Monday, December 25, 2017

IKEA Play Kitchen Makeover

Christmas Eve:
Merry Christmas! The presents are wrapped, cookies are set out for Santa, and the munchkin is neatly tucked away in her crib, clad in brand new Christmas pj's. This is probably the most excited I've been for Christmas morning in a long time- Ellie is just old enough this year to be excited, and tomorrow she gets to come downstairs to find her brand new play kitchen!

I've wanted to get her a play kitchen since before she was born, and this year seemed like the perfect time.  I did a lot of research on different options and finally decided on the Ikea DUKTIG because it was the right size and fairly simple.

Since we don't live really close to an Ikea, I was able to order one online for $27 shipping, which I thought was pretty reasonable considering what we would have spent on gas, tolls, and a carload of Swedish furniture and accessories we don't need if we'd actually gone to Ikea. And it arrived really quickly- within just a couple of days.

Now, of COURSE I couldn't just leave it as-is, and the fact that I have a busy job, a toddler, and was finishing up two graduate classes did not stop me from coming up with all kinds of slightly ridiculous and overly ambitious ideas.  As usual, poor Lance just got dragged along for the ride.

At first, I had a difficult time deciding what to do, but then I had to remind myself that a dream kitchen for a toddler is probably different than one for an adult. Ellie probably isn't as into subway tile backsplashes, farmhouse sinks, and quartz countertops as I am. So instead, we focused on what we could do with materials we already had on hand.  We used a light lavender/gray paint leftover from painting Ellie's dresser, and some stain and polyacrylic from our stash of random stuff. We purchased some inexpensive tap lights at Mendard's to create under cabinet lighting, and added some stick on Command hooks to the sides for her to hang aprons and dish cloths.

We primed and painted the wooden parts and left the parts that were already white.  We then sanded the countertop, applied wood conditioner, and then stained it.  We finished everything off with a coat of poly.  For the backsplash, we originally considered using PVC "tin" leftover from the ceiling in our foyer, which looked like this:

I really liked the tin, but after taking a poll of family and friends, the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of bead board (leftover from our camper re-do last summer). So Lance primed and painted that and attached it to the back. When it was done, I really liked the look, but felt like it was a little plain, so I went in search of a chalkboard slate I could put in. I thought it would be fun for her to be able to write "menus" or whatever else she wants on there.

As it turns out, wooden slates are harder to find than I expected.  After going to several stores, we finally found on (on Dec 23rd) at JoAnn's, although it was unfinished.  I figured it wouldn't be that big of a deal to stain and poly it to match the countertop.  Technically, it WASN'T hard, the problem was that even after taping everything off and applying stain very carefully, it bled through onto the slate.  Luckily, I had a roll of chalkboard tape (NO idea where or when I bought it) and I was able to tape right over the slate and [Tim Gunn voice] make it work. I attached it to the backsplash with heavy duty velcro so it's removable for easier writing.

For the backing on the upper shelves, I just cut out pieces of scrapbook paper and stuck them in there.  I'm not sure how long they'll last, but for now they look pretty nice and add a little bit of color and pattern to the top.

I'm definitely happy with how this turned out. We're now only a few hours into Christmas morning and already it has gotten lots of Ellie love- it definitely no longer looks all organized and neat (good thing I took the pictures last night!).

Monday, July 24, 2017

Happy Campers!

Well, it's been months now since Lance brought home the camper (a 1996 Palomino Colt),  but I'm excited to announce that our camper re-do is FINALLY done! In all honesty, it's a project that could probably have been completed in just a couple of weeks, but we didn't even start on it until the school year had ended and we'd returned from a family vacation. Then of course everything takes 1000 times longer when you're trying to wrangle the world's most active toddler at the same time.  So for the most part we had to work during nap times or take turns watching her while the other worked on the camper solo. Our saving grace came when my parents visited for a few days, which gave us some much-needed child care and and extra set of hands at the same time. Thanks Mom and Dad!

In writing about everything we did, I realized that there were a LOT of changes, so for now I'll just give a really general overview and then I can provide more detail about specific parts of the project in subsequent posts (ha ha ha ha ha ha the thought of having time for more posts anytime soon is hilarious!).

