Behind door number one

September 3, 2011

When the summer heat occasionally chases me indoors into the A/C, I often get the organizing bug.

A while back, just such a thing happened to me, and I got the brilliant idea to tackle the “office” in my house, and try to make it more functional and inviting as a relaxing den by tucking all the office-y stuff out of sight – but not out of mind.

If you are able to have your home office in a bedroom with a closet, like I was fortunate to be able to do, make the most of that closet. I replaced the standard clothes-hanging bar with more functional shelving. You can do anything from a free-standing shelving unit to an installable, modular shelving system – which is what I recommend. That way, you can move the shelves around as your needs change depending on your office activities/hobbies/etc. I used some Closet Maid shelves to augment the closet layout, staggering the new shelves to accomodate all of my different sized boxes and bins.

When it comes to closet contents, forget about spending a lot of money on pretty containers or making everything look the same. No one sees it but you! I re-purposed a hodge-podge of empty file boxes and storage containers that I already had in the house. The key is to label everything with big, clear labels. I love the 3M or Postit varieties that remove cleanly, because I change out my projects often and re-label my containers.

An outlet immediately outside of the closet allowed me to tuck in the printer, and the 16″ depth was just enough for a lockable file cabinet – great for storing long-term paperwork and seldom-accessed documents (like IDs, passports, favorite momentos, etc.).

The set up is perfect for me – it’s not the type of space I would ever pull a chair up to and be able to work at – but that’s not what I need. I need a place to store things and occasionally access them. This does that for me. and I love that I had plenty of space to tuck my wrapping paper and gift bags/bows/ribbon/etc. (since I do gift wrapping in the den) AND, there is enough space to roll the vacuum cleaner in. Every little square inch of space is utilized without feeling overstuffed.

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Laundry room lovin’

December 30, 2010

One of the best decisions I ever made was to make sure that the second floor design of my new house incorporated the laundry units.  When I was growing up the laundry was in the basement and I never liked having to schlep my stuff up and down all those steps.

Of course, the dream I had of a new giant laundry room all decked out with deep countertops and cabinets galore, along with drying racks and sorting bins, was just that – a dream.  I was able, however, to carve out a nice sized closet, big enough to place my washer and dryer side-by-side, so that I could use the wall space above for one largish cabinet (for detergents, etc.) and a hanging clothes rod to air dry delicates.  Considering that all the bedrooms are on the same floor, I couldn’t have asked for better placement, and it’s working out great so far.

Electrical outlets were installed at waist height, just above the height of the machines.  Why so great? It’s the perfect place for me to be able to plug in the iron and/or steamer without having to climb behind my machines or use an extension cord.  I have a small “portable” ironing board which sits right on top of the washer (and hangs on the clothes rod when not in use), and I’m able to do my ironing on the spot, right as I pull items out of the dryer.

Here’s my newest, brightest idea: Keep a bin or box at hand in your laundry room for giveaway items that are still in decent condition but should not be making their way back into your closet. I placed a big plastic bin up above my upper storage cabinet, so I can just toss items up that no longer fit.  The bin is clear so I can see when it’s full.



Bridging the gap

September 5, 2010

I’ve been subjected to both mom and sister giving me crap for not updating my blog in for-ever. Guilty. I admit it. I have been so busy working on unpacking and organizing the house, that I  haven’t stopped to share the progress of this work. Yes, I am lame.

One of my favorite changes we recently finished is the bridge we built over the staircase on the second floor.  We wanted a new way to connect the top landing to the back of the house where the bedrooms and bathrooms are, and came up with what we feel is a great modern solution.

It used to be that you’d climb the stairs and come to a doorway on the immediate right (the entrance into a room), or you could take a couple of steps left onto a small, narrow, useless landing that didn’t go anywhere.

Before: View of old staircase going up with view to doorway at right; at top landing looking out at the “dead end”; view of the solid stair rail looking down to first floor.

Now, when you come to the top of the stairs, you can still turn right and go into a room (the office) OR you can turn left, walk a couple of steps onto a small narrow landing and then turn again, take a small step up onto a bridge that crosses over the staircase, and head to the back of the house to where the bedrooms and bathrooms are.

