Category Archives: Bedroom

Look, I actually half-finished something!

Remember our bed frame project? Gosh, that all seems so long ago… but we’ve only been sleeping on the new mattress since April. Suddenly it’s August, and the summer is getting away from me (as usual). Whatever became of our African mahogany bed frame?

It’s hard to make progress on any project when we’re galavanting around the country to family reunions, and the weather hasn’t cooperated. It’s been SO hot that I can’t work with stain and polyurethane outdoors. I won’t do this kind of project indoors where clouds of pet hair would drift over wet stain. (I’m only semi-kidding about that.)

BUT … I’m pleased to say, the footboard is finished! Of course, what good is a footboard without a headboard? Not very … but if we ever get back to a normal 78-degree summer, that’ll get done, too. Here’s how it all went down.

Welcome to my paint booth. It’s really pleasant in there … shady, slightly breezy, and vaguely blue.

Blue canopy and sawhorses set up on the deck for staining

My paint booth–blue on top, blue below

After a quick finish sanding, I began by sealing the footboard’s surface with Zinsser Seal Coat. Because I had tested all the products beforehand, I could move quickly, with complete confidence. I was glad I didn’t have to worry and wonder about how it would turn out.

Applying a coat of shellac sealer to footboard

Sealer goes on first

Shellac sealer applied to African mahogany footboard


Um, not so fast … as I was swabbing on the sealer I found a major split in the wood, formed by a separated layer of the grain. This was the kind of thing I couldn’t simply sand out—it would continue to separate.

Separation between grain layers in African mahogany

Oh no! Splitsville!

We paid another visit to the good folks at Rockler, who told me what kind of filler would be best. I bought Famowood Wood Filler, in mahogany color. It didn’t really match our African mahogany, but it would be stained, so I wasn’t concerned. However, I had made a mistake by applying sealer before I mended the split. When the filler dried and it was time to sand it down, the shellac sealer sort of gummed up as I sanded. The more I tried to sand it out, the gummier it got, burning from the friction of the sander. I had to sand a large area very lightly to even it out. Suddenly I really was worrying and wondering how the stain would take. Things never go quite like you plan! You can see, though—or maybe you can’t see—that the split mended perfectly.

Split in African mahogany mended with filler

Split filled and sanded … and sanded

I also filled a gouge near the top of the footboard. You can see that the pinkish filler doesn’t match the wood at all.

Filled small gouge in African mahogany

Filled gouge

With the split and gouge mended and the footboard sealed, it was stain time. Because I’d used sealer, I didn’t have to worry about the Minwax dark walnut stain soaking in too much. I took my time and allowed some color to develop.

Lastly, I applied two coats of General Finishes Enduro-Var water-based satin urethane. Between coats (between all coats) I rubbed the wood down with a fiber buffing pad. This gentler alternative to sandpaper removed any bubbles and imperfections on the surface. Duke parked himself under the footboard as the finish coat dried, thinking that it must be a table … and sometimes food falls off tables.

Boxer sleeps on blue tarp under a footboard propped on sawhorses

Wake me up when the food arrives

When Duke wasn’t holding down the tarp, Chex and Tara played ambush in its folds.

Two cats play on a blue tarp on the deck

Checkers and Tara play with the tarp

Everything was turning out fine … except that filled gouge. It didn’t take the stain properly. This would never do! Not to worry—I whipped out my trusty brown Sharpie and stippled it until it blended right in. That fine arts degree has NOT gone to waste!!

Finally, the footboard was finished. Eric and I carried it back into the house. That’s when I noticed that the back of the footboard was considerably glossier than the front. What the … ? I realized that when I put the finish coats on the front of the piece, I’d stirred the half-full can of urethane thoroughly. When I coated the backside, the can was full and I stirred gently (if at all). So my vigorous stirring had woken up whatever is in the urethane that makes the finish satin instead of gloss. Sigh … I didn’t learn about that in art school. Well, who will notice? Most of the shiny backside will be covered by bed, anyway. And it’s not like the world is going to beat a path to my door to see this bed. If they did, they couldn’t see both sides of the footboard at once, could they! ARRGGHHH!!!

Now, check this out: This is the satin side (the outside) of the footboard, one photo taken at an angle from the left, the other from the right. See how the light and dark ribbons of grain change directions, like tiger eye? Is that trippy or what?

