Reclaiming the Linen Closet

Some people, when the realize they are coming down with a cold, relax on the sofa and watch movies.  Other people decide that they absolutely cannot stand their contractor-white hallway one more minute and paint it a beautiful grey-brown.  I am one of the latter.

I just hated EVERYTHING!

This is how I redecorate.

It began simply enough: I had a stinky linen closet.  It wasn’t my fault.  It wasn’t DH’s fault, or the dog’s fault, even though they are both pretty stinky individuals.  No, my linen closet reeked of cigarettes.  I stored bathroom cleaning supplies in there, and toilet paper.  I held my breath whenever I had to open the door.  If I breathed in too much, I’d start a coughing fit.

In a total departure from logic, I figured this was the fault of the previous tenants.  Not sure why I thought this, since nothing else in the house smelled of cigarettes.  I threw in an open container of some sort of odor-neutralizing thingamajig from the organic grocery store.  A month later, the closet smelled of cigarettes and odor-neutralizing thingamajig.  I found a mousehole from long-gone mice (confirmed by the exterminator) and plugged it with Cu wire and expanding foam.

I tried Lysol.  An open container of activated charcoal from the aquarium supply store.  Odor-neutralizing everything!  Nothing worked.  So, for a year, I didn’t use my closet.  A few weeks ago,  I had finally had enough.  Our house is too small to waste a ready-made storage area.  I was tired of keeping sets of bed linens in a pile on the floor of my art studio, covered by another clean sheet.

I finally figured out the source of the undead cigarette smoke.  While it is not my choice, I firmly believe in the right of the individual to choose cigarettes. However… when my adjoining-wall neighbor’s cigarette smoke is coming so thickly through the closet walls that I can’t open the linen closet without holding my breath, then later having a coughing fit from the smoke in the hallway, it’s time to don a respirator, grab an impact drill and take the {redacted} closet shelving out.  I readied my battle cry, “I AM RECLAIMING MY LINEN CLOSET. IT’S KILZ TIME, MONKEY FUNNERS!

So.  I removed the shelving. I didn’t think it was possible for epoxy-coated wire shelving to reek of cigarettes, but it did.  I removed that to outside.  I will try cleaning them later and see if that works, so I can re-use them.  Otherwise, I’m going to take advantage of the 30% off elfa sale at the Container Store.  I ❤ elfa so, so, so much.

It smells like a bar. Just needs a little stale urine odor.

After removing the shelving.

Clean up, spackle, sand and prime.

I painted two coats of Kilz Clean Start Zero-VOC primer.  Then I painted two coats of Sherwin Williams Harmony, flat, color-matched to Benjamin Moore AC-31, Hot Spring Stones.

Hallway is now 20% cooler.

Benjamin Moore AC-31, Hot Spring Stones

The existing trim paint is a standard semi-gloss bright white.  It’s a bit dirty and scuffed, even after cleaning with Scrubbing Bubbles.  It really needs to be sanded and painted again… but for right now, I cannot be arsed to do it.  So, working with the existing trim = yes.

Here’s the before and after shots:

Taped and ready to roll.

Ready to paint. Just add dance music.

So fresh. So clean clean. So pretty grey-brown.


I can’t wait to install my awesome light fixtures.  They’re zebra-print.  Are you ready for that?

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I just hated everything

I just hated everything

This is how I redecorate.

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Powder Room – Scene 2

The first step was to paint a stripe at the top of the powder room.  It’s exactly 6 3/4″ from the ceiling.  I thought it would be an easy process: buy a laser level, measure one point at 6 3/4″, point the laser level and paint.  Turns out the laser level I bought was utter crap.  It wouldn’t stick to the wall as advertised; it fell to the ground and smashed into its respective pieces.  So I drew a stripe the old-fashioned way: with a pencil, a ruler, and a regular air-bubble level.  Then I taped and painted.

Like racing stripes, only slower.

After I painted the stripe, I realized I didn’t need to tape it off before painting the white.  I would have to tape it off again when I painted the red.  I kicked myself pretty well over this.  I removed the tape and painted a second coat of white.

When I re-taped for the red,  I realized that taping the white stripe was actually a good idea.  The first taping left a little groove in the paint that I used to line up the tape a second time.  I burnished the tape with an old credit card, and it turned out that I had razor-sharp striping.  THE BURNISHING IS KEY.  BURNISH FOR ALL YOU’RE WORTH (and hope you’re worth more than a two-penny stamp).

a frickin' rare stamp

This stamp is probably worth more than your car, your home, and your dream home combined.

If you burnish, you will get stripes like this:

Don'tcha wish your stripes were hot like mine?

Painting the walls was your standard painting-of-the-walls endeavor.  When I was finished, it looked like this:

This picture was taken in the happy time before I knew about the flooring debacle...

So, paint the floor, install the backer board, fix the drywall, mud and paint, and we’re done.  At least, that’s what I thought, until I tackled the floor.  Stay tuned.  There’s concrete and a trowel and a five-gallon bucket up next…

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Powder Room – Take 1, Scene 1

The lurid green bathroom had to go.  It was one of the first things I noticed — and hated — about my new house.  Somewhere along the line, someone thought that aggressive neon lime was the way to attract buyers.

Not sure why there was a full-size towel bar, since it is a half bath. Also not sure why the towel bar required reinforcement....

