Monday, July 9, 2012

Back on the Renovation Wagon: The Master Closet

We’re back! After a winter of skiing and puppy-raising we are ready to do some more renovations.

In May Dean and I demolished our master bedroom closet. The closet was from Victorian times when women owned 2 pairs of shoes and 3 dresses. Not so functional for me. Dean had to use the closet in the guest room, and my clothes were packed in the master closet like smooshed bugs. 
Before: A small but pretty closet
Before: The master closet had a small footprint but was 14 feet tall.
 How can a closet be too small to fit both Dean and my clothes, but so tall that it generated two pick-up trucks full of rubbish for the SF City dump?  It is a contradiction that we had to ponder after Day 1 of demo.

Demo of plaster walls is dirty work. It looked like we took a 5 lb bag of gray flour and threw it all over the room.  Plaster dust also makes your skin dry and your hair go to dreadlocks in about 20 minutes.  In short, a delight. The plaster and lath all chipped away easily enough using the heel end of a hammer, then I tackled the dust with plenty of Pledge, multiple moppings with Murphy’s Oil Soap, a wet-dry vac. I get the feeling I still may be sneezing in 6 months though. That dust is pervasive.

We also got a surprise view into our neighbor’s backyard after we demo-ed an interior closet wall and found that an exterior board was missing on our building. We called a carpenter to deal with that pronto and were glad—it started raining later that day.

With the demo behind us, Dean built the frame for the new closet the following weekend. Dean designed the closet himself and I am superbly happy with his vision. It is 8 feet wide by 10 feet tall and 2 feet deep. It has a long-term storage cubby on top for seasonal stuff. We took some square footage from the bedroom to accommodate this bigger closet, but decided it is worth it. We also splurged on two sets of custom 8-foot tall double doors to maximize the space.
After: A closet big enough for two people!
 I was super impressed with Dean’s framing for the closet—very sturdy and professional. Maybe he can share his tricks in a technical blog later. One design trick that I really like is that Dean measured the width of the doorway into the room, and made sure to keep all passageways in the room at that width or wider, so nothing would feel cramped after the bigger closet was constructed.

Dean and I try to learn from our mistakes and not be cheapskates. After gutting and renovating various rooms in our home, we have come to acknowledge that we will never be good at drywall finishing. The walls always come out looking a little wavy and odd, leading us to hide imperfections with an aerosol spray can of “orange peel wall texture.” I don’t recommend this product but it is available at Home Depot if you need it.

Recognizing past shortcomings, we took a friend’s recommendation for a plaster and drywall pro named Jimmy from Ireland. Jimmy came by the apartment and said, “Is that a Wheaten Terrier? They’re all over Ireland,” and charged us $1,000 to do all plaster and drywall finishing on the closet and other damaged areas. He had it done in two days.  What a luxury! Something got completed and we did not have to do it.
My side of the closet. Everything has a place.

Construction costs always are surprising. I can say that the custom walnut Elfa closet system that Dean designed at Container Store is worth every cent of the $1,341 cost (plus $300 for installation). Look at my pull-out jewelry drawers! Look, I have room to buy more shoes! 

All in all the project took 3.5 weekends to complete, plus some time at night, and cost a total of $4,500. We are very happy, and ready for another construction break.