Wednesday, April 2, 2014

IKEA Billys to Built-Ins Tutorial

Hello, everybody! The Fresh Pioneer is back and this is been happening...
Yes, Spring!!
Rain and rainbows. Our magnolia is in bloom. They are very rare here so I was just thrilled when we moved to this house ten years ago and saw a mature magnolia. 
When I finished Persuasion, Capt. Wentworth and Cracklin' Cornbread, I decided that I was going to take a brain break. I'd been working on some writing project for almost 12 months straight. Things had fallen by the way side (not homschooling or cooking or mothering... those are just part of life) and I was feeling I needed to take off the writing blinders for a while. Along with some home projects, I wanted to learn a few new skills.
First, I bought a new camera. It's not fancy, but it has actual settings. I've been learning to use the macro lens. (Above) I'll show you some more fun pictures at the end of this post.
So, this was one of the bookshelves in our living room. No space for anything new. We have hundreds (probably thousands) of books, and bookshelves in every room... but everything was out of order. Something had to be done. Most homeschoolers have a designated classroom area, but we only have the living room. My kids work at the dinner table, or in the book nook. Books end up EVERYWHERE.
But before anything gets better, it has to get worse, right? The kids were thrilled to know they were going on "break". We have school year round, and it works for us to be as flexible as possible. So, kids went on vacation and I started a project I saw at Centsational Girl. She's one of my favorite blogs, all about upcycling and repurposing! This project uses new bookcases, but it could work just as well if you have some matching sets.
OK, five IKEA bookcases, 7 ft tall.
Yeah, this was my living room for a while. Felt just like home.
(We decided to paint at the same time, so that's what the blue is up on top.) So, put the bookcases together and set them against the wall. I measured (and re-measured) before I ordered, so I knew the wall would hold five bookcases. IKEA sells different widths, too, so if you need a skinny one in the middle, it's possible. Check to see how far part the shelves need to be. The trim will cover the gaps, so don't be afraid to spread them out a little bit.
Now, we wanted our shelves to be truly "built in", as in "never gonna leave this house". We also have small people who randomly grab, pull, and climb the furniture. My older kids remember when a terrible accident took Tiggy's life,  and the days after when my husband and I went through every room, bolted down every piece of furniture. My littlest guys have no memory of this toddler from a homeschooling blog halfway across the United States, but we try to gently explain how we have to make this bookshelf safe, even if they swear they'll never pull on it.
So, 3/4 inch plywood platform. And another 3/4 inch plywood on the top. This thing is never going to budge.
We heave it upright, and slowly swivel it against the far wall.
Now the fun begins! After measuring (twice!) all the trim, hubby cuts it so that it covers the gaps between the bookcases.
 He's sort of a perfectionist. That can be a good thing. But I was wondering if it would ever be finished.
 Ah, things are piling up and it's not even finished!
 The top trim was 3 1/4 " wide and I liked that it was provide a bit of a ledge so I can store baskets up top.
 The bottom piece was 5 1/2 inches. The bookcases were open at the bottom and I didn't want to be scraping lego pieces out from under there every single day for the rest of my life.
 When the book cases were bolted and trimmed, they really did look as if they were built as part of the original wall! I wasn't sure how it would look, since things on the internet always look easier than they are, but my husband pulled it off! (For the record, I had an idea that I was going to do this all by myself. HAHAHAHAHA! Not only am I too weak to be heaving 80 lb bookcases around, I also HATE the circular saw. So, I did need help. But I cooked some awesome meals that week to make up for it.)
A closer view of a portion of the bookshelves.
I couldn't wait, even though I had AA's to finish. I started unpacking books I'd had in boxes...

My new resolution is to read all the books on the shelf that I haven't before. First up, "Mother Carey's Chickens". The title alone is intriguing. How can chickens give a 350 pg story? Is it in the point of view of Mother Carey? Is it told by the chickens? Is it an early version of Chicken Run?
Every child has a full length bookshelf... except for this little guy. He was VERY excited to have his own spot for all his books! So, that is the tale of the bookshelves. They're mostly full, but still have some free space to display treasures.
Random recipe that we made for a birthday dinner for our friend Barbara. The kids picke the menu, so it was a lot of kid food. Strawberries, oranges, Jello, pizza, ice cream, you get the picture. We also had home made lime aid! 1/2 cup lime juice, 1/2 cup grenadine, 1/2 to 1 cup sugar, chopped strawberries and fresh squeezed lime.
 Ok, leaving you with a few more shots from the new camera. I really hated how long it took to get a nice picture of the food I'd cook for Yankee Belle Cafe. (I know what you're all thinking and I swear it wasn't THE FOOD.) So, I learned how to use the macro lens and blur out the background so all those cookie shots can be extra tempting! (Oh, this is my water bottle on my night stand at about 2AM. Pretty good for almost no light, right??)
 I wanted to show my daughter what I learned but she refused to let me take her picture at 8AM.
 I also learned about shutter speed, thanks to some facebook friends. I got my kids to help me practice. Action shots!
 This is pretty much the way he is all the time.
 We laughed a lot at this picture. I have a Raggedy Ann doll that is in this pose most of the time.
 But this was the kicker. What form! What grace! And I didn't even see it like this when he was jumping around. He just saw some flying leaps, but a good camera can show you what you're "missing". And give you some great pictures to laugh over later.

I'm wishing you some sunny days (even if you've got a foot or two of snow like Ruthy or Jan) and a little pep in your step. Easter will be here before we know it, so hang tight if you're feeling the grind of the last days of winter.
Until next time!


  1. nice! I'm still trying to haul out stuff to get my space the way I want it. wish I had your kids' energy!

