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

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Storage Headboard DIY

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Happy Chinese New Year! This year’s zodiac animal is ox, which represents hardworking and progress. Hopefully the whole world will start moving again soon!

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Inside of my own house, the bathroom renovation has been static because Slav’s busy. I did manage to get some small DIY projects done myself and hang some art pieces, but honestly, I miss having a bathroom on the main floor.

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The latest DIY project I completed is a storage headboard for the Murphy bed:

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And now the Murphy bed area looks like this:

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The design concept

I have shown you how we installed the Murphy bed in my retreat room.

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However, the depth of this closet is 25″, a lot deeper than the required depth for the Murphy bed, leaving a significant gap.

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We knew at the time of installation that we needed a headboard to prevent pillows from slipping off the bed. In addition, we’d like to add a shelf above the bed for reading lamp, books and water or the night. Naturally, we decided to DIY this piece so it does not fit the space perfectly, but also can be customized exactly to our liking with the functionality we needed.

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I always wanted to give this wedge bolster pillow a try as a removable headboard. So the plan has always been to build a plywood box that fills the gap and also supports the wedge pillow from the bottom and from the back. This box should also provide internal storage for pillows and linen. Last, we prefer a floating design in order to expose the floor space for future refinish.

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The build

Unlike most of the furniture building, instead of completing the entire storage box in the garage then mounting it to the space, I decided to assemble this floating storage at the spot. This does not only save material, but also add structure integrity to the whole build as well as the closet. It also means that I will be measuring, cutting, and attaching different pieces to the side and back of the closet as I go.

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The first piece I cut was the bottom of the storage box. This board will support the wedge pillow, so I decided to place the bottom board just below the top of the mattress. The width of the closet measures 58″ at this height, and the unit should not be deeper than 14″ so the Murphy bed can open and close normally.

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So I cut a piece that is 14″ x 58″. Before installing it permanently, I popped it up with a stepping stool to the desired height and tested with the wedge pillow. Despite a 4″ gap between the mattress and the front edge of the board, the wedge pillow stayed in place well. This gap is required for the Murphy bed to operate normally.

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Having known that, I started with on the top surface  of the storage box. I wanted the headboard to be hidden from the front view, so I chose to have the top board sitting 16″ above the bottom one, just a dash lower than the top of the wedge pillow.

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The width of the top surface should be less than 12″ to accommodate the thickness of the wedge pillow.

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I cut a 58″ x 10″ plywood piece for the top. Again, before mounting it in place, I popped it up with a planter which happens to be 16″ tall as a trial run.

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Slav was around for this part of the operation and laughed that “your furniture design depends on the objects you had nearby…” Kinda true…But hey, it was the perfect height for the top surface!

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Since the closet already had plywood sides and back, both top and bottom boards can be directly mounted to the side wall panels. Now I only need to make a front panel, which functions as a door for internal storage access, as well as the backing board for the wedge pillow.

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I cut two pieces of plywood boards as the front panel so they are easier to open and close. They are both an inch taller than the top board, so when mounted vertically, they not only cover the whole front edge of the top shelf, but also create a small curb for the top shelf.

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As you can see, the design of the headboard is extremely simple. My goal has always been keeping the headboard construction minimal and completely hidden when the bed is in use, while satisfying all the features we want for the Murphy bed area: storage, back support, and a horizontal shelf.

The installation

With all the pieces cut to size, I edge banded the pieces and cut some scrap wood strips to link the top and bottom boards onto the side walls.

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To mount the front panels/doors, I used hidden hinges to connect the door panels to the top shelf.

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A few L-bracket were mounted on the bottom board as a stop, so the door panels can stay vertical without swinging inward.

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Then I placed the wedge pillow on the bottom board and in front of the doors – now we have the storage headboard for the Murphy bed!

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Just like we planned, You cannot see the headboard when standing in front of the bed.

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The space inside the storage headboard now stores allthe pillows and beddings we have for this bed. When we need to fold the bed up, the top shelf is perfect for storing the wedge pillow. Therefore, everything for making the Murphy bed is stored in the Murphy bed alcove without occupying additional closet space.

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The finishes

I switched the painting above the bed to a set of watercolor art, and added a white lamp and a couple plants:

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The large and cool-colored art toned down all the wood color, making this little alcove a bit lighter and more relaxed.

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And this is how he Murphy bed area look like now!

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This headboard build completed all the DIY build in my retreat room/home office. The best part of the project is that I used exclusively the scrape plywood pieces from the Murphy bed build and the gear closet build, so the only cost for this project is four hidden hinges for $2.75! (We had the plywood edge band, L-bracket and screws in hand.) This is the charm of DIY – functionality, perfect fit, and saving!

