Our Current House
We hoped to have all of the nursery’s extra chunky crown molding painted, cut, hung, caulked, and touched up by the end of the weekend, and we just made it by the skin of our teeth (where did that gross expression come from anyway?).
Crown is always one of the those “it’ll be nice” things on a to-do list, and then whenever we add it we’re blown away by how much of a difference it makes. Even the most basic and boxy rooms suddenly look taller and just generally upgraded in a surprisingly significant way. Which we always appreciate since a lot of the rooms in our homes have been devoid of amazing architecture (no extra high ceilings, arched doorways, cool columns, etc). So between the addition of our little corner built-ins, and the new extra chunky crown, this 11 x 13.5′ rectangle of a room is really coming along.
You know, after eight months of looking like this.
Don’t get me wrong – we still have a long way to go (there are three completely unaddressed walls, and not nearly enough color/fun/personality yet), but this chunky crown molding is a pretty glorious sight. It erased all of those unfinished cracks and crevices and made the room feel so much more polished in a few short days.
As for how we installed it, we followed the same method that we tried out in Clara’s room, which is to use 3 1/4″ baseboard as the first “layer” – and run that around the room first. We used a spacer to drop it an inch and a half down from the ceiling for more of a chunky look, a level to make sure it stayed straight, and we marked our studs with painters tape so we knew just where to fire the nail gun into the wall to hold them up.
The second “layer” involved hanging actual crown molding (we got nice beefy 4 5/8″ stuff from Home Depot) right over the baseboard, for that extra chunky look. You can see how the left piece has been “crowned” and on the right there’s just baseboard waiting for us to hang crown over it to complete the look. This is how all the crown on the first floor of our house was done, along with the stuff in our master bedroom, so we wanted to keep any new crown that we added looking cohesive.
We went with pre-primed baseboard and crown to save ourselves a step, so we just had to lay it out on the floor with a drop cloth and paint it before we hung it. We prefer that to painting it in place because it’s a lot faster, and then we only need touch-ups after hanging it and caulking it. It was funny to paint just a tiny bit of it with the built-in color, and the rest of it white, but we’re really happy with how it all turned out.
Here’s the crown between the built-ins after it was hung but before we caulked it or did any paint touch ups. See the slightly imperfect wavers of the ceiling above it? Those are nice and finished looking when you squeeze a line of caulk up along that crevice and just drag your finger across it to force it into those small gaps. And if you wipe it fast enough (we apply it about a foot at a time) you can usually get it off the pre-painted ceiling and crown so it’s just in those cracks and there’s no need to touch up the ceiling or crown again for the most part, which is nice.
After some final paint touch ups (mostly along the nail marks that we filled with caulk), and removing all of those tape marks for the studs, it gets a lot better looking. Like so:
For anyone looking for additional details and photos of this chunkier crown effect using baseboards + molding, you can click here to read about how we installed it in Clara’s room. The cost of hers rung in at $137, and that’s a significantly larger room, so although we can’t find the receipt for this latest trip to Home Depot, we’re guessing it was around $115 to do the nursery. And you’ll want to add a tube or two of caulk and a can of paint to the project cost if you don’t have those on hand already.
I also finally got to dive into the crib bedding arena, which you all know I’ve been excited about thanks to John’s revelation that I wander around the house impersonating Golum and whispering “CRIIIB SKIRT.” Here’s a close up of the sweet little organic crib sheet that I found on sale from Pottery Barn for $9.99 (I think we paid something like $25+ for organic crib sheets before Clara was born, so I’m psyched to see that these have become a lot easier to find & more affordable in the last four years).
The green rectangle behind that parade of adorable elephants is just 1.5 yards of fabric that I grabbed from JoAnn during one of their 50% off sales. So the grand total for the 1.5 yards of fabric that I needed to make the crib skirt was a wallet-busing $3.73. You know I did The Mom Victory Dance at the checkout, right? For those not in the know, that involves all sorts of ridiculous movements like high fiving your embarrassed husband and waving your hands around like you’ve won the lottery when in fact you have just saved something like $3.50.
Once at home, I laid out my fabric and cut out three pieces (two sides and a front) which will make up the crib skirt. To get the measurements of those three pieces, I just measured the crib skirt area’s height and width in that section, and then added 3″ to each measurement (to account for 1.5″ hems on each side). So for example, if the measured height for the side panel of the crib was 10 inches, I added three more to make it 13 inches. And if the measured length of that side panel was 28 inches, I added another three inches to make it 31.
