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    Hey there! I'm Amanda and I'll be your co-pilot today. Along with my handy husband, Ben, we're remodeling our second house. We're avid DIY-ers, tackling large and small projects while raising two rambunctious boys. Thanks for following along on this wild journey!
    Photo by Jana Graham Photography

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    Door boxes + crayons + being on the newly covered deck = hours of entertainment for 2 little boys. One is drawing favorite foods while the other recreates the neighborhood. I love their style. Detail of a dresser I'm updating for a friend. She's a looker now, and the hardware is smiling. I think everyone's happy with the changes. What's the vote on this guy? Hot or not?

My Good Friend

I’m not sure about your house, but we have hard water, which leaves hard water spots that are especially noticeable on our stainless steel.  If the water gets wiped up right away, we don’t have problems, but of course, we actually live in our house so that doesn’t always happen.  Unfortunately, it leaves our sink area looking like this:

Stainless-Steel-Sink-Before-Bon-Ami-Cleaning

I know, it’s not completely awful, but my OCD side disagrees and I needed something that would work.  After discovering how awesome these cleaning wipes worked on our appliances, I thought I’d rest easy.  Cue the sad sound effects, because the wipes did work, but only until we wiped the sink with a wet rag and the spots showed up again.  I headed back to the store to see what else I could find, and that’s when I met my good friend, Bon Ami.

Bon-Ami-Cleaner-for-Stainless-Steel

It’s about two dollars and basically powdered rocks, so it gently polishes the surface.  A damp sponge with a little sprinkle, followed up by a wet cloth to remove the residue, then a drying session does the trick for small areas like faucets.

Bon-Ami-Residue-on-Faucet

 

Always go with the grain of stainless to avoid scratching, but it’s amazing and thrilling how shiny the stainless looks after.

Stainless-Steel-Sink-After-Bon-Ami-Cleaning

What I really needed this for is our stainless steel shower pan.  As much as we love it, the water does spot like crazy.

Stainless-Steel-Shower-Pan-Before-Bon-Ami-Cleaning

See what I mean?

Stainless-Steel-Shower-Pan-Before-Detail-Bon-Ami-Cleaning

Finally, I’ve figured out a way to fight back, without using harsh, smelly chemicals.  To get a good clean, I generously sprinkle the base with the powder, then scrub, scrub, and scrub some more before rinsing and drying.

Stainless-Steel-Shower-Pan-After-Bon-Ami-Cleaning

This was after a light scrubbing, which removes the droplets, but a more intense scrub gets the drain lines sparkly, too.

Stainless-Steel-Shower-Pan-After-Detail-Bon-Ami-Cleaning

Not only does it work well on stainless, porcelain and enamel can get spiffed up.  Our old cast iron tub had a rust streak from the faucet, which came off with a good scrub.  Just thought this might be useful if you’re an OCD crazy and are prepping for guests this holiday weekend.

Shelfie

Take a look at this picture of the guest room headboard and bookshelves:

Now look at the current version:

Guest-Room-Upholstered-Headboard-and-Bookshelves

Despite having even more books, does it feel calmer, more natural?  I hope it does, because that was my goal.  I started by donating the few books I had read and didn’t like/wouldn’t recommend.  Followed up by brutally eliminating every accessory/knick knack/tchotchke I didn’t absolutely love.  I think only five things made the cut.  Then, one shelf at a time, I pulled everything off to dust.

Being OCD, I have always separated my books into fiction and non-fiction groups main groups.  Then sub categories for history, biographies, science, etc. and finally in rainbow order.  Red books marked the beginning of a new group, making quick work of finding different categories.  Even in my old office:

Current_Office_Bookshelves_Small

Through the years, my system hasn’t changed.  But recently while at the school, I saw filled library cart, spines all facing up.  Spines facing up.  Duh, why haven’t I added that element to my system?  Wanting a calmer color palette, it offers all the benefits of the controversial turning the spines to the wall trick, but, on lower shelves, books are still easy to find.  Only snag is our floor to ceiling shelving, leaving the upper two shelves out of view.  To keep these shelves as neutral as possible, I pulled out the white, black, gray, and tan books.  These got a home on the top shelves, spines facing out for easy finding.

Guest-Room-Bookshelf-Top-Detail

Remaining lower shelves are all nestled in, spines up and easily seen from above.

Guest-Room-Bookshelf-Left-Side-Overall

Occasionally, I placed a stack of books to break things up and create a pedestal for decorative items.  Like this engraved silver cup turned fake succulent planter.

