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Building the Art Room

January 22, 2016   //  Posted in: Basement, The Art Room   //  By: Emily   //  Leave a comment
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Once upon a time, we did next to no DIY projects during the holiday season, and instead visited with family, slept in, ate lots of pancakes, and played.

I got an itch just after New Years to cross one more thing off my list before resuming a busy work schedule, and decided to assemble the old IKEA EXPEDIT that had always stood in the living room of our old house, but has remained disassembled since our move in 2013. The disassembly/reassembly of that monster is actually pretty easy (thanks to my efforts in flagging every single piece with painters tape and a strategic labeling structure), the real miracle was that I had actually retained the ragged out baggie of bolts right in my junk drawer in the kitchen. Considering that I can rarely find the scissors, this bode well.

Reassembling the IKEA EXPEDIT.

The assembly took all of 15 minutes, and within minutes of getting it uprighted, I decided it would be a pretty awesome divider for the space we loosely referred to as “the art room.” The art room is really just a corner of the basement, the space directly beneath our living room with a second, lower fireplace, an out of the way area that we hadn’t consumed with too much crap. Oh, wait…

Our unfinished basement art room, before.

The table in the center of the room is something we purchased specifically for the space. It’s secondhand from an old office, the top needs to be re-laminated eventually, but as far as a heavy-duty table is concerned, we knew it would be perfect for anything from wrapping gifts to letting the kids paint like crazy upon.

The couch from the old house is down there too. It’s totally more comfortable than the one in our current living room, but getting pretty ragged out. In fact, if you’re looking around you’ll probably see lots of old house remnants, from extra wooden frames to side tables to trunks, rugs, dining table, hexagon headboard, you know. It’s kind of the place that “everything that didn’t go with our current decor” went to collect dust.

It was also adjacent to the furnace, with interrogation lighting. Real dreamy setup for any 9 year old .

Planning a basement art room.

Within an hour of putting up that IKEA “wall divider,” we had convinced ourselves that we should totally just frame out some walls and enclose the space permanently. Finishing part of the basement has been one of our longer term goals, but the immediate improvements we were considering would make it, almost instantly, a more comfortable space for our family and friends to spend time in.

And that’s how we went from zero to paneled walls in 12 short hours. We’re like one of those fast-paced reality home improvement shows with a crew. But instead of a crew, a fairly demanding toddler who wants more pasta, and definitely wants to tap all of the things with a rubber mallet.

One of the walls we assembled measures 12-feet long, and sits right where we had positioned the IKEA shelving.

Building walls in a basement art room.

The other wall was designed to be 3/4 height, with a sole purpose of blocking off the furnace. We gave the furnace itself a ~30″ space between it and the wall, because we understand there are some safety guidelines that come into play and also because we needed some clearance in case either of us or any repairman needed access in a pinch.

Framing walls in a basement art room.

If there’s anything I can say about the proximity to the furnace, is that the pipes leaving the furnace and running through the house across the basement ceiling helps the space stay pretty warm. Not pretty warm, downright enjoyable. The whole basement is consistently 68 to 70-degrees, and that’s whether it’s 95 or -10 outside, like a magic chamber of comfort. Even the cement floor is weirdly not cold.

I pushed pretty hard to paint the walls in the basement; I think Pete thought it would be excessive, but the cinderblock reads a little bit more jail cell than I preferred.

Clearing out a space for a basement art studio.

While Pete began to install paneling over the framed walls, I took it upon myself to apply a coat of primer to help seal the blocks. Because the blocks are dry and there’s no moisture or moisture damage in the basement, the paint store folks convinced me that I’d be fine with regular wall primer. I chose the Sherwin-Williams brand Harmony primer, which is great and has no odor and is from the same Zero-VOC line of products that I used to paint in the rest of our house. It’s a little pricy, but there aren’t any other Zero-VOC options locally that are attainable on a whim.

Priming the cinderblock walls in the basement.

Primed basement art studio.

To finish the framed walls, we chose a really, really inexpensive paneling sold at the hardware store (it was one step prettier than the terrible cliche paneling, and cost ~$10 for each 4×8 sheet). This is my first and probably only venture into the world of sheet paneling, but for a space that we wanted done fast and inexpensively, it was a great fit. Drywall was an obvious choice too, but more expensive with a real deterrent, being the hours upon hours upon days of installing, taping, mudding, and finishing. Paneling in a pinch, it is!

The finish on the paneling is surprisingly nice, and is designed to look like a knotty whitewashed pine. It doesn’t go with the rest of our house at all but it sure does go with every single piece of decor that we no longer used and stashed in the basement! See how nicely that worked out? This little art studio might just be exactly like our old house when it’s said and done.

Whitewashed paneling for a basement remodel.

Like I said, this was zero to 60 and basically a wrap in less than 24-hours, so pat-on-back.

Primed and paneled walls in a basement art room.

We let Julia pick the wall color; she opted for greens, and I delivered dozens of greens that 1) I knew she would like, 2) I knew we could tolerate, and 3) would go well with all of our existing furnishings. The verdict? Verdant from the Sherwin Williams palette, perfecto! A total family paint night, done right.

