A Little Upgrade: Easy DIY Valance

Last year I bought those super cheap ($5) plastic blinds at the home store. I was planning to turn them into roman shades for one of the front rooms. My goal was adding a privacy option for that window when needed. Since that need was not very often, budget for doing this was super slender. Mostly, those windows remain uncovered. Their glazing allows privacy during the day and that room just doesn’t get a lot of night use.

Yet once the shades were up, I really liked the way they worked to promote privacy yet still allow light in. Roman shades would completely block the light out. In an already dark room, that wasn’t going to work.

Janky looking cheap blinds on the picture window. Sorry it's so dark but this is the room with the lights on!
Janky looking cheap blinds on the picture window. Sorry it’s so dark but this is the room with the lights on! And flash.

If the blinds were to stay, a valance was needed. Because of the low ceilings in this house, I wanted something that wouldn’t add much weight or darkness, something that would disappear yet, when you actually noticed it, would look clean and a little luxurious.

When I got the blinds last year I also scored some nice upholstery fabric for $3 a yard from the Home Fabrics moving sale. The lightest part of the weave matches the “Wyndham Cream” of the walls. Originally meant for the roman shades, this would do nicely for the valance.

2016-02-14 19.24.26

DIY Network had a good article on building a cornice and the unfussy directions seemed right for this project. Plus I seemed to have much of what I’d need on hand. My major variations from their plan were that I used 1×8″ wood instead of 1×6″ and that I didn’t bother with batting or adhesive spray. Overall, a really good, helpful article with great pictures. I did wish they’d put in instructions for folding the fabric around the frame. Yet that said, my advice for doing the same is pretty much “try a bunch of stuff and do whatever works!”

The end result was a simple, clean valance. Unfussy and successful in hiding the cheapo blinds at rest. It adds just the right touch of luxury and simplifies the look of the windows.

The project is pretty easy, taking about a half day. For me, figuring out how to attractively fold the fabric was harder than making the box. And I did screw it up, though not enough to completely redo it.

Here’s the project:

  1. Gather supplies. In my case:
    • 4″ L brackets (ideally in packet with screws, usually about $4 for a packet of four if you’re buying new)
    • 2 1×8″ pine boards, 8′ long, usually about $6.50 a piece if buying new or $2 at the local ReSale store. These can be other types of boards, as long as they are straight so be sure to raid your existing lumber pile first. The boards are getting covered up so condition doesn’t matter too much. For the length of my window, I needed two eight footers but a smaller window would need less.
    • Wood screws, (1.5″ for mounting the brackets to studs, 1/2″ for screwing brackets to top of valance, and 1″ for joining the wood pieces. I used both traditional screws and Kreg pocket jig ones. Because I love them.)
    • Wood glue
    • Staples
    • Fabric, several feet longer than length of valance. Mine cost about $9 because I went for a whole three yards even though eight feet would have been enough.
    • Scotchguard or waterproof spray (optional)
    • Batting and spray adhesive, if you want it padded, which I didn’t (optional)
    • Equipment I used:
      • Circular saw
      • Measuring tape
      • Measuring square
      • Pencil
      • Stapler
      • Scissors
      • Drill and drill bits
      • Screwdriver and bits
      • Level
  2. Mount two L brackets on the studs by the window using wood screws. Choose location by width of wood and what you want hidden. I wanted the front panel to cover the blinds when up, yet not block any light. The blinds were outside mounted so valance needed to extend beyond the blinds. Check to make sure your brackets are level.

    I know putting up the brackets first might seem odd but I had my reasons. The main one was I wanted to decide whether an 8" or 6" facing board would provide the right amount of coverage.
    I know putting up the brackets first might seem odd but I had my reasons. The main one was I wanted to decide whether an 8″ or 6″ facing board would provide the right amount of coverage.
  3. Next find two 6″ or 8″ wide boards in the lumber pile or at the store. Purchased new, these are about $6.50 each. They do need to be straight, free of any major bowing but they can be otherwise ugly, since they’ll be covered. They don’t actually have to be the same width, as long as you’re getting the effect you want on the front panel of the valance. So if I didn’t need the valance to protrude so far, I could have gotten away with a narrower top board (6″).
  4. Measure window and cut boards 4″ wider than window frame. Mine measured 73″ so I cut the boards 4″ bigger, at 77″.
  5. Drill pocket holes in the facing board to mount it onto the top of the box.
    This is what the Kreg jig looks like.
    This is what the Kreg jig looks like.

