Upstairs & K’s closet makeover

Though this entire house is in want of painting, I told the kids I’d start with their rooms first. Miss K was first in line since she cares the most about what her bedroom looks like. I warned them all that this would be a slow process as I was able to find time to work on their rooms. I did not lie; I can’t believe we’re only now nearing the finish line on K’s. I always think I can get waaaaay more done in any given weekend.

We got K’s painted a pale lavender (Behr “Secret Scent”) fairly quickly and I got her yellow baseboards painted in a high gloss white.


Everything was pretty! Except for her closet. Pretty dreary, right?


Her closet is weird.


Well, her whole room is a bit odd. Wait, scratch that, the entire upstairs is absolutely nuts. I’m pretty certain whoever built this house had the builders do a lot of finagling upstairs.


It’s not exact… I started out trying to take measurements and get it right, but as soon as it became clear it required math, I just tried to eyeball it the best I could. For example, the ‘triangle’ area in front of K & B’s rooms isn’t quite that sharp, but it’s close. Your house should not require the knowledge of whatever this is:


It looks to me like they were doing a lot of space stealing because they wanted a bigger master closet and bigger master bathroom.


I have absolutely no idea how K’s bedroom was supposed to look on the original builder’s plans, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t it.

I’m not one to bag on older, out of date houses, and I always feel bad when someone bashes the former owner’s wallpaper or choice in carpet or whatever. This house is a little different since it’s had a long string of tenants who liked to spray paint things, and leave dried painters tape on all the surfaces (seriously, ALL the surfaces), but we’re looking at the house’s roots here, and I’ll tell you, I am DYING to go next door and ask for a tour so I can see what their upstairs looks like. If E were the builder it would have looked something more like this:


I mean right? K’s room could even still have a pretty sweet walk in closet behind the chimney bump out. Or, now that I look at it, a smart architect could probably flip the hall bathroom around to utilize that space in the corner better and extend the hall or something. Because madness. Is there a REASON we have to have seventy million angles everywhere? Is it fancier? Is there something I just don’t know about crazy angles? Does it make a house feel more expensive or something? It just seems like it could have been laid out better than a failed geometry experiment.

It’s not even well PLANNED. Like, our master bathroom shower door? Hits the vanity. And the sharp corners in B’s closet & the hall closet… they aren’t usable.

Right, so. K’s room.

After putting it off for weeks, I finally tackled it this past weekend. There is some kind of closet system in there, but whoever spray painted this ENTIRE house yellow didn’t bother taping off much of anything, so the laminate closet system had been sprayed yellow, too. And pretty badly. The two drawers weren’t functional, and I basically wanted to set the whole thing on fire and build something custom.

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But even though a lot of y’all think I’m a bit crazy for trying to make a rental homey, I didn’t want to put in the time, effort, and money to build a custom closet in here unless we ended up buying the house. I decided to work with what we had. After I fixed the drawers, lined the shelves with cute contact paper, and got the whole (dang) thing painted, it was looking much better.


Yay! Makes me want to tackle our closet next, but the pantry & N’s room are next on the list.

There’s no door on her closet, so I’m trying to figure out a curtain situation that we can live with. Again, we could totally frame out and add a door here, and the owner wouldn’t mind, but there has to be a limit to what I do to this place even though I WANT so badly to give it all the love it deserves.

It’s a good thing her dresser fits in the closet as the awkward layout of the room doesn’t leave much room for one.


Here’s a shot from the doorway, though forgive the lighting, my Photoshop is misbehaving (anyone else with CS6 on Yosemite having issues?)


Things we still want to do in here:

  • Build (or more likely, hack an Ikea bench) a window seat for the window niche. I can sew a cushion and some pillows for the top.
  • Swap that light (or figure out a way to disguise it) for a twinkly chandelier of some kind.
  • Make and hang the curtain in the closet doorway. The ceilings are high, and there is no header to the closet doorway, so we’ll custom make something to cover the whole doorway.
  • K would like a desk for all of her art supplies and drawing, I think we can fit one in the corner with a bulletin board over top.
  • She’d like a white bed like she had in our Idaho house before I had to convert her room into an office, along with a nightstand to match.
  • She needs some artwork. I’m pretty bad at this part. And maybe some kind of bunting or pom-pom treatment in the window niche.

Well, that list makes it sound like I have a long way to go, but this will do for now. I’m off to get the paint out from under my fingernails.

