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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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mattel modern mid-century doll furniture

9 Jun

Mattel Modern boxes, courtesy Rosies Too and You

I have a son.  And unlike the famous Jenna (J.Crew) whose son famously had his photo snapped while receiving a bright pink pedicure, Fionn is just as well-defined by his dislike of pink and the prospect of having his toes touched at all.  This is a short (and probably non-PC) way of saying that there’s probably very little chance of him – anytime soon – enjoying this amazing dollhouse furniture I just discovered by the Mattel company, manufactured in 1958 and sometimes available on Etsy and Ebay.

Vintage breakfront, courtesy The Toy Box

This amazing toy furniture was developed in 1958, a year before the launch of Barbie. But I’m sure Barbie would have loved it.  You can see from the top image that this was a limited collection (and a premium one at that, being called “Mattel Modern” from the get-go).  The Scandinavian influence is apparent, and it pleases me to no end to learn that a mainstream toy company would have created what us KidRobot fans nowadays call ‘limited edition exclusives’ which may not have appealed to all doll-house-furnishing consumers at the time.

Mid-century dresser, courtesy The Toy Box

Chairs and table, courtesy The Toy Box

As with most niche mid-century modern furniture fashions, Mattel Modern has inspired a Flickr collection.  You must visit these images, if just to see the intense care paid to maintain and reupholster(!) some of these pieces.

Sofa box, courtesy Rosies Too and You

Even the packaging is fantastic.
As of today, I found pieces (as represented by the photos above) at the Rosie Too and You shop on Ebay and the Toy Box (in Texas) on Etsy.  Pieces range from $15 to over $100, but compared to those silly Vitra collector’s chairs, it’s quite a deal.  Keep an eye on them – at time of posting many of the pieces were already sold, but they seem to be popping up quite often.

Any additonal detail to add on the origin of these designs?  Anyone out there who’s furnished a mid-century dollhouse?  Please write!

beware! snakes!

9 Feb

If I had a whole lot of money to spare, I’d start every shopping trip at 1st Dibs.  That’s where I found this carnival side show box, being sold by the American Primitive Gallery in Manhattan.  (You may need to register in order to log in, but it’s worth it, I promise).   The glass at top (to protect the poor snakes from little kids’ fingers, I’m assuming) has been replaced by plexiglass, but the rest of the table is completely intact.   A great side table or even a mini-bookshelf, I’d love this piece in a big boy’s room.  Only trouble…  it costs $550.

So how about something a bit … newer … for a little less cash?

One of my favorite online toy shops is called Oompa.com.  It features lots of European-based toys and furniture, stuff you can’t find on Amazon or, goodness knows, Toys R Us.   This table/play piece is designed by Bolette and Louise Blaedel of Denmark (their company is called bObles).   Made of 10 layers of foam, I could see this lasting quite a while.  Of course, at $279, it should last forever.

Here’s my last amazing snake-related discovery of the day, courtesy The Freckled Elephant on Etsy.

These are the most clever teethers I’ve seen in a while.  Handmade and featuring a variety of different fabric patterns, these plush snakes wrap around your baby’s arm (or crib post, or the dog’s leg, as would be the case in my home).  Perfect for the time in between teeth appearing and real motor skills kicking in.  For $13 each, you can get a handful of them.  Or select just one, put it in a clear acrylic box from the Container Store, add some easter grass,  and you’ve got a really cool terrarium-themed shower gift.

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.

tutus, car seats and everything in between

9 Jun

If you need it, Baby Chic's got it.

If you’re a regular reader of RFYO, you know that my mom loves to shop.  But she’s not an ordinary shopper.  She’s a bargain hunter.  And not just a bargain hunter, but an expert at whatever she buys.  Recently, her shopping habits have trended towards the virtual (Ebay sends her personalized notes to inform her of new services), but lately, and since the birth of Fionn, she’s got a new favorite bricks-and-mortar store.

Whenever it’s determined that Fionn ‘needs’ something toy-or-gear related, Grandma’s ready.  No more waiting for those golden-ticket-like 20% off coupons from Big Box Baby, and no more driving to the mega kids toy store by the mega mall.  Instead, she heads directly to Baby Chic in Williston Park, Long Island, a very selective consignment shop with an excellent selection for babies and kids.

Car seat, anyone?

Anyone with a child knows how quickly babies grow out of (or grow up from) things.   And it’s amazing how much stuff kids can amass over such a short period of time.   Look at these photos – the place is PACKED with stuff, everything from car seats (above) to walkers/exersaucers/play tables, to toys, books, clothes and strollers.   It’s not a new idea – the baby consignment shop, but it is one that’s picking up speed, especially in this day and age.  I should probably mention at this point that this post is not a paid advertisement.  This shop really impressed me, and there are three things which really set it apart from the other places I’ve seen that make it worth a physical or virtual visit:

1.  The proprietors.

The two women (moms) who run this shop know everything about everything they sell, and it’s apparent that they truly care about what they do.   If you’ve ever tried buying a car seat from the R Us franchise, you’ll see the difference right away.  Today, Tiffany gave us a tour of everything in the shop, answering my mom’s questions about Baby Bjorns (for her future granddaughter) and helped Fionn try out all the age-appropriate toys.

New Danskin, at discount

2. The product condition.

As this is a resale shop, Baby Chic depends on all of us to bring in items in EXCELLENT condition.  Their standards are strict – you’re not going to see anything covered in garage-sale-grime here.  I was surprised to see how many items were actually Brand New In Box… (heck, I could have unloaded quite a few gifts from my baby shower, come to think of it).   Today I saw Dwell Studio bedding and a rack of Danskin leotards (which is never, ever, discounted) in bags, with tags, for great prices.  I felt like I was in TJ Maxx.

Tutus and wings

Popatu close up, $12.99

3.  The tutus

I have a boy, so I’m not a tutu shopper.  Apparently, these are all the rage, and I see them on little girls in my neighborhood ALL THE TIME.  Plus, they’re super cute.   These tutus are all new, by the way.  Briefly, they sell Pettiskirts for $21.99, flower-petal tutus for $10.99 (with wings, for $18), and I believe the Popatu tutu (above) is $12.99.  But Tiffany knows more than anyone should about them too, so please contact her with your questions.

Don’t live in the area and want to buy something? Don’t fret.  They’re going to start selling merchandise via their website very shortly.  So keep checking out their website.  And if there’s something specific you’re looking for, I’m sure they can work something out and get it to you.

playworthy toy box, courtesy of Ikea

16 Mar

The weather was bad again today here in the NY area, so Fionn and I did what we often do in these circumstances.  We rented a Zipcar and went to Ikea.

I’m a first time mom, so I’m not yet intimately familiar with the phenomenon of retail temper tantrums.  But there’s some teething going on, so we got to share the pleasure of whimpering, complaining, writhing and full-on GETMEOUTOFTHISSTROLLERNOW shrieking.

But as always, I don’t feel like it’s been a productive Ikea trip unless I bring back at least one item that’s a little too big to carry.

Ikea Minnen toy box, $15

This morning’s Yo Gabba Gabba was all about dressing up, and in the first scene they all take goofy hats out of their big treasure chest toy box (as in this recent ‘Pirate’ post).  Maybe I had toy boxes on the brain, but when I saw this I had to get it.  It’s a typical Ikea nylon pop-it-up-and-fasten-the-velcro jobbie, but the details make it so darn cute.  I’ve already filled it with random blankets, the Ergo carrier, and other things I want off the nursery floor and put away.

And as is so often the case, Fionn fell asleep in the car on the way home.