Fed up with the lighting situation in the master bathroom, Jen put some suggestions for vanity lighting in browser tabs and showed them to me last week. After wading through hundreds of listings—apparently dimmable lights are dangerous and are prone to explode in flames at any point, but most online vendors make it impossible to filter out “dimmable” as a keyword—we found a set that we liked, and got them shipped to the house last Friday. I measured the wall and the mirror seventeen times and drilled some new access holes to mount each fixture on Saturday, hoping I was on the correct side of each wall stud in an attempt to get them to line up symmetrically to the mirror and the sinks. They went in relatively easily, once I identified the correct breaker, and we are now just waiting for a skim coat of drywall mud on the vestigial holes in the wall.
Jen’s done a lot to finish off the bathroom. During her bout with COVID she kept the floor heated for most of the day while she was quarantined, and I think she fell in love with warm toes during bathroom visits. Over the break she framed some artwork we bought in Austin and has been adding plants and rugs to get things to tie together, while I made some adjustments to the closet door to get both of them to close properly and fixed a leaky flapper in the toilet.
This morning I finished my shower, dried off, and stepped out onto a toasty floor. Morning sunlight reflected off the wall through the south windows, and the new vanity lights brightened everything up. It’s nice to have a grown-up bathroom.
So 12+ years after we first broke ground on the new bathroom, and 2 years after the actual cabinetry and countertops went in, we’ve got a mirror on the wall. The story of how it finally got here is long and winding, and there have been many detours and delays along the way, but it’s up and permanently affixed to the wall.
To fit the odd dimensions of our room, I had to custom order the mirror. We didn’t want to just stick a mirror on the wall, so I built a frame to fit the mirror—I actually built two frames, the first using a router, back in early December. The cuts on that didn’t come out clean enough, so then I cut the second one the way I should have from the start, with the table saw. There was some experimentation with how it would be joined securely (the mirror itself is something like 40 lbs.) but once I had that figured out it went together quickly. I then assembled the whole thing and hung it on the wall and then realized that we could see unpainted wood reflected in the mirror because I hadn’t painted the backside of the channel the mirror sat in.
So I took it apart, sprayed the inside, reassembled it, and hung it back on the wall. Screwed it to the wall, actually; I don’t trust simple hangers to hold it so I put six exterior screws through the wood into the 1/2″ sheathing behind the drywall and covered the holes with wood putty. The whole thing got taped off, sanded, and repainted. That fucker ain’t going anywhere.
Then I touched up the paint around the whole thing, hung a towel rack to the left, and glued and screwed both thresholds down for good. It’s really coming together! Now we need to settle on some lights for over the mirror.
On Wednesday of last week, I started cleaning up the full-size closet in the new bathroom in preparation for installing our closet system. As mentioned earlier, this involved fixing the crappy old outlet box hanging from the wall and painting the walls with two coats of eggshell white.
I started building the middle cabinet on Friday and got the whole thing assembled, in place, and leveled by dinnertime. I had to find a stud on the back wall to mount into, and then shimmed up the base. Then I started trimming and cutting wood for the baseboards when I knew the middle cabinet was in place.
On Saturday I hit the whole thing with a vengeance, finishing off the baseboard trim, cutting side supports for the clothes racks (I don’t know in what world they think 300 lbs. of clothes will hang on a couple of drywall anchors, but I ain’t buying it) and cutting the rods to fit. Everything got nailed into place, caulked, and painted. I cut two of the supplied shelves down to size, glued the moulding in place, and let everything dry overnight.
Sunday morning Jen and I had the pleasure of moving the contents of two overstuffed 1920’s closets into one adult-sized lighted walk-in.
When that was done and Jen was organizing her space, I moved our giant IKEA dresser out from in front of the back bathroom entrance and opened that door for the first time in (5? 6?) years. We’re reorganizing our bedroom space, and now that the closets are opened up that allows us to move other things around and make some changes. It’s going to be hard to reprogram my brain to look for certain clothes in certain places (when we moved the silverware drawer in the kitchen, it was a full two years before I mentally made the change) but I’m excited about our new space and the upgrade to our quality of life.
