Closet Revamp

A lot has changed since I last posted about my Master Bedroom Closet back in 2013. While I really love having the white walls, gray shelves, updated lighting and track system for the curtains so much more has changed.

This post details the new baseboards, paint and lighting. 

In the second post I shared about the organization, shoe shelves and the clothing boxes.

Here’s what the shelves looked like back then:


Closet 2

and here’s what the main part of the closet looked like:

Closet 5

Here’s what has changed:

  • new laminate flooring in the closet
  • built out some shoe shelves on the left side
  • stacked up book boxes on the right side
  • added a basket for sandals
  • organized the red storage unit

Now, I could drag each of these out in a separate post but I don’t have time for that. So here we go…


I already shared a blog post about how I prepped and installed the flooring in the master bedroom here but as you can see, it really does make the whole room look bigger.


After the floors were done I began to reinstall the baseboards and then restock the closet.

On the far left of the closet I installed supports along the walls and then laid shelves across (just simple 1x4s). While I didn’t plan on it at a time, this created the perfect spacing for my shoe shelves.


Underneath the shelves I have an old basket from Ikea for flip flops, sandals and shoes I’m too lazy to put away. This accounts for the majority of my shoes, I do have some boots up on the upper shelves but pretty much everything fits in here.


And tucked in the back is a red set of drawers, also from Ikea, which has belts, some gloves and all of my travel sized toiletries:


I won’t give a drawer by drawer account because: boring.

I like that I can easily pull out the drawers to restock my toiletry bag before a trip. Of course the laminate floors help with that.


The right side of the closet is now filled with my book boxes (that I shared about here) which leaves plenty of room in the middle for hanging clothes.

On the top shelves I still have the fabric boxes for my pants, winter sweaters and bed sheets.

The other obvious change from 2013 is that the curtains are new, to match the mellow yellow wall color (recapped that change in this post)

All in all, I love how functional my closet is and the storage it provides. It may not be a huge, walk in closet with custom shelving but it does the job.

Updating the Guest Bath

When I started the challenge to blog all the projects I’d been working on, I promised myself not to start new projects.

Of course that didn’t happen.

So in August, while I was dog sitting for my parents, I got the desire to finally do something about the cabinet in my guest bath.

This one:

Bath 4-4-2015 (02)

The problem is simple. The sink and countertop are one continuous piece and stretch allll the way along the wall. Which I dislike. There are also stress fractures in the bowl of the sink.


So after shoring up my confidence with a few YouTube videos, I turned off the water valves, unscrewed the faucet, then the P-trap, and began to wiggle the counter top loose.

I won’t lie, it was a pain in the ass and seemingly glued to the wall. But I got it out and soon it was chilling in the living room:

Screen Shot 2015-08-29 at 5.16.24 PM

Next up was the cabinet. After removing the doors, I used my hammer and crowbar to bust it to pieces and it came apart pretty easily.


I tossed all those pieces outside and turned back to the empty space:


Obviously when I installed the floor tiles back in 2013 I did not go under the vanity so it was a good chance to use up the spare tiles I’ve been hoarding saving.

First I did a little patching due to a crack in the concrete and then primed the subfloor. Putting down the new tiles was easy enough, although several of the adjacent tiles needed to be replaced. There’s just one more tile left to replace that goes right up to the toilet which will require a little more work.


Once the tiles were in it was time to bring in the new cabinet. I’d picked it up from Home Depot and got a few of the workers to set it carefully in the backseat of the Cadillac. With some blankets to protect the frame and seat it was fine. My neighbor across the street helped me move it out of the car and into the garage.

Here’s the vanity and sink on the Home Depot website.

bath cabinet

The whole cabinet was leveled and then got screwed into the wall studs.


Since the sink on this unit is off center there was a difference of 5″ which required a new p-trap. I also replaced the drain flange with a piece that included a new sink plug.





Since I was reusing my newish chrome faucet, I took the time to really clean and polish it up. It did need the filter to be cleaned out since we have such hard water that it’s easy to get clogged up.


