Monthly Archives: April 2011

Dressing Room Closet Makeover (aka Elfa vs. ClosetMaid)

Last stop on the office/dressing room makeover?  My closet area.  Because it’s not just a sewing room & office, it’s also my “dressing room.”

I”m about to go crazy with TMI on the closet installation, so if you aren’t that interested feel free to skim along.  But I want to make this detailed for two reasons:  to help any other renters or landlords who may be considering closet renovations, and (more importantly) because we forgot to ask our landlord before doing this – so this post will serve as an explanation.

Dear Brian, aka Landlord Extraordinaire,

We love your fabulously renovated house, with the luxurious kitchen and bathrooms, and nice new windows, and new efficient furnace and HVAC units.  In fact we’re looking forward to renewing the lease to stay another year.

Unfortunately, we did not love  the design of the bedroom closets.  You know by now that we always ask permission before making changes, but we kind of slipped up and truly forgot to ask before completely redoing them.  You see, when I get excited about a design idea, I often dive eagerly ahead.  Usually Ryan keeps me in line, saying something along the lines of “that’s a great idea, but do you reall need to stop everything and do it right now, in the middle of dinner?” That didn’t happen this time, thus I blame Ryan.

But before you freak out, please read on – because I’m about to make a case for this that is more air-tight than a submarine.   Now I’m going to revert to writing this as a blog post rather than a letter.

When our rental house was remodeled prior to move-in, the closets were updated with new ClosetMaid shelving.  After living with it for a while, Ryan and I both concluded that the ClosetMaid system is not the best choice for a rental home.

Here’s how the installation of ClosetMaid works. For each shelf / hanging bar you want to install, you must:

  • Drill a million holes in the wall.
  • Install a million big plastic anchors.
  • Screw shelf into wall, hoping it went up level.

My closet had two shelves and one hanging bar.   The closet was 8′ wide, and those shelves & bar ran across the entire 8′ of the closet.  However, the opening was only 5′ wide, which meant that a long 3′ of hanging space & shelving was inaccessible in the left side of the closet.  THe closet is only about 2 feet deep, and the shelves were 21″ deep, so it was pretty much impossible to squeeze into that 3-foot recessed area.   And I needed to use that space.

I figured out that the most efficient use of the closet was:

  • Two-tiered hanging space in the 4-foot-wide open area
  • 20-inch-deep storage shelves (for out-of-season clothes, etc) going up the wall in the harder-to-reach back corner of the closet.   (The section to the left in the above photo.)

Because the ClosetMaid system required that each shelf be installed separately, with the use of a gazillion anchors, I decided to install the Elfa Easy-Hang system from the Container Store instead. But before we could install it, I had to:

  • Remove the old shelves.

Do you SEE all those anchors?

  • Drill / pry out all the anchors (see below).  The shelves are secured with big metal pins that go into the anchors, not screws, so you can’t just unscrew the fasteners.

  • Patch the million holes in the wall.
  • Re-paint the closet wall.  Because I had to paint the wall, I decided to carry the color from the room into the closet.

Painting Tip: Wait until the paint is dry before allowing the feline inspectors to do the final run-through.

Now here’s how the installation of the Elfa Easy-Hang system from the Container Store works.   The Elfa system hangs off a top track, which is the only part you actually have to screw into the wall.  Therefore, you:

  • Position the  “top track” up against the top of the wall, ensuring it is level, and trace (onto the wall) the places where the screws and anchors must go.
  • Drill holes with a 3/8″ drill bit.
  • Install Elfa Anchors.  (I do use the pricier Elfa ones just because I trust them more.)

To hang Elfa on this wall, it only took those 8 anchors at the top.  A nice improvement from the more than 30 used by ClosetMaid!

  • Install the Elfa Top Track by screwing it into the anchors you’ve just installed.
  • Then, simply hook the “Elfa Easy Hang Standards” onto the the top track, and click your shelves into place on the “Standards” wherever you want.   Here it is installed:

Remember, the ONLY holes I had to put in the wall were for that top track.  The rest of the system hangs off that top track with the “Standards” flush against the wall.  It’s very, very sturdy.

Here’s another shot of the installed system.  Why is it so perfect for a rental home? If a future tenant wants to change the shelving, they simply take the shelves off the Standards and click them into a different place on the Standards.

In the end I made the bottom hanging shelf shorter than the top, so that some of the top hanging space could be used for long hanging, like dresses.  I didn’t install the shelves in the back, left portion of the closet yet.  I wanted to think on it before making that part of the purchase.

And it’s a good thing, because this weekend I’m going to change the design a bit.  I’m going to convert the front area to all “short” hanging, and put a hanging bar for long dresses in the back portion of the closet, with shelves above and below it.  Like I said, I think that will be the best use of the space.

