Terrific Broth

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

Category: DIY Built (Page 1 of 3)

Finishing What I Started – Floating Nightstand Build

Have you ever started something with great momentum, worked through 90% of it, then “took a break” that lasted forever? This describes half of my renovation projects, which are mostly done but not completed:

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There are many hypothesis on the psychology underlying the inability of finishing tasks. One theory is that the procrastination is actually fueled by perfectionism and the fear that the finished product will not impress. People who are good at seeing big picture have a hard time to break it down into manageable tasks. For me, it might just be simply short attention spin. I got excited at starting a new thing but lose interests quickly during execution.

It dos not help that I live with a very accommodating partner. Slav, my housemate of 8 years and husband of nearly 5, is one of the most mild-tempered individual that you’d ever meet. He nods to every new idea I had (exciting!), cheers along every project I started (Oh! I did not think it would be so hard!), and most gratefully, tolerates all the almost-done projects I failed to complete (I will tackle it next week, I promise!). He thinks everything I did in the house is an improvement, “although incremental”. However, as a neuroscientist, who is fully aware  my own psychological shortcomings, I cannot let myself slip into this chronic procrastination crack. I need to overcome my own laziness and bring some project, a project to complete completion.

There is no shortage of contenders, as shown above. And the winner is…

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Floating bedside tables for our master!

The design evolution

I have long wanted floating nightstands – shall we call it “nightfloats” for short? The most important reason: cleanliness. We have a Labrador who sheds non-stop (but he is cute! And we love him very much). A couple days without vacuuming, you can see black hairballs rolling along the baseboards (eww). Floating furniture allow us to vacuum every corner of our rooms. So, when I made our headboard during Christmas. I also designed a sideboard/nightfloat combination for both sides of the bed.

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This SketchUp image shows how I designed the nightfloats originally. The side panels, which are as deep as the headboard, will be standing on both sides of the bed and secured to the wall. Two nightfloats and two sconces will be mounted on the side panels, which hide all the wires behind. The blue rectangle represents a window above the bed.

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As you can see, there is not a lot of room on either side of the bed. I decided to make the side panel/nightfloat 19″ wide, which is the distance between the bed and the wall to the right.

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However, when I actually pop a big piece of plywood next to the bed, the room felt so… filled up to the brim. The bed assembly took over the entire back wall, making the room feel cramped. With a king and storage bed, it is so critical for us to keep everything else light and minimal. Hence the choice of curtains on the closet, the ladder for clothes drop-off, and the minimal decor. We quickly nix the idea of side panels, and decided to only make the nightfloats.

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Without the side panels, one drawer nightstand looked a bit too skinny. So we opt for a more balanced two-drawer design. This guest post from The house of wood confirmed that this is the look we wanted. Although I did not follow their plan and building material, the dimensions and building process is fairly similar.

Building the carcass

With SketchUp plan in hand, I started cutting all the pieces to size.

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I usually do not keep a cut list, but rather try to use up various pieces with minimal waste. After building two nightstand, I have only waste some trimmings that could be picked up by two hands – I’d say that it is pretty good!!!

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I also collect all the sawdust for composting later. We keep a small bin in the kitchen for collecting green waste. Layering in sawdust kept it odor-free and dry. A win-win in my book.

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I decided to join all the pieces with pocket hole joints.

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Slav gifted me these quick release bar clamp (similar here) which are life savers for a one-man operation.

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Ta-dah!

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Drawer build

Now it comes my favorite part: building the drawers. There is something very comforting about the repetitive process of assembling drawers. I can build drawers everyday. If you are in the Denver area and want a few drawers built, let me know!

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There are also many ways to build drawers which I am having fun trying. The first drawer I built uses butt joint and screws, and my second batch was built with butt joint and brad nails. For both cases, the drawer bottoms were screwed/nailed directly onto the bottom of the drawer frame. This time I used pocket hole joints for the frame, and cut grooves with the tablesaw on all sides of the drawer frame to sink the drawer bottoms in.

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The groove were cut to fit the 5 mm plywood I had on hand (left from this project). I used a piece to make sure the groove lining up perfectly while jointing pieces together:

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For small drawers like what I am building, these plywood sheets are rigid enough and should not bend easily. If you are making drawers than exceed 2′ on one side, much wider drawers, I will recommend a center support.

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After inserting the drawer bottoms, I closed them off by joining in the last side. These drawers felt super solid and I am very happy with them. 🙂

The assembly

I attached all the drawer slides which is pretty straightforward. I maxed out the drawer depth by having very limited space between them, but math worked.

