Terrific Broth

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

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The Office: Framing the New Opening

I may have taken a break from blogging, but we did not take breaks from renovating. We have made lots of progress in the office, which I will tell you about this week. But first, one big announcement – we bought a table saw! It was well sought after for months and I am glad that we went for something new and in good quality – a Bosch. It cuts everything like butter. So worth it!

We started working on Slav’s office a month ago. Most of our work has concentrated on the library wall (here, here, here, and here), with much more to do for the rest of the room. I figured it will be better explained in a video, so here it is:

I cannot believe how many to-dos it takes to make a room. From the library wall going clockwise, the list includes:

1. Frame the new opening between office and living room
2. Patch the hardwood floor
3. Drywall work and paint around the new opening
4. Hang doors
5. Install new lighting and window treatment in the office
6. Enlarge office window (phase II)
7. Build a new desk w/storage cabinets
8. Build baseboard drawers for the bookcases
9. Trim out the bookcases





We want to address dusty tasks first, so here is the working order we have established:

1. Frame the new opening between office and living room
2. Patch the hardwood floor
3. Drywall work and paint around the new opening
4. Hang doors
5. Install new lighting and window treatment in the office
6. Build baseboard drawers for the bookcases
7. Trim out the bookcases
8. Build a new desk w/ storage cabinet
9. Enlarge office window (phase II)

We figured that establish the big new opening to the office will make the rest of the work easier. It will also help us to come up with a more realistic layout for the room. So open the wall we did.


Widening the Doorway

To minimize drywall work, Slav only cut off the drywall where the new opening would be. We had to cut a little higher in order to install a new header.





Removing drywall is extremely dusty so I did not take many photos. It took us a whole afternoon to demo, because we had to cut off small sections to get clean and straight edges.


Suddenly, the office and living room were much more connected. Slav loved it right away, which makes all the hard work worth it. 🙂

There were a pair of receptacles in the wall, Slav moved them a few studs over.




You can see the library wall as soon as you walk into the front door now, a much better view I’d say.


Framing the New Opening

This office/living room wall is parallel to our roof trusses and not weight bearing. However, we’d like to preserve as much of it as possible for lateral support. We also want to install a pair of doors at this opening, so Slav has the option to close off the room during conference calls. Our engineer friend helped us to figure out what we needed to do for the framing, which is illustrated below:

Framing plan

The framing includes a pair of king studs, which runs between the top plate and the bottom plate, and two jack studs on each side. The header will run right below the top plate, between the king studs, and be supported by the the jack studs.

The engineering plan also calls for installing ladder support between the king studs and the remaining studs in the wall. The ladder support is basically horizontal lumber that links two studs together to add rigidity. In our case, we need to add three pieces of 2″x4″s between the king studs and the next studs over.

We cleaned up the drywall dust and started framing. Since we preserved drywall on both sides, we framed everything one layer at a time, slowly filling inside the drywall cavity with framing blocks.


The first ones went in were the ladder support. We attached them to the existing studs deep inside the wall (yet still within arm’s reach) on both sides.


Then the king studs went in. They were screwed onto the ladder support and attached to the top and bottom plate.



At this point, we could cut off the studs within the opening:


The next one went in was the header. As advised by our engineer, we used two pieces of 2″x6″s, sandwiching a piece of 1/2″ plywood in between.


We assembled the header on the floor first, then Slav raised it in place. It was a very snug fit.


We attached the header to the top plate with screws:


We then filled in the jack studs on both side. They were attached to the king studs, bottom plate, and header with screws. The framing was now completed!


What do you think? I think it is the prettiest thing in the world. It is nice to be able to watch SNL on Slav’s monitor from the living room.


Next, the floors!

A Living Room Update

I took last week off and spent some quality time with my family. After weeks of stressful work, it was peaceful to be at home. We took advantage of our awesome Epic Local pass and skied Arapahoe basin, Breckenridge, Keystone, and Vail. It felt so luxurious to wake up and decide which top-notch ski resort we felt like going that day. We are incredibly blessed.

Aside from having fun, we also made good progress in Slav’s office. Lots got installed, and lots got pieced together. By Saturday, we had all of our books on the library shelves, and really cleaned up the office. It is so spacious now! We still need to trim out the built-ins, but with all the books on the wall, our living quarter is now cleaner and calmer than ever.


The Living Quarter

With the office starts taking shape, we turned our attention to the living room. Our living room was very basic, containing only two recliners, a record storage, and a two-person dining set. Aside from dining, we rarely use this room. Both chairs were pretty much dog beds.


Our living room has not changed much since we first moved in. To remind you, we started by removing the old carpet and brought in some IKEA furniture.


