Monday, March 4, 2019

An inexpensive upgrade

When we bought this house, I knew the brass, curvy doorknobs throughout the upstairs had to go. 
I love gold, but we all know how dated these polished brass handles are. 
My goal was to replace them all right away with matte black knobs, but I must've had pregnancy brain, because I ended up with some 'meh' oil-rubbed bronze ones that were big and round and had that burnished gold distressing I didn't want.  They sat in a basket for about two years while I put the project off.  I finally got around to it this year, and decided to sell all of the knobs I'd already bought and put that money towards these beauties.
I spent twice the money on these knobs, but I loved the flat, modern profile and matte black finish.  I had never changed out knobs before, so it was a learning experience for me.  Overall, the process is very easy...but I had a couple snags with the screws that set me back a little.  I started by unscrewing everything, keeping note of where it all connects.
Then it became clear that there really isn't much you can do to screw this up.  The spindle of one knob goes through the latch mechanism to the other knob.  The biggest mistake you can make is to install the latch facing the wrong way. 
I almost did that myself, the curved part has to face the direction of the door frame so it closes smoothly. 
These knobs came with the rounded faceplates attached to the latches.  I had a lot of trouble removing the rounded latch faceplates to put on the squared ones.  I ended up bending the metal backing of the faceplate each time I pried them off, but was able to bend it back relatively easy.  I needed the squared off face plates, and I still have some work to do on these doors. 
Another pet peeve I had was that the screws they give you to attach the knob to the inside of the room are brown/aged brass in color, much different from the color of the knobs themselves. 
The screws were very close to the center spindles, so I would tighten them as much as I could by hand before using a screwdriver.  A couple of the knobs had gunk in them, and it made the screws very hard to turn.  I had to put the screws in and out of the housing with a screwdriver while it wasn't on the door to loosen everything up.   
Once the knob was replaced, I used my drill to remove the screws from the strike plates and replaced all of those.  I've got some painting in my future!
The final step was to use the drill to remove the screws from the hinges and replace them one by one, no need to remove the door totally. 
I kept the Gatehouse hinges I had bought years ago, and they matched the black knobs very well. 
I had no problems with the functionality of the new stuff, EXCEPT for our bathroom door.  For some reason, the door wouldn't shut correctly with the new hinges, even though they were exactly the same thickness and size.  The strike plate was in the same position as well, so I ended up having to spray paint the old brass hinges black for that door.  Annoying, but it worked.  I love the new knobs and hinges so much!
And while I couldn't match up the lighting exactly right, here is a great before and after to show how much more striking the black hardware looks in the hallway. 
This project cost me $215 for all 7 knobs and two boxes of hinges.  I think it was such a small investment for a lot of impact!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

