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Bookcases – DONE!

October 11, 2013


And thus finalizes my living room magnus opus: the 17-foot-long, 9-foot-high sets of bookcases made of oak. Voila!

Bookcases done

It’s my first *real* carpentry project. There were a number of bumps along the way and it took me a full year to finally complete everything… but it’s done! And you can probably see that I still don’t have enough room to hold all my books. Some of the smaller collections are stacked doubly. But it’s done and we are thrilled. It really adds incredible architectural interest to the room.

I also installed my cornice boxes (more on that later).

I’m eager to finish up a few more smaller projects that remain undone since 2011 (after we gutted the downstairs and redid the kitchen). There are still areas of trim work to be done…. it just never ends, does it?

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The Built-In Bookcase Project

October 25, 2012


I have a home office in my living room. Because we shoehorn an office, a school room, and a living room all into the tiny 350 square-foot space, so the room has always been a disaster of clutter and mismatched furniture. This year, I was determined to address the problems.

Earlier in the year, we installed new windows, replacing the 1910 Victorian models. After that, we sewed curtains for the room, painted the walls and painted the trim. Then, I got rid of the monstrous 8-foot hand-me-down blue-and-pink couch and got two small, cushy love seats.

For over a month now, we’ve been building and installing two huge built-in bookcase units. One is 6 feet long and the other is 5 feet. I’ve had intentions of adding such a unit to this room for years. Pre-made bookcases (solid wood only, please!) are prohibitively expensive, and I could not hire a carpenter to do it. So I watched a few videos, read a few how-to articles, and decided to tackle it myself. Due to the “eccentricities” of our old home (that’s the understatement of the year), I had to use my noggin and do a bit of creative tinkering. I won’t bore you with the details here, but I had to use pre-made kitchen wall cabinets instead of base cabinets because wall cabs are only 12 inches deep, which is all I had to work with. We had to create a frame upon which the cabinets would sit, to elevate them to “base cab” height. That took a while because we also had to cut through the laminate floor to secure the frame to the subfloor. I have a very inventive son who is now thoroughly skilled with the Dremel tool. πŸ™‚

Anyway, here’s a pictorial story of how it went.


Living Room before 1

Marking the wall for studs and placement of the cabinets.


One cab installed. ….five more to go…


The husband would come home from work and wonder what I was ruining now, lol. He has a difficult time […]

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Bookcase Progress

October 9, 2012


I forgot to take photos of the bookshelves themselves… we have one of the four units cut and stained. I start assembling later this week.

Bookcase progress

We still have no heat in the living room, so I need to up the ante. Gotta build that fireplace area and then the husband can fit everything else in. Whew. Winter is fast approaching!

In case you’re wondering, that’s Livvy’s bear on the counter. The bear is LIvvy’s “playmate.” She can play kinda rough, though. We took a video of her with Teddy a few years ago.

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Bookcase Progress

October 5, 2012


I really have been making progress on the bookcase project, albeit very slowly. We kinda got bogged down after two major trips to the Adirondacks and a massive flu/head cold thing. We can barely drag ourselves outta our beds, let alone build a 17-foot by 10-foot bookcase unit. Ugh.

A few days ago we sawed the plywood for the first two shelves. I’m using oak cabinet-grade for the first time. I have to measure very, very carefully because if I make a wrong move and saw too short, that’s a lot of money down the drain! So it’s taking me a while. I hope to assemble the first unit early next week, if my sinuses behave.

I don’t have any photo updates and I haven’t scanned my blueprints for the setup, but all in good time. For now, I’ve got a date with NyQuil and a box of kleenex.

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Built-In Bookcases Project – Halfway There

September 12, 2012

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Here’s the progression thus far:

Before photo. There’s a lot of wasted space along this wall because of the doorway and the narrow width between that and the wall (13 inches). I’d had a fleet of cheapo Chinese particle board bookshelves there, but they were ugly and starting to flex. Plus, two bookshelves are not nearly enough to hold all our books! I have boxes of them stuffed everywhere in the house.

Living Room before 2

I purchased inexpensive unfinished wall cabinets. They are narrow enough to fit in the space (12 inches) but are not tall enough. So I built a simple 2×4 frame for the cabinets to sit on. The frame adds height and provides a toe kick beneath the cabinets, too. I secured this sucker to the floor and the wall studs. This bookcase is not going anywhere!


One cabinet installed already.


The wall has a few outlets and I did not want to conceal them behind the cabinets. So the trusty daughter (who does all my measuring) drew the outline for the outlets.


The son got to use the jigsaw to create the outlet holes.


This was the day’s work!


I have since installed oak plywood counters on both cabinet units, and everything is finally stained and sealed. I didn’t get a photo yet, but trust me — it looks great.

