July 7, 1995: Sarah (age 5) and Jacob (age 4) in Jacob's bedroom.
My house was built 44 years ago, in 1975. I was still living in southern California then. It's the year I turned 21, and you would never have convinced me that I'd be living in Arizona (which I hadn't even visited) a short five years later.
The house was built as a compact summer cabin, but eventually someone winterized it for year-round use. A single man acquired the house in the 1980s. The place had been pretty well trashed, so he got a great deal on it as a fixer-upper. Originally, the house had a single-car garage that opened off the kitchen, but he remodeled the garage into two rooms: a third bedroom off the kitchen, and a home office with walk-in closet off the master bedroom. By this time, he had married and had two young children, so he needed the extra space.
Exactly 26 years ago this very month, in July 1993, we purchased the house from that same man. Since then, that converted third bedroom has gone through several incarnations.
When we moved in, Sarah was three years old and Jacob was barely two. (Dylan was still four years away from joining our family.) The converted third bedroom became Jacob's nursery, where he still slept in a crib...until he learned to escape. After that, we found him in our bed nearly every night, often joined by his sister. Eventually, Mark's grandma, Helen, bought a captain's bed for Jacob, so the nursery became his big-boy bedroom. Grandma also bought Sarah a canopy bed for her room.
June 4, 2009: Dylan (age 11) on the top bunk of his and Jacob's bunk bed.
Dylan was born in July 1997, when Jacob was six and Sarah was seven. He slept in a cradle in my room until it was no longer safe, and then we moved him into his new Jenny Lind-style crib in his brother's room. The converted third bedroom was no longer "Jacob's room," but became known as "the boys' bedroom." In time, the crib and the captain's bed were traded in for a bunk bed.
It remained the boys' room until Jacob left on his mission to northern California in December 2010, and then it became simply "Dylan's room." It wasn't his room for long, though. Sarah got married in July 2011, opening up her bedroom. A few months later, Dylan moved his stuff into Sarah's former room.
March 27, 2012: Dylan plays video games in his gaming chair.
He didn't move everything out, though. He left all his gaming stuff and Jacob's old television in the converted third bedroom, so it became known as "the game room" at that time. It was where Dylan could go to escape into his video games, use the computer, do his schoolwork, and entertain his friends.
For a brief five-month period, December 2013 to April 2014, the converted third bedroom became "Ryan and Shera's room." My second husband (we were in the process of divorce at the time) had brought his adult son here from Missouri, only to angrily throw Ryan and his girlfriend out on the streets with nowhere to go, just as the cold mountain winter was beginning. I invited them to stay with us while they found jobs (which they both did) and got their lives in order.
April 19, 2015: The room becomes "the piano room." We moved the piano
when we learned that a piano shouldn't be positioned against an exterior wall.
Meanwhile, prior to Ryan and Shera's coming, my son-in-law Chris's sister had decided to get rid of a piano that had belonged to their grandmother. Their mom didn't want it, and Sarah and Chris didn't have enough room in the tiny apartment where they lived at the time, so the piano was offered to me. Soon, the old piano on which Chris's grandmother had taught piano lessons for so many years became a fixture in the converted third bedroom.
During Ryan and Shera's occupancy, Dylan had moved his game system and equipment to his new bedroom, so by the time my stepson and his wife (they'd married while they were with us) moved into their own place, we no longer called it "the game room." Dylan eventually acquired a huge big-screen TV for the room and resumed his gaming there, but he also enjoyed playing the piano often and had already dubbed it "the piano room," and that name stuck. Until recently.
July 8, 2019: How "the den" looks today, as seen from the kitchen.
Since my nest became empty three years ago, and since retiring two years ago, I've been wanting to turn that converted third bedroom into more of a family-friendly place. In fact, for a few months I tried referring to it as "the family room," but it just didn't feel right. A family room implies having enough space to bring the whole family together for fun and games. Which is simply not the case, not in any of the cozy (tiny) rooms in my cozy (tiny) house. So I decided that "den" was a better descriptor. A "den" conjures images of someplace snug and warm and safe.
I also wanted to have some floor space in which I could work out to my Body Groove dance videos and start getting some exercise. That meant getting rid of the big coffee table, which we took down to Jacob's house last month, and it meant purchasing a third TV and DVD player. (Yes, I'm the one who swore for decades that I'd never have more than one television in my house...) And that meant finding a stand for the TV, as well.
Dylan finishes up the assembly of the new TV stand for the den.
I found a nice farm-style stand at Walmart, which Sarah and Dylan assembled for me. Then Dylan did all the electronics for me, hooking everything up so I can easily switch between the DVD player, the NES Classic game system, and my old Wii system.
I'm pleased to say that the kids have made good use of the new den for playing their favorite old video games together on several occasions. Mission accomplished! (And I started working out to my Body Groove videos this past week!)
Of course, once the new TV stand was installed, I noticed how ratty my old glider-rocker looked, with its sunken seat cushion and missing right arm, not to mention the stained fabric. It served me well for almost 25 years, but it had to go. Maybe a new rocker to fill the vacated space? And with the coffee table gone, I needed some kind of small table to replace it, right? And then I started thinking how a small glass cabinet would fit perfectly in the little space to the left of the TV stand. A place where I could display my Hobbit and Lord of the Rings curios...
I soon became a familiar face at nearby Joy's Furniture.
First, I bought this end table and rocker, going for a more rustic look.
I love the end table and rocker that I ordered but, when I picked them up last week, I found they were much larger than expected. They didn't quite fill the available space, which meant having to shove all the furniture around to make it work. But we did it.
Now I just need something tall and decorative to place on the end table. Mark thinks I'm daft, but it looks too bare. I thought maybe a lamp, but no. There's a very good ceiling lamp/fan to light the room, so a table lamp would be redundant. I decided to wait, though. No doubt I'll come across the perfect item when I least expect it.
