Thursday, May 12, 2011

Office and Library in 8 Square Feet


My inspiration for our office.

Part of the charm of our apartment is the long hallway that has lots of nooks and irregular corners. We recently turned one of these nooks into an office/library.

This photo from Metropolitan Home was my inspiration. This Manhattan apartment, home of architect Jeffery Povero, has walls in Benjamin Moore’s “Iron Mountain.” I love how the dark walls contrast with the white shelves. I also love the way that the orange storage boxes provide visual organization.

Dean might say that I “copied” this photo and that I “lack imagination” (in fact, he has said those exact things). Copying is antithetical to his architectural moral code.  I say this office was my “inspiration.” In the end I got the shelves I wanted, and our hallway was already painted dark gray (Farrow & Ball’s Down Pipe). The desk is different from the picture. We are both happy with the outcome.

The office nook became possible when we moved this gigantic door to the adjacent wall in the hallway.
Dean screws together the shelves. The wall on the right on the office nook is new--built to expend the
bathroom by 8 inches.

Looking up at the shelves.
After getting a quote from a cabinet-maker-friend for $1,600 to build the shelves, Dean decided to build them himself. (No offense to our friend, I am sure he would have done a spectacular job, but we are on a budget).

Dean bought $200 in wood at Home Depot and bolted 1x2”’s into the walls on three sides of the nook to create a structural frame. Then he cut plywood to fit, and screwed it on top and bottom of the 3-sided frames he already installed. He cut 2.5 inch strips of smooth architectural plywood and affixed those strips to the front of the shelves with Liquid Nails as the faceplates. I was the master sander and painter (the shelves are the same color as all woodwork in our apartment—Halo by C2 Paint). We puttied screw holes and little gaps between the faceplates and plywood with acrylic putty, then sanded it down and re-painted. It took two full days to cut, build, sand, paint, putty, re-sand and re-paint these 4 shelves.

The completed office. The top shelf turns a corner and rests on top of the new bathroom bump-out. Dean
"styled" it in red.
Some elements of the office are responses to the bathroom right next door. For example, the top shelf wraps around the corner. It rests on a new bumped-out wall we built to make the bathroom large enough for a sink and toilet.  The wrapped shelf hopefully makes that wall, which is the height of the door that used to be there, seem more incorporated with the overall design.  In addition, when we built the bathroom we needed to add an exposed, industrial-looking vent pipe that runs across the office nook. Our second hope was that our modern office design would make that pipe look less jarring. 

The lighthouse light.
We hired an electrician to work on the bathroom, and while he was here we had him add the white lighthouse wall sconce in the office area (cost: $112 with dimmer switch). We also had the electrician add electrical outlets near the floor for our laptops and printer. The cost of the electrician for this job was $842.

Our carrera marble desk. It is a really cozy and luxurious place to check email.
In every project I have to break the budget in some way. Our custom Carerra marble desk is definitely the splurge in this project. A few weekends ago we went down to Imperial Marble Kitchen & Bath in South San Francisco and picked out a stone remnant for our 42” x 25” desk (cost for marble: $270).  We asked for a special mitered edge that mimics the 2.5” square edges of our bookshelves  and a hole drilled for laptop cords. We asked them to come to our house, create a custom template to our irregular plaster walls, and come back to install and caulk the marble slab (cost: $470 for all cuts and custom installation).  We are DIYers, but we do not care to mess with stone and curvy walls. Total cost: $765 with tax. Dean built the structural frame for the marble slab himself, using a similar technique as the shelves.

Semikolon storage boxes come in amazing colors.
I bought six red storage boxes at Container Store ($130) and Dean bought the black filing cube under the desk at Office Max for $67.88. The chair is from Ikea and I already had it from the kitchen in our last apartment. 

It is so nice to have all of our papers organized and our books accessible, and have a landing spot for our laptops so they are not strewn around the house. We are very happy with the result.

Total project cost: $2,117.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tick Up the Bathroom Count to... 1.5!

This blog is about the design and finishes of our new ½ bath. Later Dean will regale you with construction stories.

Our new half bath! (Thanks to my sister Val for these towels--a gift!)
The big news: we are done with the inside of the bathroom! It took a long time to turn a closet into a ½ bath and was not heaps of fun at different points in the project. We worked on it for 8 weekends in January, February and March, and on every one of those Saturdays I would wake up and think, “I wish I could go on a hike/to brunch/to yoga today.” But it is finished and we think it is the most beautiful ½ bath on the planet. Sometimes I open the bathroom door and just stand there and admire it, like a prize pony or precious gem.  This is definitely a result of building the bathroom with our own four hands. Very satisfying.

The closet before we turned it into a
bathroom. Yes, this is the same space!
The Villeroy & Boch sink.
The ½ bath is a mix of high and low. We were on a budget and so we had to pick our splurges judiciously.

The “Highs”:

The Sink: We found this white porcelain Villeroy & Boch sink online for $510.30 (on sale, regularly it is around $760). In case you ever want a similar sink, I think our Google search term was “very small sink.” It had to be no more than 15 inches deep to preserve the 24 inches of clearance to the toilet that San Francisco building code requires.

