Multi-purpose Murphy

January 7, 2014

Here’s a long overdue post about a really fun project I worked on turning a seldom-used guest bedroom into a multi-function guest room/craft room/library space.

This project was especially fun because it was for my moms, at their beautiful Madison condo, an airy, spacious 2-bedroom plus den that has been perfect for them for the past several years, since becoming “empty-nesters.”

Over the years the den in the condo had become a fully functional office, a library for books and media, and a storage space for most (but not all) craft supplies in the house. When my mother’s artistic pastimes grew to include loom weaving and stained glass work, it became obvious that the den was not going to continue to work as the “catch-all” work spot in the house, and what made the most sense was for the generously sized guest room to become a more functional multi-purpose space.

What started off as some brainstorming around adding in some simple shelving, soon escalated to ideas about pulling up the carpet and re-evaluating the furniture, even bringing in the same local Amish craftsman who had built their kitchen cabinets for some custom storage solution. They asked me to help them design a full room plan for a workshop of sorts, which could easily transition into a comfortable, mess-free guest room when needed.

I suggested a murphy bed to maximize the space during the majority of it’s non-guest usage, with a drop down table that could be flanked by built-in shelving and cabinetry with doors to hide away supplies and projects-in-process.  A few hand-drawn sketches of my ideas (here’s one: Murphy bed wall design )turned into a wonderful collaboration, resulting in an absolutely beautiful, functional space that the moms love working in, and I love staying in when I come to visit!

Custom murphy wall unit (closed) with built-in desk.

Custom murphy wall unit (closed) with built-in desk.


De-clutter on a dime!

May 9, 2012

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get organized!

Ok, so yes, it would be wonderful if we could all afford to get beautiful, built-in closet systems and matching shoe storage boxes… But the simple truth is that you really don’t have to spend much, if anything, on getting yourself organized.

In fact, DON’T BUY ANYTHING AT ALL before you start your organizing projects. One of the biggest misconceptions is that you “need” to get more shelving, or you “need” storage boxes, or you “should” have a system in place to put things as you go…..

While it certainly may be helpful to have a bunch of empty boxes on hand to help you sort your belongings, you don’t need to buy them. Collect some empty paper ream boxes from the office and bring them home for the sorting part. Figure out what you have as your first step. You’ll probably surprise yourself with how much stuff you end up getting rid of, and don’t need to store afterall!

Organizing small spaces, like a jewelry drawer or a bathroom cabinet? Use kitchen mixing bowls or plastic food storage containers to help you sort your stuff into categories – and keep the garbage and recycling bins nearby – you’re going to need them. If you haven’t gone through your medicine cabinet in a while, you will find that half the stuff in there is probably expired.

Simply going through your belongings and figuring out what you have, what you are giving away, and what you are actually keeping is the first and most important step.

After you determine what you have and use, THEN you can figure out a plan for how to arrange, display or store it, and if you really need to buy anything to help you get it done.

You’ll save time and money!

Two kids in one room

March 23, 2012

I recently helped a mom of three organize a bedroom for two of her boys who had just moved in together to make room for their new baby brother to have his own nursery. Making a bedroom for one into a room for two can feel a little overwhelming – especially if you think the space is small to begin with.

This room was plenty big enough for the furniture that the family already had – a twin bed, a convertible crib, a large dresser for the boys to share, and a small bookshelf.

The furniture all fit inside the room perfectly – around the outer wall perimeters, but all of the nooks and crannies (drawers, shelves, and closet space) was either underutilized or overflowing.  So we made a few adjustments by categorizing like items together, putting often accessed toys and games at floor level for little hands to reach, and we found a place for everything – with room to grow!

The convertible crib that the family already owned had built-in storage – an added bonus! Because the pull out storage drawer is not accessible when the crib side is lowered, we put extra blankets and linens into it – things that aren’t frequently used. A dual-purpose piece of furniture like this is a great thing to consider when outfitting a kid’s room.

Search Results for "crib with storage drawer"

When we were cleaning out the closet, we found a collection of adorable small storage boxes that the family had received as a gift, tucked away in the back and forgotten about because no one felt sure about where or how to use them.  We creatively rearranged some books and displayed the storage boxes on the bottom of the book shelf so that the kids could use them to stash their favorite plush toys and knick knacks.

Kids' bookshelf

The boys love being able to pick out bedtime story books on their own!

Reuse – Refinish – Repurpose

March 14, 2012
Ayesha and I recently refinished and repurposed an old buffet for our friends  who just had a baby girl. Ayesha helped them come up with a design for the nursery that included the idea of a substantial piece of furniture, deep and tall enough to be used as a changing table now, with tons of storage, that can continue being used for years to come as a dresser, as the baby grows up.

