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

Tag: Guest Suite Page 1 of 3

A Minimalist Retreat

Looking back I realized that I never gave you a full reveal to my retreat room – we worked on it last Fall and I am really proud of the DIY projects here. So without further ado, here it is:

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This room had served as our bedroom for a couple years before we moved into the basement master. Since then, we thought hard about what to do with this space. We needed a place for guests to sleep, but did not want to dedicate an entire room for this solo purpose. Then the pandemic hit and I started working from home.

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As you can see I really needed a home office at least a desk. So we designed this room as where I can write and read in peace, take video conference calls, exercise, and relax. This room offers the best lighting in our house. So we left plenty of space for our houseplant haul. I think in the end, we achieved all the goals and really turned this room into a multi-functional retreat. Let us take a look around, shall we?

The closet wall

When you walk into this 10.5′ x 11′ room, immediate to your left is the closet wall. To the left side, we built a full-size closet for winter gear and sport equipment.

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Slav DIY-ed the plywood doors since we could not find doors in this size without breaking the bank.

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The right half of the closet space was converted to house a full-size murphy bed.

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The full-size murphy bed frame we got fits into the closet perfectly. We also had a full-size mattress in hand which is the most comfortable mattress I’ve ever slept on.

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I added a wedge bolster pillow as headboard. Slav installed an outlet next to the bed for charging electronics. I think our guests will be pleased.

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The north wall and the corner desk

Being able to tuck the guest bed away saves lots of floor space in the room. When the bed is down and in use it extends half of the window on the north wall. But when it is up and hidden, there is a perfect spot for our Norfolk pine.

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The picture window looks out to blue sky and neighbor’s spruce trees. In summer, this north facing window let in plenty of cool and fresh air, making it very comfortable to sleep under.

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Moving clockwise, sitting at the northeast corner of the room is my desk. Oh my desk! It is no doubt my favorite furniture in this house. We built it with butcherblock and motorized legs we already owned. I spent majority of my time at home here reading, writing, planning, and drawing. This corner desk does not take much room at all, but creates a perfect home office with views to my backyard.

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Speaking of backyard views, my favorite feature of the room is the window facing the backyard, which is packed full with fruit trees, perennial flowers, and a vegetable garden. I added a peony garden last year and cannot wait for it to bloom next Spring.

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The art work

To create a cheerful workspace I added lots of colorful art, decorations, and plants to the room.

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This wind chimes is a gift from my mentor. One of my favorite decor in the house.

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Pictures of Roxie and Charlie are must-haves. I created the travel log below using map and push pins to label the space we have visited and desire to be around the States.

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Slav took this picture of Mt. Baker during a ski vacation. A magical winterland indeed.

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Slav’s zodiac animal is the dog, and I am a goat. 🙂

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Can you tell the violin in this picture is assembled with surgical tools? I work in medical field and cannot resist this nerd art.

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The south wall/exercise space

We originally planned for a seating area next to the desk, but soon realized the need for more storage and additional space for house plants. Hence the bookcase.

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Practical and cute, this small bookcase became a mini nursery for young cuttings and provided a much less offensive spot for the router.

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Above the bookcase is a portrait of my immediate family – parents, sister, and my two nieces when they were still kids. Now both of the girls are in college!!!

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We have created a library wall in Slav’s office. So this small bookcase only houses my gardening books, seed collection, and some keepsakes.

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Such as my favorite picture of Slav’s. This photo was taken in 2007 shortly after he started graduate school, during a visit to his home country and taken by his childhood friends. I love how fearless he looked in this picture.

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Next to Slav’s picture is a silver mug I was given when I left my previous job. My mentor and colleagues engraved their wishes into the mug. The best farewell gift ever.

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The last wall in the room was intentionally left empty for yoga/inversion practice. The space above the doorway provided a perfect spot for my hang board.

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During the demo we took down the bedroom door. The future bedroom door will be mounted onto the doorway closer to the living room, which will help to create a guest “suite” that includes the bathroom. Slav patched the original doorway and it is like there was never a door here!

Here it is…

My retreat room – how do you like it? It is airy, it is bright, and it is comfortable. I am definitely more productive with a dedicated space to research and create. I cannot wait for the time when I can see all the blooms and fruition in the backyard from my desk. We still yet to refinish the original hardwood floor here and add baseboard which is on our 2021 renovation to-do list. But for now, I enjoyed immensely having my own space. A big thumb up to Slav, the man who made it happen!

