{ Our Playroom Makeover-Part 1 The Planning }

I am realizing why I have put off writing this post for the last four months-it is LONG! I decided that it would be better to divide it up into four different posts to help a little –The Planning, The Building, The Decorating, and The Finished Room. I just have too much to record for each part, and I don’t want to skimp on remembering all that went into this-for my own sake and for my kids who didn’t get to see all the before stuff that happened. I really want to remember this whole process, not just the great after-though I really love that too! I think it was just the first time that I felt like I decorated a room the “right way” (more on that later) so I need to remember this as I slowly work on each room in our house. I really did learn so much through all of this.

For Christmas this last year, we decided to do something a little different than we have ever done before for our gift giving. As Christmas neared I was so excited and was looking forward to it especially since we would be having family come, and I was determined to have all my shopping done early even though I still wasn’t due with Ethan until February. At Christmas our kids each only receive three gifts-one from Santa, one from each other that they have made in part (they draw names so each person secretly only makes/buys a gift for one other person), and a gift from us. As I started brainstorming all of my gift giving purchases I was super frustrated by a couple of things.

First, I felt like my kids already have too many toys, gadgets, clothes, etc., and many that they don’t even play with or use anymore-they just end up scattered on the floor instead of actually being used.

Second, I felt like I was having a hard time finding presents that really stood out to me-I was not impressed with the selection of toys in the stores/online. We have really tried to keep fewer toys while staying in a theme-Little People, Legos, toy kitchen, dolls, cars and trucks, wood blocks,Geotracks, and avoid just buying one of this little thing and one of that thing that in the end just end up getting lost in the mix. I am definitely one to pitch McDonalds' kid’s meals toys when my kids aren’t looking. It’s not the answer for everyone, but for us it just works better to keep a bigger collection of things that they actually play with and love,and they seem to have more fun with more pieces to a few things, than fewer pieces to many things. With the poor selection of toys I was beginning to feel like I was doomed to just buy something to buy something even if it wasn’t something I loved, they loved, or we needed. Not a good use of resources in my opinion, and the exact opposite of what we have been trying to teach our kids. We really want them to think through their purchases, save their money for it, and only buy what they need, or really love, not just “things” for the sake of having more things.

Third, I am a big believer in the fact that kids create memories from doing things and sometimes just getting a physical gift doesn’t always create those lasting memories for many years to come. I really can’t remember but a handful of presents I ever received as a kid, and when I asked my kids they couldn’t remember many they had received either. So the option of going on a trip for Christmas was tossed in the mix. After careful consideration though, traveling anywhere at 32 weeks pregnant didn’t appeal to me as much as I thought it would, so that idea kind of got put on the back burner for another year.

And last, I felt like a bit of a hypocrite for asking my kids to hand make part of their gifts for each other so they would be more meaningful when I myself wasn’t willing to do the same.

One day I was up in our playroom with Scott and Ryan while they were watching TV, and as I was sitting on one of our only pieces of furniture up there-a broken Lazy-boy recliner, I was thinking about how much I loved this room as we were building the house, and how unused it was now. I hated the thought that we had put so much money and effort into building this room and now it felt like wasted space.

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We had all the kids toys up here, our big wood TV cabinet with our only TV in the house, and a Lazy-boy recliner. The kids would come up here to watch TV, but since there wasn’t anything but floor space to sit on, they rarely invited their friends up there, and movie night became a battle for who would actually get to sit in the chair. The rest of the time the little boys would get all of their toys from the toy closet and spread them out over the whole room, pretty much taking over the entire space. When the girls would complain about doing something downstairs and I would say, “Go upstairs we have a whole playroom for that”, I would get moans and groans about how the boys messed it up and there was no where to play.

After coming from our other house which had no real dedicated play place, I was so excited to having a place where all the toys could be that was away from the main living area (though the little boys still have a cupboard of some toys down in the family room), where the kids could be loud when we needed some quiet time downstairs, and where I could shut the door and not have to clean up everyday. It made me sad that we had somehow missed the mark a little bit. Enter.. an “Idea for a Christmas present”. I decided that a present didn’t have to be something that they opened up, but could still be almost as memorable as a trip for them. I was determined to “makeover” the playroom for our one present to them, as kind of one big combined present. I hadn’t thought through all of the details, but at that moment I was so much more  excited for Christmas. The real spirit of giving came back, and I was so excited to make a place that we could truly enjoy as a family.

Here are some more of the before pictures. It was a great room and had great light from the three windows, it just needed some careful planning of the space, some furniture, and a little bit of love to make the space work for us.


