Friday, January 23, 2015

DIY craft table / work station.

A while back I noticed that even if the boys wanted to keep their rooms clean, they couldn't. At first I thought they just had too much stuff (because, wow, are we full to the max in the stuff department!) but after dumping out all the toy baskets and bookshelves and donating what they no longer played with on a regular basis, and making sure we had just enough stuff to fit in each room, they still couldn't keep their rooms clean.

Now, part of this is because they didn't want to. Fair enough. But after trying to help them tidy up one day, I realized there was an even bigger problem. I problem that I could actually do something about! It wasn't necessarily that we had too much stuff (although, less is more and all that...), it's just that we didn't have enough space. Lots of our stuff was homeless. No wonder it kept piling up in other parts of the house. There was no where else for it to go!

We also didn't have a great space for the boys to spread out and do work. So all the LEGO projects and drawing and painting and Playdoh...all that stuff ended up at the kitchen table. Which is great. Except for every evening when dinnertime rolled around we'd have to move all the stuff to the nearest horizontal space - my desk or the kitchen island - so we could pick it back up later. And by pick it back up later I mean ignore the fact that it had no where else to go.

So we needed some storage and we needed a place to do projects. To Pinterest!

I immediately honed in on this Pottery Barn style craft table. (I actually tore a picture of it out of the catalog years ago!)

Lots of space to store odds and ends, a large workspace so each boy could spread out, clean, even looked kinda easy to make. And because it's Pinterest, I found several "hacks" and DIY plans that made it look do-able. I was sold. And once I told the boys about it, I knew it was going to have to happen. Especially once we saw the cubes we wanted on sale at Target and Liam practically threw them in the cart. And helped me put them together. This crazy train was on a fast track to Deskville!

Although once the shelves were built I got kinda...stuck. Because the Pinterest project I liked best used butcher block for the desktop and it's really expensive and hard to find in the size I needed (3'x 5'). Which made me stop and rethink everything...

This is pretty common with me and projects. I spend a lot of time standing there looking at my work, trying to envision what it will be like when it's finished, convincing myself that it's not too tall or wide or white or wrong. Everyone is encouraging me to just get on with it already but that's not the way I work. I start a project then look at it for a looooong time before I know how to finish it. I do way too much research and wander around Home Depot and Lowe's a lot and just generally procrastinate.

The major stumbling block was the size of our shelves. They are 36" across so I couldn't use an Ikea desktop or a kitchen counter remnant or anything pre-fab because standard sizes are much smaller than that. There were a few hacks that built a desk or table top out of planks of wood but that felt very intimidating for a DIY novice like me. But so did buying something bigger (like plywood) and cutting it to size. I was also unsure how plywood would hold up. Would it be strong enough to not sag in the middle? What about the edges? Would it look cheap? Ugly?

Only one way to find out, right? So Bill and I went to Lowe's TOGETHER (with the kids) and found 3/4" thick oak plywood that looked good and could be cut to size and stained (for that butcher block look). We took a deep breath and bit the bullet. Then we had the guy who was helping us cut our leftover wood into 2" thick strips to go around the sizes to add stability and make our table top look more finished. (There's a thorough tutorial for something similar here if you're interested.)

We lucked into a neighbor with a nail gun (and another neighbor who gave us barstools!) so the project came together pretty quickly. We decided not to attach the top of the desk to the sides in case we ever needed to move it or use it in a different way. So essentially we built a box lid that fits perfectly over the shelves - one for each "leg".

We had just enough wood leftover to put a solid back on the shelves. (Well, full disclosure - we had enough for 2/3 of each back - covering the whole thing didn't feel important enough for another trip to the hardware store...) This made the table feel much more sturdy and, even though our kids aren't supposed to climb on it, it would be no biggie if they did (it didn't even wobble when we sanded it!).

Since we have finished sanding and staining and putting everything into the little cubbies, the boys have been stationed at that table pretty much non-stop. I keep thinking I'll get a picture of the room all empty and Pinteresty but that's probably not going to happen. Which is fine by me. It's awesome to see them so comfortable in their space, playing together and being creative. And when they're done, they can put all their stuff away with no problem. Even if they still don't want to.

Who am I kidding? That's pretty Pinteresty...

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