Lofty Ambitions

IMG_8255

Before my youngest turned three, we promised her that once she was three she would get a “big girl bed”. Previously she had been sleeping on a mattress on the floor to get her used to sleeping on a twin mattress while not having to worry about her falling off the bed each night. A little less than a year ago, my daughters decided they wanted to share a bedroom so we moved the floor mattress into my eldest daughter’s room. While the room is a good size, having two twin beds really reduced the usable space in the room because of the shape of the room and the way the door swings.

When we moved to this house, we bought a really nice twin bed frame for my eldest daughter (she had just turned three and it was her first “big girl bed”). I didn’t want to get rid of this frame so I was looking for a solution that would maintain use of this bed but still allow both girls to have a real bed. Bunk beds wouldn’t work so I was looking for loft bed solutions. I really wanted a loft bed with stairs because I was worried about my daughter climbing down a ladder in the middle of the night if she needed to go to the restroom. Unfortunately, all the loft bed solutions with stairs that I found were both VERY expensive, and they would not allow the door of the room to open. I was a little stuck.

Enter, Pinterest. I started looking for different solutions and found an amazing tutorial for a loft bed with stairs that I could modify slightly to work with our room layout! I had to change some of the dimensions to fit our existing bed frame underneath as well as modify the steps and landing because of the limitations of the door swing. But, all in all, it was pretty good.

I made this bed over Memorial Day week-end. It took me about 2 full days (having to field two very curious children, borrowing some very old and not quite right power tools from my neighbors, and not having a proper worktable so rigging up bricks on my patio floor as my “cutting table”). All materials cost a little less than $300, which is about 1/6 the price of any loft bed with stairs I was able to find that might have fit in our space. Of course, being the architect I am, I had to draw it out with my modifications and the room layout to really get it straight in my head what I was trying to do. I think my husband thought I was a little cuckoo to start this project on Saturday afternoon of Memorial Day week-end, but amazingly, everything fell into place!

My daughters were very interested to see mommy using power tools and assembling something from scratch, but I wanted to show them that this is not impossible. I was a little rusty at first and the circular saw I used was probably twenty-five pounds, but I ended up getting most of the cuts pretty straight, which is amazing given how I didn’t have a level surface anywhere and I had to eyeball a bunch of stuff.

Modifications made were really surrounding the mattress support, adding some diagonal bracing for stability, and the steps/ ladder solution. We used (3) 3/4″ thk birch plywood sheets cut down to size for the mattress support (since it was raining the day we got materials so we were trying to put everything into the car to avoid getting anything wet). Since our loft wasn’t braced on both sides by walls, I needed to add some bracing to allow for more stability when the girls climb up the top bunk. The steps were made using the leftover plywood sheets for the treads and the platform was really just scraps that I threw together to make the landing and attach to the loft frame. I have to say, I’m quite proud of the result and it felt great to be making something with my hands again.

My daughters just LOVE this bed. We have attached a sheet to the top rail of the loft and use it as a curtain to create a “tent” where they read books and play together.  We put a little rug and a seat and some pillows to make it more comfy.  This week-end they are each getting one night to sleep in the tent with the sheet closed for a mini-adventure in make-believe land.  This project is already worth its weight in gold.

IMG_8257

IMG_8256

The Communal Table

IMG_7230

One thing about living in a rented apartment is this: you never want to invest in nice furniture as you know you are only in a temporary living situation.  This held true for most of the furniture that we had previously owned and moved into our new house.  However, you get to a certain point in life where you just don’t want to settle for crappy college-grade furniture anymore.

We had owned an expandable kitchen table from Ikea for as long as I had lived in New York.  The great thing about this is that it was dirt cheap (I think it was under $50) and it could be either teeny-tiny to fit into our first apartment and seat two people, or it could expand to fit into our second apartment and fit up to 6 people if you pulled it off of the wall.  However, it was starting to show signs of wear as the laminate was beginning to pull off the edges and you could see wear spots in the center of the leaves where we had placed items over the years. Upon moving, we just up and moved this table with us because it was still in decent working condition, and to be honest, we needed to buy beds first as we were lacking in those.

Well, we had decided to host Christmas dinner this year since we have been remiss in all hosting of holidays for the past decade or so, and we needed to buy a new table so that we would have enough places for people to sit.  We figured that we would just buy a new kitchen table since our old one had seen better days and really wasn’t ideally sized for the kitchen in either of its sizes.  We looked at a lot of options: round, square, rectangular, etc. and kept coming back to a rectangle.  Unfortunately many of the tables were either too heavy in the base (the space is quite small so it needed a more delicate look) or the lighter base tables were extremely expensive.  Since this is just the kitchen area and didn’t need a fancy dining table, I didn’t want to spend too much money.  So where did we turn?  Ikea of course.

I can’t believe that even after all this time, sometimes Ikea just has what you need.  We ended up purchasing the Ingo, which is a raw wood table.  We wanted a more muted finish so we ended up whitewashing it and then sealing it with some satin polyurethane.  The final product is quite nice!  The whitewashing is extremely easy.  I forgot to take pictures but the instructions are below:

1. In a plastic container, combine 1 part water and 1 part white paint.  You may want to adjust this depending on the level of opacity you are trying to achieve.

2. Place your wood pieces on a dropcloth or newspapers.  Using a paintbrush, paint on the whitewash mixture in long even strokes.  Using a dry paper towel, white off the excess.  The longer you let the whitewash sit on the wood before wiping, the more opaque the finish.  Also, the more layers you do, the more opaque the finish will be.  We just wanted it not to look so yellow and raw.

3. Once you are happy with the level of opacity, let it sit overnight to dry.

4. Apply 1 thin coat of satin polyurethane to all visible surfaces.  Let this dry for a couple of hours so that it is no longer tacky.

5. Steel wool the surfaces to get out any air bubbles and smooth the surfaces.  The table’s wood is not a great grade so it is a little rough.  The steel wool will help with this.

6. Wipe down the surfaces to remove all the steel wool dust.  Let it dry completely and apply 1 more thin coat of polyurethane and let it dry completely.  Assemble the table and you’re done!

IMG_7227