I promise to stir the heck out the poly when I stain the headboard!

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it


The short story of tall 108

In the corner of our bedroom, in the sliver of space between the driver’s side of the bed and the wall, is a tall, narrow table—a plant stand, actually—that serves as a nightstand. It came from my parents’ house, where it stood in their bedroom, skirted with a lacy doily and crowned with a large sanseveria (snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue). Ever since I refinished the mom-and-pop dressers I’ve heard it crying out for attention and nourishment. The whole table looks parched and brittle, and the top is blotched with water stains, which I can almost guarantee didn’t happen on my mom’s watch. Maybe it came to our family in bad shape. I don’t know its origin. It seemed to appear at some point during my early teens.

plant stand

While Eric was toiling away on the side porch in the 90-degree heat, I decided to give this little table the triple treatment of Murphy Oil Soap, Howard Restor-a-Finish, and Howard Feed-n-Wax—the same team that saved the dressers.

Murphy Oil Soap, Howard finish and wax

Besides, this was something I could do while sitting in the shade … lazy bum that I am. That’s when I turned the table over and learned that it’s table No. 108.

No. 108, plant stand

In just a few minutes the scratches and stains were gone, or very minimized. I might have been able to completely eradicate the water stains if I’d gone to the basement and searched out the steel wool, but like I said, I’m lazy. And it was 90 degrees.

Now No. 108 has a mellow, golden glow and it no longer looks parched. Much better, don’t you think?

plant stnd refinished

It’s hard to get enough light to take a decent interior photo in this corner, but No. 108 looks and feels so much better. It even blends nicely with the dressers, although I don’t know what kind of wood it is.

plant stand, end table

I tell you, Murphy and Howard work anti-aging magic. I have a birthday coming up … maybe they would take 20 years off my face?


I HATE DIY!!! (part 2)

A way forward

So what ever happened to the bed project, you ask. Oh, that. Yes … well, believe it or not, it’s still being worked. (I know you believe it because by now you know how glacially slow we are at finishing our projects.) When I left off, we had just learned that we didn’t qualify for the free TempurPedic pillows because we wanted to buy only the mattress, not the foundation piece. Eric was struggling to gain traction constructing the mahogany bed frame, and my stain test results were a big disappointment.

bad stain

When we returned home after deciding not to order our mattress, I was seriously bummed. Sure, we could wait to buy it until Eric finished the bed frame, but I really, really wanted a new bed. Now, not months from now. I considered our options. Should we bite the bullet and buy the set (foundation and mattress) and bag the idea of a platform bed? We could simply bolt the headboard to the frame whenever Eric had it ready. But what about the footboard, which was almost done? He had worked so hard on it, and had spent a bundle on the expensive mahogany. It would be a shame not to build the whole bed frame as we’d planned. But our plan just wasn’t coming together. Do other people agonize so over buying a freakin’ bed?? (Well, maybe …  a king-sized TempurPedic probably costs more than my first car!)

Then Eric brought the finished footboard upstairs. Wow—his craftsmanship, as usual, was outstanding. No way was it becoming firewood! Somehow, though, I would have to find a way to give it the finish it deserved … and I was worried about that. My angst continued.

The unstained footboard is hanging out in the library where it’s safe from marauding cats. It’s 30 inches tall.


footboard detail

Finally, we made a decision: We’d buy the @#$% foundation piece, get the free pillows, and set up the bed. Then we’d finish the bedframe at our own pace … and in the meantime, we’d have an awesome bed. What’s a few more hundred bucks?? Sheesh …

We felt liberated just having made a decision. The next day (the last day of the free pillow offer), we returned to the store to shell out the cash. But first, we stopped at Rockler Woodworking and Hardware, to learn about staining mahogany. I brought my ugly stain sample. The salesman was wonderfully patient and demonstrated several products and techniques that would increase the uniformity of the stain. Counter-intuitively, the first step is a coat of shellac (Zinsser Seal Coat) to seal the pores! Then the Minwax stain, then a couple of coats of General Finishes Enduro-Var urethane sealer. And inevitably, lots of sanding in between. I breathed a sigh of relief. I couldn’t wait to test the new method.

shellac, stain, varnish

Out on the deck, I set up a little production line with five mahogany scraps that had a variety of graining. First, I coated the scraps with shellac.

