Category Archives: Home Improvement
Before you dive into actually building your bookcase, your first step should be to nail down your design inspiration. Remember that the structure itself doesn’t have to be complicated. The plan just needs to be well-thought-out and the design properly constructed.
In addition to seeking out what style of a bookshelf you want to create, you should also consider its size and location. The instructions below will give you a better idea of what you need to build a bookcase and how to go about completing this DIY project successfully.
Overview & Materials
The purpose of your bookcase is important in determining the design of your project. In most cases, homeowners are looking to store books and materials, fill an empty space or add dimension and character to a room.
In this article, I’m going to outline plans for creating a pine bookshelf with open sides, inspired by the Pottery Barn Hendrix Bookcase. I want to make it clear that this is one of many bookcase design options. I’ll be showing you images of additional ideas throughout the article so you get a better feel for what other styles homeowners are building.
The bookcase above is one of many different configurations you can choose to build for your home. This particular example is made of pine and doesn’t have any side walls. It’s a basic structure with four shelves and a backing. It stands just under 6′ tall and is decorated beautifully. Below I outline general DIY steps for getting started on your personalized Pottery Barn inspired bookcase.
Step 1: Determine Dimensions
The first order of business is to determine how wide and tall you’d like your bookcase structure to stand. Consider if you’re trying to fill a vertical or horizontal space, and how much time and effort you’d like to put into the building and finishing process. Documenting your measurements and purchasing the right saw for the job is key to your success. There are plenty of online resources to help you blueprint your plans and determine the right dimensions and tools you’ll need for your specific project.
Step 2: Construct Face Frames & Drill Pocket Holes
A standalone bookcase contains two face frames (front and back) that come together to form the edges of the structure. Make all of your cuts according to your documented measurement guide on a clean and level surface.
Next, drill your pocket holes using a pocket-hole jig. A pocket hole is simply a hole drilled at an angle that forms a “pocket” for the screw to sit into. The purpose of pocket holes is to connect your individual pieces together.
To achieve the Pottery Barn Hendrix Bookcase look, drill two pocket holes on each side of the tops of the legs and one on each end of the shelf trim boards. You’ll also want to drill pocket holes around all sides of all of the shelves–it’s recommended you drill two per end, and four per front and back side of each shelf.
Step 3: Attach Shelves
As I mentioned above, the purpose of your pocket holes is to connect your pieces (shelves to the frame). You’ll want to align the wood boards that are to be joined and drive a pocket screw at an angle into the pocket hole. This will securely attach your pieces together.
When you mount your shelves, leave about a 1″ gap at end of each shelf. This extra space will be used for the end trim pieces. It’s recommended you attach all of the shelves on your front frame before adding and securing the back frame.
Step 4: Measure & Cut End Trim Pieces
It’s now time to measure and cut each of your end trim pieces. As learned in the previous step, your end trim pieces are for filling the gap you left on the edge of each shelf. After cutting your pieces, use your pocket hole screws to attach them through the pocket holes you drilled on the underside of the shelves. Your trim piece should now be attached to the structure. Repeat as necessary.
Step 5: Glue & Nail Back On
The final step will be attaching the back piece of wood to your frame. One recommended material that you can use for the back of the structure is PureBond Plywood. You’ll find it right at The Home Depot and the staff will even cut the piece down to the right size for you.
Once you have your back piece, use finish nails and glue to attach it to the rear of the frame. All of the pieces for your bookcase should now be connected and the configuration should be sturdy.
You’ve come this far, now it’s time to apply the finishing touches! Begin by filling all of the holes with wood filler and letting it dry. When the wood filler is completely dry, sand the project in the direction of the wood grain with 120 grit sandpaper. Be sure to wipe your project clean with a damp cloth. To get the specific look that I’ve used as an example in this article, it’s suggested you use primer or wood conditioner as needed.
Building a bookcase can be as easy or as complicated as you’d like. It depends what size, design and materials you prefer to use. The information above should give you a better idea of what building a bookcase entails and demonstrate the steps you’ll need to take to reach your end goal.
Holiday lighting installation is something many of us look forward to each and every year, but sadly, many homeowners run the risk of hurting themselves or their loved ones as they hang lights throughout the exterior of the home.
There are always safety precautions one should take before hanging holiday lights, but more so, a helpful guide, including tools needed and step-by-step instructions should always be referenced before attempting a new DIY project.
Recommended Tools for Holiday Lighting Installation
Like any home improvement project, there are tools one needs to complete the project and tools one could use to make your lives easier. Below are all the tools you should consider purchasing (or borrowing) before you hang holiday lights.
- Staple Gun
- Light Clips
- Gutter Hooks
- Extension Cords
- Christmas or Holiday Lights (LED lights recommended)
Tips on Lighting Materials
You can purchase many of these items at The Home Depot or any local hardware store. Before you go spending, make sure you take an accurate inventory of the materials you already own.
