Bedroom Makeover: Before and After

We’ve lived in our house for a little over one year now, and our bedroom has come a long way. There was certainly nowhere to go but up! The only good thing about this bedroom’s original purple paint is that it makes the after photos look so much better.

Let’s start in the landing, which you can also see in my bathroom makeover post.

Before:Bedroom Landing Before.JPG

After:Bedroom Landing.jpg

I’m still loving those new black hinges, and the rest of the bedroom is looking pretty good these days, too.

Before:Bedroom Before.jpg

That sign taped on the sloped wall was for our painter: it says “Paint angled walls Irish Mist.” The ceiling is a flat off-the-shelf white, and the walls (including the slanted sections) are Irish Mist from Behr. The room looks much less choppy and steep without the stark contrast of purple vs. white.


This room is hard to photograph because the window is so huge – which is one of those good problems, as far as I’m concerned (e.g. “my gold bricks are too heavy”). These were our curtains for a couple of months:

Bedroom Sheet Curtains.JPG

Which was still somehow better than what was there before:


I hung IKEA curtains. It’s a double-rod, and there are actually eight curtains up there: it’s such a wide window that it required two panels per side. So, four white curtains in front, and four blackout liners in back. (If anyone’s interested, I can do a more detailed post with specifics.) We’re still using the same furniture and lamps from our previous apartment bedroom, with two changes: the rug and the bed.

Bedroom Window.jpg

The rug is a wool kilim I found on eBay for only $88 from I think the color it adds saves the room from looking too sterile. It is very thin, so a nice rug pad was a necessity. I like dual surface rugs pads: the scratchy felted side grabs the rug, and the latex side grips the floor.

Our platform bed is the P-Series Basic Bed from Night & Day Furniture. It’s nothing fancy: solid wood, sturdy, and cheap. We bought it for around $300 nearly 10 years ago from Right-On Futon in Chicago; I’ve also seen them online on Amazon and Wayfair. I used it previously with my DIY upholstered headboard, but a wall-mounted headboard wasn’t an option here because our bed is in front of a window.

I decided to add a simple, low-profile headboard to our existing platform bed instead of buying an entirely new bed. Thankfully, this furniture company still makes this line, so I was able to buy a headboard that fits the frame perfectly. I went with white, and painted the bed to match.

Bed Painting.jpg

I lightly sanded the original finish, primed with oil-based primer, and then rolled oil-based white paint with a foam roller for a smooth finish.

White Bed.jpg

In the end, you don’t see all that much of it, which is what I wanted:

Bedroom Nightstand Window.jpg

The IKEA RAST nightstands that I stained and painted for our apartment are holding up great. Jarrod’s side of the bed features a Chicago hawk illustration by Diana Sudyka, commissioned by WBEZ for a web feature. When he’s not out birding (like he was when I took these photos), his binoculars hang on the peg rack.

Bedroom Nightstand.jpg

My side of the bed includes a vintage dresser, plants, and a photograph of my mom and my aunt taken in the 1960s. I picked up the perforated metal tray at H&M last week. They have some really nice home items these days and, if you’re in Chicago, the newly-redesigned Michigan Avenue store is much less of a hellhole.

Bedroom Dresser and Plants.jpg

Bedroom Dresser.jpg

The closet area is pretty much the same – the mirrored doors don’t look as bad now that the purple is gone, but I’ll probably replace them at some point.


After:Bedroom Doors.jpg


After:Bedroom IKEA Dresser.jpg

This clearly isn’t a fully finished room! Those IKEA storage bins aren’t part of my forever plan, and someday I’ll get around to unpacking that box.

My long-term plan includes:

  • Remove the light kit from the fan. The fan is fine as-is: it’s inoffensive, and it’s quiet, but I do not need an additional three overhead lights on top of the four recessed lights. No one wants seven overhead lights in a bedroom! Removing the lights will make the fan even more inconspicuous.
  • New/vintage nightstands
  • New/vintage dresser to replace the IKEA bins, and/or reconfiguring the closets to maximize storage space
  • Upgrade to a king bed. Eventually, this white queen bed will move to the guest room (which currently has a full size bed), and we’ll ascend to a kingdom.
  • Unpack that box

There’s no urgency for any of those things, however. Especially that box. If I haven’t needed anything from it in a year, maybe I should just bring it to Goodwill and let them unpack it…


Two-Person Desk and Gallery Wall

Hey-oh: we’ve got a proper desk area in our living room! I prefer having our computers in our main common area (instead of sequestered upstairs in the guest bedroom, for example), and this side of the living room seemed perfect for an office setup. I wanted a functional, comfortable, dedicated workspace for two people. No more camping out at the kitchen table!