    This is what the screw holes look like once you've drilled them.
    This is what the screw holes look like once you’ve drilled them.
  6. Spread glue on board.

    Since these boards would be covered and not stained, it seemed fine to be a bit generous with the wood glue.
    Since these boards would be covered and not stained, it seemed fine to be a bit generous with the wood glue.
  7. Screw top and front boards together.2016-02-14 14.15.29
  8. Cut valance side pieces from leftover scrap of 8″ (or 6″) wood.  Measure just big enough to close the valance box. This piece will be flush to the wall.
    Here I'm measuring the width needed for the sides of the valance box. It's better to use the actual build than mess with measurements.
    Here I’m measuring the width needed for the sides of the valance box. It’s better to use the actual build than mess with measurements.

    When isn't cutting pieces of fresh wood fun?
    When isn’t cutting pieces of fresh wood fun?
  9. Drill pocket holes to screw side pieces to top and front of valance.

    Secure the side to the top and front of the valance.
    Secure the side to the top and front of the valance.
  10. Glue and screw again.
  11. Check it all to make sure it’s square.
  12. Allow wood glue in valance to dry fully. For me, this didn’t mean waiting a full 24 hours for the glue to set the way the bottle says. This valance isn’t going to be moved or bear weight once it’s mounted so basically, you just need the glue to be dry so it doesn’t mess up your fabric wherever it might have seeped out.
  13. Now attach fabric to the valance with your staple gun. Keep in mind all of the points below BEFORE you start stapling:
    • Before you fix fabric in place, test it out and make sure that all the visible bits look the way you want. This takes experimenting based on your frame, fabric and the look you’re going for. I folded my wide (54″) upholstery fabric over lengthwise for a tiny bit of softness. If you’re using batting to pad the valance, you want to test your folds over that the padded valance.

      Here's me messing around with draping the fabric. An inelegant process . . .
      Here’s me messing around with draping the fabric. An inelegant process . . .
    • Pull fabric taut on all visible arts. If you have to compromise, make sure the most visible parts are the most taut.
    • If folds will be visible, make them on the sides, avoid the front, which should be smooth.
    • Here is where you could also add padding (from batting) and use adhesive spray instead of — or in addition to — staples. I didn’t do either, just doubled my fabric over and stapled it. The DIY Network tutorial shows this process.
    • Plan that fabric will cover the inside of the valance box as well as the outside. The goal is to have it look finished if you actually happen to look up inside the valance, though most of the time, no one in the world will do this (and also, if you’re mounting drapes under the valance, it will be hard to see).
    • Once you’re sure all the outside bits are well covered and the inside looks okay, carefully cut away extra fabric inside the folds to reduce the bulk.
    • Staples should be all on the inside of the valance frame, where they will not be seen. I was A BIT CASUAL about my stapling, forgetting that you’d be able to see inside the valance at close inspection. So I ended up with a few visible staples.

      Up close you can see the staples if you peer inside the valance. I've decided not to redo it but I would be more careful next time.
      Up close you can see the staples if you peer inside the valance. I’ve decided not to redo it but I would be more careful next time.
  14. Optional: spray fabric with Scotchguard or waterproofing spray.  I did two coats, just to make dusting / cleaning the valance easier.  I figure the coating will make it more difficult for dust and dander to embed themselves. If you’re not sure how your fabric will react to waterproofing, always test it first.
  15. Place the valance on top of the L brackets and center. Next, secure it by screwing the 1/2″ screws into the holes on top of the L bracket.
  16. Take a picture of your valance and send it to me.
    Here's the valance mounted. Again, sorry it's so dark! This photo is in daylight, with lights turned on and the flash going. And yes, that is the best giant squid in the world in the corner.
    Here’s the valance mounted. Again, sorry it’s so dark! This photo is in daylight, with lights turned on and the flash going. And yes, that is the best giant squid in the world in the corner.

