Our Current House
On Monday the bases to our nursery built-ins were done, and now (yes, you guessed it) so are the tops… well, except for some caulking, paint touch ups, and the crown molding.
We’re really happy with how they’ve turned out, and Sherry is about to explode from waiting to fill them in (I’m making her wait until we’ve finished all of our final caulking and paint touch-ups along with the rest of the room’s crown – I know, THE NERVE). But let me show you how we got to this stage, because the tops took a bit more planning than the bases did since I was building them from scratch.
We decided to build from scratch since we couldn’t find any pre-existing bookcases that would fit in that space. We went with plywood for the material – specifically, this PureBond eco plywood from Home Depot, which is formaldehyde-free (along with chunky wood trim pieces to beef up the sides and the shelf fronts). A 4ft x 8ft panel of that eco plywood is $47 so I figured out ahead of time how to get the most out of one piece. I still had to buy another 2′ x 4′ piece to get my last two shelves, but otherwise I was pretty proud of figuring out this puzzle.
I got all of these pieces cut down in the store, which made life much easier – especially since their big saw locks in place, so I had more confidence that my pieces would be consistent widths. Luckily the Home Depot guy was having a slow day so he was happy to oblige. They were small enough to fit in my car by this point, but since I was also buying a bunch of long pieces of crown molding for the rest of the room, I went ahead and rented their truck to get everything home for $19.
We tried to paint all of our pieces BEFORE installing them, since it’s typically easier to paint things when they’re laid out on the ground or leaned up against the wall (without having to worry about edging or cutting in around stuff). Here are the tall side pieces drying.
Once they were dry and the bases were finished, I attached one side piece directly to the wall (into a stud in a few places, to make it crazy secure).
Then I attached a thin brace piece (a strip of 1 x 3″ that I had cut and painted already) along the top into a couple of studs. This piece wouldn’t do anything visually (it would later be hidden) but it gave me a place to attach the second side piece. I screwed right through it into the end of the brace. You’ll note that we’re just relying on the wall to act as the back of the built-ins rather than attaching a plywood panel. We did this mainly for cost and simplicity purposes (we can always paint it a bright color or slide in foam core or cardboard covered backs with fabric or wallpaper to spice things up a little later).
That second side piece would gradually become more secure as I went along, attaching more braces and shelves. But to keep it as square as possible as I went, I temporarily attached a board across the front (which I later popped off). You’ll also note some pieces laying there at the bottom helping to keep things square down by the base of the bookcase.
With the sides in place, I could start building our shelves, so I marked along one side where each of them were going to go.
The night before this Sherry and I had played around a bit with where we wanted them to sit. We decided on doing three shelves (creating four cubbies) because it seemed like the most balanced look to us – not too cramped, not too spacious. We went for permanent shelves, rather than adjustable ones, because we thought they’d look more polished and would accommodate most things since they’re pretty standard sizes.
We typically like our shelves all evenly placed, but we noticed that this made the bottom shelf look a little small for some reason when we taped things out. Then we came across this room and really liked the spacious bottom shelf design, so we gave ours a few extra inches of breathing room too – and here’s where we ended up (the painter’s tape represents the width of each shelf). The depth of all of the shelves is 11″ by the way.
Next it was time to attach the shelf braces. I cut these brace pieces by ripping a 1 x 3″ along my table saw into .75″ wide pieces. This will make more sense in a moment, but basically any thicker than that and the braces would hang below the trim pieces that I’d be adding later to the front of each shelf.
I nailed the braces into the wall and the sides (being sure to keep things level as I went) just to get everything in place. Then to make sure they were secure and could bear weight, I went back and screwed them each into the studs in a few spots.
Here are all three shelves added (Sherry and I had already pre-cut and painted them). I also nailed each shelf down into the brace piece so they won’t pop out or jiggle or anything.
One of the continuous challenges of this build has been that our walls aren’t totally flat/level. So my perfectly cut shelf pieces didn’t necessarily sit perfectly flush in some spots. But it wasn’t anything a little paintable caulk couldn’t fix along those back edges – especially since I had to caulk all the various seams where the braces met the shelf anyway.