5 mahogany boards

shellac coat

I had three different colors of stain at my disposal, but I started with the darkest, Minwax Dark Walnut, because I knew the shellac undercoat would prevent the stain from soaking in too much. I painted a strip of stain down the right side of each board, then rubbed it off. If I wanted to try another color, I had plenty of room.

mahogany boards with walnut stain

Dark walnut seemed like the right color. I needed the depth of color if the bed was to blend with my mom-and-pop dressers. I applied another coat to deepen it a bit, then, satisfied, I stained the rest of the boards.

Two coats of satin urethane topped them off. Beautiful! A photo won’t show it, but when I turn the wood from side to side, the dark and light stripes reverse. Trippy.

stained mahogany in the sun

stained sample boards

With the samples against the bare footboard, you can see how the graining will look when it’s finished.

footboard and stain samples

On the appointed day, our bed arrived. Two guys made short work of setting it up—they’d done this before. In a flash, our saggy bed was gone and this beauty was in its place. Duke approved.

TempurPedic bed

Flat as a flitter! Hard as a board! (A board covered in memory foam, that is.)

flat new mattress

Believe it or not, that’s exactly what we like. I can’t get over the fact that I can lie anywhere on this bed and there’s NO sag or trough. Ahhhh! The only problem I’ve encountered is a reluctance to get out of bed in the morning.

In a few weeks, our free pillows arrived, each in its own little fabric suitcase, as if they expected to go on vacation with us. Wouldn’t you think that if you buy a king bed, you’d get king pillows? But no, these are “standard” size. I’m not sure whose standard, because they get lost in standard pillowcases. They look like little kids wearing daddy’s T-shirts. I think they’re too hard and too high, not soft and squishy like the ones in the showroom. Eric likes his okay, but I’m disappointed. After we made such an effort to buy during the pillow giveaway! Bah! (“I would sleep on one,” offered Lacy.)

small memory foam pillows

However, the bed is divine. We and our bedcats love it. I immediately quit thinking about how much money the whole gambit is costing us. A good night’s sleep is priceless, as Chex and Peggy Sue will attest.

(Stay tuned for the staining story … it’ll happen, um … soon! I’ll be doing it outside, so the weather needs to be perfect.)


Two cats cuddling





What do you do when your bed gets saggy and you need a new mattress? You shop for a new one, buy it, and have it delivered. If you’re feeling fancy, maybe you even buy a new bedframe to spruce up your bedroom. But us? Nooooo … that would be way too easy. We’d rather find the hardest, most time-consuming DIY solution.

Checkers is a big dude, but not quite big enough to make the troughs that are visible in our bed.

black and white cat on saggy bed

For the past year or more we’ve been grumbling about sleeping in the two troughs of our not-that-old mattress. “Does anyone sleep in the middle?” a salesman asked. “Because the padding will shift to the middle if no one sleeps there.” Well, hell no, no one sleeps in the middle! What’s the point of having a king-size bed if someone sleeps in the middle? You might as well have a full-size bed! The other person would be clinging to the edge! Personally, I like my space … plus, we share the bed with four of our cats, so we sleep where we can fit. But, back to our story …

Eric and I finally decided it was time to test mattresses. We fell in love with the first one we lay on: a firm TempurPedic. Yes, we tested others, but always came back to “the one.” We wanted to buy it right away, but where would we put it? We liked the idea of a platform bed instead of a traditional box spring. So we started looking around. We searched online. We hit all the stores. We thought underbed storage drawers would be a great idea, but that severely limited our options. The few nice ones that we found were so expensive. Then the solution came to us. Of course! Eric could simply MAKE a platform bed! How hard could it be?

We wanted something that would look timeless … at home with our antiques, yet able to transition to a modern house in the future. We found a design at IKEA that we both liked, with simple, straight lines that reminded me of my parent’s 1940s bed.