    Another dark shot - sorry! But it kind of shows how the valance creates a more finished look over the cheap blinds.
    Another dark shot – sorry! But it kind of shows how the valance creates a more finished look over the cheap blinds. And that you can’t really see the inside staples unless you’re one of those people looking for problems. (If that’s you, my house won’t disappoint!)

So that’s it. It’s not the most exciting fabric covered valance I’ve seen but it does just what I hoped. Now the window looks finished and intentional without pointlessly clamoring to be the center of attention. Because obviously, the giant squid has that locked down.

Janky looking cheap blinds on the picture window. Sorry it's so dark but this is the room with the lights on!

Here's the valance mounted. Again, sorry it's so dark! This photo is in daylight, with lights turned on and the flash going. And yes, that is the best giant squid in the world in the corner.
Again, here’s the before and after . . . just a subtle bit of luxe.

Have you made a valance from scratch? Would you do it again?

 

Blue? Green? Something Else?

So the slate blue chalk paint on the dining chairs just wasn’t working.  First I thought it was the brown fabric on the seats that wasn’t right. It was pretty but somehow, the beauty you could see when you really looked at it wasn’t coming out. And the slate blue in the design wasn’t coming out despite the chairs being that same blue. Humph.

Here's the slate blue version of the chairs. Hoped it would bring out the blue embroidery but . . .
Here’s the slate blue version of the chairs. Hoped it would bring out the blue embroidery but . . .
2015-05-23 12.36.43
. . . only the cat liked it.

 

Next step: I hacked up a favorite sarong and slapped that over it the brown. I love this sarong, so much that I almost made it into an ottoman cover. (Impractical, too much pet hair against the black. Somehow the Mints aren’t drawn to the dining chairs.)2015-05-23 13.00.16

It looked better – and I do love blue and black together – yet still not great. Time to try painting the chairs over.

Happily, Internet wisdom is if you waxed your chalk paint, you can repaint if the wax fully cured. Roughly, that means if the wax has been there three months, it’s no big deal. I sanded lightly anyway before starting.

The new fabric has a streak of . . . midnight? blue running through it so, hoping to bring that out and make the chairs fun, I took a strip of fabric to the paint store and got a sample to match. And this is the result:

2015-08-17 09.12.47

In some lights, it looks great and fun. In others, maybe a little too quirky. Also, I’m not sure anything will bring out that blue in the fabric. Is this too bright?

Shooting for more contrast, I decided to open up the paint options to green. Maybe it’s time to let go of my dream of blue chairs. So I mixed up some chalk paint with some leftover martini olive. The fabric does have several shades of green so even though it’s not an exact match . . .2015-08-17 09.14.36

Now I’m torn. This could go a couple ways.

1) All green. There’s something really nice about the all green. And the thing about having the chairs the same color is that there’s a serenity to the dining room that I want. The goal is to have a sort of pretty quiet little surprise in the dining area, a little fun. But I don’t want them to demand attention.

2) All blue. I’m leaning away from this one. Somehow it’s just not working, even though I was so careful about the match. Am I wrong? Is it me? Or does this blue demand too much attention?

3) Four colors? I could do the dark pink and a deeper green, black or white on the other two chairs so nothing is too matchy. But then, when I ruin the fabric as I — or the Mints — inevitably will, it will be hard to find a replacement that works with all four colors. Also, there’s the demand attention issue.

4) Two and two? Three and one? The question then is, are the blue and green to jarring against each other? Again with the demanding of attention?

What do you think? Now that I’m happy with the fabric, where should I go with the color issue?

2015-08-17 09.15.28

 

Look Out For Loons! Router-free Thrifty Frame!

At a yard sale recently I picked up this vintage plastic sign. A fan of yellow and red together, I thought it could brighten my basement study. Plus remind me and the Mints to look out for loons.

Plastic yard sale sign, salvaged from a program in Maine sometime in the past.
Plastic yard sale sign, salvaged from a program in Maine sometime in the past.