We found a great, sturdy, solid wood piece at the Rebuilding Exchange – a Chicago nonprofit that sells donated materials from sustainable deconstruction projects, as well as furniture pieces from local artists and on consignment.

We sanded the old finish down and repainted the exterior with a semi-gloss super white so it would be easy to wipe clean – a MUST for a growing family.  Inside the drawers and cabinets is a colorful pop of deep raspberry – Ayesha’s brilliant idea!

We love how it turned out!

The great thing about repurposing a buffet, side-board or other non-traditional piece of furniture like this one, is the potential for storage possibilities. Not only does this piece have wonderfully long drawers of varying depths (perfect for putting tiny little baby clothes along with diapers, blankets and other essentials) it also has nice big open cabinets on the sides – perfect for baskets of toys, blankets or other large items.

Organized Kitchen

February 6, 2012

I worked with a client this weekend on an ongoing kitchen organization project – and I’m having a blast. I love organizing kitchens more than ever – now that I’m cooking more than ever in my own home and can truly appreciate how a well-organized kitchen can help with preparing meals, storing ingredients, cleaning up and all of the other living that happens in the heart of many homes.

Here are a few of my go-to tips when it comes to making sure your kitchen is well-organized:

  1. Rev-A-Shelf Spice Drawer Insert

    Keep necessities within reach of where you use them. Everyday items should be kept between waist and shoulder height – things used less often should go up high, and heavy items should go down low. It usually makes the most sense, for instance, to find a place near the stove either over or under a counter space for spices, oils, and vinegars. Storing everyday items like plates, bowls and glassware, close to the dishwasher makes unloading clean dishes quick and simple.

  2. Kraftmaid Deluxe Roll-out Tray

    Group like-items together. This makes things really easy to find. Keep all of your mixing and serving bowls together; all flatware and utensils near each other; baking dishes should be grouped; as well as pots and pans.  Do you have a number of small mobile appliances that you only use occasionally – like a blender, hand mixer or Panini press? Store those together in an area near where you might use them to make accessing, and putting away, as easy as possible. A roll-out drawer or tray – found at most most home supply stores and online – is easy to install and eliminates crouching down and digging around a lower cabinet space.

  3. Modular Storage Canister Set

    Clear containers are a pantry’s best friend. Basic mason jars are affordable, classic and easy to replace, and great for liquids and leftovers because they don’t absorb odors or colors like plastic sometimes does. There are also a number of companies that make tall, slim and stackable canisters that are great for limited dry goods storage and small spaces. No need for labels if you can see the contents, plus air-tight containers keep food fresher longer.

  4. If you don’t use it in the kitchen, don’t store it in the kitchen. Sounds logical, right? But how many people end up with a “junk drawer” full of pens, tape, tools, rubber bands, buttons, and other random items in the kitchen? We had a drawer like this in my house growing up. Try to relocate these items to their proper place in the house – or if you really need a catch-all collection place, use a cool basket with a lid or designate one drawer off to the side, and keep it sorted and organized with labeled plastic baggies or drawer dividers.

Packing up holiday cheer for a cheerier next year

January 17, 2012

Ok – it’s January 17th and I still haven’t put away my holiday decorations. I don’t want the holiday season to be over! I love twinkle lights and ornaments and wreaths. I love all of the silly holiday photo frames with family poses from years past, and homemade ornaments that prompt the telling of silly stories. I especially love all of the photo holiday cards from my friends and family that I have displayed around the house.

All good things must come to an end though, I suppose.  Here are some packing-up tips that will help make the season that much brighter next year when you bring out all the holiday cheer again:

1. Wind lights around a piece of cardboard to keep them from getting tangled, and make it easier than ever to re-hang them. HINT – use a piece of cardboard 12″ wide and for every time you wrap your lights around once, you’ll know how many total feet you have. You can write the length on the cardboard and take the guesswork out of next year’s lighting scheme ideas.

Curved ends keep lights from slipping off

2. See what’s tattered, broken or missing now, and hit the sales to re-stock! Many department stores have large holiday clearance sections throughout January with really quality items. Don’t be surprised that you’re one stocking short next year and have to shell out a small fortune, go hunt for a bargain now.

3. Love to try to save the prettiest gift wrap you received – only to never use it again? Wrap your delicate ornaments in tissue and gift wrap to keep them safe until next year. You can feel good about re-using while protecting your baubles and bits!

4. Change out holiday photos in seasonal frames now before packing them up, with some of your newest favorite moments from this year’s celebrations. That way you can concentrate all your energy on enjoying your friends and family and taking new photos!

Best family photo ever (till next year!)



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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