It was a leap of faith to order the most expensive bathroom element sight-unseen (at $510.30, the sink was over 30% of our budget for fixtures and finishes). But honestly there were not many choices on the teeny-tiny sink market and this one is unusual, well-proportioned and modern all at the same time. It reminds me of a bubble, a lily pad or Camilla Parker’s hat at the Royal Wedding. We get lots of compliments on it. We added a contemporary exposed plumbing below the sink for $75 in parts.

Shopping Tip: I always did Google Image searches when shopping for bathroom finishes. It is much easier to scan pages of images rather than click through hundreds of links to see the actual sink, faucet, tile etc. I imagine this technique would be good for shopping for many different items.

Farrow & Ball colors: Borrowed Light and Oval
Room Blue for the ceiling.
The paint: We splurged on Farrow & Ball’s Borrowed Light for the walls and Oval Room Blue for the ceiling. They are absolutely beautiful. In House Beautiful one designer said, “Borrowed Light feels as if you've taken the roof off the room and the sky and the clouds have mixed together.” After my fiasco in the hallway trying to match Farrow & Ball paint, I went straight for the brand name in the bathroom. We are super happy with the result. Cost: $100 for a small room.

The “Middles”:

The "Santa Rosa"

The faucet:  We bought this Danze faucet for $159. We needed a single handle faucet and liked the lines on this one. It is a good compliment to the circular sink and floor tiles, and provides good contrast with the boxy mirror and light fixture. Faucets can be really expensive ($500+ at Waterworks) and really cheap ($30 at Home Depot). We thought this was a good compromise.

Ann Sacks Savoy Cottonwood penny tile.

The toilet:  We picked the Kohler “Santa Rosa” and paid $293 at Home Depot. I don’t think too much about toilet design. I didn’t even know toilets had names like the Santa Rosa. To me, it is utilitarian. We choose Kohler’s Santa Rosa because it is on the modern side of things and it meets San Francisco’s strict environmental requirements for low water flow.  It also accommodated the clearance space we needed between the toilet and sink.

The tile: For the floor we picked a penny tile from Ann Sacks at $10.98 a square foot. It is called the Savoy Cottonwood penny tile. You can certainly get cheaper penny tile, but this tile has a ring of faded blue and brown on the outer edges, which is an important design element in the room. Total tile price was $179.48.

We love that the tile is a traditional shape for an old Victorian home but the faded border brings a pop of modernity. Also, we decided not to tile the walls—a cost-savings measure and it seemed unnecessary in such a small room with no possibility of steam. Dean laid the tile himself and he will tell you more about that adventure. His takeaway was that anyone can lay tile and achieve a B+ product! Good enough for us.

The “Lows”:

The mirror: It is from Ikea and was hanging in the bedroom in our old apartment. The wood frame brings nature into the room, which is important. Without the touch of natural wood the room could feel more like a pharmacy and less like a spa. Cost: Nothing because we already owned it.

The mirror and Dean's work of nature art.

The vintage door, salvaged from another
The door: This is a long story, but the Victorian four-panel door that was originally on the closet could not be reused when we moved the door to the adjacent wall. It had to do with the stud spacing and the giganticness of that door. So we took that door to the architectural salvage yard (Building Resources) and picked a smaller used door, also Victorian and four-paneled. Total cost: $75.

The light fixture: It is from Lamps Plus and cost $92.44. Nobody is going to write home about this light. I had a hard time picking a light fixture and decided that I would buy this as a placeholder. I might upgrade the light in the future if I decide this one is too boring. Switching a light fixture is simple, unlike ripping out tile, a sink, or a toilet.  For now I think it is fine—not the highlight of the room, but it also does not compete with the design elements that are more important to me.

The light fixture and ceiling design.
The hardware: I love the towel bar, toilet paper holder, and little glass shelf we bought at Home Depot. They are from the Innova Jameson line, and seriously look as nice as products from Restoration Hardware that cost 3X as much. Total Cost: $80.00.
The ceiling fan: I qualify this as more of a mechanical element than a d├ęcor feature. There is a plastic cover on the ceiling that hides the fan, so it is visual in some way. A fan is required for every bathroom per building code. We chose this charcoal ductless fan—the used-Hyundai of fans (Nutone 682NT).  It is fine, necessary, whatever. Dean bought it on for $32.57 because I am not that interested in it.

The Trim: Dean bought the trim and crown molding at Home Depot. It is a good size for the room and covers the craggy corners. Cost: $60.

The staging: I put a candle in a cool saucer that was my Grandmother’s. Cost: Free.
Dean picked up some rocks on Baker Beach and stacked them himself to create a rock sculpture. Again, bringing nature into the bath is soothing and exudes a spa feeling. Cost: Free.

I stacked some toilet paper on the shelf. Cost: Not pertinent because it is functional.

I hung a watercolor that I painted of Dean on a hiking trip to Tamarac Lake in the Desolation Wilderness. Cost: Free because I already had the frame.

And there you have it! All of our bathroom fixtures and finishes. Total cost: $1,656.89. It is astonishing how many design choices you have to make for a room that is 15 square feet.  

Architectural detail in the spot where the former
door was placed.

The 1/2 bath!


We love our new bathroom and it has already brought more harmony to our home. Dean and I no longer get in arguments when one person spends way too much time in the bathroom. And now we can renovate our main bathroom in August without running to Popeye’s every time we need the loo!  

Staging and our cute new shelf ($39.99).

Clearance between sink and toilet: very important to San
Francisco building department.