KonMari-ing our closets

So.  Organization is pretty much on everyone's mind in January, but especially this year with 'Tidying Up' streaming on Netflix.  We watched the first couple episodes, and like many people, it resonated with us in a big way!  Shaun is not one to go through his clothes very often, he had sweaters and jeans in the closet that he hasn't worn in ten years.  That means these clothes were moved to Minnesota and to Illinois without us ever addressing the issue.  He actually got rid of two huge black garbage bags of clothes that didn't "spark joy," but it is much harder for me to get rid of things.  Here's what I was looking at on a daily basis:
Disaster!  There was constantly stuff on the floor, piled on my nightstand, and everywhere else I could throw something.   I realized that the 'bookshelf' solution that worked well for clothing storage in my dressing room years ago was not that effective inside a tiny closet.  Also, please hold while I go cry into my glass of wine and look at photos of my beloved dressing room. 
 I also had this 'bin of shame' that just held a huge pile of stuff that I didn't use often (cough cough *workout clothes*) and was always such an eyesore. 
 Here's a better look at that pile once I removed all the random bags from the floor:
The floor was always like this because things would fall off the bookshelf and I was too lazy to put it back.  Also, slippers.  Such a problem, you damn sippers!
I knew I needed to go through the clothing and KonMari that crap, but I also realized I needed better storage in here.  I decided to go with white mesh Elfa 'dressers' from The Container Store, and it has worked out really well in this small closet!  The best part is that January is their annual Elfa sale, so I got 30% off.  (Spoiler alert, it's still expensive!)
When things are piled on shelves, it usually makes a mess when you try to remove something from the bottom of the stack, so drawers were much better for things like tank tops, t shirts and pants.  Assembling the Elfa stuff wasn't exactly fun, but it was easy enough.  You have to hit the pieces together VERY hard, so be sure to protect your floors really well when putting together.  I opted for the driftwood melamine tops instead of white, clear feet and the clear drawer clips that ensure you can't pull the drawers all the way out onto the floor.  Here is the final product!
This closet is 48 inches wide INSIDE, but the space between the open doors is just 37 inches.  Whatever drawer units I picked had to fit inside that width so I could slide the drawers out without hitting the closet doors.  I ended up choosing the tall (10 runner) narrow (14") frame for the left, and a short (4 runner) wide (22") frame for the right.  Together they are 36 inches wide, perfect for this space. 
Once you pick your frames, you just buy the drawers you want, the top you want, and put it all together.  The units are clipped together in the front and back, so they won't slide around.  I love how much easier it is to get to my things!  I can also push back the teal bin (which holds my bras - ha!) and make enough room for emergency folded clothes that need to be put away if I'm short on time. 
I tried my best to do Marie K's folding technique, but ended up pretty much just rolling everything in the smallest drawers.  I love that everything is one layer deep now, no wondering what I have.  I can also pull the drawer all the way out without it falling, to see the back. 
Some other things I added to increase the functionality are Container Store shelf dividers for the existing wire shelving that came with the house.  I was so happy they fit perfectly!  I need one more for in between the last two stacks of sweaters. 
I also purchased this clear plastic ventilated shelf liner from Container Store, they sell it in 12, 16, and 20 inch depth to fit standard wire shelving.  I had to cut little boxes out to allow the shelf dividers to pass through, but the bonus is that the shelf dividers hold the liner on with no sliding around.  No more snagging my sweaters!
I've had these hooks sitting in my laundry room unused for years, finally got around to installing them in here for jewelry and robe storage.  Thanks, Youngsters! 
I love how these look, and I didn't mess with anchors.  Just drilled a small hole in the drywall and screwed them in.  
A few more little things I added are Elfa hooks behind the hanging clothes to store belts:
 And purses:
I also have a couple handbags on the lower drawer unit top, and it's a great place to store boots and shoes so they aren't on the ground. 
 I also have enough room on the right side to store tall boots, which is nice.
All of my jeans and leggings fit in the short unit, and all my everyday tops and sweaters fit in the closet somewhere.  I got rid of several bags of clothes, so I'm feeling pretty good.  Now, I just need to work on getting rid of my 'overflow' clothes in the other rooms.  That is mostly dressy stuff, and things I am not sure I will ever wear again, but find it hard to get rid of.  I'm especially impressed with Shaun's closet makeover, his side is pretty bare compared to before!
 Our closets are looking so much better. 
What you didn't see, the bed immediately after this project.  Ha! 
A little before and after:
I'm so happy with the functionality of my closet now, I'd highly recommend the Elfa storage line if you are looking for help with closets, cabinets, or any space in your home!  Just to be clear, everything in this post was purchased by me at retail price.  As always, this blog is for fun and I do not accept sponsored posts or free products in exchange for reviews.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Our big summer project - three months later

