Bathroom Closet Before & After

Just a quick post about improvements I made to our bathroom closet. First off: bathroom closet! I’ve never had one before, and it’s crazy nice. There’s a ton of room. But when we moved in, there was only one long shelf in there.

Bathroom Closet Shelf Before 2.JPG

It wasn’t an efficient use of the space at all.

Bathroom Closet Shelf Before

I put everything out on a towel while I was working and Doozy made himself comfortable. Cat logic: “If I fits, I sits.”

Bathroom Mess Nest

The first thing I tackled was the floor. It was splattered with paint, and had an overall gritty texture that never felt clean even when it was. The perimeter of the floor had been covered and then exposed at some point, so it looked unnecessarily shitty. Sanding it to the point of perfection would have required a belt sander. Given that it’s a closet floor, I didn’t need perfection — I just wanted it to feel clean. So, I sanded a bit, followed by a quick coat of stain and poly. I also added some trim using wood I had on hand, to cover up the gaps around the perimeter.


Bathroom Closet Floor Before


Bathroom Closet Floor After


Bathroom Closet Floor Before 3


Bathroom Closet Floor After 2


Bathroom Closet Floor Before 2


Bathroom Closet Floor After 4

Next up was shelving. We had an IKEA Billy bookcase from two apartments ago that I kept in our basement at our last apartment. I thought about selling it several times, but I decided not to because I knew it might come in handy wherever we lived next. It’s a perfect fit here!

Bathroom Closet Shelves 2

Next to it I added shelves using brackets left in the house and two cheap Rubbermaid laminate boards from The Home Depot. I cut them to fit using my mitre saw. They look the same, but they’re actually slightly different lengths because this closet’s angles are not at all square. When you want a perfectly tight fit, be sure to measure for each shelf, and error on the side of cutting too long – you can always shave off if needed!

Bathroom Closet Shelves

I like to use paint pens for making dark screws less conspicuous.

Painters Pen

The closet had a light fixture that looked kinda cool, but it was rusted and used antiquated bulbs.

Bathroom Closet Light Before

I was very excited to replace this light fixture with a $3 porcelain lamp holder. This created a perfectly-placed outlet so that we now have a place to plug in our radio (AM NPR FTW) and charge toothbrushes, razors, etc.

I think these lamp holders are a great way to add outlets for low-voltage use. If you’re not comfortable with replacing a light fixture (or if you’re not allowed to as a renter), an even easier alternative is to use a screw-in socket adapter.

Bathroom Closet Charging Station

The drill piece kit I mentioned in this post included attachments for cutting holes – they’re awesome. I had previously hacked through things with a cheap keyhole saw and this is so much easier.

Drill for Cutting Holes

The closet door awkwardly abutted the bathroom door, so I removed it. I plan to hang up a simple curtain instead. I used slivers of wood and spackling paste to fill in the door frame gaps where the closet door hinges used to be.

Bathroom Closet Hinge


Bathroom Closet Hinge After.JPG

That’s it! Now we have a clean floor, a charging station, and plenty of room to spare.

Bathroom Closet Storage After.JPG

The basket holds cleaning supplies, which is really nice to have upstairs.

Bathroom Closet Shelves 3.JPG

Toilet necessities tucked into the back corner, and a hook rail because Jarrod always hangs out his clothes the night before work like a crazy person. On Friday, he hangs out his clothes for Monday: crazy person!

Bathroom Closet After.JPG


Bathroom Closet Before


Bathroom Closet After 2.JPG

I’m waiting for the closet curtain to come back from the tailor and then this bathroom will be finished – photos to come!

Bathroom Makeover Plan

When I gave you a tour of the second floor bathroom, I mentioned possibly replacing the sink ahead of a complete bathroom remodel. If you follow me on Instagram, you probably already know that’s exactly what I ended up doing. In my greatest DIY victory to date, I wrestled IKEA plumbing into submission.


Backing up: I don’t love the granite tile, but it’s in great shape and I can live with it for several years. The sink and medicine cabinet, however, downgraded the bathroom from “pretty okay!” to “haaaaate it.” I decided that since I could replace the most glaring offenders and consider this bathroom “done for now,” it was worth the time and money.