I spent some time on Saturday measuring out the bathroom wall for a mirror and looking over the closet situation based on the designs I’d built, and I think it’s time to order the former and go back to the drawing board for the latter. We’ve got a plan for the mirror which will involve some construction, so I’ve got to find someone who will cut one for us.
The closet is another story. Our current closets are 42″ wide, and we each have one—Jen in the blue room and mine in the back bedroom. They are barely 7′ tall, while the new closet is more than a foot higher (in many old houses around here the closets don’t share the same ceiling height). The doors on the current closets are only 24″ wide, so it feels like you’re reaching in to a cereal box. The new closet is 84″ wide, so we don’t gain any width, but with two large doors, 1′ more depth, and interior lighting, it’ll be a completely different experience.
All of the closet solutions I’ve found want to divide the space into three areas, and after talking to Jen about it, I’d like to split it in half. She wants a rack for long clothes and I want a short rack with shelves underneath. All of the online tools I used don’t offer this, so I’ve got to keep searching for something that will work the way we want.
Monday afternoon we grudgingly put real clothes on, packed the entire family in the car, and drove to the karate dojo for testing. They’ve been doing the best they can with Zoom karate but I know instructing kids remotely is a terrible substitute for in-person training. Finn has been reasonably good about keeping up with it, and when she was done she walked outside with a huge smile and her new blue belt: the next step up!
While we were waiting, Hazel started whining and crying at a plastic owl sitting on the picnic table outside the dojo. I walked out to spin it around so it wasn’t staring at her, and the sensei came out to say hi to us and explain that they’re going to have to go back to in-person training soon. We chatted about the realities of teaching during the pandemic, and I understand his predicament—I’m glad they’re still in business, they are a fantastic dojo.
As the weeks go by my attitude on in-person classes has changed. Finn needs to be around other kids, even if it’s highly compartmentalized. The last couple of months have been really hard for us all, but she’s suffering the most. She needs more formalized structure and to be in a different building interacting with different people, not just for her grades but for her sanity. We’ve started talking to her about it, and where we were dead set against it before, we’re trying to explain why we’ve changed our minds. She’s terrified she might get me sick and doesn’t want to be responsible for killing me (which I appreciate) but I think her mental health is worth the risk.
On the way home, to celebrate the belt, we stopped at a Starbucks to try something Jen had heard about: a pistachio latte (decaf, naturally). I was underwhelmed. Coffee changes flavor at different temperatures, so I understand it may have been the wrong temperature when I got mine, but it just never got better. It was a weak latte with some pistachio waved at the cup; hardly worth $4. Their PSL is unimpeachable but I’d rather save my cash for some ice cream instead.
And, an update: I reheated the second half of my latte and then proceeded to spill it all over my desk this morning. Swell.
The seedlings in our basement are already going nuts, which is fantastic, but they’ve already outgrown the trays I bought to hold them. Specifically, the clear domes that go over the soil are only 2″ tall, which is great for getting them started but now they’re all bent over looking for somewhere to continue growing. I bought a set of 7″ domes for the trays in the hope that they will provide more room, keep the heat and moisture inside, and keep curious cats out.
Also on the delivery list: a queen-sized mattress for our bedroom. We bought a Sleep Number bed ages ago, and while it was nice back in the day it’s pretty much used up now. We all tried the Sealy twin we got for Finley and deemed it acceptable, and the return policy from Wayfair is excellent, so I pulled the trigger this morning. It was relatively easy to get Finn’s bed up the stairs by myself because it came packed into a round plastic burrito, and this one will theoretically be packed the same way, so hopefully it won’t be difficult to move myself. And the price was great!