First, check out how many lights you own and the condition of each. If any are cracked, chipped or stray wires are present, throw those away as they present a safety concern while lit. Believe it or not, those lights can cause a fire. Also, before you get in the car, test your lights. Make sure you know exactly how many new lights you need to purchase.
While at the store, make sure you are purchasing outdoor lights. Indoor lights are not safe for the outdoor elements, such as rain or snow. They can also blow a fuse or start a fire.
You will most likely need multiple extension cords made for outdoor use. It’s a safer bet to go with a three-pronged extension cord, as they are safer outdoors. Also, make sure you plug them into a GFCI outlet. These types of outlets shut off when they detect a short circuit. You can even buy a GFCI to plug into a regular outlet. Either way, there should be weather protection around the outlet.
Next, and perhaps the most important piece of information I can give you, is to buy a very stable ladder. This is not a time to play acrobat and extend a reach you don’t have. Your ladder should extend at least six feet higher than the highest point of your lights.
How to Hang Christmas & Holiday Lights
As long as you follow the simple safety recommendations and precautions above, you should be able to hang your Christmas lights without any issues.
As time has evolved, more and more homeowners are moving away from staple guns and nails and instead, using light clips and gutter hooks. After all, roof repairs are not cheap, so you should always look to minimize the wear and tear on the most valuable part of the your home. If you do go with nails, make sure you attach them to fascia board.
Before heading up, make sure your ladder is firm and fully opened. To be safe, have friend at the bottom, holding the ladder in place. While it goes without saying, never place the ladder on ice or water.
If you are using hooks, now is the time to attach the gutter hooks. Do not try to carry all your lights and gutter hooks up the ladder at once. This is not a race. The gutter hooks should easily attach to the gutter. You should hear a snap once they are installed correctly. Once you have three to four feet of hooks attached, have your friend hand you the holiday lights and hang them from the hooks. Once again, do not rush. Conversely, if you are using light clips that attach to the roof, you can install those just as you did the gutter hooks.
It’s as easy as that. Then again, you could really step up your holiday lighting game like the family below.
Final Safety Tips
Despite all the provisions discussed earlier, there are a few more safety tips everyone should be aware of before hanging holiday lights.
- Always unplug the lights when you leave the house or go to sleep. Conversely, an easy way to remember is to buy a timer as discussed above.
- Replace burned out bulbs with new ones of the same voltage.
- Never run wires through a doorway or window.
- Do not run electrical wires through high-traffic areas.
- If you are afraid of heights, you can purchase a No-Ladder Light Hanging Kit.
As you may already know, sustainability is a hot trend in home design right now. From natural flooring to the latest in energy-saving technology, homeowners are doing their part to make the earth a better place for all.
Sustainability does not stop at home décor. Before throwing out an old desk, chair or other item, consider giving it an upgrade with a coat of paint. This is an easy DIY project that almost anyone can do with a few hours and a paint brush. So before you decide to toss that old item, see how you can give it a new look with a coat of paint.
What Paint To Use
When it comes to painting furniture, the options are endless. It truly depends on what decorative element this will add to the room. When I painted my kitchen chairs a few years ago, I knew I wanted a pop of color in a room that was painted white. I chose a deep blue that added just the right amount of color without being overwhelming. Whether you’re painting a mirror, desk or chair, think about the statement you want that item to make. Take home plenty of color samples to see how it compares to the rest of the colors in your room.
You can also consider repurposing the old furnature for new use. Small dressers are becoming more common as storage options in the bathroom. Medium-sized tables can easily be repurposed into desks. If you’re repurposing an old item, be sure to choose a paint that will last for the use you will need.
If you’ve chosen to upgrade your furniture to keep it out of a landfill, you’ll want to look for a paint type that contributes to your green efforts. If you’re not careful, some paints can harm your indoor air quality as well. Look for options that have low or no VOC, or volatile organic compounds.
- Painter’s Tape
- Quality Paintbrushes
- Wood Filler
Step 1: Prep The Furniture
Before you begin painting, you’ll want to prep the furniture so you can easily access all areas on the piece, large and small. Unscrew any knobs and take out and drawers or shelves to paint separetely, if possible. Tape any parts that you can’t remove, such as the glass of the mirror. The preparation you do in the beginning will lead to a more successful final project.
Step 2: Sand And Clean
Next, you’ll need to sand down the piece. This is not a step to skip, as many items have finishes that must be roughly sanded so the paint adheres. This is also a good time to fix any large scratches or dents with a wood filler. When you’re done, remove any dust and debris with a damp cloth.
