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aaack! toy storage issues…

25 Jun
game closet, Royal Tenenbaums

the dream game closet, Royal Tenenbaums

My husband says my son has too much stuff. But I think the problem, per se, isn’t the quantity, it’s the under-footedness of it all.
Luckily, the toys we have today don’t bleep and bloop and sing those inane alphabet songs anymore.   But they’re misshapen, sticky-outy, big, and kind of all over the place.

Storage bins, diapers.com

Storage bins, diapers.com

The little things (vending machine toys, matchbox cars, balloon animal balloons) have bins, sort of like the one above, except with clear boxes and lids.  It’s not horrendous-looking, and great for the inevitable 7AM whine, “mom, where’s my blinky stretchy ring that we got at the street fair?”

kidkraft vintage kitchen in blue (new?)

kidkraft vintage kitchen in blue (very googie)

The medium-sized things (paints and paintbrushes, marble maze kits, plastic food, toy cameras, etc) get stuffed in the fridge, oven, and cabinet space of Fionn’s 2011 Christmas present.  Like the proverbial hall closet, things tend to fall out on unsuspecting playdate guests, but such is the price of a clean front room (where this lives).

The culprits.

The culprits.

But then, this.  These are the toys that trigger my OCD-panic and challenge my organizational desires. When we changed the room over, we got rid of those cute, but somewhat useless, book display ledges we so proudly drilled into bricks to install.

from a simpler time.

the today me is cackling at the 9-months pregnant me at these.

So I went trawling the internet to find some potential new solves (that might also prevent a spackle-and-repaint for those awesome wall holes).  And it’s not about the bins, bags, or boxes – the goal is to get this stuff off the ground.

Land of not-so-cheap

Land of not-so-cheap

Totally digging this Land of Nod “On The Grid’ bookcase-like thing, but for $200 bucks, it seems a little crazy.  But the whole three potato four-ness of it is pretty awesome.

"For moms who make crafts, prepare dinner, and still have time to go to the gym"

“Oh this? I just whipped something up between soccer practice and bedtime”

This is quite inspiring – wall-mounted curtain rods and hooks, everything hanging off the wall.  One of those “you don’t need to spend money, all you need is a spice rack and a glue gun” solutions, but this one seems to be simple enough to be cool (see link to b-inspiredmama.com)   It could work on the figurines and soft stuff, but then there’s still the board games and cash register to figure out.

Ikea.  It's always Ikea.

Ikea. It’s always Ikea.

So, like everyone else on a desperate Saturday afternoon of non-finds, I end up at Ikea.  But this could be really nice.  It sort of reminds me of the Elfa systems at the Container Store.  And if it were to work, it doesn’t look like it’d occupy too much space or feel too bulky.  Go Ekby Jarpen and Ekby Gallo.  For $75 I might even do it then change my mind shortly afterwards.

Any advice is very welcome while the drill is charging and the Zipcar is being reserved.

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better storage in Fionn’s room

16 Jul

Hey Elle Decor, where's YOUR hamper photo?

Now that I’m a mother, nursery tours often make me laugh.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally in love with the perfectly-apportioned room; if I weren’t, I wouldn’t be doing this.  But there’s something about a perfectly-staged, pre-arrival nursery that just cries for a three-year-old, stomping in with his toys and spit and tantrums and crayons, to make things feel a little more, um, realistic.

I don’t have a three-year-old, although I’m already having nightmares seemingly incurred by the Toy Story 3 “toddler room.”  Yes, I know that in the course of everyday life, and by no fault of their own, kids equal messes.  However, it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that my little baby bundle has been accumulating quite a lot of stuff over the past ten or so months.

Whereas messes are easy to clean, and relatively low-stress, the disorganization that comes with having too many things and nowhere to put them drives me mental.  My motto?  When life gets crazy, put up a shelf. Or hang a hamper.  Or screw in a hook.

Since the last go-around of Fionn’s nursery photos (from August), a few things have changed:

my friends Jarpen & Bjarnum

1. An out-of-reach storage shelf. I am crazy about these Ikea Ekby (J&B) shelves… they’ve got a slightly glossy finish, great brackets, and look much more expensive than their price ($30).  The one we have measures roughly 47″ long (wide?), but the shelves are available in a larger size as well.   As in any collector-family household, there are going to be toys/stuffed plush that you love, and want to display, but don’t want easy access to.   This high shelf is perfect for the sentimental stuff, the handmade items, and especially Mommy’s AfroKen collection (maybe one day, when Fionn becomes more gentle with his toys, they’ll come down).