I’m still putting the finishing touches on the bathroom, but I wanted to share the product round-up with you now! Here’s what I’m working with – it’s a mix of new things and things I already had:

Bathroom Makeover Big ThingsShower Curtain  /  Light Fixture  /  Mirror /  Faucet  /  Vanity & Sink  /  Rug

Bathroom Makeover Small ThingsDoor Knob  /  Tissue Box  /  Hooks  /  Plants  /  Shower Curtain Rings  /  Cabinet Knob  /  Toilet Paper Holder  /  Hinges  /  Soap Dispenser  /  Basket  /  Pot

The mirror was the biggest splurge. I logged a thousand hours online looking for something less expensive that 1) I liked nearly as much, 2) fit our space requirements, and 3) works with the wall tile that juts out 3/4″ from the drywall. There was nothing else. So, when Rejuvenation had a sale, I jumped. Expenditure approved! I am still pretty giddy about this mirror: it’s so nice to make decorating decisions as a homeowner that I wouldn’t have made as a renter, and to invest in high-quality products that will be in the house for a long time.

My Favorite Purchases of 2015

Tis the season of grotesque consumerism and year-end best-of lists! I thought it’d be fun to combine the two and bring you: My Top 10 Favorite Purchases of 2015. Instead of ranking them, I’ve sorted them by purchase price in descending order.

#10. Our House

Price: $340,000. I’ve experienced only minor amounts of I’ve Made a Huge Mistake since July, and those have been more about the neighborhood than the house. I still think we made a good decision! Whew.


#9. Frye Carson Lace Up Boots

Price: $298 / Link. In my experience, Frye boots are worth the money. These awesome shit-kickers are sturdy and comfortable enough to wear everyday – without treating delicately – but streamlined enough to look good with tights and dresses. (The upturned toe isn’t as pronounced in real life, and it flattens with wear.) If you live in Chicago, the Frye flagship store is heavenly: the staff is super nice, they have ALL of the boots in ALL of the colors, and they do free repairs for life.


(Pictured with a delicious waffle + arugula + bacon concoction I bought from a food cart in Portland, Oregon.)

#8. Bosch RS7 11 Amp Reciprocating Saw

Price: $79 / Link. This saw is a beast. I bought it for basement demo (more on that soon, I promise!), and it cut through wood and metal with remarkable ease. Despite the power, I feel really safe using it – it’s heavy, but easy to hold and operate. Here’s me caressing it lovingly, wearing glasses on glasses and a college boyfriend’s band t-shirt.


Side note: I love for Amazon price tracking. You simply copy and paste the Amazon URL and it shows you the item’s price history. This saw, for example, fluctuated $40 in December 2015.


I always check here before buying bigger ticket items on Amazon. If it reveals that the current price is higher than average, I set up a price alert so that I’m notified when the price falls below whatever amount I specify. You don’t even have to create an account; just enter your email address.

#7. Nest Learning Thermostat – 2nd Generation

Price: $75 / Link. I was always diligent about setting our previous apartments’ programmable thermostats on an energy-efficient schedule, so the Nest’s auto-learning function wasn’t actually a huge sell for me. The three things did sell me on the Nest were:

  • Auto-Away: If we’re not at home, the Nest disregards the schedule and automatically adjusts the temperature to save energy.
  • Remote control: When we’ve been out of town, it’s super nice to be able to heat up the house before we arrive home.
  • ComEd Rebate: ComEd currently offers a $100 rebate for smart thermostats.


When the 3rd generation Nest came out, the 2nd generation model dropped in price. I didn’t want or need the 3rd generation’s bigger screen or higher resolution (I’m not watching Netflix on it), so I snagged the 2nd generation for $175 and the rebate brought it down to $75.

#6. Ryobi 90-Piece Drilling and Driving Accessory Kit

Price: $27 / Link. I bought this kit based on The Sweethome’s recommendation and it’s been great. It’s had everything that I’ve needed over the past few months with the exception of drilling into granite. Turns out those bits are literally made of diamonds.


#5. Duralex Picardie Tumbler Set

Price: $20-$30, depending on size / Link. Buying new glasses was something I had been looking forward to with home ownership. Jarrod is comically clumsy, and our glass collection dwindled as he broke them, but I didn’t want to buy new ones until we moved. I am now very happy to own these. It’s another Sweethome recommendation. They’re purportedly nearly impossible to break; I’m excited to test that with Jarrod. So far so good!


