We have a nursery update for you guys in the form of two new purchases that we brought home, assembled, and will now attempt to customize. After this planning post we pictured ourselves diving right into constructing our two custom built-ins to flank the crib, but then we realized that before we could actually start on those, we needed to make some decisions about what we wanted them to look like (base cabinets with doors and a bookcase top? lower cabinets with drawers instead? dressers that we could top with shelves and molding? tall armoire-ish things for each side of that wall?).

So after a lot of inspiration-room browsing and comparing measurements/product choices on a slew of cabinetry and furniture websites, we finally landed on something that we hope will be extremely functional for the long-haul. Strong sturdy wood drawers as the base, with a bookcase-like top that we’ll build to the ceiling and frame out with molding. So far we’ve picked up two of the best drawers we could find for the job (more on that in a sec) and put them together, so the room’s currently looking like this:

But eventually we envision them looking a little something like this. Except less photoshop-y.

I’ll get more into the DIY part of this post in a minute, but first I wanted to talk about some insecurities I’ve been having about becoming a second-time father, and how (oddly enough) putting these dressers together helped me work through some of them. Sorry to get sappy for a moment. Can I blame it on pregnancy hormones?

Let me preface this by saying I’m a harsh critic when it comes to my own parenting. I generally think I do a good job, but there are always things I’d like to do better – be more patient with Clara, have more adventures with her, and generally give her more of my undivided attention. It’s that last one that seems especially daunting in the context of having a second child: how do I give two kids sufficient attention when sometimes I feel like I’m falling short with just one?

Life also felt simpler back when we were expecting Clara. She arrived on the very day I was leaving my advertising job to come blog full-time with Sherry. So Clara came into a household where time felt almost leisurely. Sure, the blog was still somewhat busy back in 2010, but suddenly having two full-time employees made it feel like we had plenty of hours to soak up this new baby of ours – especially since we moved at a slower project pace and had lots of other stuff in the mix like multiple mood boards, Reader Redesigns, House Crashings, Email Answers, and Window Shopping posts along with lighter fare like Budget Blooms, random posts about mushrooms, or weird dreams.

Things won’t be that way when the Barnacle arrives. He’ll land right as we’re scrambling to finish our showhouse. Right as we’re supposed to be photographing some of our second book. Right after our secret project will finally be out of the bag. So I already worry that this awesome little boy will be meeting a busier, more distracted version of us. And sometimes I feel like I owe him an apology that he won’t get the same experience that his big sister got back in 2010.

But building these Ikea dressers snapped me out of my worry-fest. Why? Because as I opened that first Ikea box after dinner – tired and less than excited about the task – Clara walked in and asked if she could help. It made me realize that yes, this baby’s experience will be different, but in many good ways. Mainly in that he’ll hopefully have fun doing random things like assembling furniture or other house-related stuff that Clara seems to love sharing with us. And that he’ll have a doting big sister to play with him, watch over him, and love him. That’s something Clara didn’t have and that will be an exciting experience that’s uniquely his.

As usual, Clara and I had fun building together. Sometimes she was just playing or singing nearby. And as you can see in the pictures above (and the video below), she also enjoyed pretending she was in “furniture jail” and dancing to the Tangled soundtrack in her “pirate-witch costume.” You know the usual. I love that we now have these memories attached to these two pieces of furniture.

But the more amazing memory will be of how she actually participated in the build. She helped me pick out the pieces from the bag (“I need six wood pieces that look like this, can you find them for me?”) and even took over the task of putting dowels in the right holes.

She was quite the little helper, and I realized how cool it is that this baby’s room won’t just be created by his parents, but that his big sister literally had a hand in it too.

All of this is not to say that I’ve squashed every one of my insecurities about fatherhood 2.0 (“do I even remember how to hold a baby?“), but at least I’ve realized that I should stop comparing the two experiences and beating myself up over what will be different. Things are different, and that isn’t a bad thing. But enough about my feelings. {insert manly throat clearing here} Let’s talk about these built-ins…

Most of the other built-in projects that we saw online were either made using base cabinets from the home improvement store (a bunch of which looked a little too kitchen-y to us, or felt a bit steep in price for not-solid-wood) or with Ikea items like BILLY bookcases (like this one), the BESTA system (like this one), or even some combination of the two (like this one). But we wanted something a bit deeper (BILLY is 11″ and BESTA is 16″) and we wanted the bottoms of ours to act like dresser drawers, not like cabinet doors (for some nice deep, easy-to-access storage). So when we stumbled upon the FJELL dressers (21″ deep) online, they seemed to fit the bill nicely. And when we checked them out in person, they looked – and felt – even better.

At $299 each, they’re a little pricier than your usual Ikea dresser, but they’re made of solid wood (i.e. no particle board) and we liked some of the details like the wood grain texture on the top and drawer fronts (which has inspired us to stain the top). Plus we figure if we’re spending the time and money building these dressers in, we like the idea of paying for something a bit more substantial that will hopefully hold up for the long haul, so we won’t find ourselves replacing them anytime soon.

