I love working on upcycle projects because they breathe new life into objects that might otherwise end up in the landfill. I also love getting organized. So, when an upcycle project actually helps me get organized, I know it’s a winner.
If you’ve been visiting my blog for a while, you probably know about my most recent upcycle project – where my husband and I took an old dresser and two salvage shop kitchen cabinets and turned them into built-ins for my dressing room.
And while I certainly can’t claim to be an organizing guru, I did pick up a little inspiration from tidying expert Marie Kondo. My takeaway: Think vertical. So here, I’m sharing some of the simple ways I organized my clothes and jewelry as I moved them back into my newly revamped dressing room.
Before I started organizing, I donated all of my clothes to charity, and then I went out and bought a brand new wardrobe to go with my new dressing room!
Wait, no. That was just a dream.
Actually, when the dressing room remodel was in its final stages, I began to do laundry – lots of it. Although most of my clothes were already clean, I washed every piece that was going back into that room. I just wanted everything to be fresh.
This process helped me take stock of exactly what I had in my wardrobe.
I use a charcoal air freshener as a spacer when I remove a shirt. This keeps the other shirts neatly in place.
I use expandable drawer dividers to define separate spaces for long-sleeve T-shirts, short-sleeve T-shirts, and tank tops – and for creating zones inside of drawers for things like purses and scarves.
I love the look of vintage wooden clothes hangers, and I use them on the open clothing rod on the north wall. After all, I want this room to make me happy – not just be functional. I love the look of this rustic pipe rod with the vintage hangers.
But, in the enclosed hanging space inside the large wardrobe, I use space-saving velvet hangers similar to these. I was a little skeptical about them at first, but to me it seems that they really do save space.
The velvet makes them grippy (sometimes almost too grippy), so clothes don’t slide off.
And I love that these clothes are in an enclosed wardrobe.
I wanted a lot of enclosed storage in the dressing room because, before, the room always looked cluttered. And all that clutter tended to gather dust.
Vertical Necklace Storage
Another enclosed storage area is this little vintage cabinet that we retrofitted into the northeast corner.
In it, Chris installed dozens of hooks for hanging necklaces.
Now, necklaces don’t get tangled, and it’s easy to see what I have. The shelf is also a good spot for the earring organizer I made a few years ago when I was going through my vintage button obsession.
A Victorian-era butter dish, so rustic that it’s silver plate is wearing off, holds a couple of fun vintage treasures inside.
On the shelf below, stackable jewelry trays similar to these hold other pieces of jewelry.
I just love that this room feels more airy and spacious than it did before the remodel, even though it holds the same amount of stuff.
Now if only the rest of my house was this organized!
Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.
Last fall, a cousin invited us to her party and made me cup of coffee with her little Nespresso machine. Specifically, she made me a lungo – which, to me, is a cross between a shot of espresso and an Americano. It was a strong and delicious cup of coffee, with the water steamed to a light froth.
It reminded me of Europe: The hotels where we stayed all had these nifty coffee machines in their breakfast rooms that, with the push of a button, could produce lungos, espressos, cappuccinos, and more – on demand. These were small cups of coffee – six ounces at most – not the grande-sized drinks we are used to here in the States.
So when Chris found a barely-used Nespresso Lattissima Plus on eBay, he surprised me with it on Christmas.
It was one of the nicer Nespresso models and could make both milk- and water-based coffee drinks. (This model is also currently available, new and used, through Amazon.)
Worrying – It’s What I Do Best
I was excited about my gift but also hesitant.
First of all, even though it was a small machine, it was still something that would take up countertop space (and an electrical outlet) in our kitchen. And since this little machine would only make single cups of coffee, and short ones at that, it would not take the place of our existing coffee maker. So we’d have to keep that one as well.
Secondly, Nespresso machines use coffee capsules, and the used capsules cannot be sent out in our curbside recycling.
Lastly, cleaning the machine, specifically the milk spout, looked like a lot of work.
Chris immediately dispelled my concern about cleaning the milk spout. He showed me the button to push to automatically clean the spout with steamed water.
“Now just try it,” he said. “We don’t have to keep it.”
Moments later, while sipping a delicious lungo, I said “Oh we’re keeping it.”
So I pushed aside some of the serveware on the hutch countertop and plugged the Nespresso in there.
The clutter was not ideal, but it was wonderful to be able to make espresso drinks so easily.
The hutch countertop remained cluttered until recently when we added this vintage cabinet to our kitchen. It now holds most of our casual serveware.