Once the caulk had dried, we took this opportunity to paint the back wall and ceiling to match the rest of the built-ins. We considered leaving the wall color as-is, but decided it’d look more like one unit if we painted that to match the shelves. We’re still open to adding a pop of color to the backs down the line, or even some foam core covered with fabric or wallpaper, but we want to load up the shelves to see how they look first (don’t want them to get too busy).
After our wall paint dried, I re-hung the temporary header piece that I had added before (I popped it off so Sherry could paint it). It doesn’t go all the way to the ceiling because the crown will cover that gap (and it was cheaper to buy a 1 x 6″ piece than a 1 x 8″ one). Next I attached the face trim. Since plywood has a rough and unfinished edge, we wanted to polish things off with some 1 x 2″ pieces to frame out the front and make them look chunky. Sherry likes to call this method “Restoration Hardware-ing” something, because it really is the difference between a budget look and a nice substantial and solid one.
Then I could begin to install the crown molding. We’re using the same technique that we used in Clara’s room (upside down baseboard + crown = extra beefy crown). Since I intentionally bought the shorter/cheaper 3.25″ baseboard (knowing that it wouldn’t sit flush to the ceiling, but that the gap would be covered by the crown) you can see how I used a spacer on top of the piece that I’m nailing to make sure I got things in the right spot.
There were a few questions on Monday about white vs. gray molding and whether it should match the built-ins or the rest of the room. We’ve seen it done both ways, but here’s a room where it matches the built-ins, which we liked more. We may change our minds once we see all the trim installed, but we just pictured a white stripe at the top and bottom of them looking funny – kind of like the middles are floating. So we like the idea of grounding them with same-toned baseboards and elongating them by continuing that color on the crown.
Here’s a piece of freshly painted crown just held in place so you can get the idea of what it’ll look like. I’m going to wait to install these pieces ’til I do the whole room, which will hopefully be early next week.
We still need to do some caulking, nail hole filling, and paint touch-ups. But for the purposes of today, we’re declaring them done enough. At least enough for us to start putting the room back together.
Oh and a few folks on Monday wondered if these built-ins were storage overkill, at least for a baby, but they’re just our way of playing the long game in here. Clara’s six-drawer dresser was barely full when she was born, but in a few short years she has grown, along with her clothes, and now that big double dresser is overflowing. So we think these eight drawers will be full in no time.
It would probably make for more blog fodder if we redid everything when he’s 3, but we’re trying to invest time and money into more permanent-but-flexible pieces for this guy, especially since we plan to be here long-term. That’s why we constructed these to eventually accommodate a twin sized bed (lengthwise) or even a full-sized bed (width-wise) when that time comes. So while we love easy & inexpensive Phase 1 updates for rooms that are extra pricey to renovate (like kitchens/bathrooms, especially when we’re not sure what we want to do with their layouts just yet), if we know what we want and have the money on hand for a space like a bedroom (or our recently renovated sunroom), it’s exciting to work towards that end-vision from the get-go.
As for the placement of the crib between these new built-ins, there’s about 20″ of wiggle room on each side, so we’re not concerned about Barnacle being able to reach out and scale the bookcases (we’ll drop the mattress when he’s more mobile, so they’ll be even further out of reach). And if he turns out to be especially long-armed or daredevil-ish, we can always rotate the crib 90° so the gap is even greater.
And now for some random room thoughts from Sherry, after we pushed the crib back in there:
- “Now I’m itching to paint the crib drawer since it’s a little clashy – maybe bright green?”
- “The white of the crib looks pretty out of place right now, but I think once we add curtains and frames and things on those bookcases it’ll make more sense.”
- “Colorrrrrr! Faaaaaabric! Let’s have some fun now that these studly built-ins are in the bag.”
The room’s definitely looking like Beige City right now (not to be confused with Bear City) but we have big plans to layer in lots more as we go – just like we did in Clara’s room, which started with white walls. So stuff like bedding, a mobile, window treatments, books, toys, and some colorful art should definitely add more personality.
As for the total cost of these two built-in bookcases, I spent around $60 per side (which includes the eco plywood for the sides and shelves, the baseboard and quarter-round that I used at the foot of the dressers, the lumber for lifting the dressers up to accommodate those baseboards, and the wood for the shelf braces & face trim).