Step 4: Prime Your Work
If your paint did not come with a primer included, you’ll need to prime paint your item. On more intricate pieces, this may take a bit longer. Be sure to coat every spindle, knob, corner and other small area with so you can ensure the color will look the way you expect it to. You’ll need to let the primer completely dry before moving on to your color.
Step 5: Paint Your Color
It’s time for your new color! Carefully paint your piece with even brush strokes. If you are painting too heavy, you may see a few drips. Quickly smooth them out before the paint dries. Otherwise, you will see it when the project is finished. Let the first coat dry completely before moving on to the second coat of paint.
When you’ve completed both coats of paint, reattach any knobs, pulls, drawers or shelves in their proper place. Don’t forget to clean up your paint supplies to save for another DIY project. Then, step back to admire your new look!
For a parent-to-be, there is much excitement surrounding the arrival of your little one. So much preparation surrounds this day where your baby will come home and your new life as a family will begin together.
If you’re anticipating the arrival of a baby boy, you may be eager to start decorating his nursery. Picking out the theme and color scheme of your son’s room is an exciting time, but can often be overwhelming. Here are a few ideas to help you get started planning the perfect nursery for your baby boy.
As fun as it is to choose a theme and paint, you must consider safety first. Here are some points to consider when it comes to nursery safety.
Many times, the focal point of a nursery is the crib. Cribs come in many variations and styles, so it’s important to look at the options that are up to government standards. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says that slats in the crib should be no more than 2 3/8” apart. The crib frame should have no knobs or hooks attached. They also say that cribs older than 10 years should not be used, as they may not meet today’s standards.
The Changing Table
You may keep supplies near the changing table, but you’ll want to keep any personal care products out of reach for your baby. Also, be sure to never leave your baby unattended on the changing table, as the guard rail is not enough to prevent accidents from happening.
Rid The Room Of Potential Hazards
You may not think about it at first, but the room itself may pose some hazards for the baby as he grows older. The average cost to install childproofing devices is $439 depending on what you choose to install. Cover all outlets that are unused. The best covers are ones that cover the entire outlet. Keep cribs, changing tables and playpens away from windows, where your child may be tempted to play with the window cord.
Bold Patterns & Colors
When babies are born, they don’t see color right away. At about three months, they begin to see red. One of the best ways you can help stimulate your newborn’s vision is with patterns. Utilize bold chevron patterns and stripes throughout the nursery or even an accent wall in black and white so they can begin to develop their vision.
Baby Boy Nursery Theme Ideas
Once you’ve ensured your child will be safe and sound in their nursery, you can begin to plan the décor. When it comes to decorating for your baby boy, expect lots of blue and less frills. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking about what your nursery could look like.
Shades Of Blue
A classic look for any baby boy is mixing and matching various shades of blue. Consider a light blue for the walls and navy blue in trim and accent colors. A cute idea is to use wood letters to spell your child’s name above his crib. Paint them in a dark blue to contrast against the light paint and create a wonderful look.
Sailboat Baby Nursery
Bring the ocean to your baby with a sailboat themed nursery. Utilize a striped accent wall of white and navy blue to start the theme. Include a few frames of anchor and nautical wall art. There are many prints available for babies. A sweet touch that your baby can enjoy too is an ocean-themed mobile to hang above their crib. This is a great theme to carry on as they grow.
Chic & Modern
Black and white is a look that never goes out of style. If black and white helps stimulate your child’s development, why stray away from a modern look. Use patterns of these colors on the walls and major features of the room. If you’d like to incorporate some color, use it in room accessories. Keep in mind, this is also a room your baby can grow into as he gets older, as it has so much potential to become a space customer to what he enjoys.
Dinosaur Baby Nursery
Another great theme that can be great décor as your baby boy grows is a dinosaur theme. A green or light blue works well for paint color. Decorate in shades of green and blue throughout the room, incorporating in dinosaur themed crib sheets, blankets and other accessories. Decorate the walls with prints of cartoon dinosaurs.
If you like the classic nursery rhymes, why not let that translate into your decorating style. Take your favorite nursery rhyme and frame it on the wall, building your décor around that. Use neutral colors and browns to create a traditional look.
Up In The Air
If you love using blue for your baby boy, but want a unique spin on it, consider using airplanes and clouds in your décor to create a dreamy space. There is fun sky-themedwallpaper that could be included here as well to really enhance your look.
As you may already know, an older home tends to need a bit more TLC than others. They’re great for those who love to DIY and want to truly make their house unique to them. Some homeowners choose to take on remodels themselves. If this sounds familar, you’ll likely need to take down a wall or two to truly transform a room.
Plaster walls were commonly used in homes built before 1950, before drywall was introduced. These walls were made to last, so it’s no surprise that if you’re looking to remove a plaster wall, it can be a tedious and messy process. To help, here are a few tips.