This freed up space on the hutch countertop for a prettier coffee station.
Coincidentally, my mom Erika had been organizing recently too – in her craft/sunroom. (We’re going there, by the way, in a future post. Her sunroom is so pretty that I have to show you.) She offered me one of the beautiful landscapes she paints.
When I got it home, I set it on the hutch until I found a place for it – and then I realized that the hutch is the perfect place. (Lately I’ve been loving the casual look of simply propping art against walls on tables and countertops. It makes it so easy to “layer” the pieces with more art or move pieces around.)
I found a new tray with colors that complement the painting.
We don’t do syrups in our coffee, so I kept the coffee station simple. The Frango tin holds a bag of powdered cocoa for the occasional mocha or hot chocolate.
As far as the machine itself goes, my only small issue is that sometimes the steamed milk could be a bit warmer. (And I keep forgetting to put the detachable milk carafe back in the fridge after making a milk-based drink. But I can’t blame the machine for that!)
Overall, we’ve really upped our coffee game around here, and I’m feeling better about keeping the machine. Coffee anyone?
Today I’m sharing a fun little organizing project that I’m very happy with. I always love it when wasted space finally gets put to good use. And this time, it was . . .
An Underutilized Kitchen Corner
Although we remodeled our kitchen several years ago, there is one space that we could have done a better job of thinking through: The bland, empty corner where the cabinetry ends on the north wall.
The heat register, the light switch, and the traffic flow from the kitchen to the hallway all made this corner a bit challenging to plan. At the time of our remodel, we had so many other decisions to make that we didn’t give it proper attention.
It became a feeding station for our cats – which actually was great since, for the most part, it kept our little darlings away from the food prep area. But now our only cat is the lovely Priscilla, and she prefers to eat her meals upstairs.
I was thrilled at her choice because I could finally do something more with this underappreciated corner. But what? Since shelving wouldn’t block the heat register, I was considering attaching shelves, or maybe a floating bookcase, to the pantry cabinet on the left.
Around the same time, Chris started asking me when I was going to do something, anything, with the vintage cabinets that I’d had in our garage for the past couple of years.
We’d picked these two cabinets up at a garage sale for $5 apiece. Since each cabinet only has two “good,” finished sides (the front and one side), my assumption is that they were actually built-ins that had been pulled out of an old house.
The flush-mount cabinet doors, the glass knobs, and the leaded glass fronts, are all similar to the original dining room cabinetry in our house – which was built in the 1920s.
So to me, buying the cabinets was a no-brainer.
I just had no idea what we were going to do with them. There didn’t seem to be any good place to put them if we were going to keep them together.
With Chris wanting his garage space back, and with the cat bowls gone, it finally clicked. I took measurements and, sure enough, one of those vintage cabinets (the one with its “good side” on the right) would fit in that blank kitchen corner without obstructing the light switch – if we put legs on it so that it would clear the heat register.
But that old cabinet would need a lot more than just legs.
Paint or Finish?
I originally wanted to paint the cabinet the same white as our kitchen cabinets. But then I noticed that it had been painted – and someone had gone through the painstaking work of stripping the paint and sanding it.
And the wood was fir – like our floors. Since someone else had already done all the hard work, I decided to apply a finish to the exterior and paint only the interior.
(I went ahead and worked on both cabinets at once – even though my plans for the second cabinet are still in flux.)
A Danish Oil Finish
For the exterior, I used Watco Danish Oil in Natural. It can be applied with a rag, which I find so much easier than using a paint brush – at least on non-ornate surfaces.
Danish oil is not like Polyurethane, and I found this post that explains the differences. And this post has helpful tips on the proper method of application – which I followed – as well as the proper way to handle application rags since – yikes! – a wadded-up oil-soaked rag could possibly combust!
Applying the oil with a rag was easy, but the wood was very thirsty. I probably applied 10 layers of the oil over the course of several days.
Prime and Paint
I painted the interior with three coats of primer and two coats of white paint.
For smaller flat surfaces like this, I prefer to use a Shur-Line paint edger instead of a roller because it gives me a smooth, even finish. Then I use a small paint brush for the hard-to-reach areas.
The white paint is a custom blend that matches our kitchen cabinets and is the same paint I used on the walls for our laundry room remodel.
Finally the fun part: A stencil! I just wanted a simple accent and, since I couldn’t find a stencil I liked, I used one I’ve had on hand for years.
I practiced a little and experimented with color combinations.