If you’re confused, or would like a very basic sketch up of how this plumbing works, this site and diagram is a good place to start.

One problem I had is that the water supply lines were all sorts of cramped and barely reached up to the faucet.


They were also leaking so I hired a plumber to come in for a couple hours to replace the lines and upgrade the drain extension to position the p-trap better. Money well spent!

Once that was done I could secure the counter by adding a bead of clear construction glue and carefully setting the counter in place. In order to get it plumb against the cabinet I had to take off a long trim piece from the tall cabinet so I’ll need to re-sand and paint that piece.


One thing I love is the drawers which give me shallow storage for bath items so they don’t get lost in the deeper cabinet.

Top drawer is perfect for washcloths:


Middle drawer is soap, matches and small glass jars with tweezers and nail clippers:


Bottom drawer has hand towels:


One last tip, when I was working on the cabinet I took off the doors so I could easily get to the plumbing components and my tools a lot easier.


Here’s a final shot of the new cabinet:



Desperate times…

Okay, I’m just a few weeks away from my self imposed deadline to blog about all the projects on this list so I can catch up and keep moving with new projects in the house. Except I’m wayyyy behind because I never seem to blog twice a week or with any sense of regularity, really.

So where do I get stuck? Primarily when it comes to photographing the finished project, uploading those pics to my computer and hitting publish.

Of the 30 total posts I wanted to share I’ve finished 16 of them – which to be fair, isn’t bad, but also means I have 14 more to do.

Therefore desperate times, desperate measures.

For the month of September, and starting now, I’ve blocked Pinterest and other time-sucking sites from my computer. I’ll be completely off Facebook unless I’m working specifically in the groups I mentor.

And, this is the big sacrifice here, I will be wearing shoes. All day long. It’s something I need to do now anyway with the ankle braces I got after my fall in July. With wearing tennis shoes all day I am more easily able to do small chores around the house, run out to dump trash, work in the backyard and it feels more like “work mode.”

While I can’t take off time from work just to focus on blogging (ha! what a dream that would be), I am giving myself time to take the photos and finish up those posts I wanted to do.

Here are the ones I hope to finish by Monday:

  • bathroom cabinet
  • storing spare pieces of wood
  • organizing shoes
  • luggage + travel size storage

See the full list here. And wish me luck.


Where did all the books go?

A few years back I had floor to nearly ceiling bookshelves in the office, dark green walls and a ton of books:


and then I decided to remodel the room and in an effort to make it lighter I sold all but one of those bookshelves; I haven’t missed all the space and took the chance to drastically downsize my collection.

Although I still have plenty of books, I decided to box up the series that I don’t read frequently and only keep out the ones I read and reference regularly. At some point I might add built in bookshelves to the guest room but until then I like having them organized.

To start I picked up a few dozen book boxes from UHaul and then I organized the books as much as possible, to keep books from the same authors together. I boxed up 17 boxes and to keep it all straight I typed each of the titles, authors and series numbers into an Excel spreadsheet.

I designed each page to be just one sheet when printed and then put a copy in each box. The top of the box was closed with clear package tape and a bright Post-it with the number of the box.

(Here’s a copy of that template if you’d like to use it yourself)

At first the boxes were stacked in the guest room closet but it was taking up too much space. After some consideration I moved all the boxes to the master bedroom closet since the deep alcove is hell on hanging clothes. The best part is that I can fit them 2 boxes deep and 17 boxes doesn’t take up the whole space.


I do have a few build projects on the horizon for the books I did keep – namely those in the living room but that’s for another post.

down the hallway we go

Last time I left off on the saga of the floors I had just finished the guest room and run the laminate floor boards across the hall to the threshold at the office.


You can see the oh-so-classy laminate tiles that were in the hallway. Their only redeeming feature was that it was incredibly hard to see dirt because they were also impossible to clean.

Once I started down the hallway I knew that I wanted to get to the end which of course presents a problem… you can only lay a board out as far as the previous row is laid. Which meant I needed to go all the way through to the living room in order to get 5 boards wide in the hall.

Here’s the view from the master bedroom when I started:



As you can probably tell I’ve removed all of the door frames and baseboards before putting down the underlayment.

