Wardrobe Building

If things have been a bit quiet around here lately, it's because I've been vigorously working on my wardrobe IRL. And in this case, I don't mean the actual clothes, but rather the furniture and structures used to store them... the wardrobe, the closet, the dressers. (Sorry if I tricked you into reading a non-sewing post. If this bores you, you can stop reading now.) But I figure if I'm going to spend all this time to make my clothes, I better have a beautiful/functional place to put them! That, and I've become apartment-obsessed lately.

Updating our closet and installing built-in storage on either side of the bed has been on our to-do list since day one of moving in (almost ten months ago!). After tackling the most immediate needs in other parts of the apartment (followed by a much-needed break), we finally decided this month to take on the "wardrobe" projects.

For the closet, a little rearranging was in order. There was an awkward shelf on one side, only one real clothing rod, and shelves that we had had to remove to fit all our stuff. For the project, we budgeted a weekend for buying supplies/prep and another weekend for the actual construction. The project wasn't particularly complicated - moving a plywood divider "wall," reinstalling upper shelving, and hanging more clothing rods - but from our experience over the last year we knew that we should always budget more time than we thought it would take. Because this was an especially disruptive project (clothing ALL OVER the living room), it was good to play it on the safe side. And we actually finished in time to go out for drinks Sunday night! Check out the progress, below:

Yes, the closet still needs a door, which we've purchased from salvage, but that's for another day...
While it's still just a packed closet, the updates to the design, along with a fresh coat of paint, have really made this space a lot more functional for us. Gone are the days when my jackets, pajamas, and even hand-made dresses (!) get shoved on shelves. Some of my favorite features include how we handled that "awkward corner" in the back of the closet, and the budget-friendly pants hangers (and accompanying support brackets and rods) from Ikea. It is SO NICE to have everything hanging and organized.

Here's some more mid-action shots:

Thank god for that ROP construction class in high school!
Here's Mr. K using my bread knife to saw through some wood because we didn't have the right saw :/
The living room disaster zone
It was a long project, and I'm so glad it's finally done!


For the second project, we wanted to add some additional storage on either side of the bed to fit even more clothes, especially sweaters and socks and the like (what can I say, I have a lot of clothes!). We did not budget/plan a set amount of time for this project, and so of course it ended up taking longer than we assumed and being far more exhausting.

We were also super picky - we wanted our built-ins to serve double-duty as bedside tables, provide space for lighting, match each other, and fit our space and height requirements. After considering some seriously custom (and time-consuming) self-made options and then looking all over Craigslist for something second-hand that might work, we settled on Ikea solid wood built-in cabinets (Ivar) and standing dressers (Tarva). I'm not a big fan of Ikea furniture both because of the quality of construction and the immediately recognizable "Ikea" look, but in this case it was the best solution that was within our budget. The solid wood (albeit very soft) made me feel a little bit better as well.

Here are the final results:

To visually tie the cabinet and dresser together, we used the same hardware on both the cabinets and the drawers, and painted all the pieces the same color as our main walls (Sherwin Williams Snow White - which is actually a light grey). On the drawers, I puttied up the holes where the knobs should have gone and installed the drawer pulls down the center, which I scored on Amazon for $27 total after some shopping around. For the tabletops, we left the wood exposed (inspired by Young House Love), giving them a few coats of stain to seal and darken them.

The whole process took almost two weeks, including some week-day nights for painting. The individual parts of the four furniture pieces had to be painted in rotation on our small patio (photo below), and we definitely learned that it can take a few days for the paint to dry all. the. way. The final installation day was a good ten hours, including several smaller set-backs and unanticipated challenges (no studs for a 32-inch span in the wall? paint STILL sticking after a week of drying? not enough screws in the right size?!). The lighting was another challenge, but I hope to share the final results of that with you later this week.

In the end, my Ikea construction skills could probably still use a bit of work, but we're very happy with these pieces. They fit all our stuff, provide lots of bedside space, and don't look too shabby, either!

After about a month's worth of work, we're a little burned out but very happy with our new closet and bedroom organization. And getting out of bed in the morning is so much easier without tripping over mismatched shelving and filing cabinets shoved next to the bed!

Lessons Learned for Home DIY (and Crafting in General)
While I'm continually improving my DIY home-improvement skills, the biggest lesson I learned from our latest project was about managing expectations - and about the deceptive power of the internet. Too often, I read on blogs about "easy" home makeovers - quick Ikea updates, easy lighting solutions, and transformations involving nothing but a coat of paint and some imagination. From my experience, it was never that easy.

Maybe it's because I'm just not very good at these things yet (at one point we used a bread knife as a saw, for crying out loud), but I bet most people who have tried their hand at some basic home updates will agree that it's hard. Painting untreated furniture pieces requires several coats over several days. Planning what pieces to buy, measuring out the specs, researching installation options, and agreeing on a style took weeks of planning. And putting together simple 'do-it-yourself' Ikea furniture along with installing it on the wall ended with one of us as a zombie and the other throwing a mini tantrum (I'll let you guess who).

The point of me writing this isn't to complain (I love the final results!), but rather to think about how we, the blogging community, talk about our craft and our projects on our blogs. Too often have I written that I "whipped up" a little top, or "just modified" a collar, when really these things took hours of my time. Granted, I love sewing much more than I love painting, but the underlying truth is that we put a lot of effort into our crafts, and even the simplest projects take time and skill (or at least some practice). Trying a new DIY craft has taught me the value of this, and more respect for the process of creation. There are many wonderful sewing bloggers out there who share their "realness," and I appreciate that now more than ever! And then there's always Pinterest Fail! to remind me that things aren't always as they seem online ;)

Over the next few days I'll share with you a couple of DIY things from this project that I think you crafty people might like. But I won't lie, tackling a new skill takes time!


  1. Wow, your apartment looks wonderful!! The closet really does look so much more functional and your bedside set-up really transforms your room! I'm so impressed! And, yes. Anything around the home takes so much time and skill! I'm getting better, but I almost always underestimate even moving a few pieces of furniture around...

  2. This is a great post - I love reading about stuff like this! Your closet looks GREAT and so does the bedroom - I really like your aesthetic in home decor :) A perfect compliment to all your hand made garments!

  3. Great transformation. I definitely agree that having good storage is 30% of having a good wardrobe!

  4. I find DIY stuff overwhelming. Even just painting a room, well that means everything has to move and you know there is going to be a crazy amount of dust behind stuff that yes, should be cleaned but now it's not "just" painting a room... In the end, I'm very reluctant to do any of it.

    But on the sewing side, I fall into the "oh it's just a pencil skirt, a couple of darts and a zipper... how hard could that be?" trap. Forgetting about the lining or the lack of a pattern or a matching zipper or thread, etc, etc, etc....

    1. Totally! And the more I learn about DIY home stuffs, the more I realize how much work it truly is!


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