Archive of ‘Home Improvement’ category

Adding closed storage to an IKEA Expedit

I have liked the IKEA Expedit I use in my bedroom for storage, but have concluded that I’m just not an “open storage” person. I find the cubbies get dusty really quickly, and I don’t like looking at everything that is being stored, especially in a bedroom, where I want the vibe to be calm.

See what I mean?

IKEA Expedit shelf

Not dreadful, but nothing I want to see every day. Except the cat, of course.

I purchased four Kottebo baskets, two Kallax drawer inserts, and two Kallax door inserts. Putting the baskets together was simple, they fold open and then the bottom flips down. I like the color and texture of them.

The drawers and doors were a bit more work to assemble, especially screwing the inserts into the sides of the shelves. If I do any more IKEA assembly, I will definitely invest in an electric screwdriver. The only other challenge was my cat, who was overly interested in what I was doing, and at one point batted a wooden dowel and started chasing it.

The doors were a bit of a pain to make level, square, centered in the space. But in the end, it was worth all the effort.

IKEA Expedit shelf with drawers and baskets

Much better!

Working Up Steam

When we moved into our house we were very gung-ho about repairing and painting and refinishing. But we eventually ran out of steam.

I’m trying to work up the energy to paint the upstairs and downstairs hallways. Many months ago, I painted sample colors on the walls, didn’t really like any of them, and so these weird little squares of color, patchy and unpleasant, have been up ever since.

I finally decided that, although it’s thrilling to be able to paint the walls any colors I choose, that I may actually be best served by just finding a nice off-white. I know. Boring.

But goodness knows that my experiments with vivid Barbie pink, bright aqua, and deep mustard yellow were unfortunate at best. I think there’s something to be said for a nice, neutral off-white.

But have you seen how many whites are available? It’s nuts.

Is it cheating if I just decide that, since I like the white I chose for the trim and baseboards, I should just pick a white one or two shades away from the trim color on the paint chip? A safe, not very adventurous choice, but one that’s almost given to work well, right?

Well, that’s my plan. Now to find the steam to make it happen.

On the Level

Several weeks ago, on the Nextdoor forum, a neighbor advertised an original oil painting for sale for only $50. I loved the photo she’d posted, I replied, and that painting was mine!

It’s from an Etsy shop and the artist is named Leonid Afremov. I really like his other works too!

Leonid Afremov oil painting

I brought it home, so excited to hang it in my bedroom, but quickly realized it was too big and too heavy to hang from just a single hook.  Matters were suddenly more complicated, because I was going to have to attach two D rings to the back of the frame, and figure out how to hang it so that it was level.

I know, this shouldn’t be a big deal, but I’ve had way too many experiences hanging things with two hooks, only to have them be just a little bit out of alignment. It’s the visual equivalent for me of fingernails on a chalkboard.

But, I measured twice, even three times. I took my time and carefully made sure the placement of the D hooks on the back of the frame were measured exactly.

They were perfectly aligned. Level. Success!

I made sure the marks on the wall for the picture hooks were measured exactly.

They were perfectly aligned. Level. Success!

I hung up the painting, took a few steps back, and got ready to congratulate myself. And yes, everything was indeed perfectly level.

Unfortunately, my perfectly level painting is placed WAY too low on the wall. Like about six to eight inches too low.

If I were running an art gallery intended to be visited only by second-graders, this painting would be at the perfect height. But…

Back to the measuring board.

The Eternal Suckiness of Home Repair

Has anyone else had the repeated experience of getting just a bit of money set aside for a project to spruce up the actual appearance and design of room in the house, when suddenly, some necessary system or appliance breaks?

I figure I cannot be the only homeowner that has experienced this sad economic loop.

Most recently, our laundry facilities gave up the ghost, and we needed new washer and dryer. We set out with lots of ideas in mind, wish lists of features, but were, of course, reduced to buying the one and only set that would actually fit into the tiny laundry closet. (The same story happened when our old refrigerator broke. We wanted lots of amazing new features, but were stuck with the one single model at various stores that would just barely fit the available space in our 1967 house. We had one millimeter to spare.)

On a side note: I find it so bizarre how much bigger appliances are now than they were in 2014. Here’s hoping that our 1967 Montgomery Ward stove has some more years in it, because the odds are good that modern stoves won’t fit into the slot in the counter where it resides.

In this instance, putting in a washer/dryer required new duct work for the dryer (more $$) and we were also told that the floor underneath should be tiled, so that the machines would sit level. When the bath was tiled before we bought the house, the prior owners decided not to extend it into the laundry closet, so the units were never level.  (More $$)

It really grates my cheddar that we needed to spend money to tile a space that no one can even see!

But finally, finally, it’s done. The washer and dryer are back in place and working.

The money we had thought we might use to spruce up the kitchen, gone. Buh-bye! Ka-ching! Oh well, at least our clothes will be clean.

photo of tiled laundry closet floor

Tiling in progress. Filthy walls.

photo of painted and tile laundry closet

Tiling done. I cleaned and painted the walls a nice white.

Finished laundry closet

Duct work finished, laundry operational.

