Those of you who are long time readers know that there is nothing that my husband and I love more than a-spur-of-the-moment home DIY project. It’s true. I was only about 50% sarcastic in my original statement, by the way. I have lost track of how many corners of our house have been upgraded in this fashion, so we must love doing it … even though we swear each project is the absolute last one. The problem with home DIY projects, from my perspective, is the fact that they take at least twice as long to finish as originally anticipated, and a bazillion times longer than HGTV would have you believe. My husband’s problem with home DIY projects is that I expect them all to get wrapped up in the space of an hour, and under budget. Our only common ground is a shared love for Mike Holmes and Bryan Baeumler, which can only get us so far when the hammer and paint chips come out.

Notwithstanding our track record (and the continuing saga of the still-unfinished-6-years-later basement), earlier this month we jumped feet-first into another DYI project. To be fair, it was a project aimed at a fixing one of my long-standing complaints against our house, so while it was an impulsive decision, it was a logical one at least.

Here’s the deal: we bought our home seven years ago, at a time when our budget could only comfortably stretch to cover property of the “starter pack” flavor. In other words, our house is on the smaller side for a suburban detached, and short on upgrades. However, soon after moving in, we decided that we were going to make it our “forever” home (barring any lottery windfalls); laziness (I loathe moving) and the perks of having a relatively small mortgage top our list of reasons, which have held steady over the intervening years. With that in mind, we’ve put a lot of “sweat equity” into the house in the last 7 years, upgrading and adding components (like a built-in library) to make it fit our aesthetic “vision” and our lifestyle. It’s no Architectural Digest masterpiece, don’t get me wrong, but I love it – square footage and all. There are only two significant things I don’t like and wish I could change.

One is the open concept kitchen/dining/living room. I know open concept has been popular for years, and continues to be, but I’ve developed a visceral aversion to it. I don’t want people being able to see the (dirty, let’s be honest) dishes in my kitchen sink. Or smell what I’m cooking. Or be able to catch a glimpse of my messy pantry. Since changing the layout of the first floor would require some structural work, this is a project we’re not rushing to tackle … for now. My husband would also like a larger dining room and more separation, though, so it’s probably something we’ll deal with at some point in time.

The other thing I hate about our house is the master closet.

Yeah, I know. And you have no idea how ironic that is.

We originally made an offer on our house based on my viewing of the house. That’s right, my husband didn’t see it until after we had already put in an offer. (We were in a bidding war situation. It’s a long story. Luckily, he didn’t hate it.) I liked the general layout of the house at the time (even the open concept, sigh), and obviously the size and overall design of the master closet did not deter me. To be fair, my then-current closet was a standard non-walk-in affair so this one must have looked positively cavernous by comparison. It’s not. It’s small and awkwardly shaped and terribly organized. Look at all those sad, basic rails:

whomp, whomp
whomp, whomp
view from the door
view from the door

When we first moved in, my husband and I shared the master closet. It very quickly became apparent that this would not work in the long term. In the ensuing “closet divorce”, we came to a mutually agreeable compromise, whereby he relocated his clothes to other storage facilities in the house in exchange for free reign over the garage, and I set about trying to make the most of my new domain. The results of my various efforts, over the years, have been unsatisfactory at best.

No matter how I tried to organize my things, or how clever I got with the storage options, I was never able to make really efficient use of the space. It always felt cramped and messy. Part of the problem was my large wardrobe, certainly; but the solution was not simply to purge it. My closet just looked sad and forlorn, as the pictures above can attest. While something like Carrie Bradshaw’s Mr. Big-financed walk-in closet slash clothes temple was out of the question (due to, among other things, insurmountable space constraints), I wanted my space to look a bit more Pinterest-ready.

Nothing happened for years.

Then, right after the New Year, after a disastrous trip to IKEA with the kids (during which I may or may not have lovingly fondled one or two Pax wardrobe displays), my husband decided he was going to re-model my closet. Sometimes, I think he just wants an excuse to play with his AutoCAD program. Anyway, three or four hours later, he presented me with a blueprint and various options for built-ins using, what else, IKEA pieces. (There’s nothing we love more at our house than a good IKEA hack.) Two hours after that, he was driving back to IKEA to pick up the stuff we’d selected. This is what I mean about being impulsive, by the way.

And, just like that, it was on. I mean, it was ON.

mmm, bare walls, dusty old storage unit ... what's not to love
mmm, bare walls, dusty old storage unit … what’s not to love

I did a lot of impromptu purging as I moved things out, but it still took a bloody long time. (Well, like, an hour. By HGTV rules, it should have taken 1.5 minutes.) Then it was time for the demolition crew – aka my husband – to move in. We plan on re-purposing the old metal shelves and rails, as well as the wall-mounted storage unit elsewhere in the house. The old door was also removed, and will be eventually replaced with a sliding door contraption that my husband assures me will blow my mind. We shall see. For now, I will have to guard my sanctum sanctorum from would-be Vandals (aka the two small people roaming my house) by sheer vigilance, sans physical barrier.

After we stripped the place down, it was time for assembly. Because the space is so small, we only had to build 3 Pax units (two large, one small) … but because the space is so small, this was no logistically easy feat. Unfortunately for me, the process required that two people be involved; generally speaking, I prefer to limit my involvement in home DIY projects to the initial planning and the final decorating stages only. I will spare you a description of the nitty gritty involved in the construction phase, but rest assured that it involved blood, sweat, and tears, from all parties involved. As usual.

Thankfully, from beginning to end, the whole project took just about a week’s worth of evenings to complete, which makes it some kind of record for efficiency at our house. Huzzah! With that said, I will be a terrible tease and make you come back tomorrow to see the “after” reveal. Think of it as a commercial break.

We’ll be right back, folks!

14 Comments on More Fun with Home DIY

  1. Ha I hate putting IKEA stuff together with my husband – we recently built Elodie a loft bed with the desk / wardrobe underneath it. It’s absolutely fantastic and she adores it but bloody hell did we fall out over it, ha ha!

    Look forward to the reveal tomorrow 🙂

    • Oh yeah, IKEA assembly is not a marriage builder 😉 Putting the big stuff together was not easy but we were efficient. Getting my husband to finish the last touches was another story. I think he completely ran out of steam/lost interest after the cabinets were in, lol.

  2. I’m the home DIYer in our relationship and I confess that I LOVE putting together furniture. However when our relationships was still young my husband tried to help… and I had to kick him out because he was ‘doing it wrong’… Obviously. Can’t wait to see the finished reveal! =)

    • I am always doing things wrong too. If those Pax cabinets weren’t too enormous for one person to assemble, I would have been banished from this project, LOL!

  3. Excited to see, especially given the way I drool over your library! Also, I’m glad to see someone mindfully opting to stay in a smaller home. My family always talks about how you need a larger home because your life always fills up with stuff, as if stuff is a fungus that spreads without any human involvement. Having spent the last three years comfortably in a studio with another person and a dog, I’m skeptical of that line.

  4. I’m looking forward to the reveal! There must be something in the air – I ripped out th built-in bookshelves in the study on the weekend and have plans for new paint and carpet.

    I agree with you on the open-concept layout. I like a more traditional layout where you can’t see into my messy kitchen! Sadly, my house lacks a dining room so you have to come eat in my messy kitchen anyway. 🙂

  5. This was hilarious. You should consider writing a comedy for your next book. Sounds similar to diy projects at my house except neither my husband or I are handy.