Furniture Upgrades & Building Stuff

Call It Vanity, Call It Shelf-ishness

It has been nearly a month since we talked about stenciling the floor in our sink nook (we’re all over the place lately – Clara’s room, outdoor tiling, installing our stair runner, landscaping adventures, starting in on the kitchen, etc) but that doesn’t mean we were done in there. We had a few more bullets to check off:

So to knock that first bullet off the list, Sherry used a small foam roller to apply two thin and even coats of SafeCoat Acrylaq to the floor (that’s our favorite non-toxic eco poly). She rolled those on about 24 hours apart, and wore a respirator just because it wasn’t fully odorless. It went on pretty fast, and she started in the furthest corner of the closet and just rolled her way out of the room. Then we blocked it off while it dried so we didn’t end up with puppy paw prints in it.

It has been a nice protective final step that has made us less worried about any chips or drips (heck, I was even able to scrape off a dried staining splatter later without damaging the stencil).

Once the floor sealer was fully cured (we waited around 72 hours) we could load in the closet, and this time we tried to be more thoughtful about what went where, and what would be the most functional. Bringing in a dresser and a mirror as well as a laundry room basket to use as a hamper really helped to make it a lot more storage-friendly than a bunch of random bins and piles. Although this dresser will probably end up in the nursery and our new West Elm dresser will most likely make its way in here after we add that wall of built-ins around our bed down the line.

Here’s a shot of Sherry’s side:

And my side (note the difference in shoe quantities):

Just as a refresher, here’s what the closet looked like when we moved in and threw everything down. It’s amazing what some fresh paint on the walls, trim, floor, and ceiling along with some much needed organization and some old furniture (the dresser’s a hand-me-down and the mirror was a $5 yard sale find) can do.

So with those first two bullets checked off, it was shelf o’ clock. They were actually a pretty easy build. We just had to keep two things in mind as we planned them out on paper:

  1. how to build supports for two shelves (function!)
  2. where to create places to attach the front-facing boards to make it look pretty (form!)

So here’s what we came up with (we like to map things out on paper together, and then we usually divide and conquer, so in this case Sherry did the polying and most of the closet organization, and I was happy to do the shelf building and staining, especially since the stain isn’t without VOCs). Then Sherry swooped back in and tackled the hinges and reattached the doors while I switched out the drawer and door hardware.

As for the building step, I started from the floor and worked my way up.

Step 1: I nailed a small piece of scrap wood into the side of the vanity (and another just like it into the baseboard on the opposite side) with one side resting on the floor and the other set back 3/4″ from the front of the vanity’s toe kick.

Step 2: This created a spot for me to attach a strip of plywood that would effectively extended the toe kick all the way across.

Step 3: Right above this, I nailed in matching strips of 1 x 2″ board (that I ripped in half on my table saw) that the bottom shelf could rest on. You’ll see in Step #10 why I didn’t line it up with the bottom of the vanity.

Step 4: I placed my first shelf, which I cut out of a piece of plywood I had leftover from the sunroom ceiling. It was such a tight fit I didn’t bother nailing it into place.

Step 5: After carefully measuring for the middle of the space, I nail-gunned another set of small strips on all 3 sides. I hadn’t done a back strip on the last shelf because it (coincidentally) rested perfectly on the top of the baseboard. Note: in this photo you can see how the vanity is a little dinged up in a few places, hence our desire to refinish it, which would also help us match the new wood with the old wood.

Step 6: I added my second shelf, cut from the same piece of plywood scrap.

Step 7: We wanted to add a face board at the top of the opening too, since we were trying to mimic the spacing and the look of the existing vanity. So by putting a face board here, it’d continue the strip of wood between the drawer face and cabinet doors that’s already on the left side. So, just like I did for the toe kick, I nailed small pieces of scrap wood here, set slightly back from the front of the cabinet.

Step 8: Time to start adding face boards. I started with a vertical one against the wall, which was a 1 x 3″ board (which really measured 1 x 2.5″) that I ripped on the table saw to be 1 x 2″ to match the width of the existing face boards. I glued and nailed it into place against the supports and shelves.

Step 9: Since that vertical face board got nailed into the small piece of scrap that I had placed at the top, I no longer had a place for the horizontal face board to attach. So I screwed another piece of scrap into the back of the vertical board to create one again.

Step 10: Now to put in all of the horizontal face boards, which were from the same 1 x 3″ board that I ripped to be 2″ wide. I was able to glue and nail these into the supports and the front edge of the shelves too. I wanted the bottom edge to match up with the existing vanity, which is why in Step 3 I had to account for the 2″ face board when placing my shelf support strips.

