How to build simple closet shelves

When I first asked everyone’s advice on what we should do in our mudroom makeover, the most frequent suggestion was to pull off the closet doors and make built-in storage with a bench, cubbies, shelves and hooks. While I love that look, I knew I needed places to put things more than I needed to be able to sit down. The biggest improvement I could make to how the mudroom functioned was to build more storage in the closet.

As you saw in the reveal, I split the closet in half, putting floor to ceiling shelves at one end and a single shelf over top of a hanging rod at the other.

Closet storage

To build these simple shelves, I went with my go-to shelving material: white melamine. It may not be the fanciest, but this stuff is easy. It comes in 12-inch or 16-inch widths (I chose the 16) and 8 foot lengths. One long edge is pre-finished. There is no painting (although you can), no sanding, no special tools.

To support the shelves, I screwed 1x2s (which I did paint) into the wall studs with 3 inch screws. The shelves simply sit on top.

White melamine shelving on 1x2s

For the top shelf, I used 1×3 as I wanted a wider board to attach the rod.

How to attach a closet rod

The divider in the middle is a piece of melamine run vertically. There was a cut-out in the ceramic tile floor for some long-ago shelving system, so I filled that with a 2×4 and cut a channel to hold the melamine in place.

Supporting a closet divider

The melamine comes in 8 foot lengths, so for my 9 1/2 foot closet, I had to splice a few of the shelves. My technique was to tack a piece of melamine underneath. It’s perhaps not the most attractive solution, but tucked inside the mudroom closet I wasn’t super concerned about appearances. It’s sturdy and will easily hold a golf ball collection or anything else you want to put on it.

Joining melamine shelves together

The sturdiness of melamine is its best feature in my opinion. As long as it’s properly supported, it can hold a decent amount of weight and won’t sag. To prevent any droopiness, it’s important to put the 1×2 supports along all three sides of the shelf, not just at either end.

I know there are much more attractive storage systems out there, but, for a behind closed doors solution, this simple set up of melamine and 1x2s works for us. Even better, it’s completely custom and accommodates exactly what we need.

How do you handle closet organization? Has anyone else built a custom storage system? Any other melamine fans out there?

We’re gonna need a bigger rug

The famous line of “you’re gonna need a bigger boat” was uttered in reference to a murderous shark. Obviously, the mud and dirt outside our front door is less threatening than a very large fish. However, protecting the house from Mother Nature’s ongoing assault is a no less of a battle.

Most of the year, two mats at either door in the mudroom are sufficient for containing the dirt that comes in on our boots. However, in the winter, when the mud and the wet increase, a bigger rug was required.

I needed something durable that would trap lots of dirt. And it had to be cheap, of course.

Growing up, we always had a cocoa mat at the front door. And I always hated it. It was scratchy and ugly, in my naive child’s opinion. However, it worked, and when we moved into the farm last year, it was only a few weeks before I went out and bought one of my own.

Now that I needed a bigger rug, I decided cocoa was the way to go. Rona sells cocoa mat by the linear foot, so I decided to buy two strips and make my own rug with the help of some duct tape.

I “tacked” the seam every foot or so with a short piece of tape making sure to keep the two runners tight and even. Then I went over the join with a single strip of tape. My helper carefully checked everything.

Seaming a rug with duct tape

I cut the rug to the exact length using a drywall square to get a perfect straight edge.

Cutting a rug using a drywall square

The finished rug is 52 inches wide by 9 1/2 feet long. The seam is mostly invisible.

Homemade cocoa mat is a mudroom

It probably won’t keep sharks at bay, but so far it’s doing a good job of handling the dirt that keeps trying to invade the house.

Have you ever made your own rug? Are you on the like or dislike side of cocoa mat? How do you handle floor covering at your entryway?

Beautiful beat up bench

You may have thought that after a full week of posts we were done with the mudroom. No way! It’s my first finished room. I’m going to savour this for awhile yet.

To start, I’m sharing my favourite project, my beautiful beat up rustic wood bench.

Rustic wood bench in a mudroom

I love this bench.

My nephew Nicholas and I designed it, built it and stained it. It’s made out of one single plank that I found in the barn. I looked for the most beat up piece of wood I could find. It’s full of knots, splits and gouges. We sanded and sanded the bench so that it was smooth enough to sit on, but made sure all of the “defects” still showed through. Unfortunately, when it came to staining the bench, the wood was so thirsty that it sucked up every single drop of stain (Minwax Provincial), so the bench came out much, much darker than we expected. Some of the knots and gnarls aren’t as obvious now because of the dark tone, but I still think it has good character.

