Dinner one night a few weeks ago, just me and the horde.
Seamus: What is this music, mom?
Me: It’s Dvorak.
S: It’s good torture, mom.
As soon as Halloween was over, I began refining the living room and making plans for the family room. I wanted the spaces to support family activities (movie night, game night, maker night), and entertain guests. I had read in a few homeschooling blogs that one of the ways to help foster independent creative activity when you have kids with wide age gaps was to ensure that each kid had a designated space of their own to work, and knew I wanted them to have their own spaces, that they would need the respite from sharing a room. My craft supplies no longer stashed neatly in the big red Ikea lockers, and the fall had brought moth problems. I needed accessible storage just as much as the boys.
To solve my storage problem, we assembled a single tall shelf, like the ones along the east wall. I spent about $75 on storage tubs to condense and organize my supplies, then loaded it up.
Fortunately, we had all the shelving we needed. In addition to the taller IVAR shelves we bought soon after we married, we found several pieces at Urban Ore several years ago that had been cut down to 30-inch lengths. We assembled these under the windows, then I emptied their art supplies into them.
As I unpacked book boxes and cleared out my desk, I found lots of cards, guides, and other ephemera that I set aside to put up on our walls. Patrick brought home a rug and some other items that were a part of Seamus’ old room in San Francisco. We’ve been slowly installing things as we go.
And here’s the family room in its current phase! There are a few things left to do, but it works. My desk is closed up into its cabinet form.
We have one last major transition for this room - I’ll post pics when we finish. The room will stay like this until we demo the kitchen and move the doorway.
With the piano no longer in our living area, the house lightened, despite book boxes clogging corners and pet hair tumbling about. Sunlight bounced off of floors and reached the far ends of the living room and former dining room. I’d wanted to deal with the house, to make it useful and safe somehow, but had felt that Patrick wasn’t ready, and without Patrick hauling everything out of storage (he had the keys and uses our truck regularly), I couldn’t do much on my own.
After the piano came apart, Patrick was ready, and so we started with books. First in the living room along the opposite the windows. Those white shelves are eight feet long:
Poor Faolan, trapped in a book box cave. More shelves were brought into what is now our family room:
And we kept it like this through the start of school while Patrick did some more purging of stuff from our storage spaces, and condensed the number of units we rented down to one. In October we began moving things around again. We knew that in addition to the living room, we wanted a functioning entryway with a place for coats and bags and shoes, and possibly travel books and maps, and that the original dining room would become our family room. This room would combine a library, making space, and game room with small office space for me. I wanted the boys to have more independent access to their art supplies and puzzles, and I wanted it better organized for easier clean-up.
But first, we went looking for our eyebrow windows in the living room wall. After making a few holes and locating where they once were, we mocked up built-ins with more Ikea IVAR shelving. All the untreated pine you see in these pics is older IVAR, with the steel brackets and pins.
Some rugs came home, and a few chairs. I found that little coffee table on Craigslist for fifteen bucks.
The rocker on the left was a gift from our neighbor, and dates back to the 1940s. The rocker on the right came from Etsy, and I bought it for Seamus four years ago. The crates under the bookshelf are galvanized steel milk crates from the Alameda Flea Market, The wooden chair belonged to Patrick’s dad.
Patrick put together our entryway:
The bushel baskets are from the Alameda Flea Market, and Patrick made our racks of hooks out of every vintage hook we could find from our collection, and nine inron nails we found in a shop in Booneville.
We kept shelving and pitching here and there, but I took a long break so I could make the boys’ Halloween costumes and do some Halloween things with them. More soon!
When Tristan began walking and climbing and generally getting into everything, we knew it was time to start making our house into more of a home. The boys’ room was set, and the kitchen functioned, but there were no spaces that were friendly for the four of us to gather and play. Patrick and I both wanted more reading corners, and I wanted to be able to knit/sew/write in a comfortable seat without disrupting movie viewing in the living room. We missed our books and needed a place to store the magazines that had become our roommates.
We started measuring the rooms again, thinking about our large collection of furnishings sitting in storage, and realized that the piano, which needed re-stringing and perhaps a few new hammers, would not fit.
Patrick and I mourned a bit. Piano ownership was one of those things that we hadn’t planned to take on, but we had gotten fond of the dark monolith that partitioned the living room into a living space and entry way. We knew it was old, not a rare or high-demand make or model, and that we could easily spend thousands of dollars getting it into playing condition, money we’d rather put toward the house. We also knew that the wood was beautiful, the ivory was real, and we couldn’t stand the thought of it collapsing ina landfill surrounded by its brethren. So we decided to dismantle and recycle it.
We cleared out some boxes, we invited people, and we laid out a spread. On Bastille Day, we pulled out our flat-head screwdrivers and got to work.
My friend L’s companion, D, is a piano tuner. He kindly talked with me that morning over the phone, giving me the guidance we needed to dismantle the old girl without dstroying her, describing the types of information we could find that would give clues as to her heritage, and where we would find them. Slowly, with the help of friends, we took her apart.
D had told me, based on photos I had sent to L, that he thought the piano had been made around 1890, and that I should look for a serial number, something in the five-digit range. To our surpise, the only number we found, stamped in several places was much smaller: 6477. This meant our piano was much older than we thought, and it’s made us determined to find good ends for all her parts. We gave some of the wire and the action to Seamus’ Kindergarten teacher, but the rest of her waits for us. I’d love to make a mantel or headboard out of the exterior wood; Patrick thinks the music box might make a good table.
In any event, removing her kindled the next changes. More soon!