Two Person Desk.JPG

To see what the living room used to look like, check out this post.

The Desk Setup

All of the components for this 8 foot desk came from IKEA: I used the 98″ KARLBY walnut countertop, the ALEX drawer unit, and LERBERG trestle legs. IKEA used to carry the ALEX and LERBERG in black – which I prefer – but they transitioned to gray this year. I was able to snag a black drawer unit before they went out stock, and I spray painted the metal trestle legs black.

IKEA Desk Components.jpg

Putting together the desk was super simple: the countertop simply rests across the legs and the drawer unit. It’s a big, solid setup. Hanging frames and wrangling cords was the time-consuming part. Oh, and I built a frame for the first time! Let’s start there.

Building a Floating Canvas Frame

I already owned most of the art I used in this project. But I knew I wanted to add a large antique oil painting to the mix, for some texture and warmth. I dug through eBay until I found a painting that I really liked. Good lord, there’s a lot of crap art to wade through on eBay. Filtering by time period (1900-1949) helped a little.

Oil Painting Frame Before.JPG

The original frame was overly ornate and, in my opinion, distracted from the painting. To replace it, I built a simple floating frame using cheap pine from Home Depot. It was a lot of careful measuring and cutting and making it up as I went along.

Making a Picture Frame.JPG

I stained the wood black to match the moodiness of the painting, and to help balance the black wall-mounted monitors.

Staining a Picture Frame.JPG

I totally winged this entire process, and I’m really happy with the way it turned out!

Oil Painting in Floating Frame.JPG

Cat inspector on the job again.

Cat Inspecting Oil Painting.JPG

Hanging the Gallery Wall

Having wall-mounted monitors meant the gallery wall needed to be planned out pretty well. It’s easy to tweak the placement of a frame by moving a nail a few inches, but I wouldn’t have any flexibility with the monitor placement once heavy-duty toggle bolts were in the wall. So, I over-planned, as I do.

First, I did a real crappy job of Photoshopping my two options: gallery wall vs. picture ledge. For the mock-ups, I used Chris Loves Julia’s picture ledge and our previous dining room’s gallery wall.

Office Wall Options.jpg

Then I solicited input from a friend who has good taste in nearly everything, with the exception of appropriate footwear.


I used a mix of white, black, and brown wood frames. The art is a mix of screen prints, paintings, and photos that I’ve collected over the years, and there’s a bit of a theme to it – mostly plants, houses, and birds (thanks for the Japanese ducks, Kei!).

I fussed around with the frame arrangement on the floor.

Planning a Gallery Wall on the Floor.JPG

I also did the thing the internet suggests you do: used paper to visualize the frames on the wall.

Planning a Gallery Wall.JPG

This step seems excessive for most purposes, but it was helpful here. I did not want to regret my placement of the monitors.

Gallery Wall in Progress.JPG

All hung!

Gallery Wall Over Desk.jpg

Gallery Wall Detail.JPG

Hiding the Cords

Did you notice what you don’t see on that office wall?  All the cords. A whole lot of wire wrangling went into this. If I could make a living hiding cords, I would change careers. So gratifying!

On the wall, I used a raceway for the monitor power and DVI cords. That monitor arm is a cheap guy from Amazon, by the way: VideoSecu TV Wall Mount Articulating Arm Monitor Bracket. It lets us push the monitor back when not in use, and pull it forward when we’re working / wasting time on the internet.

Wall-Mounted Monitor.JPG

Under the desk, I added a J channel cable raceway – I bought one and cut it in half to use on either side of the cabinet. The raceway routes all of the wires to a power strip I mounted on the wall behind the cabinet.

Belkin Surge Protector.JPG

I bought the Belkin 8-Outlet Pivot Surge Protector with 6-Foot Cord (based on The Wirecutter’s recommendation); the pivoting outlets are awesome and crucial for this setup.

Wall-Mounted Surge Protector.JPG

This hidden surge protector powers everything – my Apple charger, Jarrod’s Dell dock, the monitors, the desk lamp, the Jambox – with only one visible cord. To make it even less conspicuous, and because crazy, I wrapped it with white ribbon.

Under Desk Cords.JPG

The Finishing Touches

The Kurdish runner rug is vintage from eBay. The rolling chairs are from Overstock: Porthos Home Monroe Adjustable Office Chair. I would have preferred something vintage, but finding a pair of reasonably-priced vintage adjustable chairs was not happening. These Overstock chairs are sturdy and comfortable, and they’ll do until I have a lucky find.