Painting the basement Verdant green.

Painting the cinderblock Sherwin-Williams Verdant.

It took two coats (in 1.5 gallons of paint), but looks great, already a wonderful transformation.

You can tell here that we didn’t close off the space completely… there’s no real need for a door, but we did hang a really long curtain rod that I had bought in 2009 and always intended to use in my old house. For now, I put our old West Elm shower curtain on it (truly another opportunity to use everything we no longer had a use for – our shower here has a door, so no curtain necessary).

Cody in the basement art room.

We cleared out the room for a week, during which time we cleaned and painted the cement floors as another way to make the room feel a little more finished. Of course, now it looks so nice that we totally want to spend $300 to paint the rest of the floor in the basement.

It’s basic porch paint, tinted to Rich Brown as shown in this Behr brochure, and it also required two gallons, two coats. I’m totally going to make you wait for the final reveal though – hopefully I’ll get around to some finishing details this weekend that help with organizing the space. Ready for it?

Cleaning and painting a basement cement floor.

The Year of Bigger Projects

January 12, 2016   //  Posted in: Bedrooms, Decor, DIY, Living Room   //  By: Emily   //  7 responses
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The year of finishing what we started was pretty accomplished, now that I look around the place. In late January 2015, amidst an awesome hibernation, I made a list of things I wanted to get done to make our home feel more finished. Some things were easy (install a new doorbell), others were either expensive (i.e. new $5,000 electrical system), or time intensive and hard to get motivated for (cleaning, scraping, reglazing and painting all of the exterior windows… ZZZ), but the lists I made at the beginning of the year were helpful in that it set expectations and modest goals, and it worked. We got a lot of stuff done, even if the days and weeks spent refinishing all of the windows don’t leave me much to show for it.

What else did we cross off the list?

  • A new mattress and our first-ever bed frame. We upgraded to a king to help fill the space in our big master bedroom. The bedroom is disproportionately large compared to the rest of our house, and still seems like an unnecessary use of space (I’d rather it be divided differently to make an extra bedroom, or a master bath) but we bought the Mod Upholstered bed frame from West Elm, which fills out the space in a better way than I could have predicted. Verdict? Feels like a hotel when your bed is off the ground. True story? You may never see a full shot of the bedroom again; we are not that tidy, nor are we “make the bed” people. Sorry to disappoint ;)

Bedroom update: West Elm Mod Headboard, new bedding.

  • In September, I ordered a couple additional corner cushions for our Tillary sectional. The corners are way heavier than the straight back pieces, and they’re less likely to slide around when you’re laying on the couch, plus, it’ll help us make the couch more configurable. (By March, we should have them – oof! – someday I’ll dish about how frustrating it can be to order furniture, but in the meantime they offered me a $50 credit so I’m not side-eyeing too hard). If there’s anything good I can say about ordering furniture from West Elm, is that their credit card program is awesome – between the bed and the cushions, we have several hundred reward dollars to apply to future purchases. But I digress…
  • We really ramped up the media experience in the living room. We committed to using the projector for indoor movie nights and producing the ultimate video gaming experience with the addition of a ginormous ceiling-mounted screen that retracts to block the light coming through our front window. Solid investment, and by configuring it where we did, we free up a large wall opposite the window on which we’ll hang new art. It also allows us to face the couch towards the wall-mounted television and out the front window for a better view. Is it normal to have a 12-foot long projector screen mounted where one would expect curtains in your living room? No. Do I care? No.
  • My favorite DIY shelf is also officially a floating DIY shelf, because I finally got around to anchoring it in the wall beneath the TV.

Ceiling mounted projector screen in the living room.

  • After years of not reliably getting any channels with our rabbit ears/Leaf antennacombination efforts (still shown to the left of the TV in the photo above), Pete relocated the Leaf to the outside of the house, and ran cable through the ceiling joists in our basement up into both first floor televisions in our home. It was a bit of a test, and we may end up affixing a more powerful antennae inside our attic space if Leaf doesn’t hold up outdoors long term, but for now the reception is great. We still don’t have cable (I miss DVR conveniences, and maybe someday we’ll go back but right now I can’t justify the cost). Instead, we have a Roku hooked to one TV, and an Apple TV on another, which gives us basically everything and more that we’d want to watch via other subscriptions like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
  • The happy little shelving find found a permanent home in our hallway. I haven’t even refinished it in any way yet, but turns out that its shallow depth makes it the perfect size, and offers us plenty of space to store odds and ends (behind the closed doors) and some of our kids’ book collection in plain sight.

Narrow midcentury shelving in our hallway for Children's books.

  • Buying the new-to-me dining room table and chairs was one of the biggest highlights of the year. We still haven’t refinished any of it yet – it needs it eventually, but not desperately.
  • I really thought we’d have more art on the walls, which we don’t, but I did make progress in that I had a local frame shop do a custom frame for a very large print. The custom job was totally worth it, but I don’t know where to hang it yet.

