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The new year started with me having a fresh batch of time around the house, thanks to my sabbatical from the Disney Parks Moms Panel. I hated having to roll off into the vault, but the newfound project time is VERY appealing. I decided to make our basement more “visitable” to the kids; more appealing to play, watch TV and generally exist. The former owners had carved out a nook under the stairs for their dog, but with our pup passing, it’s unused, dark and kinda creepy. I knew an under-the-stairs kid’s reading nook would be the perfect idea for our family! Just take a look at that before and after. So different!
How to Start Your Reading Nook
First of all, if you don’t already have a nook, closet, window seat or other cubby areas, you may want to source once. I’m very lucky to just be making over this space instead of building one outright. The floors in our basement are stamped, stained and poured concrete, so it has a finished look to it. The “walls” in this area are really just cheap, coated wood paneling, but it’s a great texture and I went with it!
I even had baseboard installed last summer when we made over the main basement area, so call that an added win. And see the outlet in there? God only knows why it’s there, but I will TAKE it and make it a light source! I had already frog taped the floor for this project when I realized I needed “before shots.” Good thing I remembered, because I’m usually TERRIBLE about this part!
Here’s another peek at the exterior wall of the nook, framed by molding and caulked up. I’m very lucky that all this was in place.
Kilz, Prime, Paint and Caulk
Yes, you read that right. Kilz. I had done a coat of paint when I realized there were mysterious oily stains that crept right through the primer. I had always heard about these spots but had never experienced them. Leave it to a big pup from the past to create a few! One extra coat of prep and the stains disappeared (were blocked).
It’s also worth mentioning that there were HUGE gaps between parts of this paneling. Some were approaching 1/2″ wide, and I didn’t want to cut and apply trim at an added cost. I wanted this project to be quick and cheap! I already had the paint laying around, as well as a few tubes of caulk, so to work I went!
Treating the paneling as if it were trim, I caulked EVERY seam in the paneling, sometimes in two steps. I added a layer deep in the crack, let it dry, and then added a finished top layer and smoothed with this must-have tool I picked up at Home Depot. Gotta have it!
Hanging Lantern for Kids
Try working in a space with no light as you caulk. It’s nearly impossible. Short of a headlamp, I needed directional light to work! I used a camping lantern to illuminate the space while I was painting, and then it was time to source a bright, clean and cool light for the kids to read by. I wanted it cool to the touch (LED is the thing) and adorable to boot.
After searching Etsy, I found this Mason Jar hanging Lantern that was perfect! It wasn’t too expensive, and the creator offered a plug that could be wired right to our outlet and plugged in. All I had to do was install some cup hooks on the wood ceiling and string the lamp downward. It’s worth noting that I DID NOT want my kids plugging and unplugging the lantern on their own, since they are young. Electricity is not a game. Instead, I purchased one of these outlet controllers that adds an ON/OFF switch to any outlet. Now, they have a real light switch when they need to turn on the light in the reading nook.
Kids Mini Book Shelf
Since the reading nook space is slim and long, I needed to conserve space. One of the corners is taken up by the new lantern, so the short wall seemed like the best place to install a mini bookshelf for the kids. I used an inexpensive stud finder (of course) to find the studs behind the wall so I could drill into at least one of them. The bookshelf didn’t come pre-drilled so I could adjust to my needs.
With one slot dug into the stud, it was easy to find number two and hang the other side. Be sure to use a level so you don’t step back and have a slanted shelf!
This rustic single bookshelf also came from an Etsy seller (I love small business) and was painted according to my request. It holds the perfect amount of books for this small space and the kids can change them out every month. Red was happy to have some of his larger graphic novels here, while Scarlett worships golden books.
Plush Out the Reading Nook
With hard walls and a concrete floor, something had to give. Literally. I needed plush surfaces or a carpet to squish on in order to make the space inviting. We had a white knotted ottoman pouf leftover from when Home Depot renovated and decorated my kitchen, so I toted it downstairs and set it in. I used two 3’x3′ green shag rugs from IKEA as a grassy floor, and they were cheap! A plush Minky fur throw blanket made it even softer and welcoming to read a book.
You may be able to see under the plug for the hanging lantern, I have a green nightlight. It’s an LED mushroom/grass night light that’s sensitive to light/dark with auto off feature. I love it. It came in a 2-pack so I have one in another part of the basement. The kids love it, and when they turn the lantern on, it shuts off and is a focal point of fun.
Add Kids to the Reading Nook
When you’re ready to unveil the final product, make sure to dress it up. Load in your books, turn on the light and present it when you’re at your wit’s end. Need the kids to leave you alone for a phone call? Tending to your email? Now’s the time! Present the reading nook as a special place for THEM, not you… and they will treasure it. Both of my kiddos have been inside the nook all week, and Red even asked to do his homework in this serene, well-lit space. It’s such a blessing! If you’re interested in more DIY projects, try repainting your furniture without sanding. It’s a time-saving godsend!
Grab all of these easy-ship items to make your Reading Nook a total success for your family!