Here’s a pulled back shot of the whole thing once it was constructed. Putting it together was pretty fast (maybe an hour?). It was triple-checking all of my measurements and cutting my pieces that took the longest. I was certain I was going to mess something up along the way – like forgetting to account for the thickness of the plywood shelf when placing my support strips – so I tried to do the whole measure twice (and think twice) before cutting once thing.

Obviously the next challenge was getting the new shelves and the old vanity to be the same color. We wanted to maintain some semblance of wood grain texture, but also had some darker toned wood items in our bedroom (like a big leaning wall mirror near the doorway to this sink nook) that inspired us to go a little richer/darker with our new stain choice. We also learned from painting the vanity in our half bathroom that a deeper, less-orange shade can tone down the yellow in the sink top. So after having such a good experience with PolyShades on our stair railing (and having half a can leftover) we decided to go that route with the vanity.

The other can pictured above is some stain that we had leftover from Clara’s dresser makeover, which we first brushed onto the new shelves (to get them closer to the existing color on the left side of the vanity before PolyShading the whole thing to be uniform). I stupidly forgot to take a picture of that step, so unfortunately we’ll just have to skip ahead, but the color wasn’t a perfect match at all – just sort of within a tone or two instead of one side being bleach blonde. Apparently it was enough of a similarity that one coat of Espresso PolyShades (applied with a brush) did the trick in fully bridging the gap. Oh and before I brushed on the PolyShades, Sherry lightly sanded the existing vanity side so it was stain-ready just like the fresh wood was.

Before Sherry reattached the doors and put the drawer back in (all of which I had removed to make staining easier) we updated the knobs with some cheap ones (under $2 each!) that we found at Target. We thought that the octagon shape was a nice step-up from completely basic but the color would blend in nicely with our dark stain, so the knobs won’t compete with the patterned floor. In addition to using four of them to replace the existing knobs, I also drilled holes to add two more in the dummy drawer face that sits under the sink for a more balanced look.

And with that folks, we have a completed vanity. Wait, but let’s reminisce about what we started with:

And where we ended up:

I realize the dark stain color makes it a bit hard to see some of the detail in photos (in person it’s more wood-grain-ish without looking quite as goth-dark), but I’m happy to report that the new shelves look like they’ve always been there. We only did one coat of the PolyShades because we didn’t want it getting any darker, so there’s a little variation in the wood tone throughout the vanity. A second coat might’ve evened that out, but we both decided we like how the variation maintains the wood grain (although if you’re going for consistent overall coverage, we’d probably recommend two coats).

The best part is that the project was super cheap for us. Thanks to having the plywood and both types of stain on hand, our only costs were a 1 x 2″ board and a 1 x 3″ board ($12 total), along with the knobs ($12) and two pairs of new ORB hinges for the cabinet doors ($6). So this entire vanity update came to a grand total of $30. Note: if you don’t have plywood and stain on hand, you might want to add $30 to the budget.

Between this, our half bathroom, and our stair makeover, we’re starting to notice that we’re really gravitating towards high-contrast, almost monochromatic color schemes in the smaller nooks and crannies of this house. I don’t think it’s an indication that we’re ditching color (our adjoining bedroom has blue walls, a green rug, bright yellow pillows, and a patterned headboard – and we can’t forget Clara’s recent wall & door makeover) but I do think we’re appreciating the impact of some dark accents in the mix.

And just for fun, here’s a before shot from that angle from before we moved in:

So I’d say we’re getting pretty darn close to calling Phase 1 of the sink nook complete. Which is probably a good thing since we’re halfway through stripping wallpaper in the dining room and ready to start rolling on some kitchen updates before the chaos of the holidays (along with the showhouse kicking into high gear). What did you guys do this weekend? Any building? Sealing? Staining? New hardware? Closet organization? As boring as the closet organization part sounds, it’s pretty nice to finally have a real spot for all of our stuff after feeling like we were living out of bins and sorting through random piles since June.



How To Add Extra Beefy Crown Molding

Sherry is officially half-done with Clara’s canopy wall update, so thanks so much to all 900+ of you who commented with votes and additional suggestions! We shared tons of photoshopped images with Clara and she decided we should combine a few ideas, and well, the kid’s a genius and we can’t wait to share the photos. We might just let her decide what we should do in every room.

But I, ever the party pooper, was determined to check a certain project off of my list that was over a month old before Sherry got to work on that wall: adding chunky double-wide crown molding in there.

So yes, feel free to boo me because I cut the line and knocked it out before Sherry could say “what about my canopy project?!” – which explains why she’s only half-done right now. But she woke up early yesterday to get things moving, and just needs to check off a few more things before she can shoot it and share it – hopefully by Monday).

Back to me and my chunky crown. Around a month and a half ago when we painted her walls and ceiling, we didn’t bother to cut in where the white walls meet the pink ceiling so a thin yellowed line of paint remained. Why? Because I planned to install crown molding right afterwards. Soft emphasis on “right afterwards.”

