Tuesday, June 2, 2015

0 The Children Under the Stairs - Creating a Playroom Pt. 1

Been a long time since we've posted something!  With two kids under two, it's become difficult to keep up the pace we had before. Which is fine, since most things in the house are done, there's just some small unfinished things, and a few larger projects that aren't necessary to complete immediately. We've just been enjoying our little family and all the updates on the house we've made so far.

As the kids have grown, as has their toy collection - with both grandmas around a lot, and one owning a toy store, it's inevitable that they get a pretty constant flow of new things to read or play with. We didn't want to be the house with the toys in every living space on our main floor, but we also didn't want to always be upstairs playing. Most of what we do - cooking, music, socializing - happens on the main floor, so that's where the kids should be. Luckily, we had a perfect solution.

Under the stairs, through this door, there was a small storage room under the stairs. And in the music room, the same thing, separated by a wall. Looking at the structure, it was obvious that the wall was simply to create a separation, and not a structural piece, based on the joists. So I took a hammer to the wall and created one room that could go from the living room into the music room.

What I did discover is that the wall also served a purpose of running power through to one outlet in the music room. I turned off the power, cut and split the wire, then turned it back on to see where the source was by using a voltmeter. Unfortunately, the power did come from the outside wall, and fed through a post on the other side. So I decided to just not have power run to that outlet, at least for now. I used the existing line to wire up an outlet, motion sensor light switch, and two LED can lights.

I built a small 2x4 frame around where the box should go, creating a little bit of a bump out. It's been a while since I started this project, so I'm not actually sure why I didn't go into the existing outside wall, but I must have had a reason...maybe? Anyway, it's done.

Once the switch and outlet were wired, I ran wire through the ceiling to one can light, then another, and tested everything out. It worked great!

Next up was fixing the floor. The floor in there was the same tile that is in the living room and music room - ceramic tile. Great for cleanup, not great for kids playing. So as much as we don't like carpet, we really needed to soften that room up. Luckily, my boss was having her carpet replaced, and there was enough of it that was still in decent shape that I could make it fit and have it look nice.

On thing I always do is measure the layout and draw it on the nearest piece of drywall or wood or scrap paper, and then take a photo of it. I always have my phone on me, but not always what I write it on, so it's the easiest way to reference the measurements wherever I might be.

I cut the carpet and the pad and set it in place to make sure it fit. Because this was tile, and I didn't care about stretching the carpet and making it perfect, I just used carpet tape, which doesn't hold great, but it works fine enough for a playroom. So I cut the pad 1/2" smaller on all sides to allow for the tape, trimmed up where I needed to and laid it all in place.

This is the point at which I took a break over the winter. The room was decent enough to keep toys in. We put a bookcase in there, a couple tiny chairs, a couple of bins, and every night we'd just toss all the toys in this little room and close the door. But after months of that nonsense, and Ollie not even knowing how to find anything in there, it was time to step it up.

Over the course of the Show Season for my job, where we do all the consumer shows in the first quarter, inevitably I find something left behind or thrown out that becomes useful to me.  This year, it was the Lansing Home & Garden Show, where Lumber Liquidators decided to throw out 200 sq ft of brand new laminate floor with a grey wood look. Just used once during the show and then tossed in the dumpster. I, not knowing what I'd do with it exactly, packed it in the truck and brought it home. And then for a couple of months it sat in the corner of the garage, me just staring at it, trying to figure out what to do with it.

Then it clicked.

Rather than putting new drywall through the studded areas of the playroom, and having to mud the whole thing, I'd just use this flooring for as far as it would go, starting with the ceiling.

My first drawing was this:

I was still stuck in the mentality of a floor and how you have to stagger the seams, but with most of the pieces still close to full length, I didn't have to stagger them at all.

 The first photo is looking from the living room to the music room, and the second is the other direction. The template that came with the can lights made cutting around the lights much easier, though there was still a lot of measuring and measuring again just to make sure I got it right.

After the ceiling, I still had a ton of wood, so I set out to do the angle part under the bottom half of the stairs, envisioning some built in shelves.

Since the angle goes all the way to the ground, obviously, I decided to create a wall that was about 36" tall to serve as the back for the shelves. I then thought that I could screw the supports (1"x2") to the studs before I put in the side pieces for added structure to the shelf supports. I tacked these in temporarily before I realized I didn't want to have to jigsaw in the middle of a plank.

I took them back out and put in the first two rows of boards and then added the supports. I then measured where the supports were, and jigsawed a board for each side to wrap around the supports.

I repeated this process for the upper supports, and then cut the angled pieces to follow up the wall. As you can see, it's not perfect, but again, it's not out in the open, so I wasn't concerned about being super accurate.

Next I grabbed a bunch of short pieces, cut them all to the same length and laid them in on top of the supports. To mask the front, I ripped a a couple of boards to about 2 1/2" tacked to the front.

After all this, I STILL had plenty of flooring left, so I just kept going.

And I still have plenty left, so I'll be adding more to around the door and to the jut out around the light switch. I also want to add shallow shelves along the left, a storage bench across from the built in shelves, and do something different with the doors. Artwork is also a must. Like these great kids records that our dear friend Brooke found - perfect for the header between the two halves of the room!

So we're not quite done in here, but it's now a much more usable room, and the kids love it.


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