DIY Book Shelves: Gray Goodness

Our DIY family room makeover continues. We have shelves! This is terribly exciting because we have three small children + a ton of books that have been stacked all over the place for the past week while we work on the room. The book issue became a bigger problem as the days wore on because the baby (age 1) would knock them over. The other two girls (ages 4 and 7) would swoop in and then crack open the books, sit on the books, build forts with the books and fling books at each other. This led us to coin a 500-year-old proverb: "Books belong on bookshelves." (You can read about what we did with the old bookshelf here.) Luckily, we were in the process of making open wood bookshelves. Here's what we did.

First, we headed to Lowes. We picked out the three least warped "white wood" boards for the shelves we could find and then had them cut to our desired length at the store. Since we went with the cheapest wood (about $37), we knew we would have to sand and carefully prepare the boards, even more than usual.

Baby in stroller at Lowes

Children love going to large home improvement stores. They seem really grateful and happy to accompany their parents on such errands.

Seriously, we just try to keep them alive at places like Lowes. If you turn your back for a second, our two older girls will be playing house underneath 20 tons of drywall.

Jennifer Fenske at Lowes with piece of plywood

Once we returned home and after I nursed an iced tea to erase memories of the shopping trip, I set up my woodshop outside the garage.

Ya'll about to get jealous....this is one sexy wood working area:

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That's right. Picnic blankets make the BEST woodworking tables. Tyler Morris would not approve.

I sanded the "white wood" (what? is that like "white fish"...you don't really know what kind of fish that is? Did I buy Frankenwood?) making sure to round the corners and the edges. I used a sander we've had forever. It made it really easy.

DIY shelf project

The next day, I wiped the boards down with a damp cloth to remove any sanding debris. Then, I used Valspar Bare Wood primer and painted both sides of the boards and the edges. Jonathan walked by and said, "Why don't you roll it?" when he saw me waxing on and off with a paint brush. I think I thought the paint strokes would look....I don't know, painterly, or something so I ignored his advice. Big mistake---more on that later.

Wooden shelves with DIY gray paint

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the gorgeous shelf brackets were ready, so Jonathan started using his stud finder to locate the studs in family room wall. Here's a picture with the first shelf bracket up and ready for business:

Jonathan Fenske hangs gray DIY shelves

And here is Jonathan doing the ubiquitous "Stud finder? I'm right here!" picture. We are too cheesy, I know:

Using a stud finder to hang wooden shelves

After a while, here is what it looked like when all nine brackets were up. Loveliness! Jonathan is uber careful and used a level, measuring stick and anchors (for the non-stud areas) as he worked. We took this photo the morning after he installed the brackets. You can see the now-dried shelves, at right.

And speaking of those shelves, I ended up using the roller on the tops and sides of the shelves after my attempts to go "authentic" failed. The paint applied with a brush looked clumpy and sloppy. But with a few gentle roller strokes, the boards looked beautiful. Should've listened to my man, I know. Next time!

Straight 10 Shelf brackets from Tyler Morris Woodworking Fort Collins, CO

Gray wood shelves with brackets from Tyler Morris Woodworking, Fort Collins

I should note that Tyler's brackets come with little wooden caps to cover the screws. We are thinking about leaving the screws uncapped, for a more "gritty" look. Or, I guess as "gritty" as a suburban Colorado house gets.

After all of this work, I flopped on the couch and read HGTV magazine. A nice bit of escapism...especially when your house is torn up and the children are mewing for food and you're not really sure if you can get to the refrigerator.

A picture of HGTV magazine

Jonathan then installed the shelves, cheating one just a tad to accommodate its unexplainable shrinking overnight. This part went really easily, so easily I wasn't even around to help and just woke up to new shelves one morning. That's service! Thank you, Mr. Fenske.

Finally, we moved our mid-century dresser we found on Craigslist into place, added books and a pared-down collection of favorite things and installed our art from different rooms around the house:

A DIY family room from Jonathan Fenske of Fat and Appy Modern Art

We're not done yet...and we'll show you the rest of the room soon as soon as we install the desk. We're in the process of building it now (while baby naps today, I will be sanding it out in the "wood shop," er, garage.) The desk will go to the right of the Sweet Pea in Blue. You can see the white edge of the desk chair where it will be installed.

