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media bench

We finished the media bench and it’s not even April yet! Actually, we were 90% done a week and a half ago, but we kept on tweaking. You know how it goes.

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The bench itself is made of two fir 2×10’s. Kyle took them down to OB Williams one afternoon where they ran them through the jointer and sander so they could be fit together without any wonkiness. (Our process photos are sparse, but it was a similar (although much simpler) to the office desk.)

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Once the boards were back home in the shop, Kyle biscuited them together and applied a few coats of SatinThane. (He also added a radius to the outboard edge to make it a bit more baby-friendly.)

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Once the bench was ready, it was go time. We put Avery to bed then emptied out the space (and did a celebratory high-five that we were finally, finally getting rid of the last of our college furniture).

(Sorry for these crappy iPhone photos.)

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The media unit is an IKEA Besta box.

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In lieu of legs, Kyle used the cutoffs from the 2×10’s to create a solid wood plinth. (We actually ended up moving the plinth closer to the face of the cabinet and adding blocking behind for extra stability.) The bench sits on the Besta unit on one end and on two IKEA Godmorgon legs on the other (the legs have metal cuffs that hide the plastic adjuster). The span is only 4′-6″, so the 1 1/2″ thickness of the wood is adequate. Our original design was to do a wall-mounted unit but we realized that it would be better to be able to pull the unit out in order to access cords, etc.

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We went with glass doors for the Besta unit, but did our own window film to downplay the components (yet still allow our remotes to work). We used this film, which is the same thing we used at our back door.

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Bam! (I now realize I should have taken some “action” shots but Avery was napping and Kyle and Bailey were at the hardware store when I took these. Next time.)

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Although Avery wasn’t crawling when we wrote the last post, your comments about keeping the records out of reach convinced us to go ahead and make it happen and to use the space for toy storage instead. (Good thing too, as she is now all over the place.)

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The subwoofer sits under the bench and we put the protective cover back on (even though it doesn’t look as cool). We still need to add a cushion and although I’m sure we could have easily had a custom one made, in a moment of lets-just-get-it-done we ordered this one from West Elm. It’s meant for outdoors but the color and size was right so we’ll see.

Ahh…new bench, new storage, new TV.

Yeah, we’ll get to that.

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We also decided to go ahead and move the turntable to the cabinet as well. We bought this pull-out frame (with shelf insert) which works perfectly. (We intentionally left the handles off the doors and have catches that we’ll install once Avery figures that one out.)

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The next dilemma was that we couldn’t fit all of the media components on one side to allow record storage on the other. Our stupid cable box was gigantic and taking up too much room so Kyle spent one morning haggling his way to a newer (and significantly smaller) version. “It’s for our child’s safety”, was the tagline of the day. Our xbox is on the other side still and we use it primarily as a DVD player. We’ll probably eventually swap it out for a small blu-ray player. (The small black box on the left is our all-in-one receiver that we use to watch TV, stream music and listen to the radio.) We also left the masonite backing off of the Besta unit for cord management purposes and to allow better ventilation.

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We also removed the clunky plastic cover on the turntable. Good riddance, I say! We have noticed that it’s easy for the turntable pull-out tray to catch on the door if it’s not opened all the way so we’ll probably add a tiny bumper to protect the window film from getting scratched.

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I looked high and low for modern/fun/affordable toy storage options and finally landed on these felt bins from Land of Nod. These are 11″ cubes – they had 18″ versions that I preferred but they were slightly too tall. Now that the smaller ones are in place, I think they work fine. (We have to preserve a bit of space between the toy storage and subwoofer for an existing heat vent.) The bins come in other colors but we liked the yellow the best (I originally got aqua but it was much greener in real life than on the website).

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So, the TV. Somewhere in the process Kyle bought a new TV. (My mom was in town visiting and I must have been distracted.) Ok, really I just like to give Kyle a hard time about it for being such a guy. ūüėČ We bought our old TV 4 years ago off Craigslist so the acquisition wasn’t terribly unreasonable. For those of you that have been following us for a while, you may recall that the original plan was to make the downstairs bedroom a media room and avoid a TV upstairs altogether. Maybe we’ll do that eventually, but we noticed that we’ve used the space a lot more since moving a TV in there (it used to be in the nursery when that was a flex room). We’re trying to keep the TV off around Avery, but most of our viewing time is after she goes to bed so it usually works out.