Framed large print by Jaime Derringer.

  • As has been the trend, we spent nearly all spring and summer doing outdoor projects. There’s a flagstone fire pit now, painted doors, painted trim, a bigger garden, and Pete cleared even more brush from the back acre to extend our grassy play area tremendously. The grass has begun to spread really nicely into the land he cleared in 2014, and I bet by next summer we’ll have great natural grass coverage over most of the new, opened space.

Backyard panorama – we've cleared so much brush.

Honestly, that photo doesn’t mean anything unless you remember what it looked like when we moved in, and turns out that I didn’t have many reasons to photograph “before” shots of an impassible wooded area. In the next photo, the wooden fence and the tree 10-ft. to the right of Pete are the distinguishing points of reference, from the first time we pruned branches:

Backyard, Summer 2013.

What’s on the list for this year?

  • An extended flagstone patio for our backyard to create a better outdoor entertaining space. We have so much more outdoor space in this house compared to our last, but it’s still just lawn chairs-in-grass, versus setup on a porch or patio. We always planned to fix that, and I think this is a good time.
  • A repaired fireplace (we’re on the 3rd winter without a fireplace, which is 3 winters longer than I imagined it would be). I also figured we’d get around to this in the Fall, but I was feeling pretty lazy every time I drove past the local fireplace specialists that I want to have quote for me. Soon-ish, OK?
  • A few updates to our basement to make the space more usable. This is in progress literally right now (paint is drying, so I’m typing).
  • I never found the bedroom drawer storage to replace our crumbling IKEA RIBBA dressers, because there are just not many units on the market that I like at the moment that are either solid white or a light oak/maple/birch. I’m excluding the $2,499 models from some of my favorite higher-end stores, and the low end models that I know would work for a few years, but would rag out just like RIBBA. Something will come along eventually, so it’s still patiently hanging on my list. If you know of anything you think I’d like (including vintage solid wood units that need rehab) send a note my way.
  • Better lighting. In like, every room. Bedroom sconces to flank the bed, floor lamps for the living room, eventually a new ceiling fixture for the dining room, which leads me to…
  • hopefully, a jump start to our bathroom and/or kitchen remodeling. I keep having dreams about contractors quoting us really low. I think it’s a bad omen. I’ll just keep saving.

Retiring NuTone, Replacing with Atomic

January 05, 2016   //  Posted in: DIY   //  By: Emily   //  one response
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Happy New Year, friends! I suspect that my Mom’s going to be most excited to see the newly installed new doorbell chimes in our home, and the rest of you might bug out over the fact that I got rid of something that was truly original and authentic to our 1950’s abode… hear me out.

Those old NuTone door chimes? Beautiful things, but broken in numerous ways. The clock on the face wasn’t working when we bought the house, and these days only two of the chimes sounded off. And the dog went manic anytime his tail thwapped the metal, but that was always good for a laugh as long as it didn’t happen while a kid was napping, or in the middle of the night.

Vintage NuTone Mid-Century Doorbell Chimes, 1950's.

Time for an update.

I turned to Rejuvenation for a new doorbell during the spring (the mid-century chime doorbell button), and noticed at that time that they had some nice chime options too.

Mid Century Star Doorbell too wide for space

The button, that never actually got installed because notice how much wider the hardware is compared to my old doorbell above? There wasn’t enough space between the standard bell hole and the storm door trim to accommodate, so I resorted to a basic white faceplate, and all’s well. After that experience I actually expected replacing the door chimes to be more troublesome, but they ended up being a piece of cake.

I started by taking a few photos of the existing unit, mostly to understand how it was wired in case I needed to reinstall, or needed to help future buyers understand how to install it.

Wiring on a Vintage NuTone Mid-Century Doorbell Chime, 1950's.

From there, I unscrewed it from the wall, and sized the new door chime (the atomic age doorbell chime in brushed nickel) against the footprint of the old product. I love knowing that the hallway was once a shade of my all-time favorite green color. The new box was a bit narrower, so I knew I would have to do a bit of wall patching and painting to update before installing.

Installing an Atomic Age Doorbell Chime, Brushed Nickel.

Painting and patching drywall when updating doorbell chimes.

Once the paint dried, I positioned and leveled the new door chime, marking where wall anchors would have to be placed to secure the unit.

Installing an Atomic Age Doorbell Chime, Brushed Nickel.

I wired the product, tested to make sure that it worked on both the front and back door (first try, high-five), and then secured it to the wall.

Installing an Atomic Age Doorbell Chime, Brushed Nickel.

The faceplate to the new door chime attached separately, and my only complaint with this is that the set screws were positioned so close to the wall that it was almost impossible to get a screwdriver flush enough to the wall without damaging the paint with the rotating handle.

Installing an Atomic Age Doorbell Chime, Brushed Nickel.

We love it. The entrance to the hallway feels wider and lighter, while it still feels appropriate for our home. Most places I’ve lived have only had plastic, less attractive chimes, so here’s a friendly reminder than you can update them with ease!

Installed doorbell chime, modern upgrade to the home.