We’ve posted about installing basic crown before (both in photographic and video form) but I wanted to upgrade things this time and beef this crown up bigtime. One, because I had mastered the basic kind first (doing this right off the bat sounded scary, but now that I’ve done a bunch of crown it sounded like a fun challenge), and two, because this house sports beefier crown in many of the rooms that have it, including our dining room, living room, bedroom, office, and foyer – so we wanted the new crown to match the original crown. To give it more presence, the builder appeared to have installed a piece of baseboard before adding the crown on top. See how much thicker it looks?

From further away it doesn’t look weirdly baseboard-ish or too thick or anything, it actually seems nicely proportionate with other woodworky details in this house (like the chair rail in some of the rooms, the paneled doors, and the window mullions).

So I purchased baseboard that was 3.25″ tall, which just meant I’d have to float it away from the ceiling a bit to achieve the look we wanted (I could’ve bought wider stuff but I would’ve just been paying for wood you’d never see). So I cut some spacers to help me to keep it a consistent distance from the ceiling all around the room and nailed that in with my nail gun (more on the one we have here). I was sure to use a level to double-check my placement too, since ceilings aren’t always straight and relying on spacers alone could produce some wavy results. Oh and I used a stud finder and a pencil to mark my studs with a dot on the wall lightly below where I’d be nailing them in so I knew where to drive those nails in to be sure I hit a stud for a nice strong hold.

With my first piece of baseboard nailed up, I held up some crown to make sure we liked the look. Up close the baseboard part looked a little thick, so we walked into the other rooms to be sure that’s how it looked in there and to be sure we liked it. Sure enough, we loved the finish look, so we pressed on.

Getting all of the baseboard installed around the room went pretty quickly. It only required some simple 45° miter cuts in each corner, along with some 45° scarf joints where my boards weren’t long enough to span an entire wall. So it was a nice warm up to the more complex calculations and cutting that were to come with the actual crown.

I relied on my Kreg Crown Pro again to help me make accurate cuts for the crown. You can read a more about how to make those precise cuts in this post (or watch the video in this one). But the gist is that this Kreg tool (which I bought myself – we have no affiliation with them) helps you hold your board at the right angle on your miter saw. Since crown sits against your ceiling at an angle, it helps to cut on that same angle to get precise cuts so things match up nicely in the corners.

This part definitely took me longer and, thanks to a mid-day meeting, it wasn’t until later in the evening that I finally got all of the crown hung.

The next day it was time to caulk the seams to make the whole job look more finished. In addition to my corners and scarf joints, I also caulked where the baseboard meets the wall, where the crown meets the ceiling and where the baseboard meets the crown. That last step was especially helpful in making our base + crown combo appear more like one chunkier piece of molding instead of two pieces hung on top of each other.

Then we got our touch-up paint on. After you caulk nail holes and gaps you always want to paint again to seal all of that in and get a nice glossy and uniform look (caulk can read as more matte and can even collect dust while the glossier part deflects it so it’s well worth a coat to cover that up).

Here’s a detail of the finished job. We’re really happy with it! We thought we might not love it as much in a room with white walls (since it pops more easily when there’s color on the walls) but we actually really love the architecture it adds to the space. Sort of like how we find ourselves oohing and ahhing over those cool old buildings with white walls and thick crown that draws your eye up to the old tin ceilings… it’s not exactly like that in here (we wish!) but the pink ceiling is a fun focal point and the crown is like a big ol’ arrow pointing at it, which we really like.

It definitely makes the room look more polished – so even though it wasn’t the most fun or dramatically transformative project, it feels good to have it checked off my list. As for Clara’s reaction, she likes the “wood things we hung up there” but Sherry’s probably the most excited because she now has free rein in there. And things are HAPPENING on that canopy wall, let me just tell you.

Oh and in the money department, the total cost for the project was $76 worth of crown and $61 worth of baseboard for a total of $137. The boards came pre-primed and we used some of the Simply White semi-gloss paint that we stocked up on back when painting the rest of the trim upstairs, but adding $25 to that amount should cover a quart of paint plus caulk if you don’t have those on hand. Rather than paint after it was hung this time, I had the foresight to spray it way back in early September when I was set up to spray the planks for our sunroom ceiling. See, I told you this had been on my list for a while. Just don’t ask me how long I walked by that freshly sprayed trim sitting there mocking me in the garage.

Only bad news is that now I’m jonesing to put more beefed up crown around the rest of the rooms upstairs. Our bedroom was the only room to already have it, so that means I have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a loooooong hallway with weird angles to do. Oddly enough, I’m excited about it. But maybe that’s just my affection for nail guns and miter saws talking.