Semi-built-in entertainment unit

Some of our projects are planned for a long time, while others happen spontaneously.  We’ve been thinking about how to better store our TV- and stereo-related electronics for months if not years.  When we finally got a flat screen TV last year and mounted it above the fireplace, we freecycled our old entertainment unit and temporarily placed the various boxes on a sewing table + wooden box combo right next to it.  Not attractive at all.  

About 6 weeks ago, we were doing some wiring work.  The outlet next to the fireplace was still on an old circuit that was not grounded, so we actually had all that stuff plugged in to a heavy duty extension cord.  We were upgrading the outlet to a new circuit, and since we were already messing around in that wall it seemed like possibly the time to cut a big hole in it and put in some recessed shelves.  Matt and I discussed the possibilities for a couple of hours, and we just couldn’t agree on the design.  I wanted a floor-to-ceiling set of shelves recessed into the wall with integrated electrical outlets and ethernet jacks, all made to look seamless with the mantel.  Matt wanted sort of a nook recessed into the wall, but not floor-to-ceiling, instead it would be smaller and at the height of the TV, with all the outlets and ethernet jacks on the other side of the wall and accessible through some holes.  I hope that makes sense.  Anyway, we wanted different things, either of which would have taken a lot of work to do.  We hadn’t budgeted the time to do it, and since one of us wouldn’t have been happy with either solution, we decided to do nothing at the time.  We just put in a new double outlet.  And we felt great about our decision.  Sometimes it’s best to wait and see how we feel later than to dive in when we’re not 100% sure it’s what we want.

Then last weekend, we were trying to clear some space in our bedroom for things like a crib and large bins full of baby gear.  We had this Ikea shelving unit that I guess we originally purchased for extra clothes storage, but we had just been keeping random things on it and decided this was not a good use of space in the bedroom.  Matt had the genius idea of making it our entertainment unit.  Luckily, the dimensions were just perfect.  He cut some holes in the back for easy access to cables, attached some 2x4s to anchor it to the wall (and again, give a little room to access the cables, and had all our stuff moved in a jiffy. 

He also got the big speakers up off the floor - and attached them to their shelves with screws so they can’t fall on us in an earthquake.  Here’s the “after” shot again so you don’t have to scroll up.

Doesn’t it look great?  (Yes everything is still awaiting a coat of paint, but for now I don’t care.)  I love it.  So much easier than our various ideas for recessed shelves.  We originally thought that recessing the shelves was necessary for traffic flow to the hallway, but this doesn’t block it at all.  In fact, there is more room now than there was before with our makeshift solution.  It’s functional and looks good.  


p.s. I freecycled the old sewing table, having never used it for its intended purpose and decided that we don’t have the room for it.

What a difference a switch makes

Our living room was kinda dark in the corner where our new corner sofa lives.  

We bought this lamp from Ikea because we liked it, it would require no wiring to install, and the price was right at $5 for the Regolit shade and $4 for the Hemma cord. It was easy to put together, and I hung it from a hook that was already in the ceiling.  We’ve left that hook there because it seems to be supported from above by some bracket, and we never felt like going into the attic to deal with it. Throw in a CFL bulb we already had, and it was ready to go.  The only problem is that the $4 Hemma cord doesn’t have a switch.  That means you either have to plug it in to an outlet that is controlled by a wall switch, or if you’re not lucky enough to have such an outlet, you just have to plug it in every time you want to turn it on and unplug it every time you want to turn it off.  That is not convenient.  Matt attempted to rectify that situation by plugging the cord into a timer, but I can’t be held to a schedule when it comes to lighting.  

Matt was hitting Home Depot for some lumber for his mantel project, and I asked him to pick me up a switch.  When he got home with this

I was excited, but Matt complained that at almost $4, the switch had increased the cost of the light fixture by almost 50%.  It was worth it though.  I spliced it into the Hemma cord according to the directions.  It was about the easiest wiring job I’ve met so far, though not the quickest.  I wrapped some white electric tape around the neutral wire to make up for having just slightly nicked its insulation when I removed the outer insulation from the cord using a utility knife.  

Once the screws were tight and secure, I put the cover on the switch.  Now the light is hanging again and plugged in, the switch works perfectly, and I am very pleased with this mini electrical project.  The convenience is well worth the extra $4 and a little bit of my time.


Swedish furniture with a side of meatballs

On Saturday we went to Ikea.  We were shopping for several major things:

  • a sofa bed for guests (we got rid of our non-foldable futon bed in our guest room/office/storage room because we decided that it was taking up too much room for something that is used maybe 2% of the time) - highest priority because we have a guest coming to stay in a couple weeks
  • new furniture for the living room, though we’re still not completely decided on what configuration we want
  • various other things that we’ll consider buying later but wanted to look at, like a (better) bed for our room, wardrobes for our bedroom, foldable dining chairs, the list goes on

As usual, we spent almost 5 hours there.  I’d guess about 2 hours of that was in the sofa & sofa bed section.  We tried out every single sofa they had, many of them multiple times.  We went in with a great idea that I thought I was pretty slick for thinking up: we were going to get this Karlstad corner sofa for the living room

and this Karlstad sofa bed in the same color for the guest room.  I had read the assembly instructions for both carefully, and I am pretty confident you could make a couple of minor tweaks and substitute the sofa bed for the equivalent part of the corner sofa, leaving you with a corner sofa bed plus a regular sofa.  This would be great for us because if we ever needed to turn our guest room into something like a nursery, the living room could become the guest room without messing up our furniture configuration.  We sat on the sofa and we loved it.  Then we sat on the sofa bed and we did not love it at all.  It was so much less comfortable than the regular sofa!  We tried to like it, but it was just not working.  So we had to abandon the whole Karlstad-hacking plan, and ended up sitting on all the sofas and sofa beds trying to decide which would work for our situation and were actually comfortable. 

In the end, the only thing we bought for the living room was this Ektorp Bromma footstool.  This was a bit risky considering that we don’t know what we’re going to do with the rest of the living room furniture, but it was not too expensive and it’s already coming in handy.  It can be a footrest, a seat, or with a tray on top you can put drinks and food on it (we gave away our coffee table and are thinking about not replacing it).  It’s also nice to have a place to put blankets and throw pillows so the dogs don’t knock them onto the floor.

As for the sofa bed, we eventually settled on this Beddinge Resmo (the best mattress of the four available - you can really feel the difference and we want it to be comfy for our guests).  It is pretty good looking too.  Maybe we’ll paint the frame someday for an even better look. 

We like to stop in the cafeteria to regroup and re-energize in the middle of these long shopping trips.  Matt always gets the Swedish meatballs.  I had split pea soup.  On the way out we like to snag our favorite cookies.  I don’t even know what we were doing the rest of our time there.  We get caught up looking through all the departments; it’s fun to see what they have.

Finally we got home.  Somehow we still had some energy.  I put the footstool together in about 10 minutes and it’s great.  We got the sofa bed frame pieces out and started to put it together.  And then we noticed that instead of two opposite pieces of the side of the frame, our box came with two of the same pieces, making it impossible to continue.  Argh!  We have bought a lot of stuff from Ikea and I can’t recall ever missing even a little piece of hardware.  Oh well.  Matt called the next day, explained to them which piece it was, and they are sending us the right piece.  Fortunately, we should have it in plenty of time for our guest.

Now we have to figure out what furniture to get for the living room and how to arrange it all.  This stuff is always harder than I think and ends up taking forever.