Ana White has a post called “Build a Barnwood Frame – $1 and 10 Minutes” that had caught my eye.  I was excited about it because while I’ve always wanted to try my hand at making a frame, I don’t have a router, which every other frame plan seems to call for. Though I was pretty sure it would cost me more than a buck and ten minutes, it seemed perfect for this. As usual, the plans were helpful and easy though it took me more than 10 minutes. For details, be sure to check  the Ana White website.

I’d already splashed out a $1.50 for the picture, so I was happy to find scrap 1×2 pieces in the lumber pile that would work for this. No pieces were long enough to frame the whole picture so I’d need to trim it to keep it cheap. I also already had leftover paint, nails and staples.

Once I figured out how much lumber I had — and how big the frame could be, it was time to start doing the miter cuts. I’m prone to errors so that meant measure thrice and do the big pieces first. The biggest pieces will be the outer frame so account for that in cutting.

Next I laid out the pieces against the picture to make sure they’d fit.

After I cut each piece, I laid it on top of the picture, pre-trimming, to make sure it would work.
After I cut each piece, I laid it on top of the picture, pre-trimming, to make sure it would work.
OK! Four sides done.

Next it was time to whip out that brad nailer and wood glue. Once the corners were clampled together, it was time to pop in the brads. Either my skills are getting better or I was lucky because this time, I only had to extract a couple of misfired nails!Clamping

Wood filler was next, to smooth out all those awkward gaps. My frame was going to be painted so I felt free to enthusiastically ladle it on.

Wood filler making the gaps disappear.
Wood filler making the gaps disappear!

Once it was dry, I sanded it well so it would be smooth for painting. It’s important to do this step now because once it’s joined to the outer frame, it’s hard to get to the very edges.

Now it was time to build the outer frame. This baby lines up perpendicular to the inner frame so it was a similar process, with the wood flipped onto its sides instead of laying it flat. Again, the Ana White plans have the details on getting it done.

Next it was time to build the outer frame.
Next it was time to build the outer frame.

Before cutting, it’s important to measure a couple of times and size it against the inner frame as you go. The two frames fitted together will look like the pic below. Remember that the outer frame is going to be about 1.5″ bigger than the inside frame.

Inner frame fit into the outer one.
Inner frame fit into the outer one.

When you join them, the inner frame needs to be a little inset — perhaps a fourth or half inch — so there’s a little lip. You don’t want it set too far in — for example, flush to the back — because you need room to mount the picture inside. Remember, there’s no router in this project so the outside/inside frame approach is how you get the inset you’d normally create with a router.

Note: my project didn’t call for glass inside the frame but you could use this approach to do it.

Attached framesOnce they’re joined, there’s more wood filler and sanding in your future. Because it was getting painted, I was an enthusiastic user of my random orbital sander.

Here's what it looks like pre-paint.
Here’s what it looks like pre-paint.
And now with paint.
And now with paint.

Gotta love paint. Keeps the rustic look and hides all the ugly. Once painted, I sprayed the frame with some Varathane. It wouldn’t change the rustic look too much and would make it a lot easier to dust . . .

Attach picture to frame.
Attach picture to frame.

I taped the top of the picture in and then just stapled it to the inner frame. I put dishcloth covered blocks under the inner frame before stapling — didn’t want the pressure of the staple gun to dislodge the inner frame (the dishcloths were for padding so it wouldn’t mark the painted frame).

Once that looked good, I FINALLY cut the bottom of the plastic picture off and stapled that in too.

Done!
Done! And if you look closely at the bottom right, you can see one of my misfire gouges. Good thing we’re calling this look “rustic.”

And now here it is in situ.

In situ. And an important warning when you come down the stairs. You never know where loons will lurk.
In situ. And an important warning when you come down the stairs. You never know where loons will lurk.

Plastic yard sale loon sign, salvaged from somewhere in Maine.

What about you? Have you tried making a frame before? Successes? Failures? Other ideas or plans for a router-free frame? Next I’m going to try this one with a fabric picture . . .

Egg Knobs

The Minnipin house had been a rental before it went up for sale. Only two probably-original door knobs were still here. One, a pretty glass one-way knob on the linen closet, the other a character-filled iron looking affair on the old, original door to the basement storage room. What was here was a range of brass, bronze and silver doorknobs, all keyed, probably for renter security.