By the time I got the boards through to the hallway bathroom I could go into the closet. Here’s a reminder of what it looked like after I took out the carpet to add laminate like the bathrooms, added some lighting and used up sample paint to make a colorful striped wall:

DSC_0001 copy

And, with movie magic, after the new floors were installed:


p.s. I changed up the lights here too and the rope LED light is super bright. See details here.

In this next pic I’m standing in the living room looking back down the hall with the front door to my right:

pic to rotate


In order to finish row 5 in the hall (which is the left most row in the pic), I had to take the boards into the entryway where the front door swings in.

Yes, this is the other side of my odd wall in the office if you’re trying to orient yourself.

So in order to get those pieces correct I needed to cut the entryway and lay that down. Here’s what it looked like laying out those boards:


As you can probably tell I needed to take out the carpet in the living room and prime the subfloor. Since the furniture in here had nowhere to go I would literally remove 3′ of carpet at a time and prime as I went.


It was slow going but eventually I got all the rows in and secure, some with multiple angled cuts so… that was fun. Unfortunately I didn’t leave enough of a gap for the transition strip by the front door so I did have to go back and trim it back.

Now of course I thought I’d do the hallway and take a break but once you start taking out carpet it just makes sense to finish the job. Next time I’ll detail now I did the biggest room (living and dining), those annoyingly precise cuts around the fireplace and backing up into the kitchen.

But here’s a finished view of the hallway (with only a few door frames that need to be finished):

hallway finished

and with my runners from Ikea to keep the dogs from slippin’ and slidin’:

hallway runners



Guest Room Gets Fancy

After the master bedroom, the guest room was the one with the worst carpet and I was so ready to get rid of it.  Shortly after finishing the office, I started moving furniture and got out the trusty crowbar and box cutter.

Here’s what the carpet looked with mystery stains and all:


and in the closet,

2014-02-28 (13)

While the closet carpet didn’t have horrible stains, it also didn’t match the rest of the room. Of course I just finished the baseboards in there but thankfully had an easy time prying them out again.

Here’s the carpet coming out, removing all doubt that it was nasty stuff:



Just like the other rooms, I started with filling the cracks in the subfloor.


By this room I’d pretty much mastered removing the nails from tack strips without destroying the concrete. The carpet pad in this room was much thicker but that meant they used heavy duty glue (which you can see in that dark mark in the pic above) which I had to scrape up with the crowbar as I painted.

And, as always, there was a ton of debris so I was constantly cleaning:


After the concrete filler dried I painted the subfloor white to block out all the stains.


And then, once it dried, it was time to roll out the underlayment. For those who don’t know, underlayment acts as a barrier – not so much for moisture but sound – and prevents the hard back of the floor from hitting the subfloor when you walk. It’s relatively thin but does the job.

Here I pulled out a few boards that were acclimating to the room and used them to anchor the underlayment. It doesn’t get glued or adhered to the floor in any way.


When you’re installing make sure the edge with the sticky tape is away from the wall – you’ll need that to adhere to the second piece that unrolls. Occasionally you’ll need to make cuts which is easy with the box cutter. Such as these small walls that frame the closet:

DSC_0117To get the correct length I pulled the underlayment out from that little wall, unrolled it to the far wall and held it there with the crowbar. Using a box cutter I sliced the underlayment – remember it’s thin – and then pushed it back towards the wall.


Since you don’t lay out the whole room it’s pretty easy to work around these obstacles. I simply sliced around the wall with the box cutter to remove the section.

DSC_0125Just like the other rooms I started with a long row along the back wall and then built my way out. However, I do have a trick to show.

The first 3 rows are a real bitch because every time you tap in a board it wants to move and you want to keep a gap for expansion.

So I cut some scrap wood and nailed it to the wall just at the joints between the boards like so:


Other than the cuts around the transition to the closet in the first row, it went smoothly!


This was probably the first of 5 cuts I made, since it was so tight. For these straight cuts I mostly used my jigsaw but when I needed to make end cuts I relied on my miter saw.