1940 bed

Now … what kind of wood? Off to the lumber yard. We looked at birch. We’d seen a gorgeous Asian design in birch, and I fell in love with some sleek, natural birch dressers with glass tops at IKEA.

modern birch IKEA dresser

Why not go with something totally new and different? You know how long it’s been since I changed up my bedroom furniture? Never! But then what would I do with my antiques? A modern birch set would stick out like aliens in our house. Common sense prevailed. We looked at walnut. And then we saw the African mahogany. Sounds exotic, doesn’t it? I’m not sure if it’s exotic, exactly, but it sure as heck is expensive!

cart of mahogany boards at lumber yard

So Eric began translating the bed in our heads into reality. Naturally, he took advantage of this tool-buying opportunity to buy the planer that he’s been talking about for as long as I’ve known him. “I have no choice,” was how he put it. Oh, well, okay … if you have no choice!

planer in box

He began spending inordinate amounts of time downstairs in the shop/dungeon, but I didn’t hear any power tools running. What could he be doing down there? You know the old advice about measuring twice and cutting once? I think Eric was measuring 37 times but was still reluctant to cut that expensive mahogany.

Weeks passed. Eric insisted he was making progress, but I had still not seen so much as a footboard. (To be fair, his shop is cramped and he can’t keep all his machines set up at once. And it takes a lot of time to glue and assemble a king-size bed. And to measure 37 times. Not to mention, we have day jobs.)

We returned to the mattress store and reaffirmed our commitment to the mattress. But, they were no longer throwing in the absurdly high-priced matching pillows for free. Here’s the thing: We didn’t want to buy the mattress before we were ready to set it up. I didn’t want the memory-foam monster lurking in the library, nor did I want us to have to muscle it into the bedroom by ourselves, or deal with getting rid of our old set. All elements would have to come together at once. Planets had to align. The dance had to be choreographed.

A salesperson called us when the pillows became part of the deal again. A special offer would be in effect for several weeks, but we had to buy by April 19th. Time was running out. How in the world would we finish the bed frame—which not only needed to be built, but also stained and finished, a process that can’t be rushed? I was stressin’.

Eric said the footboard would be ready for me to stain by Saturday (Saturday passed)… okay, maybe Thursday (Thursday came and went) … or surely the next Saturday. So I grabbed a wood scrap and started testing stain colors. We knew the mahogany wouldn’t match the walnut mom and pop dressers, but we wanted the color to blend. I tried dark walnut stain … and, oh, crap … the color had potential, but the mahogany’s open grain sucked up so much stain in places that it looked as if the wood had been charred with a blow torch. This isn’t 1972 … and that’s not the look I was going for.

bad stain

Apparently, you can’t just slap some stain on raw mahogany, so we read up on the process. It goes something like this: 1. Sand. 2. Stain. 3. Sand. 4. Fill the grain. 5. Sand. 6. Apply sealer. 7. Sand. 8. Apply more sealer. 9. Sand. 10. Apply more sealer. I quit stressing and started freaking out.

We went back to the mattress store, thinking we would order our bed, get the pillows, and delay delivery for a few weeks to give us a chance to finish the bed. It was then that we learned that the pillows are only offered if we bought a set. We didn’t want the foundation … only the mattress. No pillows for us! Demoralized, we drove home, figuring we might as well put off buying the mattress until the frame was ready. Whenever that would be.

So let’s recap: We had no mattress, no free pillows, no bedframe (yet), and disastrous stain results. Oh—and the price of the mattress had gone up $300 while we dilly-dallied about when to buy. Will we ever pull out of this DIY tailspin? Are we doomed to be swallowed by our old bed? Should we turn the shop/dungeon into a chemistry lab and invent our own memory foam?

sagging bed cartoon


 To be continued …






Murphy and Howard take a shine to Mom and Pop

Eleven years ago I had a new roof put on the house. The roofer did a good job on the roof (it’s held tight ever since), but he was slower than molasses getting the job done. And a little screw-loose to boot. He failed to throw a tarp over my south side dormer when he was in the middle of working on it … and that July evening a thunderstorm swept through. The dormer leaked like a sieve. I came home to find a new water feature dribbling down onto my guest bed, and an even more impressive waterfall streaming through the attic. The roofer was an hour away, but he returned with the tarp after the rain stopped, and … well, to make a long story short, eventually everything dried out and this painful incident became simply another flakey-contractor horror story.

