Zach’s Room Re-do

A few months ago, I was browsing pinterest and saw an over-the-top inspiring pin. I stopped everything I was doing, and ran in to show my mother the image that had caught my eye.

It was a very simple, very chic bookshelf. It was visual, it was bold, and it allowed children to see the covers of books. It was the perfect shelf for Zach’s room, and I knew I had to have it. But when I started telling people about my idea, everyone kept saying “you want to do WHAT exactly?”

I wanted to put a set of rain gutters in Zach’s room. As a bookshelf. You read that right.

My initial inspiration came from the beautiful photographs from Sweet Cheeks Tasty Treats (linked in image below):

And from reading her article, her inspiration came from the fabulous blog, Raising Olives (also linked below). Raising Olives had an amazing step-by-step tutorial that I wish I would have read before the project, but alas, we figured it out based on the original inspiration photograph alone.

If you look at Zach’s room before, you’ll see the trouble that we’re dealing with. He has a small room, with the door to both the hallway and the closet on the same wall, a window opposite those, and, as I already mentioned very little space.

In this picture, you’ll see that we have all of the books piled up in the corner in a box. Any time Zach and I would go to read a book, we would face two problems.

  1. We could only read the books on top. If we tried to dig deeper for the other books, the whole stack would topple and books would be everywhere.
  2. We couldn’t even see what books he had- everything was a mish-mashing of books and you couldn’t see titles, covers, or anything.

I considered bookshelf options, but bookshelves have a large footprint, which doesn’t work for a small room, plus kids often end up pulling a bookshelf down on themselves trying to get a book… and I didn’t want that to happen. I also considered creative bookshelf ideas, like putting the books in a little red wagon, but that again took up a lot of space… and have you seen little red wagons these days? They’re not the cute metal ones of my childhood, nor are they in my price range.

I had a total of about $50 to spend on the project… and that meant getting a new piece of furniture (the blue couch was way too big for that room) and the rain guttering. I had a few thoughts going into it:

  1. I wanted to spend as little as possible, but still make a big change… there was no room for Zach to play or for us to read together.
  2. I wanted that blue couch out of there. It became a catch-all for laundry that I didn’t want to put away, and didn’t really allow for us to spend much time in there.
  3. I wanted his room to be useable. I imagined days where we could go in there, turn on Sesame Street, and play in the floor, or curl up with a good book in a big cushy chair.
  4. I wanted to re-coup as much of my costs as I could.
  5. I wanted to be able to do the whole change, as well as re-organizing his room and closet, in a weekend.

Our process started when an amazing couple from church decided to get rid of a chair… it was the perfect choice, a cushy brown leather recliner, perfect for Zach and I to curl up in together and read. They were so nice and giving that they just gave it to me! The chair was perfect, but the chair being free? Even better. Their generosity was just amazing… and it’s really what helped my room come together.

If you’re wanting to design on a dime and don’t have someone who will give you a perfect chair out of the kindness of their hearts, you do still have a few options on how to get one.

  1. Try Freecycle. A lot of people will give away furniture that is in excellent condition- all they require is for you to pick it up. One time I was able to score a huge red rug for my dorm room, completely free, because the original owners just wanted it out of their storage area.
  2. Check garage sales. That’s another source of excellent cheap furniture (and it’s how I got a lot of my furniture for college).
  3. Ask your friends and family to keep an ear out for one- the more people who are looking, the more likely you are to find what you’re looking for!
  4. Join a local group on facebook. For my hometown, we have a facebook page for women who are 21+ where we can recommend local businesses, sell items we no longer need, and chat about upcoming social events and functions. That has become an excellent resource for getting things at a good discount (especially when it’s not garage sale season!) Church groups and mommy groups on facebook can also be really good resources.
  5. If all else fails, check Goodwill/Savers/Salvation Army/etc. They often have used furniture at reasonable prices. Make sure you sniff it- if you’re a smoke-free home and it wasn’t in one before, you’ll be able to tell.

I had already gotten the perfect chair, and since it was a gift, my budget of $50 remained intact. You’d be amazed at what a little re-arranging can do! We moved the blue couch out (right now it’s in the sunroom of our house, which tends to be our family gathering room), and moved the chair in.