Office space with the Ikea Alex system and Linnmon table tops

Our master bedroom has this 10′ long niche that we thought would be perfect for some dedicated office space for me. I made do at first with my old desk but it wasn’t (and hasn’t ever been) super functional; I often ended up with stuff strewn all over the bedroom.


If you follow me on Instagram, you saw a quick snap of the after. Here are some better pictures after I finished putting together fifty thousand tiny Ikea parts and binge-watching a string of movies: Dirty Dancing (had to watch after seeing this hilariousness on Jimmy Fallon), Drive Me Crazy (filmed in Utah!), and Beastly (hadn’t seen, not as bad as I feared; kinda cute).

FYI: I got one unit put together per movie. Half watching the movie slowed me down, but also putting together Ikea stuff is pretty much awful tediousness every time.


I went back and forth on what to do here quite a bit. I entertained doing something with actual cabinetry for a while but it was pretty expensive, and my husband’s work schedule didn’t really allow time for building something custom. I wandered around Ikea a couple of times and finally decided on the Alex system. Honestly, this once-grand house deserves better than Ikea, but the price was right, and I’m not too proud for put-together furniture, especially if it’s functional. (Though I am half entertaining the idea of doing something like you see on the infamous Rast dresser hacks to the drawer and cabinet fronts. I think we could either swap out the fronts or add trim and handles to make them look more like custom furniture. But we’ll see if I have the time/energy.)

I got one printer cabinet and two drawer units. The drawer units they show online don’t have the drawer that holds hanging files, but they had them in the store.


We had to make some modifications to all of the units. The drawers, in particular are designed for hard flooring. There is a little wheel that attaches to the base of the filing drawer and they just wouldn’t open nicely on our carpeting. I didn’t think about getting a photo, but we attached strips of MDF to the bottom of each unit, rather like so:


This little hack raised the units about an inch off the ground so the bottom drawers open nicely now.

As I’ve mentioned before, this house is in need of a lot of TLC. I quickly painted the baseboards behind the unit white (all the baseboards in the house are covered with the same sloppy yellow flat paint — you can see where I stopped on the right below) and have a million paint chips strewn about trying to decide on a color for the walls.


The blinds are okay, I suppose, kind of an off-white color, though they are missing the top trim pieces (see the black velcro in the first picture?), and I’d love to get some cuter office chairs (or paint these ones) at some point. But this is a HUGE improvement and I’m super thrilled.


The desktop is made of two Linnmon table tops in the 59″ x 29.5″ size. It gives me about an inch on either side of the desk to run cords to the outlets. I first brought home three of the smaller table tops and a third drawer unit. I liked the depth of the smaller table top as it fit perfectly inside the niche without jutting out, but the wider 29.5″ depth is much more functional. I have loads of room to sketch and sew prototypes, and the fourth support unit would have made things too squishy.

This is probably the nicest, most functional desk situation I’ve had in my entire 14 years working from home. Hooray!

Door: ill advised, but mostly done

I am happy this is nearing the finish line, and I’m pleased with how much better it looks, but this is marred by the deep and abiding knowledge that I have basically tortured and abused myself for no good reason. I say again, it would have been better to just buy a new door.


Of course, I don’t know what is involved in swapping out a sidelight, probably the whole flipping door / trim, EVERYTHING would have to come out and E and I would have ended up wailing and gnashing our teeth in the fetal position on the floor in the process.

Yes, let’s tell ourselves that. This way, though painful, was better.

I went back to la Home Depot and purchased super strength paint stripper and kicked myself for not getting the good stuff from the beginning. I can’t find it on the Home Depot website, but it is the stuff that will work in 15 minutes and will basically take your face off if you get any on your skin. I got a drop on my ankle before I realized I needed to fully suit up (duh) and I have a little blister there.


That stuff ate the rest of the paint off like it was nothing – the door was especially cooperative; it was super easy to sand the original primer smooth. The sidelight put up a fight. More on that in a bit. After scraping the door I just had to wash it with mineral spirits, then banged in the protruding holes with a hammer so I could patch them (someone had installed a knocker at some point, under the big window… weird placement, but whatever, they must have really, really wanted a knocker), and did my first Bondo application, which was fairly straightforward.


