Mary Helen Leonard, author of The Natural Beauty Solution and professionally trained culinary instructor, shares recipes, projects, tips, and stories about living a more natural, handmade, and creative life with her family in Austin, Texas.
We are still waiting to add a few big things to the nursery, like curtains and a new mattress, but for the most part, we are awfully close to having it finished. I thought it might be fun to share a few shots of the details here while we are waiting for the last bits to come together.
This is the mobile that we have hanging over Babeleo's crib. It was the first thing I purchased for the nursery. I found it on Etsy, from a really neat artist who creates pretty things from driftwood. Check out Sunset Driftwood on Etsy to find more mobiles and art pieces.
The map in the background is a small one that I salvaged from my Travel Themed Baby Shower. I have dreams of replacing it with a much larger print, then tacking it with map pins for every place that our family has traveled.
I hung this teddy bear beach print toward the foot of the crib. This print hung in my own room as a child, as well as all of my sisters' rooms. It's from the Teddy Bear Shop in Newport, Rhode Island. I'm not sure if the shop exists anymore, but it was a favorite when we were kids. We spent summers in a little cottage on the beach back then, so this print brings back some really marvelous memories.
Above the print are my homemade Prayer Flags. They share some of my favorite Buddhist prayers and quotes from the Dalai Lama. In the corner is another seagull. My bestie, Melissa, bought me this mobile as a shower gift, and I love it. It's also from Etsy, from a shop called Mobile Art.
A little more Etsy art, this candle holder came from another shop that I am totally enamoured with, EarthSteps. In addition to the pretty mermaid and dolphin on the front, the back features a quote from my childhood hero, Jaques Cousteau. "I am the sea, and the sea is me." And just in case you were wondering, this candle holder contains an LED tealight - no pyrotechnics in Babeleo's future.
The little ceramic Earth next to the candle is one of my very favorite handmade posessions. My sister, Heather, crafted this little globe in art class way back when, and I have loved it ever since. The best part of the piece is hidden. It opens up to reveal a shiny molten core in red glaze. I am not 100% sure how it ended up in my posession. I may have stolen it. I'm certainly not in a hurry to give it back.
While I'm pretty sure that Babeleo is 100% clueless when it comes to fine art, I decided to add a little portrait of one of my own favorite artists to the room. I printed a coloring sheet of Frida Kahlo's portrait from the internet, dressed it up with some crayons, and displayed it in a frame that I scored from a recent trip to Goodwill. Fancy!
You can spot another tiny DIY project just below the frame. I covered the light switch plate with some travel themed craft paper leftover from my shower. Scott Bobleo thought this was pretty cool and asked me why all of our light switches weren't so well dressed. Good point, Bobleo.
This little collection of prints and shelves displays some of the international tchotchkes I've been collecting. There is a little pig from Peru, a cowbell from Switzerland, and a golden rooster from Taiwan. Up top are two scuba diving figures from my own childhood keeping watch over a giant Chinatown goldfish.
The story of Ping the duck, a print of Babeleo's own Chinese Zodiac animal, and a poster from the Willie Nelson Heartbreaker Banquet are all here to complete the slightly strange collection. I have to admit that it doesn't exactly scream "baby", but it does share some of my favorite memories of exploring our world. Since Babeleo is brand new here, I thought that might be nice.
Because I am a weirdo, and I love weird stuff, there had to be a certain element of weirdness involved in this room. My opportunity came along after my sisters sent me home with six cute animal jars from my shower. I cleaned the dill pickle popcorn out of them pretty fast, then set about finding tiny things to fill them with.
Each jar contains a different theme of tiny toy. One jar has sea creatures, another has mini kewpie dolls. There is a jar full of tiny paper flags, another with dinosaurs, etc. and so on and so forth. Scott thinks it's creepy. He's probably right.
But we also have some normal toys. The basket is filled with homemade softies, including the fabric beach balls I made and the cute bunny teether we got from Scissorina. Next to the basket is an adorable ABC Abacus from my friend, Mad Betty, and some classic plastic toys passed on to us by another blog friend, Elizabeth from Local Savour.
It's all coming together. I'm looking forward to sharing the rest with you soon. We've got a hacked Ikea dresser, DIY picture frames made from stock molding, and my Mom's custom made curtains all coming soon. By the time we get around to sharing the finished room there very well may be a baby in it.
Our second bedroom has been used as my office and craft room since we moved in. About a year ago, we had a roomate move in to our third bedroom, so this room also started serving double-duty as a guest room. The room is changing purpose once again, and will soon become a nursery. I'm pretty excited about its current transformation, so I thought I'd share some of our plans and progress up to this point.
After our roomate moved out at the beginning of last month we started shuffling things up to make room for Babeleo. My office moved to the loft/den upstairs, and the guest room returned to its old home in the third bedroom. Moving all of this out and re-organizing it elsewhere was no small task, but we were fueled by nesting instincts and made pretty short work of it all.
How We Picked Our Flooring Material
We were left with a fairly bare room painted in grayish blue with a cream-colored carpet. The carpet had seen better days, and considering that this will be the child of two allergy-prone people, we thought swapping out the floor for wood would be a good idea. Which kind of wood flooring to use became quite the debate. Seeing as I knew pretty much nothing about flooring before this project, this was mostly a debate between my husband and himself, though I was often called in to mediate.