Snoqualmie Falls

Snoqualmie Falls [Shutter Tours]

Besides the mattress, the biggest casualty of the fiasco was my mom’s 1890s Victorian Eastlake dresser, which, along with my dad’s similar dresser, were stored in the attic at the time. It made me sick at heart to see its finish ruined, but I put it out of my mind, figuring I would refinish it one day. Mom would have flipped to see what happened to her beloved furniture on my watch.

Does the light from the window make the damage look even worse, or did I somehow choose not to see how bad it was? Pictures don’t lie.

walnut Eastlake dresser with bad finish

When Eric moved in and needed closet space, he took over the spare room’s closet and dresser, leaving me our bedroom’s closet. I pressed both antique dressers into service then, which made the room look like a crowded antique shop, but that’s what happens when you have too many clothes and a very small closet. The downside was that I had to look at the ruined finish every day.

water damage 1

water damage to dresser top

water damage to side

I didn’t know when I’d have time to sand and refinish the dresser, but then my friend Jessica at Cape of Dreams wrote about her trusted three-step method of reviving tired wood furniture. Dare I hope for a quick fix? Meet the mighty trio: Murphy Oil Soap, Howard Restore-a-Finish, and Howard Feed-N-Wax.

Murphy Oil Soap, Howard finish and wax

OMG, Jessica, your system really works!! First, I gave the dresser a nice sponge bath with Murphy Oil Soap. Then I applied the Restore-a-Finish in neutral. (My only other option at Ace Hardware was dark walnut, and although the dresser is walnut, I didn’t want to add color.) It’s a stinky process, as you might expect from a refinishing product, but I had the windows open. The can warns, “This product contains chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer.” No worries—I’m in Washington!

This stuff is nothing short of a miracle. Can you tell what I’ve restored and what I haven’t?

dresser half restored

Finally, I slathered on a coat of Howard Feed-N-Wax, which is made with orange oil and looks and smells so yummy I may try it on toast. What do you think of Mom’s dresser now? Here she is, topped with Eric’s Eastlake mantel clock.

dresser with finish restored

Of course, she made Pop’s dresser look shabby. Before the roofing disaster, I thought it was his dresser that needed refinishing. It had always looked a little faded and uneven, and it also had some water damage toward the bottom. I was so excited about Mom’s dresser, I tackled Pop’s the next day instead of pulling dandelions. Pop’s dresser before:

pop's dresser before

And after:

Pop's dresser after

What a handsome couple! Mom and Pop dressers. My parents would be so pleased.

These pieces are sometimes called bachelor’s or gentleman’s dressers. The small upper drawers are for handkerchiefs.(Considering how many Kleenex I go through in a day, if I’d lived in the 1890s, I’d have had to store my handkerchiefs in a bigger drawer.) Befittingly, Mom’s dresser has narrow, rounded molding and delicate turned accents. Pop’s is more masculine with chunky appliques. Both are walnut. I’m sure they sprang from the source of all my family’s treasures: the dark and mysterious depths of my grandparent’s basement, where furniture from my great-grandmother’s lake house was stored.

two walnut Eastlake dressers

Mom’s has one more unique detail … when I was very young, probably around 4, I grabbed a pin from a dish on her dresser and carved a die into the top—complete with an attempt at perspective! I must have witnessed my parents playing a game with dice and thought it would be a good idea to commemorate it. I was always drawing on something—not necessarily paper. Look closely and you’ll see the three sides of the cube with one, two, and three spots. I got the perspective backwards, but I was impressed with myself. Mom was less impressed. I clearly remember her walking in on me before I could finish my artwork. The critique did not go well.

carving of die on dresser top

I’m so happy to have given these old friends the renovation they deserved. I know they’ll be with me for the rest of my life, even after I have a giant walk-in closet with room for all of our clothes … and 60 pairs of shoes.

[I received no compensation for mentioning Murphy or Howard products in this post.]



