Terrific Broth

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

DIY Frame for Large Painting

Snow days are perfect for small DIY projects. Today’s showcase is a large picture frame I made for an oil painting.


It may not look like much. But when compared to the look without the frame, I think it is a big improvement:


We had this painting for a couple years now. Over time, we noticed that the frame slowly came out of plumb. I decided the best way of re-align the canvas without adding much more weight would be to add a strong frame around the original one.


There are lots of tutorials online for frame making. I picked one of the simplest plan with a floating frame look:

Material list (for a 40″ ×40″ canvas):

  • Two 1″ x 2″ x 8′ red oak*
  • Scrap wood for corner reinforcement (I used a 42″ long 1″ x 4″ piece)
  • Wood stain/paint/finish desired
  • Hanging hardware

*You can use any wood species for the frame. I picked the relatively expensive red oak ($22/2 pieces after tax) for the look of its grain, with plan to stain the frame. We ended up painting the frame, so I could have used cheaper wood such as pine to get the same look.

Tools needed:

  • Miter saw (or handsaw + speed square)
  • Measuring tape or ruler
  • Pen or pencil
  • Wood glue
  • Nail gun and brad nails (or pocket screws if you want to get fancy)
  • Hammer or drill (for hanging the frames)


The first step is measure and cut the frame pieces. I decided on having a small gap (1/16″ or so) between the canvas and the frame, so for 40″ canvas, I cut each side to be 40 1/8″ on the inner side. The canvas is about 3/4″ deep. For a floating look I made sure to have the 1″ side (actually 3/4″) facing up, to let the 2″ side (actually 1 1/2″) be the depth of the frame. I also chose to miter the corners for a more classic look. For simpler construction you can just butt joint the two pieces.


To make sure the new frame is plumb I added corner pieces. Bigger/longer the corner pieces are, more sturdy the construction will be. I cut up a piece of 1″ x 4″ scape wood so each piece ended up to be around 10″ long. I also cut the ends at 45 degree so the corner pieces could sit flush against the inside of the frame.


The corner pieces were cut with the 1″ side (true dimension 3/4″) facing the inside of the frame, allowing the 3/4″ canvas to sit flush with the surface of the frame, creating a floating look.


Before assembling the frames I dry-fit all the pieces together on a flat surface. The whole frame was straight, square, and plumb, and I liked the gap around the canvas.



At the last minute I decided to add a 1″x1″ piece horizontally. It added some strength, helped to keep the frame plumb, and provided more surface for the canvas to attach to the frame assembly.


At this point I asked for Slav’s opinion on the finish of the frame. He requested dark color. So I painted the frame a shotgun black using the leftover paint from our front door.


Even though this was among one of the smallest DIY projects, I still felt excited assembling the frame. We tacked together the frame pieces with 1 3/16″ brad nails (16-gauge or 18-gauge both worked fine) and a nail gun. You can also use just hammer and nails or pocket screws, just need to make sure to assemble on a flat surface with the front side facing down so the front of the frame is perfectly flush. We also used wood glue between the joints for added strength.


After putting the frame together, we flipped it and attached the corner reinforcement and the horizontal brace again with glue and brad nails. We made sure that the frame and the corner pieces were on the flat floor, and pushed the corner pieces against the frame so the whole assembly came together flush.


With both the painting and the frame face downward, we secured the canvas to the frame using 1″ brad nails from the back. This was the easiest way to ensure an even gap around the canvas. Just make sure that you clean the surface (in our case, the wood floor) really well before putting the painting face down.


Total 10 nails (2 on each corner pieces, and two on the horizontal pieces) hold the canvas tight to the frame assembly.


And this is how the painting looked standing up! Isn’t it nice?


We kept the original hanging hardware and used the original screw onto which the canvas was hung before.


I love the finished frame! The paint color on the frame is not exactly the color of the furniture underneath, but they match very well.


Covered sides, floating look, and more importantly, straight and plumb!


Compare to before, this art piece now looks much more finished:


DIYing this frame piece turned out to be really straightforward, yet the finished look it delivered exceeded my expectation. I really adore this simple way of making floating frames. Now I want to make floating frame for al the paintings we have!

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:









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.


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.


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



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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



The art work

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



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


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.


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


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


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


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.


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


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!!!




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


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.


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.


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.


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!


What is in Store in 2021

Planning for 2021 turned out to be difficult. I’ve never experienced such level of unpredictability before, which prevented me from making plans. After all, nothing went as planned last year. We were looking forward to an awesome ski season; I was supposed to celebrating Chinese New Year with my family for the first time in 15 years. We were getting on a cruise (for the first time) to accompany our good friends on their honeymoon. My parents’ 50-year-old anniversary celebration, my grandaunt’s 100-year-old birthday celebration, my sister’s big birthday celebration on the west coast, and my high school reunion… 2020 was supposed to be about family, love, and companionship. At the end, it was filled with isolation and endurance.