Our Valentine’s Day was quiet but fun; I made bacon egg & cheese for breakfast (one of the culinary foundations of our relationship) and we spent a peaceful afternoon around the house. For dinner, Jen organized a pair of giant delicious steaks, potatoes au gratin, and Brussels sprouts, followed by a fantastic molten chocolate tart with crème fraîche. While she was putting dinner together, a lovely bouquet of flowers arrived for her, and we enjoyed a candlelit dinner together at the table. I love you blondie!
Having done some more research, I’ve found four closet configuration tools with varying approaches to dividing up the space available in our still-empty master closet:
This solution looks like it might be the easiest of them all: it’s two stacking containers in the center of the closet, with a high/low clothing rack on the left side and a long rack on the right side. This would give Jen a ton of space for long clothes and a lot of space on the left side for shorter stuff. The downside to this one is that the center column is pretty narrow, meaning there isn’t much room for anything, but at least there’s a shelf across the top.
No pricing given
This one has a lot of components, but seems to do a lot with the space that’s available. The drawers are wide, and there’s a good wide space on each of the short racks for the bulk of our hanging clothes. the middle rack is narrower and frankly doesn’t allow for much space for long dresses.
Estimated pricing: $1355
The Swedes use two 23″ wide frames to contain the his and hers sections, leaving 38″ of space in between for a long hanging rack. I chose a set of five drawers for the bottom half and spent an extra $60 on four glass front drawers, but otherwise it’s pretty simple. I’d prefer a couple of taller deeper drawers down below but this is the only size they offer. This also doesn’t allow for a center rack install, but I’d just buy one separately and install it myself.
Estimated Pricing: $670
This one doesn’t use any kind of frames or containers at all; it’s all set up as wire racks hanging off the back wall and separated into three odd-sized sections. They actually offer two product lines, but the more expensive line wastes 4″ of space on either side due to its prefabricated origins. Here I’ve got a rack up top, and the his and hers racks on the right side. One is narrower than the other for reasons I wasn’t able to alter in their tool, and they don’t offer drawers in any of the configurations so it’s all shelves.
Estimated Pricing: $456
We haven’t made a decision yet, but these four approaches are much less expensive than I thought they might be.
I got thinking about closets while I was stuck in a long Zoom call Friday afternoon and started searching for an online closet builder. Within about 20 minutes I had this basic structure designed, and after I re-measured everything and showed it to Jen, this is what we came up with: his and hers built-ins with hanger bars above and storage below, and a center section for long dresses. This is the best usage of the space in there possible; I could add a second set of bars below or a set of shoe racks, but we both like the idea of shelves instead. Now to find someone who we can order the parts from…
But one thing I’m going to have to do before any cabinetry goes in is have my electrician come back in and move an outlet from its current location behind where the right-side cabinet would go to the center of the wall. I’ve been having problems with that outlet anyway—it’s a legacy circuit from the Doctor and it has no anchor so it’s been hanging out of the drywall since we enclosed everything. This will be a good excuse to get it moved properly and professionally.
Saturday morning I measured out some spare lumber from the workbench and the area in the basement and started constructing a new sorting table by the laundry area. The original table was a 5′ section of countertop resting on two of the old cabinets from the kitchen. This was functional but wobbly, and the counter overhang prevented the top drawers of the counters from opening. I put together an 8′ cantilevered table with a storage shelf, screwed both of the cabinets together, and tucked them under the near edge. The top is smooth MDF, and I beveled the edge with the router so there’s nothing to snag delicate fabric on. Now there’s room for six sorting baskets on the top and the whole thing is level and sturdy on the floor. The top will get painted when I can open the back door (MDF expands with water-based paint, so I’ll use some auto primer) and when the electrician comes we’ll have him upgrade the lighting down there as well.
My last expedition out into the world before total COVID lockdown was to go pick up two pieces of trim for the bathroom. I ordered two lengths of wood that I could cut down for custom kick plates under the sink and cabinets, because the pieces that originally came with our order were about 1″ too short. I had to shim the cabinets up a fair amount to get them to be level to the walls and the floor. Today I got cracking on getting them cut down, fitted, and installed. Both of the cabinet pieces went in pretty easily, and the sink section took some trimming before it went in completely.