In conclusion, I think the Elfa Easy-Hang closet system from the Container Store is the best option for closets in both rental and owned homes. It offers superior functionality that can be easily changed and reconfigured with no damage to walls.  So if you have a different tenant every year, and each tenant wants a different layout of shelves and bars, they can move things around without removing anchors and drilling new holes.  It’s not the most inexpensive system to install initially, but I think it’s worth every penny.

Speaking of cost, the total cost for my two tiers of hanging space up front, and long hanging / shelves in the back would have been $300.  However, I bought most of the components during the Container Store’s bi-annual Elfa sale, and saved 30%.  So $200 for a totally functional closet?  It still took a chunk out of my wallet, but it was worth it.  After all,  you’re more likely to put your clothes away where they belong when you have a closet that’s easy to use.

5/10/2011 Update: I finished the closet, which now looks like this.  It’s awesome, read more here.

PS:  This was completed in February.  I dreaded having to explain it all, that’s why it took so long to share.  But after I install the rest of the system this weekend, I’m making a video tour of the entire studio makeover, and then I’ll finally be done talking about this room.

PSS:  Come back later (or Saturday) to find out the winner of the 2011 Redneck Yard of the Year contest!

Craft Fair Prep: Choosing a 10 x 10 Pop-Up Tent

Update: I ended up choosing the E-Z Up Dome Pop-Up Tent and have been happy with it for several years.

There’s a big part of my life that I’m not sharing much on the blog right now.  The Jane who is getting ready for her first craft fair / arts festival.  But because owning my own business is as important to me as blogging about rental home decor, I think I’d like to start sharing the process.  Oh, and I’d also like to share the process in case any of you can learn from my mistakes experiences.

So let’s get started.  I’m working very hard to prepare for the Viva Vienna Memorial Day festival in my awesome little town.  It’s scary and exciting all at once – there’s so much to do , and so much to worry about, but at the same time, when I picture myself meeting potential customers in my fun little booth that Sunday & Monday, I can’t wait.  Because it’s my first time selling my handmade products to a potential crowd of 30,000-50,000 people, in a space that I paid $275 for, I’m trying to take my preparation seriously.  When I decided sink the dough into participating, it wasn’t just from a sales perspective, but from a marketing angle as well.  The people who come into my booth and don’t purchase, but take my business card, may be future customers – or blog readers.   Therefore I need to be AWESOME at the festival.

The booth starts with a 10×10 canopy tent to protect the space from the sun and [hopefully not] the rain.  That’s a key item that I need to purchase soon.

Cheap Popup Tent OverstockIn reading reviews on Overstock and Amazon, I’m becoming apprehensive about making this purchase.  It seems that people have complaints about every model out there.  Some do not handle rain or wind well, others don’t pop up as easily as they claim to, and yet others aren’t tall enough, so people have to duck to enter.  Budgets are important, especially with a new business like mine, so I need to make the best possible purchase.  And I’m hoping to get the tent for around $100 or less.  Ryan’s doing the research for me now, and hopefully will have a suggestion for me by the weekend.

Do you want to hear more about the steps we’re going through to prepare for the festival? I think I’d like to blog about the process, because when I’ve googled things to find advice or suggestions, I just get a bunch of lame search results from fake sites that are just trying to make ad revenue.  I think it’s about time we took back the Google.

Once we get the tent, we’ll be setting it up in the basement and doing a few run-throughs with the displays, to get your opinions and be sure I’m ready to go on the big day.

If you’ve got any suggestions on which tent canopy to buy (or not to buy), please let me know!

{Re}Fashion: Three Free Skirts!

Whee!  My closet just got three new additions for the low, low price of $0.

No, I didn’t shoplift.   I re-fashioned several items that had been sitting in my box of “clothes to refashion” for over a year.  Let’s hear it for stashbusting!

New visitors, here’s a quick overview of how and why I refashion:

Over 1 year ago, I decided to try and cut back on the amount of clothes I was buying.  Not only for the sake of my wallet, but because I was learning more and more about the horrible  labor conditions in so many overseas factory.   It’s hard to find affordable “fair trade” clothes.  Since I had a sewing machine, and a bunch of clothes that I never wore, I decided to turn them into clothes I would wear.   Worst case, if it was a disaster, I’d have only lost a piece of clothing that I didn’t love wearing anyway.  So far it’s worked out well.

This month’s victims: one overpriced sundress from Express in the year 2000, two too-short skirts from Old Navy last spring, and one mid-calf length J Crew skirt from a thrift store (purchased because I knew it had potential).

Here’s the first of the three projects:  the Old Navy combo.

I purchsed the two Old Navy skirts on a whim last spring.  Caught up in the low prices, I forgot to follow my no-sweatshop rule.  After wearing them around a little, I realized that they were too short for me – it felt like my butt was hanging out.  So I decided to make the most of the situation, creating one skirt from two.