As the world knows, we are still experiencing dark times in the States, but I have to say, the vaccine distribution and more importantly a new leadership did bring a glimmer of hope. I still dare not to make any plans when it comes to family and friends, but I am able to make plans for the ranch house due to the solitary nature of DIY…So, what is in store for the ranch house in 2021?

1. The main floor bath

The 2021 renovation has started in the main floor bathroom.


This 5″ x 8″ bathroom is the only bathroom on the main floor (labeled as “5” in the floor plan below). Upon completion, it will be a guest/hall bath as our master bath is located in the lower level. As you can see, we have started the renovation by demolishing the old bathroom into studs and upgrading the electrical. We will start plumbing work in January and hope to complete this renovation by end of Spring. You can see our design plans for the new bathroom here.

Ranch main floor_3D

2. The kitchen

After the main floor bathroom, the kitchen will be the last room to tackle in the ranch house. I cannot believe that how long we have waited! Below shows how the kitchen looks today, which has not changed since the day we moved in.




The current layout of the kitchen is shown below. The L-shape layout provides very little counter space.

Kitchen plan_current

Furthermore, the fridge is located right next to the back/garage door and stair area, obscuring the view of the kitchen and making the kitchen feel crowded.

Northern wall

The new layout will feature the stove/oven between the two windows. This arrangement not only removes the visual obstruction near the backdoor, but also allows us to look into the backyard while cooking.

Eastern wall plan without soffit_

The fridge will be relocated to the left side of the room. We will also remove the soffit which are empty inside to make more head room. The upper cabinets are attached to the soffit will be replaced with new and taller upper cabinets to provide more storage. The open shelves were drawn in the SketchUp below just for comparison sake.

Northern wall plan with shelves

The non-weight-bearing wall between the kitchen and the living room will be removed. We will also create a pass-though window on the upper half wall above the stairs to provide more light into the living room.


Renovating this kitchen will be a gut job. The cabinets are moldy and Slav is looking forward to a dishwasher. The old tiled flooring is half inch taller than the hardwood floor. We also would like to add more lighting in the kitchen and the adjunct living room.

3. Main floor floor refinish + baseboards

We removed all the carpet on the main floor and uncovered the original hardwood flooring shortly after moving into the house. But the wood floor was in rough shape and need to be refinished.


23 after office

24 after hallway


Later on, during the office renovation, we patched the hardwood flooring at the new doorway. These were brand new flooring and more shining than the old ones.


We will be refinishing all the hardwood flooring in the living room and two offices once all the bath and kitchen renovation work is complete. In addition, we have been waiting for the floor to be refinished before installing baseboards in Slav’s office, the living room, and my retreat room. All the work will be performed after removing the wall between the kitchen and the living room.

4. The shed patio

One of the big landscape project in 2020 was carving out the shed patio and adjunct terraced garden. Due to our inability to get landscaping supplies, we did not actually pave the shed patio, but covered the bare dirt with some black plastic for weed suppression. We were fortunate to get 800 sqft of pre-owned flagstone for merely $100, which is more than enough for the patio space I have prepared. As soon as the ground thaws in April, I will be paving the flagstone patio around our shed and building the retaining wall around it!


5. Structures and hardscape in the garden

Garden structures provide layers, dimensions, and functionality to a garden. After getting most of the perennial beds established, I am dying to add pieces like garden trellises and bird bath to my garden.


Above is a picture of the raspberry garden. It is so productive that in the peak season, bounties of raspberry weighted down the brunches down to the ground. Come around Spring/Summer, we will be building a trellis system for the raspberry bushes like the one below.

Raspberry Trellis

(Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stockandhill/4777284717/)


A new addition to our edible garden is grapes. We will be planting four grape plants along the northern fence (facing south) next Spring, and building garden arbors like the ones below for both function and form:


Our 2021 renovation plan

might be short in numbers, but it is actually plenty of work as the bathroom and kitchen projects will likely take months to complete. Paving a patio and set all the trellises into the ground also require lots of elbow grease. I am hopeful that by the end of the next year, we will be at least wrapping up the renovation inside of the ranch house. No matter how far we get to the tasks in the garden, the garden will come to fruition, and we will have more leisure time in 2022 and finally get to explore the State we now call home.

What do you think about our renovation plan? Are you planning for any renovations to your space in 2021?


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