Saturday, June 2, 2012

The People at HGTV are a Bunch of Liars

Unlike every DIY or home makeover show on TV, in the real world, a major project takes more than a few hours.  In fact, it might take more than several weeks, especially if you are trying to do as much as possible yourself only during school hours while still making sure your household eats and has clean laundry.

Since we moved into this house five years ago, we have eaten in our dining room exactly zero times.  We are not exactly "dining" types.  We have an eat-in kitchen with a 10-foot table that seats all parents, children and grandparents in our family at one time, and we adults typically eat in front of the TV after the kids have gone to bed.

Other than to pass through or toss coats during a party, I don't think any one of us ever went into the dining room.  A few years ago, when my parents moved and gave me the player piano I learned to play on, the piano ended up in the dining room only because it wouldn't fit down the stairs to the basement and I had nowhere else to put it. That made the dining room full of one large piano, plus a contemporary buffet, table and chairs from our Chicago condo that, frankly, looked absurd in this (modernized) New England colonial.

On top of that, the dining room was ugly.  When we moved in, we deemed the dining room a Project to Be Done Later and tried to ignore it.  It had dark green walls that made the whole room dark and depressing, plus a chandelier and wall sconces that were an offense to lighting designers everywhere.  For five years, I shuddered at those fixtures every time I walked past.

Today, we no longer have a dining room.  Thanks to a great concept by my husband and, if I do say so myself, a ton of work by me, we now have a bright, cheerful homework/craft room.  After much debate with the kids, we have decided to call it the studio, which is pretentious and ridiculous but easier than saying homework/craft room.

Here are some before and after shots.  I didn't plan in advance to share, so the Before pictures are less than great.


This is the dining room before we moved into the house, as decorated by the previous owners.  We took down the window treatments and had the yellow ceiling repainted white before we moved into the house.

The depository of things that didn't go elsewhere. My contemporary table, floral Oriental-style rug, and piano.  You can't see them, but the beautiful light fixtures are still there.  Ugh.


Ta-da!  The studio:

But there's more:

Because replacing molding, repainting walls and trim, and laying FLOR tiles while shopping for new furniture wasn't enough, I also decided to tackle my first furniture restoration project.  I originally planned to put a wall of kitchen cabinets with a long counter workspace on the wall opposite the desks.  Over time, I decided that the cost and commitment of mounted cabinetry was more than I was ready to undertake, and then I found this beautiful piece of junk on craigslist.

I really wish I'd taken some close-ups, because it doesn't look half-bad in this photo.  In reality, the corners were severely dinged, the side had a giant scratch, and the top and back were ruined by water damage.  It had been used as an armoire, with a single small shelf and bar across the top.  It also smelled like an old lady's garage, which is where I found it.

I decided that, although seriously overpriced at $75, this fine piece of crap was destined to be our new arts and crafts cabinet and that I must have it.

I had never tried anything like this before, but I wanted to learn and see if I could do it.  (Plus, it was an excuse to buy some power tools and learn to use my nail gun.)  My dad helped me with the carpentry when he visited recently, replacing the top and back of the cabinet and adding shelves.  I stripped paint, filled gouges, and sanded and sanded and sanded.  Going into the project, I had no appreciation for just how long this would take.  Just removing the six painted over hinges took many hours, and I thought I'd never get rid of the red paint (or the white paint or the solid brown stain beneath it).  It has taken what feels like forever, but my husband finally can move his car back into the garage because the art cabinet is complete.

As you can see, the cabinet is chock full o' craft supplies, with room to spare, and I spent quite a bit of quality time with my label maker.  This makes me happy.

Future additions to the room will include artwork on the walls, a work table for me with drawers and room for helpers, and possibly wall shelves above the desks on either side of the windows.  I already have the work table, but its assembly awaits the sale of the old dining table (anyone need a new table???  please?), and I haven't found shelves of a style, size, and quality I find suitable.  The important thing is that the kid portion of the room is now fully usable, and they have wasted no time taking over the place.

Another room for Pokemon sprawl.

His and hers LEGO desk sculptures by our resident builder. 

I hope the kids are ready to spend a long time in their new work space, because it's going to take me hours to empty the garage and clean everything in it, all of which is coated in a fine red dust from the cabinet project.  It was fun, but I'm ready to move onto the next thing.  Just last night, my son asked, "So what's your next big project?"  It remains to be seen.


  1. The new room is gorgeous! Of course I love the idea. It's a very inviting space, and I'm sure your creative kids will enjoy it for a long time.

  2. Oooh...I love the color of the room and the carpet tiles are perfect. That's what I want in my craft room....want to paint it for me?

  3. LOL, We never use the dining room (except for Thanksgiving) so it has become a sewing/crafts room in our last 4 homes (military). I thought I was the only one ;)

    1. Oh, and your studio is wonderful, bright and sunny!