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One of the first things that we needed to do was repaint, thus all of the stuff in the room being in the middle. This part was not a surprise for the kids-we just played it off like we needed to repaint in there. Scott or Ryan had drawn with permanent marker all over the wall (you can see a bit of it to the right), and we had a ton of nail pops on that wall and huge gash marks from where the kids would hit the Lazy Boy back into the wall. It was not pretty. I was really wanting a light gray in there instead of the same neutral color that was downstairs that I had painted over in the family room. Again, a great color, just not what I had in mind for this area.

A built in desk area that the kids never used. It was mostly a spot for them to drop junk on.

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The toy closet that I had partially started to organize with bins. I had a ton more that I had gotten at the dollar store. I really did love the colors of the blue, green, and turquoise, but many ended up getting stood on and broken. I had made some chalkboard labels that didn’t hold up very well either. The toy closet needed to be overhauled along with the rest of the room. I started by donating any toys that they no longer played with, and only kept the ones that they really loved. I am a big fan of imaginary play so I like the old standbys like Legos (big and small), things that they can play house with-(dolls,play kitchen,dress up), our wooden doll house set that I still had all the pieces to, but the actually doll house itself broke from the kids stepping on it to climb up and reach other things, and the Little People. I decided to keep a few Barbie's too, though they don’t play with those as much as the American Girl Dolls.

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Our ceilings up on the second floor are nine feet tall, but when we were building our house we were able to change out the plans while they were framing and made this ceiling the full height of the roof. It is about 20ft tall in the center and then tapers down to nine foot where the ceiling meets the wall. The dimensions of the room are twenty-one feet long (from window to French doors) by 17 feet wide. Just for reference, the TV cabinet is exactly eight feet tall-that thing is a beast!-it is super heavy and was one piece that was staying in the room, so you can see in comparison how tall the ceilings are. I love the tall ceilings, and how they make the room seem even bigger than it is, but part of me kept thinking that there was a whole lot of useful space up there past the eight foot mark.

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I started toying with the idea of not just making over the room in terms of furnishing and decorating it, but building a loft (or two) in there. Even though I loved the decorating/furnishing plan I had come up with (see below), I felt like I still needed that WOW factor that it lacked so that even my big kids would feel the whole magical feelings of Christmas when they saw it. I had thought of having a loft built in there before, but it would have been more money than we had budgeted for the whole room. I really wanted one that ran the whole length of the long wall opposite the TV, so the kids could sit up there and see the TV, but the window placement was causing a problem for that plan to work. I started pinning pictures of lofts on Pinterest while I just mulled over the idea. I finally couldn’t get it out of my head and just kept thinking of all of the options of how we could build one ourselves. I dropped hints to Aaron about how cool that would be to have a loft in there. His answer was, “You are already planning on building one aren’t you?” He knows me well! He is such a good sport when I get these crazy big ideas. Like redoing the backyard at our other house, or building the pantry there, building the fire pit here at this house, and now this. I think he just wishes I would stop coming up with them when I am pregnant, or just stick to the little ones that are more feasible. He knows that they always seem to take longer than expected and with a Christmas deadline he knew we would have to work very diligently to finish in time.

My brother was coming for Thanksgiving so I knew that I needed to have everything planned out by then so he could help us start building them that weekend-we would be on our own after that. I scoured the internet for all kinds of plans and ended up kind of making up our own by combining several different ideas. My idea was to make a loft to the left of the French doors (while facing them from inside the room) that was 5ft wide by 8 ft. long. and it would be about six feet tall with a railing that would be taller than that. I wanted us to be able to walk under them even as adults and fully use that space underneath so nothing was wasted. As I started sketching out ideas for the layout of the room, the size of the loft just didn’t seem that big. It was a okay size, but with seven kids I knew that we needed a bit more space, and there was still so much room up top. My concern was getting one too big that from an engineering stand point would have been too much for us to handle-one of the other reasons that we didn’t want to DIY a longer one across the whole length of the room.The 5x8 size was perfect.

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One night as I was up there watching TV and just playing around with ideas, I got the idea to build not just one but TWO lofts up there-one on either side of the French doors. I wondered why I hadn’t thought of this before-it would give us double the space-about 80sq feet more to the room, but still keep each one within the building size we wanted. By not running the entire length of the short wall too, we would avoid having to wire in lights under the loft. This way the lights from above could still shine through the middle section. The lofts would frame the door nicely and I loved the idea of the symmetry it would give to the room. One of the big issues was that we would have to make them taller so that the one on the right would be able to have the toy closet doors clear it. At eight feet tall instead of six it was becoming more of a tree house size than just a simple loft, but I was in love with the idea. I was beginning to feel the joy that comes from being able to give them something that was hand made too.

For the decorating part of the room, I came up with an initial plan that looked something like this: I put in all of the options for different tables that I was looking at, and several more things that I hadn’t fully decided on yet. I will write down in detail all of the ideas I had and my thoughts for each item, as well as what I thought about for the furniture placement in the decorating post.


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