Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Reader Design Dilemma: Family Calendar

Sara is the busy mom of a 2 1/2 year old and a 2 1/2 WEEK old, and she's getting organized. She asked me if I could come up with a stylish and functional solution to keep the family and their new nanny (Sara's sister, who just went back to school and is helping with the kids part time) on the same page with all the shifting details of their lives. She wanted something where she could see at least a month at a glance, with each day's square spacious enough for information about trips, classes, and other engagements, and preferred something erasable. Or, i suppose, re-writable. I found a couple of good options for Sara, readily available for purchase, depending on her use priorities.

My first assumption: no large scale blue and white laminated office-style calendar for this family.
I did find one not-too-terrible update on that old favorite, this magnetic monthly calendar from The Container Store. It's a perpetual calendar, making it reusable month to month, it has a white board, and it comes in lime green--on my screen, it looks more chartreuse, and Sara is nuts about anything in the green-yellow family. It's only $19.99, and with that simple frame (which could be painted if that brushed nickel wasn't working in the room), it looks like something that belongs on the wall. Nice, simple design, all the requested function, presentable.
For a more rustic-modern look, Pottery Barn offers this vertical whiteboard with a simple font and frame and extra room for notes. While it's nice looking and quite presentable, it's a bit pricey for what it is, ringing in at $199.

At the other end of the spectrum, I'm loving this frameless whiteboard vinyl decal. So clean and modern! And you could post two or three to get a look ahead at the coming month, if you so desired. $74 a piece.

Speaking of simplicity, if Sara is willing to draw in the grid each month (I'm already guessing this is a non-starter), CB2 has the ultimate in simplicity: a modern teak dry-erase board. Lovely material, literally blank slate. $59.95.

Of course, for one willing to go to that trouble, a blank whiteboard would do, and could be customized any number of ways. Magnatag has a ton of combinations of white board and cork board in every imaginable size, with different wood frames and tack board colors. Functional and practical, but perhaps lowest on the old style-o-meter.

Year at a Glance
Now, if a year-at-a-glance is more the priority, I love this one, available on Etsy for $32.99. It reminds me of a project I kind of always meant to do with left-over paint chips, and I love how clean and modern it is.

For a more whimsical space, I'm dying over this one, which appears to be hand-drawn and is only $27.

Neither had the erasable functionality that Sara prefers, but neither is a perpetual calendar, so all those scribbles and changes would just go out with the calendar. Or of course they could be laminated and framed, but that's a lot of work for an impermanent thing.

So what do I think Sara should really do? Modify this awesome wall calendar from Southern Living.

They made theirs by wallpapering grasscloth over a cork wall, which is kind of going all-in. Then there's the problem that you can't write on it. But you could get the same dramatic effect, with improved functionality, with a little bit of paint. Here's what I would do:

1. Measure the overall dimension of your calendar (depending on your wall size, but the bigger the better, especially for a year-at-a glance), and paint it with magnetic paint.

2. Use narrow painters tape to mark off your sections. For a month calendar, follow Southern Living's tutorial. For an annual calendar, I would use the linear style like this:

3. Paint chalkboard paint over the whole area. Be traditional with black, choose a fun color, or go wild and make stripes for the months in the linear year. Hudson paints offers two dozen colors, including--you guessed it--chartreuse.

4. Allow the paint to dry, and pull off the tape. You will be left with a grid of squares.

(An alternate version, offered up by none other than The Martha, differentiates the grid by using subtle variations on the same color. Find the tutorial here.)

5. Screw a cute soapdish or pencil cup to the wall for your chalk and erasers. I love this vintage enamel soapdish--so unexpected. But there are plenty of modern pencil cups that would be a bit more coordinated and streamlined, too.

6. Start recording important dates! (My birthday is December 10th, but then, Sara knows that because I share it with her husband.)

The thing I love most about this strategy is being able to corral important date-sensitive items right to the date they are sensitive to. Tickets for a concert, a flyer about the preschool open house, even coupons can all get tacked up right where you need them. For my no-thumb-tack version, I would recommend mighty magnet pegs--tiny enough so they're not in the way, strong enough to hold what they need to hold, and long enough that you can actually pick the things up.

I'm sure there are a zillion creative ideas out there--anyone have another solution for Sara?

And of course, if you have a specific design dilemma, send it my way. heatherjoypeterson[at]gmail[dot]org.


  1. I am on my second STAPLES simple desk calendar (the desk calendar that is technically a blotter). It's cheap, clean and after I tear off a sheet each month, I add it to my gift wrapping paper pile. It's the perfect size to wrap a toy, book or whatever and then the kids just color it to decorate :)

  2. Jo, I love that you reuse the sheets a wrapping paper! Smart, and so personal in a cute way. Great idea.

  3. This post reminded me of a project I saw in the paper a while back. I remember it because my husband and I talked about it for a nanosecond before we both concluded that Google's calendar is already too much to keep track of. It's very similar to your idea, but the picture may be helpful if your reader decides to go this way.



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