The vanity, a builder-grade standard, was unoffensive in and of itself.  I disliked the way it projected into the room.  When you walked into the house, the powder room — and therefore the projecting vanity — is the first thing you see.  It’s a visual barrier.  As much as I understand the feng shui way of looking at things, it’s bad for energy flow.

Enbiggen to see the sweet, sweet tile work near the toilet. This will be relevant later.

There were a few considerations on how to handle the vanity.  I could paint it the same color as the room, to make it essentially disappear.  That would be the cheap ‘n’ easy route.  While I have been many things in my life, I can’t say cheap ‘n’ easy has ever been one of them.  So I elected to remove the vanity and put in a pedestal sink.  Easy-peasy, right?  You just get a plumber to disconnect the sink, then you tear out the vanity, make small patches to the drywall if necessary, put in a new pedestal sink and everyone goes home happy.

Turns out you need a backer board behind the pedestal sink — a 2×6 or a piece of plywood that the sink can bolt to.  Backer board keeps the pedestal sink from tipping over and smashing your cat, or shattering into a million pieces (a la Aunt Josephine from A Series of Unfortunate Events).

Aunt Josephine knows the pedestal sink will tip over and flatten you before it smashes into a million pieces.

This requires, at most, removing a little drywall, inserting the backer board, and installing new drywall.  Mud and paint, and you’re done.  Now it’s more like a long weekend project, but something that can easily be done in a few days.

Then you remove the vanity.  Some enterprising soul has been back there and removed a huge chunk of drywall.  Not the end of the world: you can now see what’s back there.

What’s back there?

You might notice the bathroom is now red. Yes, yes it is -- more on that later.

The pipes are in the wrong places; the electrical is where it oughtn’t be; the stud that you’re going to use to anchor your backer board is inside a bump-out wall. This means that you’re going to have a hard time connecting a backer board to that interior stud.  The stud you can see is basically in the middle of where you want your sink to go, which means that you’re going to have to install backerboard to the LEFT side as well as the right.  Which means taking out more drywall, and building a backer board scab on the left side as well as the right.

On the plus side, that bit of white board in the foreground is something I found nailed to the right-hand wall, wedging it between the vanity and the wall.  Turns out it’s a piece of moulding the exact size to fit between where the existing moulding ends and where the new moulding will be.  So, I only need something like a foot of new moulding once I get the new drywall in.

Stay tuned — adventures in carpentry, plumbing and pretty red paint to follow!

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Hall Closet

When your hall closet starts to smell, it’s probably time to empty it and dig through the piles of houndstooth-print rainboots until you find the box of rotting hyacinths from last fall that you never got around to planting.   That’s when it’s time to finally get around to spackling, priming and painting the neglected walls you always meant to fix.  Since you’ve already gone to the trouble of spackling, priming and painting the walls, you might as well continue at full speed and install the Elfa shelving you bought on sale six months ago, when your dreams of sleek Scandinavian organization were a bit more tangible than, say, the reddish mold on the hem of the shower curtain liner.

Once the closet is empty, it’s time to remove the questionably-installed shelving that you’ve been reluctant to load with any significant weight.  It’s standard-issue big-box home improvement store variety wire shelving.  Removing the shelving shouldn’t be an issue.  You just pop it out of the side bracket, lift 80ish degrees toward the celing and pop it out of the little wall cups.

Unless you have a home formerly improved by Harry Homeowner, who lost the home to foreclosure after his plan to renovate and flip fell somewhat short of impressing buyers.  This debacle may have had something to do with the vinyl-tile floors which look like they were installed by a man both blind and raging drunk, in the last throes of Parkinsons, working in the dark.  That’s the most logical explanation for the cuts made and layout chosen.  If he has done the work in your house,  then you get things like this:

Imagine the upside-down one screwed in (I had already started taking them out)

Then you look down and find an exposed electrical cord, with the copper poking merrily out of its casing.

No problem.  You were a Girl Scout once, back in the dark days when you had to socialize with a group of vicious 8-year-old girls.  You totally blocked out the memories of interacting with those miniature harpies and only remember the important bits — always be prepared for everything.  Which includes keeping a roll of electrical tape and those cute itsy-bitsy screw-cap thingies that go on the end of electrical wires so you are always ready to foil an electrical wire’s murderous plans.  It helps to test the wire to  see if it’s live.  Because sometimes it turns out that the wire has, not to put too fine a point on it, shuffled off its electron coil.  This brings us to an important point:

Wire demon tamed, you can go forth and spackle!  Because this is not your first home improvement rodeo, you have a handy little tub of spackle at the ready with your painting supplies.  Which, incidentally, is labeled Wood Filler.

A quick trip to big box home improvement store later, you are in business.  Did you know they make magic color-change spackle?  Trufax.  It’s nearly as much fun as the Barbie with color-change lipstick.  You know, the one that you’d sit with for hours with a warm washcloth and a cold washcloth, dripping water all over the carpet because after a week the novelty had still not worn off?  No?  Just me then?  Well, if you had had a magic color-change Barbie, you will know that Dap spackle is almost that much fun.

There are not pictures of the sanding and priming.  Imagine a closet with pristine white-primed walls.  Oooh and aaaah and cough on the VOCs.  Now stay up way past your bedtime to properly appreciate and behold the painted closet:

Next, install your Elfa shelving according to the handy-dandy instructions.  Take pictures and post them to the internet with a rambling and mostly-true story.  Congratulations!  You’re well on your way to Home Improvement Success!

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