So here’s what happened. You know how I spent a bunch of time waxing poetic about my Antartica adventure while I was renovating the Bluestone basement laundry room? And also how I spent a month-ish underground by myself essentially erecting a very elaborate stage set of a place I saw in Antarctica? Which I completely stand by, by the way. I love that weird room so much.
Midway through that renovation, it struck me that just maybe my recent fixation with Antarctica was due in part to…needing a vacation? Because that was the last one I went on? And it was the most amazing one but also now it’s been over a year and I am so tired? Of working? All the time?
The day after I took photos of the finished laundry room, I had to be back at another job site. It was a freelance job that began months after it was planned to, then took way too long and got difficult for really frustrating reasons both typical and novel to me, and I ended up having to spend an inordinate amount of time at the end to make sure very basic things got completed to some reasonable standard, and…holy cow. I might have been tired before, but the laundry room was fun and exciting and personal, which is motivating. This was just…frustration. Non-stop, pervasive frustration until it was done and inspected and a Certificate of Occupancy was in hand.
SO. Got through that. Took a weekend. Cleaned the house. Weekend felt good. Wanted more weekend. Can weekend also be…week? I want to do that. Let me do that right now. All days are Saturday until it is Saturday again for real. I will call it Weekend Week. Not Sunday. That is for the Lord, Heathen!
I have not planned Weekend Week. And can’t actually leave due to prior engagements. Among those prior engagements is my new practice, which is going to the gym. Your eyes do not deceive: I joined a gym. Why did I do this? My friend wanted to. I wanted to want to, but did not have the energy to actually want to, but also knew I was unlikely to do it alone because, historically, I have not done it alone. So I decided to do it with him. More specifically we joined a 6-Week Challenge at the gym, which involves exercising at the gym 4 mornings a week for 6 weeks while also eating stuff that people who spend a lot of time at the gym eat. Consequently I have been to the gym TWENTY-TWO TIMES and eaten at least 7,000 eggs in the last 5 weeks. I feel and look mediocre but certainly not more so than before, so I’d say it’s a resounding success.
Now we’re all caught up. Weekend Week. The name of the game is self-care. I will gym. I will make food to put in my face hole. I will watch the TV. I will walk the dogs. I will sit in the moment and be still in my body and visualize my goals and name my feelings and also feel my names. I will relax. There will be peace, for fuck’s sake.
Only I’m not super good at finding peace and immediately got antsy and renovated my closet instead. You knew it was coming because it’s the title of the blog post. Let’s talk about it.
My bedroom has its very own closet. DID YOU KNOW THAT? If you did, thank you for paying attention. If you didn’t, also thank you for not paying too much attention.
It looked like the above two photos. I did you the courtesy of not cleaning up before I took them, because 9 years of blogging has taught me that people are comforted by knowing we all have closets of squalor. If your closets are perfect and nice, please leave now; I’ve nothing to offer you.
So. Some parts of the closet were here when I bought the house and some I actually did myself, as in, actual effort has already gone into this space. Not a tremendous amount, but some. There was a clothing rod and a couple of shelves, so I added that long shelf across the top and the narrow vertical shelving to hold…shoes? I’m not sure. It seemed practical. I guess it was more practical than no shelves. All the wood was scrap from other projects. ALSO I remember pulling up a sheet of linoleum (when old linoleum isn’t glued down, it feels like a real gift from the past), but I never took pictures evidently. That exposed the paint-splattered but otherwise super well-preserved and unsealed subfloor. Pretty!
Sometime later, while up in the attic running the dryer vent for the new laundry room, I stepped through the ceiling of the closet. Sometimes you just have to laugh, right? Oopsie. I cleaned up what I could, threw up a few plaster buttons around the gaping hole, and put up a drywall scrap cut to the rough (very rough) size and shape of the hole. Then I ignored it for a long time.
Anyway, these little “fixes” were always intended to be temporary until I could really address the closet. What qualifies as temporary? Can you still call it temporary if it took 5 years to circle back to? I don’t have all the answers. But that’s been so much of the reality of renovating the interior of this house: get a room to a place of being useable and clean-ish and able to hold furniture, combine stuff I already own in a way that feels inoffensive, move on to the next important thing, and plan to circle back someday and really do it up. To be honest, it’s kind of a deflating strategy because nothing ever feels done, but it’s also practical for my time and budgetary limitations. I’m not really sure how else I’d go about things. Someday, I will have something other than paper shades on half my windows. Someday, I will buy a nice sofa. But today? Stop that jibber-jabber. Today I need to be saving for kitchen cabinets and countertops and hardwood flooring and sinks and faucets and oh shit the expansion tank on the boiler needs to be replaced and the cornices are rotting and damnit, I own a whole other house with no walls.