The door knobs needed replacing, if not for aesthetics, for safety. Keys to all these doors hadn’t come with the house. I dreaded the moment I’d lock myself out of a room, or when a young child might lock itself in. I needed privacy knobs, but keyless ones.

Pretty glass knobs with privacy features were out of budget. Poking around for something actually appealing, I stumbled across egg shaped knobs on several home store sites. The more I read about them, the cooler they seemed. Turns out that egg shape is easier to turn than the standard round knob. I liked their old European vibe and the look. Egg it was going to be.

I settled on Schlage’s Siena Privacy Knobs in satin nickle (no fingerprints).

Install was easy, even for a first time door knob installer like me. The hardest part was working around all the dings and previous installs this almost 70 year-old house had endured. The second hardest part was patience. At around $24, I couldn’t do all the doors at once. So the upgrade was a one-a-month sort of thing. Both Amazon and Lowes were my sources, depending on prices at the time I bought each one.

Two years later, I’m loving these knobs. The inevitable lock out has happened a couple of times, easily solved with the pin release that comes with the set. They’re easy to use and keep clean. Part of me still wishes I had those pretty glass knobs from the fantasy upgrade. The eggs so clearly aren’t original to the house. But they work. They feel clean. They add a little pleasant interest.

Also, they made it easy to decide on little egg knobs for the kitchen cabinets. These cabinets might be original to the house. They seem like they were made in a time when people got excited about machine finishes and what a router and a jigsaw could do. Solid, if not super space efficient, they’re still going strong. Hole free, it was obvious that the cabinets had never had knobs or pulls.

For the kitchen, I settled on York Satin Nickel Cabinet Knobs. This was also part of my Interim Kitchen project. I wasn’t sure they were strictly necessary — the Minnipin house had been without all these years. Why now?

Hmm. Well, the first reason was function, ease of door opening. And a second was just that twitch to do something to make these cabinets a little fresher, since replacement wasn’t an option.

So, so glad I did the project! The nickel adds a little gleam to the kitchen overall, somehow making it look more ordered. Those slow moving drawers are much easier to handle now. Cleaning is simpler too, partly because the cabinet edges stay cleaner and the knobs are freshened with a quick swipe.

These pulls have been great. So great I used the extras from the kitchen project to replace a couple folding closet door pulls, and even for the basement storage unit.

Yay! Overstock was my source for the pulls, which are sold in handy packs of 25. Average cost is $2.50 per.

No one has paid me to say any of this. I’m just loving my crazy little egg knobs.

 

 

 

 

 

$10 Lighting Scores

I’ve decided to make this a Thing, a Thrifting Thing. So this will be an ongoing post.

Background: I’m determined to replace the builder grade nipple lights that the rehabbers stuck into this 1947 cottage. I love getting a good deal, appreciate a little sparkle, and think great lighting is necessary. Can the cottage be brightened and lightened with seriously cheap thrifted lights?

Builder grade nipple light installed all over the cottage. Craftsman look wrong for low ceilings and cottage style home
Builder grade nipple light installed all over the cottage. Craftsman look wrong for low ceilings and cottage style home

I hope so. Now the hunt is on to do exactly that. $10 for light fixtures seems like a good, reach number. Not easy, but with luck and persistence, doable.

Two main challenges:

  • Slim wallet
  • Flush mount is just about all that works. This Minnipin house has low (about 7.5′) ceilings. Anything that goes up can’t be too big.

Score one: pretty guest bedroom crystal chandelier, $10, ReStore

$10!!!
$10!!!
ReStore Chandelier installed
ReStore Chandelier installed. Lit, it shoots daggers of light all over the small room.
Here are the cool spikes the guest room chandelier throws off at nightl
Here are the cool spikes the guest room chandelier throws off at night.

2015-06-05 22.11.00

Score two: Vintage welcoming pineapple-look light for front entryway, $10, plant and moving sale. Just short enough for the door to clear it. Just.