Knot hole in a rustic wooden bench

We designed the bench to some very specific requirements. We wanted the legs to be wide enough that we could put two trays of boots and shoes underneath. The seat had to be a comfortable height for sitting and also high enough that Matt’s tall boots would easily fit underneath. And we wanted it to be relatively slim so that it didn’t take up too much space in the room.

Rustic wooden bench

My nephew and I went back and forth on the design of the legs and finally settled on a simple upside down V cutout. I used my Kreg jig to attach the legs to the bench top. This was the first project that I used the Kreg for, and I quickly learned that the Kreg is built for standard modern day lumber. This plank was milled back when 2x4s were actually 2 inches by 4 inches, so it’s fatter than today’s lumber. We made the jig work, but it was a tight squeeze in a few spots.

It’s a very simple rustic wood bench that’s perfect in a country house. I’ve dubbed it the “Nicholas” after my design sidekick. If you want your own Nicholas, you can’t have the nephew, but you can have the bench. Click here for the plans.

Who else has a construction sidekick? Have you ever designed and built your own custom piece of furniture? Are there any other Kreg fans out there? Who else has stained a “thirsty” piece of wood? Are you a fan of the “distressed” look of beat up lumber?

Mudroom reveal

This post has been a long time coming, and I’m not meaning just this week. Fixing up the mudroom was on the fall to do list last year. I started the project but never quite finished it. However, I am now declaring the mudroom done, and today is the day for the reveal–the first room reveal on the blog.

Aren’t you just so excited?

I know I am!

Just a reminder, here’s where we started.

Mudroom before

And here’s where we are today.

Simple bright country mudroom


As I said at the beginning of the week, this was a cheap and cheerful update, so paint was the most important weapon in my arsenal. I took down the hooks on the walls and the old shelving in the closet, stripped the pinwheel wallpaper, patched the drywall and spread nice fresh paint over all of the walls–simple white primer in the closet, Wythe Blue on the walls and Cloud White on the trim.

Painting the trim was the biggest delay on this project. I just could not motivate myself to do it, so the mudroom sat with blue walls and flesh trim all through the winter and spring. However, when we were trying to convince Baxter to spend time in the outdoor dog run, the mudroom proved to be a good place to hang out. I could listen for barking or whining to assess how he was doing, and I could see when he escaped… all while painting trim.

Along with addressing form, I also had to address function, which mostly meant the closet. I decided to split the closet in half, allocating one part for hanging some of our outdoor gear and storing taller items and at the other end adding floor to ceiling shelves for everything from shoes to cat treats to dog toys to work gloves to sport equipment.

Closet storage

I reused the two sets of hooks from the old mudroom, installing the wire one in the cupboard and removing the three wrought iron hooks from their backing board and hanging them vertically to handle leashes, the towel we use to wipe Baxter’s feet before he comes in the house and our ever-so-handy shoe horn.

This ridiculous woman made me climb up on this bench when everyone knows dogs are not allowed on the furniture. I'll just stare at my leash and think happy thoughts until she's finished with that clicky thing. #pleasesendhelp

This ridiculous woman made me climb up on this bench when everyone knows dogs are not allowed on the furniture. I’ll just stare at my leash and think happy thoughts until she’s finished with that clicky thing. #pleasesendhelp

The bench that Baxter’s not so fond of is just about my favourite part of the makeover. It’s just a simple rustic bench, but it gives us a place to sit down and put on or our take off our shoes. Plus our most frequently worn shoes and boots tuck conveniently onto trays underneath. My Pinterest challenge umbrella stand hangs out in one corner and in the opposite a galvanized metal pail (Knodd from Ikea) holds bird seed. A large cocoa fibre mat covers the floor to trap dirt, leaves and puddles.


This is about the limit of the accessorizing I’ve done in the mudroom, unless you count rotating display of feathers, pebbles, egg shells and nests that I bring home and arrange on the window sill.

Birds nest made of grass

The mudroom is not heated, so we’re strategic about what we store out here. For example, on a freezing winter morning I can handle putting on chilly boots, but I absolutely need a warm coat. So coats live in the closet inside the house, and boots live on the tray under the bench.

The best thing about this makeover is that everything now has a place. Need a pair of safety glasses? I know exactly where they are. Hungry cats at the door? Oh look, here are some treats for them. Found a golf ball? Add it to Matt’s stash.

The second best thing about the makeover is that the first impression of our house is no longer cloaked in the smell of manure. For some reason, that’s what the mudroom smelled like when we first took possession. Yuck.

And yes, I do consider being organized more important than being not smelly.

In the category of “even better if,” I didn’t do anything to the popcorn ceiling, the boob light, or the unpainted front doors, so there could still be some work if I feel like it. For now, I don’t, and I’m not really too concerned with these leftovers.