The new cabinet, with my memorabilia behind glass.
It was a month later that I ordered the cabinet, but it surprised me by arriving at the same time as the rocker and end table. I really didn't think I'd find what I wanted so soon. Most glass-walled curio cabinets are tall and rather formal looking. I wanted one that was rustic and short enough to hang above it my five canvases of Rivendell (Imladris) from The Lord of the Rings. Sarah gave them to me awhile back, but they still need to be mounted before I can hang them. That space above the cabinet will be perfect.
I'd gone into Joy's to make a second payment on the furniture I'd previously ordered, when I saw a curio cabinet in one of their displays. I went to have a look at it, mainly to get an idea of the price of such things. On my way to it, I saw this one and knew I'd found my cabinet. It was small enough to fit between the piano and wall, short enough to hang my canvases above, and had a rustic style with a wood finish that closely resembled the TV stand. So I ordered it on the spot.
On the top shelf: Arwen's Evenstar pendant from Lord of the Rings,
with my dragons and spider from past Renaissance Festivals.
Smaug the Dragon and giant spiders are important characters in The Hobbit.
Quite frankly, my collections from The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and other fantasy tales I love, were outgrowing my bedroom surfaces. It was nice to put my Hobbit- and Lord of the Rings-related curios in the new cabinet. It's especially nice that they won't require so much dusting, now that they're behind glass.
Center shelf: Jacob gave me the Legolas mug and Pop! Legolas figure.
Dylan and Jake gave me the Mini Epics Frodo Baggins figure, as well as
Celebrimbor's mithril smithy hammer, used to forge the three Elvish rings of power.
The 1977-issue of The Hobbit and the Sindarin (Elvish language) book are my own.
Bottom shelf: Circlet worn by Galadriel, Lady of Lothlorien Forest.
You may not have noticed the wizard's staff leaning against the wall in the corner between the cabinet and the piano. It used to have a glass orb on top of it, but the staff fell from my grasp a several years ago and the orb shattered. I hope to replace the orb someday. Otherwise, the staff is quite strong.
This sits on top of the wide TV stand, which also seemed too bare.
I love the sentiment. I'd rather live in my cramped little home
with my children around me than in a spacious, empty castle.
When I saw this, I couldn't resist. It's a tiny, adorable tic-tac-toe game!
I love the pictures over the piano. The caricature of the kids and me
from Disneyland in 2007, when I was a newly single mom; a photo of the
Milky Way, taken by Dylan; and a quote on families from my sweet friend Liz.
We'll also need to remove the warped shelf hung far up the wall. I plan to replace it, since it's really too tweaked to hold anything safely, and paint the new shelf in some shade of purple. In honor of my twenty-seven years at Blue Ridge High School, whose colors are purple and gold. I think that space above the shelf will be the perfect place to hang my grandchildren's photos someday.
Looking toward the other side of the newly done den.
The ancient, broken blinds on both windows are coming down before we paint the walls. I plan to replace them immediately with vertical blinds. Those are the kind of blinds I have in my bedroom and living room. They stay so much cleaner and don't collect dust the way horizontal slats do.
Eventually, I want to get rid of that old love seat. It's too bulky for the small room and provides little seating for as much space as it takes up. Maybe I'll get a couple of small chairs and place the end table between them. Making it a "between table," I guess.
Looking from the den into the kitchen, and the living room beyond.
Also eventually, I'd like to have the old carpet ripped out and replaced with ceramic tiles. And do something fun with those steps, which are made of wood. I don't know if they could be tiled, but surely there's something interesting and colorful that could be done with them.
Finally, both doors need to be replaced: the one between the kitchen and den, and the one on the tiny corner closet. They both have holes in them. Raising rowdy sons with lots of rough-and-tumble friends takes its toll on a house!
So, as I said before, there is plenty of work ahead of us, but we'll take it a month at a time and work our way through it. I think it's a pretty nice room now, but it will be even better...eventually.
I brought my mineral collection from school to be displayed in the den.
The base of the case needs a paint job, too. Yellow or purple?
In case anyone noticed the mineral case in the corner, I brought my minerals home with me when I retired. Don't worry, they're my personal property and not paid for with school funds. I have a minerals poster I plan to hang above it when the painting is done.
The case used to have only two shelves, but my son Jacob and son-in-law Jake helped me revamp it and add an extra shelf. Once the rocks and minerals were no longer spread out through my classroom, we needed more space in the case! Finding the correct hardware to hold the new shelf was a challenge, but we managed to force it to work.
A closer look at the top two shelves.
Most of these minerals were collected by my own hand during my college days, when I hung out with a group of geologists. We traveled all over Arizona, ignoring barbed wire and "no trespassing" signs to explore old mines and caves in search of nice specimens. None of mine are worth anything, other than the memories they bring back. Wulfenite, mimetite, barite, chrysocolla, and Druzy's quartz from Rawley Mine. Pyrite from Silver Hills Mine. Lava ribbon from S.P. Crater. Amethyst and hematite from Four Peaks. Plagioclase and pyrolusite from Red Mountain. Vanadinite from Old Yuma Mine. Pumice, found floating down Brown Creek amidst the leeches.
A few of the specimens I purchased at Petrified Forest National Park: some peacock copper, a geode, and a couple of small pieces of petrified wood. Most of the beautiful pieces of petrified wood, fossils, and geodes were gifts to me.
A closer look at the bottom shelf (and middle shelf again).
I guess this is what a den means to me. I want it to be an informal place where our family can have fun together, as well as a place where I can enjoy a few of the things I've collected throughout my life and the joyful memories they represent. A place of welcome!