You put your laundry bag in there

2. An over-the-door hanging hamper. Small rooms are short on wall space, and closet space is often at a premium.  It feels silly to extol the virtues of a laundry hamper, but I’m sure any parents afflicted with slight OCD would understand.  I remember someone saying that they loved watching garbage trucks taking their trash away.  I feel the same about hauling dirty laundry to the washing machine.  Unfortunately, Umbra doesn’t make or sell our hamper (at top) any more, but the Container Store offers a lovely alternative for $15.  Hang this ring over your door, then attach your nylon/denim/canvas drawstring bag to the metal ring.  As clean and classy as stinky shorts get.

Gym flooring put to good use

3. Wall hooks. Sexy, I know.  But I love the decorating potential that comes with super-cute hookware (hookage?). The ones behind Fionn’s door are the plain old industrial schoolhouse rounded kind.  But I wish we had ours mounted to slats from a reclaimed gym floor, previously used by athletes at a Wisconsin college.   It’s available at Uncommon Goods for $125.  Not cheap, but it’s pretty awesome.  And as with any reclaimed wood project, each piece is unique with varying court lines.  And if you want to make a theme of it, you can also buy coordinating tables, shelves, mirrors, and frames, made of the same flooring.

More than any other space in the house, it’s amazing how changeable and work-in-progress kids rooms can be.  It’s a great opportunity to have fun with your decorating, and a chance to give up on sweating the details.

Oh and by the way, I’ve updated photos in the Nurseries section to show you how Fionn’s room continues to change. Check it out, and have a great weekend.

better storage in Fionn's room

16 Jul

Hey Elle Decor, where's YOUR hamper photo?

Now that I’m a mother, nursery tours often make me laugh.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally in love with the perfectly-apportioned room; if I weren’t, I wouldn’t be doing this.  But there’s something about a perfectly-staged, pre-arrival nursery that just cries for a three-year-old, stomping in with his toys and spit and tantrums and crayons, to make things feel a little more, um, realistic.

I don’t have a three-year-old, although I’m already having nightmares seemingly incurred by the Toy Story 3 “toddler room.”  Yes, I know that in the course of everyday life, and by no fault of their own, kids equal messes.  However, it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that my little baby bundle has been accumulating quite a lot of stuff over the past ten or so months.

Whereas messes are easy to clean, and relatively low-stress, the disorganization that comes with having too many things and nowhere to put them drives me mental.  My motto?  When life gets crazy, put up a shelf. Or hang a hamper.  Or screw in a hook.

Since the last go-around of Fionn’s nursery photos (from August), a few things have changed:

my friends Jarpen & Bjarnum

1. An out-of-reach storage shelf. I am crazy about these Ikea Ekby (J&B) shelves… they’ve got a slightly glossy finish, great brackets, and look much more expensive than their price ($30).  The one we have measures roughly 47″ long (wide?), but the shelves are available in a larger size as well.   As in any collector-family household, there are going to be toys/stuffed plush that you love, and want to display, but don’t want easy access to.   This high shelf is perfect for the sentimental stuff, the handmade items, and especially Mommy’s AfroKen collection (maybe one day, when Fionn becomes more gentle with his toys, they’ll come down).

You put your laundry bag in there

2. An over-the-door hanging hamper. Small rooms are short on wall space, and closet space is often at a premium.  It feels silly to extol the virtues of a laundry hamper, but I’m sure any parents afflicted with slight OCD would understand.  I remember someone saying that they loved watching garbage trucks taking their trash away.  I feel the same about hauling dirty laundry to the washing machine.  Unfortunately, Umbra doesn’t make or sell our hamper (at top) any more, but the Container Store offers a lovely alternative for $15.  Hang this ring over your door, then attach your nylon/denim/canvas drawstring bag to the metal ring.  As clean and classy as stinky shorts get.

Gym flooring put to good use

3. Wall hooks. Sexy, I know.  But I love the decorating potential that comes with super-cute hookware (hookage?). The ones behind Fionn’s door are the plain old industrial schoolhouse rounded kind.  But I wish we had ours mounted to slats from a reclaimed gym floor, previously used by athletes at a Wisconsin college.   It’s available at Uncommon Goods for $125.  Not cheap, but it’s pretty awesome.  And as with any reclaimed wood project, each piece is unique with varying court lines.  And if you want to make a theme of it, you can also buy coordinating tables, shelves, mirrors, and frames, made of the same flooring.