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I cut a piece of plywood to cover the whole front (including the frames), then sliced it into two pieces where the drawers divide. The cut took off 1/8″ of plywood horizontally, which left a perfect reveal between the two drawers while keeping the wood grain continuous.

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Slav helped me to mount them in the bedroom. We used the Hangman french cleat for our headboard and it was rock solid. So this time we used two of this smaller version for the nightfloats.

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Finished around 10 pm, perfect timing for bed:

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As planned, the nightstand on Slav’s side fits like a glove.

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And them just cleared the storage bed drawers:

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Customer Review:

We have used these nightfloats for a couple nights and they are perfect. The top provides plenty of space for lights, clock, and a glass of water much needed for sleeping in such dry climate. The bottom drawers are reserved for undies and socks, and the top drawers are perfect for ear buds, night guards, and glasses.

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We love the seamless look in the front so we will not be adding hardware to the drawers. They are not difficult to open – all it takes is a firm grip on both sides. We might add finger pulls down the road if we see something we like enough.

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We do however, plan to paint the nightfloats – should they be white as the walls, black as the bed frame, or grey as our headboard? (Apparently there are only three color in my world!)

These drawers remain empty until we paint the nightfloats. It is funny that I have added nine drawers – nine! – to our house within the last a couple weeks, yet none of them got filled. Should I celebrate our lack of stuff, or be charged of overbuild?

Adding Hidden Storage to the Office

Howdy, friends and family! I cannot believe we are entering March already! February was a busy month for us. We are both meeting deadlines at work, while trying to ski once a week before the winter ends. On top of everything, we managed to make steady progresses on Slav’s office. After the structure work was done (including reversing the closet, moving the doorway (12), and patching the floor), we entered a new stage of work: the finishes. As many of you DIYers know, this stage can feel really slow and never ending. There are sooo many small details to consider! Drywall, paint, trims, baseboards, doors and windows treatment. The room may look 80% of its new version, but 50% of the work is still ahead of us.

Last week we installed new lighting and new window treatment (the same blinds we used in the living room); and this week, we started patching drywall.

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Drywall work is nothing glorious, so I am not going to bore you with the details. Long story short, it’s messy. What kept us going is the believe that we will eventually come out of it with beautiful walls. But I need more pick-me-up than that. So…

I built drawers, again!

The Design

The drawers I am building this time are baseboard drawers. I first saw this idea from Ana White‘s tiny house kitchen build, and have been wanting to incorporate it into our house since. When we tried to choose baseboards for our library bookcases, a light bulb went off – why not build some baseboard drawers? Our IKEA Billy bookcases are sitting on a 2″x4″ wooden base, putting the bottom shelves almost 7″ above the floor, which is a decent height for drawers. These little caves are prefect hidden storage for Slav’s bazillions of cables and small computer parts.

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I built drawers only once before, and it was such a positive learning experience for me. Since then, I have read about many alternative ways of building drawers and really would like to improve my skills. I knew the principles, I learned from my mistakes, and I am more confidence this time going into the build.

The only decision I had a hard time to make was the material. Normally, drawers are build with either real wood, plywood, or MDF boards. MDF is the cheapest option, but in our case the MDF drawers need to be covered with wood veneer to match the bookcase. Real wood and plywood can be stained to match, but getting the color and wood grain right might be a struggle. One night, we talked, talked, and talked our options, until Slav came up with the perfect solution – why not buy another bookcase, and use the material to build the drawers?

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We grabbed another Billy in brown veneer and I tried to cut one piece on the table saw. The material cuts really well without chipping. Now I could get to work!

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I made an interesting discovery about IKEA Billy this time – the five bookcases we got last time on IKEA’s big sale has almost all the boards veneered on both sides. But the new IKEA Billy does not. The sides that are not showing after assembly are all plain. I guess it saves a few cents for IKEA.

We did not really consider building baseboard drawers when we built the wood base. Fortunately, the 2″x4″ are all parallel and precise enough to support the drawers. We did chip off a bit wood here and there for the drawer front to fit, but it was not too bad.

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The 2″x4″ wood base is around 9″ deep and ~29″ wide, so the drawers would be all 8 1/2″ in depth and ~28″ in width (the drawer slides take up to 1″). I laid out the plan on a piece of paper.