Anyway, as you may recall, here is what the camper looked like when we started. In perfectly good shape, functional, and it easily could have been camped in almost immediately:

However, while we may like to revel in the nostalgia of 90's music, movies, clothes, and Zima from time to time, we weren't really eager to revisit 90's decorating.

Step 1: We started by pulling everything out, including the kitchen sink, which we decided to remove since we weren't planning to use it anyway, and it made the camper much lighter and gave us a lot more storage space:



Step 2: Small Repairs
There were a few areas that needed some repairs, including some small tears/thin spots in the canvas, a wheel well that was rusted through (all fixed, thanks to some Bondo and rust converter we already had on hand) and a spot where the wood veneer was coming off (we just replaced it with bead board and painted over it). We also replaced the lights on the outside and caulked the seams to make sure there are no water leaks.

Step 3: Cleaning, inside and out

For the canvas, we used a mixture of Woolite and water and then used diluted vinegar for dirt and mildew spots.  On the vinyl, we used dish soap and water and then finished it off with some Protect All to make it really shine. I also have to give a shout out to the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, which worked wonders on all of the black marks.

Step 4:  Priming and painting.
I had originally wanted to paint the cabinets gray to hide dirt and scuff marks, but then Lance pointed out that with all the gray canvas, the inside was going to look really depressing. After looking at several camper re-do's online where people noted that white cabinets really weren't any more difficult to clean than darker colors, I decided to go with a nice bright white (Dutch Boy Mold and Mildew Resistant Paint in White, to be exact. 1 gallon was MORE than enough and we saved money with a rebate). For primer, we used BIN Oil-Based primer left over from our master bedroom redo. Once it was dry, we gave it a clear coat of water-based polycrylic (remember you can't use polyurethane on painted surfaces because it will yellow over time).  Lance found some appliance epoxy (it's durable and heat resistant) and used it to paint the fridge, outlet covers, heater grate, and fire extinguisher cubby. We were skeptical that it would actually look like stainless steel, but were pleasantly surprised to find it actually does (for the most part, anyway). I don't know that I'd use it in our kitchen, but for a camper it worked pretty well.


Step 5: Table and Countertops
We also replaced the table and counter tops with wood instead of the old chipped formica and particle board combo. We used edge-glued spruce, which we cut to size using the old table and counter tops as guides, and we made a new counter for the space where the sink used to be. We know spruce is softer, so it's going to get some dings in it, but we're ok with that because it will give the wood a nice distressed look over time. We stained it with Minwax Dark Walnut,  which brought out some beautiful grains in the wood and it matches the floors perfectly.

Step 6: Floors and Molding
Speaking of floors, Lance and my dad spent a day and a half putting in snap together vinyl planks and finishing them with quarter round molding. We'd considered peel and stick vinyl, but it just looked really cheap and we were afraid it wouldn't stick well the the linoleum underneath. We're really happy with our decision- the floors look AWESOME!

Here was our progress at about the mid-point:

We also replaced the old yellow brass cabinet hardware with brushed nickel, though we discovered that with the addition of the molding, we had to make some modifications to make the doors fit properly:

Step 7: Fabric
The most difficult decision was actually what fabric to use for bunk curtains and re-covering the bench cushions.  We thought about using pre-made curtains, table cloths, or cloth shower curtains, but we weren't really able to find a pattern that we really liked.  Finally, we settled on a pattern for the bunk curtains (Covington Carson Fiesta) from and then we were able to pick coordinating fabric for the bench cushions and pillows. Now I am NOT experienced at sewing, and I found this to be the worst part of the whole project, although part of that might be because my sewing machine is terrible (I'm now in the market for a new one, preferably one that doesn't suck). I used this tutorial for re-covering the cushions, except that I finished the edges and instead of hand sewing the covers right onto the cushions, I used velcro to close them so that they can be removed and washed. The bunk curtains are just clipped on with Ikea Riktig clips and bungee cords. For pillows I just re-covered a few of the billion throw pillows we have lying around the house.

Step 8: Bedding
I know that sleeping bags would be waaaay easier, but we felt like so often sleeping bags are just too hot for summer, and that there is something really nice about crawling into an actual bed with actual sheets at the end of a long day. For now we are keeping the original bunk mattresses, but we put a layer of foam tiles (the kind you see on the floor of children's play rooms) underneath and will be adding a memory foam topper. We got sheets from Marshall's and bed spreads on clearance from Boston Store.