Storage space saves marriages. Okay, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic. But storage space is rarely a bad thing.
Which is why Chris and I recently took on a little rainy-day project: Revamping a small walk-in closet to make it more efficient.
But before we even get started, I have to apologize. Because this closet, with its tricky lighting and tight space, was really hard to photograph. So please excuse these grainy photos.
Too Much Bedding, Too Little Shelving
Our TV/guest room has a daybed with a pop-up trundle. I love it because it makes the room so versatile for guests. It can be a twin-size bed, or convert to a king-size bed, or we can set up the room dormitory-style with two twin beds. Any other time, it’s the comfy daybed where I watch TV.
But all this versatility means that we need to store bedding for a king-size bed and two twin beds.
And this is what led to the closet looking like this.
Occasionally, our TV watching was interrupted by an avalanche of precariously stacked bedding falling from the closet shelf.
Putting a Blank Wall to Work
It was pretty easy to see what the problem was with this little closet.
There was only one shelf on the south wall. And the west wall was blank except for an ugly drain pipe.
So we decided to extend the existing shelf by eight inches and add another shelf above it. And then add two 10-inch-deep shelves to the west wall.
And when I say “we,” of course I mean Chris. Here is yet another instance where he did all the heavy lifting while I followed him around with a camera.
The result was two L-shaped shelves.
I didn’t want the shelves to look new. I wanted them to look like they’d always been there. And I think Chris achieved that.
Painting and Unpainting
Once we knew where the shelves would go, we removed them so I could paint the closet a cleaner white.
And while we were at it, we thought, we might as well spray paint the ugly drain pipe white to minimize its impact. I didn’t want to paint the small copper pipe behind it. Painting copper just seems wrong to me.
But there was something we wanted to un-paint: The hardware on the little pocket window had received many coats of paint over the years. Who paints a window chain? Apparently everyone.
The chain and latch look so much better now that the paint has been stripped.
Moving Back In
Bedskirts, mattress covers, quilts, blankets, sheets, pillows, shams: There is space for everything now.
And that little blue dresser that sat piled high in the closet before? We put it back. It is now almost empty, so it will serve as overflow space for guests to unload their suitcases.
Above it, a little surprise for guests: A vintage mirror. An extra mirror is always a nice touch in a guest room.
(I was tempted to style the top of this dresser for the photo – until I heard my little voice of reason say, “Oh please. It’s a closet!”)
Not the most glamorous home improvement project in the world, I know, but I’m happy that there is just a little less clutter at our house.
Before and After
Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.
I have plans to refresh our TV/guest room a bit: A new rug, new curtains, and fresh paint. It should be a fun little project.
But one thing I don’t want to change is that pop-up trundle daybed. It’s been a while since we bought it, but it is a lot like this one on Amazon. The mattresses were not included, and we added our own headboard.
Welcome to the January edition of Second Tuesday Art Walk. This time we’re on a treasure hunt to find that precious commodity: Hidden storage space. But what we’re looking for is hiding in plain sight, because it’s easy to scout out those little underutilized areas once we take a fresh look at our homes.
The possibilities are endless, but today I’m sharing five. Let’s get started!
1. Covered Porches and Protected Entryways
I always strive to make my front porch look welcoming. But, without sacrificing style, I could do a lot more to make it functional – a place to store umbrellas and mud boots so they never have to come inside.
In a protected outdoor area, it might even make sense to add a simple hat and coat rack like the one that Sara built.
It took her less than 20 minutes to make it herself. The tutorial is here.
2. Small-Scale Vertical
When I think of vertical storage, I usually think large-scale, like closet organizers and wall units. But small-scale vertical storage can make life so much easier.
This suggestion might seem obvious, but how many of us actually do this? And what a difference it would make.
Beth and Nick took this basic builder-grade closet . . .
identified all the unused spaces, and then created custom DIY shelving that uses every possible area. “After” photos and the tutorial can be found here.
4. Areas Behind Doors
Taking the door swing into account, my husband Chris created this shallow, L-shaped shelf to fit in the small space behind our laundry room door. Here we stash cleaning tools and supplies, an iron and an ironing board.
And this hard-working little space doesn’t feel cluttered. This area is part of our recent laundry room remodel.
5. Recessed Dressers and Cabinets
Our house is what is called a “one-and-a-half story house.” That is because some of the upstairs portion of our house is finished, livable space, while other parts are unfinished attic space.