Guest-Room-Bookshelf-Left-Detail

In addition to creating less visual clutter, flipping the books had another benefit.  I was able to add three more shelves to the mix due to the shorter height.  I have my fair share of books, so keeping everything together, tidy, and organized is my preference.

Guest-Room-Bookshelf-Right-Detail

Bed height shelves also serve as built-in night stands, complete with an outlet on each side.

Guest-Room-Bookshelf-Left-Side-Detail-2

For best function, I tried to keep each of those relatively clear, without having an entirely empty shelf.

Guest-Room-Bookshelf-Right-Side-Overall

Over the past year, I’ve made a conscious effort to bring in and keep only accessories I love.  More and more, I’m drawn to natural elements and pieces.  A few really cool driftwood pieces are on simple display above the bed.

Guest-Room-Driftwood-Display-as-Art

Maybe having two hunter/gatherer boys has affected me.  Collections of wood, rocks, feathers, antlers, shells, and even a few skulls have made their way inside.  Each one has a memory or a story, unlike trendy store-bought piece I’m almost guaranteed to grow tired of.  Mixing those nature finds in adds a lot of character without costing a dime.

Guest-Room-Driftwood-Display-Shelf

Everything in nature is the perfect color, too.  Nothing insanely bright or neon, simply beautiful.  So I’ve happily been leaning on nature for the answers to my decoration conundrums.  Have you seen any noticeable shifts in your decor preferences?

Produce Cart

In addition to the new knife block, I’ve been working on organizing the rest of the kitchen.  It’s a great way to keep busy, while indulging my crazy.  Initially, I planned to have an under shelf mounted basket in the pantry, to store potatoes and extra fruit.  Because, well, Costco quantities.  Something similar to the baskets in the pantry below.

The problem with that is two-fold.  Finding the right mounting system is tricky.  Secondly, a secured basket would block the inside corner, making it useless.  Due to stubbornness, I didn’t let the issue go and searched for a better solution.  One night, as I couldn’t fall asleep, the perfect idea came to me.  Lightbulb-a wooden crate on casters!  I dug around our scrap bin, but didn’t see enough of any one thing.  Michael’s carries wooden crates, and the measurements were perfect.  Even easier than building a custom box.  For easier moving, I bought four fixed casters at Home Depot to attach to the base.

The base material is about 3/8 inch thick, so I used a combo of screws.  On the outer edge, along the 3/4 inch front piece, I used 1 inch screws.  Along the inside, shorter 1/2 inch screws to avoid going through the base.  Adding a quarter-inch thick block would also fix the problem, but I didn’t want to add height.

Casters-on-Produce-Crate

Swivel casters could work just as well, but fixed wheels made it easier to pull out and push in without hitting the sides.  Instead, the box smoothly slides straight in and out.

Produce-Crate-in-Pantry

Inside, we store potatoes, oranges, and other room temperature produce.  Having gaps between strips allows adequate ventilation, keeping the contents fresh longer.

Produce-Crate-Pulled-Out

This system would work well for other heavy items, keeping contained, but easily accessible.  Not only in a pantry, but think of closets for shoes, toys, or sports gear.  Endless options, but super easy to get done.

Pantry Party

Before remodeling the kitchen, the cabinet arrangement had a lot of wasted space.

Kitchen-Floor-Plans-Current

Either too specific for a use, like a full bay of vertical dividers.

Divider-Cabinet-in-Kitchen

Or the polar opposite with a big, blank cabinet.

Corner-Cabinet-in-Kitchen

At any rate, we knew lower drawers would help most problems.  But corners are especially awkward and usually wasted.  Knowing we wanted to remove the wall between the kitchen and dining room, we’d need to move the pantry.  Living with every non-perishable item on the opposite side of the cook/prep area got old very quickly.

Kitchen-Floor-Plans-New-Details

With that in mind, keeping the pantry on the business side of the kitchen was a must.  Hence the corner pantry.  At 52 inches wide by 8 feet tall, we should have plenty of space to store dry goods.  As listed in the original floor plan, we opted for a sliding door to eliminate an awkward door swing.  After talking to several people, we decided not to use a pocket door kit.  If the door comes off the track or needs to be replaced, it’s impossible.  Instead, we went a similar, more user-friendly route with a bypass sliding door kit.

Unfinished-Pantry-Door-System-Inside

Often used in closets, the track has two sides and roller wheels.  Ben built a standard header, secured the track and covered the front with an MDF panel.  Above, as seen from inside, without the door.  Below, from the outside.

Unfinished-Pantry-Sliding-Door-System

In our case, the door opening is wider than the oven cabinet leaving the last few inches of door visible when completely open.  I worried the 24 inch opening would be too small, but it allows easy access to everyday items.