1. Prep The Area
Before you begin removing plaster walls, you’ll need to do some prep work so your project can be completed successfully. Removing plaster walls can create a lot of dust and a lot of mess, so you’ll want to tarp off any doorways and flooring you want protected. Seal off any air ducts and vents to protect the rest of the home from the dust. Remove any furniture from the room, as you’ll need plenty of space to work as well. You’ll also need to remove any outlet plates and fixtures on the wall. Put these parts aside.
It’s also helpful to have a garbage can available in the room, so you can quickly dispose of any plaster you want removed.
2. Safety First
As mentioned, removing plaster walls is a messy job. A dusk mask will come in handy for this project to protect you from breathing in anything harmful. Don’t forget protective eyewear and gloves as well. We also recommend this as a DIY project for those who have experience with a few home improvement projects. If you are new to DIY, you may want to contact a pro who can help remove plaster walls.
It’s important to make sure the room is safe to work in. Turn off any electricity and water that’s going to the room. Locate any wiring or plumbing lines to prevent them from getting damaged in the process. You’ll also need to be sure that the wall you’re removing does not hurt the structural integrity of the home.
3. Rent A Dumpster
When removing plaster walls, you’ll need a place to properly dispose of the material. This may be difficult to throw out in your local garbage pick-up. A dumpster can make easy work of disposal as you work through this project. The average cost to rent a dumpster is $395, with most homeowners spending between $316 and $395. These costs can vary depending on how long you’ll be renting and the size of the dumpster.
4. Save The Molding
If you intend on replacing your plaster wall with drywall, it’s a good idea to save the wood moldings. This is a process that must be done very carefully so you do not damage or crack them. If you’re working with a pro, they will know the best ways to save your molding for future use.
5. Slow & Steady
When you’re ready to remove your plaster, it’s important not to start striking the wall aimlessly. Strategically begin tapping a top corner of the wall with a hammer until a hole has formed where you can see the lath. Once you have this hole, use a prybar to carefully pull off the plaster, working downward. Do not expect this to be a quick process. The more careful attention you pay to what you’re working on, the easier the work will be.
6. Remove The Lath Strips
After the plaster is removed, you’ll need to remove the lath strips. A prybar works well here. Be aware that these won’t break off into large chunks, so it can be tedious work. Lath strips will also have nails in them that can pose a safety hazard. Plaster and lath is a technique often found in old homes, so some of the nails you find may be rusty. Wear gloves and proper safety gear when removing nails from your wall.
7. Clean The Room Thoroughly When You’re Done
Removing plaster walls is a big job with a big mess. The dust created from this project will be very fine, giving it more opportunity to get into the air. When throwing the wall debris away, be sure to gently place it in a trash bin, as to not allow more dust to get over the room. You’ll likely need to dust, sweep and mop the room multiple times after the project is completed.
8. Contact A Pro
Removing plaster walls is a big job that if not done correctly, can have serious consequences to your remodeling project. If you’re not confident you have the tools or instructions necessary to complete this project safely and successfully, contact a pro who can help.
When it comes to selling your home, everyone knows about the importance of curb appeal. But according to real-estate experts, small updates can be made inside that are less costly and time-consuming than an exterior overhaul but will still increase your odds of fetching a good selling price. We turned to Jennifer Titus, a real-estate agent withCompass who works in the competitive Boston market, for her tips. Some changes take five minutes, some are weekend projects, but all of Titus’s ideas are likely to deliver a high return on your investment by wooing buyers and increasing your property value.
Make a big first impression
There’s no better way for a guest to be greeted than with a statement-making decorative chandelier, says Titus. “It’s eye candy, but it also brightens up a space that tends to be underlit and underdecorated.
Kick the bathroom vanity to the curb
A great way to refresh a home is to switch out boxy (and often timeworn) vanities with sleek cast-iron white pedestal sinks, says Titus. “The bathroom will feel bigger, fresher, and more modern.”
Refresh kitchen cabinets
“One of the highest returns on value for a small money investment in a home is to paint kitchen cabinets that are either aesthetically dated or have excessive wear and tear,” says Titus. Although she recommends having a pro do it (an amateur paint job can make them look worse), she estimates that painting is still 10 to 20 percent the cost of buying brand-new cabinets.
Swap hardware everywhere
“It can be costly to keep up with design trends, but one solid investment for modernizing a home is to replace hardware,” says Titus. “It’s like a simple T-shirt and jeans looking fabulous because they’ve been paired with fashion-forward shoes.” Swap out doorknobs, handles, and knobs on built-ins and shutter latches; polished nickel or bronze are both on-trend and in demand now, she says.
Paint, paint, and paint
Repainting your home is the best way to freshen up an interior. Play it safe with your color choices, though. “A neutral paint can reflect light and make a room appear larger,” Titus says. “But the wrong color palette can define and weigh down an entire space.”