In summary: I’m beyond psyched to have these checked off of our to-do list. When we first started discussing them I pictured them taking me months to finish, so I’m pleasantly surprised to have them knocked out in about two weeks. All of that priming, painting, staining, sealing, and caulking (shout out to the lady-wife for her help with that) really cuts into your pace sometimes! Speaking of Sherry, I know that she’s happy to have them done so she can unleash her decorating beast in here. Just picture her doing her best Golum impression and creepily whispering things like “criiiiib skiiiiirt” and “boooookcase stufffff.”
Well, our new washer and dryer have arrived! And we promised to share how the installation went, what we did with the floors under them, and how we like them so far (that’s where things really get interesting). We realized a few days ago that we’ve had a whole bunch of different laundry situations. In our first house we had front loaders with a counter…
In our second house we had stacked front loaders with cubbies next to them…
… and in this house we’ve had top loaders with cabinetry above them. Here are the new guys sitting pretty (although not quite as pretty as the others since we haven’t tackled the rest of this nook yet).
Honestly, each of these setups have had pros and cons:
- We loved having a counter over our first house’s front loaders, but it usually ended up cluttered with stuff (it became sort of a dump-this-here-until-we-deal-with-it-later zone). And this setup required the most bending, which wasn’t that bad at the time, but now that we’ve had top loaders a while, we definitely can appreciate less of that.
- Our stacked loaders were nice because we had cubbies for storing everything we needed, which didn’t tend to get cluttered like the counter (there just wasn’t space to drop grocery bags, returns, and other random items there). There was still a fair amount of bending and lifting when it came to doing laundry, but again – at the time it was just fine, and we really only realized how nice top loaders were once we moved here.
- The obvious con to top loaders is that there’s no place for a counter, which we did really like having, but we still have the top of the dryer to work with (we can put the laundry basket there for example – or lay things out to air dry). The cabinets might be our favorite storage solution (as compared to open cubbies or pull-up blinds) just because everything is tucked out of view but still really easy-access.
*Note: We got some questions on Friday’s post about why we don’t bring our appliances with us when we move. It seems to be one of those regional things. Here people tend to leave them, but it’s not like you leave nice ones without getting anything in return for them – it’s just factored into the listing price here (a seller can command a higher asking price by saying “there are new top of the line appliances” which obviously add a lot of appeal/value).
But now onto our new washer and dryer! When it came to delivery, the guys were really nice, although I did realize about half-way through it that I needed to lay down a dropcloth to protect the runner, even though they wore those nice little shoe-booties (the runner was getting dripped on by the old appliances as they came down – but it was thankfully nothing I couldn’t just wipe down to remove). With the booties/dropcloth combo it looks like a slip-n-slide situation (I begged them to take off their booties because I was afraid they’d fall) but thankfully they went slow and steady and all was fine. Turns out I’m just a worry wart.
You might remember that we couldn’t wait to get the old appliances up and out of there so we could finally replace the old pan under the washer and remove the remaining carpet scraps that were sitting under the dryer.
We decided that laying down some thick 3/4″ plywood (which is the same depth as our hardwoods) would be a nice way to give that particle-board subflooring a more finished look – especially since we could stain it to match the floors so well (we used one coat of Dark Walnut followed by three coats of SafeCoat Acrylacq to seal them). We actually added plywood under our last washer and dryer (more on that here) since we heard it was easier on them to have reinforced flooring (something about them lasting longer) so we’re hoping it gives these a leg-up.
As soon as the guys carried our old appliances downstairs we ran up into the laundry nook for a quick floor presto-change-o, which we did in a blind panic because we knew it would only take them a few minutes to get the old ones downstairs and the new ones upstairs. First we had to remove the old carpeting, which was more secure than we expected (John actually had to scrape up the staples in a mad-dash after we yanked up the carpet and underlayment). Look at him go:
Then we had to get the boards down. Here’s the first one going in. We had pre-measured them and stained/sealed them beforehand so they were all ready to slide into place when the appliances came up.
