This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

Here's an example of normal living with a kid (or three) life. We have two floor lamps from IKEA. The first was broken within 48 hours of arrival. The second? Smashed this summer. The pretty glass bowls were sturdy...just no match for children shoving them into the wall. Sigh. DSC_0382

An image of a broken lamp bowl

I am a big believer that children should respect the houses in which they live. Although every room is allowed in our house for play or reading, every room is not available for eating. That's the domain of the kitchen.

Toys are put up each night so we can start fresh the next day.

Jumping on furniture or ramming rolling toys into furniture is not permitted (but happens anyway).

If a stain does pop up somewhere, the girls are helped in their task of cleaning it up. I spot clean our carpet immediately. I once knew a neighbor who allowed her carpet to get trashed by her two boys. She just shrugged it off as "Kids. Meh."

Me? I don't have the money to rip up our carpeting (six years old and going strong) so stains are vanquished instantly.

I was inspired on this path by my friend Jessica who had the coolest house with eclectic furniture, perfect decor and awesome art. You know the friend whose house looks like it should be in Real Simple or BHG or HGTV magazine? That's her. Anyway, she had kids before I did and believed that little ones can enjoy nice things. Note that "nice" is not expensive...nice is lovingly and stylishly arranged. See our post about what you can do with Six Dollars.)

If you have children, you can also have a clean, artfully arranged home. I'm queen of budgeting, so I know it can be done on the cheap. Will your house be cluttered and toy-bedecked by the little darlings? Of course! But do they have to destroy it? Absolutely not. You deserve a lovely home, Mama.

Family Room Makeover: It's An "After"

We're done with our DIY family room makeover! Well, I guess you can never say "done" because there's always something, right? We would loooove to install hardwoods one day. And we'll always arrange art around our house. And I did just order a Threshold side table on Target's "Clearance on Clearance" online sale. Target, you vixen! Anyway, we all know decorating a home is an ongoing process. This summer's project, however, has come to a close. You can get caught up on the beginning and our open shelf building and even our desk construction. Other readers will remember this is where we started in June: too much kid clutter, a green wall color I was beginning to loathe and bookshelves that were falling apart:

A family room

And here we are now. This is our "After."

A modern family room

We arranged the chairs and couch to create (we hope) a welcoming space that says, "Sit down and relax." Before, the couch faced all of the toy mess and I always felt like sitting down was something to do in a hurry, on my way to pick up a toy. I rarely ever sat on my couch (that I love!). I would despair of the kid junk, too. We don't have a toy room or spare room for kiddie flotsam. I just couldn't figure out how to fix it. And then I did.

Two orange chairs with a yellow coffee table

We ended up donating most of the baby's toy bin. Rattles and teethers were all tossed, since she's past that stage. Toys she never played with (even if I thought they were so cute or so German or so eco-friendly....all donated because if a child doesn't play with a toy, then why keep it?) After all of that purging, we were left with a basket worth of awesome baby toys. Then, we sold the bins on Craigslist. The second toy bin was curated down in the same manner, although our 4 and 7-year-olds had veto power over most of the save-toss decisions. We placed that bin in the basement and if they want a toy that they can't live without, they can go down there and get it. This has happened exactly once.

Pillows from HomeGoods

The yellow table was a surprise. I originally wanted an ottoman in front of the couch and even started a jam jar fund (when I want something that's outside the household budget, I start a glass jar with a picture of the thing I desire. I sell stuff on CL until I have enough funds.) Anyway, as the jar fund began to grow, the ottoman started looking pretty indulgent. For the cost of a well-built fabric ottoman, I could do a lot more with my decor budget. So, I shifted gears and went the coffee table route. But I wanted rounded edges, no cold stone or rough wood. I found an inexpensive Queen Anne-style coffee table for $40 on CL and then purchased about $21 in paint. I used Valspar's Oatland Daisy after I sanded the table and did some very minor repairs.

A living room makeover with Petrie sofa

The open gray shelving combined with the mid-mod dresser is definitely my favorite part of the entire room. You know how you want something to go in your head sometimes? And it hardly ever turns out that way? Well, color me happy, because this time, what I envisioned actually worked out. I hope I'm on a roll.

Modern shelves with wooden shelf brackets

I won't lie, the baby knocked over this vase of zinnias after she woke up from her nap. We do not keep anything delicate at her height. (I held back the other two girls by drawing an imaginary line behind the couch while I took pictures.) I'm just keeping it real, folks. This room does not look like this now. It won't ever look this way again. That's why there's a stack of library books in the next picture. The only thing we can keep down low are books and usually, they are strewn around the room. We don't do knick-knacks. Or balls of pretty HomeGoods twine. Or jars of sea urchin skeletons. Are you kidding me?