More than any other space in the house, it’s amazing how changeable and work-in-progress kids rooms can be.  It’s a great opportunity to have fun with your decorating, and a chance to give up on sweating the details.

Oh and by the way, I’ve updated photos in the Nurseries section to show you how Fionn’s room continues to change. Check it out, and have a great weekend.

play space for a modern harry potter

28 Jun

crawl space

When architects are challenged with redesigning interior spaces, they’re often expected to make maximum use of the square footage on offer.  I’m not an expert in any way, but based on my primary experiences in space planning class, what to do with stairs (and the resulting negative space underneath) has got to rank as one of the toughest tasks on hand … especially when the home is small to begin with.

I discovered the photo at top through the Brownstoner website, who featured this GORGEOUS townhouse as its ” house of the day” last Wednesday. What you see here is the bottom floor of a four-story home in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn.  It’s available via Corcoran,where you can see more photos of the amazing interior.  Although commenters on Brownstoner have debated whether it’s the interior design (versus the space planning) that makes this space so beautiful, for our purposes, let’s say it’s a combination of the two. . . it’s a silly debate unless you’re in the market for a $2MM townhouse…

section drawing, courtesy Brownstoner/Coburn Architecture

Anyway, back to the room.  As you can see in the sketch (above), the playroom occupies a space that’s below-ground on one side and adjacent to the outside space on the other.  An amazing firm called Coburn Architecture (located here in Downtown Brooklyn) had the fantastic idea to section off the space below the staircase; then, instead of walling it closed, they created a little cubbyhole/clubhouse for kids to play in.   Then they added small round cutouts as much for visual effect as to showcase the spaces behind the walls.  I love how the photo is staged with cushions to show how the area might be used.

L: BH&G online; R: Chictip.com

Compare this to what you might otherwise find when searching for ‘creative under-stairs spaces.’  Although the image at right is beautifully done, I’d much rather create a space for my kid to play in! I suppose the depth of the stairwell is at play here, and the desired lifespan for a space like this (what happens when the kids grow up or you decide to sell?)

beautifully staged boy's bedroom

No matter, really, when it’s my fantasy house.  But back in the real world, I’m very impressed with Coburn’s work (as featured on their website).  They’re a multidisciplinary office, offering both architecture and design – and some of these designs are to die for.  Here’s what I believe to be a boy’s bedroom in the architect’s own home – simple, clean, and well-apportioned.  Great work.

mason jars everywhere

24 Jun

assorted antique fruit jars, on antiquebottles.com

It seems like there’s a new restaurant opening every day in our neighborhood.  And although the latest, named Seersucker, doesn’t offer the most unique concept for a restaurant (I think it’s the third ‘new’ place to offer southern-influenced ‘fine dining’ within a one-mile radius), there’s something about this one that makes me want to pay a visit.  I hate to sound fickle for saying this about a restaurant, but Seersucker – more than its competitors – really Looks The Part of a modern Southern hot spot.

image courtesy New York Magazine

As described in New York Magazine, the 40-seat spot features “a zinc bar, whitewashed brick, and wood salvaged from old snow fences.” More to the point, a review on Chowhound reads, “The food was kind of like the decor, simple and comfortable with a lot of style.”  Personally, I think it’s the mason jars that make the design.  In this age of  small-batch-locally-sourced-homemade-and-handmade foodstuffs, mason jars are more relevant than ever (and bring to mind the best local pickles, kimchee, fruit preserves and anything else featured in Edible Brooklyn).

our beach treasures, next to our Preston North End memorabilia

But I love mason jars for their usefulness and storage potential.  As shown above, this jar (which was left at our house by friends and subsequently ‘reclaimed’) is now on display with all the rocks we collected on beaches during family holidays.  I’m racking my brain to find images of a gorgeous nursery I once spotted, featuring gallon-sized mason ‘tubs’ as storage for puzzle pieces, Legos, and other miscellany.  What I found so charming was the way the lids were painted to match the decor (which would usually be a bit wedding-favor-ish for my taste, but it really worked in this instance).

So, how about it?

for collections, not canning

I discovered that Ball now sells gallon jars for just this purpose.  They’re called  “125th anniversary ‘collectors’ gallon jars” (meaning they’re not meant for canning), they’re $20 each at Cooking.com, and they’re super-cute.

