever?
Boys, they pee all over the floor and fart all over your house. And we love them anyway.
When you’re wearing shorts and a t-shirt as temperatures hover in the sixties and it’s the middle of December… snow seems unlikely.
But this is North Carolina and I’m out of milk so it will probably snow tomorrow.
Elliot goes to a co-op preschool and I was in charge of the Winter Party. It was Joel and I– which turned out to be really special for E, since he’s never had the two of us without his brother. Poor Second Born child.
I always planned for the stuff around the party– crafts, games, favors– to be very simple. Why? Because these are 3 and 4 year olds and they have the attention span of hyperactive gnats.
Then I saw a friend’s pictures of felt snowballs. FELT SNOWBALLS! Have you ever heard of such a wonderful thing?
I hadn’t, but of course it exists! Michelle, author at Rust & Sunshine not only made some, she also provides a free pattern so you can do it, too.
*No, really– she did all the work already– I’m not typing out my own version of her instructions, because that would be, 1) a copyright violation, and 2) redundant.
First, I made two snowballs and handed them off to my Small People. If there is a way to cause either body or property damages with felt, it’s gonna be my kids.
After they remained both injury and argument free, I added balled up socks to their stash and started sewing the class snowballs. Party favors, dontcha know? Two balls per kid– because one snowball per kid is lame– for a total of 24 felt snowballs.
The greatest time investment–as it always is with sewing– was in the cutting. The sewing part only took 3-4 minutes per ball.
The 30 minutes of sustained fun had by the hyperactive gnats? Worth it!
I allow– nay, encourage — both kids to get down and dirty with the building projects. I want to pass the family tradition of DIY and hoardingrepurposing common household items. Thus I started collecting ideas for repurposing an old crib about 2 years ago.
I love pinterest– I really do. However, long before wireless internet access and 4G networks, Good Housekeeping showed up in the mailbox. Women like Heloise shaped how I thought about housekeeping– and pantyhose.
Playing with Barbie to the background music of This Old House and Victory Garden adds up to more than a decade’s worth of subliminal suggestion. Mixing that with Wrath of Khan and the Shaolin Monk and… yeah, my formative years molded me eclectic.
Teaching children to see the world through the lens of creativity? Sort of my thing. The satisfaction of using real tools, of touching real wood cannot be replicated by Little Tyke.
When I repurposed the crib into their lego table, I had two very willing helpers.
An admitted side bonus of having them enjoy my hobby means that they are usually tolerant when I say “no, you can’t help paint with oil-based primer”. Usually.
Both of my babies slept in this crib–and my oldest starts kindergarten on Monday– but the Dropside of Death meant sending it to a landfill. Landfill? No way.
You’ve heard of Pinterest, right? And then, because one cannot have yin without yang; Pinterest, You are Drunk? I have a personal submission for the second link: remember, laughing at other people without also laughing at yourself makes you an asshole.
I am a procrastinator. I make To Do lists only to willfully ignore every item. I seek pressure-filled, adrenaline-rushed situations. Setting soft deadlines for myself is like putting mashed cauliflower on a plate and calling it potatoes: a nice thought, but not fooling anyone.
In a few weeks, each of the Small People start schools in different zip codes. For those keeping notes, ADHD folk (yup, that’s me) generally struggle with multiple transitions. Multiple transitions involving two people that regularly take 20 minutes to walk a mere five feet? Valium anyone?
Sane Other people might be spending these next two weeks soaking in time with the kids, making lunch menus, planning outfits and updating the family calendar.
Or finishing the other important things like emailing Z’s new principal a head’s up that the child is capable of reading Harry Potter level text– but might prefer to speak his made up dragon language on testing day. Or perhaps dropping off his immunization records.
To that end, getting E’s health form filled out.
Or buying that other car, since the insurance company totaled out the Scion.
Instead of doing any of those things, I am sifting through mountains of paper and spray painting stuff.