Thursday, February 27, 2014

Gain Closet Efficiency by "Removing" a Window

So...we added another project to the list.  We've never felt our master closet was an efficient use of space, but then another section collapsed over the weekend and this project jumped to the top of the list!

This closet was initially built as two reach-ins, but the previous homeowners converted it to be a walk-in.  Making the nook a walk-in meant that there would be a window in the closet, a problem they solved by covering the window with a blackout roller shade.  There is also a floor vent that can't be covered up.

Here are the "before" photos.  Keep in mind the closet had just collapsed!!!  The closet felt cramped and wasn't efficient.  Plus I couldn't even reach the long hanging bar on the back wall.  The part that collapsed had been holding my knee-length dresses.

Left Wall

Back Wall

Right Wall

The roller shade successfully blocked the light and gave privacy, but the window treatment didn't match the others than can be seen from the front of the house.  Tacky!

Not only did we need to rearrange the closet for better efficiency, we also needed to fix the window situation.

Keeping the window useable would mean losing a LOT of space.  We would also have to be careful about sunlight hurting our clothes, and making sure the window treatments would allow for plenty of privacy.  It was a tough choice, but in the end we chose function over form and decided to "delete" the window.

We decided to use an Elfa system for the closet.  This presented yet another challenge because the standards would have to hang in front of the window space.  They need to be flush to the wall, so we had to get creative!

So that the standard could lay flush to the wall, we cut notches in the top and bottom of the window frame.

Jumping ahead a little here, but here's what it looked liked once the Elfa was installed.  See how the notch allows the standard to be flush with the wall?

Now to fix the tacky window situation.

We bought 2" plantation blinds to match the blinds in our bedroom (I've used Just Blinds for years and am happy with their service, pricing, and quality).  There wasn't space to be able to install and use the mechanical system, so we cut the blinds off of the support bar.  We screwed the tapes to the top of the window frame so that the blinds would lay flush inside the window.  Even with the blinds were closed, light still penetrated, and could possibly fade our clothing.  We cut the blackout shade off the roller and stapled it to the window frame.  No more light!

The blackout shade isn't very pretty, but clothes will be hanging in front of it, so we decided it wasn't worth the extra effort to make it look nice.

Now all the window treatments look identical from the outside of the house. 

The previous owners had attached 1x4 boards to the wall to shore up their closet bars (which actually didn't work - this part of the closet collapsed the day we moved in).  We damaged the wall in the process of removing the boards, but four skim coats later we were back in business.  Tommy also touched up the paint here and there to make everything fresh and pretty.

So, what about the design of the new closet?

The old closet had a double rod on an entire wall, plus 48" of long hanging that was split between a rod I could reach and one that I couldn't.  The new design kept the 48" of long hanging, but placed it low enough for me to reach.  It also allowed us to add a 31" double rod, or 62" of additional hanging space for short garments.

The dresser does partially block access to some of the hanging space, but we'll keep off-season and lesser-worn clothes back there.  Like all my non-maternity stuff!!!

We installed the Elfa system according to the directions - it went up really easily with two people working on it!

Here it is all installed and ready to go.  What window?

Finally we loaded it up!  I separated Tommy's stuff by type - polos, dress shirts, sweaters, and outwear.  Right now, my stuff is organized by whether it fits my pregnant belly or not, so I had plenty of items that could be moved into the hard-to-reach areas.

The laundry basket tucks nicely under my knee-length dresses, and I bought a folding stool to help us reach those upper shelves (but that tucks away when we don't need it)

Back Wall

Left Wall

Right Wall

I also sorted everything by color to make it look less jumbled.  I've successfully gotten us out of using wire hangers (the ones from dry cleaning get put into a box for recycling), and now I'm working on getting rid of the plastic hangers in favor of the velvet huggable kind.  It looks so much less cluttered and is much more enjoyable to use when all the hangers are nice.  I think he's set for blue dress shirts for a while!

Was it worth it?  We spent $200 on the Elfa system and $50 on the plantation blinds.  We reused the blackout roller shade, and already had the joint compound and white paint, so those were "free".  This project took us about 8 hours total, but much of that was spent patching the wall.  It would have taken only 2-3 hours if we had been able to skip the wall patching and just focused on the blinds and closet installation.  We had to be really creative with the window treatment situation, as well as devising a way to get the standards to be flush to a wall, even over a window.  Thankfully, it all worked out great, and now we have a super efficient closet that doesn't look tacky from the outside of the house!

You might also be interested in these posts:

Removing textured ceilings
Extra long (and cheap) curtain rod

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Update Linens with Fabric Dye

Want a new look for your linens?  Check out my post on Teal & Lime today!  I overdyed a bohemian-style bedspread with fabulous results!

