Terrific Broth

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

Terrific Broth

Category: Renovation (Page 2 of 17)

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

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!

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