To stage or not to stage?
That was the question when I decided to photograph my house for you. Was I trying for a lifestyle magazine type tour of my house? Or should it be a tour of our house the way we live in it?
Those of you who know me well could probably have guessed that I’d err on the side of “what you see is what you get.” Partly because I want to post this now and not in six months, and it would take time to make everything look perfect; but mostly because I’m always in favour of keepin’ it real.
I’m a big fan of the saying, “don’t compare someone else’s greatest hits with your blooper reel.” There are currently six people living in our house — Six people who love books and crafts and who aren’t neatniks. So while I did move some of the small toys littering the windowsill, and cleared some stuff off the floor so you could see the floor (which I love), I didn’t declutter or stage my home for you.
Anyhow, welcome back! I’m glad you’re here.
Yesterday I left you right at the threshold from the entryway to the dining room. As you enter, if you look a bit to the left, you’ll see our table. We eat here all the time, so I wanted it to be able to be formal or informal as the situation demands. I do plan to get a nice long table one day soon, but right now we’re using an IKEA table that’s been with us for the last sixteen years.
On your right we have a built-in china hutch. The glass door cabinets are double-sided so we can access them from the dining room and from the kitchen. We use the drawers and cabinets below to store tablecloths, serving utensils, platters, and alcoholic drinks.
As you move past the table and toward the living room, you can see the huge windows in the stairwell, and our gorgeous floors. Yes, they’re pine — red pine from Northern Ontario, in fact — and yes, they dent. But I’m in favour of patina. Besides, if you have an oak floor like everyone else and it gets one scratch, you’ll see that one scratch until you refinish the floor. When your floor is pine, there’s never just one scratch — so the whole thing just looks “distressed”, which is very cool right now. Flooring manufacturers were charging $1.50 per square foot extra to distress the floors. No thanks — my kids distressed my floors for free!
See the sloped shelving next to the stairs? I did that. I designed it in SketchUp and built it by hand. Not a single one of those angles is a whole number. I had to cut and install one piece at a time, and there was plenty of trial and error. It was a pain in the butt and I’ll never do it again, but I’m pretty proud of the way it turned out. We use it to store our vast board game collection (it’s been recently culled. These are the games that we actually play.)
As you turn to your right, you can see the rest of the living room. Large windows were a must-have for me. These windows open up nice and wide so I can pretend I’m on a screened porch at a cottage somewhere. We’ve got two hammock chairs — the comfiest and most coveted seats in the house — that are well-anchored in the ceiling. Our builders thought we were crazy when we requested reinforcement in the ceiling for swings. But who’s crazy now, huh?
The door at the far end of the room leads to our covered back porch.
The wall unit was designed by me, but I got a concussion before I could build it, so I hired someone else to do the actual build. It’s got two workstations (one of which is so cluttered that it’s unusable right now), cubbies for each of the children, some display shelves, and a lot of closed storage.
This house used to be a three-bedroom bungalow, you know. The living room and stairs occupy what used to be all three bedrooms, and the house had very few closets. Is it any wonder that I’ve tried to squeeze in extra storage wherever I can?
The interior window is another one of my builds. It has one moving panel, and it separates the kitchen from the living room. It allows me to see out into the backyard from the kitchen without having to share the noise and smells of cooking with everyone else.
Below the window I have two sets of drawers. They occupy the corners of my kitchen; I absolutely hate corner cabinets, and yes, I’ve seen all the amazing hardware you can get for them. That changes nothing. So instead of putting corner cabinets in my kitchen, I used the space to add these to the wall in the living room. We use them to store school supplies, gift wrap, and occasionally the family laptop.
(What’s that between the drawers, you ask? It’s a giant colouring page — a cartoonish map of the world. Every so often someone will grab the markers from the drawer on the right and get to work colouring it in.)
Looking back towards the dining room you can’t really see the broom closet: it’s just to the left of the hutch, built in to look like part of the wall.
On the other hand, you can easily see my command centre in the far corner. It houses our calendar, our unopened mail, our bills and documents. The drawers on the bottom hide my personal office supplies (the ones I don’t want the kids to ruin), a charging station, and books that need to be returned to the public library. There’s a basket for newspapers at the bottom. We have important phone numbers, our chore charts, and a small chalkboard on the inside of the door.
But this is also our formal dining room, and I neither need nor want my guests to see all our stuff when they’re sitting at the table. So we built in the command centre and painted it to match the walls. When it’s closed, you could walk right past and not notice it.
So that’s our living room and dining room, where we spend most of our family time. Here’s a view of the living room (and part of the kitchen) from the stairs:
We really love it here.