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The Prototype

To get my hands warm, I decided to build a prototype first. This time around, I set a work station in the garage for efficiency and it helped a lot. I used a sheet of plywood to create a large work surface, and surrounded myself with circular saw, miter saw, table saw, brad nailer + compressor, and all the material and hardware needed. This set up made the work much more streamlined and pleasant. A vanilla scented candle added feminine touch and softness to the ice cold garage.

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This is how the drawers were assembled: I used the toe kick pieces to create the two sides, then sliced the shelves to make the drawer faces. The left over stripes from the shelves were used as the front side of the drawers, I do not have enough material to create the back, so I cut some plywood off the my temporary table to make the back pieces.

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The drawer was made 1″ narrower than the opening to accommodate the drawer slides. I decided to try these 8″ full extension drawer slides and they worked great.

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The bottom of the drawers were made from 5mm plywood (leftover from covering our garage walls). Brad nails held it in place.

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Now is time for the test! I mounted the other side of the slides onto the 2″x4″s, and it worked pretty smoothly. You can see how it works in this video.

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Mass Production

With the prototype working well, I spent the next a couple hours making all five drawers. I test fit all of them before installing the drawer slides.

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Roxie was interested.

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Instead of measuring, I used a block and a piece of 5mm plywood to prop the  drawer slides up when mounting them onto the drawers. When I needed to mount the other side of the drawer slides to the wood base, I used the same block and two layers of 5mm plywood, creating 5mm clearance at the bottom of the drawers.

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All mounted and slide smoothly!

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Attaching the Drawer Face

Next, I moved onto attaching the drawer faces.  These are made from the shelves from the extra bookcase and cut just a hair higher than the bottom shelves.

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I attached the drawer faces to the front side of the drawers with double-sided tape. This woodworking tape got lots of good reviews so I decided to give it a try. It is strong enough to hold the faces in place when I fired the nailer, but I was able to take the faces off fairly easily to adjust their positions.

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This is what the drawers looks like when they are fully installed. The gap in between the bookcase will soon be covered from the floor to ceiling.

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I adore these baseboard drawers. They hold lots of small electronics and still slide smoothly. I hope they will help Slav to get more organized!

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Update Our To-Dos

After completing the baseboard drawers, we are moving onto the last step for the library built-ins – trimming between and around the bookcases. Hopefully by this time next week, I can show you a finished built-in wall. Here is our current office to-do list:

1. Frame the new opening between office and living room
2. Patch the hardwood floor
3. Drywall and trim 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 (in progress)
8. Build Slav’s desk

Soft Grey

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Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you are relaxed, rested, well-fed, and enjoying a great time with your families! We are having a white Christmas here with quite a few inches of snowfall the night before Christmas Eve. I am so grateful to be living with real winter again!

As usual, Slav and I are working normal hours through holidays. Slav always has deadlines right after the New Years, so we take time off in January instead between Christmas and New Years. But I still want to do something fun for Christmas. It is a long weekend this year and it is really nice to stay home for three day straight without any obligations.

I still got our bedroom on my mind since last weekend’s small update, and honestly, I’ve been itching for some woodworking since the last build. So I decided to build a padded headboard for our king size bed, in order to bring some softness into our bedroom.

The design

When we got our storage bed a few months back, we decided to pass the matching storage headboard and DIY something softer instead. We had a padded and tufted headboard in the past, and we liked the warmth and support it gave. It was an easy decision to replicate it. Thick padding and soft fabric offer comfort, and keeping it mono-colored and simply tufted with buttons maintain the minimalism look in the bedroom.

First I drew the plan in Sketchup:

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The plan includes a pair of sideboards with integrated lighting and nightstands. The light blue rectangle represents a window, which is 57″ off the floor. Our king bed is over 20″ tall with the mattress (represented by the box in front the headboard). I designed the headboard to be long and narrow (32″ x 78″) to accommodate the short distance between the mattress and the window.

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This is the view from the back, without the sideboards. You can see the window on the top, the headboard right below, and existing bed frame at the bottom. The headboard will be hanging directly on the wall. You can also see the cut dimension of the 2″ x 4″s framing the headboard from this view.

The frame

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I cut 2″ x 4″s to size using a miter saw, and dry fit them together. The middle bracing was made from 2″ x 4″ scraps and for attaching the pegboard pieces later.

To join the 2″ x 4″s together, I decided to give pocket hole joint a try. I’ve purchased the Kreg Jig a while ago but had not used it before this project. I was a bit intimated, which is silly – because the instruction was very straightforward and easy to follow.