More Space, Same Footprint
Adding over and under your home are both smart ways to increase living space, but there are other creative ways to eke out extra square footage without drastically changing the footprint of your home. Look up, down, and all around, and you may find you have more room for rooms than you think—in the attic, the basement, the garage, or even an underused outbuilding. This Old House has gathered its favorite basement and attic bonus rooms, as well as shed and garage conversions, three-season porches, and more, to help you get inspired to find that hidden space in your home.
From Attic to Suite Retreat
Sometimes in the search for more living space there’s no place to look but up. When Alan Koch bought this 1933 cottage in Portland, Oregon, he knew he’d be finishing the 600-square-foot attic sooner rather than later. And since he worked at home, Alan hankered for a light, bright office where he could spread out. By tapping the upstairs, he figured he could carve out just such a space, as well as a comfortable master suite, reserving downstairs bedrooms for guests and TV viewing.
After expanding the attic space by 100 square feet with a gabled dormer, Alan’s airy aerie is now complete, and makes the most of every square inch with smart space-saving details—like the closet pocket door that keeps the passage-way free and clear.
See more of this airy and uplifting space in An Attic Becomes A Suite Retreat Upstairs.
The Cold-to-Comfy Basement
Sometimes the extra room you’ve always wanted is right under your feet. Elizabeth Willett, was looking to fulfill several needs in her family’s 1927 Tudor-style house when she saw untapped potential in its walk-out basement. “It already had a fireplace and a tiny bath, but it had never really been properly finished,” she says. While the ceiling was low, it wasn’t too low, and moisture—that bane of basement remodels—wasn’t a problem.
Soon Elizabeth and her husband, Chris, were picturing the equivalent of an 830-square-foot addition, minus the new footprint, with a whole host of amenities. They created a family retreat and entertainment space at the bottom of the stairs. Guests can hang a left to check out the wine cellar or plop down on a sofa facing the stone fireplace and a TV. Davis even managed to fit in a full bath, a laundry area, a food pantry, and a home-office space. The rustic-looking family room is now a gathering spot for their daughter and her friends.
A Rustic, Wicker-Filled Porch Living Room
With its prime location overlooking the yard, a porch offers the perfect place for serious relaxation in mild-to-warm weather. To emphasize this idea in his own New York home, interior designer Tom Fallon transformed his porch into a full-fledged room. He anchored the furniture—vintage wicker and rattan united by a coat of hunter-green paint—with a natural rug, and hung mirrors and a watercolor from the shingles. Cushions in navy, white, and citrus yellow add color, while trim with a pale celery hue draws attention to the 1875 Carpenter Gothic’s louvered shutters and distinctive arched windows. “The look is classic, even a bit quiet, which contrasts with the house’s exuberant architecture,” Fallon says.
Find everything you need to recreate this look at your house with Create a Rustic, Wicker-Filled Porch.
Smart Homework Station
Four kids-and their backpacks-were cluttering up the kitchen after school. So these homeowners created a secluded and studious atmosphere for schoolwork. The upper cabinets hold school and art supplies, while also hiding basement ductwork.
An Attic Turned Ultimate Kids’ Bedroom Suite
Ask kids and they’ll tell you the ideal place to sleep is in a tree house or on a sailboat, like Max in Where the Wild Things Are. Architect Darren Helgesen incorporated that spirit in this attic redo at a century-old house in East Hampton, New York, where he used warm finishes and smart details to turn the dark, sloped-ceilinged space into a shipshape two-bedroom suite. Homeowners Bill and Cory Laverack had already renovated the rest of the house.
“It was always their favorite place,” says Cory, recalling how the couple’s four kids would hide out upstairs with friends every chance they got. “And now it’s the ultimate sleepover space.” Snug built-ins with below-bed storage, roof windows, pine flooring, and lots of glossy beadboard opened up the attic and made it more functional.
From Outbuilding to Backyard Hangout
The Boughtons in Brooklyn, Mississippi, inherited a sad, lonely shed when they moved into their home. But while planning the side garden, they saw that this little 12-by-12-foot outbuilding had potential as a focal point. They added a porch with a reverse gable roof, then they installed salvaged cottage windows and topped it off with a split cedar shake roof. Now, everyone wants to spend the night in their little backyard gem!
From Blah Basement to Magical Movie Theater
When Cathy and Bob Cerone decided to expand their 1912 Wilmette, Illinois, home with an addition to ¬accommodate visits from their four adult children, their ¬design-build team saw potential in the damp basement. By building it out and finishing it, they could gain space for a media and game room big enough for family get-togethers.
Builders dug a foundation and basement for the addition, then took down part of the wall between the old and new below-grade spaces. The new basement level added 915 square feet of living area and solved the moisture problem with perimeter drains and sump pumps. The space holds a projection screen TV and pool table under a 9-foot ceiling. “When those ¬Chicago Bears are on—holy cow—the whole family’s here,” Cathy says.