We usually have a big outdoor project every year, and this year we chose to put in a big, beautiful shed.  We have limited storage in our garage, so a shed is absolutely necessary.  Here she is newly put up.
We chose to use Tuff Shed because of the 6 inch galvanized steel joists that make it able to sit right on the grass without the expense of a slab underneath.  Unfortunately, Tuff Shed requires a permit to install their sheds, and that meant I had to deal with the village - which sucked.  We have a huge 10ft utility easement on the back property line, and it has to be 5 ft from the side lot line, which meant the shed had to be basically in the middle of our yard.
I didn't want to put it in the easement, because it cost 4k and if they needed to remove it to work on the utilities, we were out of luck.  I agonized over the placement of our 8x12 shed.  Originally, I thought we could put it lengthwise against the side lot line facing our tree...then I realized our side lot line is actually only 10 feet from our house - see orange cup on the stake.  This is in between our houses, with ours being on the right side of the pic.  I guess we've been mowing our neighbor's grass for three years!
With this narrow side yard, the tree trunk would be only 7 or 8 feet from the shed door if we put it along the side line.  No thanks!  We ended up turning it to face front, and landscaped to make it seem intentional that it was so far into the yard.  Spoiler alert - the inspector didn't even measure anything, so all my careful measuring and worry was for nothing!  I was livid!
It was pretty fascinating to watch the installation process.  It was a man and woman, and they had it done in about 6 hours if I remember correctly.  We ran into an issue where I didn't call the diggers hotline before the install date, the Tuff Shed receptionist who scheduled me didn't tell me I needed to, and the village of Palatine requires three foot deep anchors to be attached to all four corners of the shed  You know, in case the all-wood and metal 1 ton building blows away in the wind.  It was quite an ordeal getting them to come back to put in the anchors that we paid for, so that tarnished my experience.  But, they did get in about a week later so we could get inspected and start landscaping.
This shed is absolutely wonderful.  It looks beautiful, it has windows that slide open, and we opted for the built in shelving on the back wall.  Zach loved the shelving until we got it all crapped up!
I upgraded to black hardware, and I'm so glad I did.  We would love to one day get electric run to the shed, and I would probably add two small black 'porch' lights somewhere on the front.  
I love how it looks from the street!  Just like a mini version of our house, minus the brick.  
Once it was up, I bought some foundation plants and came up with a plan to make this thing look less dropped in from nowhere.  
I changed my mind so many times with the landscaping plan!  I realized after we got it installed, that the extra big door can swing all the way back to the window, so we'd have to plant low things where the door swings.  I probably could've gotten two smaller doors that meet in the middle, but we are just working with it.  
I always like when things are new and clean, so I took a formal photo with the shed before all the landscaping, complete with yellow string to help mark it out.  I never get in the photos, so I'm glad I did!
While I loved the clean look of the inside for the first week or two, we had to spoil it all with our junk  We needed tall shovel and rake storage, and lots of heavy duty hooks for our bikes and yard tools.  
We got everything we needed at Home Depot, including the customizable tool rack and pegboard panels.  Warning, I did not tidy up for these photos.  This is my life!
And the other side, minus our bikes which are usually hanging from those ceiling hooks:  
And the lovely view straight on:
Things on the outside started to take shape after I decided to use five grasses along the side lot line to act as sort of a privacy screen.  We had to cut out a lot of grass all around the shed, and the right side had to be extra long.  
I always prefer a curvy planting area, and I worked with the existing circle around the maple tree to make this one big mulched area. 

Zach liked to help with the grass removal, and he found a bunch of cicada shells, so that was a little boy WIN!
Once we got it all in, it was looking so much more natural.  On the right is a Pinky Winky hydrangea, 3 pink phlox moved from another spot in the yard, 5 Northwind switch grasses, a blue star juniper, and native little bluestem grass by the door.  
The left side has another little bluestem, another blue star juniper, a golden barberry, and tall bee balm.  Though, it seems I planted the barberry after this photo was taken!
The grasses along the side should get nice and big, about 2.5 feet around.  I can't wait to see what that looks like!  I also planted tall Joe Pye Weed on either side of the window, they get about 6 feet tall, so it should be a beautiful sight in late summer.
Now, we are into November, and here is what the shed is looking like now:

I love how everything looks like it was always there.  We plan to put some tall evergreens behind the shed to block the unfortunate view of our neighbor's unmowed yard and satellite dish.  I also appreciate how the foliage of my plants are changing with the season.  I need to pay more attention to selecting plants with fall color, rather than putting nothing but beautiful summer flowers in!
This little barberry in the front of our house makes me so happy!  I plan to put in more shrubs that have that beautiful fall color next year. 
One other thing I did this summer was overhaul the planting area in the back corner of our yard.  I'll share that project in a different post!  One last view of the shed from our back door:
So happy to have it installed!