Then slowly added plants and hung our collection of cow art. Last December, we added some Christmas decor:



The room felt cold and empty for we took down the Christmas tree. We really wanted to make the room cozy and inviting, a place to draw us in and spend time together as a family. We decided to do a few upgrades here.

Adding Privacy Blinds


We hung IKEA curtains in the living room right after we moved in. These curtains are light and airy; we love them. But being light and airy also means semi-transparent and see-through. The notion that our neighbors might be able to tell what we are doing in this room drove us into other rooms that offer more privacy. We have window blinds in the office and the bedroom, and these rooms we went.

To make the living room more private, we decided to add a pair of BUSKTOFFEL blinds from IKEA. It is almost all made of recycled paper but looks like bamboo blinds, which I have a soft spot for.


I mounted them just below the curtains, so we would not see the steel rail when the curtains are closed. When the blinds are up, they naturally rest right at the window header.


This is what the blinds look like when they are closed in a sunny day. I’d say that it is very effective blocking light, which will be useful in Summer afternoons. We close both the blinds and curtains at night, and one could no longer see our movement in the house.


It was sunny and warm the day I mounted the blinds. It was the first day of good weather after a long weekend of snow and wind, the pups decided to take it in by sitting at the only bare spot in the yard, where the snow had melted:


A More Inviting Layout:

Aside from mounting the blinds, I also tried a different layout. I moved the record storage under the window and the dining sets next to the living room/kitchen wall. We have been slowly accumulating plants in the last a few months and they all could use more natural light. The top of the record storage provides a good spot for just that.



I’ve been growing gardenia for five years and had not had any success. It would have been ideal to have a south facing window, but we do not have any in this house. 🙁 This west-facing window has to do.


Bringing in a Sofa

The new layout revealed how pathetic the seating situation is in our house. We are never into big sectionals, but having only two recliners makes the room feel like a dorm, not a home.


To make things even worse, we moved the recliner on the left into the office…


One recliner + two dog beds. This screams “lonely dog lady” so loud that I could almost feel the panic. It is finally time for a sofa.

We loved a 3-seat sectional in our NC apartment and all of us (including the dogs) used it a lot. You can almost always find one of us on the chaise. It allows both of us to sit together for a movie, and it worked really well for day napping. Lucky us – during our last trip to IKEA, we came across the DJURSBO sleeper.

This 3-seat sofa with chaise is very similar to our old sofa, just a bit narrower. We like the more grow-up material and the sleek look. It is big enough for both of us, maybe with a dog or two. It can be extended to a daybed, which is perfect for movie nights. It also offers a storage cavity underneath the seat for pillows, blankets and bedding.

It checked all of our requirement, and ever better, it was $300 off! We later learned that this line of sofa has been are discontinued by IKEA. That explains why there were dozens of them in the as-is section (the showroom label is just for cashier’s convenience).


It is like meeting your soulmate, who is also a cheap date. Tell me you do not fall for it.


The sofa came into two boxes. Since the sofa and the office library will be the two largest pieces of furniture you see when walking into the front door, we chose the color brown to echo the bookcases.


Assembling it was surprisingly eaaaasy. It was also flawless despite being stacked in the as-is section.



It is nice to see the space below the cow art filled, so the living room does not feel so empty. We put chaise next to the window and floor lamp and it makes a lovely spot for reading. I can see a cat napping on the chaise already (still need Slav’s permission for a cat).


This is what the living room looks like today. Plants are happy for more light, the puppies are happy for more place to lounge, and we are happy for a cozier and more comfortable living quarter.



What do you think? Do you like it better too? Now we have finished furnishing the room, the next step for the living room is to refinish the hardwood floors on the main floor. It has to be warm enough to open the windows and doors, which means another five months. We are trying to be patient and cannot help but imagining how lovely the living room can be with shining floors and new baseboards!

The Office: A Home Library


This past weekend our home has seen some major transformation. For one, it is no longer a construction zone filled with drywall dust and power tools. More importantly, it became home again – clean, calm, and comfortable. All thanks to the fact that all of our books are made onto the shelves.

To remind you of where we started, this was the same wall:


Since we started the office renovation two weeks ago, our main goal was to get the books off the floor ASAP. Before it could ever happen, we had a lengthy to-do list:

1. Reverse the closet
2. Create a new opening on the living room side
3. Frame the old office doorway
4. Drywall the closet and over the old doorway
5. Assemble the bookshelves and build a 2×4 platform to boost them up
6. Bring the wall switch and outlets out 1″ so we can still access them with the bookshelves
7. Secure the bookshelves onto the wall and to each other

Last time I left you with the office, the closet was reversed, all the openings on this wall were covered, the wooden base was built, and Billies were assembled.