Here's the moving sale light!
Here’s the moving sale light!
All lit up! Bright and swirly.
All lit up! Bright and swirly.

Score three: Outdoor wrought-iron chandelier, $10, garage sale. $2 for hanging links. So this one went over budget if you count the chain needed to hang it from the branch. While I don’t use candles on it to light the table too often (it gets dark late here), I love the sense of presence it gives the dining area. Also, it sort of bounces with the branch in a high wind. In everyday life, now I get to see my beloved little quartz eggs whenever I go outside.

Wrought iron outdoor chandelier. When not in actual use, I leave quartz eggs in the spot for the candles. Because it looks funny to me.
Wrought iron outdoor chandelier. When not in actual lit candle use, I leave quartz eggs in the spots where the candles go. For no good reason.
Even without candles lit, I like the presence the chandelier gives the table.
Even without candles lit, I think the chandelier adds to a feeling of an outdoor room.

Stay tuned for more thrifty lighting finds . . .

 

Chalk Painted Electric Fireplace

My basement always runs 10 degrees cooler than the main floor of the house. Nice in the summer. Less so in the depths of winter. The bunker needed something to warm it up, both for a little localized actual heat and for the welcoming feeling a flicker of flame can provide.

On the someday list is adding a gas fireplace. For now, an electric fireplace or just a space heater would be the only options. I preferred a fireplace for safety and aesthetic reasons. The trouble was, I just could not bring myself to open my wallet to drop $300-$500 on the kind of unit that would look good and warm up that space. And they were mostly unappealing to me, with that faux wood/veneer look they all seem to have.

You know where this is going! It was time to lurk around Craigslist and see what could be found. It turns out that Summer is a good time to shop for this sort of thing in the classifieds. Without too much looking, I found one in good condition last summer.

Still, not a look I loved. But at the el cheapo Craigslist price, painting didn’t feel like an affront. Regular paint wouldn’t work over that hard poly finish most electric fireplaces have. But chalk paint, with its superior adhesion, could fix all that.

Roanoke 23 in. Convertible LED Electric Fireplace - Oak

I used the great recipes from In My Own Style to get the job done.

So here it is. In the winter or when there are overnight guests, it adds some nice, quick warmth to the basement. The electric flame is janky but cheerful. I even kind of love it, which is not something I ever thought I’d say about a fake fireplace.

Chalk painted fireplace. Sealed with Miniwax Finishing Paste.
Chalk painted fireplace. Sealed with Miniwax Finishing Paste.

Now I just have to decide whether to turn my parent’s brass candlesticks into lamps . . .

What about you? Have you refreshed an electric fireplace unit? How did it work out?

Basement Color Choices

The bunker basement needed a warm palette. And also a light palette. It had been painted one of those moldy tans, under the mistaken impression that all earth tones are warm, maybe. Or perhaps it was remainder paint. I dunno. The rehabbers did it to make the old rental/fixer look clean.

Some things couldn’t be immediately changed about basement, including the fact that it was a 7′ ceiling and so naturally inclining to the dark side. Also, the serviceable new tan carpet the rehabbers put in right before I bought the house was going to stay.

Other things could, including the removal of a wall, to create a family room / home office space.

I’ve always been drawn to pale yellow and red, maybe because of pretty apples, maybe because of how well it’s used in some Asian decor. It’s just pretty.

Image result for red yellow apple images

Hmm, noticing here that my favorite images aren’t exactly basement rooms.

Anyway, that’s what I decided on. It would work well with white trim, add warmth, and not darken or drag down the space. Pale yellow walls, white painted trim, red accents. None of this would fight too much with the neutral carpet. Also, I thought that the use of red in both the basement and the basement stairwell would offer a nice transition.

Since my first big change would be the built-in, I painted it white and used fabric in red and white for the back-of-the-bookcase part.

Finished bookcase.
Finished bookcase, white painted wood, red and white fabric “wallpaper.”

 

So, that’s where we’re going with all this. More photos and updates to come.

 

 

 

 

DIY Basement Wall Storage Unit

Once I’d got a bedroom wall removed as part of my basement upgrade, it was time to think about improving function. I wanted storage, a place for my books, and for all that to be out of the way. Time for a basement built-in!