Since we have little doors that lead to those unfinished spaces, I store things there. But it’s awkward creeping around in these dark, low-ceilinged areas, and I usually bump my head or get scratched by an exposed nail.
That’s why I so admire Sarah’s recessed dresser. She’s using space in the unfinished attic to store things, yet she can access those items from her bedroom.
Of course you really have to know what you’re doing to work around wall studs, wiring, or other things that might be hidden in the wall.
Another advantage to this recessed dresser is that it takes up zero floor space in the bedroom.
How I love saying that. Zero floor space. Now I have all sorts of ideas for similar projects at our house.
Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.
Before this house, I’d never lived anywhere that had a real mudroom. And although our mudroom is small, I just love it.
But its best feature is also its biggest drawback: The large windows.
All the wonderful natural light means very little wall space to work with. As you can see from the photo, the limited wall space makes it difficult to keep things organized – not that I’ve been trying very hard. The room is a haphazard mix of random storage baskets and bins. I’ve never really made it a priority.
Well that is about to change. I’m in the process of reworking the mudroom – starting with the taming of the shoes.
Invasion of the Shoes
My husband, Chris, likes to keep the shoes he uses most near the back door. The problem is, the shoes seem to multiply when no one is looking. And yes, he really uses all of these.
A while back, in a half-hearted attempt to get organized, I added a flimsy thrift store rack to the top of the boot bench. It doesn’t look good, and now we can’t sit while putting on shoes.
The small wooden shelving unit near the door was too shallow to house his shoes.
A New Angle
What to do? My mom suggested a shoe rack in place of the shelving unit. It should have angled shelves, she said, so that the shoes would not interfere with the door swing.
It was a great idea, but most angled shoe racks I found were more suited to a closet than a mudroom.
And then I wondered about our little shelving unit: Would it work to simply reposition the shelves at an angle?
I asked Chris to give it a try. He carefully removed each shelf and then repositioned them at about a 30-degree angle. He used screws to secure them.
And it worked! The shoes would be nicely contained on the newly-angled shelves.
Now we just needed to make this basic unit a little prettier.
A 99-Cent Upgrade
A reclaimed wood top would elevate the look. I checked the nearest salvage shop and found all kinds of beautiful wood – all of it too shallow in depth.
The next salvage shop was way across town, and I started to wonder if I was on another one of my fool’s errands.
While deciding whether it was worth the drive, I stopped at my local Goodwill. There I found a piece of fir in the right depth – with a nicely finished edge. It had probably been a shelf in a former life.
Anyway, it was only 99 cents! I could not believe my luck.
All we would have to do is shorten the length a bit. Reclaimed wood at Goodwill: Who’d have thought?
Adding More Character
Then I got it in my head that, since the mudroom is next to the kitchen, the exposed side of the shelving unit should be attractively paneled to match the style of our kitchen cabinets.
I tease Chris for keeping all kinds of scrap wood pieces, but it came in handy for this project since he had just the right scraps onhand to create the panels.
Then I painted the bench the same white as our kitchen molding – a color custom-blended to match our kitchen cabinets.
And here is how it turned out.
It’s perfect for the overflow shoes, and it frees up a lot of space in the boot bench. There is even enough room for some of my shoes.
And for 99 cents out of pocket, it’s a nice upgrade for a plywood shelving unit that once looked like this.
This small change is already improving the flow of the mudroom, but there is more to come, including a snazzy upgrade to the concrete floor. So stay tuned!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using these links
Have you ever had a project that started out small and wound up snowballing? All I wanted to do was organize my wrapping station. Simple, right?
I have a little wrapping paper cart in an alcove on our upstairs landing. I had always wanted one of these carts and was very excited when I bought it several years ago.
But I save every little ribbon, gift bag, and scrap of wrapping paper. So over time, the wrapping cart got jam packed. Things were getting lost or crushed in the drawers.
So I decided to organize it. And then I figured that while I was at it, I might as well do something about that color. I must have liked the reddish-brown color when I ordered it, but now I can’t remember why. The color didn’t work with the creams and golds of my home office just across the hall.
Painting the Cart
That dark color would be hard to cover unless I used chalk paint. Chalk paint requires very little prep work – even priming isn’t usually necessary.
For more on my chalk painting experiences, including the best application tool I have found, see this post.
And it looked nice. I should have stopped there but instead I discovered “Metallic Gold” chalk paint, also by folkArt. A metallic chalk paint? I was very intrigued and had to give it a try.
