The Challenge: Every day that Carl is gone for training or deployment, I will do something to make this house more like a home.
Make a household update every day. It can be as simple as hanging a picture, or as involved as redoing the entire kitchen.
Document with a photograph and a blog post when possible.
Avoid spending money; use what we own or make it myself whenever possible.
Regular chores like vacuuming or doing the dishes don’t count.
The Name: Operation Keep The Home Fires Burning? Too long. Operation Home Fire? Sounds like arson. Half A Year of Intensive Housekeeping? Too depressing. So the challenge name is…undecided. Suggestions, anyone?
Project 1 – The Front Hall
You’ve already seen the first project. After dropping Carl off at the airport for training last week, the Austrian cross shown a few posts ago found a spot on the wall.
Project 2 – A Reading Nook
Our house has three rooms downstairs: a living room, a dining room, and a kitchen/eating area. Since we only own one dining table, we turned the formal dining room into the library. It is a fairly small room; a wide doorway takes up one wall, the next holds two windows and a desk, bookshelves line a third wall, and the last wall, until now, was boring: just a pile of rugs waiting to be cleaned and a linens cupboard.
Aside from the rug pile, the room certainly looked nice: it’s a pretty, sunny area, and the place where we keep our nicest hardbounds and leather books. However, it didn’t have a lot of utility – it held books, and provided a desk for working from home, but other than that was just a room we walked past. I wanted to make it cozy and usable. To start, I dug through our stack of area rugs and pulled out the biggest – a red, navy, and gold oriental rug Carl’s mother gave him years ago. The warm colors work well with the room, and its time-worn, well-used condition fits perfectly with our much-loved old books. Rug, check.
We had plenty of seating in the living room, but none in the library, so the next step was hauling in the brown leather armchair Carl got before we were married. It’s too bulky and heavy to lift alone, so I tipped it on its side onto a blanket and slid it across the downstairs. Chair, check. With the rug on the floor, the linen cupboard slid sideways, and the chair tucked in the former rug pile’s corner, things were starting to look better.
Add a throw (a hand-me-down from my family) and a basket for magazines, books, and projects and we now have a cozy, usable library. We don’t own any side tables, so adding a sizeable basket seemed like a cost-efficient substitute. I picked this round one from Hobby Lobby to break up the overall rectangular patterns going on in the room – rectangular desk, rectangular bookshelves, rectangular rug, rectangular cupboard. The cupboard itself was purchased right after our marriage when we needed some extra storage. After researching and looking for several weeks I found it cheaply as a discounted floor model at an Unpainted Furniture store – it was slightly damaged (repairable), allowing for a little bargaining and a great deal. Solid wood, low-cost, and a much sturdier option than equivalently priced low-end furniture from Ikea.
For $25 (the basket cost – I looked at cheaper options but wasn’t impressed by their flimsiness) it’s our new favorite corner in the house. Reading nook, check.
Still to do: repainting the original dining room walls (red isn’t our preference), and hanging a picture or two.
Project 3 – Kitchen Curtains
The rest of the week’s evenings went to a second project: curtains for the kitchen. We have a beautiful big bay window next to the table. I enjoy the light, but sometimes feel a little paranoid sitting there at night – the kitchen is a bit fishbowl-ish despite our secluded backyard. We needed some privacy, without sacrificing all that sunlight. Bed Bath & Beyond and similar stores had limited curtain options, generally in the wrong sizes and overpriced.
Instead, I picked up some tension rods from Bed Bath & Beyond, and five yards of cheap white muslin from the fabric store. You don’t need any kind of pattern for curtains, and they’re one of the fastest and easiest things to design and sew. I don’t like very full curtains, so I only went with twice the width of each window for the curtain width, and a narrow 3/4 inch ruffle at the top so they looked finished but not frilly. The kitchen color will also be changing down the line. It’s cheerful, but a little too mustardy for me.
For now, the priority was privacy. Maybe over the winter I’ll have time to add some trim or embroidery. There’s an extra wide hem at the bottom to allow leeway for making decorative tucks.
Since they’re light muslin, they block prying eyes but not sunshine. And of course, we open them for the view during the day.
Muslin: $10.00, about 20% of the cost for pre-made curtains.
Tension Rods: $.07. You read that right: seven cents. I had a 20% off coupon and the remnants of our last Bed Bath & Beyond gift card from our wedding. Without the coupon or card it would have come in around $15 – $17.