Having grown up in the Northeast, Scott and I both love wood floors. As pretty as they are, they can also be really expensive and somewhat difficult to install. Besides looks, another benefit of a real wood flooring is that you can refinish it in the future. When you consider the lifetime value of real wood, it might actually be a better investment longterm. However, if you are on a tight budget, like we are, that might not be an investment you are prepared to make!
After some serious deliberation, we went with a floating laminate. Specifically, we used Allen & Roth Laminate Flooring from Lowes. These are basically particle board slats topped with wood veneer. They lock together, and come pre-padded, which saved us a bundle on glue and padding, which we would have had to purchase with other kinds of laminate floors.
We waited around for a good amount of the stuff to go on clearance. Flooring gets returned pretty often, and it's frequently damaged. By seeking out damaged boxes we were able to save about 30-40% on the cost of the floor. Of course, we had to buy extra boxes of flooring to account for the damaged boards in each pack, but even with that cost in mind, the numbers landed in our favor.
Once we had our flooring we were ready to get to work. The first thing we needed to do (after cleaning out the room) was to remove the old carpet. In some parts of the country you can pull up an old carpet and find original wood floors beneath. This doesn't happen very often in Texas, and certainly not in houses that are less than thirty years old. We weren't surprised to find a bare concrete floor beneath the carpet and padding. That being said, I highly recommend checking before running out to buy a bunch of laminate. You never know.
After removing the carpet, Scott Bobleo used a couple of huge levels to check the floor's shape. If your floor is too un-level, you may need to pour down a special base to even it out. Luckily, our floor was level enough to skip that step. One step we couldn't skip, however, was giving the flooring forty eight hours to acclimate to our home's humidity. It's a good thing that Scott knows what he's doing, because I never would have guessed that such a thing was necessary. Apparently, if you don't give the flooring time to expand or contract to your home's climate it can cause the floor to buckle, crack, and junk up after installation. That could be a very expensive mistake.
How We Did It
On Sunday we were finally ready to start laying the floor. Before I describe that process, here's a quick list of things you need when installing a laminate floor:
Enough flooring to cover the square footage of your room, plus an extra 10% for waste
Matching wood trim to cover the door jam
Primed trim for the walls (one piece for each wall, the length of each wall)
Matching paint for your wall trim (should match your existing wall trim)
A tablesaw (you might also need a special blade, depending on the type of flooring)
An undercut saw
Plastic sheeting (more than enough to cover the square footage of your room)
A pull bar and block
We started by sweeping out the room really well, making sure not to trap a ton of dust and lint under the flooring. Next, we rolled out a tarp of plastic sheeting to cover the concrete floor. This stops moisture from seeping out of the concrete and into the wood. Draping a huge piece of plastic across a floor sounds easy, but getting it flat, cut properly, and sized properly was no piece of cake. I highly recommend using masking tape to anchor the plastic in place as you spread it out. You'll want to push the plastic up the wall by at least an inch on every side. (You'll cut it down to fit behind the trim later.)
Once the plastic was down, Scott started in on the biggest part of the job, laying down the boards! He placed spacers against the wall, laid down a board, and then used the mallet, spacer bar and block to tap each board firmly into place. Leaving those spacers is another important step that may not be obvious. Wood expands and contracts with changes in humidity, so it's important to leave a small space around the edge of the floor to allow for those changes. The gap gets covered later by trim. Who knew!
Scott spent all day tapping in those boards. As he went along he had to cut boards down to size with his tablesaw to make sure everything fit just right. He also used his undercut saw to make extra room under the door jams and door trim, another step I didn't see coming! As Scott went along it occurred to me that laying a floor is a lot like solving a jigsaw puzzle. Only with a floor it isn't very easy to go back and fix your mistakes. It's important to think ahead and create a strategy for how you will cut and lay each board, especially around closets and doors.
Gracie made herself a nice bed out of the extra sheeting. Oh, simple dog, you're so easy to please.
With the boards all in place, Scott cut away the extra plastic sheeting, removed the spacers, and installed the trim. A quick coat of paint later, and the floor was finished!
How Much It Cost
All in all, this project cost us a little over $200 including materials, tools, and extras. If you are thinking about laminate flooring, there are less expensive and more expensive types out there, so be sure to shop around and find the kind that suits your home and budget best. There are even types of laminate that can be refinished!
We are actually getting pretty close to finishing this up. You can see in that last photo that I re-painted the wooden shelves using a white-washing technique. We've already collected most of the furniture we need. We scored a great big blue Ikea Dresser and a pretty white glider from Craigslist. Scott's sister gifted us a crib (thanks, Jenn!), we bought a small unfinished dresser new from Ikea to paint, and just this weekend we picked up a chindi rug for 50% off at World Market.
We still have a closet to hack into a changing station and some touch-up painting and patching to do on the walls, not to mention adding all the little decorations that will make the room more special. My Mom has offered to make us some curtains, and I have been racking my brain on the easiest way to create an ottaman for my nursing chair. (Ottamans are expensive, y'all!)
I shared some of my design plans and inspiration recently on my baby blog. You can check out that post if you are curious about where we'll be going with the room. I'll also be updating this blog with our progress as it all comes together. It's a good thing we have two more months before Babeleo arrives!