Time and money

The workroom is almost finished, and I fucking impressed myself.

This small room in the corner of the basement went from a closed in, dark, cluttered, crowded, non-functional space to a bright, open, organized room that feels great to be in.


But how, Alicia? How the fuck did you do it?

Well, I started by taking everything out of the room. I ripped down the too-tall-too-deep work bench. I painted the walls with (homemade) Restoration Ivory by Sherwin Williams, and I gave the ceiling and the trim a fresh coat of white paint (also courtesy of paint mountain). I made a pegboard wall using some 2” x 1” strapping and 2 pegboards out of my garage.  I got both of these tasks done on Friday evening, and spent about 4 hours doing so.

I don’t even remember where the pegboard came from, but I must have had it for 5 years or more. I followed the advice of Google and attached wood to the wall horizontally for support, spaced vertically every 12”, with 2” wood screws into the studs, and then attached the pegboard to the wood strapping with 1” wood screws through the pegboard holes, with washers to keep the screw head from going right through the holes. I’ll be honest and say that this was the hardest part of the whole damned room. I wanted everything to be level, but because the pegboard had been split in half, and because I’m only one person, I couldn’t get everything to line up exactly. The 2 pieces are about 1/16” off from each other. I’m pretending that it’s not killing meIMG_2888[1].

I was so freaking excited on Friday night that I barely slept. Saturday morning I leapt out of bed and went down to the mailbox to retrieve the pegboard hooks that Amazon delivered the day before. Like a child on Christmas morning, I couldn’t wait to tear into the parcel! Armed with a cup of coffee, I took my new toys to my (work)room to play with them. It took about 45 minutes to find all of the hand tools and painting supplies that I wanted to put up, and to fit them all in the space provided. I put the most frequently used things (screw drivers, pliers, hammers, clamps, level) close to the side where the work bench would soon go, and the less used tools higher up and farther away. We seem to have an entire paint store’s worth of supplies, so they got their own section, and because they needed longer hooks in order to keep like with like, they found a home away from the work bench and towards the laundry room door where they are less likely to stab me in the back while I work.

After the pegboard excitement and the caffeine buzz wore off, I went to Home Depot to buy the workbench and shelving unit. These items were a splurge. I had been agonizing over building shelves and a work bench, sketching and re-sketching a multitude of plans. I had an idea to use Ikea dressers as workbench bases, and to lay a countertop over those. In my mind it would have been great. But here’s the thing: I’m not actually great at building things from scratch. I can’t cut anything in a straight line. So I played to my strengths and threw money at the problem.

I bought this bench. It’s freaking fantastic. It assembled like a dream, and it’s over-engineered to all hell. With a 3000lb capacity, I could practically fix a car on it. The only drawback was that the box weighed 150lbs and I needed the pick up truck to get it home. Truthfully, I ended up unboxing it where it lay in the back of the truck and bringing it inside piece by piece.IMG_2889[1]

I also bought this shelving unit. It too, was incredibly easy to assembly, and required nothing more than a hammer (though I splurged on a rubber mallet so that I didn’t deafen myself with the sound of metal hitting metal in a small enclosed space). I loaded up the tools and supplies onto the shelves, working strategically, with tools and heavy stuff at the bottom and the smaller, lighter items up high. Al got home from work around 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, and that’s about when I called it quits for the day and had a well earned nap.

Sunday morning started with a trip to Ikea for lights and a chair. If I’ve learned anything in the past year, it’s that a space feels better when it’s well lit and empty of clutter. We opted for this light because of its’ low profile. The ceiling in the workroom is low (81”), and my husband is very tall (75.5”), so the 3” profile means that Al can walk underneath it without having to duck. The lights are LED, so they’re not hot to work under either. Back home, Al jumped in and installed it for me because, well, he’s good at it. He’s also a better painter than I am, and had he painted the room and the ceiling, the floor wouldn’t look like a 2nd grader’s splatter paint art project, but whatever, I think it adds an artistic touch.