Next — the shelves!!!

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This Is It: Living Room Re-Do

August 5, 2012

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In 2007, I gutted the living room. It was the first “big” project here and I never intended it to be such a large project. But as is the way with old homes, as soon as I opened a wall and saw what was there, I could not close the wall back up without resolving the problems within. So I ripped out everything and rebuilt it all: new electric, shoring up of the wall studs, insulating the walls, adding additional lighting, new flooring….

While I am very happy with the new wiring and Lord knows I’m thrilled to have an insulated room in the house, my final decorative touches were very rushed. I slapped up new paint and quickly installed a snap-together, laminate floating floor system. I originally wanted carpeting or hardwood but it is just too expensive right now. And after all was said and done, I hauled in our junky, second-hand furniture and settled for that.

Fast-forward several years. Since a section of the room is my little office, that area of the living room is a disaster. Papers and books and computer equipment and other things are scattered everywhere. I’ve expanded and have had no where to put my reams and reams of books that I use for my writing, nor do I have any storage options for all my computer equipment and things I review. The room is always a mess, always disorganized, never a pleasant place to sit.

So I decided to redecorate it. Well– to decorate it!

Living Room before 2

Painting is easy. Some of the other projects are new. I’m going to try my hand at furniture by making an enormous built-in bookcase along a wall. I’m going to use unfinished stock cabinets (they sell very cheaply), stain them myself, and use them as the base for a plywood system of shelves. Everything will be secured to the wall. I hope to give the room that “English library” look. I also hope that a 12 foot wall, 9 feet high will be able to house my very extensive collection of old and new books. I have boxes and boxes of them that have been in storage for decades because I’ve had no place to keep them.

I also have to create a faux chimney box. It’s not for a chimney, it’s for a gas fireplace insert that we are saving up for. I’m trying to plan for the future by making it now, so I won’t have to cover everything in sheets again! I’ll create my own wooden mantelpiece from stock wood, too.

And finally, I’m sewing some new curtains. I’m using this project to teach my daughter how to use the sewing machine, so next time I need curtains, she can sew them. πŸ˜‰

So I’ll be pretty busy for the next two weeks. The kids are going to do a lot of the grunt work (staining, patching holes in the walls, etc). They already primed the living room trim so we can start painting tomorrow. Thank God the heat has abated, we were going in slow motion for a while, like fish in a murky pond.

Living Room before 1

It will be very good to have this room finally and completely done. I’m going to work hard and create an organized work station for all my stuff, too. I can’t wait until it’s done!

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2012 Projects

June 12, 2012


Well, I broke the latest projects list to the family today. They didn’t cry or scream. As a matter of fact, they took it very calmly. Because I am bribing them this year. πŸ˜€ OK OK, it’s not exactly bribing– more like paying. It won’t be much but at least it will be something. And best part is that I won’t have to do it all!

This will be the year that we finish up to loose ends, that we complete the little things left undone or things that need patching. For one, my front porch is sinking into the ground. The previous owners just plunked the porch foundation posts on cinder blocks, and YEAH. NO. It’s starting to make me nervous. Since the house is a balloon frame house, a sagging porch can pull the wall studs out of kilter so bad that the floor joists pop out of their tenons. That would be…. bad. With all the rain we’ve had for the past decade, the porch is definitely sagging and I am having trouble sleeping at night. Time to jack up the porch, dig some 2-foot deep holes, and install concrete piers. This is perhaps our biggest project for the year.

Our second project will be to fix the back porch. I still never sided around the kitchen window that I installed in 2010. The house wrap tar paper has held up well (and we sealed all gaps and cracks that summer), but hello, we can’t have no siding there. We’ve decided to rip off all the siding on the entire wall there and replace it with wood clapboard. I got a quote on vinyl siding, which would cost us more that what we bought the house for! :-O

Window Workers

It's be fun siding this area of the house. NOT

Anyway, I have to rip off the back porch (it was never installed properly anyway), rip off the siding, replace the siding, and build a new back porch. I intend to enclose it to create a mud room. Currently, when the gang charges into the house with their muddy boots, they drop right into my new kitchen. That must end.

Then of course, like any renovator worth her weight in salt, I have a myriad of unfinished projects! We have to install drywall in out kitchen “cubby” and install shelving in there. The boys will do that project and get paid for it.


Unfinished kitchen shelving.


Then there’s the small bench, or window seat, in the kitchen. I’ll pay the boys to do that, too.

And finally, there’s the electric. There’s still only partial electric in the bathroom and there’s a problem with another circuit. Both require me going into the attic. Oh Lord. I HATE the attic.


Nooooooooooooo !!