Oh and it would be a nice moment for me to mention that if you’re using any fabric with a pattern on it, make sure your three panels all go in the same direction and have the pattern level or centered (so you don’t end up with wonky stripes or something from cutting things in the wrong direction). You might need more yardage for certain patterns or longer crib skirts.
I debated sewing these panels together or just using Heat N’ Bond hem tape, but since the crib skirt that I made for Clara was with Heat N’ Bond, and it held up really well, I figured that was a good choice again – especially since this is more of a tucked away element in the room (for example, I sewed Clara a quilt, but I used hem tape for her crib skirt, since it’s less of a hands-on item).
As far as what materials you’ll need if you’re attempting to make a crib skirt using this method, you’re all set with fabric, hem tape, scissors, and an iron. Oh and some velcro tabs, but we’ll get to that in a minute. First you just need to use hem tape on all four backsides of each of your three panels to hem them for a nice finished look in the front.
It’s really easy stuff to use, just iron it on, peel off the backing, fold the fabric over, and iron it again to make a hem. The fabric panel on the left of this picture was hemmed on all sides, and the panel on the right was also hemmed all the way around, and then I laid one more strip of hem tape down the side (along the back edge) so that I could join these two panels by ironing it on, peeling the backing, moving the second panel over the first one to overlap them, and then ironing that edge so they were fused together.
Once you turn it over, you’re left with a nice clean seam in the front of the fabric. And that seam will fall on a corner of our crib (behind one of the legs) so it won’t be seen.
I joined the middle panel to the two end panels this way on both sides and then it was ready to be attached to the crib. I used small velcro tabs around the metal frame of the crib to hold our skirt in place (you can get them at JoAnn or Michael’s which is also where they sell Heat N’ Bond).
Velcro is a nice option because it makes it easy to remove and wash it if you ever need to (hem tape is washable if you follow the directions and avoid high heat).
Our crib mattress will be lowered once the little guy is more mobile, so we won’t always need this skirt to bridge the gap between the bottom of the mattress and the drawer, but it’s such a fun little addition. Especially for $3.73.
We also used two coats of satin PolyShades gel stain (in Tudor) to make the bottom drawer of the crib a little darker, since it was looking kind of reddish-orange in comparison to the floors and the wood dresser-tops. We thought a hit of darker color would be nice to ground our light-colored crib, and it would also tie into things like the dark hardware on the built-ins, the chocolate elephant crib sheet, and even the oil-rubbed bronze doorknob that leads to his room.
We sealed the PolyShades with two satin coats of Safecoat Acrylacq, which is an awesome non-toxic sealer that keeps things from off-gasing, since Polyshades is low-VOC but not no-VOC.
It’s probably obvious that I just tossed like eight things on the built-in bookcases so they weren’t painfully bare, but I literally gave them four minutes of my time, so I can’t wait to gather some baskets and frames and books and toys and other fun nursery items to fill them in for real. (Shout out to the lone giraffe on the top right shelf). I think they’ll end up being super functional and a nice way to add a lot more fun/color/personality to the room, so I can’t wait to get cracking.
For the space above the crib, we’ve been debating everything from large scale art to some sort of accent like a slatted wall or a giant mobile. We even tried leaning the bike prints up there just to see what they’d look like, but we think they’re better suited for the opposite wall since they look a little busy with the built-ins.
So we’re planning to fill those built-ins “for real” and then see where we end up with that wall. I think we’re leaning towards a really fun large scale mobile – maybe like this but with hits of bold green, black, and white? And maybe another animal instead of birds (Burgers? Or whales since he’s The Barnacle?)…
What did you guys work on this weekend? Do you have any mostly-empty bookcases that you’re ready to go nuts on? Or some bare walls that are begging for some action?
Psst- To see our nursery progress from the very beginning, here’s the planning and rug-buying post, the dresser-sourcing post, the wall and ceiling painting rundown, the first half of built-in building, and the second half of the built-in project.
On Monday the bases to our nursery built-ins were done, and now (yes, you guessed it) so are the tops… well, except for some caulking, paint touch ups, and the crown molding.