Smart Solution for a Small-Space Home
A small house remodel can be as exacting as a jigsaw puzzle. That’s what Matthew and Darci Haney found while renovating the three-room upstairs space in their Carlton, Oregon, cottage. They installed new windows that actually meet the fire code. Built-in furniture, cabinets, and open shelves—together with a new bath—make use of every bit of available space.
From Garage to Comfy Rec Room
It’s a familiar phenomenon: The remodel plan you begin with isn’t exactly the one you end up with. For one Southern California family, a garage renovation evolved from a casual playroom for their two young kids to a well-appointed media room geared just as much to grown-ups. “When we started, we wanted a place for the kids to play their Wii Sports, which takes a lot of room,” says the homeowner, and the seldom-used outbuilding near the pool offered a solution.
Overhead doors were replaced with carriage-style units and a wall was built—both easily removable to allow for two cars should the family want to return the room to a garage someday. They put in a ceiling, finished the walls with insulation and wallboard, built an insulated subfloor, and added custom built-ins, a beverage fridge, and wiring for media equipment.
Bug-Free Backyard Solitude
Over the winter months, Karl Jungbluth in Boone, Iowa, designed this 12-by-6-foot screened-in room to use standard lengths of lumber with very little waste. The flooring inside is standard lengths of low-maintenance composite decking. “Since we planned to stain it green and barn red, I used pressure-treated lumber, along with a metal roof and composite decking,” Carl says.
Adding on Above the Garage
“We love our house’s location, but it was tight on space,” says Geoff Allen of the 1925 seaside Cape Cod in Barrington, Rhode Island, that he shares with wife Michelle Forcier and their young daughter. Though the 1,600-square-foot, two-bedroom house, the site of the latest TOH TV project, was built as a seasonal residence, the family plans to live there year-round. Topping the couple’s wish list was an extra bedroom and bath upstairs. Given the house’s small lot and strict local zoning laws, Brewster sketched an addition in the only spot it could go: above the attached, unheated garage.
From Attic to Bedroom, with Help from the Web
The small 1950s ranch suited its new owners, except for one thing. They wanted a master suite. But how to get it when the first floor was jammed with the kitchen, living and dining rooms, the home’s sole bathroom, and two tiny bedrooms, one soon to be a nursery? Adding on wasn’t an option. So Claudia and Felipe Menanteau from Piscataway, New Jersey, looked up-to the attic.
A half-wall now encloses the staircase to open up the space and allow sunshine from the new skylights to flood the room. Built-ins keep the space clean and functional. Skylights lend the illusion of height when raising the roof wasn’t an option.
From Unused Space to a Home Office Full of Smart Storage
Married neuroscientists Vivek Unni and Tamily Weissman-Unni, owners of an 1870s house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, started out with a new baby and a simple goal. “We needed a first-floor bathroom with a changing table,” says Tamily. But they were also saddled with a dark front entry next to a front room that served as an ad hoc mudroom, and a “treacherous” narrow staircase. So they asked their general contractor to rethink the entire space. Now, a desk niche makes use of a corner with natural light, augmented by recessed ceiling fixtures. Fold-back window shutters, pale flooring, and clear sight lines make the light-filled room feel much larger than it is.
A Charming Outdoor Living Room
Garden walls really help a patio or deck feel like a room, whether they’re made out of greenery, stone, or, more unexpectedly, the old church windows used here. Hung from rails set atop corner posts, they enclose a 16-by-16-foot deck, giving it the elegant air of a glass-lined conservatory. Homeowner Susanne Hudson, a garden designer, snagged the five 11-foot-tall finds for $90 each at a flea market years ago and recently put them to use to define her Douglasville, Georgia, deck like enormous white pickets on a fence.
For the furnishings, painted metal porch gliders and spring chairs from the 1940s had the laid-back look Hudson wanted; the iron candle stand and armillary sundial achieved the right rusted finish in short order. “Green, brown, and white, the natural colors of patina in a garden, are a built-in color scheme,” she says. “Blue hydrangeas and rose pillows brighten it up.”
From Raw Basement to Family Room
In the quest for extra square footage, a dry, unfinished basement is a holy grail. For the cost of some finish work and mechanicals upgrades, you can get a whole new room, sometimes two or three.
For years Karen Berkemeyer used her below-grade space as a laundry room. But the desire for what her home lacked–an informal space for family lounging and TV viewing–caused her to take a second look. “We never had one space where we could all gather and watch a movie,” says Berkemeyer.
So the basement was transformed into just that, and during the process upgrades were made to the laundry room and storage closet, and a full bath was added, allowing the space to double as a guest suite.
