Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Reading Nook

reading nook 4 When we decided that we were going to homeschool our girls I knew that I would need to have a separate area where we could learn comfortably and not have to worry about leaving a half completed project sitting on the table. I also know that I need to have a fairly organized area to work in so I wanted the same thing for our school area. Our main floor doesn’t have any extra space to accommodate this so we looked to the basement. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this really is a great space and I could see some real potential to make it work for all of our needs:

1. School area

2. Reading nook / library

3. Play / toy area

4. TV / lounge area

The main issue I had with the basement was that it was so dark. There is only one window in that whole area and it was behind a wall at the south end of our rec room. We decided it would be best to remove that wall to allow the natural light to enter the entire space. We also had a smaller 9’ x 7’ storage room right at the bottom of our stairs and at the north end of the rec room. I had originally hoped to remove this wall as well to allow for one large space that could be divided into separate areas using different pieces of furniture. Once I told DP this plan he reminded me that it might not work so well as there are so many exposed pipes and electrical wires in the ceiling of the storage area that we would have to lower an already low ceiling to cover it all, plus we would want access in case there were any issues that may arise. I pouted for about a day and then had a slight epiphany when I went downstairs and stood in the doorway of that room.

This would be the perfect reading nook / library!!!

You may want to grab a beverage and kick your feet up because this is an extremely long post!

You definitely had to have the vision because it was an awful mess in there and had been used to store things since the beginning of time and in all honesty I had just let it get completely out of control! This is the before picture – yikes!!!! I’m amazed that I had an epiphany that day and just didn’t run away and cry!


I started by removing everything from the room. Some I moved into our laundry / storage area (that is still in a complete state of disarray – another project on the waiting list) and some into the rec room. I didn’t realize how many canning jars we had on those back shelves and in some boxes. My mother-in-law had left some here when they moved as she doesn’t have the space for them plus I have acquired a lot during the years. Unfortunately, most were empty, but I guess that made them easier to move! DP removed the shelf as it wasn’t going to work into my plans for the space. I had visions of putting in a daybed-type thing, but the room is about half an inch too narrow going across to accommodate a twin mattress that we have. After reconfiguring I realized it would take up too much space anyways. Onto a new plan.

I headed to the local hardware store and picked up some primer that would adhere to the exposed cinder blocks on the north wall (the left side of the picture). I didn’t worry about the east wall as I had plans to just conceal it with shelves. I had some paint left over from our renovations upstairs so my consultant, Henri, advised me to add some white paint to it and use that colour. I had almost a gallon of it so it was well worth it. I poured a bit of the darker colour into an ice cream pail and added some white until I came up with a lighter version that I was happy with. The girls and I painted the north wall with primer and once dry we added two coats of the new colour.


The south wall was partially covered with plywood that had been used to hang ear tags for the cows. It had over 100 small holes in it from where nails had once held the tags. I kind of liked the memory of this so decided not to fill the holes. We got to work on painting the plywood the same new colour. I didn’t bother with any primer and it seemed to adhere just fine.

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The other half of that wall as well as the west wall were exposed stud frames where you could see the back of the panelling that is in the rec room. I decided to cover that wall space with some of the old wind fence that we have lying around. I used the same wood for the DIY Growth Chart. I thought it would look really cool and give the room a rustic flavour. DP helped me gather some boards from the pile and we brought them back to our yard. I picked out the ones that I thought would work well in the room, pulled nails and sanded the cow manure off any that showed a trace! Other than that I left them as is. Back in the basement, I measured the floor to ceiling height and then headed outside where I measured two boards, marked them and cut them with a circular saw. When I put the two in place I realized that the floor to ceiling height is not all the same so I decided to measure each space individually to make sure the boards would fit properly. DP thought that using a drill to screw the boards in place would work best, but they just didn’t go in well for me (I’m thinking now that it was because of the drill bit being the wrong size – oops!). I ended up nailing each board into place – one in the top and one in the bottom. I loved how they looked when they were all in place!