While the paint and caulk was drying there I rolled another coat on the ceiling and touched up the walls. Then I hauled the miter saw and the compressor back down into the basement and scrubbed the tile with a mop.
Without all the junk in the middle of the floor, it looks so much bigger and cleaner. The closet is still a question mark, and the left sink drain is still being a leaky bitch, so there’s some things left to tackle. But I think one more day in there will get the rest of the big stuff sorted out, and then we can figure out what to do for mirrors and lighting over the sinks. And how to get it here…
I did more grocery shopping on Sunday morning for the stuff I couldn’t find/had forgotten on Saturday. I took the Scout, and it was nice to stretch her legs a little, even if it was only around the neighborhood. When I got home, I washed my hands eight times, and then did some cleanup in the basement. I set up two trays of seedlings under a grow lamp on the workbench: three varieties of tomatoes and a bunch of lettuce. Hopefully they will appreciate the light and warmth.
Then I headed upstairs to the bathroom, where I was mortified to find that a bottle of purple PVC primer had spilled on the floor, staining the grout in a saucer-sized area by the closet. I cleaned it up with some acetone but found that the chemical in the primer had made the grout pliable, so I dug the stained grout out with a putty knife and got to as much of the white as possible. I’m going to have to take a Dremel to the edges and clean things up, and then I have to call the tile distributor to find out what grout was used and how I can get some more.
Once I’d cleaned that up and calmed down, I continued with a bunch of trim and carpentry work, putting a spacer in between the left side of the sink and the wall, and then finishing off the kickplate around the perimeter of the room. I’m still waiting on the toe kick panel for the fronts of the cabinets, which I’m told will be in on April 1. Once I’ve got that in hand I can finish off all the rest of the trim and nail the thresholds in place.
I also added yeast to the beer, and by bedtime there was an inch of krauzen on the top and the airlock was burbling happily.
After dinner, we lit a fire in the living room and read four chapters of The Amber Spyglass, the final book in the Golden Compass series, while the dog snored at our feet. It was a lovely way to finish off a busy weekend, and I was happy to have my girls safe and warm with me.
That’s water coming out of those taps! The plumbing under the sink is 95% complete; both drains are assembled and functional. The left side drain has a slow leak I need to sort out, but both are working. All of the drawer pulls are now installed, so we can actually open and close the cabinets, and I told Jen we’re OK to start moving stuff from the hallway linen closet into the new bathroom. I stained both of the thresholds and put them in place, and when I go to the cabinet dealer this week to pick up two pieces of trim I can knock off some more of the little elements that are left on the to-do list.
When we had Sam, our landscaping guy, do the drains out back, we had him level off the slope while he was out there, and when he was done he seeded it all. That seed developed into lush green grass, and in the last week it suddenly shot up six inches into a thick jungle in the middle of the lawn. I fired up our lawnmower on Saturday morning and slowly chopped it back down, eventually moving three heavy wheelbarrows of clippings to the mulch pile out back. It makes a huge difference out there, and I’m looking forward to having him seed and cultivate the rest of the lawn to match. Now if the dog would just stop digging holes everywhere…
I also used the second half of the afternoon to organize the garage, which had become a dumping ground and forgotten since September or so. Now that the old compressor is out from under the workbench, I decided to reclaim some of that lost space and installed a shelf underneath, which helps with a lot of the stuff that was floating around on the floor. I lifted a bunch of larger elements up into the rafters, reorganized the far wall, and made a better place for the compressor and refrigerator to live.
Among other errands, we went to Lowe’s and Home Depot this weekend to scout out hardware for the bathroom. It took two trips to find faucets we liked, and we bought several different pulls before we settled on the ones that worked best in the space. I was able to get a bunch of them installed before I had to kick off for the day, and I’m really happy with how they’re looking. The countertop installers are coming back out tomorrow afternoon to drill holes for the faucets, and then I can put the drains together and hook up water.