A Bright Attic Suite On a Budget
In a small house, every bit of space needs to work hard, as homeowners Samantha and Bryan Langdeau soon realized after buying their 1,200-square-foot Cape in Waterbury, Connecticut. Wanting to reserve the two bedrooms on the first floor for guests, they set their sights on the second-floor finished attic for their master suite.
Working nights and weekends for about two months while sleeping in a guest bedroom downstairs, the couple gutted much of the space, tore out closet walls, and added insulation throughout.
An Unfinished Basement Gets a Masculine Makeover
Even the most die-hard family guy needs some alone time. Take Kirker Butler: The Los Angeles-based writer longed for a quiet retreat where he could craft his TV scripts while still being close to his wife and young daughter. “I wanted some bells and whistles, too,” admits Kirker, who hoped a big flat-screen TV, a leather recliner, and shelves for his sports memorabilia and collectibles would make the room just as much man cave as office.
Lofty Attic Office Redo
When the lease on Beth Krauklis’s office expired last year (she runs her own branding agency in Orlando, Florida), she cast an eye up to the attic apartment in her Queen Anne house. At 700 square feet, it could be a seven-person ¬office, she figured, but “I wanted it to feel open, like a loft, with lots of light,” says Beth. Her husband, John, who was already planning to replace the roof and siding, took up the challenge.
John gutted the apartment, cut holes for three new windows, stripped the plaster off the walls, and finished the ¬exposed lath inside with a dark stain and polyurethane. He ¬refinished the heart-pine floors and gave the exposed rafters five coats of white paint. Then, to complete the loft look, John hung an AC duct nearly the length of the attic, track lighting, and a vintage wooden airplane propeller.
You’re in the shower, doing your best imitation of a Top-40 pop star. Suddenly that warm, relaxing shower turns too hot to handle, causing you to jump back to avoid the scorching water. The cause? Someone in the house has flushed a toilet. If the situation sounds familiar, then you need to install a pressure-balance valve in your shower. These pressure-balancing devices prevent “shower shock” by automatically adjusting for temperature fluctuations whenever water?cold or hot?is diverted from the tub or shower, such as when someone starts up a load of laundry or flushes a toilet. Even in an instance when the water pressure drops drastically, a pressure-balance valve ensures that the water temperature doesn’t change by more than 3° F. Antiscald devices have been required in hospitals and nursing homes for decades. Now, 31 states have enacted, or will do so soon, legislation requiring pressure-balance valves in all residential remodeling and new-construction projects. Antiscald devices are a wise investment. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, each year some 200,000 Americans suffer injuries caused by sudden changes in water temperature while they’re bathing. Everyone is in danger of getting scalded or falling as they try to escape the hot water, but young children, the elderly and the physically challenged suffer the most injuries.
Until recently, single-handle pressure-balance valves were the only models available; these are fine when replacing a single-handle inner valve or for a full-scale remodel, but they’re not very well suited to changing over an existing two-handle faucet. To hide the empty handle holes, you have to install an enormous trim plate, which isn’t particularly attractive. For that reason, we chose the Delta Monitor II (about $260), the first two-handle pressure-balance valve. But, unlike a standard two-handle faucet, which has separate hot- and cold-water handles, the right handle of the Monitor II controls water temperature and the left handle controls water volume. It features a polished-chrome-and-brass finish, and includes a matching tub spout and showerhead. For our project, we removed a two-handle, 8-in. centerspread faucet through a hole we cut in the back side of the shower wall. We also enlarged the existing handle holes in the acrylic tub surround with a sabre saw to accommodate the Monitor II. If the walls of your shower are covered with ceramic tile, enlarge the holes using either a rotary tool with a 1/8-in.-dia. carbide bit or a sabre saw with an abrasive-grit blade.
Thanks to movies and novels, the very mention of secret passages is enough to conjure visions of mysterious castles, haunted houses and intrigue, but in fact, many ordinary homes once had — and some still do have — small secret spaces built into them. Often these were utilitarian places such as wine cellars, broom closets or tiny safe-like rooms for storage of the family silver. In 16th-century Europe, many wealthy homes had secret compartments known as “priest holes” for hiding politically persecuted Catholic clergy from Protestant authorities. Whatever the time, the place or the reason, secret rooms have been more common and less mysterious than Hollywood or popular fiction ever imagined.
Simple Secret Room Doors
If you have a dead-end space, such as a closet, utility room, butler’s pantry or something similar, off a larger room, you may have an ideal setup for creating an inexpensive secret room. First remove all the trim boards, if any, from around the door to the space you want for your secret room. Keep the trim so you can reverse the process, if desired, at a later date. That leaves a smooth wall, so whatever you put in front of the opening will sit tightly against it. Then, choose one of these options:
Armoire or Free-standing Closet Ideas
- Obtain an armoire or free-standing closet — the larger and taller the better,
as long as it is appropriately scaled for the room. Cut a door-size portion out of the back of the piece of
furniture and screw the remaining back to the existing
door-opening leading to the secret room. The armoire will appear to
be just what it is and can still be used as such; hanging
clothing inside will hide the opening beyond. If the door to the secret
room opens into that room, paint it to match the interior of the
armoire. That will help disguise the opening when the door is closed.