Update Linens with Fabric Dye |

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I dyed my wedding dress!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Basement Remodel: DIY Demolition Saves Money

Quick review, we are trying to get from a dark, cramped basement with structural issues to an open and bright space we'll enjoy for years to come.

In my last post, I mentioned that we negotiated with the contractor that they would deduct any work we complete on our own from the bill.  I love a bargain, so you can guess what happened next.

Tommy's grandfather, brother, and brother-in-law (thank you, I love you guys!!!) came to help, and the four of them started destroying our basement.  I say destroy with a smile on my face, because I hated the basement!!!

They started by taking down the wall that made 1/3 of the basement into a walk-in closet.  It's amazing how much more open a room becomes when you get a third of it back!

DIY Demo Saves Money |

DIY Demo Saves Money |

DIY Demo Saves Money |

DIY Demo Saves Money |

We considered building a new, smaller, closet, but couldn't think of anything to put in it that couldn't go on a shelf, so we decided to skip it for now and just stick with a big open room.

Next they removed the shed from the lower deck.  It was only storing potting soil and a few pots, and we plan to build a storage bench later this summer to store those items.  Removing the shed will allow us to add a window.

DIY Demo Saves Money |

DIY Demo Saves Money |

Our brother-in-law is really tall and strong (think offensive lineman), and he ripped out the ceiling without using a ladder or really any tools at all.  It was incredible.

DIY Demo Saves Money |

Tommy took up all those carpet tiles.  They come up pretty easily, but it's tedious.

I ripped off the top layer of wallpaper, and Tommy and I spent many long hours scraping the backing and glue from the walls.  In case you're wondering, I would much rather spend my 6th month of pregnancy doing something - anything - else!!!  But that's life.

DIY Demo Saves Money |

The guys carted all the debris around to the front of the house, and made four trips to the dump to dispose of it all.  (BTW, the dump is really cheap and it cost less than $50 for them to take all that stuff)

Our contractor came by to adjust our contract based on the work we'd accomplished.  My Mom's birthday gift to Tommy is painting the basement.  Between taking out the painting, and the crazy amounts of demo the guys accomplished, we're saving over $3,000!!!

We are already so much happier with the basement.  Even though it's covered in drywall dust, it feels so much more spacious, open, airy, and light!  I can't wait for more!!!

PS: What do you wear in a work zone when you're 6 months pregnant and don't want to sacrifice your new maternity jeans?  Your 15 year old overalls with the straps let out all the way!  As a side bonus, my Southern side was coming through all weekend and I picked up my accent and made a big batch of sweet tea.

DIY Demo Saves Money |

You might also be interested in these posts:

Basement Remodel: Getting Started

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Easy Dinners with eMeals

Between a basement reno, two full-time jobs, and growing a baby, there hasn't been a lot of spare time lately for me to focus on cooking.  But we still need to eat, albeit easily and affordably!

A long time ago, I signed us up for eMeals.  It's a subscription service that sends me a week worth of meals at a time, complete with recipes and a shopping list.  I hate thinking up what to cook, and having a bunch of food go to waste.  eMeals is perfect for me because they decide what we're going to eat (we're not picky, and if a recipe doesn't look good, I just skip it), and they also coordinate their recipes to make sure you use up ingredients.

I used to make their recipes most nights of the week, but I really haven't been able to spend time cooking lately.  Easy fix - I switched to their slow cooker recipes!  They are easy to prep and make a ton of servings, so I can spend 30 minutes prepping a dish one day, and we can eat it four times that week.  It's also saving us a ton of money because we're not getting expensive prepared freezer meals every night, and we're not eating out.  Seriously, says we're spending half what we usually do.

So if you're like me, and spend every evening scraping wallpaper in your basement, I suggest their Slow Cooker plan!  Or if you're trying to do Clean Eating, they have a great plan for that too.  I also like their Paleo, Vegetarian, and Mediterranean plans.  I switch up what we get every few months just for fun.

It's been fun to be challenged to try new things and new ingredients.  Before doing their Clean Eating plan, I never knew how much fresh lemons or herbs could improve a recipe!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Basement Remodel: Getting Started

We didn't like our finished basement when we bought our house.  The previous owners had used it as a master bedroom, and made some interesting choices.  They walled off 1/3 of the room for a walk-in closet, painted over the grasscloth wallpaper with baby blue paint, and installed eye-catching carpet tiles.

I generally wouldn't have problems with closets, blue paint, and carpet tiles (hey, you can pull up just one and wash it in the sink!), but these particular choices just weren't for us.  Besides all that, it was claustrophobic, cold, and dark (one sliding door and no overhead lights).