We’re pretty sure we’re going to paint everything but the dresser top (which we’ll stain) just so whatever wood I build the tops out of will match the bottoms. But as you can see from the rendering, we’re considering a non-white color. Maybe a medium gray or a very muted green? Either way, we’re waiting to have all of the building and painting finished before attaching the hardware (no sense in putting that on, just to remove it when it’s time to paint). So for now we’re rocking some temporary string handles. But the hardware that comes with them is actually really nice.

We also picked these because they were a good width. I know from the picture below it looks like we could’ve gone a little wider (don’t mind that off-centered crib) but we wanted to be sure that the space between them would eventually fit a twin-bed (lengthwise) or even a full or a queen (widthwise). Just typing that feels like we’re jumping the gun, but obviously we want them to grow with the room and last longer than its relatively short-lived nursery phase.

As much as I’m hoping my next post on these will be of the “yay, they’re done!” variety, I’m trying to be realistic that there’s lots of building involved here, which will then be followed by caulking, priming, painting, and staining. And somewhere in there we’ll probably be installing crown molding around the whole room (to match the crown that’s going on the built-ins). So if you don’t hear about these for a little while, you’ll know what we’re up to. Though maybe I can enlist my little building assistant to help move things along.

She does have a pretty good handle on dowels and allen wrenches…


  1. Caroline says

    Don’t worry, John! From the little bit we see you guys seem to be doing a great job with Clara, and probably a year from now you won’t even remember feeling that way! Can’t wait to see what you guys do with the nursery!!

  2. says

    as a mom of two, i can tell you that yes, your experiences will be different with a new baby. your whole schedule changes to accommodate a first baby, but the second has to fit into the routine you’ve established with the first. but it’s amazing how much your heart grows to add in all this new love for the baby and you find a way to give attention to both. and let me also share two things about adding the second: 1) you will not believe how tiny babies are. even if the second weighs in bigger than the first, you will not believe how tiny babies are. conversely, Clara will suddenly look enormous the first time you see her after the Barnacle arrives. like, you will wonder how did she grow/age that much in a few hours. and 2) there is nothing better then seeing your two children form a relationship with each other. and it will happen much sooner than you think. it’s the best.

    • says

      That’s so sweet! I laughed out loud about the whole “the baby will look tiny and Clara will look huge thing” – totally makes sense! She looks huge to us already, so I can only imagine!


    • Tina says

      My firstborn was still in diapers when the second one arrived. I remember changing big sis’s diaper and thinking how gigantic she was.
      I was so much more relaxed with my second born. Not surprisingly, my second born is a more relaxed kid.

    • Annette says

      My 3 only have 16 and 17 months in between them, and each new baby still made the older “babies” look humongous! You will be fine. Just give yourselves some time to adjust and find your new groove. :)

    • Shelley B. says

      I totally agree with the new baby looking so tiny and your older looking huge. I could not get over how big my son seemed after having my daughter a couple months ago. It was the oddest experience – his hands and feet just seemed like an adults instead of a toddler.

    • JenB says

      Ditto. Well said, Marci. I’ll add one thing: Sure the baby will have to share your attention with Clara, but the baby will also have the ADDED attention of Clara. So that’s three people lovin’ him. That’s a great thing! My boys are 21 months and 4 years and they adore each other (most of the time). It’s fun watching that relationship grow. It’s so much fun!

    • Jessie G. says

      too funny on the older sibling looking huge when the baby arrived!

      We experienced that when our 3rd arrived (our 2nd was 20 months old). Both in diapers so it is crazy town!

      I too can’t wait to see that nursery! But I tell you this, I am SURE it will be uh-mazing! The built-ins concept image looks great! makes me want to go put one together for my boys RIGHT AWAY~

    • Paula says

      And you will brace yourself to pick up the new baby and practically throw him to the ceiling because he weighs so much less than your firstborn who you’re used to picking up.

  3. Susan says

    The fact that you have these thoughts about what type of father you are/want to be proves that you are the best of fathers. Bless you and your family.

    • Jessica M says

      Absolutely, Susan.

      It takes a special daddy to be so transparent about his thoughts and feelings to thousands of readers! I can’t give any advice for the “2 kids” club, but I do know that change is always tricky until one day you realize you’ve settled into your new normal and it’s not so scary anymore. Praying for a smooth transition for your sweet family :)

      Can’t wait to see this nursery come together!

    • Kara says

      Took the words right out of my mouth-figuratively speaking, of course. I appreciate this sentimental post and find myself echoing the same thoughts as I think about having another. As I was reading I wished all fathers cared this much about how they can improve.

    • KiTX says

      Ditto to these 3 ladies. Sherry, Clara and the Barnacle (and Burger!) are lucky to have such a great man in their lives that loves them so completely. Hurray for wonderful husbands and daddies!

  4. julie g. says

    Love the dresser/bookcase idea!