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As part of our baby-proofing efforts, I had bought some anti-tip TV straps before we purchased the new TV. But they’re not all that attractive and the backside of the TV is actually somewhat visible so Kyle ordered this crazy wall mount that not only secured the TV but it has an adjustable arm so the TV can be rotated to an optimal viewing angle. Also, the base that came with the TV was an ugly chrome thing, so…win!

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I also had concerns about Avery eventually being able to tip the speakers over so we installed these straps to the speakers and wall.

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Done! Besides the cushion (which should arrive this week) we also would like to add some type of art piece above the TV. We’re thinking something organic or free-form so it’s not a rectangle sitting above another rectangle, you know? No idea what this piece of art would be, but we’ll keep an eye out.

All in all, we love it. It’s amazing how it changes the feel of the space and Avery has already logged some quality (supervised and supported) window seat time. This area of the house has always felt the least finished so it’s nice to finally remedy that.

finishing the living room

It’s been just over two years since we completed the big overhaul to the main floor of our house. The living room (which used to be the dining area) had a slow start with furnishings but over time we added a new sectional, a coffee table, this rug, a transforming side table and a much-coveted LCW chair.

And now we’re changing things again and attempting to truly finish this space. It started a few months ago when we moved the coffee table downstairs. At first it was a temporary move to accommodate my PEPs group (10 moms and their babies in our living room, definitely a record!), but Avery was also at the age where floor time was becoming more fun so we decided not to bring it back up. (We knew we’d have to relocate it eventually when she became more mobile.) The downside to moving the table was that it now exposed the pretty uneven wear of the shag rug. I’d been secretly looking for a replacement rug for this area for a few months, but couldn’t find anything that was the right price, size and material. And then we finally had a stroke of luck during an impromptu weekday lunch last week (the excuse, the sun was out!). We stopped in our local Crate&Barrel where I saw this sisal rug, but at $399 it was more than I wanted to spend. On our way out, we passed a stack of floor models on sale and what do you know, there sat the same exact rug, on sale from $399 down to $219. Kyle negotiated the price down to $199 and with that we rolled it up and took it home. It has been a long time since we had a moment of karma like this and it felt good.

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I’ve always liked the practicality of a natural fiber rug but Kyle has been reluctant because of its coarseness. It took him a few days to warm up to this one, but we’re feeling good about our (non-returnable) purchase. We’ve owned IKEA fiber rugs and this one really is quite a bit “smoother” underfoot, which I’m guessing is related to the quality of the weave. We were also pleasantly surprised how much a light-colored rug brightened up the space (these photos were taken on a typical overcast day).

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The rug is 6’x9′ (our previous one was 5’x8′) and it’s a much better fit for the space. Our layout can be challenging because you clip the corner of the living area coming from the front door, but with a thinner rug it’s not awkward at all. We still put down a blanket for Avery, but more so to protect the rug from spit-up. (The great thing about having a stack of homemade quilts is that you just keep layering one on top of the next until you run out. Then I just throw them all into the wash and repeat the cycle.)

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She looks pretty bald in these photos, but her hair really has gotten longer – by millimeters at least!

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The new rug definitely puts us one step closer to the space feeling truly complete. Now we just have to deal with that shameful secret next to the front door:

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I know! We still have this ridiculous TV stand that Kyle bought in college from…I don’t know, Target? (Let’s hope it was Target!) We’ve been working on the design for a media console of sorts for over two years now (first seen in this post) and it just keeps getting back-burnered.

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Despite the mismatched nature of everything, we keep putting it off because what we have is functional and more or less gets the job done. Plus, the previous design we came up with was very custom and a bit fussy and made us tired just thinking about it. (Paralyzed by design, you know how that goes.) But now that we have baby-proofing on the brain, we knew it was time to come up with something – preferably something that was inexpensive and easy to execute.

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So this is what we’re thinking – we’ll purchase an IKEA Besta unit to house all the “equipment” (with frosted glass doors so the remotes will still work), then make a bench element out of two fir 2×10’s that will bear on the Besta unit on one end and a pair of metal legs on the other. The subwoofer and records will go under the bench. The turntable will go on top of the bench (for now), but will also be able to move to the Besta unit once Avery tries to play her Sesame Street records herself. (We have some ideas for the records themselves if that becomes an issue.)

