Tag Archives: dormer addition

Making room: Our bright, book-filled nursery

It’s hard to believe our former attic nook is now my favorite place to sit and read and watch birds and branches and the clouds roll by. I can’t wait to welcome our baby home.


I will admit, though, to shedding a few tears in trading in this lovely life for two to grow into a family of three. I’m a person who appreciates quiet time to herself, and I know being needed by another little human is going to reshape those moments forever. A child becomes like a phantom limb; s/he’s an extension of yourself that always holds a piece of your mind.

As we set about making space, it was a literal and figurative task: To create a bright room where there was none, and fill it with books and hopes and a bird’s eye view. To prepare for this next adventure of parenthood by way of paint swatches and nails and carpet and curtains.

It’s hard to believe our dormer addition nursery started out like this:


Our contractors took care of opening the roof to the sky and building out the structure, installing drywall and windows. We took on the electrical and hired out the carpet installation and did our own painting and decorating.

Want to peek inside? I’ve been so excited to share this space!

from hall

We started out by painting a gender-neutral, bright green, crushing on some animal decals and building up a lovely collection of books to base the room around. It turned out we incorporated quite a few pops of red, too.

door open

The radiator cover was a custom DIY collaboration built by my brother and Joe. It covers our heating and cooling unit and the top is hinged so we can open it up when it’s in use. They worked their butts off on it, and I think it really finishes the room.

dresser:shelf angle

I wasn’t sure where to start, but the whole inspiration for the room began with the safari animal wall decals that now peek out from different spots. I love their sweet personalities and Joe suggested we put most of them down low, so the baby can crawl to them.

Sweet zebra

Animal decals by gingiber on Etsy.

crib angle

The Jenny Lind crib was a great deal on Overstock,and gifted to us by my grandpa. This is the first great-grandbaby in the family and I can’t wait to introduce those two! The print at the head of the bed is by Kate Daisy. I am obsessed with her designs!

Dresser front rocker

These dressers were a Craigslist coup we re-painted. We decided to try an ombre effect on the middle drawers, using leftover paint with the samples we’d tried when choosing one for the walls. We’re using the smaller one as a changing table and tucked it in the closet to save space. I stuck some of the advice tags from my baby shower along the top.



The curtains are IKEA. I think they’re festive without being too circus-y, and they’re nice and thick and came super-long. The bookshelves are painted IKEA spice racks (Pinterest inspiration actually put to use!) Thank goodness for IKEA.

toy basket

My mom made the toy basket at a workshop in Wisconsin. She made it before I was even pregnant, which is kind of funny. Guess who’s excited to become a grandma?


The rocker came from Craigslist, too, and a friend generously reupholstered it with fabric we had on hand from an earlier project we’d abandoned. I was skeptical about needing a rocker, but Joe insisted and it’s probably the most functionally awesome part of the room. We’ve both been reading in there a lot. The red campaign chest came with our house and fits breastfeeding supplies inside. Cara knit the blanket we’ve draped over the footstool for optimal coziness.

crib wall

The Eric Carle ABC poster is Target and the hanging quilt was made by Joe’s grandma. Nobody had told her the color scheme and theme of the nursery, but when we opened it we knew it needed to be in the spotlight!


And the books! This baby will be well-read, and I love that.


Joe’s sister, Ellen, threw a sweet book-themed baby shower on Mother’s Day, which quickly filled the shelves. My friends at Ephemera made the most beautiful invitations, and each came with a customizable book plate inside. Joe’s sister Molly crafted the cool elephant bookends.

Invite Inside

I think the most special part of the room is that almost every element inside was crafted or gifted with love from someone in our lives. I am in awe at the talents and generosity of our friends and family, and I hope that this baby soaks up the values and lessons all of the smart, sweet people he or she will be surrounded with. The plan is for this room to someday get shared with a sibling, too!


Filed under At home, Baby, Getting crafty

It’s electric!

The biggest component of the remodel that we decided to take on ourselves (and by “we”/”our” here, I mean Joe and his dad), was the electrical work.


Joe’s dad was once an industrial electrician and is a super handy guy. Joe got out stacks and stacks of books on electrical wiring and whatnot from the library — and he even appeared to read them in preparation for wiring the nursery. Our home was built in 1920 and still has some knob and tube wiring that they had to navigate along with putting in the new stuff.

He was pretty nervous about applying for a permit because he heard they test you, but he designed a super snazzy room diagram/plan and sailed right through. Then it was on to implementing the plans.


In case anyone else is considering a project like this, I asked Joe to share a few things he’s learned in the process:

  • Check out guides to residential wiring from the library. The one he used the most was done by the tool company Black & Decker. He also looked up the Des Moines code, which is pretty much the National Electric Code, but the permit and code center on the city website has some good resources.
  • Rough out a plan on paper first, but then make sure it looks legit to show the inspector. Joe used InDesign to create his diagram of how the wiring would work, basing his rendering off our contractor’s CAD drawings of the room and using the same wiring diagram symbols suggested in his books.
  • Remember that when you start a project like this, especially in an older house, you’ll find weird things. Our main goal with the new room was to keep everything separate from pre-existing wiring, both to help with the inspection and make sure it was as safe as possible.
  • Cornstarch (yes, from the pantry) can help as a lubricant for pulling wire through the conduit.
  • Labeling wires and adding nail strike protectors in places where wires run too close to the end of studs are a few details that can show an inspector you know what the heck you’re doing.
  • Joe really liked this online guide to get an idea of things to keep in mind when doing residential wiring.


    Joe wanted me to make sure to note that the wires look messy because he returned them to the box, ready for drywall. I was too late to capture them in their pre-inspection glory.

