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. 

The Magical Wood Shop: Tyler Morris Woodworking

For our family room makeover, I knew I wanted gorgeous new bookshelves to replace the battle-scarred, petulant unit that we placed on Craigslist last week. (Update: it's sold!  Score one for Team Honest. We told it like it was and still, a really sweet lady bought it. I think of her every day. Did she get home and as various parts fell off of it, did she slap her forehead and say, "Oh, now I get it!" I hope not. Maybe the old bookshelves got their act together after I publicly shamed them. Maybe? Probably not.) Anyway, back to the bookshelves. We didn't have the stomach (or budget) to purchase another set of bookshelves, so I decided to make them. I read a ton of blogs and settled on open wooden shelves with wooden shelf brackets. After checking out the shelf brackets at Lowes, I felt there was something else out there. I didn't know what, exactly, was out there, but I figured Mr. Google would tell me.

My searching led me to Tyler Morris Woodworking in Fort Collins, less than an hour's drive from our home. Tyler makes gorgeous shelf brackets and so I called him (probably babbling) about how I loved his brackets and I couldn't wait for the mail and could I drive up there today, like in four hours, and oh yeah, I'm bringing three children under age eight to your workshop filled with dangerous tools?

Tyler graciously agreed to allow us to crash his woodworking shop. The first thing I noticed: it's really clean and organized. I thought to myself: Jonathan would loooove this place. My man is so organized and the chaos of four women drives him crazy. True story: he just bought a plastic tub for all of our shoes we kick off in the garage. Our scattered shoe piles were pushing him over the edge. So now we have a shiny new tub that is brimming with eighteen colors of Crocs.

But anyway, back to the wood shop:

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Tyler and his team make shelf brackets, corbels (a fancier bracket for countertops), recipe boxes, serving trays, cutting boards and a branch tray that is out-of-this-world pretty. This is the cabinet where he grabbed our order. Look at that neatness!

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While we were in the wood shop, my two older girls made up a gruesome game why the baby wasn't allowed out of her stroller. Basically, the game was all of the ways Baby Fenske could be injured if she were to climb out of her stroller and toddle around. (Of course, everything in the shop was safety protected, turned off and otherwise harmless to well-behaved children. My girls were, thankfully and unexplainably, good for our visit.)

Tyler Morris Woodworking

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Tyler Morris Woodworking Fort Collins CO

We chose the "Straight 10 Wood Shelf Bracket" which is gorgeous. There are four woods to choose from: Oak, Maple, Cherry and Paint Grade (which is American Poplar). Since we planned to paint our brackets, our choice was easy: Paint Grade. They are $18 a piece and feel like a mini-woodworking miracle. I had to restrain myself from petting the bracket and calling it "My Precious."

Saturday, I lined up the shelf brackets for painting. They come pre-sanded, so it was a pretty easy job to cover the kitchen table with newspaper, grab the primer, brush and go.

Tyler Morris Straight 10 shelf brackets

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I applied one coat of Valspar Bare Wood Primer to each bracket. It was a little tricky getting under each part of the bracket. You also have to hold the bracket, so that part doesn't get painted at first. I ended up laying each bracket down and painting over the part that my hand covered. I'm sure there's some more proper woodworking way of doing this, but I just went with it.

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I let the brackets dry and then lightly sanded them. I took a damp cloth and wiped off any sanding debris. Now it was time to paint!

I chose a deep gray because I wanted contrast with the new wall color which will be a light gray. (I'll do another blog post on the gray wall color.)

Straight 10 shelf brackets from Tyler Morris Woodworking

This gray is "Storm Cloud Gray" by Benjamin Moore, color matched to Olympic's no-VOC Premium in semi-gloss. I love the way they turned out. As I went, I would sometimes miss a spot and the white primer would blaze on through. I got better as I painted all nine brackets, but it was dicey at the beginning. If you look carefully at left (above), you can see one of our gray paints we sampled on the wall.

Straight 10 shelf bracket by Tyler Morris Woodworking

I adore these shelf brackets and can't wait to see them on the wall of the family room. Thanks so much to Tyler for his good-natured patience with our visit (and my pesky questions). We'll post more pictures soon!

Next up: Can a gray wall color battle insecurities, make me feel designer-ish and generally produce a peaceful feeling of well being? I certainly hope so!