Relying heavily on this article about built-in bookcases from the Instructables, I mapped out the plan.

The spot I chose for the the built in was the far wall of the basement. Adjacent to that wall was a closet, with doors that started about 15 inches from the wall. It also extended to a window, which started about 20 inches from the wall, so it was a sort of narrow strip.

The built in would go against the far wall.
The built in would go against the far wall.

It seemed destined for a built-in. 15 inches is not a lot of space but not blocking the closet was essential. So it was basically going to be wasted space unless a built-in could go there. The built-in would also be drawing space from the long side of the room, far better than cutting into the narrow part.

Originally I thought about simple floor to ceiling bookcases. These would have been the most inexpensive option. Yet, I live with cats. Though mostly well-behaved, we have the occasionally rage moment. So the base of whatever storage I implemented needed to be closed, protecting whatever was inside from possible bad behavior.

I did consider building my own base units. As part of the Interim Kitchen project, I’d built an appliance cabinet from scratch (article coming soon!). A great experience, it came with some lessons.

First was cost. It’s just not always cheaper to build than buy, especially when your aesthetic is simple and clean. And your budget is cheap. Another lesson was about time investment. Building a cabinet is fun, but requires care and some precision. I wanted to get this unit built quickly, so I could unpack my books and just get organized.

Palette-wise, I was going for light and bright to lighten the basement. Cabinets would be a conventional white (Kelly-Moore Country Cotton). It would work instantly with the yellow-red colors I planned for the basement, and in the future if I changed up the color scheme. So painted white wood seemed right.

For the base cabinets, I settled on four of these upper cabinets from Home Depot. Though you can get already-white stock cabinets, they seemed to shiny and laminate like to me. I wanted the white of painted wood in exactly the white I was using in the rest of the house. These cabinets would be 12″ deep, 30″ tall and 30″ wide. These seem to go on sale every now and then so if you’re diving into a project like this one, start lurking around for that 20% off sale.

30x30x12 in. Wall Cabinet in Unfinished Oak

I laid out the cabinets with a frame made of 2×4 against the wall and cut away the carpet in that spot. Score! That carpet was used to patch the carpet from the wall removal part of this project.  Since these are usually wall cabinets, there’s no clearance between the bottom of the cabinet and the floor. The 2×4 frame gives the cabinets that clearance, plus a little height, stability, and level consistency. I painted the cabinets first outside and then got the bases installed.

Base cabinets installed.
Base cabinets installed.

Next it was time to do a top counter. Functioning as the bookcase base, it needed to be wider than the 12″ cabinet depth, but smaller than the 15″ allowance wall-to-closet clearance. This was easily accomplished by asking the home store guys to cut the panels to the right width, and finishing it with a nicely sanded 1×2.

Base to ceiling bookcase supports to go up but before that, I wanted to do something interesting for the the wall behind the bookcases. Wallpaper seemed like too much work and commitment. Armed with my with fabric, liquid starch and a roller, I got started. For the details on my fabric-as-wallpaper, go here.

Ten minutes later (literally), it looked like this:

Cabinet top/bookcase base.

For once I was kind of excited by these low ceilings because my 54″ fabric panel installed without cutting or piecing.

Next it was time to put up the rails / sides of the bookcases. In my ideal world, they’d go floor to ceiling and line up with the cabinets. Here’s a summary of the basic steps:

  • Cut the boards to measure.
  • Paint them.
  • Drill holes inside the bookshelf sides. Use a pegboard for very easy spacing. These holes are going to be where you insert shelf spacers so make the hole size right for your pegs.
  • Drill pocket hole screw spots at top and bottom of each side.
  • Mount top of shelf to two sides using pocket hole screws. Check to be sure it’s square.
  • Mount 3/4 box onto top of shelf base using pocket hole screws.

First bookcase rail in!

  • Next it was time to install the additional side. It’s essentially like the first box, only this time it’s an L and not a U since two sides of the box are already in.
    Another side in, eyeballing the placement of the other sides.
    Another side in, eyeballing the placement of the other sides.