So that’s my summer. LOL. Be praying for me, I have 3 to 4 months to do it all!!

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There Comes a Time…

April 16, 2012

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… when you just HAVE to expand.


This is my book area in the office. UGH. The monster is growing and growing! Not in the photo are another two bookcases of books and stacks of books around the room. LOL. Hey, I like books! But I also need them, because I used them for the writing business I maintain. Because I write about so many different topics– everything from WordPress PHP to gardening — I need a variety of resource books. And those resource books are usually 20-pound mamas. Sheesh. My cheapo Chinese MDF bookcases are burgeoning. Time to crack out some serious plans.

So in between all my jobs, I am reading books (yes, books!) and watching online videos of how to make a huge built-in bookcase. I just can’t wait!

I want to turn this ugly, inefficient area


into something more like this. I know the sketch is pretty rough, lol. It’s still in development form.


I’ll use stock cabinets from my local discount lumberyard. I may find something that is similar to the ones in the kitchen, which will lend a bit of continuity between the two rooms (my office is just off the kitchen). I also have plans to install a nice gas log fireplace as a “focal point” for the room.


I’ve already got some fabric material for making curtains. I’m going to change the decor of the room to make it a sunnier, more colorful room– English country style. πŸ™‚


I may even be able to get some carpeting, too! There’s a budget carpet center in the area, and they sell remnants very inexpensively. Or maybe I can get a nice area rug. I wouldn’t even mind getting one used, as long as it is as clean, style. Ha ha!

Yes, yes, all dreams. But the kitchen was once a dream, too, and I got it! I hope to work on this built-in cabinetry when the kids finish school later this summer and I have more time to devote to the project.

Do you have any home or yard projects planned this year?

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I’ve Made Up My Mind…. I Think

March 31, 2012


I’m going to finish the living room this year, Lord willing. This is easier than ripping out rooms and rebuilding them, but it’s still no easy task. The hardest and lengthiest job will be building the built-in bookshelf units. I have never done anything remotely like it, so I must study up and find some good plans. It involves precision carpentry which, I admit, is not my forte. I have little patience for slicing and dicing dove joints and picayune stiles, so…. I may go with some stock cabinetry pieces if I can find some cheap enough. My local store sometimes sells defective or broken units which are easy to repair.


I got this cabinetry very inexpensively. It doesn't look pretty yet because the set is not complete, but it's a start.

I also plan to move the gas fireplace unit to a better location. I will create a nice fireplace box and mantle and The Hubs will reroute the gas lines. I’ll paint the walls, the trim, and sew curtains (I’ve had the material for a year!). I’ll install carpeting (first time for this) and *hopefully* get new furniture. All we have is hand-me-downs (one huge couch and a broken but beautiful wing chair). There will finally be enough storage space and organized working space for all the home office, school stuff and all the computer stuff. The more I think about it, the more excited I am getting!

Of course, nothing is budgeted yet! I will have to take it on a pay-by-pay basis. That’s how I did the kitchen in 2010. So I have to make a list of needs and then start bargain hunting at the scrap yards. It’s amazing how much money you can save in the “dent and ding” aisle!

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Renovation Season Off To a Slow Start

March 31, 2012

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Spring is faking us out. We had some snow last night, and it’s been chilly today. This after 80 degree temps and a yard full of blooming plants!

Oh well, such is New York State.

So I’m hunkering down again and replanning my summer activities. By now, I’d hoped we’d have the gardens ready but I think this realistically won’t be done until the end of April.

I am, Lord willing, finally going to finish the living room this year.

I gutted it and rebuilt it in 2007, but I never finished the final touches. We still have some molding to install here, paint to apply there…. and I have yet to build my biggest project– a wall-to-wall bookshelf unit. I want to convert the living room into a library. It will be my office and a place where I can retreat when I need to work or relax. Currently, it is the half schoolroom, half living room, half work office and half home office (that’s a lot of halves!). It’s a disaster, with books and boxes and papers piled everywhere. Since we have no storage space in the house (thanks to no attic and a basement that floods), I have to build all my own storage spaces. The bookshelf unit will store basically ALL my electronics, books, papers, parts, files, everything!

I ADORE these built-in units! And what beautiful furniture! Oo la la

Then I am going to get some new furniture for the FIRST time in my life. Lord willing, it will be beautiful and it will be my haven.

We also have to finish installing the windows. And we have to renovate the upstairs yet. The black mold is becoming a big problem up here. It’s because the interior of the house is so warm and the upstairs is uninsulated. When warm air meets cold air inside the walls, it creates condensation and mold. We wash it off but it always comes back. πŸ™ I’m looking forward to gutting the upstairs, believe me.

So there are many plans in the making. How about you? Got any projects coming up this year?

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