Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

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A Retreat in the Making

Welcome to another room renovation! During the last three years, Slav and I have been upgrading our 1964 ranch room by room. While some space received complete overhaul (see the basement archives), lots of other spaces got incremental changes to keep the disruption minimal. One of such places is a main floor bedroom.

The Past

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This is how the space has looked for most of the three years we’ve lived here. A king bed occupied majority of the room, and two closets housed all of our clothing. It was our bedroom for two and half years, until we moved into the new master last winter.

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This room has gone through several basic changes. The wall-to-wall carpet was removed, and the aluminum windows were upgraded to new vinyl windows. When renovating Slav’s office, we reversed a closet to face the bedroom, doubling the storage space in this room.

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After moving our bedroom downstairs, this room has played music chairs. It was a guest room, Slav’s TV room, plant room, yoga room, and most recently, my makeshift office. You can watch videos from different stages of this room from my IG stories saved in “Guest bedroom” highlights. This is how the room looks like today:

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Maybe familiarity is the key of affection, after being stuck in this little space for 11 weeks, I fell in love. I appreciate the energy of morning light, the calming scent of backyard blooms, the remoteness of blue sky perfectly framed by the picture window… It is just detached enough from our living space to gain focus, and sitting on floor pillows brings up a liberating feeling I’ve not experienced since childhood.

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More time I spent in this room, more I want it to be mine. But my… what? I do not need a home office, we already have a library wall, and downstairs there is a dedicated media room for watching TV. I am so used to renovate rooms for specific activities, which are really clear for a bedroom or an office. Without a well defined function to use this room for, I am having a hard time pinning down what to do here. All I know want this room to be is a retreat, a place for anything I feel like doing to relax, including writing, reading, yoga, growing plants… in peace and solidarity. So I guess this is gonna become a… womencave? What I do know is the vibe: to be less serious than an office, more airy than a library, and more energetic than a sitting room. Is it too much to ask?

The Current

Before jumping into the plans let us look at this room in context. The future retreat, labeled as “3” below, is about 11′ x 10.5′ plus two closets.

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This room sits at the northeast corner of our house and has two windows. The east facing window overlooks our backyard. I love looking out of it and often keep it open for fresh air. It is also the brightest place in the entire house, which is incredibly useful in winter months for keeping houseplants happy.

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There is a smaller window facing north. We keep it closed most of the time, only open it in summer nights for cool breeze. Although not offering an appreciable view, it is very functional without sacrificing privacy.

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The wall shared with Slav’s office has two closets. They are side-by-side and extremely valuable to have when this room was used as a master. But for guest, we can get away with having just one closet.

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While not a fan of bi-fold doors, Slav never liked the curtains either. The bedroom door location prevented us from installing swing-open doors in the past, but this will be fixed during this renovation. I am working on something that is a better fit with the space and our design plans.

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This room and the adjoining bath both open to a tiny hallway. With a small linen closet this hallway is hard to maneuver. However, it does provide a sense of separation from the main living space. We will keep the hallway and the linen closet intact.

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The wall on the left side of the bedroom door is shared with the hall bath (labeled as “5”). I purposely did not put any furniture here. When practicing yoga it is very helpful to have an empty wall around.

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The Design Plan
The guest bed and closet

Now onto the plan of attack. This retreat does need to perform as a guest bedroom 5% of the time. So the first order of business is to hide the bed. 🙂 I want the bed to be completely tacked away when it is not in use, but when in use it needs to be comfortable and solid with a high quality mattress. The solution? A Murphy bed.

“Panel Bed” DIY Murphy Bed Frame Kit

I never liked the usual Murphy bed construction, which includes a big cabinet flanked by often two bookcases. It happens that both of closets are big enough for our full size mattress and a full size Murphy bed frame! It is God’s will, people. Murphy bed kit here comes. And the right side of the closet wall will get some serious DIY soon!

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Thanks to the depth of the closet, when in use the bed will only come out to where the mattress currently is, leaving plenty space for other furniture.