A vase of zinnias on a coffee table painted with Valspar Oatland Daisy

The art on this wall is work by (clockwise from top); Robert Matre, Matre Gallery, Atlanta; Near and Deer from Fat and Appy; and Katie Fenske Bridges. You can see her amazing Etsy jewelry shop here. The chair is vintage.

Jonathan Fenske art and other artists

I posted this picture the other day (it's from last week). I love my desk and I'm thrilled it cost a fraction of a store-bought desk. Hurray!

A picture of a family room makeover with Jonathan Fenske art

A DIY wooden desk

I thought the coffee table might be too hard at first for our rough-and-tumble girls. All of the girls have rolled off the couch and hit it at least once. But they are learning to avoid it. And I placed a few extra pillows under the coffee table for fort building. It's funny...now that they don't have all of their broken and abandoned toys living in the family room, they use my stuff to play: baskets, pillows, blankets, cushions.

A Petrie couch with a yellow coffee table

Whew, that was some summer! You can't see it, but the girls are panting around the corner, dying to be released to trash the room once more. But that's living with kids and I'll take it every day of the week. The best part of the new room? I "enter" by walking past the couch and snuggle into the cushions. Within minutes, at least one child has piled on top of me. Babies climb up, 4-year-olds nap and 7-year-olds talk theology and pranks on that couch with their mama. It's heaven. So, I would say my main goal of making the room fit our family better has been achieved. And I don't have to paint anything anymore...at least for a while. Happiness!

Sources:

Wall paint: Benjamin Moore "Moonshine" color-matched to Olympic's No-VOC in satin; Couch: "Petrie," Crate and Barrel; Mid-mod dresser: Mod Mid Century; Orange chairs, ottomans: Storehouse; Wooden desk: custom; Open shelves: "Straight 10" shelf brackets by Tyler Morris Woodworking, Fort Collins, CO; Paint on desk and open shelves: Benjamin Moore "Storm Cloud Gray" color-matched to Olympic's No-VOC in semi-gloss; Rocking chair: vintage; Coffee table: Craigslist, painted with Valspar "Oatland Daisy" spray paint in flat (legs and sides) and same color but with liquid paint in satin (top); desk chair: a store in Atlanta, I've forgotten the name, sorry!; Media cart, curtains, trash can and silver shelf: IKEA; Pillows: HomeGoods; White pouf: Crate and Barrel; Art: most is FatandAppy.com or Jonathan Fenske; also, Robert Matre, Katie Fenske Bridges; Bruce Clark; Emma Klingbeil. We're Jennifer and Jonathan. And we're parenting three girls and making art. Thank you for visiting our blog! Please stop by again. 

Sometimes, All Roads Lead to IKEA

We did an ambitious thing yesterday---we took the entire family to IKEA. That means three kids six and under, one of them being an infant who likes to stop at the Milk Bar multiple times per day. The two older girls salivate at the mention of the word "IKEA." To them it means hot cinnamon rolls, a trip to Smaland (the free kids area where you can drop the little darlings off) and darting through the kid bedrooms.

All in all, it wasn't a bad trip.

Since we were there to pick up a few floor lamps and little else, I could relax and enjoy the hustle and bustle of the place. I saw a too-old-for-this guy in his late twenties giving his granny the hard sell on what she needed to buy for him. I saw at least two couples fighting. And I walked behind a woman who held court with her five kids proclaiming, "IKEA is overrated. I guess it's a status thing."

Jonathan, who has a Scandinavian heritage, pointed out several designs in the textiles area that reminded him of his grandmother, Elsa. And then this ironing board cover caught his eye.

http://www.jonathanfenske.com

Something simple. Something under seven dollars. We talked about design, artists, family heritage and the accessibility of good art (did I mention the kids were in Smaland? Because they were occupied, we were able to actually talk---you know, have a conversation. Which is a miracle.)

We're not snobs---a high price on an object doesn't mean it's better. Sometimes, it's worse. We have an overpriced bookshelf from a modern design store that's quite frankly a mess. It's poorly made and barely holds itself together.

I like looking at pretty things. And I like when pretty things are reasonable priced, which means more people can enjoy them.

I love these blocks my sweet friend F. gave us for the new baby. They are from Tiny Giraffe on Etsy.

http://www.jonathanfenske.com

One of those IKEA floor lamps makes a perfect accent to the girls' room. The kids are delighted to have something new---and pretty. In fact, as I write, they are playing "IKEA" in the family room. I have been invited to attend the Grand Opening. Have to go!

http://www.jonathanfenske.com