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…






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