We’re really happy with how they’ve turned out, and Sherry is about to explode from waiting to fill them in (I’m making her wait until we’ve finished all of our final caulking and paint touch-ups along with the rest of the room’s crown – I know, THE NERVE). But let me show you how we got to this stage, because the tops took a bit more planning than the bases did since I was building them from scratch.
We decided to build from scratch since we couldn’t find any pre-existing bookcases that would fit in that space. We went with plywood for the material – specifically, this PureBond eco plywood from Home Depot, which is formaldehyde-free (along with chunky wood trim pieces to beef up the sides and the shelf fronts). A 4ft x 8ft panel of that eco plywood is $47 so I figured out ahead of time how to get the most out of one piece. I still had to buy another 2′ x 4′ piece to get my last two shelves, but otherwise I was pretty proud of figuring out this puzzle.
I got all of these pieces cut down in the store, which made life much easier – especially since their big saw locks in place, so I had more confidence that my pieces would be consistent widths. Luckily the Home Depot guy was having a slow day so he was happy to oblige. They were small enough to fit in my car by this point, but since I was also buying a bunch of long pieces of crown molding for the rest of the room, I went ahead and rented their truck to get everything home for $19.
We tried to paint all of our pieces BEFORE installing them, since it’s typically easier to paint things when they’re laid out on the ground or leaned up against the wall (without having to worry about edging or cutting in around stuff). Here are the tall side pieces drying.
Once they were dry and the bases were finished, I attached one side piece directly to the wall (into a stud in a few places, to make it crazy secure).
Then I attached a thin brace piece (a strip of 1 x 3″ that I had cut and painted already) along the top into a couple of studs. This piece wouldn’t do anything visually (it would later be hidden) but it gave me a place to attach the second side piece. I screwed right through it into the end of the brace. You’ll note that we’re just relying on the wall to act as the back of the built-ins rather than attaching a plywood panel. We did this mainly for cost and simplicity purposes (we can always paint it a bright color or slide in foam core or cardboard covered backs with fabric or wallpaper to spice things up a little later).
That second side piece would gradually become more secure as I went along, attaching more braces and shelves. But to keep it as square as possible as I went, I temporarily attached a board across the front (which I later popped off). You’ll also note some pieces laying there at the bottom helping to keep things square down by the base of the bookcase.
With the sides in place, I could start building our shelves, so I marked along one side where each of them were going to go.
The night before this Sherry and I had played around a bit with where we wanted them to sit. We decided on doing three shelves (creating four cubbies) because it seemed like the most balanced look to us – not too cramped, not too spacious. We went for permanent shelves, rather than adjustable ones, because we thought they’d look more polished and would accommodate most things since they’re pretty standard sizes.
We typically like our shelves all evenly placed, but we noticed that this made the bottom shelf look a little small for some reason when we taped things out. Then we came across this room and really liked the spacious bottom shelf design, so we gave ours a few extra inches of breathing room too – and here’s where we ended up (the painter’s tape represents the width of each shelf). The depth of all of the shelves is 11″ by the way.
Next it was time to attach the shelf braces. I cut these brace pieces by ripping a 1 x 3″ along my table saw into .75″ wide pieces. This will make more sense in a moment, but basically any thicker than that and the braces would hang below the trim pieces that I’d be adding later to the front of each shelf.
I nailed the braces into the wall and the sides (being sure to keep things level as I went) just to get everything in place. Then to make sure they were secure and could bear weight, I went back and screwed them each into the studs in a few spots.
Here are all three shelves added (Sherry and I had already pre-cut and painted them). I also nailed each shelf down into the brace piece so they won’t pop out or jiggle or anything.
One of the continuous challenges of this build has been that our walls aren’t totally flat/level. So my perfectly cut shelf pieces didn’t necessarily sit perfectly flush in some spots. But it wasn’t anything a little paintable caulk couldn’t fix along those back edges – especially since I had to caulk all the various seams where the braces met the shelf anyway.
Once the caulk had dried, we took this opportunity to paint the back wall and ceiling to match the rest of the built-ins. We considered leaving the wall color as-is, but decided it’d look more like one unit if we painted that to match the shelves. We’re still open to adding a pop of color to the backs down the line, or even some foam core covered with fabric or wallpaper, but we want to load up the shelves to see how they look first (don’t want them to get too busy).