Chalk paint is wonderful for creating distressed finishes. So I painted over the Bavarian on the drawer fronts with the Metallic Gold and then distressed them with steel wool. Then I added a few brush strokes of the Bavarian and distressed the drawer fronts again. Finally I added a few brush strokes of the Metallic Gold and distressed them one last time.
I finished off with a coat of the folkArt Clear Wax following the instructions on the label. Of course, with drying time, all of this took several days. And all for a wrapping paper cart.
And this is what I got.
You might have noticed the hardware that I added to the drawers. When I finally finished the painting, the drawers looked too modern for the finish I had created. So I needed a little more old world charm. And I do love the fleur de lis knobs that I found for $2 each at a salvage shop.
I also picked up a handle for the large bottom drawer for $2.
Attached to the side of the cart, it is attractive – and perfect for holding gift bags.
A Fabric Liner
Then when I put everything back together after painting, the little compartments in the top tray still needed something. I had come this far, so why not? I lined them with a whimsical calico fabric.
But I needed to add one last thing.
A Wall Cubby
To add more storage to my wrapping station, I found a small Pottery Barn wall cubby at a thrift store.
I painted it with the same paint treatment as the cart drawers and covered the corkboard with a fleur de lis burlap.
Now it holds tissue paper, gift tags, and lengths of ribbon – anything small that might get lost in the cart.
For the time I invested, I should have chosen a furniture piece worthy of the effort. For this modern piece with such simple lines, I should have stayed with my original plan, which was to paint the cart and the wall cubby with the Bavarian and add the basket. Period. Instead I was led astray – dazzled by shiny things: The Metallic Gold chalk paint.
At least this wrapping station is unique – and more organized. And now it’s finally time for me to step away from this project.
Not that this experience will stop me from trying the Metallic Gold on more worthy pieces.
When I found this $7 bunk bed ladder at an architectural salvage shop, I knew I wanted it. I just wasn’t sure why.
It wasn’t like other ladders. It was very solidly built, and it seemed to stand more vertically rather than having to lean at an angle. That made it perfect for some kind of vertical storage function – after a little facelift of course.
I wanted to paint it with Valspar Greek Tapenade – a cheerful color and the same one I used on my file cabinet.
The ladder had a dark stain and a glossy finish, so I sanded it and painted it with two coats of primer. After that, it took three coats of paint.
I had some little green storage bins that I had purchased a couple of years ago online. At the time, they turned out to be too small for the project I had in mind for them, but because they were nicely made and came at good price, I hung onto them.
Their size turned out to be perfect to fit on the ladder rungs. My husband, Chris, installed them using small brass nails.
A Closet Organizer
I’m slowly chipping away at getting my closet organized and finding just the right solutions for the space I have to work with. But this little ladder is a great start. It doesn’t take up much floor space at all, and it holds the little odds and ends that wind up cluttering up my closet.
I’m still torn on whether it should stay in the closet. It would also be great in our smaller bathroom holding toiletries and towels. And it would be adorable in my greenhouse holding blooming annuals.
So I’m on the lookout for more bunk bed ladders.
From Amazon, here are a couple of other fun storage ladder options and one cool display ladder made from reclaimed wood:
I’m a big fan of making cardboard templates to use as sewing patterns. So the first thing I did was trace the outline of the top of the lamp shade (which, since it was the narrowest point, would be used as the bottom of the hamper) onto a piece of cardboard. I then cut it out to make a template.
Removing the Cross-Braces
The center cross-braces of the lamp shade frame would not be needed and would get in the way, so my husband, Chris, removed them with wire cutters.
Making the Bottom
Then he used the cardboard template I made to cut a round piece of pressboard to serve as the bottom of the hamper. He carved out notches where the frame wires would be so that the bottom would fit snugly.
I will be tossing the liner into the washing machine from time to time, so I didn’t want to use a fabric that might bleed, fade, or wrinkle. I got a natural cotton utility fabric and pre-washed it.
Using the round cardboard template as a pattern, I cut a round piece of fabric for the bottom of the liner.
Then I measured around the circumference of the frame (at its widest point) and from top to bottom to cut the proper dimensions for the two side panels.
When sewing the side panels together, I tapered them slightly since the frame was tapered. Then I attached them to the round bottom piece.
I attached some vintage-looking lace to the top and folded the top over the basket.
I played around with a few other, more complicated ideas for attaching the liner to the basket, but simply folding it over worked. It fits snugly but will be easy to remove and replace when it needs washing.
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