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The Man Gets a Gear Closet!

Last time we talked, Slav has installed murphy bed in my retreat room.

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And Roxie has moved in…

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…which brought us into the closet phrase. The plan has always been to finish the left side closet for storage. We briefly entertained the idea of creating a built-in seating/reading area, but quickly realized the necessity for a covered closet. We want our guests to have space to unpack their suitcases and hang their clothes. And with 25″inch depth, a closet will offer much more storage than deep shelves.

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To match the murphy bed alcove, Slav finished the closet alcove with the same plywood sheets at the back and sides,

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and brought the outlet (used to face inside of the closet) out to face the room. This will provide guests an option of charging their phones next to the bed.

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Then Slav installed solid pine trims to finish off the face of this closet wall.

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with matching wood electrical cover plate for the newly installed outlet! Nice detail is always a plus.

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While Slav was working on the wood trims around the guest closet, I started planning the configuration of the inside. Since we only have guests 5% of the time, instead of leaving this closet empty during most of the year, I decided to make it a gear closet for Slav. Slav loves hiking and mountaineering. Since we moved to Colorado, he has accumulated quite a few backpacks for backcountry. Although these gear can stand low temperature, storing them in the unheated and uninsulated garage is not ideal for their longevity. They also get lots of use in winter and often need to be brought inside for drying, so having a gear closet on our temperature-controlled main floor is a much better solution.

The funny thing was, until I brought in his gear, Slav had no idea that the closet he had been working so hard on would becomes his! I’d say it was a nice surprise and a strong push for him to get the closet finished. 😉

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Can you spot Roxie in the middle of all the gear? This little brat has to be at the center of everything…

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What I planned to store in the gear closet includes camping gear (tent, sleeping mats, and sleeping bags), our ski jackets and snow pants (mostly Slav’s), and hiking/backcountry backpacks (I have one and Slav has…5?). To make sure everything is on display and is easy to reach, I chose the simplest design for the closet interior: two horizontal hanging bars.

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After some measuring we mounted the top bar much higher than standard height. This is to allow even the longest snow pants to hang freely. The bottom bar was mounted just above our tallest suitcase, which also allows the backpacks to be hung off the floor. In this configuration, Slav can easily see everything he has with one glance. In addition, everything has enough room around/air ventilation for drying, as the bottom hem of snow pants or the bottom of backpacks are often wet after use.

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The weekend after we put gears into the closet, Slav installed the doors! He simply cut plywood to size and mounted them with heavy-duty hinges. I edge banded the plywood doors and finished the doors with some simple pulls:

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We installed the same pull in a bigger size on the murphy bed panel to make it easier to open and close.

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The narrow shelf above the bed (which functions as a stop for the bed) was perfect for storing all the camping gears. We might cover it with a hinged door down the road… but for now, the open look does not bother me and it is better for venting.

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After everything was installed, I gave the whole closet wall three coats of shellac. It slightly darkened the birch plywood by bringing the wood grain out, but in person, it looks nice and smooth. The photo below was taken after I coated the Murphy bed side, but not yet on the closet doors, so you can get an idea how much shellac darkens the birch plywood:

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I had to remove the mattress and lower the murphy bed during coating process. And soon I found Roxie like this:

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If Roxie could talk, she was probably screaming “I hate renovations” or “give my spot back”. But she could not voice for herself. So deal with it, Pup! Life is tough for everyone nowadays…

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This is how the closet wall looks like now! I think it is nice! The dog bed is back and our two pups are happy. When I work in the room they take turns napping on it and let out cute little snores. Life is good again for everyone.

We still yet to finish the floor on the entire main floor and add baseboards (again for the entire main floor). But my room has become so tidy and airy compared to the before. I think concealing the big guest mattress really paid off! I honestly cannot believe how empty this room feels…So I have been bringing in plants to add life back to the room. If there is anything else I’d like to add to my retreat space, it will be a headboard/cabinet for the murphy bed, so our guests have something to lean against to when sitting in bed, and a horizontal surface for a reading lamp, books, glasses, and water at night. It should be a fun winter project to tackle this Christmas I am sure!

Again, let’s finish with the list. Did I tell you I love lists?