Because Zach’s room had a fresh paint job before he was born, we really did not need to repaint it. His other furniture was also staying the same- his bed was staying, and so was his changing table (before he was born, I updated it with spray paint from a brown wood that didn’t match our bed, to a bright orange that went with the bedding inside. Perfect!) His dresser would remain inside the closet. All of that was constant. We decided that an easy way to make more space was to move everything. We switched moved the changing table and bed to the other side of the room, and put the chair near the closet (we did make sure that the closet could still be opened, and that the recliner could go all the way back in a reclining position). I also put a hamper next to his changing table- I had found the hamper downstairs in our storage area, and thought it was much better than his clothing just tossed in a pile in front of the changing table. His second car seat unfortunately has to sit out in the open- there’s just no other place to put it.

Finally, it was time to start on the actual bookshelves, which would be the new focal point of the room, so we made the trek to Home Depot. We headed to the back of the store (yes, they keep guttering in the back corner at the locations near us, and it seemed like the walk took forever… especially if you walk it holding guttering on the way back). We looked and looked, and they had the guttering, but no endcaps (they were sold out). So, the next day we made the journey to the Home Depot on the other side of town. We got our gutters, and we got our endcaps.

Because for projects like this, my mother and I are a little bit clueless, we asked Home Depot if they could cut the 10′ long bookshelves down to 5′, which fit our room better. They took us over to the electric department and cut them to our size- perfect!

I do want to note here that I chose vinyl bookshelves because the edges aren’t as sharp, so if Zach got wild and crazy, we’d be covered.

We brought them home and got to work. Dad started by gathering the items we already had- like leftover screws from the deck, with washers that would anchor the bookshelves in tighter, in case Zach did try to climb or pull on them. Then, dad found the studs in the wall (I’m not quite sure how… I’ve been looking for studs for years and haven’t had much luck! Sorry… girl humor…) which made excellent anchor points. Anchoring into studs works best because they are the firmest points- if you put it in to sheetrock alone, they could be pulled off a lot more easily. Dad chose to anchor each shelf into three studs- one on each end and a stud near the middle.

We measured Zach’s largest book as a jumping off point of how far apart we wanted each shelf. Zach’s tallest books were a foot tall, which means we’d want about 12″ from the top of one bookshelf to the bottom of another to make sure that his books could be easily snagged out of there.

After all of the measuring, stud-finding, screwing, and cleanup… the shelving was done. I decided to accent Zach’s room with some decals I had left over from the other side of the room, which I had received as a gift at my baby shower. I love how the project turned out.

(I did tack the cords back that are by the changing table- I accidentally took the photo BEFORE I had done that. Additionally, we’ve hung the picture on the changing table on the wall by the window, so it’s up, too… that’s what I get for taking my After’s before it’s truly “After”).

I also decided to work on Zach’s closet during the renovation… I did not snap a before picture, but I did shoot a few after shots.

I have to tell you a few things about me in terms of his closet… first, you’ll find a lot of diapers in various sizes. I have diapers all the way up to size 5 (he’s in a size 3 now). I tend to buy diapers when they are on a really good sale at Target (and combine them with gift card deals). When Target has diapers on sale, and has a deal where you buy a certain amount of diapers and get a gift card free, I tend to take them up on that… but when I get plenty in his current size, I start buying a size up. I save the gift cards for any time we’re in a real budget pinch, which I HAVE to get something, but simply don’t have the money in the budget right then (or for when our Target budget has to be spent on an unexpected emergency, like a car repair). I also pre-buy diapers for several reasons. For one, there has been an instance where he outgrew what I had on hand, and I had to rush to the store to buy the next size up. Because I now have diapers in a couple sizes up, if he outgrows one, I’m able to move up to the next size, knowing I have it on hand.

