Lincoln and Morgan Mensink visit their grandparents’ house and enjoy watching television in the family room. Owners Duane and Kathy Mensink formerly used the space for storage.
GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP Lincoln and Morgan Mensink visit their grandparents’ house and enjoy watching television in the family room. Owners Duane and Kathy Mensink formerly used the space for storage.
“Congratulations, you’re grandparents!”

And that’s the moment when Duane and Kathy Mensink knew they were going to need more house.

The rural Preston residents managed to get by for the first nine and a half years after their first grandson, Aeric, was born…he’s a guy into LEGOs and technical stuff that doesn’t take much space.

The next announcement — “It’s a girl!” – didn’t bring trepidation or concern that the storage room would have to be converted to real living space. Morgan, now four, managed to keep most of her toys in the living room. Most of them.

But announcement number three – “It’s a boy!” – brought Lincoln into the world, a guy who’s only two but has had a shoe theft habit that leaves Grandma and Grandpa and his aunties searching the far corners of the house for or tripping over shoes and the toys he and Morgan, as an unstoppable dynamic duo, drop like inedible bread crumbs.

Apparently, Grandma felt crowded when the much-loved rug-rats came to visit and left way too many toys strewn all over the living room rug, all the way into the kitchen, down the hall.

She knew it was time to convert storage space into living space and relocate the toys and the kids, because when the whole family is home, that meant there were eight grownups and three little ones trying to inhabit the same 50 square feet of floor. Ah, that was a bit too much family togetherness.

Two new exterior doors leading to the front and back yards and a new, south-facing window later, the former storage room now has promise as a family room. It is sunny, open, with room for wild children and even wilder conversation. It is also home for the long-homeless elliptical machine, as well as a getaway from all that togetherness.

There’s still work to be done on the room, as the Mensinks noted they have to finish the walls and determine where they’ll put a closet to store puzzles, games and blankets for overnights on the couch when they’ve been ousted from their beds by their son and daughter-in-law and Lincoln.

Grandma Kathy observed, “I just love having this room because then all the stuff that people bring into the house stops at the door. The kids have their own hooks to hang their coats on, they have a place to play where we don’t have to worry about them, and we’ll have room to have the whole family here for Christmas…without everyone feeling so crowded. It’s nice to have this room. I’ve waited for it for so long.”

The Mensinks have quite a collection of secondhand and upcycled furniture, beginning with the newly-painted toy shelf that came from Wykoff United Methodist Church’s Sunday school. They also have a $10 Duncan Phyfe table bought at Urban Artifacts in Preston, now sporting a blue-green tabletop and stenciled with four dove-white doilies to serve as placemats.

Kathy related, “I like to do stuff like this…rescue things that someone else didn’t want and paint it. We have a lot of things that we plan on upcycling into new or different things. Even the ceiling fan got a new coat of paint and a new light fixture.”

She continued, “That’s why we took that dresser that we found left in the rain in an alley, cleaned it up, refinished it, gave it a coat of paint…then we went to The Salvation Army thrift store in Rochester and got the bookshelf that’s on top of it. We painted it gray, and then I stenciled the back with white.”

Kathy explained that they built that piece because she wanted to show off her collection of pretty glasses.

“I have some that my grandparents got for their 50th anniversary in 1970-something and some that I’ve bought along the way and it’s also going to become where we put our food if we have dinner here,” Kathy added.

The Mensinks are going to eventually put cabinets on either side of the shelving unit, using windows they saved from their old garage in Wykoff and one that came from Duane’s brother’s cabin in Spooner, Wis.

“The cabin was demolished, so we saved a window from it,” Kathy said. “We’ll have lots of neat things from people and places when we’re finished.”

Right now, the possibilities for what finishes will be put into the room are endless and dependent on what other creative finds come home with the couple, but the goal is to make the former storage area both kid- and dog-friendly. The space needs to accommodate three grandchildren and up to six dogs – their own two and four “grand-mutts.”

Ultimately, the new family room may just help the Mensinks find the long-lost living room floor once again.