After our wall paint dried, I re-hung the temporary header piece that I had added before (I popped it off so Sherry could paint it). It doesn’t go all the way to the ceiling because the crown will cover that gap (and it was cheaper to buy a 1 x 6″ piece than a 1 x 8″ one). Next I attached the face trim. Since plywood has a rough and unfinished edge, we wanted to polish things off with some 1 x 2″ pieces to frame out the front and make them look chunky. Sherry likes to call this method “Restoration Hardware-ing” something, because it really is the difference between a budget look and a nice substantial and solid one.
Then I could begin to install the crown molding. We’re using the same technique that we used in Clara’s room (upside down baseboard + crown = extra beefy crown). Since I intentionally bought the shorter/cheaper 3.25″ baseboard (knowing that it wouldn’t sit flush to the ceiling, but that the gap would be covered by the crown) you can see how I used a spacer on top of the piece that I’m nailing to make sure I got things in the right spot.
There were a few questions on Monday about white vs. gray molding and whether it should match the built-ins or the rest of the room. We’ve seen it done both ways, but here’s a room where it matches the built-ins, which we liked more. We may change our minds once we see all the trim installed, but we just pictured a white stripe at the top and bottom of them looking funny – kind of like the middles are floating. So we like the idea of grounding them with same-toned baseboards and elongating them by continuing that color on the crown.
Here’s a piece of freshly painted crown just held in place so you can get the idea of what it’ll look like. I’m going to wait to install these pieces ’til I do the whole room, which will hopefully be early next week.
We still need to do some caulking, nail hole filling, and paint touch-ups. But for the purposes of today, we’re declaring them done enough. At least enough for us to start putting the room back together.
Oh and a few folks on Monday wondered if these built-ins were storage overkill, at least for a baby, but they’re just our way of playing the long game in here. Clara’s six-drawer dresser was barely full when she was born, but in a few short years she has grown, along with her clothes, and now that big double dresser is overflowing. So we think these eight drawers will be full in no time.
It would probably make for more blog fodder if we redid everything when he’s 3, but we’re trying to invest time and money into more permanent-but-flexible pieces for this guy, especially since we plan to be here long-term. That’s why we constructed these to eventually accommodate a twin sized bed (lengthwise) or even a full-sized bed (width-wise) when that time comes. So while we love easy & inexpensive Phase 1 updates for rooms that are extra pricey to renovate (like kitchens/bathrooms, especially when we’re not sure what we want to do with their layouts just yet), if we know what we want and have the money on hand for a space like a bedroom (or our recently renovated sunroom), it’s exciting to work towards that end-vision from the get-go.
As for the placement of the crib between these new built-ins, there’s about 20″ of wiggle room on each side, so we’re not concerned about Barnacle being able to reach out and scale the bookcases (we’ll drop the mattress when he’s more mobile, so they’ll be even further out of reach). And if he turns out to be especially long-armed or daredevil-ish, we can always rotate the crib 90° so the gap is even greater.
And now for some random room thoughts from Sherry, after we pushed the crib back in there:
- “Now I’m itching to paint the crib drawer since it’s a little clashy – maybe bright green?”
- “The white of the crib looks pretty out of place right now, but I think once we add curtains and frames and things on those bookcases it’ll make more sense.”
- “Colorrrrrr! Faaaaaabric! Let’s have some fun now that these studly built-ins are in the bag.”
The room’s definitely looking like Beige City right now (not to be confused with Bear City) but we have big plans to layer in lots more as we go – just like we did in Clara’s room, which started with white walls. So stuff like bedding, a mobile, window treatments, books, toys, and some colorful art should definitely add more personality.
As for the total cost of these two built-in bookcases, I spent around $60 per side (which includes the eco plywood for the sides and shelves, the baseboard and quarter-round that I used at the foot of the dressers, the lumber for lifting the dressers up to accommodate those baseboards, and the wood for the shelf braces & face trim).
In summary: I’m beyond psyched to have these checked off of our to-do list. When we first started discussing them I pictured them taking me months to finish, so I’m pleasantly surprised to have them knocked out in about two weeks. All of that priming, painting, staining, sealing, and caulking (shout out to the lady-wife for her help with that) really cuts into your pace sometimes! Speaking of Sherry, I know that she’s happy to have them done so she can unleash her decorating beast in here. Just picture her doing her best Golum impression and creepily whispering things like “criiiiib skiiiiirt” and “boooookcase stufffff.”