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The cushion is a new idea. There have been a few times where we could have used extra seating in this space and I like the idea of Avery reading a book up there, Moonrise Kingdom style. Of course, we’re having a hard time finding an inexpensive cushion option…anyone have some good sources? I know it would probably be easy to make, but we just want to get this done. (P.S. – Kyle wants leather and I’m leaning towards a color/pattern.) Finally, the speakers and TV will be secured to the wall or bench to keep from being accidentally pulled over. I know our friends give us a hard time about baby-proofing our house, but I think we have it easier than most. Besides the obvious (stair and loft ladder) we have very few potentially unsafe items at her level and most of what we have is along this wall.

(Side note: that Artemide floor lamp keeps showing up in our renderings yet it is not in our lives yet. Why?)

So there’s our living room, in its current and forecasted glory. We can do this! (But really, if it’s April and we have yet to post about our finished living room someone please call us out.) After all, blogs are all about being held accountable, right?

living room design

Progress on the living room is well underway, but this is the current state of our space.

I know, yawn.

In June, we picked your brains about audio systems and setups. Ultimately, we decided that because our house is so small we could get away with one pair of good quality tower speakers in the living room and nothing else. A few months later we found these beauties that you see above, on sale because of small imperfections that I have yet to find.¬† We also invested in an all-in-one sound system that is a fantastic solution for small spaces. Basically, it streams music from wherever you have it stored (ours is on our laptop now, but eventually we’ll move it to a dedicated external hard drive), it has internet radio (we’ve been listening to some Swiss and French stations lately), and a USB port for easy ipod/iphone access. Oh, and there’s an app for it too…meaning we can turn on NPR in the morning without actually having to get out of bed. I have to say, I’m really not an audiophile but I love this thing! And the system has plenty of oomph to rock the whole house. The only sad part is that it is living on our little IKEA side table that I have had for ten years (it was the first thing I ever ordered from IKEA). But keep reading, we have plans.

But first –¬†we¬†ordered our new couch and coffee table! They’re similar to what you see below (minus the floor to ceiling glass and scenic view), but the couch is a little different and the coffee table is white lacquer and gray glass instead of the walnut and gray glass. They’re from BoConcept and will be delivered in December via Denmark(!). This is our first time to order something from them, so we’ll report on how it goes (so far, so good).

 

I admit, I was resistant to the coffee table. It was more than I wanted to spend and I had been envisioning a piece of reclaimed wood on hairpin steel legs. But Kyle was in love. LOVE! He gave me the sad puppy dog eyes and everything. Needless to say, I caved.

I do love the colors (imagine white lacquer instead of the walnut) and the hidden storage. Remote controls, you are hereby banished!

This past week, Kyle’s been finalizing the design for the media unit. We’d been envisioning a low slung, fir plywood cabinet that would house the audio system. We’re also hoping to acquire a turntable in the near future. That’s right, we’re going low-tech/high-tech¬†at chezerbey – ¬†records and digital files but not a compact disc in sight. So here’s what we’re thinking – the size of the unit is bound by the speaker locations and window. The unit will be floating (i.e. – attached to the wall), with a recessed area for the record player (which will be mounted to the wall for optimal sound isolation qualities). And yes, the turntable is centered on the window mullion above. (I knew you’d notice.) The cubby to the left will have a series of notches for record storage (we have approximately 5 records now, but are planning for 75 or so).

 

Behind the sliding doors on the right, we’ll store all the less than stylish tech stuff (and more records). Even though I am still a strong supporter of not having the TV in our living room, it’s going to be a while before we do the media haven in the basement.¬†We also¬†played around with doing an L-shaped piece that came up the right side of the ¬†cabinet and over the TV so you wouldn’t see the backside when you come in the front door. But it looked too fussy. Delete.

The cabinet box under the record player will serve as additional storage for even more tech stuff.

So, now we just have to build it!  

Sadly, the Artemide¬†floor lamp that we have in the model is too big for the space (and really, too expensive). We’re going to stick with our IKEA version that we’ve had for years but is actually really well-designed. And then there’s the Eames¬†LCW. It wants to live in our home, it really does. We’re going to wait until we have the rest of the pieces in place and then see what kind of space we have. Our living room layout is a little awkward in that the main circulation path clips off one corner, making it hard to layout furniture.

We’re also in the market for a rug (more to define the space and bring in some layers and texture). So dear Anthropologie, if you’re reading this, could you please add this rug in yellow back to your website? Thanks!

I¬†know the space will evolve slowly over time, but we feel like we’re starting with some good solid pieces that will last a long time and be adaptable to different decorating whims. But for now, we’re minimalists.