The sidelight was harder to scrape due to its size and the window trim, but in the easy-to-reach areas, the burn-your-face-off stripper worked really well (ahem, please insert crass joke of your choice), and I discovered the sidelight had once been painted a mustard color. (Blurry after-dark photo:)


I was losing daylight Saturday night, so I don’t have any good photos of the sidelight nightmare, but what happened was the stripper basically melted the window trim. As I was scraping the layers of paint, I could tell something was wrong, but the plastic was so soft I thought it must be caulk I was scraping up… there is so much caulk in this house it made sense. Working by the light of a glaring work light as the sun went down did not help things.

It was nearing 10pm and my body felt like I’d been run over a few dozen times, so I just sanded the melted stuff the best I could and went ahead and painted. At least it’ll look okay-ish until I can find another secondhand window kit to swap it out (the new ones are so expensive).


Allll the bad words, guys. I don’t know WHY I didn’t remove the window kit while I was stripping the paint… it would have made it so much easier to get into the nooks and crannies and I wouldn’t have melted the plastic trim; I just didn’t think about it.


You can see the paint stripper made a mess of the trim, but I do think I’m just going to keep the trim white, so I can touch that up next weekend.

The paint we ended up using is Ottertail by Behr. It’s a brownish gray, sort of a dark taupe, I guess? I just couldn’t get behind the reddish browns as I’m not a fan of earth tones as it is, and this felt more neutral to me. Here’s how it looks with the stone:


Ugh. Ignore the horrible, sad porch paint. The color is so wrong. It ruins everything.

And here’s a wider shot including more of the house. I think the house really wants a nice solid wood door with a solid no-window sidelight (since the rain gutter gets in the way anyway).


But mostly it wants that horrible porch paint gone. I mean, right? It’s so terrible and reads soooooo blue as the sun starts to go down behind the house (probably what’s going on in that top photo). At some point I’ll either strip it to the concrete below, or I’ll try a pressure washer. It’s pretty flaky so maybe a pressure washer would get most of it up.


I’m usually good at making decisions…

… Especially snap decisions. I’m thinking too hard about this one which is making it difficult to proceed. Saturday should have been full of work on this darn front door. But instead I drove around the neighborhood after purchasing more stripper (you guys, the stipper jokes, I’m showing so much restraint now that I’ve been made aware of the opportunities) and checked out everybody’s front doors.

And now I’m paralyzed with indecision.

Online I see a lot of this style:


The door and sidelights are painted a color, the trim is left white. (This was the style I was originally planning on.)

I also see a lot of this style online:

front door

The door is a color and then the trim and sidelights are left white. (I like this style, but I think with only one sidelight like I have it will look unbalanced. I like it better with two white sidelights.)

(Source for those two photos)

But around my neighborhood? And my sister’s neighborhood? And my cousin’s neighborhood? Everyone is doing this:

They’re painting the door, sidelights, AND the trim all the same color. (You can click to embiggen).


The obvious solution to this would be to just pick whichever one I like best. But I don’t actually KNOW. So the next obvious solution would be to pick the one that is the least amount of work. So my first thought was to leave the trim white, but if I don’t it’s less taping off, so it’s probably sixes.

Any opinions on which style you like best?

Front door colors

Okay guys, this is a craptastic mockup, but I wanted to be able to see the door design through the colors. You’ll have to squint to ignore the stuff I still need to sand off.


The charcoal and grays are reading more blue in this particular mockup. I know the browns and oranges look good with the house, but I’m not sure I’d like it. I think I’m leaning towards the taupe?

The door hardware is going to be aged bronze, as is the kick plate. I’ll also respray the lamp aged bronze (the orange spray paint on it is pretty drippy and bad).

In the above mockup I’ve toned down the horrible porch paint. In real life it’s blue-gray and makes everything look super sad. See below where I’ve also left the light orange:


After this door though, I’m not sure I’m up for stripping that porch paint. Maybe I’ll try the pressure washer and see if I can get most of it up.

Some of the neighbors have painted their doors colors and left the trim and sidelight white. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I kind of think they both need to be painted a color if the trim is going to be white. Honestly, what I think this house really wants is a whole new door/sidelight out of a nice solid wood, stained a medium to deep brown, but $$$$.

Whaddya think on door colors, y’all? I need to make a decision so I can get paint Friday night / Saturday morning because I’m totally painting this bad boy this weekend, right? Getting the rest of the crud off the door and sidelight won’t take my whole day, right? RIGHT?