Terrific Broth

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

Terrific Broth

Tag: Office (Page 2 of 3)

The Office: Assembling Bookcases

In cased you missed the office plan and the progress on changing the floor plan, you can find them herehere and here. In short, we decided to convert the 2nd bedroom on our main floor to Slav’s office, by opening it up to the living room and gifting the closet to our bedroom.

After reversing the closet, we put up drywall to cover the open studs and closed the old doorway. Now the office has one continuous, uninterrupted wall:


This was the view from the living room to the office after we finished the drywall:


We plan to add wall-to-wall library shelves on this wall to accommodate our +1000 books:


The library shelves will also provide much needed storage for the ever-growing paperwork for Slav’s business.



We have used IKEA Billy for years in our past rental; you can see how them looked in our living room here. We liked the clean look of Billy and their functionality, so there was no brainier to use Billy in the office. IKEA had a big sale last November, specifically on Billy bookcases. We snatched five of them.


These bookcases have been patiently waiting for our attention for two and half months. It felt so great to finally put them together! #LEGOforadults



We got all our bookcases in brown ash veneer – I usually go for the birch veneer color but decided on a darker shade for a more masculine feel.


I brought the bookcase into the office to get a feel how tall I wanted them to sit. The office ceiling is 92 1/4″ tall and bookcases are only 79 1/2″. To give it a more balanced look, I decided to boost up these bookcases with a wooden base.

I popped out all the baseboard in the room to make room for the wooden base. If you decide to put your Billy cases directly on the floor, you will likely be able to leave the baseboard intact since Billy is designed to accommodate the existing baseboard.



We proceeded to build the base with 2″x4″s and attached them to the wall. The front of the frame was left open for baseboard storage.



The floor is not perfectly even, so shims were used to keep the top of the 2″x4″ base leveled.


This is how the finished 2″x4″ base looked: It consumed three studs, which are less than $10 in total.


We finished assembling all five bookcases and put them on top of the 2″x4″ base. I think they look grand.


I cannot wait to load them with books and decor! But first, we have to move some electrical behind the bookcases, and secure the bookcases to the wall. We plan to tackle the electrical and trims this weekend, and hopefully unpack the books. Stay tuned, friends!

A New Opening + Office Drywall

The most nerve-racking part of renovation is not the actual work, but the decision-making. This is particularly true when floor plan is modified, or new window/door opening is created. Will the result be what we imagined? Will we like it as we hoped? How much time and money will we waste if we want to change it back?

Since we settled on the office plan weeks ago, the new opening to the living room has been on our minds. To me, this new opening is what makes the room or breaks the room. With the help of Sketchup, we tried our best to imagine what the view will change from every angle. We think we like it – but will we actually like it in real life?


The only way to find out is to make the new opening. So Friday night, we gathered some courage and waved the hammer to the wall…

And made a new opening!


Do we like it? Well, we do not like it…

We love it!

A New Opening

Let me back up a little and tell you how the process went. According to our plan, the new opening is 6′, centered on the 10′ wall between living room and office.

I marked the proposed opening with blue tape on the living room side, which helped us to visualize the opening.


We were still waiting for our engineer on the new header size, so we could not knock done all the studs yet. To get a feel of how the two rooms connect, we decided to cut open the drywall while leaving most of the studs intact.



It did not take long at all to remove the drywall. We did have to relocate an electrical outlet, which involved cutting into one stud a bit.


We opened just 2 studs in the center, which is about 32″ wide, less than half width of the proposed opening (72″).


Slav cut open the other side. Suddenly, the two rooms were connected!


We immediately liked it. Even with only two studs open, the office already felt wider. This is how the same wall looked like before.


Framing the Old Doorway

With the new opening, we moved onto closing up the old doorway. Last time I showed you the office, we reversed the closet to face the bedroom, leaving the office/bedroom wall like this:


Our plan was to drywall the closet and the old doorway, and make one uninterrupted wall:


Slav took down the door and I popped the trims off:




I then proceeded to take the door jamb off. It is amazing how quickly one can learn on the job and feel confident. I am very comfortable with tackling these steps alone, which makes me very happy.


While we were working on the office, the living room inevitably suffered:


We then cut some 2 x 4 to size to frame the doorway:


We did not remove the header, which already supports all the weight. So the framing is basically for creating a structure for drywall to attach.

First Time Drywall!

Slav got drywall from Lowe’s and we cut them to size in the garage:


First piece up, more to go.


Putting up drywall is pretty straightforward. Size, cut, then Lego pieces together. We quickly finished the bedroom side:



Drywall finish requires a lot of sanding; so we will save it for another day. I loaded all the clothes back into the closet and was pretty happy to have enclosed bedroom again!


Remember what the closet wall used to look like? 😉


We next moved onto drywall the doorway. Slav cut a piece for dry-fitting:


And here came the challenge – our old wall is not straight. The old studs are bowed so our newly framed studs did not align.



Consequently, when we put new drywall against the new studs, it did not sit flash with the old drywall due to the misalignment.



The difference in height is too much for taping and mudding. Without taking down more drywall, there is not much we could do to fix the curved existing wall/studs. We decided to take off a slice of the new studs from its side to keep the new wall aligned with the old.


It does not fix the curved wall, but it fixed the misalignment and the curve is pretty small to notice. It is definitely a lot easier than replacing the whole framing behind the existing wall. The piece we took off is only 1/4″ thick, so we are not worried about the strength of the studs.