On the ground and in the air

The shoes go marching two by two

On a rainy Northwest afternoon that wasn’t good for much else, I decided to take the shoe challenge. Eric teases me and calls me “Imelda,” a label I reject. Exactly how many shoes do I have? I marched them out to the parade grounds for review. I dragged shoes out of the closet, from behind doors, from under the bed, and from the foyer. Here they are—a mere 63 pairs.

shoes covering bed

Big Chex was minding his own business, catnapping on his favorite corner of the bed, so I just arranged the shoes around him. He awoke to find himself a kitty in shoeland … and he was freaked out. He clambered around the strange landscape and even tried laying on some of the flatter shoes, obviously desperate to communicate his angst. Defeated, he left for the living room. Poor baby—you can see the stress on his face in these photos.

black and white cat amongst shoes

black and white cat laying on shoes

My shoe collection is fairly utilitarian, long on comfort and practicality but a little short on style. Carrie Bradshaw, I’m not—not a four-inch heel among them. I was surprised to see that most of them are in good shape, even though they have many miles on them. Nearly all of them are walking shoes, or colorful summer office sandals, or boring winter office shoes, or sport sandals and flip-flops. A scant handful are slightly dressy. Apparently I have a thing for hiking shoes. I have three pairs, but it has been years since Eagle Scout Eric and I have gone for a hike.

Eagle Scout poked his head in the door and guessed, “About 60 pairs?” And then he said: “That doesn’t seem like a lot of shoes compared to some women.” Yes. He said that.

In the end, I tossed six pairs because they were wearing out or I figured no one would want them, and bagged another six for charity because they were too big, too small, or too painful. I’m down only a dozen, but that’s progress. (That means I can buy a dozen replacements!)

I dismissed the shoes back to their quarters, picked up Checkers in the living room, apologized to him and escorted him back to his nap spot. He wasted no time resuming his nap.

sleeping cat

Notice anything different in this view? The Heap is gone! All put away. You didn’t know that heap of clothes was hiding my grandma’s copper-trimmed cedar hope chest, did you? Now it’s glowing in the light once more, as it should be.



cedar chest and cellular shade

Inside the chest’s cover, written in pencil, is something like a date (2/10 1911) and a model number (m 53) and possibly a price (16.50). My grandma would have been a young woman in the early years of the Twentieth Century.

interior of cedar chest

Above the cedar chest, we’ve ditched the old miniblinds and installed new Levolor cellular shades, just like the ones in the library, except these are translucent white. Top-down/bottom-up … perfect for blocking out neighbors but still stealing a glimpse of night sky.

top-down bottom-up shades

Next to the bed, I also tossed the worn and stained IKEA paper lamp and replaced it with this porcelain beauty, which you might recognize from that visit to my parents’ house back in 1952 Milwaukee. It was one of their wedding presents, and I dare any cat to knock it over! It’s beautiful, it’s vintage, and it’s sooo much classier than that IKEA lamp.



bedside table and lamp

If you look closely, you can see where three-year-old D’Arcy took a pencil and traced the outline of the leaves. Mom was not impressed.

lamp close-up showing pencil lines

The room feels so much bigger now that it’s tidied up. It would feel downright spacious if Duke’s bed weren’t taking up all the free floor space, but that’s non-negotiable.

Look—up in the sky!

This weekend when I was out in the garden, I spied a little blue radio-controlled helicopter that had crashed in the bushes, or maybe one of our wily cats brought it down. Eric and I joked about it being a drone and set it on the fence in the hope that its owner would find it.

RC helicopter

Later that day, I was on the deck and heard a strange mechanical whirr above my head. I looked up and saw a real drone hovering high over our house! I ran in and called Eric, who had the presence of mind to grab his camera.


With a mixture of fascination and alarm I waved at the drone as if it were a living thing. It saw me. It quickly descended low over our yard to check us out, then zoomed off to a neighbor’s house a few doors away. Eric and I beat feet down the alley to investigate. We found a not-very-talkative young man controlling the drone from his back stoop. I have no reason to think he was up to anything other than playing with his high-tech toy, but it made me glad that we installed the new blinds. Sigh … I guess the days of topless sunbathing in the backyard are over! (Just kidding, of course. They were over years ago.)


That cabinet in the hall

The reaction to my last post was…  interesting. A few of my personal friends told me how courageous I was to expose our bedroom to the world. Were they really thinking crazy? Some friends who always comment were silent, perhaps channeling mom’s advice, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Some people kindly cheered me on, and a few even had the nerve to admit that they have had rooms in a similar condition. I was a little regretful and embarrassed that I let it all hang out, so to speak … but what’s done is done.