The second one went right in after the first, but there’s still a small gap that we have to fill where the molding jutted out too far for us to get a flush result. We hope it’ll look nice and complete once we slide that missing piece in (we’re just going to cut one more slice of plywood and stain it to match). Wish we had time to prime and paint that blue trim hiding in the nook while the old washers were out, but it might have to wait for a rainy day…
When you step a little further back, you can hardly tell it’s not the same hardwood flooring running under those appliances (we didn’t photoshop the crack out of this pic, it’s just barely noticeable from this distance). And we’re really happy with how well the color matches. We also plan to add some nice white folding doors (there were some blue ones hanging there originally) so that’s another reason we thought the subtle flooring change should work really well.
As for leak protection, since these guys are on the second floor (and we REALLY REALLY don’t want them to cause damage to anything below them, we were sure to place the washer in a plastic water-catching basin and also upgraded to those nicer reinforced steel water lines instead of the plastic ones.
The crazy thing is that during installation there was actually a small leak where it was attached to our water line, but we caught it while the installer was still here, and he ducked back there and fixed it by tightening things a little. The lesson? Check those lines!
So now onto the fun stuff: how we like our new washer and dryer! Well, we LOVE the dryer so far. It has been quieter, has a much larger capacity, doesn’t shrink things nearly as much as our older one did (that one practically “burned” things and this one has a heat sensor so it doesn’t over-dry). I also love the charming little chime sound it makes when it’s done (which can still be silenced, but it’s so much better than the loud buzz that our old one made).
We also really like the digital setup of the washer and the dryer. It’s easy to see things, like how long each cycle still has left.
The washer’s capacity is also really awesome. It fits a lot more than any of our previous models (especially the old one we were replacing).
And now for the womp-womp. Remember how I worried that bad things happen in threes? Well, our new washer is broken. I’ll pause for effect, as I quietly weep into my dirty laundry pile. The installation just included starting it to make sure there were no leaks when it filled up, but they didn’t stay to watch it run a full cycle (which is completely understandable… that would be close to an hour of washer-watching time).
So imagine our surprise when we ran our first real load of laundry well after they had pulled out of our driveway and heard a crazy-loud grinding sound during the wash cycle (whenever the agitator is moving, there’s this jarring metal-against-metal sound). We even captured it on video, which does no justice to how loud it is – you can hear it all the way from downstairs with the TV or radio blaring.
I woefully called Home Depot to tell them we already had a problem and they told us to call Maytag, who told us they could get a tech out in seven days. Ack! A full week without a working washer after buying a new one and expecting it to run without issue? I sweetly asked if they could get that service call moved up a bit since we were expecting a working machine upon delivery (our laundry had built-up a bunch already, so the prospect of another seven days of waiting stunk) and they said we could call Home Depot and see if they could do anything. I explained that I called them first, but would try one more time.
Well, when HD heard it was going to be a week until Maytag could make a service call (which might not even fix things, it might just diagnose that I needed a new machine, which then had to be ordered) – I could feel them trying to work something out for me, which I really appreciated. They had mercy on my sweet laundry-missing soul and agreed to take back the first one and deliver a new one on Thursday.
I’m really happy with Home Depot’s customer service (I’m sure it’s a lot easier for them to just say “call Maytag, it’s a mechanical issue that they’re supposed to handle) and I have to be honest that I wish Maytag had been able to come out for a service call within 48 hours or so, which is what I expected when my brain reached that “oh snap, our brand new washer is broken” moment.
So that’s where we are. Still
sleepless in Seattle washerless in Richmond, but we love our dryer and the new flooring under it. And here’s hoping that by Thursday I’ll be whistling while I work that new washer. I’ve never looked forward to doing laundry this much in my life! Have you guys had any unexpected delivery or new-appliance issues? We’re happier than ever that ours have a one-year warranty given this little curve-ball, but we hope this third house snafu means we have all of our bad luck out of the way for a while…
Sidenote: We’d love to see you guys this weekend at the Richmond Home & Garden Show! We’re speaking at 2pm on Saturday and Sunday (with a book signing following Saturday’s talk). You can get half-price tickets online right here. Oh and they gave us the shock of our life when we were driving down the highway and saw our giant faces on a billboard.
Seriously, we screamed so loud it probably scared other drivers. It’s exciting, unbelievable, and terrifying to see your own mug that big.