Tag Archives: empty nesters

An Irishman in the Suburbs

Remember that project to turn my room at my parents’ house into my dad’s office?

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Yep, they got him to help. Now you might be wondering what they were thinking after all I went through. Are they totally out of their minds? Maybe, but maybe it made sense.

They sold the desk and wanted a counter that runs the length of the room, leaving space for grown-up knees. But the room is 12′-7″ and the longest off-the-shelf wood countertops are 12′. Custom work would cost hundreds of dollars. Ross suggested shifting the closed cabinets in and letting the counter be only 12 feet long. My parents weren’t too keen on this idea. He also suggested rebuilding the shelving to float above the counter instead of sitting on it, and they were keen on that one.

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  1. Building a countertop and bookshelves require either lots of time to do things by trial and error or mad skills.
  2. This job doesn’t require the precision of a work shop (which is where my kitchen cabinet doors went wrong).
  3. And, my dad worked alongside him for the entire day 3 days he spent on the project.

But let’s start at the beginning. First, my dad had to strip one of the two windows to bare wood because an ice dam damaged the paint a few years ago. And he had a harder time getting the wallpaper off than expected.

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At this stage, the room brought back memories of when we first moved here. I was 9 and relieving me of the indignity of a pink bedroom was a high priority, though a flood in the basement knocked it off the very top of the to-do list. (Today pink paint wouldn’t bother me in the least.) And the 20-year-old paint job was surprisingly dingy in what I still thought was a decently nice room. He said a while back that my bedroom (the one in Philadelphia that is) was a cool color and that he’d use the same in his. I still think it’s funny to call a neutral “cool” but maybe that’s just me.

Then an all too familiar sight reappeared. And my “NOT TRASH” sign is still taped on the plastic!

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But the result?

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The important things here: My dad made sketches and imposed organization onto the Irishman. They joined the counter together with a biscuit joiner in the kitchen. My mom wasn’t thrilled about this but it wasn’t messy. They raised the cabinets 3/4″ and will need to install quarter round around the bottom to hide it. And my dad still needs to install the IKEA kitchen drawer he got for under the desk top. The new cabinets are better made than the old ones and spaced to hold reference books and only reference books instead of the mixed library I had when I was 9. Also, is it me or does the design look top heavy?

Bonus: he hung 5 new doors! My parents’ house was built in 1951 with flush doors. Pretty nice ones actually. Then sometime probably in the 80’s someone downgraded most of them to the flimsiest hollow paneled doors I’ve ever seen. Like, if you pressed on them they would squish. My parents have then been replacing them all with new solid pine 6 paneled doors, but the last few were particularly beat. Mainly because my sister and I would try to shove them in each other’s faces and wedge our feet in under them to hold them open and they were starting to come apart. My already had all the replacement doors but they sat in the garage for something like 15 years. So now they’re all up! They just need to be painted. And it might take a bit to get the adhesive residue from 15 year old packaging off.

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Hopefully soon you’ll get to see the room finished.

 

 

They’re Making My Old Room a Sauna

No that’s definitely not true. My parents are turning my childhood bedroom into my dad’s office. My dad has been working from home for several years now, and usually he helps himself to the kitchen table, which is driving my mom crazy. Especially because he sometimes takes conference calls around 5pm and everyone has to be quiet.

So first they wanted to know when I was taking my crap away. It’s a little embarrassing how badly I kept the space all this time when they’ve been so good to me, but now the room is MOSTLY emptied out, except for books, and a lot of what’s here isn’t mine. We’ll tackle it soon.

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The desk is not really comfortable for an adult, so now it’s on Craigslist. The plan is to put an inexpensive new butcher block countertop across this whole wall to make a big built-in desk. I checked out the usual suspects for these: Ikea and Lumber Liquidators, and found that the latter offers one 12 feet long for about $340. Sadly, this room is 12 foot, 7 inches. So I looked into places that would make them to order and… you don’t want to know. Instead, we’re probably just going to use 6-foot sections from IKEA and have seams more or less where they are now. Except the counter will be all the same wood and the seams will be joined together tightly. I’ll varnish it with the poly left over from my floors.

But before we do that the wallpaper has to come down.

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And they had an ice dam a couple of years ago and now at least one window needs some prep before it can be repainted.

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Underneath, I think we can hack one shallow 5-inch IKEA kitchen drawer for the desk, though it will be 7 inches shorter than the span so there will be 3-inch fillers on either side. Not a huge deal, right? It saves a lot of money over custom cabinetry. We can use nice poplar for the drawer front and the fillers so it blends in with the custom cabinets on either side. One of these, but wider.

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Then to finish the room, they plan to paint it the same color as my bedroom in the city. My dad thought thinks I picked a cool color even though I picked a really safe light neutral.

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And then my mom wants to get him a comfy desk chair that swivels. But it had better not be too big as they plan to leave the bed where it is.

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Then, the shelves for the uppers need some work. My dad built them out of pine and the knots bled through the paint and the shelves sagged so he put corner braces on them and just had me place books to hide them. I think we can seal the knots, work out a better way to prevent the sagging, and add the trim to the fronts of the shelves that we always planned to install. Or we could rebuild them out of poplar or plywood but that seems like too much work.

And while this room is turned into a workshop there’s that critical job of hollow core door eradication. My dad has been hoarding all the solid pine doors he needs in the garage for over 10 years.

What do you think? Any better ideas for this room conversion or are we on the right track?