However, it did the trick. I got right to work sorting those ten dresser drawers, and now in addition to the mess, I have five Hefty bags full of clothes for charity. I freed up two drawers for my golf and cycling clothing, and gained enough room to store all my bulky jeans, sorted according to size.

More good news: The Heap is shrinking like the polar ice cap! It now consists of a spare pillow and the summer clothes that I unpacked after our Panama trip but never put away. But, you don’t want to read a post about drawers, do you? Nothing interesting about drawers … unless it’s the February 14, 1968 newspaper that lines them. Don’t you wish you could buy a ham for 47¢/lb?

1968 newspaper ads

No, you want to explore that incredible built-in cabinet in the hall. And I don’t blame you, because it’s one of my favorite items in this house of cool features.


tall linen closet

The cabinet goes clear up to the 9-ft ceiling. I can’t get up there without a ladder, so it’s been a long, long time since I’ve visited the upper shelves. What do you suppose is gathering dust up there?

Lots of zippered bags full of blankets, mostly … and a few treasures, such as this beautiful Dresden Plate quilt, made by my great aunt. Someday I’ll have an extra bedroom to reserve as a true guest room. I’ll furnish it with all my Eastlake antiques, and I’ll put this quilt on the bed. Then I’ll close the door so it doesn’t get covered in cat hair.

Dresden Plate quilt

Or maybe I’d use this pretty crocheted coverlet. It’s also from my mom’s family, but I don’t know who made it. It’s in perfect condition. Never met a cat, obviously!

white crocheted coverlet

Checkers and Peggy knew what to do with this granny-square afghan made by … my granny, of course. It was in my grandparents’ apartment when I was a very small child.

granny-square afghan

I don’t know where my folks found this Victorian wool paisley shawl. They’d heard a story that these huge shawls were given to brides who married on Queen Victoria’s birthday … but I have no idea whether that’s true. I do know that these shawls date from 1850 to 1890, and it’s not from our family. I need a grand piano to fling this across. I think we could squeeze a baby grand into the dining room.

red paisley shawl

red paisley shawl detail

This stuff is likely to stay right where it is. It’s fine being in a space that’s hard to access, because I don’t need it right now.

Next level down: the towel shelf. These doors drop down horizontally and are held in place with a chain. The design flaw with this is that when the doors are open, I can’t reach to the back of the cabinet. (I was amazed when Eric measured it and found it’s only 21 inches deep. I though it was probably 36 inches!) Consequently, I keep things I don’t use as often in the back, and our everyday towels in the front row.

towel shelf

chain on shelf door

The next shelf holds our bed linens. Once Eric builds the new platform bed with storage drawers, these linens will move out, but for the time being they’ll stay put. Any guest-bed blankets that I have in storage containers now will find a home here when the shelf clears out.

In the third shelf, my T-shirts are stacked like cordwood. No … cordwood would be neater. There’s another layer in the back, too, and I never wear those. Going, going, gone! Fred, our tuxedo cat, likes to burrow back in this shelf and lurk like a wolf eel in his cave. He hasn’t been able to penetrate the great T-shirt wall lately, and it bums him out. Lacy is a champion shedder with her long hair, so she is banned from the T-shirt shelf, which makes it irresistibly attractive. She offered to count the T-shirts … but when she saw there were more shirts than she has toes, she got discouraged.

Lacy in t shirts

Lacy in t shirts2

Lacy in t shirts 3

I had to let her enjoy the cleaned-out shelf for a little while. Prying her out was not easy.

Lacy in t shirts 4

Then, there’s a drawer full of sweaters. Still full of sweaters, just not as many.

The last shelf is inconveniently low, down at floor level. It contains a bunch of old picture frames and … Barbie? Yep, my vintage 1962 Barbie and some of her itsy-bitsy clothes. She’s in pretty good shape  (better than I am, admittedly) considering she’s spent the last 50 or so years in a box. The internet’s full of contradictory information, but from what I can gather, she’s known as a No. 6 pony-tail Barbie, and she’s worth a few hundred bucks. Okay, Babs … back in the box for another decade (sorry!).

1962 pony tail Barbie

The cabinet has one more secret: Under the linoleum that lines the bottom shelf is a wood-framed hole to the basement. A laundry chute, I assume. I’m not going to haul all that stuff out of there to show you … just use your imagination!