BACK TO THE SUBJECT AT HAND. The closet is neither tiny (like typical old house closets, if they exist at all!) nor large, but it definitely wasn’t pulling its weight storage-wise. Notice how it only contains hanging clothes and shoes and random crap! I used to have a dresser in my bedroom, but then I swapped that for that crazy big Eastlake armoire and moved the dresser into the little nursery room. So half my clothes were hanging in the closet and half were folded in the other room, which I found weirdly very annoying. Also, let’s just admit it: old dressers with really big drawers really suck when you have to access the contents multiple times a day. Opening the drawers is a two-hand job, the glass knobs are fairly fragile (one broke off in my hand!), and the inside of the drawers always felt disorganized even though they were SUPER organized. So my major goal was to get ALL the clothes to fit comfortably and easily into this closet. In turn, I can get that dresser out of the nursery room, which is one step closer to actually clearing out and renovating that little room. Which I kind of don’t even know what to do with, but that’s a different post.
By the way, this is a very small space with no windows which makes it super difficult to photograph. I did my best. I made this handy and detailed illustration with dimensions to help you.
A little tricky, right? Your first reaction may be that the in-swing door is a problem. And it kind of is. But it’s also original to the house, and changing the swing would have created a very awkward door situation in the bedroom, and removing it was not something I was willing to entertain. Hanging clothes typically take up about 24″ of space back to front, so you can’t really just hang a rod across the whole closet because the clothes hanging toward the end would interfere with the door. You could just use the short wall for all the main storage (essentially how it was in the “befores”), but it’s less than 4′ and that felt like an ineffective use of space since there’s 5.5′ on the other wall.
And I’m trying to fit drawers in here! If the closet were just a littttttttle bit bigger, I probably would have just tried to find a dresser and put that in. But it would have had to be a super weird size dresser to fit in this closet without taking up too much depth or obstructing the door which, again, I am too much of a pain in the ass to just remove.
FINALLY IT HIT ME. THE ANSWER THAT HAS SO OFTEN HIT ME IN THE COURSE OF MY BLOGGER LIFE.
IKEA. KITCHEN. CABINETS. I am positive I have bought and assembled more IKEA kitchen cabinets to use outside of kitchens than in them. They’re just so damn versatile, and simple, and easy, and the quality is great—for instance, the drawer glides on an IKEA dresser are usually kind of crap, but the kitchen drawers have high-quality hardware and glide like BUTTER. And soft close. No brag.
AND! IKEA makes their SEKTION cabinets in two depths—24″ for base cabinets, and 15″ for uppers. They must have gotten the hint that a lot of people were installing upper cabinets as lower cabinets in tight-space situations, so they started making the drawers for the 15″ depth too. So smart. God bless you, IKEA. 24″ would have been too deep, but the 15″ depth is perfecttttt for this small space.
I drew this richly detail sketch in bed one night, and was not willing to redo it for this post:
Thank you, I was classically trained as you can plainly see by my hangers.
So. Let’s begin.
Remember how there was that room built off the side of my house? And it was super far gone? And I tore it down? So. Above a dropped acoustic tile ceiling in there was that nice 4″ beadboard ceiling. Even though it was in rough shape—it’s thin stuff to begin with, like less than 1/2″, and water damage from the leaking roof had created some rot and some cupping—I tried to get it all down intact for reuse elsewhere. Where is elsewhere? No idea at the time. This was 3 years ago. But it’s pretty and old and so I cut out the rotted parts and jagged ends where they broke and squirreled it away.
Side note: See how the siding turns from yellow to blue and so does the ceiling? That’s because there was a wall there before this photo was taken! My dining room had 3 closets when I bought the house, but only one was original. 3!
I thought using it on the ceiling would be a fast and simple way of covering up the hole! I’d so much rather do a little carpentry than a bunch of dusty skim-coating work, particularly since I sleep 10 feet away. Even though the rest of the ceiling was in pretty good shape, I added plaster washers along the joists, since the beadboard should’t be holding up falling plaster down the road. Then I went ahead and face-nailed the boards (I found that I had to shave off the tongues and just butt the boards together) right to the ceiling with finish nails. Because it runs perpendicular to the joists, most of it’s just being held up by the lath. It’s so lightweight, it’s fine.
Ta-da! I added a simple bed molding crown and I think it’s hot hot hot. I primed it with Zinsser’s shellac-base primer, patched up the boards, and caulked around the crown.