I also pre-buy toys sometimes. Whenever I find a really good sale on something that would make a great gift, either for him or someone else, I tend to purchase it. For example, Melissa and Doug wooden toys that range $20-$30, I’ve purchased at around $6 each. When something is on an amazing sale, I go ahead and get it, and stash it at the top of my closet. It means that I’ve had to do zero shopping lately. Additionally, when he gets books that he isn’t quite ready for (as in, paper books he would tear now, etc) from our parenting groups or organizations, or when I spot them on a super sale (literally pennies), I stash those in bags at the top of the closet, too, for inclusion in gifts later on. Pre-buying means that even if I don’t have the budget later, I still have something. If his birthday month gets really budget-tight for me, at least I already have his birthday gift planned out (and purchased when I have the money).

You’ll also notice conventional baby food, even though I make mine homemade. I do like to keep a few jars on hand in case there is some sort of emergency, like with the electricity, where the food I have homemade for him isn’t an option. You’ll also notice his favorite snacks- organic puffs from HappyBabyFood and Plum Organics, and some cereals.

But back to my final note about the bookshelves. At the top of his closet, you’ll see boxes. Some of them contain clothing he doesn’t quite fit in at the moment, but that middle box, the brown one, it contains books. I decided when making this bookshelf that I would have a set plan.

You see, the top shelf contains all of our “Classic Favorites.” It has a book that grandma recorded for him, a book that grandpa recorded for him, and the book that everyone who attended my shower for him signed (in lieu of a guestbook, we had them sign a story book). Additionally, it contains Jeffrey’s favorite book as a child, and a selection of my favorite books as a child. These are books that have been passed down from us (and some of them from me to Jeffrey to Zach) that are true treasures in our family.

The second shelf right now has a selection of Sesame Street books and a selection of books about the bond between a mother and child. The second shelf is probably going to stay put for now, but as his interests change, the Sesame Street books may change to something else, as well, and as he grows up, we have plenty of Sesame Street books that will join the fold.

The third shelf is our theme shelf… this selection will change regularly, based on the seasons, or the holidays, or a certain theme relevant to our lives (for instance, going to the dentist, growing a tooth, or losing a tooth could lead to us having some tooth related books there, and at Valentine’s Day, we’ll probably have V-Day themed books). This theme could even be completely unrelated to the season or holiday or life theme, but could just be a fun category (for example, dinosaurs).

Today is Dr. Seuss’s birthday, so our first themed set of books is our collection of Dr. Seuss classics. Many of these are treasured copies of books (The Foot Book is the first book I learned how to read as a child), and these all relate to the central theme… Seuss!

The lowest shelf will be the shelf Zach is able to reach first, which is why it contains a selection of his favorite books. These books are books that are safe for him to have (right now he’s in a book-chewing phase) and are books that, when given a choice, he tends to select for himself (You are My Cupcake and Spot Goes to the Library are his personal favorites at the moment).

The gutters and endcaps cost me a total of $40.57. I was able to recoup a lot of this cost by selling items Zach no longer needed. That means that my room re-do literally cost me less than $10. It truly is a design on a dime moment. When your kids see a new room re-do they love, and you need the budget for it, try asking them to go through and decide what they are willing to part with in order for the design to be more affordable.

In the end, our room design met my requirements- it added space, it didn’t cost me a lot after I recovered the costs from selling things we no longer needed, and it took less than a weekend to complete. The bookshelves don’t take up more than a few inches out of the wall, which is perfect for our room. Now, Zach and I are able to get enjoyment out of our room, and we spend a lot more time back there than we ever did before.

He is able to see the book covers so he can find his favorites any time he wants them. As he grows, it will be much easier for him to select books to read and get them on and off of the shelf himself (how many times have you gone to a bookshelf, tried to pull one book, and pulled out several because they all shift and fall?) and he won’t accidentally pull the whole shelf down on top of him.

It truly is a great room design for us.

Have you tried a unique and innovative room solution? Door for a headboard? Bookshelves out of a found object? Picture frames made from an old window? How have you used something for a new purpose in your (or your child’s) room design? I’d love to see you link it up in the comments! I’m always looking for new inspiration!



    1. We do! Actually, that’s a book that we have two copies of… one of them was signed by all of the guests at his baby shower, so it’s on the top shelf, and our other copy (which was mine when I was younger) is on our shelf with the books about Mommy-Baby love.

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