     

  • Once all the sides are in, it’s time to cut, paint and insert shelves.
Time to test an actual shelf.
Time to test an actual shelf. Not the un-built area to the left? That’s because there are some utility panels that I couldn’t cover up.
Finished bookcase.
Finished bookcase.

2014-04-26 22.41.48

And here it is, finally! Tons of storage.

Doing it again, I wouldn’t do the project exactly as I did this time. Here are some lessons learned:

  1. Kinda wished I’d been even cheaper and looked at the ReStore for upper cabinets to use. I only needed 12 feet of upper cabinets to get this going. As used cabinets, uppers are often great condition and would have reduced project cost significantly.
  2. Check all the cabinets at the store. Or as soon as you get home. One of the cabinets has a gap between the doors that just bugs me. It’s small, and I couldn’t see it when I pulled the unit, which was packaged. Didn’t notice it until I was ready to install all the units and unwrapped it then. Urg. At that point, I was in GET IT DONE mode and just didn’t want to go back to the store. Now it’s there forever and will always bug me a little, even if no one else notices it.
  3. Have the patience to redo it. I messed up a little on the trim of the cabinet topper. This is another thing that only I seem to notice. Wish I’d had the patience at the time to rip it all apart and do it again, properly.
  4. Make thicker shelves: I cheaped out and used 1/2″ shelf plywood. I wish I’d gone with a thicker shelf, and a better, smoother grade of plywood. It would cost more, but I’d like it better. For now, I’m okay with my thin plywood shelves, even if they’re bowing a little.
  5. Maybe upgrade the quality overall. I was thinking basement/second-best materials for this basement storage unit. Sometimes I wish I’d gone for slightly higher quality in my materials. Other times it seems just right to me. Always I am so glad I had the chance to learn on this project.

What do you think? Have you made a built in? What would you do differently? For more on how the whole basement upgrade is going, check here.

 

Basement Upgrade: Family Room & Study

I think of my basement as “The Bunker,” maybe because this house was built in 1947, and I imagined the first owners thinking they’d use it to hide out from the A-bomb. I used that to infuse it with a more useful floor plan and a warmer vibe.

But before it got there, that basement needed help. Dark and depressing, with boxed up spaces, I needed it to evolve into a useful, inviting space that could also handle overflow guests. This meant multiple, incremental projects which are listed below. Please stay tuned as more below segments go live.

An Inviting Basement Stairwell

Lightening Up the Basement: Wall Removal

Color Choices

DIY Built-In Storage Cabinet

Fabric Wallpaper

Chalk Painted Electric Fireplace

Storage Daybed in the Study

Thrifted High End Blind

Tour

Have you upgraded a basement? Triumphs and disasters? Please tell all.

 

Fabric Wallpaper on Basement Storage Unit

This is a segment in my series on my basement upgrade.

I wanted the behind-the-books part of my DIY storage unit to pop and be pretty. Wallpaper seemed like too much work and commitment so I poked around online for fabric-as-wallpaper articles. These three great articles took the mystery out of the project:

Armed with my $5 per yard red and white fabric from Home Fabrics (discount upholstry & drapery fabric) store, liquid starch and a paint roller, I got started.

Now, my technique wasn’t the best practices described in these articles. Here’s what I did:

  • Painted the wall in liquid starch with a little roller.
  • Placed the fabric on the wall (didn’t put starch on the back of it. Too unweildly, too much cat hair to fight).
  • Put a few staples in the top to be extra sure it would stay in place. (The staples aren’t generally required and wouldn’t normally be pretty. I felt okay about adding them because I knew they’d be covered by the shelving.)
  • Rolled over the fabric with starch to seal it to the wall.
  • Waited for it all to dry and then tested it to see if would really peel off THAT EASILY. And . . . it did! And pasted back down just as easily with the application of a little more liquid starch.

It all worked just fine and went super fast (like maybe 10 minutes). And here’s how it looked:

Cabinet top/bookcase base, fabric wallpaper up.
Cabinet top/bookcase base, fabric wallpaper up.
Finished bookcase.
Finished bookcase.

 

Have you used fabric for wallpaper? Love or hate it?

Bounce over to these links for more on: