Tag Archives: closets

5 years!

This year has kind of felt like a slog. But when we look back to where the house was a year ago, I think we have cause for optimism.


Can you spot the changes?


I’m excited about having the table set. That means Year 6 is starting out right. But back to last year… I started off Year 5 staining the handrail and prepping and priming the rest of the stairway and paneling. It was a tedious job and I was ready for a break.

wood filler

Instead, I let the Irishman build cabinet doors for my kitchen. (Did you notice how messy it looked without them?) This was bar none the most mismanaged project anyone ever took on at my house. The cost overruns had me in the hole from June to December and for months and all I could do was train myself not to care about the mess that took over my first floor and the public sidewalk in front of my house. This was definitely not legal so I’m just glad no one turned me in.


When the Irishman was done, I’m not sure if there was a single door that was actually in acceptable condition. Some had surface flaws that became evident after they were painted over, some were the wrong size and didn’t close right, and some got scratched before they were installed. For the time being I ignored it all because I couldn’t stand the sight of them.


Once again, no break. I went head on into another project that was far more annoying than I expected: stucco.


Or really, the annoying part was the building paper, lathe, flashing, and casings. On the bright side, this makes the house look a lot more finished and less scary.


At this point, I sincerely wanted to leave the house a pigsty forever and never touch another project again. But I also wanted to get those cabinet doors off the floor (and make them look closer to what my money should have bought). I participated in a 30 projects in 30 days challenge in September. A lot of the things I actually wanted to close out were too big to average a project a day, so I went with it and found smaller projects to do. The odd pieces of not-yet-installed moldings and the piles of unused building materials.

And in October, my dad and I worked a miracle on those  cabinet doors. It took about 2 weeks of hard work, a little too much to average a project a day.


Then after a good long Christmas break, I tackled the Leaning Tower of Pyrex. I’ve added enough extra shelves inside my kitchen cabinets that some of them are only about 5 inches apart. It’s great and I don’t understand why more people don’t do this.


And the work I stared on the linen closet? It should be done by now but instead it’s… on hold.


I thought it would be done by now, and that right about now I’d be taking a good look at each of my linens/life choices as I moved them back into the closet where they belong. What got in the way? A friend who needed to get out of a bad living situation, fast. It was messy but it works out. I was planning on looking for a short-term roommate again anyway.

30 Projects, Week 1

First off, I can already tell that I’ll be re-defining what a project is. There were a lot of things on my list. Second of all, it’s been a struggle lately to go to the gym, cook healthy food, and keep up with house work, let alone do remodeling on weeknights. But today I doubled up at the gym, am now blogging, and did some stuff to the house! But, sorry Mom, the dishes are gonna sit in the sink. Anyways, here are the tasks I’ve completed:

  1. I cleaned out the junk side of my closet, and the floor on the clothes side. I found some real gems, like pieces of the Pontiac that broke off and put in a box to reattach later. Now some of my random crap is in control and I’m ready to add  the missing baseboards, robe hooks, and clothes bar. Also note that I built more twice as many shoe shelves as I can fill.
  2. The Irishman seemed to have forgotten to paint the back sides of all the kitchen cabinet doors that are the hardest to take down. I’ve had them leaning against a wall for a month. Now the back sides are all painted and they’re hanging again. The fronts will be painted in place on a separate item. (He also started to paint a bunch of his off-cuts because he didn’t check whether they were doors or not. Since I paid for that work, I’ve finished painting them to use them as extra shelves. But that’s not finished yet.)
  3. I helped my roommate move out. Setting up my guest room is on hold until I can borrow the Suburban, or use my parents’ car and some bungee cords on a dry day.
  4. The bookcase in my living room had an open top. It was supposed to fit tight to an 8-foot ceiling, but because I have higher ceilings, I closed it up with a piece of scrap plywood that I stained. The color is too dark but you can only tell because I had the flash on.
    The edges of the plywood look pretty bad but I’ll fix that once I retrieve my spare mahogany boards from the lumber-hoard.
  5. Here, I’ll let you see how much I cared about my containers this spring.
    I finally weeded them. Believe it or not, I had a boxwood and a camellia hiding behind those weeds. The vegetables on the wall aren’t mine. The neighbors borrowed my pots.

So, even with this rather generous re-numbering and staying home on a holiday weekend, I am a little behind one project per day. Do you think I’ll make it?

4 Year Anniversary Tour – Front Bedroom

The front bedroom is the least changed room in the house. To start, it had a crazy 1-foot-deep closet and a door connecting it to the middle bedroom, which is now the bathroom.


So there was enough of the middle bedroom left over to get me a good closet, but I needed a bigger door opening than the one above. I found big fancy doors at Philadelphia Salvage that were just the right size.


I stripped them, bought reproduction pocket door hardware that was big and fancy and covered where the knobs used to be, and the Irishman hung them as bypassing sliding doors.

This is a little bit anachronistic, trying to make a 1950’s-60’s door configuration look like a Victorian one that is too grand for the house anyway. But it gave me nice doors that don’t swing out into my furniture so I say it’s fine. And plus, it means that a house in South Philly has a closet like this. Too bad I’m not into clothes and have no intention of filling it.


Now that the new closet door took one wall away, I wanted to make the old closet wall usable. But the chimney can’t just go away, so I built the whole wall in, making the room about 1 foot smaller. There’s room for a bed in the middle, but on either side the wall is framed out for cut 2 niches for built-in bookcases. One is where the closet was; the other used to be part of the room. Right now there are sections of wall with no framing behind them.

bedroom wall during

On to décor. I inherited this rather ornate Victorian bedroom set. It came from my grandmother’s aunt who got it right the third time and married a man who owned half the Wildwood boardwalk before the stock market crash of 1929. Then a good friend of the family gave me a little pan light, probably from the 1920’s or so, and a traditional Oriental style rug.


With that I have a cheap bed from IKEA, a pair of Colonial style chests, and a pair of mid mod lamps. I said with how formal the room was coming to look I wanted to make it look like a Victorian whorehouse. But then I painted the walls a sedate color. So anyways, before I show you the room now, here’s my worst progress photo. Yes, I was using the room like this.


And the after. The one below is about the same angle as the first photo in this post. When the bookcases are added, they’ll be in the wall behind the night stands.


And that fancy furniture I was talking about. The desk belongs in the back bedroom, as do the mattress and box spring behind that piece of plywood.


I’m at a bit of a stalemate with the décor in here. After Phase 2 is complete and I have permanent windows and no awnings, the cheap blinds have to go and I need something nice that blocks out the street lamp that’s like 8 feet from the window. Don’t forget where the radiators are though. The comforter is not nice (Nana bought it at Bradlee’s) and is starting to age, so it will also go. I have no attachment to the bed frame and may want a queen size bed eventually. The rug could stay but I’m not wedded to it. If you have ideas on how I can decorate around the marble topped furniture, I’m all ears. Understatement is usually my thing, but I was considering letting this room be more eccentric.

About those 3 deadlines

I think I’m giving up on the non-mandatory ones. Which doesn’t mean I got nothing done. First of all, this is the only memory left of that crap I couldn’t get rid of. Now kindly tell the IRS that it’s worth my entire income and I don’t owe any tax this year.


But at this point it looks like it may be a strain to get the baseboards painted in a week. Which doesn’t mean nothing happened this week. I just decided to make the front bedroom actually clean and empty the closet. To accomplish this, put a shelving unit in the basement for all the paint stuff.


This is not a joke. I filled an entire shelving unit with paint. I also put my old kitchen cabinets next to the stationary tub. The entire cabinet to the left with all the drawers is now filled with screws, nails, and drill bits. The whole thing.


But this is a huge step forward. I had a lot of boxes filled with a mix of random crap and nothing. And now, 2 out of my 4 closets are empty!


So doing that organizing wasn’t part of the plan. Neither was repairing the radiator pipes. Several of them have been cut and I don’t remember why. It’s an easy fix at least.

For now, all my woodwork is back in the basement. But the pile is getting smaller. And the basement somehow has more (useful) stuff in it and looks saner at the same time. The living room is empty again. My floor guy is coming tomorrow because there are drips in the poly. Hopefully third time’s a charm.

And not only is its closet empty and clean, but the front bedroom is clean and sorta furnished!


And the bathroom is partially cleaned up. Now it looks like something normal slobs would use.


So the old plan was that the baseboards would be prepped to paint this weekend. Now it’s pretty obvious that I’m running behind and so I don’t think I want my grandmother’s big super heavy maple sideboard in my back bedroom just yet. Which is all the better because my dad has it full of his stuff.

buffet and rug

The couch is still coming next weekend. And I’m hoping to get started with the painting. But now I want the front bedroom and linen closets all painted, too. I want some door strikes and stops installed. I want the house to actually start functioning like a house, at least upstairs. Can I get the heat on in 1 extra week, by the 13th? Or am I still delusional?