I did not go nuts over fixing the walls. There were a bunch of holes from all the weird shelving stuff, and I just patched everything with a lot of 3M Patch Plus and called the rest character. A crack is only a problem when you think of it as one.
I love the old hanging rail, so obviously that stayed. I did remove the painted hooks to let them simmer in the crock pot while I worked.
The floor! It had some rough spots and paint on it, so I shut myself in there with a shopvac and my orbital sander, donned a respirator, and did the damn thing. Then I ran to the shower very quickly and shut the door behind me to let the dust settle. The bedroom stayed surprisingly clean throughout this ordeal! The hallway was crazy town though. It’s amazing how even small projects end up requiring, like, ALL the tools and supplies.
I vacuumed really well and spent a bunch of time getting old dust and hair and crap out of the joints, since poly will pretty much glue that stuff down in there for life. I used some leftover Bona NaturalSeal, which has some white pigment in it to balance out the ambering that even water-based poly will do to raw wood.
A few years ago when I was working on the bedroom, I got a nice glimpse of the original pine subfloor, which is so pretty! It was interesting to see the original wax(?) finish—very light and neutral. The yellow pine over top was probably added in the 1930s. I wanted to get something like that original wax finish, so I actually added a little white paint to the sealer just to see what would happen. Low stakes!
I went to IKEA and got my cabinets. The one on the left is 24″ wide and the one on the right is 30″ wide. The drawer fronts are the VEDDINGE, which is the second-cheapest option and my old faithful. I’m fine with it looking new and mod and efficient. I love these cabinets so much it’s appalling. Living in an old house, sometimes you really appreciate brand new things that are easy and just work and aren’t some huge massive undertaking, and the glide and soft close on these drawers practically makes me weep.
I always think of IKEA kitchen cabinets as really inexpensive, and they are—relative to most other kitchen cabinets. And especially if you just need shelves inside and doors. But those drawers ADD UP. These two cabinets with their 9 drawers were $650. So. Just know that. I definitely did not actually go through the effort of pricing them beforehand, so it was like 3x what I expected to spend. Oops! It’s OK. I love them so much and I bet this is exactly how Mariah Carey feels all the time and maybe it’s good for me to be in touch with that side of myself.
I built a little base out of scrap 1x that I took out during demo. So now that wood has gone from Olivebridge to my closet shelving to holding my cabinets up. Not bad!
I built a shoe tower thing. It’s pretty much the same process I used for the pantry cabinet build, except there’s no backing and I used iron-on veneer edging for exposed edges rather than a face-frame. It’s just a 4-sided box. Easy. I drilled out shelf pin holes with my Kreg jig. That thing is great.
Paint! I color-matched the original trim color using my nix mini sensor, and it spit out this kinda butterscotch color called Scrivener Gold from Benjamin Moore. It’s totally one of those sorta muddy old-fashioned colors I feel like every old house has or had somewhere, and I really love it! I used a satin finish, so it has a nice sheen that shows off the age of the wood but doesn’t give it that “HI, I AM RECLAIMED, LOOK AT ME!” kind of look.
For the walls I had a half can of White Dove in matte, which is what I painted most of my Brooklyn apartment! With plaster walls that have a lot of character like these, a warm white in a matte finish is always a safe bet. I think it makes all of that imperfection so beautiful, and I just wanted something clean and neutral since the clothes themselves are a lot of pattern and color. Because FASHION.
ANYWAY. Finishing touches here and there and everywhere and I HAVE SUCH A NICE CLOSET OMG. I really wish I could take better/wider pictures of it because I am so pleased and so smug.
Hello sleepy Bungee! He’s a very good boy. Which reminds me that another pupdate is probably in order!
But the closet. The closet! It fits all my clothes! It feels so organized and nice! I am so fancy!!
The plan really worked out well, I think. It’s a nice mix of old and new that you know I like, and it fits everything without feeling cramped or cluttered.
And all the original bits of the space got to stay, which I’m so happy about! I love the simple hook rail so much. The hooks had been moved around over the years, but it was pretty easy to tell where they were originally mounted—so seeing them all cleaned up and spaced like they were 150 years ago feels nice! Also yes I have been repeatedly informed that they look like little erect penises.
Man, this post has everything. Gaping holes. Cracks. Erect penises. Don’t @ me.
I sort of thought I’d always look at this ceiling and feel lazy for not fixing the original plaster, but I ended up preferring it! It just adds some richness and interest and texture. And, of course, I really love using defunct parts of the house to fix other parts of the house. Not only does it legitimize my hoarding but it’s also free and unique! I can’t just go out and buy beadboard like this, and I’m so glad it’s in my closet and not in a landfill.