1. Patch missing floor boards;
2. Repair and finish drywall edges against the closet wall and doorway;
3. Reinforce the closet framing;
4. Murphy bed construction and installation;
5. Wire the electrical outlet to face the room;
6. Construct the closet;
7. Trim out the closet wall;
8. Edge banding the plywood doors;
9. Put wood finish on closet wall to protect the plywood surface;
10. Adding a storage headboard for the Murphy Bed;
11. Construct a standing desk with motorized legs and a wood top;
12. Refinish the hardwood floor;
13. Install baseboard all around.

Murphy Bed Installation

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I do not remember the last time skipping blogging for 6 weeks – we have been busy… I am writing a lot for work and from my new desk, while Slav worked solo at the closet wall behind me.

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It has always been our plan to install a Murphy bed into the existing closet. When putting in the new framing, Slav left the opeDoening just wide enough to accommodate a full size Murphy bed on the right. I want a simple wood look for this entire wall, including when the bed is pulled down. So Slav lined the back and the ceiling of the closets with thin (3/8″ thick) plywood.

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The sides of the closets got 3/4″ thick plywood. We choose birch plywood for its simple look, and thicker material as a steady backdrop for mounting the Murphy bed hardware on.

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The Murphy bed kit we got is for a free-standing unit, which requires building a plywood box first, into which the bed portion can be inserted. In our case, we framed the closet as if it is a plywood box, so the bed hardware can be directly mounted to the side of the closet. This approach also allowed us to skip the horizontal bracings between the sides, as the sides of our Murphy bed build are secured directly onto the stud walls.

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Being one of the most popular Murphy Bed kits on the market, our bed kit came with detailed instructions and cut list. Although we modified the outside frames, the bed portion of the build was unaltered. We laid out everything in the living room floor and assembled the frame with the help of an additional hardware kit:

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The frame was bolted onto the plywood face panels with over 100 screws. Besides supporting the mattress, the face panels also helps to keep the frame square.

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The building instructions called for 2 or 4 face panels. We chose to use 3 in order to use up some off-cuts. It does not matter how many panels you use – it can be one big panel or 10 wood planks, as long as they can support the weight of the mattress.

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After the bed was built, Slav attached the support mechanism to the side wall. When the bed is up, all the weight of the bed and the mattress will be resting on these mounting brackets, so we made it as solid as possible using large and long bolts.

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When the bed is down, the foot of the bed will be resting on the floor. So this mechanism only supports half of the weight of the bed/people sleeping on it. Each side of the mounting bracket comes with 9 springs. For our full size mattress we only needed four on each side.

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Then the bed was put in! I helped here since it was only possible with two pairs of hands. While Slav stayed behind the Murphy bed to fine tone the mechanism, I stayed outside of the closet to make sure that the bed would not fall on either Slav or the overly curious dogs.

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I could not wait but putting the mattress on the minute Slav installed the bed. A footer was installed shortly after, so the bed could rest on the floor when pulled open.

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As you can see, there is still plenty of room between the desk and the bed to walk around. One person can comfortably get on the bed from the foot end. We decided the location of the Murphy bed first before designing the desk. The bed also clears the painting and the narrow window sill.

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Since the closet is much taller than the length of the bed, we ended up with a void on top of the bed when it is standing up. Slav added a shelf here for some storage. It is just enough for some camping gears.

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The shelf also doubles as a stop for the bed, so it will not fold over when standing up. Slav mounted the shelf just below the face panel, so you will not see it when the panel is up.

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We brought in a dog bed and Roxie immediately claimed it. I think she like the sound of me typing on the keyboard.

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Slav is in process of finishing the closet on the left side, then all we have left is putting up trims and finishing touches. I still have a couple weeks of busy writing ahead, so Slav will be flying solo for a couple more weekends. But we are much closer to the finishing line!

1. Patch missing floor boards;
2. Repair and finish drywall edges against the closet wall;
3. Reinforce the closet framing;
4. Murphy bed construction and installation;
5. Wire the electrical outlet to face the bed (done last weekend! Pictures to follow);
6. Construct guest closet (in progress);
7. Trim out the closet wall (Slav got it done last weekend! but I have not taken any picture yet);
8. Stain (?) and finish the closet wall plywood;
9. Construct a standing desk with motorized legs and a wood top;
10. Adding a storage headboard for the Murphy Bed;
11. Repair and finish the original bedroom doorway.

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