Going to nap now. Just kidding! I promised I would stop ignoring my children while I feverishly paint and try to find room for all of the books that do not fit on our new shelves (by design...we really wanted to start fresh with less stuff in the family room. Guess that means a book purge is in my future!)

Enough about us. What about you? What projects are you working on? Feel free to leave a link in the comments. 

Darling Gray: In Which I Ask Way Too Much From A Can of Paint

We painted our family room and kitchen (they are one continuous room) a seedling green in 2007. I was into gradients back then, so the color in the family room was lighter and the kitchen was a darker version of the green. I liked the color for years, but lately, I knew I wanted to go gray. At first, I was thinking a dark gray but Jonathan said that would be like living in a storm cloud in the most used room in our house. I knew he was right, so I went on the hunt for the perfect gray. Sadly for the gray color chips of the world, I was asking a lot. I needed the Perfect Gray to be smart, sophisticated, not purple, not blue-gray, unassuming, farm house honest, city loft cool, reassuring, a little brash, not too arrogant and neutrally neutral. That's not too much to ask out of a gallon of paint, right?

I have a bad habit of picking a paint off of a swatch, painting a room and later ending up hating it. So, this time around, I knew I needed to pony up a little money for paint samples. I headed to Lowes with three kids in tow. I poured over a lot of paint cards while piloting one of those ridiculous race car carts. The girls were their usual rambunctious selves, so I just threw fruit snacks at them from time to time. Luckily, Lowes is huge, so my children were able to blend in a little bit more.

Not so much at Benjamin Moore. It's a standalone store, and since I wanted to see their colors (I'd never used them, but had heard good things about their paint on Young House Love), we headed over there. I met the coolest mom who was also looking for her perfect gray, so we bonded over that while her girls played with mine. Sadly, my loud, boisterous and hungry children (it was near lunchtime) were a little much for the staff there, so we made a hasty retreat after I paid for two paint samples.

Now that I've gone the paint sample route, I have to say I will always do it this way. A sample is $2.98 and I ended up purchasing a total of four. The samples at Lowes are larger, but even Benjamin Moore's smaller samples give you enough to paint a huge section of wall if you want to.

Here's what we ended up with:

A selection of gray wall paint from Fat and Appy Modern Art for Children

The pattern thingie at right is our hanging panels over the sliding glass door.

At first, I was sure Gray Horse was my dream color. But then I remembered Jonathan's storm cloud warning. I think he was right---it would be too dark. So then I fell in love with Silver Spoon because I felt it gave the the punch I wanted. I painted Silver Spoon everywhere. And then I returned to it over and over, like a hopeful lover. We had to be together, right?

Alas, it was not to be. Silver Spoon was, well, kind of a Purple Spoon. And I knew if the wall looked purple, I would despise it with a white-hot fury.

So, I turned to Moonshine and you know what? It is a genius paint color. Absolutely perfect. Really. I first read about it on Young House Love and didn't think it would work because we have trim that's a warm putty, not white like  YHL 's John and Sherry. Their Moonshine pops with that white trim. But Moonshine being the lovely lover that it is...well, it did the trick. And I do feel more sophisticated. And about five pounds thinner. This is some paint, I have to tell you.

Here's the week's most unflattering picture. And this is the best painting pic we have. Egad.

Jennifer paints the walls gray with Benjamin Moore Moonshine

I love, love, love this gray! For the record, we color-matched Moonshine by Benjamin Moore to Olympic's Premium No VOC in satin. I have painted a lot over the years, and I have to tell you, this paint doesn't smell at all. There is zero odor or "new paint smell." As a mom of three small children, I blow kisses to Olympic. It's like we never painted. But oh, yes, we did.

Moonshine on kitchen walls

The kitchen picture looks a little shiny...I think I took the pic when the walls were still wet.

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So, I'm really happy with our new gray. I've also been busy grabbing a few things here and there, stretching my makeover budget. I bought pillows and baskets for throws at HomeGoods. Oh dear, I love me some HomeGoods.

A bag of items from Home Goods

We're getting there! Little by little. Can't wait to show you the shelves...I'm over the moon about them. Love how they turned out.

We're Jennifer (novelist, mom, blogger) and Jonathan (children's book author/illustrator, dad, runner and artist). We also have a line of affordable modern art canvases for children. Thanks for stopping by!