At this point I'm guessing most people have skipped over everything I just wrote and scrolled town right away to see the "after" pictures. At least that's what I do when I look at this kind of stuff. So....


Grownup bunk- not nearly as cute and colorful as Ellie's!

Vinyl snap-together flooring

We thought the door panel could use a little color.

Goodbye sink, hello new wood countertop!

A nod to the old pea green VW Van from my childhood

The dark stain really highlights the wood grain.

Ellie's Bunk

Sunday, April 23, 2017

That Time We Bought A Camper.......

So I am realizing that the last time I posted, it was August 2015. was so much simpler back then, wasn't it? I'd planned to do a post about our daughter's nursery (oh yeah, we had a baby), but then it was never really quite ready for pictures (it still isn't, and she's 11 months old!) and we've been too busy to really get much done. Until now. Ok we're still too busy but also itching to do SOMETHING creative, as it's been a while.

Now as public school educators in different districts, it's rare that both Lance and I have the same week off for Spring Break, and this year was no exception. So a couple of weeks ago, on the first day of Lance's break, I got a text from him that said "Well, I didn't buy Ellie a pony, but I did buy her a Palomino!" It turns out he and Ellie had taken a road trip to Appleton and purchased a 1996 Palomino Colt from someone on Craigslist**.  Of course I wondered if he bought a pop up camper on the first day of break, what kinds of things would the two of them be coming home with by Friday!?

Because it was cold and rainy for the rest of the week, I didn't actually see it until the following weekend when we were able to set it up out in the driveway:

It came with an outside canopy, which is pretty nice, and while the inside is in decent shape (if it were a house I'd say it has "good bones") but definitely very dated and in need of a deep cleaning. The previous owner(s) had added a sound system (as in, put in a car stereo and hooked up some of those speakers that EVERYONE had in the late 90's). I can't imagine why you'd want such huge speakers taking up valuable space in a pop-up, but who knows. Maybe this guy just really liked to crank up some Ace of Base and rock out in there, I'm not here to judge.

The camper has a sink, heater, and fridge, but was missing the stove that hooks onto the outside.  I was ok with this, because I'd rather just use a Coleman stove that is smaller, lighter and more portable anyway. I'm ok with keeping the fridge, as we have a small child and I think it could come in really handy in that regard, but I feel like the counter/sink combo really just takes up a TON of space and weight and is really unnecessary. It's like the sink is really large enough to wash dishes in, and I would much rather have room for storing clothes and supplies rather than a huge water jug. 

Originally I had planned to just clean the whole thing from top to bottom, replace a couple of worn parts, and patch a few thin spots in the canvas. But then Lance alerted me to the fact that apparently pop-up re-do's are a big thing nowadays (rookie mistake!). And once I started looking at Pinterest and various blogs and getting way too many ideas, there was no turning back. 

There are a couple of things getting in the way of the visions of a fun project dancing in my head, though.  One, there is road construction on our street that is SUPPOSED to start on our block July 1, but it appears they've already started. So the street is torn up and the end of our driveway is a narrow dirt mound with deep ditches and orange barrels on either side.  Not exactly ideal for getting a camper in and out.  And once the street gets closed, we will have to park on side streets for a while and will have no way to access the camper with a vehicle.  So we're kind of in a time crunch to get this renovation done. Secondly, let's not forget we have an almost-toddler. And she isn't exactly the type to sit patiently in a playpen in the yard while we toil away on a project. We don't really have a lot of babysitting options, either, so finding large chunks of time for both of us to work is going to be a little bit of a challenge.

So right now, here's our to-do list:
1. Clean (obviously), patch canvas, and replace a few small parts
2. Take out sink and plumbing
3. Paint cabinets
4. Re-cover cushions and add foam mattress toppers to bunks
5. Replace curtains
6. Replace flooring
7. Replace table top and counter tops

Stay tuned for project updates! 

**Now to be fair, he had been talking about and researching pop-ups for quite a while, and I knew he was likely going to buy one that week, but the story is way funnier if it sounds like he just showed up at home with a random camper.