But if the notion of a gallon jug made of glass makes you a bit nervous (as it does me), I found these super-cute PET plastic jugs, which would do beautifully with a bit of acrylic paint to fancy up the white lids.

Paint me!

Available at Freund Container, the gallon jugs are $4 each.  The comparable glass versions are also available at $18 each.

Need more inspiration?  Mason jars are ALL over the Internets – tutorials on how to make mason jar lamps (Design*Sponge has the best one), photos of flower-filled jars for wedding decorations (Amanda Pair’s snaps are beautiful), images of artsy-craftsy handmade porcelain lanterns, and offers for boatloads of soy candles.

'mason jar with marbles' by ria hills, $120

And, lastly, I discovered this BEAUTIFUL pastel artwork, created by a woman named Ria Hills.  At 7″x7″ it’s a bit small, but I believe it would look beautiful in a larger frame with red or blue matting.   And what’s more down-home and kid-friendly than a jar of marbles?

outdoor furniture, repurposed

28 May

Now that the weather’s getting nice, I seem to be receiving tons of catalogs devoted exclusively to outdoor furniture, and I seem to be recycling mostly all of them.  But I’m going to start paying more close attention; there are some great things in these catalogs, if you’re willing to think a bit laterally about the merchandise.

(After all, what kid wouldn’t want a hammock in his room? I know I used to dream about having a hammock in my room as a kid.)

Hammock, Crate & Barrel, $199

On a more practical note, here’s a great idea (and the impetus for this post), courtesy of my new friend Pippa.  Mother of a one-year-old, she’s got her share of toys in the front room.

GRAVA planters, Ikea, $15

On a recent trip to Ikea, she discovered these large, colorful, GRAVA planters.  The best part, besides the price?  At 14″ high, they’re the perfect size for one-year-olds to reach into, and at 19″ diameter, they hold quite a lot of stuff.    They’re made of that really nice plastic – sort of matte, reminiscent of the Starck Bubble Club chairs you always see at hotels.

Bubble Chair, DWR, $680

If you’re up for spending nearly $700 for a chair, I’m sure it’d last quite a while.  You can even drag it outside when the kids want to go camping in the backyard.

in praise of the 'mismatched' room

25 May

Favor from Tallie’s Vintage Birthday Party by TomKat Studio

There seems to be a recent trend in which children’s birthday parties have started looking like weddings.  Blame it on crafters showing off on the Internet, moms getting tired of the invisibility of scrapbooking, or a simple desire to outdo all the other kids on the block.  But it’s now starting to creep into room design, and it’s stressing me out.  (Mentioned the phenomenon to my husband, who expressed his own disdain as, “My kid’s getting a pinata. That’s it.”)

Think of this post as a unicorn chaser for this overly coordinated, hot-glue-gun-and-grosgrain-ribbon-trimmed, letterpressed and Pantone-chip-matched craziness.   And a chance to feel OK about the state of our kids’ rooms 99.999 percent of the time.

Are those Legos on the floor?

A neighbor of ours, some guy called Gabriel Byrne, is looking to sell his townhouse here in Brooklyn.   The townhouse is selling for a few million dollars (I’m not sure of the exact amount right now, but you can read all about it here, on Brownstoner, our local real estate blog.  The comments section is especially snarky.)  So they’ve set up a website to profile the property.

What do I LOVE about the house?  Not the period copper detail, or the parlor room, washer/dryer, or fantastic location. No, what I love is the fact that they took photos of their kids room WITH CRAP ALL OVER THE FLOOR.

I love that someone decided he/she wanted green floors and blue walls and that’s what they got.  I love that there’s a life sized decal of Cristiano Ronaldo on the wall, and that it hasn’t been removed for the showing.  I love that there are two bunk beds, even though I have no reason to believe Gabriel and his wife actually have four children.

And I absolutely, thoroughly, love the presence of that great furniture democratizer- an IKEA Expedit bookcase.  I have to say that this is my favorite piece of furniture right now.  One-cube-by-four, you have a tower or a bench.  Two-cubes-by-four (as shown), you have a kids’ height storage center.  Five-by-five, and you’ve got a room divider or great storage piece.   I can’t wait for the opportunity to get one.

So fear not, friends.  Think of it as a “Stars, they’re just like us!” feature – maybe it’ll inspire you to skip the straightening up for the day, because after all, the maid will be in tomorrow. . .