After doing some measuring, I cut off the bottom 4″ of the yellow skirt.  (It wasn’t a perfectly straight cut, so I of  course trimmed it up before moving on.)

Next I had to add that yellow strip to the gray skirt.

Here’s my trick for effectively pinning fabrics in place: Use iron-on hem tape to hold the seams together before running them through the machine.  It’s a lot more stable than just pinning, and then I don’t have to worry about pulling pins out as I sew.   Below you’ll see that I used skinny hem tape – 1/4″ wide – because I was sewing over it, I didn’t need more than that.

Here’s what it looked like after the application of both hem tape and pins:

I ran that baby through the sewing machine and voila:  a longer-but-still-fun-and-flirty casual skirt.

I can wear this around town with flip-flops and a tank on weekends, and look so much more creative than if I wore shorts or jeans.  In the spring, summer, and fall, I like to sashay around in dresses and skirts.  They’re more comfy than shorts (especially the miniscule ones that all the kids are wearing now).  Heck, I even have a paint-splattered sundress that I like to wear when doing projects!

Next up?  Using remnants from the yellow skirt to turn that overpriced Express sundress into another fun skirt.

Here’s what I did:

I cut the dress in half, giving me a nice tubular but flared “skirt” to work with:


Hmm.  The skirt definitely needs a waistband.  Enter the remanant of the yellow skirt.   I cut the elastic waistband off the yellow skirt, leaving a little extra flared  fabric below the waistband.  Because that extra fabric was flared, it would create a great little ruffle beneath the waistband.  I turned up the edges of the flared fabric, using my iron and some more hem tape to seal the hem.  Then I ran  that hem through the sewing machine for added durability.

I then sewed the yellow waistband onto the green floral skirt, getting so excited about my idea that I forgot to take pictures of the process.  Then I removed the pocket from the yellow skirt, and sewed that onto the front of the new floral skirt just to add some more fun detail.  (I used the iron-on hem tape to securely position the pocket on the fabric before running it through the sewing machine.

The result?  A very fun, whimsical, and totally unique summer skirt.

Don’t you just love the ruffle detail below the waistband?

As for the final gray J. Crew skirt – all I did was cut off a few inches and hem it. This skirt is more ideal for fall and spring, and will look excellent with boots and tights in the winter months as well.  I wish I’d done it sooner!

So that’s how I got three new skirts for just 2 hours’ work.  I love my new additions to my wardrobe!

Have you ever refashioned anything?  If not, what’s stopping you?

PS:  You can still enter the 2011 Redneck Yard of the Year contest for a chance to win a $25 Home Depot gift card!

I’m going to share this project here:   The Penny Pinching Party at The Thrifty Home;  Show and Tell at Blue Cricket Design;  We Did It Wednesday at Sew Much Ado;   What’s Up Wednesdays at Sew Woodsy;  Whatever Goes Wednesday at Someday Crafts.



Easy Pet Hair Removal Trick

Let it be known:  I love my pets, but I absolutely can’t stand the fur that they shed in their wake.  And because I love mutts, I’ll most likely never have a fur-free household, so I ‘m always on the hunt for little tricks to help me deal.

When it comes to removing fur from carpets and furniture, we love our Bissel vacuum, because it has a handy mini-rotating brush that grabs all the fur.  However, I sometimes want to just remove hair from a chair without going to the effort of retrieving the vacuum, turning it on, and turning my older dog to a trembling, terrified nervous wreck.

My cats seem to have a thing for the chair in my studio.    Unfortunately for them, it’s my cozy spot, the place I go to curl up and snag a few moments of much-needed relaxation each day.  The place where I sit to watch Desperate Housewives on Monday nights (via Hulu).  Hence, it’s a quite important seat and the cats get dislocated from it often.

Easy Pet Hair Removal

So what do I do when my precious chair looks like it’s grown a coat of its own?

This photo doesn’t do the fur justice. 

Enter the rubber glove, a fur-fighter’s best friend.

Rubber glove?  Yep.  Here’s how you do it:

1.  Put on a rubber glove.

2.  Run your hand over the furniture, only going in one direction.   The fur will start to ball up.

3.  Repeat until all the fur has balled up and fallen off.  (This only takes a minute or so.)

4.  Pick up the clumps of hair and throw them out.

5.  If you’re not feeling too lazy, put the glove away.

This is really what it looked like after I was done “gloving” it.

6.  Grab a drink, play a movie on Netflix, and sink down into your hair-free chair  saying   “ahhhh.”

This works way better than any lint roller or other store-bought fur-removal gadget I’ve ever tried. Unfortunately the glove doesn’t take the purplish tint out of my supposedly-brown chair.  But that’s a topic for another day.  PSST:  Don’t forget to enter our 2011 Redneck Yard of the Year contest!

Do you have any fur-fighting tricks you’d like to share?

PSST:  Don’t forget to enter our 2011 Redneck Yard of the Year contest!