They come in a range of sizes. 5-3/4 oz is pretty small: we’ll use them for wine, or when we have kids visiting. 10-1/2 oz is great for Manhattans. 16-3/4 oz is perfect for water. They stack, which is nice because we don’t have a lot of upper cabinet space. They don’t nest as closely as pictured on Amazon, though – that’s some Photoshop wizardry. Just a heads up!

#4. How Your House Works: A Visual Guide to Understanding and Maintaining Your Home

$18 / Link. Super helpful guide! I wish I had read it before we did our home inspection – I would have had a much better understanding of what our inspector was pointing out about our plumbing, electrical system, etc.


#3. Hot Shot Men’s Knit Hat, Blaze Orange

$5 / Link. One of the weirder events of my life happened in September. Some friends and I had gathered after work to have a drink on our friend Katie’s rooftop deck. While we were up there, a barely-pantsed resident stormed up, wielding a knife, warning of an intruder with a gun. He was truly terrified. He wore a bright orange cap and black leather sex cuffs, and no shirt or shoes. He claimed his pursuer was in the stairwell. He was clearly on a bad trip and we didn’t really believe the gun story, but also didn’t want to test that.

So, we were trapped on the roof with him, 20 floors up. We called 911, calmed him down, learned his name was Nick, took away his knife, helped him “barricade” the door (half-heartedly, with a deck chair), and waited 25 minutes for the police to arrive. Meanwhile, he called his mom. It was kinda adorable.


The cops finally showed up and confirmed that there was no armed intruder in the stairs or Nick’s apartment. We were free to go. End of weird story. It was scary at the time, but is now funny.


That night I bought everyone matching Bad Trip Nick hats to commemorate the experience.


#2. Cree Soft White LED 60w Replacement

Price: $4 / Link. I replaced all of the light bulbs in our house with these LED bulbs. The light quality is very nice: warm without being yellow. Thanks to a ComEd subsidy, you can buy them in Chicago for only $4 each, which is a steal when you consider the estimated yearly energy cost is $1.20 with a life expectancy of 27 years (based on 3 hours/day).


#1. Scanner Pro App

Price: $2.99 / Link. Currently only $0.99! This app was great throughout the home buying process, which required a lot of signed and scanned documents. It’s especially handy for sensitive information you may not want to run through your workplace scanner and network. I manage our lives in Google Drive, and I use this to immediately scan and upload documents; e.g. an auto mechanic invoice to our Superoo folder, or a fencing quote to our Hauslermo folder.


Happy New Year!

Front Porch Upgrades

Hello, friends! I came back. I don’t see how people* can both work on a house and blog about working on a house.

* Normal full-time-job people, that is, who don’t get paid to blog. I just spent $99 to renew my Premium account, which includes the No Ads upgrade. That keeps WordPress from placing any ads on this site, and obviously I myself am not profiting in anyway. No Blue Apron sponsored posts here! I like that this space is commercial-free, and it’s one of the things that makes me want to continue blogging. 

Also, I am making a ton of progress on the house, in ways big and small, and I want this blog to be a record of that.

I’m going to try to be better about quick posts: the types of things I text my friends when they humor me about being interested in Phase 7 of my elaborate 10-phase never-ending basement demo. I know I need to finish the house tour with a post about the exterior of the house, but I want to start with some small changes I made to our front stoop.

Here’s the door that greeted us the first time we toured the house:


I bought new deadbolts for the three exterior doors, keyed them to match one key, and installed them the day we closed on the house. When we moved in several weeks later, that was the only change I had made:


Scrubbing and painting made a huge difference.


The cats were super curious about why the door was cracked.


Doozy’s curiosity borders on murdery.


Working on a house requires constant decision-making and I can get overwhelmed by options, but that wasn’t the case with our doorknobs and mailbox. I ordered these immediately and love them!


The mailbox is the 4600 Series Black Standard Vertical Traditional Mailbox from Salsbury Industries. I would have preferred the horizontal version (easier to fish things out of because it’s less deep) but the vertical one fits better in the space available. It’s awesomely sturdy.


I swapped out all of the knobs and levers in our house with these Bowery knobs by Shlage, in the matte black finish. They feel great in your hand.


I have the Privacy Lock Knob (#F10 BWE 622) on our bedroom and bathroom doors, and the Passage Lock Knob (#F40 BWE 622) on our closet and interior passage doors.


Pro tip: despite the name, the “passage lock knob” does not lock.