Here’s a look at the process and the finished product:

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(Don’t let the photos of Dottie lounging on the bridge fool you – it took her a while to get comfortable with it.  When the temporary plywood was first installed, she wouldn’t go over it.  We had to cover it with a sheet for about a week, slowing folding the sheet back until she would go over it.  When the glass was delivered, we had to play the sheet trick again – although it took less time for her to get used to crossing as we folded the sheet back a little more every day.  Now, when I get up with her in the mornings, she gets halfway across the bridge and then turns to look to make sure I’m following her across it.  If I’m not fast enough, she’ll lay across it, feigning boredom and annoyance at me for taking so long to go downstairs and take her outside.  It’s her stage now.  Too funny.)



Vaulted master

November 9, 2009

The Sunday foray to the house was VERY exciting.  Electrical conduit piping is routed around all the interior and exterior walls on both floors.  Can light boxes are in place in the ceilings on both floors.  HVAC duct work is going in to the basement and can be seen through the first few vent cut-outs on the first floor.  The floors are all patched up and no longer have any scary holes around the area where the chimney used to be. I could do cartwheels across the length of the living and dining room space now if I wanted to.  Or was able to. But I’m old and uncoordinated. So I won’t. Cause I can’t.

Most exciting is that the second floor, master bedroom feels dramatically different than it did earlier in the week.  The old exterior stairwell area that we’ve begun converting into living space has a completely new roof that, rather than being a flat adjunct as it used to be, is now an extension of our A-frame.  You can really see the difference from the outside:

Old flat roof

Old flat roof on the attached stairwell space


Newly built roof matches the existing roofline

Newly built section on the now-turned-living-space that matches the existing roofline


On the inside, the room feels wonderfully tall and airy.  The room is approximately 13’ x 15’ but it feels bigger now – it feels like a grand master.  Plus, with the skylight cutout, it’s light and bright, even towards dusk, which is when I was there.

Master skylight

View of the master bedroom skylight cutout


Master closet framing

Sunlight streaming in through the windows and skylight and bouncing off the framing of the master closet



Old framing OUT!

November 1, 2009

I went over to the Wednesday evening, but it was so dreary I didn’t get many good photos that accurately reflect the enormity of changes.  When I entered the house I saw that all the old framing had been torn out – the first and second floors were completely OPEN.

Wednesday views of first floor:


So many studs, so little time

October 10, 2009

So, yeah, demo has begun – and how.  I stopped over this morning and saw by light of day what I could only guess at in the dark on Thursday night.  The gut is in process.


The new old house

October 4, 2009

I rented out my lovely little condo earlier this year and moved in with my partner. She and I cohabitated peacefully through the spring and summer until we were enticed back into the real estate game – sooner we than expected.  

A cute little bungalow in our neighborhood came onto the market, and although the place needed way more work than we were willing (or could afford) to put into it, we were curious to look around at other homes in the area also for sale.  With the current economic climate as it is, we realized that in the neighborhood we thought we’d never be able to buy in, we could actually find a fixer-upper in a reasonable price range.  

It didn’t take us long to find a diamond in the rough: a great little dump in a wonderful neighborhood. On a quiet residential street, near a big park, the 1908 home was split into a bi-level apartment building some 30 years ago or so. It doesn’t look like much from outside; the dilapidated siding is chipping, the windows are old, small and caked with dirt and the front and back yards are overgrown.  The house is narrow and short (20’ x 40’) with only a few feet on each side separating it from the neighboring properties.  

Front View

Front View


When you walk in, however, tall ceilings, bright rooms and a beautiful grand craftsman staircase greet you. Despite having been split into two apartments with a bunch of small rooms on each floor, the place has charm and significant potential.  

Try to see past the mismatched old wood, linoleum, odd layout, nasty old bathrooms, minimal kitchens, and dumpy back staircase.  Our hope is that we can open up the space, replace the windows, put up new siding, re-do the floors and turn this early twentieth century A-frame into a twenty-first century modern masterpiece.  

We have been working with a general contractor and an architect to come up with a new layout and plan for renovating the house.  I think we’re getting close to having some concrete plans, which I’ll share in future posts.  

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“Before” photos by A. J. Hassan  


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