Office Chairs.JPG

I did have a lucky find in the floor sample pile at Room & Board: this Nell wall sconce. At 30% off, it was still a splurge, but I love it so. It provides such a nice glow.

Nelson Sconce.JPG

I also added a Threshold Two Head Task Lamp from Target. The rattan stool is from Target as well – I plan to add a plant on top.

Desk Lamp.JPG

And that brings us to where we are today, and where I’m typing this blog post right now.

Office Wall.JPG

It looks something like this:

Office Action Shot.JPG

Thanks to Jarrod’s dad Rodger for the action shot, and for letting me experiment with his camera this weekend! I also borrowed my friend Carolyn’s camera (thanks, buddy!), so I have a lot of photos in the hopper for more posts in the coming weeks.

Let’s All Watch Easy on Netflix

There’s a new eight-episode series coming out on Netflix next week, written and directed by the very awesome Joe Swanberg. It’s called Easy, and it’s set in Chicago. Here’s the trailer:

It’s always fun to see things that were filmed in Chicago, and it’s even better when they venture outside of the Loop into other neighborhoods. If you’re familiar with Lincoln Square, you’ll recognize the Davis Theater, Baker Miller, and more.

You’ll also recognize a lot of funny famous people, like Orlando Bloom (my #1 reigning crush from 2001-2003), Malin Akerman (Trophy Wife should still be on the air), Jake Johnson (national treasure), Hannibal Buress (best known as the 30 Rock hobo – j/k), Aya Cash (You’re the Worst is an unexpected delight), and Elizabeth Reaser (wonderful in everything she’s in, including my brother’s film One & Two).

And, there’s one more fun thing to keep an eye out for: our house!


That’s our bedroom, but that’s not our quilt, and that’s definitely not Jarrod and me.

This past February, we turned our property over to a production crew, dropped off our cats with a friend (thanks again, Ben!), and checked into a hotel for 10 days. We had a wonderful staycation in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood while an episode of Easy was filmed at our house in Albany Park.

I have very little idea what transpired while we were gone, and I’ve heard only a few details about the show’s plot. Even if I didn’t know and love Joe, I would know and love his movies: they’re funny, candid, and sweet without being pandering. So, I’m doubly excited to see the show.

After filming wrapped, we returned to a clean house and inquisitive neighbors. Only a few clues remained to remind us that our home was someone else’s for a spell: a stranger’s pants in our closet, a production schedule in our garage. One morning, several weeks later, I took a carton of eggs out of the fridge and discovered they weren’t my eggs: they were showbiz eggs, neatly cracked and stacked.


Easy comes out on Netflix on Thursday, September 22. Let’s all watch it and keep an eye out for omelettes.

How I Installed an IKEA Bathroom Vanity

In my greatest DIY victory to date, I installed an IKEA HEMNES bathroom cabinet, DALSKAR faucet, and ODENSVIK sink (which came with RINNEN plumbing). Note that the title of this blog post is not “How to install an IKEA vanity” but rather “How I installed an IKEA vanity.” This is what worked for me.

I did a ton of Googling throughout this process and found some helpful guides (such as this one) that gave me the confidence to take on this project, but I didn’t find any blog posts that were identical to my situation. IKEA altered their standard plumbing kit significantly recently, so a lot of the information I found was outdated. Also, every home is going to have its own oddities.

This post won’t be of much interest to anyone who isn’t installing an IKEA sink, but I hope it’s helpful for at least one person who is! Specifically, here are the three issues I encountered that you might run into as well:

  • Waste pipe that is 1-1/4″ vs IKEA plumbing that is 1-1/2″
  • Faucet supply lines that are 3/8″ vs IKEA faucet lines that are 9/16″
  • IKEA overflow hose that does not reach the drain

Before buying our house, I had never done any plumbing work. It was daunting because water can be so quickly and so thoroughly ruinous should anything go wrong. I installed our basement sink as a test case, and then tackled this on my own without disaster. If you’re handy and enjoy finding solutions to problems, I think IKEA plumbing is definitely a doable DIY.

Getting started

I started by laying out all of the parts in order. Note: if you buy an IKEA sink and an IKEA faucet, you’ll have a couple of duplicate parts.

IKEA Plumbing Parts.JPG

I warned Jarrod that it may be several days until we had a working sink again. I hoped it would go smoothly, but I was prepared for some hiccups. We have a sink in our first floor half-bathroom, which helped make this a lot less stressful.

I turned off the inline shut-off valves, disconnected the existing sink, and stuck a rag in the wall drain hole to keep the stink contained.