    John,just the fact that you are so aware of all of the things you mentioned speaks greatly to how much you care about being a parent. I remember my husband’s greatest worry was that his heart was so full of love for our first son that he was afraid it couldn’t stretch any further. And interestingly enough, our second son is referred to as his “mini-me”!

    Both of our boys have a unique relationship with each of us and each other. It is a whole lot crazier for sure and it never seems there is time to accomplish all that there is to do (and usually there isn’t) but of course it is worth it.

    I’m sure your little one will idolize big sister Clara and big brother Burger and the three of them will have a blast and you will continue to do things as a family the way you always have.

  5. Theresa says

    John, I’m the youngest of three girls. My parents couldn’t find a picture of me alone for a school project. Sisters mumber one and two had lots but none of me alone. Obviously life got busier after each child but in the pictures of me with my sisters I’m the one with the biggest smile, laugh or best toy. One of my sisters is usually hugging me and today with both my parent deceased the three of us are close as can be. Barnacle with be happy with his situation because it will be all he knows and you and Sherry will let him get away with stuff that Clara never could. Just enjoy the ride.

    • Sara says

      I just have 2 little girls who are 8 and 5 and already I have a hard time of finding a picture of the little one by herself, the relationship they have with one another is amazing. My favorite picture of my little one is when she was just a month old and my oldest put a princess crown on her head while she was sleeping to play with her..and that was only the beginning.

    • Shannon says

      I am the in same boat as you, Theresa!I’m the youngest of four and don’t know where I’d be without my three older sisters. And as a mother of three, there is nothing more wonderful than watching the older children care for, protect, play and teach the younger ones. Just makes a person happy to be a part of the human race.

  6. Rebecca Alvarado says

    Pregnancy hormones? Totally understand. I’m 7 months pregnant with the first child and my husband totally has them too. He is nesting just as much as me (mainly because my Dr has restricted my movements so if its below my waist, I can’t reach it). Glad you realized its going to be another new adventure for the little one and it doesn’t have to be the same as the first.

    Like the idea of using pre-made drawers since that is probably the most complicated part of the project.

  7. Jessica says

    Love the built ins! they are going to look great, cant wait to see them finished :)

    and you totally had me tearing up! As a mom of two I totally understand the worry that you have but your right it is two completely different experiences. Its fun, I like to call it crazy chaos!

  8. Gabriella says

    Awesome post! I am excited to see how this project turns out. I wish that my husband and I had even 1/10th of your skill set (we have lots of ideas as evidenced by our pinterest boards, but our execution & follow through is lacking). I really appreciate that you are being thoughtful and taking your time to feel your house, live in it, and envision the future and the impact that today’s choices will have in the future (single bed, queen bed…etc). Have a wonderful day!

  9. says

    Love the video of Clara in jail and singing! Too cute! I love that she was able to help you put together the dressers for the baby. :-) I’ll bet she loved helping out, and I’m sure that gave her some “ownership” of her little brother.

    Can’t wait to see the rest of that nursery!

  10. Jess says

    LOVE that Clara is your little helper! I “helped” my Dad put my swingset together when I was probably her age. There was a lot of “Can you get Daddy the screwdriver? That is a wrench. A screwdriver looks like this …” going on. I don’t remember it, but I do love hearing the stories about it. :)

    I continued to help (good news: I got more helpful!) as I grew up and now I have some pretty good DIY skills to show for it. So besides building memories (and dressers!), you guys are also prepping her to be an independent adult. Win/win/win!

    • says

      I love that story! There was a lot of “can you hand me the one with the orange handle- no that’s an orange bag, look for the tool with the orange handle” going on – and it was hilarious. I love that you’re handy now! Here’s hoping Clara gets that too!


  11. says

    What a great idea – can’t wait to see how these turn out!

    O, and I totally know what you mean about worrying about the second child’s experience compared to the first’s — we’re 8 weeks into living with our little number two :)

  12. Cynthia says

    Love that she wants to be there doing it with you and knows that you will let her help right along. This 27-year-old Daddy’s girl still holds lots of memories of furniture building with my own Dad. And even with an older brother more typically ‘suited’ to handing off tools, Dad let me tag along too.
    One of my favorite memories of all time was a Christmas morning when the glass on the oven door cracked (BEFORE the big family dinner). After gift opening, Dad brought out the tools and metal duct tape and called for both my brother AND ME, saying ‘alright, lets fix this.’ That Barnacle will be learning from some of the best ;)

  13. Andrea says

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the arrival of baby #2, John. I started tearing up thinking about my own two kiddos, and how I sometimes feel like I’m never able to live up to the parent I’d like to be…but then I was encouraged by your point of view! I may be busier than I was with only one child, but my second has the awesome experience of having an older sister. I appreciate the wise words! :)

  14. Danielle says

    The video montage of Clara is hilarious. What a little ham you have :)

    You both seem like amazing parents. We are awaiting the arrival of our first (due mid-April), so I completely understand parenting anxiety. Hopefully all of your insecurities are calmed the minute you hold you new son. :)

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