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That leaves the closet on the left for storage. It will get an upgrade inside with pretty storage options, and cabinet-like doors that match the bottom of the Murphy bed, creating a build-in look for this wall.

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A New Entry

Being an add-on, this closet does not work well with the bedroom door. To solve this problem, we will be relocating the bedroom door to the opening of the hallway, flush with the office opening.

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This minor change offers a big advantage – it will enclose the bathroom entry inside the bedroom entry, therefore creating a private suite. Although we never renovate for resale, having a second master suite on the main floor is undoubtedly a profitable upgrade to the house.

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The Desk

I do not usually bring work home, but I do spend a lot of time at home reading, researching, drawing plans, and writing for house projects. I work the best on big surfaces. And since a kid, I always dreamed of a big L-shape desk:

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I can see this layout working for this room! Just imagine the Murphy bed and closet covered on the left, and a desk situated between the two windows:

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The Timeline!

I proposed my vision to the head of the household and my proposal was approved! Funding has been issued and Murphy bed kit has been ordered. I wish all the grant application at work were this easy – of course without any of the flirting I had to do for this one. Optimistically we aim to complete this renovation by the end of summer, but it will be totally OK to take it slow since this project will be isolated from the main living space. There is no real deadline to get it completed, and I would really like to get the details right to take this room up a notch.

To be honest, I am very tickled by this renovation project – there is almost no dusty demolitions, only minimal structure changes, lots of customization, and DIY heavy. I will come back with inspiration photos and a more detailed plan for the Murphy bed wall next week. At the mean time, do not beat me up for starting another project…I knew I had told everyone in my life that we are done with the 2020 renovation!

New Climbers + Recent Cedar Build

You may remember the climbing roses I planted. This Spring, I decided to add  a few more climbers around the house. Some for scent, some for beauty, and some for function. Although these are perennial vines and will take years to grow, I want to show you their baby form today. Hopefully when we check back a few years later, we can see some good progress!

“Scentsation” Honey Suckle

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Planted on the front of the house is a honey suckle called “Scentsation”, a very showy vine with extremely fragrant yellow flowers. It has a longer blooming time compared to other honey suckles, from mid-spring to late summer. I planted it near Slav’s office window, hoping to add a nice touch of scent to the room he spends most of his awake time in.

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Although tiny, this particular honey suckle is expected to grow to 9’~10′ tall and 5’~6′ wide, covering the big trellis behind it. It is deciduous which means losing all the leaves in the Fall. By placing it on the west wall, at maturity, it should shade this corner of the house from strong afternoon sun during summer months, while allowing sunlight in to warm up the house during winter.

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To keep the honey suckle close to the wall I built this cedar planter. To protect the foundation we graded around the house and put down a layer of gravel over 6-mil plastic around the foundation. I scraped away the gravel, set the planter directly on top of the 6-mil plastic, then added more 6-mil plastic to prevent soil and water sipping out of the planter.

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After filling the planter with soil I planted the honey suckle and transplanted some sedum here.

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As a rule of thumb, container plants or plants situated in raised beds need to be more winter hardy than the zone it is planted in. This honey suckle is rated as zone 4-9, which means it should winter over just fine in our zone 5B/6A.

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We secured a big trellis onto the house for the honey suckle to climb on. If it likes the spot, it should climb to the top of the trellis in a few years! An additional advantage of this plant is the bright red berries in the Fall, which are favored by birds and other wild life.

Climbing hydrangea

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Although popular in Europe, climbing hydrangea is not well-known in US. It is also a deciduous vine, famous for its ability of growing in full shade. These plants are true climbers, using the holdfasts (suckers) on their branches to scale walls and other structures. In Europe, you will find this plant covering north-facing walls of old stone buildings up to several stories tall with their large, “lace-cap” flower flowers in early summer. In theory, a climbing hydrangea can reach 50 feet tall at maturity. In our cold climate, it often tops at 20 feet.