Mounting and Hanging Calligraphy Pieces

Chinese painting and calligraphy have been popular art decoration in Chinese household for thousands of years. I brought a couple pieces to the States with me, but never had an opportunity to display them:

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This ink and wash landscape art is the most popular form of Chinese painting. The other piece I own is calligraphy art:

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Chinese painting and calligraphy were drawn on Xuan paper which is soft and fragile. In order to display them, they have to be mounted onto some kind of backing paper first, before being inserted into frames or layered onto silk scrolls.

Dry mounting the calligraphy pieces

There are two ways to mount calligraphy art, wet mount and dry mount. Since I’ve never done either of the two ways before, I chose the dry mount method which looks more foolproof. The dry mount method involves first mounting the art piece onto silicone adhesive paper, then transfer the art to some kind of backing paper. To mount the art pieces onto the silicone adhesive paper, you need an iron, a spray bottle of water, and some thin paper to layer between the iron and the art work. I used a regular clothing iron with parchment paper (for baking).

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You also needed a soft but supportive surface to iron on. Since my art pieces were large, I spread a flat sheet on top of our big coffee table which worked very well.

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I unrolled the silicone adhesive paper, trimmed it a hair narrower and shorter than the art piece, then layered the art work on top of it.

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Then I gently misted the art work with water using the spray bottle. This step is for releasing the tension in the Xuan paper and reduce wrinkles and fold marks. Pay attention to only mist small amount of the water on the art work – the Xuan paper should not be soaking wet. And you do not want to get water on the silicone paper because that will add wrinkle to the final result.

After spraying the Xuan paper wet, I carefully laid the parchment paper on top of the art work, and immediately started ironing. A safe tip is to mist the art work first before even laying it on top of the silicone adhesive paper – and you can always mist the back of the painting instead of the front.

Definitely, definitely do not use the steam function on your iron – it will smear the art and even melt the Xuan paper. Iron the art onto the silicone adhesive paper using low-temp setting (such as silk).

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This particular art piece is nearly 5′ long, so I started ironing from one end, and worked my way up to the other end.

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The silicone adhesive paper is supposed to function as a double sided tape, either to connect the art piece to backing paper for framing, or to connect the art piece directly to a hanging scroll. However, I found that the silicone paper was rigid enough and could serve as alternative backing paper. So I did not use backing paper in this project.

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I used the same method to mount the calligraphy piece. It is smaller so the final result was better:

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Spray, layer, then iron. I worked this piece from the middle out to the sides, so there was no wrinkles at all:

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The dry mount method is fairly straightforward. It only took 15 minutes to get both pieces mounted.

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Framing the calligraphy

To frame the calligraphy I ordered a black frame online. The frame is made with solid wood and acrylic sheet, with a foam board backing. The construction is decent, but a bit too pricy in my opinion. I should have made my own frame with solid wood and glass for much cheaper, but considering the hours involved in DIY frames I decided to go with the easier route.

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I hung the calligraphy piece in my retreat room. I think it pairs well with the hanging plants and bamboo blinds. This piece says “Heaven rewards those who are industrious; The virtuous bear duties onerous”. A more literal translation will be “The Heavens are in motion ceaselessly; The enlightened exert themselves constantly. While the Earth is supportive and natural, Only the virtuous can bear the utmost”.

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Hanging the ink painting

Displaying the ink painting is a bit more difficult. Traditionally, Chinese paintings are displayed on silk-brocaded hanging scrolls with wood rods at the bottom to weight the piece down. However, any hanging scrolls I could found online was too small for this landscape art.

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The simplest way I could think of to display the painting is to add two wooden edges on the top and the bottom of the painting. In this way I can hang the art from the top wooden edge, and the bottom edge can weight down the painting just like the wood rod on the hanging scroll.

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I found a scrape 1″ x 2″ wood piece, cutting it to length to create two wooden edges.

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I shaped the ends of the two wooden edges like arrowheads for a better look.

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To secure the wooden edge onto the painting, I added another piece of scrap wood at the back, so the painting could be sandwiched in between the two wooden pieces.

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To joint the two pieces of wood together, a nail gun was used with the painting in between.

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It looked like this from the front of the painting. We used the same method to create the top edge, then installed mounting hardware on the back of it.

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With a couple pieces of scrap wood and 20 minutes of my time, the simple mounting method is easy and effective.

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The landscape painting was hung in our basement media room, accompanied by a couple large-scale of oil paintings. I think the white empty wall in this room allows large-scale paintings to be the focus of the room.

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The final results

Here are both of the art work in our home! The results from dry mounting and DIY hanging scroll are satisfying. I like the dose of traditional vibe these art injected into my home. Both art work was actually drawn by a good friend of my parents, whom I called uncle growing up. After years keeping his art work in drawers and collecting dust, it feels so nice to finally having them displayed and appreciated.

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What do you think of the results? Do you like traditional Chinese art?

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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