- For an even simpler
version of the armoire-disguised door, add wheels to an armoire and
hinge it to one side of the original door opening. Access the secret
room by pulling out the unhinged side of the armoire. A handle
screwed to the center back of the armoire gives a place to grip it
from the other side so it can be closed behind you. Due to the recess
behind the armoire, the handle will not prevent it from setting flush
against the wall when closed.
- An ordinary tall
bookshelf — homemade or purchased — needs only to have a set of
wheels attached to the bottom of the lowest shelf to make it mobile.
Attach a board, crown molding or other trim of the appropriate length and height to both the
bottom and the top of the shelf unit — in the front and on each side — to hide the wheels and whatever empty space
remains above the unit. This will give the appearance of built-in bookshelvesattached firmly in place, floor to ceiling. Put the shelf unit in front of
the secret door and roll it aside when you want to go in.
- Like the simple
armoire-door, a bookshelf equipped with hidden wheels, hinged on one
side and placed in front of a hidden closet or room, makes a quick and
easy hidden door.
- A more elaborate version of the
though still reasonably simple for a skilled DIYer, involves creating a wall of real built-in bookshelves
around an existing door, then hinging another section of the shelving
into the door frame leading to a hidden space in lieu of the original
door. You can buy one of several hardware options specifically designed for
this sort of arrangement.
Other Secret Door Possibilities
- Install a Murphy bed with its underside disguised as a wood-paneled wall, perhaps with
genuine bookshelves on either side. Lower the panel wall to use the
bed and the area behind it appears as an ordinary wall at the back of the
recessed area that houses the bed when not in use. However, you could design that
innocent-looking panel to slide to one side, revealing
another room behind it.
- Hide a very short
flush-mounted door behind a conventional dresser or mirror. You may
have to duck to enter, but a small opening provokes less suspicion
that the furniture hides a room beyond.
- Attach drawer fronts
to a narrow hidden door built under an enclosed stairway. It will
look like clever storage space under the stairs but will really hide
a secret, if small, room.
Keep in mind that to be hidden, a room cannot be obvious from inside or outside your house. Windows and secondary doors are tip-offs that your home has more interior space than meets the eye, so try to use windowless centrally-located closets, utility areas, pantries, extra bathrooms, or even false walls built within larger rooms to make your secret chamber truly secret.
The term organizing tends to conjure images of color-coded labels, exhaustive filing systems, or strict, Kondo-style minimalism. But the truth is, even the houses of professional organizers aren’t always pristine. “One of the things we get asked most often is whether our own homes actually stay organized or whether our kids destroy them in a split second,” says Clea Shearer, who co-owns organizing company the Home Edit with Joanna Teplin. “Our answer is always the same: Of course our kids destroy it, but if you put simple systems in place, you can get it back to perfection in about ten minutes.” Here, Shearer, Teplin, and another industry pro, Marissa Hagmeyer, a cofounder of organizing service NEAT Method, share the secrets that make organizing a habit, not a chore.
They don’t buy a zillion bins
Yes, vessels are your friends, but don’t think a shopping spree at the Container Store will solve all your problems. Buying the wrong boxes can just add to your clutter. “Most home organization mistakes begin when bins, baskets, and other organizers are purchased before the actual organizing has been completed,” says Hagmeyer. Edit first, and then choose storage strategically. “You must know exactly what you have before the purchasing begins.”
They go with the flow
“We all have daily routines that are hard to break. . . . We walk in the house and set the mail down in the same spot, make our coffee in the same area,” says Shearer. “The key is to create systems that follow your daily patterns—a tray to collect the mail, hooks for where your kids dump their backpacks, a coffee caddy for your daily condiments.”
They make it pretty
Just because an item serves a function (say, corralling your bills) doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be decorative. “Organizing can be made beautiful with the right products,” says Hagmayer. “Acrylic, copper, and woven textiles are a few of our favorites.”
They make it easy on everyone
Shearer knows better than to expect her husband and children to share her high standards for neatness. So she makes organizing a no-brainer for them: “I hung hooks for each family member and gave everyone their own shoe basket.”
And, yes, they label
Both the Home Edit and Neat Method teams swear by labeling—not out of a desire for perfection, but because it automates good habits. “Labeling reinforces all of the systems you worked so hard to think through,” says Teplin, who also recommends color coding things like books and supplies for the same reason. “My home office has a label on every square inch so that I never need to remember where I put something—it’s clearly marked.”