Once the first couple of rows are in the work goes quickly. Roll out underlayment. Lay boards. Tap them into place.


Fan set up to keep me from melting:


And done:


One thing I did learn by this, my third room, is that you don’t need to lay out the whole row and tap it in together. I know! It saved soooo much time. Instead you just line up the board on the far left, tap it into the board above it. Then position the next board, tap it to lay flat and when it’s almost flat you hit it hard with the mallet at the joint.

So easy. So satisfying to whack things.

Once the floor boards were mostly in I could do the transition to the hallway and this was one room where I didn’t need to stop at the door jam. Since I did transition strips at the master bedroom and office these boards could go through to the office threshold.


While the boards don’t line up perfectly like I wish, you can’t really tell unless you’re inspecting them for imperfections.

I also took the time to touch up the wall paint with a small can of Frosted Jade from last year.

Once the floors were done I went back to re-install all those baseboards.


The only sections I left off were around the door where the new door frame will come in (soon!).

Alright, in the saga of the master bedroom I showed you how to install the boards (the long, hard way), in the office post I laid out all the tools and now I’ve shown you the underlayment and a quick way to install.

Next we head down the hallway, do the closet and then conquer the largest space yet and a series of increasingly complicated angled cuts.

After that it’s just the transition strips and the whole house is done.

Planning an epic yard

As I was finishing up the new laminate tile floors indoors, I began to look ahead to the next project. Most of my projects take a few years of planning because I change my mind a half dozen times before making the first purchase.

The main reason that I know I need to change the front yard is this sidewalk:

2015-06-07 (09)

because roots from the sugar maple tree that towers over the kitchen are reaching into the foundation of the house.

Bad news.

It’s also dangerous for anyone visiting, especially in a wheelchair or walker which I recently discovered first hand. One of the things I look ahead for is making the house accessible in case we rent it out to someone with mobility issues.

The sidewalk becomes a pain when I attempt to move the full 96-gallon green waste trash can from the back yard out to the front not to mention rolling over it in the walker.

Another reason to revamp the yard is that with the California wide drought, my grass is rapidly dying and when I water 5 minutes/day it pushes my monthly water bill over $100/month. Ouch. So instead of letting it continue to die and look horrible, I’d like to create a drought resistant yard and fence off the majority of the front.

It’s not unusual in my neighborhood for the half-plexes to install a front yard fence and gate. Not only would this almost double the outdoor space for my dogs but also enable a bit more privacy.

True story, I’ve walked out my front door and been confronted by the neighbor’s dog off leash. It’s not exactly comforting.

Since work is needed I’d like to make it look awesome when it’s done.

Here’s what I’ve been daydreaming about doing…

The first major thing would be to remove the maple tree and level out the dirt in that area.

Second, extend the fence separating my yard from the neighbor’s yard another 24′ down the yard to the driveway.

I want the fence to have 2 sections, one behind a locked gate and the second open to the driveway but not visible from the street.

Here’s what the yard looks like now (in my mockup):

Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 10.57.33 PM

And here’s how I want it to look:

Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 11.07.44 PM

Doing this would allow me to create a small “entryway” for deliveries that would be blocked from the view of the street and measure 6′ by 6′ and I’ll probably add a small table or something.  The goal is to keep the gas and electricity meter to be outside the gate so it can be read when no one is home. On my mental to do list is another wireless doorbell for those outside the gate.

Inside the fence this would create a 4′ x 6′ alcove. I don’t want lots of grass here, probably a curved border with a few low water bushes at first like this…

Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 10.50.02 PM


but could eventually end up like this:

grass path inspiration


Short term I’d probably install a container garden:

container garden inspiration


There are 5 rose bushes in the strip of garden along the garage and ideally I could move the orange roses and replant it along the new fence line.

2015-06-07 (10)

Additionally, these roses are in the way of the faucet so moving them means I could  turn on the water means without getting caught in the thorns.

Inside the fence, replacing the walkway is high on my priority list, I would like to move it over a couple feet so it’s less of a straight shot, still about 1 meter wide. Here’s my favorite inspiration pic for the walkway:

walkway inspiration 2


Another reason to bump out the walkway from the house is so that I can install more softscapes along the house, including window boxes like these:

windowbox inspiration


Or a pergola like this one around the kitchen window:

awesome window inspiration


Speaking of window boxes, I would like to install something along the side of the house. There’s no window on the east wall of the guest room but I could add a decorative window and box like this one:

window box inspiration


It would be great to include an outdoor sink for gardening, probably in the front yard

sink inspiration


By extending the fence I’d create a lot more shade in the yard which might enable me to plant more hydrangeas. I would love this:

hydrangea path

but I’m sure I’ll be lucky just to get one or two growing that bloom.

As much as possible I’d love to repurpose what I have in the yard already. For one, these cinder blocks around the tree can be reused in a bench like this one:

bench inspiration


with the addition of four 4×4 posts. Maybe that will go in the alcove?

I’d also like to fill in this small section under the kitchen garden window with cement:

2015-06-07 (06)

and I want to keep the potting bench here but don’t want to add cement just yet because there’s a sprinkler buried under there.

With the tree out there will be a 10′ wide yard all the way down to the new fence and a lot more room. I’ll probably move the grill from the side yard where it’s getting buried by lantana and set up a couple of comfy chairs. Maybe a bench with storage for all my outdoor pillows.

2015-06-07 (02)


I really only need one 6′ tall gate at the front of the yard so to save on costs I’d probably move the current gate that goes to the side yard and move it up to the garage. But since I like the idea of being able to section off the yard, in its place I’m considering building (or buying) a shorter fence, about 4′ tall:

short fence inspiration


I know it might seem overly complicated but it’s really nice to be able to work in part of the yard without the dogs underfoot. Especially since I’ve experienced that when I leave them inside and go garden they go a little nutty and get destructive. Last time Nixon stole my dust broom and chewed on the handle in protest.

The front front yard

Since the purpose of this whole plan is to create a nicer, private front yard, that’s where most of my plans have been so far. But from the street I don’t want it to look stark and lose all curb appeal. Outside the fence I’d like to create an area for new trees, most likely a crepe myrtle for some color.

tree inspiration


And ideally build a raised garden bed around 4’x6′ for the trees:

raised bed inspiration



I could install a raised garden bed along the fence and forgo the tree. I’ve been reluctant to make beds high inside the fence because the dogs might use it as a launching pad to escape. You laugh but Nixon is a wily little guy.

planter inspiration


One thing I do know is that outside the fence I don’t want grass or mulch. My uncle installed that on his front yard and it turned the yard into a litter box for stray cats. Instead I’d surround any planters or trees with gravel or landscaping stones as such:

gravel inspiration


The backyard

For the most part I despise the backyard, especially with so much grass dying thanks to the drought. Instead of reviving the grass I’d prefer to create more of a plan

And in the backyard I want to take out the patio in the corner which has never set up correctly:


and replace it with a garden bed that’s level to the grass like this:

corner garden bed inspiration


Instead of filling it with plants I would like to use the corner to plant wisteria and sink in some posts to build a pergola or trellis:

pergola inspiration


And lastly, I’d like to take out the garden box under the guest room window and replace this walkway with something more sturdy. There’s enough room here for a window box or umbrella and chairs.

The biggest project not yet mentioned is that I’d need to unearth, remove, plan and relay the entire sprinkler system. While the materials are usually pretty cheap it’s not an easy project to plan but if done right I’d be able to have sprinklers to the garden beds + possible tree and maybe run a pipe to the side yard for those garden beds.

I know this all seems crazy for such a small yard and looking over the plans it looks like thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours. Which makes me think “worth it?”

I think yes for a couple reasons:

1. It improves the value of the property, especially getting rid of the crooked sidewalk and tree potentially damaging the foundation.

2. The expense can be spread out over many months and the biggest expense would be labor and I can provide the bulk of that.

3. I can reuse as much material and plants as possible to make it a great yard while learning some new skills along the way.

4. Having a private front porch would be awesome for the dogs and essentially double their outdoor space.