Fitting Out the Closets

This weekend went to the closets, and that means last week went to getting ready to build them. But there was a problem. My dad’s miter saw fence somehow bowed about an eighth of an inch and was no good for making accurate cuts anymore. I decided that though I probably couldn’t get it perfect, I could try to clamp it and straighten it out to be good enough for the closets. Don’t tell my mom I did it in the den.


So can you guess where this went wrong? Drumroll please.


The beer bottles are multiplying on their own. I swear.

So I called my dad and told him that the part is discontinued. He said the saw is a piece of shit and he wouldn’t throw away 40 bucks even if it were still available. So I skipped my Friday evening plans and read neurotically about saws instead. I was THIS CLOSE to driving 70 minutes away to Allentown to buy a crazy cheap fancy one on Craigslist. Then I decided that this was a stupid idea and bought a 10 inch miter saw like what we used to have. Except I bought a DeWalt. The Irishman’s miter saws are all DeWalt. And so I was in business Saturday morning. Not as early as I should have been though.


Rooting around in the garage, I found a stud finder I didn’t know my family owned. It wasn’t 100% accurate, but I was able to find framing to anchor my shelf cleats into. Easy peasy! And I used a prototype to figure out how deep to build the shelves. I’ll probably use shelves for sweaters while they’re in season.


And I used up all those old shelves my friend’s parents gave me from their basement. The nosings are thicker than the shelves, so I was gonna notch them, but I put them in upside down and once I had the sides cut to meet the not-square walls, I decided to be lazy and leave them like this.IMG_6997

I said I found studs to anchor everything into. I wasn’t talking about the linen closet, which is tiny and original to the house. I can’t tell what’s holding it together. The cleats are glued on. And also, the shelves that don’t have hardwood nosings aren’t getting them. My closets are an aesthetic free zone. (Also you can see that I have strips of other wood behind the shelves that are too shallow.)


And in the back bedroom, the door is too close to the end of the wall to fit full depth shelves so I’m cutting curves into them with the bandsaw. Freehand, so they’re not perfect. Every one I do gets better than the last though.


And then there’s the reason why this is a big deal. (Partially) clearing out the basement (partially) made the living room look like this.


Now the living room looks like this!


So things are really starting to look decent, eh? Except I’d like to clear this out and let the paint cure before I move in. The other closets can wait. (Also you can kinda see the double bar/single bar split in this photo.)


Planning out… the closets!

Now that the house is wired and dirty, I’m going back to jobs that involve cutting up lots of things. My piles of leftover wood are going to turn into good, sturdy closet shelving. Nothing fancy, they’ll be simple painted plywood resting on wooden cleats screwed into the walls. Do you remember what the closets were like before? This will be a massive upgrade.

Front bedroom closet

Front bedroom closet

The early 1950’s house I grew up in has shelves oriented sideways to the doors in the closets. My bedroom has the worst one; it’s narrow and deep. But that’s how they made they made them fit together. I’ll be rounding off the ends of the shelves just like this for the back bedroom closet.


Because there’s a pipe chase in that closet so there’s not room for a clothes bar at that end anyway.


For bars, I’ve decided in here to run cleats around the walls for a single clothes bar (68 inches off the floor) and for double bars (42 and 84 inches) but no bar is going in until someone occupies the room. I’ll space some shelves 7 inches apart for shoes and some 12-14 for general storage, with the bottom one 16 off the floor. Apparently this is standard

In the front bedroom, I have bypassing sliding doors that only allow access to half the closet at once. I also have a pull chain light at each end. There’s room at the right side of the door for deep shelving, so I’m going to run shelves up that end (where the rug is) and have a short single bar in front of that door.


On the left side, the door is much closer to the end. There won’t be any shelving here, and I’ll have double bars that are longer than the single bar to the right. And I picked up 3 utilitarian metal shelf brackets for the middle of the closet where the bars end.


Then I have this little closet that I’m going to repurpose for linens. This used to be the deepest in the house at 15 inches. The shelves were extras that my friend’s parents were throwing away, so now they’re free material for me. Some closets will have the nice shelf nosing from these shelves but I won’t be making more of it. This closet is also a challenge because there don’t seem to be any studs in the wall. If you bang it, bits of the original plaster fall off and land on the floor inside.


I think installing the shelf cleats will be simple everywhere else, but there’s only one way to find out for sure. Does anyone have suggestions for getting stuff to hold to these old walls? Or for how to space my shelves and place the bars? Is an asymmetrical “master” closet a recipe for future marital problems?f