I assembled the vanity cabinet and Jarrod helped me position it (it was nice to have an extra set of hands here, but not necessary — this can be a one-woman project). I adjusted the screw-in feet until it was level. Our floor slopes, so the right self-adjusting foot is extended quite a bit more than the left.


Once it was precisely placed and leveled, I marked off the four spots I’d need to drill and then moved the vanity out of the bathroom.

Drilling into granite tile

If you don’t have granite wall tiles, mounting the vanity will be pretty easy. If you do have granite tiles, like we do, I’m sorry. Drilling into granite is totally doable, but it’s time-consuming and expensive! The bits are made of diamonds and run $20+ each at Home Depot. It sounds like even the nice ones wear down quickly, requiring multiple bits to do the job. Having learned that, I chose to buy two cheap sets from Amazon. $22 total for 10 bits, and I wound up using every single one.


I sprayed the area with water continuously while drilling (sorry, no pics). After the holes were drilled, I put the vanity back in place.


The big square holes are from the previous sink’s installation. The IKEA vanity is secured with metal clips (provided by IKEA) and toggle bolts (purchased by me).

Mounting the faucet on the sink

I installed the DALSKAR faucet on the ODENSVIK sink before placing it on the vanity – it was a lot easier to see and reach the underside this way.


The bottom of the metal faucet marked up the sink a bit as I was positioning it, which was disappointing. To avoid this, I’d recommend putting some painters tape around the hole and then removing it right before you tighten down the faucet. Otherwise, this step was straightforward and easy.

Figuring out the waste pipe connection

The waste pipe is the hole in the wall that the sink connects to, which I assume leads directly to the Chicago River. The IKEA p-trap drainpipe is 1-1/2 inches. Our waste pipe is smaller: 1-1/4 inches. So, I had to find a trap adapter/reducer. In retrospect, this wasn’t that big a deal: most of the battle was learning terminology and figuring out WTF I was even looking for.

Semi-Pro Tip #1: Don’t throw away anything you remove from your previous sink’s installation until you’ve successfully installed your new sink. Put it in a plastic bag and carry that grossness to every hardware store. If you’re a novice like I am, it’s extremely helpful to have with you to compare parts and to talk to store employees.


Semi-Pro Tip #2: When you’re in the hardware store, BUY EVERYTHING. Seriously, if you find yourself looking at something and thinking “This might work” or “I think this would fit” — BUY IT. Keep the receipt and return what you don’t use.

In the interest of helping anyone in the same boat, here are all the options I gathered within 36 hours via Amazon, Clark & Barlow Hardware, Home Depot, and Ace:


The Everbilt washer the Home Depot guy sent me home with was totally wrong for the job, so that one was immediately ruled out. Any of the other three probably would have worked if space were not a crucial issue for IKEA plumbing (more on that later).


I experimented with both the galvanized reducer and the PVC trap adapter, ultimately choosing the PVC option because it was the most space-efficient.


Good god, this post is boring. I’m sorry. Let’s trudge on.

Connecting the faucet

Our supply valves are 3/8 inch. The IKEA manual states that the faucet lines are 9/16 inch. As far as I learned, this is not a measurement used by US plumbing standards.


So, I was worried about connecting my existing 3/8″ lines to the IKEA faucet lines, but did not encounter any problems at all. The ends connected perfectly, and they are watertight. Whew! I don’t know if the manual is simply incorrect, or if the difference is so slight that it’s negligible. Just another IKEA oddity.


I wrapped the ends with Teflon tape to help ensure a tight seal.

Connecting the overflow drain and p-trap

This was the most frustrating part of the installation. Unlike the waste pipe, which was a challenge because of our house’s non-standard plumbing, this step was infuriating because it was caused by IKEA’s unforgiving design.ikea-drawer-fml.jpg

In order for the HEMNES drawers to slide in fully, the drain pipe and p-trap needs to be as close to the back wall as possible. The cabinet assembly does not allow a generous margin of error. Many people wind up having to shorten their drawers or hack notches into them. The drawers were the major appeal of this vanity in the first place, so I was hoping to avoid that.


In the store display, IKEA shows the wall drain being off-center from the sink drain itself, so that the p-trap (the curved part at the bottom) is flush with the wall and the overflow tube (the black rubber piece) can be connected.


In my experience, this a totally unrealistic and unholy arrangement. Our wall drain hole is centered with the sink’s drain, like God intended. I had no choice but to position the drain to run at an angle, in order to get the p-trap flush with the wall.


The overflow tube IKEA provides is quite rigid and would simply not bend or stretch to work with that arrangement. I could force it into place with a terribly angled drain (as you see above), but it would slowly disconnect because of the strain. IKEA’s design doesn’t include anything to actually secure it to the drain. I tried cable ties and steel screw clamps, but the black rubber was simply too rigid. Incredibly frustrating!