  • This isn’t a DIY to take lightly. (Pun not intended.) Even with a dad who knew what he was doing, the project seemed overwhelming at first. Joe lost a lot of sleep over this, but we also saved like $3,000 because he was willing to study up and put in the effort.

I think the wiring was basically Joe’s right of passage into fatherhood. He was pretty stressed about the process and didn’t have the option of asking for an epidural or anything. But in the end, I think he emerged learning a lot from his dad. I’m super-impressed with what they accomplished over two weekends. And guess what? They passed the inspection!

The electrical inspection happened at the same time as the building inspection, which did have a bad news moment. (What remodel project doesn’t?) Apparently our windows, which we are totally in love with, aren’t big enough. Even though there are four of them, and they are gorgeous, Des Moines city code dictates that the egress has to basically accommodate a manatee. So. The contractors will be removing the windows and replacing them with probably three larger ones. We got the wooden fancy ones for half off because they were left over from one of our contractor’s other projects, so our replacement windows probably won’t be as high quality. Bummer sausage. I’m sure they’ll be fine, but it’s maybe little bit like test-driving a Mercedes and driving home in a VW. I mean, we totally drive a Passat, but once you’ve sampled the upgrade…

Insulation also went in this week, thanks to some handy friends coming over to pitch in.I wish I had gotten them all wearing their tool belts, but I was busy hanging out, watching The Mindy Project with Arin while our husbands sweated it out putting everything up. Hooray for no longer hemorrhaging heat out of the new room!


Batter up, drywall. Then, paint. Does anyone know how to go about matching exterior paint on a house?


Also, house-hunters, check out Joe’s sister and brother’s historic house for sale in Des Moines’ Union Park. We spend a lot of time there, and it’s comfortable, full of character, close to the park/bike trails, and has a big garage and fun party patio backyard. It’s a lovely home and once they sell theirs, they plan to move closer to us, so spread the word!


Filed under At home

Meanwhile, back at the homestead

Yesterday was hole-in-the-roof day! From the curb, you can’t really see much. It’s like a mullet remodel. Still pretty business in the front.


But the party was getting started in the back when Joe and I popped home over lunch with some groceries so we could keep the crew fueled on what our contractor predicted would be one of the most intense days of construction.


It was pretty wild to walk upstairs and see the one-time wall exposed to the elements.


Remember that wall just the day before?

What was crazier was getting back to the house at the end of the day and seeing the room pretty much framed out.


Inside, we could really start to visualize how furniture would work out, and evolve from a crib to maybe bunk beds or something some day.


There will be a big bay of windows overlooking our little backyard, and we have to have a PTAC unit installed for heating and cooling because of the nature of our old house and how the HVAC is set up. Our room can get pretty toasty in the summer, so we wanted to make sure we were able to keep it cool on this side.


Wednesday night, Joe and I went on a dinner-and-Lowe’s date (pretty sure it was an excuse for him to try some of the new beers on tap at Rock Bottom) to look at some finishings.

We started to wrap our brains around carpeting options, although my boss recommended Louie’s Floor Covering on Ingersoll, which we’re totally going to check out. I’m not sure if this ceiling fan will be too big, but we’re fans (har har) of it because it seems to blend the craftsman and modern styles we love.

Wilbur, by the way, is being a champion about all of the pounding. He’s sequestered in his kennel in the extra room during the day, but the crew says he’s hardly made a peep and he just doesn’t go upstairs at night. Lots of treats for that pup these days for not completely freaking out.


Filed under At home

Nesting: Extreme home makeover editon

I can’t believe I’m rounding (reeeally rounding) into the third trimester already. 27 weeks, friends.  Construction on our dormer addition got underway late last week, so I thought it might be time for an update on babythings.


Whilst others in the Land of Third Trimester might be putting a final trimmings on the nursery, we currently have this massive hole in the wall and are beginning to open up the roof. We’re working with the father-son team at  Woodland Fair on this project, which is way outside our DIY abilities.

Before: Yes, the blue and tan paint choice was weird and we’ve pretty much hated it since it dried. We’re going gray with our room after the dust settles. This was a little nook on the right side of the master bedroom landing, when you come upstairs.


After: Brown wall is out and this is what lies beyond the curtain. Future kid room! Isn’t it cozy? Ha. Of course, the dormer will take the ceiling up.


It’s exciting to be able to peek in to see the shape the room will take; in a blip of a fast-forward, I’m going to be walking those floors with our little human. The room will be L-shaped, extending from our landing area and hooking right back behind our upstairs bathroom. We’ll be closing off our Master bedroom to retain some parental privacy, but plan on keeping the flow with French doors.

Honestly, with this project and my final semester of grad school keeping me busy until May, I feel like I’m not even letting myself get worked up mentally about the enormity of impending parenthood. I’ve been reading up a bit on Montessori principles and activities, but I think parenthood is mostly a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants endeavor at first.

We’re super lucky that Joe’s sister will provide childcare and that my employer offers flexible scheduling, so knowing our baby will be in trusted hands is one less worry to navigate. Right now, I’m just enjoying the kicks my cauliflower-sized Jam Jam Jellyroll is serving up, singing to it while I’m in the car and continuing to indulge my desire to consume mass amounts of cereal.

Nursery decor inspiration board to come soon!

Baby bonus links:

My dear friends Tim and Gretchen are pregnant with TRIPLETS. Tim, who used to be my editor at Juice, started a blog about his “Costco Pregnancy” – and, I imagine, other things. He’s a terrific writer, so check TimPaluch.Wordpress.com out.

Cara sent me this funny Huffington Post essay with advice to new moms. I think my favorite advice in the thing is the “REALLY?” response line. But seriously, there’s some wisdom there.


Filed under At home, Baby