The room was still missing a spot for the small stuff, the nuts and bolts, screws and bits. A matching pair of shelves and a collection of plastic bins from Ikea were the perfect solution here. I spent a lot of time hanging the shelves, making sure that they were level and secure. How? I put a piece of painters tape on the wall at shelf height, using a level to check that the tape was level the whole way across. I then marked out where the brackets should go, and then screwed everything in place right over the tape. The tape got peeled away after the shelves were up. Please note that wall anchors are absolutely necessary unless you’re screwing into studs. But fuck those piddly little plastic doohickeys. Use ez anchors. Seriously. You can thank me later.

Oh, and how did I do?

Yup, I’m proud of this one
What’s left to do? well, the 4th wall, the one across from the work table. I want a bench of some variety, ideally with storage, but I haven’t found it yet. I’ve got some pictures to hang on this wall as well, and I have to collect the last few odds and ends that got cast out of the workroom, and find them new homes. The pictures might go up tonight. The bench….who knows. It’s not integral to the use of the space, nor the design, so I don’t need to rush it.

The nuts and bolts:  what it cost

Ikea  $224.72 – chair, light, task light, shelves (x2), shelf brackets (x4), bins (x8)

Home Depot  $504.94 – work bench, shelves, storage ‘crates’, another pair of pegboard hooks

Lowes  $26.25 – wood and screws

Amazon  $51.99 – pegboard hooks and accessories

Paint and painting supplies: free

Pegboard – free

Total $755.91

How long did it take? About a week, maybe 10 days by the time it’s all done.


Officially Greige

This week saw the workroom primed and painted and the ceiling patch job finished to the best of my ability. It looks pretty damned good, so long as you don’t look too closely at it.

I had been bugging my husband, the King of Paint Mountain, to pick a colour, any colour. We could go buy more paint if he had a specific colour in mind, or we could use what we already had.  I have an over-abundance of self-confidence in many areas, but picking paint colours ain’t one of them. Last night I received my marching orders: mix the half can of grey with the half can of yellow. If it’s too green, add some of the red. Seemed simple enough.

Of course the cans were rusted shut. Of course I had to use all of my powers of persuasion (ahem, brute force) to pry them open, and of course they were starting to dry out. I ended up pouring the contents of the grey and the yellow into an empty paint can and stirring like crazy. As predicted, the colour looked a little green, but I ran out of fucks to give. During application, the paint was definitely a little chunky. Intellectually, I know that I could have strained the paint through some nylons to rid it of its’ gross clotty bits, but again, that was a bridge too far. Instead, I grumpily picked them off the wall and then re-rolled the finger marked sections while simultaneously anointing my pants with goopy paint clots and assorted handprints. My ass looked like something you’d hang in the Museum of Modern Art: a weird, lumpy, three-dimensional work of art that some would attribute great meaning to, and others wouldn’t understand. I can picture my husband standing in front of it, hand on his chin, musing “I don’t know what it means, I just know that I like it”.

Two coats later, and the colour looked pretty good, not quite as green as it did in the can. I busted out my Sherwin Williams fan deck and unilaterally decided that the colour was most definitely Restoration Ivory (6413). Not bad for DIY greige.


The trim needs a fresh coat of white paint, and some TLC to nudge it back into position where it has pulled away from the wall, and the ceiling could use a touch up over the patch, and to fix the spots where I failed to cut in nicely (fine motor skills aren’t my strong suit), but I think we’re nearing the end of the dirty work. I’m hoping to be done all of this tonight.

This weekend will require a trip to Ikea and Home Depot and some ‘some assembly required’. I’ve got a pegboard wall to get up, and then we get to load the room back in. After that, we’ll switch out the light fixture. Are you still paying attention? Listen closely. Do not put up a new glass globe light fixture BEFORE you finish construction. You can thank me later.

And yes, the irony of buying a workbench FOR A WORKROOM instead of building one because I’m not very good at construction is not lost on me.

Who can work in chaos?

Left to my own devices this weekend past, I started a new room makeover at the house.  The workroom, long the eyesore on the way to the (now fabulous) laundry room, has been begging for attention.