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My uncle has quite a collection of storage shelves and benches – well just stuff in general – stored in various locations at my grandma’s farm. I went up to the barn with my dad to search in the “inventory” and we happened on the perfect set of shelves for the space. What was originally meant for use in an office to sort papers or to use as individual mailboxes was going to be turned on its side to be our bookshelves! I realized that there were two shelves put together as one, but it appeared they would come apart easily which would be exactly what we required. Sure enough, when my dad and his co-worker loaded the shelves into my truck they came apart without any hassle. I took them home, we unloaded them and I got busy washing them. I had to remove the tape and labels of the employees names who these shelves originally belonged to and then I used soap & water to scrub them down. They had been in the barn for quite some time so they needed a good washing. They cleaned up really well and I was quite excited to get them in the house! When DP was in the yard (this was right in the middle of harvest!) he helped me carry the shelves into the basement and we set them into place along the unpainted cinder block wall. They fit PERFECTLY!!! We have a drain pipe that runs from our kitchen sink into a drain hole along that cinder block wall as well as one electrical outlet and these shelves could not have worked out any better to fit around them. We put some wedges under the shelves so they would sit flush and then I let the girls get started filling them with all of their books. I have always loved books and part of their collection are books that my brothers and myself had as children.

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I wanted to brighten up the room a bit and just love the look of stripes painted on walls. I knew that the white stripes on the growth chart looked great so I decided I would add them to the barn board (weathered wind fence) and painted plywood. I measured the height of the cinder blocks and transferred those measurements to the barn board first and then the plywood. I used a meter stick and a white pencil crayon to draw the lines and then because I initially didn’t have any painters or masking tape just painted within the lines. Living in the country makes it a little less convenient to run to the store to purchase things and I didn’t want to wait to start painting. I did buy some tape before I painted the lines on the plywood so I put the tape along my measuring lines, painted and when I peeled it off had nice straight lines.

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We had some pieces of corrugated metal in our shed so I asked DP if we could use some to put up behind the shelves where the cinder block hadn’t been painted. We got our couple pieces cut and nailed them up behind the shelves. I nailed three pieces of wind fence together and then put them up in between the two shelving units to cover the drain pipe and electrical outlet.

I knew that I wanted a cozy type of flooring so that the girls would enjoy lounging on it reading their books. I had seen a beautiful shag rug at Costco a few months ago and luckily it was still there when we went again in August. We picked it up and I couldn’t wait to get it laid down. We put a piece of poly down on the cement floor first, followed by underlay and the finally the carpet on top. My parents had both the poly and underlay at their house so we didn’t have to purchase any. Once we laid this rug down it really made the room come together and made it that much more cozy.

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We had an old chair in the basement I added to the room as well as an old table that had been DP’s grandma’s. The table is likely at least 50 years old and I’m not sure about the chair. The table had been sitting in one of the buildings in our yard and just needed to be wiped down. I had purchased a small sheep skin-type rug from Ikea when CP was a baby and thought it would make the chair feel that much softer so I got it out of storage and laid it over top of the chair. My mother-in-law gave me an old window frame that came out of a barn from DP’s great-uncle’s farm. She had been holding onto it for years thinking that she would like to paint a picture to go behind it. When she saw that I was doing so much upcycling she decided she would give it to me. I then decided it would fit so well in the nook. She painted a beautiful picture and we have it behind the window frame. It also helps to brighten up the room. I added a basket which houses books that were too large to fit in the shelves. I would like to add another to store library books in – another future project!

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I purchased a duvet cover for $10 from Jysk and threw in some blankets, body pillows and now stuffed toys to provide a make-shift bean bag chair. The girls love to lounge on it.

On the painted cinder block wall is a piece of plywood that has some electrical junction boxes and telephone wires attached. I didn’t want to mess with any of this so I just painted it the same colour as the wall. I would like to put some sort of sign up there, but just haven’t gotten around to it. Wow, there’s another future project. The ceiling is still exposed and I am going to add a new light fixture. I hope to accomplish those projects this week. I’ll post an update once they are completed.

Here are the before and after photos. It’s hard to believe it’s the same room!


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Whew….that was an extremely long post!!! If you made it to the very end without nodding off – CONGRATULATIONS!! I hope you enjoyed seeing our reading nook. I am absolutely thrilled with the way it turned out. I told DP that if the rest of the basement didn’t turn out the way I envisioned it at least I have the reading nook to sit in!

Do you have a special reading nook or library space in your home?


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1 comment:

  1. Way to go, Wendy! For you to visualize this when you looked at the initial space is incredible. You're so resourceful and innovative to use all those things from around your property (and your extended family's properties) to achieve this makeover. I love the weathered wood, stripes and mail cubbies turned book shelves. It sounds like I would have lots of fun poking around in all of these places exploring the leftover goodies.

    I know that the comfy beanbag chairs were always a sought after place in my classroom, so I'm sure your little girls are thrilled to be able to hang out down here and get lost in all the great books. You're definitely doing everything you can to instill a love of reading in them from a young age.

    Can't wait to see more!


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