Thursday, May 8, 2014

the closet, week 5 or 6 depending on how you count

So I specifically ranted about this "six-week challenge" being a five-week challenge.  (And unfairly abused the selfless hostess of this project, Linda of Calling it Home, who hosts the round-up of both the real one-room challengers and the goofy copycats, like me.)  And I specifically started off by saying that I had six weeks of work to do, namely:

Week 1 - demolition
Week 2 - put up studs; move wires into place for overhead light (including 2 junction boxes)
Week 3 - re-insulate ceiling; drywall, tape, and spackle
Week 4 - paint inside and outside; replace picture rail and baseboard outside
Week 5 - hang light, shelves, and closet poles
Week 6 - put clothes back in

And therefore, true to my promise, I have not finished.  I did demolish, frame, and wire.  I didn't need to re-insulate the ceiling because it hadn't been insulated in the first place (that is, the insulation was higher up than I thought).  As of last week, I had hung drywall, taped, and mostly spackled:

I had also replaced the picture rail and the baseboard, and painted most of the outside:

That leaves the rest of the spackling, shoe molding for the outside, more painting outside, painting the inside, installing the brackets, putting in shelves and poles, a few odds and ends (trimming out the switchplate, for example) - and putting the clothes back in.  So as of now, here's the outside:

With shoe molding and everything! 

(I am aware that I still need to clean the floor in there. Actually, I also need to wax it - I roughed it up more than I planned to.)  And let's see what it was supposed to look like...

Not too bad!  I still need to decide what goes where the highboy is now ("linen press" in the diagram), but that is clearly a week-six-and-beyond job.  And as for the inside of the closet:

I'm not merely a bad photographer (though that is true). The closet is 62" by 37", finished. And no longer has missing walls. I even used the big camera to try to get some decent shots, and you just can't see the whole thing. But that shows that there is a rod at 40" off the ground, with a shelf above; then, there's a rod 35" above that on the left, with about 12" of shelf space above that.  On the right the rod is all the way at the top (no shelf), so I can hang dresses: 

And around the corner to the right is the niche:

Here is the wall opposite the niche:

I did frame out that switch:

But not as well as I was planning to.  I can explain why that didn't work 100% and how it could have worked better if someone else is planning to do the same project.  A gratuitous shot of the ceiling area (helps a little to see the upper shelves):

And - demonstrating the fine detail capacity of the bigger camera but not my brushwork:

Obviously, conduit for that stretch of wiring is on the "still not done" list.  And I haven't bent back the plate on that box, either, because I have a specific tool that will do that beautifully and I can't find it.  I did, however, clean the floor for those photos.  Before it looked like this:

(Don't ask me why that picture is sideways.)  But of course, the newly-cleaned floor doesn't appear in any of the shots I took of the closet. 

Oh, and you may remember that last week I had a dilemma.  I had discovered that the boards I removed from one of the old closets were solid cedar.  While I had originally bought a box of cedar tongue-and-groove to line a little bit of the closet for moth-proofing, after this discovery I felt it behooved me to use the original-to-the-house material.  By Saturday, I decided that the right thing to do would be (1) strip the small boards I was using for shelves in the niche down to bare cedar; (2) strip the scrap cedar and use it to make the half-width shelf, and vertical dividers for that shelf; (3) purchase some new cedar to use for the full-width shelf; and (4) cut some remaining scrap cedar into S-curve brackets to visually divide the full-width shelf into cubbies.  And then return the closet liner I bought to the store.  I figured that would be enough for moth resistance, and it would be a few accents of raw cedar against the blue walls, which would look fine. 

Then the store didn't have the cedar I wanted in stock, so I figured I would order it and pick it up later (in my increasingly limited time).  Also in said limited time, I had to strip my remaining cedar (and finish everything else - painting hardware, etc., etc.).  So I bought the serious stripper (Klean-Strip), rather than the environmentally friendly stuff.  It said right on the bottle, "strips multiple layers of paint at once."  I was all pleased with myself - from here on out, I have decided, I am going to select products based on their environmental hostility. The green movement has gotten on my last nerve. I would like to tell you that the Klean-Strip was immeasurably better than the non-toxic stuff I used on the antique table, but in fact, the rest of my closet design was cemented by this:

There was a layer of blue paint on the boards, and under that a layer of yellow, and under that, wood.  So, in 15-30 minutes, this product strips half a layer of paint.  Assuming that the second application finished things completely (unlikely), I estimated it would take an additional 17 hours to finish the necessary stripping.  It was at that point that I decided all the shelves in the closet would be painted white (as they appear above).  I also decided to return the box of cedar closet liner to the store, and spend the $30 on these instead:

A five-pack is $10 at the big orange store.  Done. 

And regarding the cedar-stripping project - the non-toxic stuff costs 20% more and probably smells worse, and doesn't really strip better, but it claims to restore the ozone layer and make your Cheerios more nutritious.  Your call.  Personally, I have decided to leave the scrap pieces in the pouring rain for a few days and see whether the results would make good outdoor furniture.  Turning them into a planter seems too disrespectful.  (And I don't need planters.) 