The little light fixture is probably from the 30s, and used to be above the sink in the upstairs kitchen! I moved it to the spot above the sink in the first floor kitchen during that initial remodel, and now it’s here. It’s a cutie. I’m glad I had the good sense to have the electrician put a light in this closet during a really early round of work years ago. It’s an exciting day when you get to finally replace the keyless utility light with a real fixture!
CAN WE TALK ABOUT MY DRAWERS. I went from 4 super big awkward heavy drawers to 9 perfect new gliding drawers and it is magic. It feels so…adult? All I know is, getting dressed and putting away laundry are pleasant activities now.
Did a very very tiny Japanese lady re-teach you how to fold all your clothes? Did you roll your eyes at the mere suggestion and then dip your toe in and then move ahead full-force and never look back? I did. Marie Kondo, you’re nuts and I love you so much and you really were right about the folding thing.
Knowing that the interiors of my drawers are tidy is pretty much the only thing that makes me feel like I have my shit together. Don’t take this away from me.
The drawer pulls are kind of special to me! They came off this big mid-century-ish shelving unit thing that I grew up with. It held toys and VHS tapes and art supplies and basically everything I cared about as a kid. My parents sold it with the house when they moved several years ago, and EVIDENTLY I decided the new owners could find their own damn knobs and took those suckers with me. Don’t leave me unsupervised is the lesson here.
I ain’t sorry.
The floor is so nice now! I think I have a little rug that would look cute in here, but for now I’m just enjoying the refinished wood.
For the top of the dresser, I used birch plywood, iron-on veneer edge banding, some franken-stain from the basement and a couple coats of amber shellac. I love shellac. Did you know it comes from beetle butts? Did you know it’s also the coating on jelly beans and lots of other food products? I’m a wealth of information.
The shoe shelves feel real fancy. I used scrap plywood and face-nailed 1.25″ pieces of scrap red oak to the fronts to beef them up a little. I painted them the trim color because white sounded like something I’d regret down the line.
OH YES HE DID. A while ago, my pal Ashley at The Gold Hive sent me several leftover push-button switches from her amazing renovation, so I put one in here! For most rooms in the house I’ll want the dimmer version of these switches, but these are just on/off so this was a perfect place. The plate is unlacquered brass from House of Antique Hardware, so it should patina over time.
A while ago I ordered a few of these little wastebaskets, and I’ve been super happy with them! I like having a little trashcan in most rooms, and these are cute and well-made, and I think look a little nicer than metal or plastic.
I’m still getting used to not having the laundry baskets in here. I have never developed good habits around this…yesterday’s clothing can usually be found on my bathroom floor or on the floor next to my bed. I’m not sure what’s so hard about putting it directly into a receptacle, but I tend not to. I bet I could find a nice vintage hamper that would fit nicely in here, though, or use some of the hooks for a hamper solution like Kim and Scott have. Feeling it out.
While I had the supplies out, I finally got around to staining and sealing the shelves for the big armoire! Remember that little project? Well. Told ya I’d get to it.
As ridiculous as it might sound, I think the closet is pretty much now the ONLY space in the house that just feels…finished. It doesn’t need a Phase II renovation/decoration and that’s a nice feeling. I’m excited for more spaces to start to feel like that! I think a big key to making that happen is really trying to focus on storage—I actually don’t think I have THAT much stuff, but I do have a lot of stop-gap, ineffective storage solutions that make it feel like I do. I started 2019 with building the pantry cabinets, and now this closet…so I think that’s the theme of the year! Which works out nicely because bluestone cottage is the main priority, so I need my own house projects to be relatively small.
Speaking of relatively small projects, I really want to deal with this wall now! It appears to have originally had a mantel (this is the wall directly above the living room wall where I installed a mantel to replace another missing one!), and I’d really like to put one back. I think I’ve scrounged together the majority of the supplies I need—including the antique mantel!—over the last couple of years and now I’m all excited to make it happen. I’ve never felt like the bedroom is really working—the rug isn’t the right size, I kind of hate the bed, somehow I don’t even like the bubble lamp in here—so maybe getting that project done will help unstick my brain a little.
Oh also! I thought it might be fun to document this closet makeover on my Instagram stories as it was all happening! Consequently I took a lot more process videos than photos. I saved the more relevant parts to highlights, so you can watch it unfold in about 20 minutes if that sounds fun for you. And hey, give me a follow while you’re there! It’s a nice way to keep up between blog posts and I sure would appreciate it. You can find me at @DanielKanter!