Monday, March 2, 2015

Living/Dining Room Organization - Making Do

My first house, purchased in 1983, was a warren of small rooms. It was built in 1860, but a fire in the 1940's had destroyed any charming details of the era. The first floor had four rooms and the only bathroom. There were two rooms upstairs, but one had a railing, not a wall. It was recommended by a family member that we bulldoze and start over. With a preschooler and an infant, that was impossible.

2011 Picture, but you get the idea - it is tiny!
We had to be creative in how the rooms were used as we remodeled room by room. Our first living room was on the second floor, in the room with the railing. It was as far away from the kitchen as one could get in its 768 square feet, so snack trips had to be carefully planned. 

We had a 10-piece sectional when we bought the house, but were only able to fit six pieces in the living room, two in the dining room, and two were farmed out to a family member. A homemade TV stand held our little 13” black-and-white TV.

After settling in, it was decided to remodel this room first. So, the sectional set was sold, and the dining room became a dining/living room. Without the sectional, our only seating was the chairs to the table. (Did I mention I was only 23-years-old when we bought the house?)

By this time, we had a 19” color TV that I had won in a raffle (third prize), but we were able to keep using the handmade table for a while. Eighteen months after buying the house, we welcomed another son into the family, so the living/dining room held a playpen, a highchair, the TV, and the dining room set.

Many years later, we had remodeled enough that the living room was moved into a small first floor room. It held a couch, a desk and lamp, the TV, and the stereo. By this time, the homemade stand had given out and was replaced by an above-the-refrigerator kitchen cabinet salvaged from a family member’s kitchen remodel. The stereo was placed on top of a rescued shipping crate. It stood on a short end to create storage and was covered with a table cloth to hide the contents.

The stairs had been changed from a ladder-like, unevenly-spaced set of treads to oak treads and the stairway was lengthened and turned 90ยบ to come into the new living room. There was a small space between the stairway and an open chimney; several book shelves were recessed into the wall, and a phone was on the bottom shelf (pre-cell phone era).

The new dining room became quite large when the original bathroom was removed after the new one was finished. It really was too big for just a dining room, but too small to add the living room to it, so I created a library nook for my sons by placing two bookcases opposite each other and adding bean bag chairs in between. (I also put a “tree” on the wall that I purchased from an educational store, along with apple and leaf die-cuts for the boys to record their books read and tape them on the tree.) I guess you could say we had one-and-a-half living rooms, or a dining room/library.

When we sold the house in 1996, the house was still only 768 square feet, but it had become five rooms, down from six, and it was no longer a maze. Upstairs had become two bedrooms when the railing had been removed and a wall erected. Oh, and a door was added, too.

A little ingenuity and the willingness to make do with what is available got the family a long way.