So, what else didn't I get done?  This is pretty obvious, isn't it?  I didn't put the clothes in.  That's going to take me at least another week!  OK, not really.  But I wanted to let the paint cure fully (last night it was wet), and knock down some roughness in the paint job, and maybe there are one or two other little things.  I wanted to put some hooks along the closet wall, so my husband could hang up pants and shirts that are worn, and will be worn again, and therefore can neither go in the hamper nor back on the shelf (I have tried every other solution to this problem; his preference is to pile them on beds and chairs, and the aggravation is shortening my life), like this:

I used to have a few of those old-fashioned hooks kicking around somewhere - I just sort of acquired them. It was very helpful in our last old house. I may have run out of them?  So I was figuring I would buy a few, maybe something like these from the big orange store:

They sell a few similar variants, from $.88 each to $2.98 each. Then two things happened.  First, I woke up and realized that the wall I wanted to put them on was this one:

Which does not have room for a trio of hooks.  Maybe a hook.  And second, at some point while cutting in the paint around the floor I was idly staring, and, apparently for the first time, I saw the hinges on the closet door:

I tell visitors that my 120-year-old house doesn't really have a lot of charm for its age - the curved wall and the servants' stairs are the only bits of strange character left. It doesn't have any octagonal rooms or crazy trimwork.  I manage to forget that the house is (a very humble) neo-Gothic, but the house remembers.  Those are the hinges on the closet.  Look at the hinge pins!  They have finials!  (How on earth would you remove them without damaging them?  I hope that is never necessary.)  So I went into a mini-crisis wherein I decided that every bit of my "cottage-style" design for the closet was based on anachronism and self-delusion, and I should start over, and wallpaper it (as it apparently was originally!), and probably I should have this light fixture:

In the antique brass finish, of course. It's $300, from House of Antique Hardware.  It later occurred to me that, though the one above is a huge step up in fanciness (and price), other than the polished nickel finish, the one I bought is not entirely dissimilar in style:

It's the fluted globe that I was most particularly drawn to, and it looks as though I was not too far from historical accuracy there.  (Let's just ignore the blue, white, and silver part of my plan.)  Meanwhile, while I browsed House of Antique Hardware to reeducate my apparently wayward tastes, I discovered some rather extraordinary hook options.  Of which the most extraordinary clearly was  this:

Go to the site and look at it close up.  See how Gothic!  They're $7.99 each.  And apparently I can only fit one, so...I mean, that's not much more than three $2 hooks (though there's shipping, too)...and it will obviously hold more things than one ordinary hook.  It's almost like I have to buy it.  It comes in lacquered iron, which I figure will split the difference between my polished nickel light and my (literally) antique brass hinges.  (That's how you mix metals, right?) 

And it would establish, I don't know, a few square inches of actual design in my space.  Because now that I have the project done, I realize that my precious, precious closet resembles nothing so much as the "before" pictures from when people make over a builder-basic walk-in closet in a new home (except that it's blue and has a really cool light, obviously).  I had more custom finishes planned, but they turned out to be functionally impracticable, not to mention I ran out of time.  (If there are customizations that will be feasible and make the closet more useful, I definitely can and will add them later.)  However enormous or miserable or exhausting, my project doesn't really come up to scratch when you look at the contestants' ORC work.  Such as Erin's:

Or V's:

And there's lots more.  And I haven't even looked at the copy-catters' work yet (and some of that is professional-quality, too - uh, some of them are actually professionals).  It turns out that I am not competing in that league, and that would make this post pretty darn sad, except for one thing:



  1. From my perspective, I think it's amazing that you got in there and tackled this job yourself. How many people wouldn't even attempt to open up a wall or even add trim themselves? Budget, time and experience all play into these projects. Perhaps you will add some of the finishes down the road once you've used the closet and understand exactly what you have need for. I say that's a better use of resources than filling it with accessories just to call it "complete". For now, take a look back at these last 6 weeks and be proud that you had the guts to tackle such a big project yourself. I'm certainly impressed!

  2. I agree with Erin. This kind of renovation in an old home is time consuming, frustrating and sometimes seems thankless. I applaud your humour and commitment to it. Great job!

  3. I cannot believe you took this on. You are amazing. I'm so proud of you, and what you are accomplishing. Take your time, I'll be back to see. Congrats.

  4. I've been following along,too. I think it is fantastic that you took on a construction project rather than a merely decorative one. Ballsy. (PS Love the light fixture and the hook.)

  5. Hey....when it involves moving walls....then I'm out! So congrats to you for a job well done!

  6. I am soooo impressed - no WAY could I have accomplished what you did - even if I had 12 weeks! I say great job!!!!

  7. Your work is fantastic! Wow. So... wanna come to CO and consult with me on - well - pretty much my whole house? ;)

  8. Time for another chat.....STOP COMPARING YOURSELF. Really, everyone starts from a different place with different skills, different budget, different room, etc. You should be so happy with how much you got done. In our old house, it took me four years to finish a piece of trim in my closet, no joke. Now, the next one starts in October so start thinking about it now, go ahead and begin early if you want....there are no ORC police, but you can't post about it until October. Great job, be happy!