    1. Me, too! I got tired, and I was only snapping the photos!

  2. I'm crying over Tiggy and laughing at the gymnastics caught on camera....

    And life goes on.

    You know, we're in one of those old houses and I do the same thing, Virginia. When we were looking at bookcases for the new room (haven't done it yet) I kept saying, no stand alones, won't work, THE CHILDREN WILL CLIMB THEM AND BE KILLED.... And I was saying it for drama's sake, but it's so true. Kids + climbing is inherent here, and I know how easily accidents happen. And who would think a kid, climbing an old dresser, a TV???? I'm getting wall brackets for the television this weekend, it's something I keep forgetting to do, but this could be me.... God bless them for sharing their grief and their lives with us.

    My heart is going out to that sweet young family, that loss, so stinkin' tragic. My day will be different from this point forward.

    1. Dana said that her first thought was to delete all her accounts because she just couldn't imagine ever explaining, blogging, going forward, but her husband told her that writing was part of who she was... and journeying with her through the first months and years after her loss has been... unspeakably hard, incredibly inspiring.
      And now, to know they've raised $50,000 and built a home for children saved from slavery/prostitution- all in Tiggy's name, with Jesus as their focus?? They allowed unbelievable goodness to come from a tragedy.
      And they still struggle. All the kids do, except the two youngest, of course. Her son Bear is my son Jacob's age, and Tiggy would be Edward's age and her Mookie is my Elias's age. I watch my children and pray for her family's peace and comfort.
      Yes, bolt the bookcases, secure the TV, walk through every room and look CLOSELY. Pull, tug, check the angles.

  3. well good grief I missed the Tiggy link and now wish I'd still missed it :-( I remember climbing on an icebox we had - once my mom found otu I was ok she whooped me and shook me til I didn't think I was! I still have no ide what possessed me to climb on that thing but if fell completely over on me - nothing but my head sticking out and I think my feet. luckily it wasn't super heavy. I never climbled bookshelves but we only had flimsy metal ones that we knew wouldnt' hold us and were lightweight - until we got older and knew better. sigh...

    1. I know. I didn't put the link there to make anyone sad. But Tiggy was a beautiful baby and his family did nothing wrong- and it happened to them. If we can spread the word, remind people, look more closely at our own homes, we should.
      I avoid sad stories/ news articles because I can only take so much, but Tiggy deserves to be remembered for his joy and his innocence... and I won't even think of my furniture (or anyone else's) the same way.

  4. Well, I haven't cried like that in a while. So absolutely tragic for this family to lose little tiggy in such a horrible way! Nothing but knowing the love and comfort of Jesus will get you through something like that. I have been paranoid about children climbing for more than 30 yrs. since my 2 yr. old climbed out of her high chair, turned on the stove and burned her hand, not very badly, but it gave me a scare I never forgot. When I was putting together shelving for my grandson, I made sure to secure them to the wall.
    You are so right to make sure your wall of shelves are secure. This family's heartbreak undoubtedly has impacted alot of homes with children in them.

    The bookshelves look beautiful and your husband and crew did a great job. I have always believed a home was not a home without books in every room. Enjoy!

    1. I'm sorry, Tracey! And you're so right about the love and comfort of Jesus... which they show so well. A faithful family marked by tragedy.
      And my third child fell out of a shopping cart, right onto his head in the parking lot of the grocery store. I will NEVER forget the little belt again. I don't use a cart without a belt now. But I couldn't imagine an 18 month old could stand up in there so quickly, just as I turned my back. We rushed to the ER, but he only had a scrape! It could have been so much, much worse.

      And thank you! The shelves are still so new that I see them every time I walk in!

    2. some mother gave me a death glare w hen I made a dash for her kid falling out of the cart - that kid would've been a goner but when she turned she bumped the cart just the right way by accident then saw what had almost happened and apologized. scared me to death.

    3. Good for you, Susanna! I bet she was so thankful! I would have kissed your feet (or made you cookies!!

  5. What great photos. Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed myself!!! :)

  6. I could have been Tiggy - when I was about six, I tried to climb up on a fireplace mantel (yes, I was a climber). The problem was that the mantel was a 12" x 6" piece of limestone, 6 feet long, and the builder hadn't secured it to the fireplace. Yes, it fell. It grazed my face, cutting my lip, and landed on my hand.

    At the time, I thought the worst thing was that I had a broken arm. Later on I realized just how close I came to dying that night. What a horrible thing for my parents to go through! And the builder who hadn't fastened the mantel in? He was a friend of ours. He carried the guilt of that accident with him - the what might have been - until his dying day.

    I'll be praying for Tiggy's family.

    And on the other hand, I'm not sure which is worse - my bookcase envy or my spring flowers envy. We're having a beautiful winter snowstorm here today. We've gotten six inches so far. :(

    1. WOW. My brother has a picture of his first born scaling their mantle, and it's just like that. All slate and limestone. *shiver*

      We have an old grandfather clock that would look much nicer in a different area, but I leave it in the hallway (which is narrow). We couldn't figure out how to bolt the clock to the wall without ruining the wood, so it has to be somewhere it can't fall all the way to the floor. It can go from one wall, to another...

    2. P.S. SIX INCHES!!!! Oh my word!! We're headed to the park for a pick nick!
      And if it helps, I really do wish we had a bit more snow. Just for a few days. (Although, that would kill all my flowers.)

  7. Love the shelves, Virginia! And those crazy kids. Like you said earlier, wish I had their energy.

    1. I just laughed AGAIN when I saw that picture. Really, this should be a thing. Set it to super speed and have people jump around!

  8. Those are gorgeous bookcases!! Tell hubby he did an amazing job.

    And your photos!! Gorgeous! (and fun, with the action shots). :)

    1. He did a GREAT job! Not that I only love him because he's handy... but it sure helps!