Originally put together with the best of intentions and the smallest of budgets, its’ space was mostly occupied by a too large workbench, built with love but not much skill by my husband. He’s 6”4’, so the 38.5” high work bench which was more than 28” deep was not practical for the averaged height user (me).  I could barely reach all the way to the back, and it was too tall for me to easily hoist things onto.  If a toolbox were on top of the work bench, I couldn’t see all the way to the bottom of it, which is really not helpful when you need a screwdriver and you fucking need it NOW.

Why yes, that is a kitty litter bin with a jigsaw box inside it, why do you ask?
It also became a dumping ground for homeless items, with newer stuff perched at the front and older items shoved to the back. Nothing had a designated home, so nothing got put away.

I had tried to impose order with wire mesh drawers left over from an Ikea closet system no longer in use, but the wide gaps in the mesh left items falling through, and the precarious way the drawers fit into the rack meant that the whole set up was likely to fall down at a moment’s notice.  It was less than ideal.

So, with the house to myself, I got in there and got dirty.  Everything had to come out. The nuts, bolts, screws and nails were gathered up and put together. The tool boxes (yes, plural), were closed and moved out. Power tools went back into their bags and boxes. Pictures came down and rugs came up.  Christmas ornaments (mine) and sports trophies (his) were moved out to find a new home or the bottom of a garbage bin. The workbench itself was ripped from the wall. It was exhausting work.

I managed to find a pattern that worked for me though. I’d work for a few hours, cursing and sweating in the dark red room, then come up for a break (read: snack). During my break (ahem, snack), I’d start planning the new space. What did it need? What could it do without? What didn’t work about the current space and what could I do to fix it for the next one? Oh, and of course, what could Pinterest inspire me to create?

This. I want this.
Inspired and nourished, I’d head back down to the basement to keep at the demo for a another hour or two. In total, I did this 3 times on Saturday and another 3 times on Sunday.

Once the room was empty (save for a deep freezer which needs more than one set of hands to move, and it needs a new home before it can vacate the old one), I got ready to patch, prime, and paint the space.  Of course, I had already unearthed a spot of mould from a leak a few years ago (ewww, but also, what the hell did I think I would find?). I saw, up close and personal, the bad patching job we did when repairing drywall after an even earlier plumbing malfunction.

Mostly empty and none too clean.
So painting was delayed while the ceiling got another coat of mud and the mouldy spots got washed and primed. The walls eventually turned from red to white(ish). Tonight I’ve got to sand the ceiling and give it another skim coat of mud. I was lucky to be able to pull a gallon of primer out of the paint library (formerly known as paint mountain). I don’t know if I will be so lucky with wall colour, but we’ll soon find out. My husband makes far better colour choices than I do, so I’m best to leave it to the expert.

I made a joke on facebook about how my husband would come home and roll his eyes at me. Someone asked why he wouldn’t be happy and appreciate my efforts? Why? Well, because, in typical Alicia fashion, I threw myself into this without real advanced notice. He knew this tornado was coming, but I didn’t sound the alarm first. With everything pulled from the workroom, the rest of the basement is an absolute disaster. The rebuild will require time and effort, and not just mine alone, so whatever my hubby had planned for the next few weeks, he’s instead going to be stuck helping me move heavy things, and our spending money is going to go into shelves and drawers and construction materials.  I’m lucky he doesn’t do more than just roll his eyes at me. If the scene was reversed, I would lose my everloving shit on the person who tore part of my house apart and denigrated the things I built with love.

But there will be an upside. The laundry room makeover last year inspired me to take back my house from the clutter. I don’t need to live with spaces that don’t make me happy. In fact, the garage got a similar treatment this year. Once full from front to back, it got a facelift and some organization. There’s now room for a car to park in it. I mean, we don’t, but we totally could if we wanted to.

So I have high hopes for the workroom.

I learned from the laundry room makeover that everything feels better when it’s clean and well lit, so those are the first priorities. Before I go spending money on small scale solutions, I’m going to make 100% sure that my plan will work. Oh, and I need to know what colour it’s going to be, because even a workroom needs a ‘feeling’.