Eventually we’ll get a new front door and, at that time, I’ll buy a really nice lever, but door hardware is expensive and I’m very happy with this set-up for now.


I also hung a Mr. Beams battery-operated motion sensing light in the overhang (model MB980). It detects motion from about 10 ft away and illuminates the front porch.


My only complaint is that the LED light has a sharp halo, which looks a bit harsh. (And I need to move it two feet to the right so more of the light is on the door knob.) I prefer to turn on the real front porch light when we’re expecting company, but this one is nice for us when we come home late.


That’s it for now! I’ll have the Before and After pictures see you out.






New House Tour: Main Floor

Thanks for dining at Palermo’s Pizzeria! Jarrod’s your waiter and he’ll be taking care of you this evening while we tour the first floor of our new house.


Let’s start in the kitchen. It’s the best room of the house right out of the box, which isn’t to say it’s perfect, but it’s functional and is the closest to being pretty decent!

In case it’s not obvious, that’s not our table nor our curtains. The house had been vacant since October 2014 and was mostly empty except for a lot of junk in the garage and basement. I think this table was an attempt at staging, to make the place seem homier. It disappeared the day before we closed; the junk unfortunately stayed put. (The house was sold as-is, so they didn’t have to clean it.)


We’re not going to talk about that enclosed back porch right now: please pretend that moldy mess doesn’t exist. That’s what we do every day.


The kitchen cabinets are kinda nice: the drawers are full-extension and everything’s sturdy, but they were also put together poorly and some weird choices were made. That upper cabinet to the right of the sink, for example, is a base cabinet: it’s way too deep to be up top and Jarrod is definitely going to ram his head into it while loading the dishwasher.


That island is gigantic. I’m excited to have so much counter space on either side of the stove and four matching stools lined up at the bar.


Another “Good ’nuff!” paint job from the previous occupant. That door on the right leads to the basement.


Past the kitchen is the staircase I love, terrible beast of a project that it is. Looks like someone started stripping that sixth baluster and then said “Fuck this!” A few months from now, I’ll probably do the same. My only saving grace is that I don’t want to strip to the point of re-staining (that would kill me and/or I’d set my house on fire), just to the point that it can be a clean paint job. I want the risers and balusters to be white, with the handrail and stair treads stained brown.


There’s a half-bath next to the stairs. The toilet flushes and the sink drains water, and that’s about all it has going for it currently.


I’ll make it as nice as possible with a minimal amount of money, and then do a full renovation down the road. This bathroom renovation will take priority over the upstairs one because more people will use it and it currently feels crummier.


downstairs11Moving on to the living room. I love this view.


Blogging is weird: it’s hard to know what balance to strike between “We’re excited about this house we bought!” and “Look at this messed up thing! Here’s another bad choice! And why in the hell would someone do this?” Just know that while I point out all the flaws, I’m excited about the overall promise of the house and still think (85% of the time) that we got a good place! Like George Harrison said in that weird music video that creeped you out as a child: It’s gonna take time, a whole of precious time, it’s going to take patience and time, to do it right and undo all the things some idiot did before you.


This decorative fireplace will be nice eventually. I’ll paint the brick (it’s already painted – that’s red paint with hand-drawn gray “mortar” lines) and rebuild the shelves. Art — not a TV — will go over the mantle. Nothing against TVs, I just don’t like them up high.


I’m a little overwhelmed by how to arrange furniture in the living room. There’s a lot of room to work with, but the space is divided visually by the entryways. Neither half is big enough to contain an entire seating area, so whatever couch + chair arrangement we come up with will have spill into the middle of the room. My friend’s mom (hi, Mrs. Priebe!) is an interior decorator and I’m roping her in for advice.


The front sunroom used to be an exterior porch. It was enclosed a few decades ago, with cheap linoleum on the floor and cheap acoustic tiles on the ceiling. All of it will get changed in time. It’s a sunny bonus room and I look forward to having some comfortable chairs out there for reading and coffee. And lots of plants!



The brick on the original exterior wall is real. The “brick” on the interior side is not.


Those are plastic bricks, glued to a thin layer of concrete, which was applied to a piece of wall panelling, which was stuck to the plaster wall. Yeesh. This was one of things we were able to tackle prior to moving in, so it looks quite different now. Pics to come!


The next post will tour the basement and outside, where we’ve already done a lot of work, so there will be before & after photos of some unglamorous but very necessary changes.