Do you see what I mean about all the money we spent to spruce up and fix this space and make it nice? Oh, wait, no, you don’t, because it’s totally hidden behind and beneath the washer and dryer.  Oh well… c’est la chez.



Putting Paint to Canvas

photo of painted canvases on dresserWhile I was painting my daughter’s room, I ended up with quite a few little sample size pots of paint in various colors. I was casting about for what to do with them, when I realized that I had three pre-primed, 12″ x 12″ canvases. So I chose one of the purple colors I liked best, bought two more samples in colors that I thought would look great against a purple wall, and painted the canvases using one of the Purdy 2″ paint brushes I had for painting the trim in the bedroom.

My plan was to glue photos chosen by my daughter onto the painted canvases and hang them in her room as cheap, pretty, fun artwork.

Well, my daughter didn’t care for that idea, but it’s my gain, because I really like how they turned out and how they look against the celery green walls in my bedroom. Right now, they are set up on a table in my bedroom and look bright and cheerful, if a bit unfinished.

I am thinking about what I could do with them, and might still go with my original idea of using them as picture “frames,” but I’m also investigating attaching objects to them.  For example, I think the little netsuke man in the photo would look nice framed in the purple square. This might very well be too heavy for canvas, so I’m mulling things over. A piece of wood to back up the canvas, perhaps? Giving up the idea of attaching something so heavy… perhaps.

The colors are all from Benjamin Moore in Eggshell finish:

  1. Blue Orchid (2069-50), which is a really lovely blue-purple color
  2. Dalila (319), a cheerful sunshine yellow
  3. Coral Essence (2007-40), essentially,well, coral pink


Ding Dong the Pink is Gone

I am so relieved to be finished with re-painting the bedroom from Benjamin Moore’s Fuschia Kiss… an incredibly deep and vivid pink, to Benjamin Moor’s French Lilac (soothing pale purple) with an accent wall of BM Crocus… just a bit deeper purple. No longer will everyone who enters this room appear pink. No longer will a shimmering pink haze reflect out into the hallway. Ah!

BEFORE Barbie pink paint color AFTER purple1

Painting by the Numbers

Four walls.

Three coats of tinted primer, per wall.

One final coat of paint in the final color, per wall.

Plus touch-ups.

I’m almost halfway through painting the Barbie Pink Bedroom to a soothing French Lilac.

Photos when I finish… I have to work in sections and go slowly, or my back gives out.

Goodbye Insane Barbie Pink Walls

Barbie pink paint colorWhen we bought this house nine years ago, we let our daughters choose their paint colors for their bedrooms. Clearly the stressful process of home purchase had taken a toll on our reasoning abilities, and that’s how we ended up with one bedroom a deep, vivid, unnatural, insane Barbie pink color. It glows with a sci-fi, radioactive flair. Everyone turns pink when they enter that room.

Imagine my delight when our daughter recently expressed the desire to paint over the Barbie with something a bit more muted.

Had I been waiting desperately for this day to arrive? Does a bear pee in the woods? Does Homer Simpson say “Doh?”

Our first step was to head out to a paint store and look at some swatches. She wanted a purple color, I was willing to consider a muted lavender. We picked out four we both liked and painted test swatches on the wall.

The winner is:  either French Lilac by Benjamin Moore, or Blue Orchid, by Benjamin Moore. More to come when the paint job is finished!

Standing Desks

Many years ago, I managed to injure my lower back by catching one of my toddlers when she fell off a climbing structure. I know, I know… why did I do that? Why didn’t I let her learn a valuable life lesson about not hanging on while climbing? All I can say is that Instinct overcame Logic on that fateful afternoon.

Ever since then, I’ve struggled off and on with lower back pain. One of the things that aggravates it most is sitting. Doesn’t matter what chair I use. Ergonomics fail me. Riding in the car, typing at work, reading on the couch… sitting is just one of those things my back doesn’t put up with for long. Even if your back is fine, more and more research seems to indicate that sitting the livelong day away is very bad for health overall.

sitting deskSo I’ve taken to standing for part of my work day. I took a cheap and easy route and created my own “standing desk” by utilizing a laptop desk tray, similar to this one. I put my laptop on top of the tray, and the tray on top of my regular desk. With the tray legs folded so that the tray sits flat, the laptop is at the perfect height for me to work while sitting and type on my regular keyboard. When I want to work while standing, I simply extend the legs on the tray, which raises it up to the perfect height to work on the laptop keyboard while standing. All I need to do is move my mouse up to sit on the tray next to the laptop. It takes seconds to accomplish this maneuver. I set a timer to remind myself to change positions throughout the workday. Inexpensive and easy… two of my favorite things.

standing deskThis solution works well for me because the height of my desk and the height of the tray are perfect for my grand height of 5′ 3″. I measured before I made either purchase. If you aren’t able to cobble together a solution that fits your height, or are just more in the mood to buy an actual standing desk, there are several options available. I’d recommend looking at them in person if possible, maybe even seeing if a shop will let you test drive one for a day or so, and trying to find one that can adjust to fit various heights and positions. Lifehacker has an article called “The Two Best Standing Desks for Any Budget” that may give you a starting point.