1. The Electrical Work

The bookcases were not secured yet, because we needed to do some electrical work first. The wall switch that controls the ceiling light is right between the two drywall patches. And we needed to reveal it through the bookcases.


This wall switch lands behind one of the bookcases. While cutting an opening on the back of the bookcase is not difficult, the backing recesses into the bookcase. For fire safety, the receptacle needed to be moved forward so it could sit flash to the back of the bookcase.

Slav opened the drywall around the wall switch so he could free the receptacle from the studs, (with the main breaker off, of course).


I did not get any photo of him moving the receptacle forward. But what he did was simple: free the receptacle from the studs, add a piece of 1″ scrap wood in front of the existing stud, then attached the receptacle to the side of the scrap wood. The drywall we used is 1/2″ and the backing of the bookcases recesses 1/2″, so mounting the receptacle 1″ forward allowed the receptacle to sit flash to the back of the bookcase.

We updated the old wall switch with a new model and in a darker color, then Slav cut the back of the bookcase where the wall switches would sit:



The switch was mounted back onto the receptacle, with the back of the bookcase sandwiched in between. Slav added the cover plate on and it was perfect.


While left completely accessible, the dark wall switch blends into the bookcase very well. Adding bright decor near it distracts the sight and makes it less noticeable.


The silk bouquet was actually my wedding bouquet. I love seeing it every time I use the wall switch. It is a lovely reminder of the happy life we are sharing. 🙂

2. Securing the Cases

Next, we moved onto securing the bookcases onto the wall and to each other. Since the wall is 166 3/4″ long, 9 1/4″ wider than five bookshelves combined (31 1/2″ x 5), we needed to make sure the bookcases are spaced out, with the middle bookcase centered on the wall.

I decided on 3/4″ spacing in between the bookcases. I cut some scrap wood to use as a filler to stuff between the bookcases:


I attached scrap wood pieces on each side of center bookcase, so I could link it with the neighboring bookcases at different heights and gain more stability this way.


Next I marked on the floor where exactly every bookcase needed to be, then placed the center bookcase (the 3rd one from left to right) onto the 2×4 base according to my mark.


With the center bookcase in place, I attached it to the wall studs with L-brackets (provided by IKEA):


Then I bought up two neighboring bookcases (2nd and 4th) and attached them to the center bookcase by driving screws through the side of the bookshelves and into the scrap wood pieces:



I used the pre-drilled holes for attaching the cases together, so I would not cause additional damage to the veneer. It also helped me to keep them perfectly leveled.

With the 2nd and 4th bookcases linked to the center bookcase, I attached them to the wall using more L-brackets. Now all three middle bookcases were perfectly secured to the wall and to each other.

I moved onto attaching the last two bookcases using the same method – linking the sides first using scrap wood, then attaching them to the wall using L-brackets.


Now all five bookcases were perfectly centered and secured. They felt solid and  I could grab onto any of them without causing vibration on the others. With the middle case perfectly centered to begin with, exactly 3 1/8″ space on each side of the built-ins was left.



3. Filling the Cases

It was finally time to load all the books! I was a bit worried the weight of the books would shift the screws that link the cases together and to the wall, but it turned out perfectly. These bookshelves are plenty strong and did not move at all.



It took me a whole day sorting out all the National Geographic we have. Our collected dated back to 1914 (!), when the magazine was only 16 years young. It was a rare find at an estate sale. We do not know much about the man who collected them, except that he was a pilot and his collection ended on November, 2015. 🙁 After finding his correspondence with the National Geographic editorial office in between the book pages, I could not help but preserving his legacy by bringing the whole collection home.

We started subscription again after moving into our ranch and plan to fill the missing issues between 2015 and 2017. But I will forever remember the month the original collection stopped.

4. Trims and Moulding


The usage of scrap wood piece ensured that the bookcases are spaced exactly 3/4″ apart. These gaps will be covered by 2 1/2″ vertical trims.


As of the space under the cases, Slav has requested baseboard drawers. I guess I will be making drawers again!


We also have 9 1/4″ height to fill on the top of the built-in library, which will be covered with trim and crown moulding.


Although we are eager to finish the built-in, we are soaking in the rare normality in between renovation episodes. Roxie and Charlie can now hop around without worrying about sharp objects, and finally nap in peace. We could all use a break.


I love crossing off a to-do list. So here it is:

1. Reverse the closet
2. Create a new opening on the living room side
3. Frame the old office doorway
4. Drywall the closet and the old doorwayl
5. Assemble the bookshelves and build a 2×4 platform to boost them up
6. Bring the wall switches and outlets on the office/bedroom wall out so we can still access them with the bookshelves
7. Secure the bookshelves onto the wall
8. Load the books; clean up the office
9. Add trim and moulding to create a built-in look
10. Build baseboard drawers

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