Unfinished-Pantry-Shelves-Added

Shelves are 18 inches deep, extending into the corner.  We plan to keep extra supplies here, to grab when we need to refill.

Unfinished-Pantry-Shelves-in-Back

Also, we’ve decided to keep the microwave in the pantry.  This allows easier access and a shorter distance of carrying hot items.

Unfinished-Pantry-Door-Open

Which also frees up space in the smaller cabinet, allowing a full drawer set.  I still plan to keep coffee supplies and extra serving platters over here.

Kitchen-to-Dining-Blank-Wall-Cabinet-Sizing

Now that everything has been cut and fits, we can take everything back out to paint.  I’m oddly liking the wood door though.  I’m undecided if I should paint or seal it.  Thoughts?

Unfinished-Pantry-Door-Closed

Open:

Unfinished-Pantry-Door-Open-Toward-Ovens

Closed.

Unfinished-Pantry-Door-Closed-Toward-Ovens

Once I’ve painted the inside of the pantry, we’ll set the shelves again and add trim to the fronts to cover the braces.

Unfinished-Pantry-Shelves

It’ll also give us a lip to hide under cabinet light behind to help illuminate the shelves.

Update:  Due to a few emails and comments, here’s a shot of the far end of the pantry:

Unfinished-Pantry-Shelf-Space-Between-Door

The overall depth of the pantry is 25.5 inches from the back wall to the inside of the door.  With 18 inch deep shelves, that leaves 7.5 inches between the shelf front and the inside of the door.  By making the shelves narrower than the full depth, we won’t have to worry about things getting in the way of the door slide.  It’ll also make reaching in the back area easier.  We’ll probably keep a broom in here too.

While I’m updating, I thought I’d include a shot of the closed door against the fridge.  

Unfinished-Pantry-Set-Back-from-Fridge

After settling on a sliding door, we agreed we didn’t want the header flush with the front of the fridge cabinet.  Mostly to add some interest to the wall, but also because the door itself would sit 3/4 of an inch back from the front. 

Once that’s done, we can start organizing.  We shop at Costco, which means we have produce for days.  Getting bowls off the counter would be really nice.

I love the function of roll out wire baskets, which can allow ventilation and easy access.  I’ve yet to pin down exactly which ones, but here are a few I’m considering.

 

This one is actually a hamper, but the depth would maximize space.  Perfect for storing bags of cereal and chips.

Putting the corner to use and not having to walk around the island for everything is a game changer.  Time for me to start painting so we can load it up!

Lego My Legos

How about a riddle?  What is small, has sharp edges, hurts when stepped on, but kids love to play with?  I suppose many toys fall into this category, but around our house, the answer is Legos.  Always Legos.  In the past year or so, both boys have jumped on the Lego train, much like the Dauntless from Divergent.  Can’t say I blame them.  Legos encourage creativity and keep kids entertained for hours.  Now that we’ve established a storage and organization system, we’re all happy.

A quick internet search will show hundreds of Lego storage systems: sorted by color, size, etc., but this is what works for us.  It’s super involved and highly advanced.  Be warned.

One drawer in the entertainment center holds all things Lego.  Four shoe sized plastic bins hold extra pieces as well as built kits.

Lego-Organization-in-DrawerSeparating smaller pieces and minifigs into clear lidded plastic containers has saved us all much hassle.  I found these in the Target dollar spot last year.  More often than not, the big bin of Legos got dumped and spread all over the floor to find a specific piece.  For the boys, this was annoying to have to dig through the pile.  I was sick of having a mess on my floor, stepping on tiny daggers.

Lego-Organization-Clear-Containers

Want Kai, he’s right there, with the rest of the Nijago crew.  Probably battling neighboring Nindroids while we’re asleep.

Lego-Organization-Minifig-Detail

Need a connector piece?  Check in the connector compartment.  To further organize small pieces, I separated into four groups.  Connectors, single small pieces, single and special double bricks, and minifig accessories.

Lego-Organization-Parts-Detail

Instruction booklets are kept in reach in a metal tin.  Close by, but not in with the rest to get lost or pages pulled out.

Lego-Organization-Instruction-Books

I think it would be cute to get one larger clear container to display stored guys, standing upright.

They can keep it in their room, but when they’re not playing, they can see their collection.  If (more likely, when) their collection grows, further organizing smaller parts in a hinged divider box could work really well, too.

Along with the large coffee table for building, this simple system has made Lego life more enjoyable.  Most importantly, this sorting makes sense to the boys.

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