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I practiced on some scrap wood first:

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The first pocket hole I made was terrible. It was not smooth and did not even go through the bottom. But the next few got better.

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Twenty minutes and lots of saw dust later, I connected my first pocket hole joint! The frame quickly came together after.

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The next step was to cover the frame with a flat surface for the foam pad to attach to. DIYers use different materials – plywood, MDF, pegboard, or old headboards the,selves. I assume a few strip of wood would be OK too, especially if you are not going for the tufted look. I decided to use pegboard because we have some leftovers from our garage organization, and more importantly, it makes the tufting part easier.

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I screwed one piece of leftover pegboard onto the frame and used jigsaw to trim the excess off. The cut was not very straight – I still need to get better at using jigsaw or circular saw without a guide. Fortunately the edges will be covered by padding and fabric later.

I next attached the other piece of headboard.

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This is what the headboard frame looked like finished:

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The Material

Up to this point I was confident on what I am doing. But the upholstery, not so much. I had very little experience with sewing and fabric in general, and the experience I had was all failure. Thanks for the internet, I was able to find a few really good tutorials. I got my materials based on recommendations in this tutorial, and followed similar steps in this tutorial for a similar modern look. If you are interested in more of a traditional look, this one demonstrated really well how to do diamond tuft and offers many good tricks.

The material I used for the project includes a king-size mattress pad ($60), a large but light-weight quilt batting ($20), a bottle of adhesive spray ($17), and of course, a piece of suede fabric ($60). For the tufted look, I also got button cover kit ($10), craft needles ($5), and waxed nylon cord ($4). As you can see, this headboard did not come out cheaper than a pre-made one, and it is partially due to the size of the frame and how thick I want it to be. I chose king size pad and large batting to get two layers of coverage of both (see the 2nd picture below), but twin-size pad and smaller batting should be sufficient for a slimmer headboard with a much cheaper price tag. I also bought everything from JoAnn, which is more expensive than Amazon or Ebay. So if you could wait a few days for everything to arrive, you can probably save $20 more getting everything online.

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The Upholstery

I laid the headboard down in the living room with the pegboard side up and dry fit everything first. You can see that the king size mattress pad gives us two layers of full coverage.

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I then sprayed the pegboard generously with the adhesive and glued both layers on. Because I used pegboard, I laid down some protective plastic underneath so my rug will not get sticky.

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I did one layer at a time and trimmed the excess with a scissor after each layer. This adhesive is the “re-positioning” type which allows me to adjust for a long time, which is nice. The adhesive spray is not necessary if you are only doing one layer and the foam you use is bigger than the headboard itself. I can only find 76″ foam for my 78″ headboard so I had to glue a portion down, stretch a little, then glue another portion, and do this with two layers. The adhesive spray definitely made this process a lot easier for me.

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The next step is the batting. I laid it on the bed, put the headboard on it with the foam (and pegboard) side down, then stapled it around. I tugged it pretty tight to make sure that the batting pressed the foam tightly against the pegboard.

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It looked pretty neat at this point and I was gaining a bit confidence.

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The Tufted Look

The most intimidating part of this whole project might have been choosing the fabric. I do not know fabric at all. After spending an hour unrolling and rolling up fabric samples, I brought my choice to the cutting center, feeling anxious. I told the woman working at the cutting counter my plan for the fabric and she said “this is a gorgeous piece for upholstering headboard with” and I was so relieved! I think the color also worked out OK with our bedding.

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The next step was pretty straight forward: lay the fabric underneath the headboard and staple around. I took caution to make sure the corners were tight and neatly tucked.

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The Buttons!

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A simple headboard could have stopped right here. But since we decided to add buttons for a gentle tufted look, I laid out all 14 buttons and marked their locations.

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Making buttons was a bit tough on fingers, especially with such heavy fabric. But it got done.

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Slav helped me to put all the buttons on using long craft needles and waxed cord. It was a two people four hands job so we did not take any photos. Please visit the tutorials I linked above if you are interested.

The Finish

We decided to use this Hangman heavy-duty mirror hanger for easy adjustment /removal of the headboard. It can take 300 pound weight which is plenty enough for our headboard. It also comes with a built-in level which makes hanging it very easy.

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This product is pretty much a french cleat. The other part was screwed onto the headboard frame:

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And here it is!

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Our soft headboard:

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The light grey plays well with the grey curtain and blue painting.

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We hung it on Christmas eve and it was such a treat for Christmas!

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