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I planted this flower on the northeast corner of the house, right next to the AC unit and outside of the master bedroom window. I want to it to be a screen plant, not only adding privacy to our bedroom, but also beautifying the north side of the house where small windows are swallowed by a sea of brick. As you can see, this spot gets 3~4 hours of morning sun, then shade for the afternoon. Although not an ideal location for most of the flowering plants, climbing hydrangea will be one of the few climbers to perform in such situation.

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Shortly after planting it I added some support from two sides – one being a metal trellis, which we got from Lowe’s as a 3-pack and used all around the garden. The other one being a short cedar fence between the bedroom window and the AC unit.

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I built this cedar fence all by myself! To be honest, among all the big and small projects I did this Spring with the cedar boards (the patio planter, the honey suckle planter, and the outdoor kitchen), this build is my favorite. From setting post, planning board layout, to attaching boards, it covered all the steps for a fence build, yet remained manageable for me to complete over one afternoon.

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I started by setting a leftover post, which is just tall enough for shadowing the AC unit! Love it when I am able to use up leftover materials without any waste.

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To keep the post straight I used a pole level and several clamps. They were so helpful when working solo! I made sure that the post aligned with the side of the window and stood straight before backfilling.

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After securing the post, I marked the length of the boards and cut them all at once.

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Attaching all the boards went pretty quick. A scrape 2″ x 4″ was set next to the house for the other end of the boards to attach on.

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This is the final product. Besides supporting the climbing hydrangea, this fence also hides one of the eyesore from the bedroom window – the AC unit.

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The view from the bedroom window without the fence:

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With the fence:

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Climbing hydrangea is known to be slow during the first few years, but after it puts down a good root, it should take off and cover all the unsightly pipe and outlets on the north side of the house in a few years.

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Passion Flower

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Passion flower is another rarely seen flowering vine in Colorado. Being tropical looking passion flower seems to be too delicate for our winter. But it is actually a zone 5 plant! I put mine on the east side of the house, protected from harsh wind and bitter cold.

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After planting I added some string and a leftover wire panel to help it to climb.

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Since planted, it has grown a few inches! This is what it looked like a few weeks ago:

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And this is today!

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Cucumber and Pole Beans in the Veggie Garden

I also planted some climbing veggies! I’ve been growing cucumber for years, and always let them spread freely on the ground. This year, I tried to grow them vertically. I set a trellis on the end of a veggie bed:

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And planted two seedlings at the base of this trellis. The have been flowering for a weeks now and I hope to see cucumbers really soon!

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I also grew two climbing beans: Red noodle, and Limka.

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It is fun to set up the support for my bean babies. Slav lined some T-posts along both sides of a path and I tied some trellis netting to these posts for beans to climb on:

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I also tied the top ends of the netting together over the path, allowing the beans to create a tunnel.

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Look at the beans go! It has been a month since they came up and they are growing an inch per day with the recent heat.

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This is the first year I set up a bean tunnel. In addition to support the beans, I also want it to shade the veggie bed behind. The garlic here will be harvested soon, and I want to plant greens and radishes here hoping the tunnel can provide enough relief from the hot afternoon sun.

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Climbing roses

At last, I want to show you how our climbing roses are doing! I planted four “awakening” climbing roses along the back fence in 2018. They are all doing very well.

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I started training these roses this Spring. After a good trim, I guided the longest branches of each rose towards the back fence using plastic stakes:

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It might look dramatic but are actually good for the growth of these roses. Bending the branches horizontally eliminates apical dominance and should encourage side shoots and more flowering along the branches.

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I also did the same training to the “iceberg” climbing rose planted in the front yard:

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This rose was planted only last Fall, but has already flowered for us. I got all my climbing roses from High country roses and they all came with their own root and are very healthy. I know it won’t be long before this climbing rose to put on a splendid show on the front fence.

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Training climbing roses is a scary thing – you should see how much I trimmed off these poor roses…But in the end it is for their own good. I am looking forward to the growth of all the climbers. Given time, they shall become the stars of my garden and for decades to come. Let us check back next season together!