So we put our leftover furniture down there, stashed my boxes of books in the closet, and kind of forgot about the whole space.

But the basement wasn't happy being forgotten, and decided to garner our attention in new and astounding ways, namely in the form of LOTS of water coming in with every rainstorm.

At first, we tried to convince ourselves it was just this one bad storm, but it quickly became obvious that it was every storm, and it was more than just a drip.

Tommy decided to make a hole in the ceiling to investigate, and things got much scarier.  It turns out this leak had been going on for YEARS, even before we bought the house, and it had slowly eroded and rotted important structural elements of our house.

I got on Angie's List and lined up four reputable contractors to come take a look.  Some friends and neighbors also recommended their guys, and we ended up having seven different companies come to the house.

To properly fix our problem, the door, header above the door, band board above that, and several joists would need to be replaced, patched, or sistered.  Because they are integral to the house not collapsing, this would also involve building a temporary wall inside our house while the back wall is gone.  Oh how lovely!

They have yet to determine what, exactly, is causing the leak, but it's some combination of the mid-level sliding doors and the fact that there is no flashing on the deck.  So we grew the scope to include new sliders and a flashed deck.

But hey, since we're replacing the doors and have 30 year old aluminum siding (that the paint is wearing off of), why not also replace the siding?

And, since we're tearing out the back wall, maybe we should also add a window in the basement!

Better yet, why not tear out the entire ceiling (since 1/4 of it has to come out to fix the joists), install recessed lighting, and get rid of the ceiling texture too.

And finally, since it'll already be a huge mess, let's also remove the walk-in-closet, wallpaper, and flooring, and redo all that as well.

Can we say scope creep?

So the guys all came out, and we got 6 quotes (one never got back to us).  We picked our favorite, and negotiated the contract.  How did we negotiate?  Any work we managed to do before they arrived would be deducted from the total bill.  After seeing their estimates, we also decided to paint the room and do the flooring on our own.

And thus the project begins!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

How to Make an Infinity Scarf {Easy Tutorial}

Our house ate my scarves.  We boxed most of them up last spring, and now I can't find them anywhere!  I'd really been counting on cute scarves to make my maternity outfits fashionable, so it was time to get creative!

How to Make an Infinity Scarf |

It turns out that infinity scarves are SO EASY!  (sew easy?  har har)

All you need is half a yard of fabric.  I used 60" wide knit for both of mine.  I also made sure to use a stretch needle in my sewing machine.

How to Make an Infinity Scarf |

If you're working with stripes, cut any jaggedy edges off, and make sure the same color stripe is on each side (assuming you have wide stripes).

How to Make an Infinity Scarf |

For any other solids or non-stripe prints, just make sure the edges are relatively straight.

I also cut off the selvage on each end because it was wide and ugly on my fabrics.

Fold your fabric, right sides together, so that it's really long and only 1/4 yard wide.  Pin the long sides together to make sure one doesn't get ahead of the other one when you sew.

How to Make an Infinity Scarf |

Sew along the long edge with a deep 3/4" seam.  I don't trust knits not to ravel, which is why I take a deep seam.

Next, turn the tube right side out.

Here comes the tricky part...

Wrap your tube around your neck (or a hanger, or your dog) twice, and pin the ends together at that seam you just sewed.  When you remove it, it'll be a big loop with a twist in it.  This twist magically disappears when you loop the scarf twice around your neck, and makes the whole thing lay pretty.  This is optional, but I prefer the look.

Put the ends of the tube right side together, lining up the long seam.  Yes, this looks weird.  Put a pin in it.  A few inches away, continue to match right sides together, and pin some more.  Do this as much as you can, but there will probably be about 1/4 of the tube you won't be able to pin.  It's OK.

Sew a deep 3/4" seam along where you put all those pins, making sure to back stitch at the ends.

When you take it all out of the machine, you should see that most of your tube is sewed up pretty, with the raw edges on the inside of the scarf.

To close up the hole, fold the edges under, match them up, and stitch really close to the edge.  This finishes the scarf!  You could also hand-sew those final few inches.

How to Make an Infinity Scarf |

Ta da, you're done!

How to Make an Infinity Scarf |

How to Make an Infinity Scarf |

How to Make an Infinity Scarf |

My scarves cost about $3 each, since I only used half a yard of inexpensive fabric, and took less than 15 minutes each to make.  Fast, cheap, and easy - can't beat that.  Oh yeah, and cute!!!

You might also be interested in these posts:

Make a cover for your dress form
Failed t-shirt scarf