So, you wonder, how’s it going in the bedroom? I’m halfway through purging the closet. And Eric and I have settled on which mattress to buy and a design for our platform bed (which he’ll build), but we still have some important decisions to make. We’re getting closer to pulling this all together. Stay tuned! And watch out for wolf eels.

Fred in t shirts





2015 word of the year

It’s all over the blogosphere … I see it everywhere on TV and in the newspaper.  No matter how I try to block it out—lalalalala—it keeps cropping up and taunting me: DECLUTTER. Is the universe trying to tell me something?

wood door to ?

I have a lot of neatnik friends (you are probably one of them) who will cringe at what I am about to reveal. Nevertheless, DIY blogging is about honest home-improvement experiences, so in the interest of full disclosure, let’s step through this portal of mystery into … the bedroom. (Cue the Psycho music.)


Now, I have never claimed to be a great housekeeper. Some (you’re thinking most) of what you see can be chalked up to that. However, I maintain that it’s largely because we are sorely lacking in closet space in this little bungalow. One hundred years ago, people didn’t have a lot of clothes. I, on the other hand, have a ton of clothes. A ton. In a couple different sizes (not unusual!). I’m no fashionista, but I buy a few new things every season … and fail to get rid of the old stuff because it’s perfectly good and I’m loath to toss it. And lazy. Things must change.


And I have more shoes, Eric jokes, than Imelda Marcos. Piffle! Okay, there are shoes in the closet … in racks on the back of both doors … in a storage tub under the bed … sitting next to the bed. I have shoes I haven’t even worn yet (not unusual … is it?).


You can see that the worst of the mess is clustered around one corner of the room, near my closet door, in what I affectionately call “the heap.” The closet door is blocked by a plastic storage tub containing extra pillows, which serves as a deterrent to a certain cat who likes to do unspeakable things in closets. This has the effect of making it a pain to open the closet door … so I toss onto the heap things that I should hang up.

How many big dresser drawers can you count? TEN. Ten overstuffed, good-sized drawers. Who has three dressers in her bedroom and still has a storage problem? This gal.

I know you’ll find this surprising, but my closet, despite being outfitted with a basic organizing system, is stuffed, too. But should I ever want to air it out, it has a window! Originally, it even had a tiny wall-mounted corner sink. The pipes are still there, behind the clothes. Somewhere.

crowded closet

Does this mess bug me? Of course it does! (Even though it’s of my own making.) One’s bedroom is supposed to be a place of serene calm, not an eyesore! Clearly, the universe’s DECLUTTER message is meant for me, so here’s my plan.

  • Drawer by drawer, take everything out, purge the contents, and return the keepers to the drawer. Do the same with the closet. This should create enough room for the clothes in the heap. I have to do this in small installments so I don’t wind up with a bed covered in clothes when it’s time to hit the hay.
  • DECLUTTER and clean the built-in cabinet in the hall to make room for the blankets and pillow that are now residents of the heap.
  • Clean all surfaces. The two dressers between the windows belonged to my parents. Mom’s dresser was water-damaged when it was stored in my attic. I want to repair that … maybe give both dressers a new coat of stain and wax.
  • Paint? I last painted in 2005 … we like the minty green color, but I haven’t decided if I want to change it. Probably not.
  • Install a new ceiling fixture, possibly the light and fan that used to be in the breakfast room. Or I might buy a nice new fixture.
  • Install new white cellular shades. I already bought these, just like the ones in the library. Love ’em.
  • Lastly, the event that triggered all this ambition—we’re buying a new mattress, and Eric’s making a platform bed. We can’t wait to sleep in a nice, firm bed again!

You can see Duke in his bed in one of the pictures above. He sleeps like a puppy and snores like a man on his pillow-top, memory foam mattress, and we’re jealous. His bed  takes up nearly all available floor space, and it will stay where it is.


I know I can DECLUTTER the room, but how long will it take? I want to be done by the end of February. I had good intentions to start last weekend … but then it warmed up to over 60° and I got distracted and spent the day in the garden. But that’s okay, because I took the triangle garden from this …

triangle garden overgrown

to this:

triangle garden clean

Obviously, I am better at DECLUTTERing the garden. And since that’s also on my 2015 to-do list, it’s all good, right?