Back to Work + Basement Trims

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2020 has been intense so far. After staying home for months, I am finally back to work. We did well during the pandemic though. While Slav continued working from home, I accomplished a number of home improvement projects. From organizing the garage and creating more overhead storage to refinishing the bathroom door, from building patio planterstidying up the veggie garden, building a new terrace garden, to automating the drip irrigation, I did not rest a single day! You can see the result of our projects in the recent garden tours here.

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But the biggest ticket item Slav and I checked off during the stay-at-home period, is our basement utility room.

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Installing flooring and the doors in the utility room marked a near completion of our basement renovation, which we started a year and half ago! Now the only task left in the basement was installing trims and baseboards.

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With the momentum we decided to wrap up the basement reno before I had to go back to work. So during the last two weeks of my stay-at-home time, Slav joined me in the basement to work on trims.

We started with installing trims for the three doors we installed back in February. The profile we chose is called “craftsman“, which matches the best the profile of our doors.

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The top trims were pieced together with 1″ x 2″ and 1″ x 6″ boards for a beefy look. The side trims were all 1″x 6″ boards.

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Due to the height of the ceilings, we used simpler profile of trims on the closet doors and the bathroom pocket doors:

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One area that was difficult to address is the space between the two bathroom doors. There was not enough room here for the whole width of 1″x 6″. So we opted for a corner bead.

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We ran both door trims and the corner bead all the way to the floor for a clean look.

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After finishing the door trims, we installed baseboards. The baseboard we chose has a simple profile with tall base and a fat bead on top.

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The 5.5″ height hid all the imperfection on the bottom of drywall, and the 5/8″ thickness covered the 1/4″ gap between the flooring and the drywall well.

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We installed the same baseboard throughout the basement for a cohesive look.

The media room

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The master bedroom

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And the newly finished utility room

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There are a few places where the baseboards end on the face of the door trims. We used a return profile to finish the corner elegantly:

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Similar return profiles, with a different angle, were used to terminate baseboards where they meet the master closets.

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To make sure one pocket door closes tightly onto the wall, Slav installed baseboards up to the door from both side and did nice returns on both ends:

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It might not look like much, but it took us three days to get all the trims and baseboards installed. Following installation, Slav caulked all the nail holes, seams, and gaps, and I painted all the trims, baseboards, and closet doors in the same color of our main floor trims.

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This is the first time I tried this Valspar oil-enriched enamel paint. And it did not disappoint! It is almost self-leveling so there is not much brush marks. I chose satin finish, color matched to Behr ultra Pure White.

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After the paint dried on the doors and baseboards, Slav installed handles and magnet door stoppers to protect the walls. All the hardware are in satin nickel which matches our door hinges.

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After installing the trims and baseboards, I can finally get furniture for the media room! We only purchased a few pieces that are necessary for this room to function, including a new TV stand:

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We put the TV and its stand in between the bedroom door and bath door. They fit perfectly into this spot.

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Slav is on the mission of finding us a couch. At the mean time, the massage chair serves as a comfortable spot to watch TV from:

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The small heater was now moved to the wall between the utility room opening and the bathroom. I like to turn it on just for faux log fire.

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We also got a storage unit for Slav’s vinyl collection:

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I moved all the records and the player down as soon as the storage unit was assembled, and Slav set up the speakers so they can get input from our phones, computers, or the record player.

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I had painted the access panel to the water main to match the walls. Now with the record collection and speakers in front, you can hardly notice the access panel anymore.

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Can you believe that we finally crossed the finish line on this basement renovation? This is particularly significant since today happens to be the three-year anniversary of us moving into this house.

Finally, Charlie can enjoy some peace and quiet in his favorite spot in the house:

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Now when going down the stairs, we know that we would be entering a clean and relaxing space, without any work in sight. What an amazing feeling it is!

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Many thanks to those of you following our basement renovation for such a long time – 18 months to be exact. Thanks for your encouragement and cheers along the way! Now let us hope the pandemic is over soon so we can host movie nights in our new media room again!

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