I went to Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Ace in search of tubing that could work as a replacement. I bought a few different types of plastic tubing, but in the end, nothing worked as well as a $3 bike inner tube I stole from Jarrod. It was flexible enough for the tight space, and I was able to secure it in place with cable ties.


I don’t claim that this solution is perfect: if the sink were stopped up and water reached the overflow hole, the bike tube doesn’t drain water as quickly as a rigid tube would. But it’s totally water-tight and, ultimately, it’s the solution that saved me from having to hack the drawers and/or burn down the house. For our purposes, the overflow drain only gets used when water splashes back there. So, it’ll do.

Moving along! You have to punch out a hole on whichever side you install the overflow drain.


I waited to do the punch out step until the very end, when I was 100% certain what my final arrangement would be.


Good enough!

Checking your work and sealing it up

I waited a few days before installing the drawers so that I could keep an eye on the drain and supply lines, to make sure nothing was leaking. I also wiped a Kleenex over all of the components a couple times each day to make sure everything was staying completely dry.


Once I was certain the drain and faucet lines were watertight, it was time for silicon. I lifted the sink to put a line of silicon on top of the vanity and then carefully set it back in place. I also used silicon on the rubber seal that sits between the sink and the drain. I figured this might help make it extra-watertight; couldn’t hurt, anyway.


And, finally, I ran a line of silicon at the back of the sink, where it meets the wall.


This line of silicon was the most beautiful and satisfying thing I’ve ever done, because it meant this project was FINISHED.


The cat inspector gave me some shit about the bike tube plumbing but signed off on the job nevertheless.


Second-guessing your decision to buy an IKEA vanity

At a couple of points during this multi-day project, I’ll admit that I regretted buying an IKEA vanity. But, in the end, I think I made the right choice. The vanity offers more storage in a smaller footprint than the terrible saucer sink. The new sink has a smaller surrounding edge, but it’s actually functional because it’s level — the previous sink ledge sloped inward.





The vanity looks nice and feels very sturdy. I love the drawers: they slide smoothly and shut softly. I also love the faucet: the one-handle design is great, and the water turns on and off very cleanly. Most importantly, the vanity fit our tight space requirements and our budget.

You can see additional photos of the space in my Bathroom Makeover post.


Bathroom Makeover: Finished!

Hey, our bathroom is finished! As I mentioned when I first shared my bathroom makeover plans, my goal was to replace the glaring features that made the bathroom look really dated/cheap: most notably, the paint, mirror, and sink. Eventually we’ll do a full bathroom renovation (that granite tile is not part of my forever plan), but making some changes now will keep me happy with this space for several years to come.

The upstairs landing is looking much better since you last saw it, with a rug, snake plant, and framed photo. I’ve had the IKEA VITTEN shag rug for a long time now, and it’s held up surprisingly well. Snake plants are unkillable – this one gets indirect light from the stairwell window, and that’s keeping it alive just fine.



And here’s what the bathroom looks like now:






Obviously, erasing that red was an easy win! (The walls are now Behr’s Irish Mist.) Less easy: replacing the sink. Installing the IKEA HEMNES vanity was difficult for a variety of reasons, which I’ll detail in another post. But it was ultimately worth it: it’s the perfect size, I love the storage drawers, and good riddance to that terrible pedestal sink.


To be honest, I’m not totally in love with the eucalyptus wall hanging I made. I preserved the eucalyptus with vegetable glycerine (following this blog post’s helpful instruction), which has kept it flexible and intact, but it’s become less green and more reddish brown over the past couple of months. I do like it for bringing some different texture and shape into the bathroom, though. And, if nothing else, it was fun to braid string and embroidery floss.


Preserved plants are no match for live, verdant ones. The window ledge is a great spot for plants that I’m starting from clippings.



I swapped the existing light fixture for a mini-sputnik style chandelier from West Elm.



Aside from the vanity, my favorite change is the mirror. The Linfield pivoting mirror from Rejuvenation is perfect: beveled edge, rounded corners, and remarkably well-made. I hope to use it for decades.


The abutting doors were a hassle, so I replaced the closet door with a curtain. And, I swapped the door’s hinges and knob for black metal ones: small changes that made a big difference.



More details about the bathroom closet changes can be found in my previous post.

Bathroom Closet Before

Bathroom Closet After 2


The Relax sign was replaced by a photo my brother took of my aunt and uncle’s pecan grove in southwest Missouri.



That’s all I got for now! I’ll close with the product sources; you can also see them gathered together in my previous post.