Then we could put the drywall up without a problem.


The Office in Progress

Done with the drywall, the office now looks like this:


We also decided to take off the center studs, so we do not have to pass the opening sideways:



We have been living with the opening for a couple days now, and it feels so natural to go in and out of the office from living room. Slav and I like to be on our computers in the evening, and I usually sit at the dining table in the living room. The new opening, although narrow, makes us feel like we are in the same room while having our own space. Needless to say, we are pretty excited to widen the opening to its full span!

We also like the changes in the little hallway leading to the bedroom. To remind you, here is the what the hallway looked like before closing the office doorway:


You can see that the hallway had doors on all four sides – office, bath, bedroom, and linen closet. Now with the old office door blocked, the hallway looks like this:


It has become a more private access to the bed/bath area, which makes the bedroom feel more like a suite than just a room. The new closet space in the bedroom is definitely a plus too. We are now 100% sold on the new floor plan!

While waiting on our header size, we are planning to start on the library built-ins. We got a foot of snow today and I am off next week. Cannot think of a better way of spending a few quiet days at home than assembling bookshelves!

The Office: Reversing the Closet

In case you missed our plan for Slav’s office, you can find it here. The office will get a new opening, and the existing door and the closet opening will be covered to make room for built-in library shelves. Last weekend, we kicked off the renovation by reversing the office closet to face the bedroom.


Demoing the new opening would have been way more satisfying, but we decided to work on the wall of build-ins first. There is a very good reason for this – and a very practical one – we do not have room:


Yep, this pile of books is sitting right against the office-living room wall, and we have to move them somewhere before we could work on the new opening. As a household that tries to practice minimalism, books and vinyl records are exceptions.


This is a picture from our moving day, and all the boxes are books. Soon after we moved in, these books were transported into the office and neatly stacked in the corner. Over the last seven months, these boxes functioned a dumping ground for coats, electronics, half-done projects… anything and everything we did not know where to store.


The other end of the room is not much better. Once clean and sleek, Slav’s desk has changed from this:


to this:



As you can see, before we could work on the new opening and desk, we have to give the books and all the electronics a place to go. The best we can do is to get the library shelves up first so we do not need to move all the books twice.



Had the decision been made, we started by taking the closet door off. I pried off the trims carefully, and found that the door jamb is attached to the framing lumber using blocks and shims:



After taking the trims inside off, I was surprised to see how big the gaps were between the door jamb and framing. Is it normal to have so much a big gap only covered by trims? Or is this because the original opening was intended to be larger?



I removed the door jamb off and unscrewed the top track for the sliding doors. Taking the top track off revealed the header, a pair of 2x4s joined together by small shims.



For a brief moment, the closet actually looked better. I guess it is because of the clean lines around the framing. Maybe instead of reuse the old trims, morden trim is the way to go?



The next step was to remove the drywall, which will open the closet to the bedroom behind. We took everything out of the closet including the shelf first:


Things had to get worse before getting better:


Slav cut into the drywall using a sawzall. Do not ask me why we have a sawzall. I had no idea.


It was pretty easy to remove the office side of the drywall. On the bedroom side, we wanted to only cut away the desired opening. While Slav was working on the demo on the office side, I traced the opening on the bedroom side, using old trim pieces as a template:




This opening is symmetrical to the existing closet in the bedroom. With my pencil lines as a guide, Slav went to town with the drywall demo:



Thing went pretty fast at this point. Within minutes, the two rooms were connected:


We kept the windows open during demo and had nice breeze through the two rooms. It was so tempting to keep them connected! The apartments I grew up in China always has windows on both southern and northern side of the building facing each other for cross breeze. I’ve not seen much of similar design in the States.


But we knew that we desperately need closet space and book storage, so the work continued. The next step is to frame the closet. As you can see, the closet wall was framed with studs 16″ apart, sitting on a bottom plate.


It was pretty cool to see pencil lines from decades ago indicating where the studs needed to go:


Slav cut away the studs flash with the bottom plate and top plate, then freed the bottom plate using a pry bar:



As we predicted, there is no wood flooring below the bottom plate. It was sitting directly on the sub-floor. Fortunately, we have the most standard oak flooring that can be found from any big box store, so patching the floor will not be costly or difficult.

To frame the office side, we simply transferred the bottom plate and studs over  a couple feet to align with the office wall. The studs had to be cut down to fit the old closet opening of course, but in general this step was very straightforward.



We attached the bottom plate to the side studs, and the vertical studs to the bottom plate and old header. We kept the outlet on the bedroom wall so we can use it in the closet down the road:


The next step was to frame the closet opening on the bedroom side. The rough opening could use some reinforcement so they would not be floating over empty space, and we need something to attach the door jamb to. We started by building a strong header mimicking the header design on the office side, using leftover lumber from the headboard project.

Someone was excited to put in the new header, I guess.


After the header was installed, we added two more 2″x4″ studs on each side of the closet opening. The door jamb can be attached to them later.


This was first time any of us did any framing. It was intimating to think about, but once we started, it was very straightforward with some common sense. We were pretty happy with our new(ly reversed) closet.


This is what the closets currently look like from the bedroom side. We can finally get dressed without walking back and forth between two rooms. The next step is to drywall, then we can start assembling all the Billy bookshelves. Cannot wait!



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