The one thing that I really should fix is the doorbell. I managed to kill it during the makeover when I was trimming a section of drywall to prepare it for patching. (Don’t tell Matt. All he knows is the bell stopped working. He doesn’t know it’s because I accidentally cut through the wires). A wireless version would be a good fix… and prevent any future mishaps.

Overall, I’m thrilled with the mudroom, even though it doesn’t yet match my ultimate vision. This is a good interim solution. It looks nice. It works well. It was a simple update, and we didn’t have to spend a lot of money. Let’s look at it one more time, shall we?

Simple bright country mudroom

I may be a year later than planned in finishing this project, but we are finally all set for whatever mud or snow Mother Nature throws at us this winter. And I’m even more thrilled to cross one room off my to-do list.

So, what do you think of the makeover? I know a lot of people were voting for opening up the closet and putting in some built-ins. Are you on board with my interim solution? How are you getting ready for winter at your house? Who hates painting trim? Has anyone else spent a full year making over one room?

Mudroom inspiration

How many people dream of a mudroom that looks like this?

Yeah. Me too.

This was not in the cards for our mudroom update.

Some day, I plan on having this mudroom. However, that will involve demoing the current mudroom, building a front porch, relocating the front door, constructing an attached garage and converting part of the pool room to my dream mudroom–complete with heated floor and built-in cabinetry. This is a project that is somewhat, shall we say, down the road.

My current mudroom project was all about the budget challenge: make the room both functional and pretty for minimal money. That meant DIYing, reusing and lipsticking. You know, a makeover, not plastic surgery.

The first decision that I made was exactly what colour of lipstick. It might be an unconventional choice for make-up, but I knew I wanted to go blue–something like the sky outside. The mudroom is a transitional space between inside and out. It seemed appropriate to reference nature. While paint usually intensifies when it’s put on the walls, I was worried that the colour actually might appear lighter in the mudroom, given the number of windows we have. When I saw Wythe Blue on House of Turquoise, I knew I’d found my paint.

I may be more than a year late to the Wythe Blue party, given that Benjamin Moore named it colour of the year for 2012, but I finally made it.

Inspired by this entryway update from Casa de Lewis, I considered installing paneling, or board and batten, or even just a very simple plate rail.

But then I remembered that with two doors, a window and a large closet, actual wall space was pretty limited, and I decided that extra mill work wasn’t worth the effort (plus, let’s be real here, it would have upped the budget ever so slightly, and I am super cheap).

I also wanted a place to sit down and put on/take off my shoes. By that I mean, a better place than the park bench plopped in front of the closet doors. A simple rustic bench with enough space to tuck boots underneath would do nicely.

My final inspiration is for a project you’ve already seen: the umbrella stand inspired by Karen’s Country-Living-inspired basket–wow, that’s very inspirational.

My plan was to put it all together, cross my fingers and hope that when it came time for the big reveal, I had a tearjerker What Not To Wear moment and not an Extreme Makeover gone wrong.

And that will be coming up next.

What’s your favourite shade of blue paint? Have you added paneling on your walls? How do you handle seating in your entryway? Are you a What Not To Wear fan? Who remembers Extreme Makeover when it was plastic surgery?

Mudroom before

How many of you out there dream of a proper mudroom? [Both hands way up]

I have always wanted a mudroom–a place to put jackets, shoes, bags, mail, keys, boots, gloves, hats, toys, leashes and everything else that seems to live in that in-between space of outside and in.

Since moving to the farm, I’ve learned that a mudroom is a necessity. Because, you see, there’s mud.

Mud with a tire track, a boot print, and a puddle

A transitional space where the mud (and leaves, grass, gravel, dirt and all of the bits that surround us) can stay is essential. Sure some of mother nature still ends up in the house, but sometimes she stops in the mudroom to look around first.

Mud smeared on a tile floor

Fortunately, our house came with a mudroom. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite match up to the vision in my head.

Here are the befores, starting with a not-at-all-weird panoramic image composed of three pictures. At this point, I’d added a mat in front of the door and some boot trays in an attempt to corral some of the dirt. The bench was supposed to give people a place to sit down and take off their shoes. The fact that it was placed in front of the closet was only slightly inconvenient.

Mudroom before

The good feature was that it was a big room (9 1/2 feet by 9 feet) with lots of natural light.

There was lots of space in the closet (if only we could access it) although the storage wasn’t as functional as it could have been. At the one end, the shelving was held up with the metal posts people normally use to stake trees. Of course, they were rusted.

Falling apart wire shelving in a closet

The not so good features were that it was all the same flesh tone. And that flesh tone was made up of lots of different textures.

There was the painted anaglypta wallpaper on the closet doors, the pinwheel wallpaper on most of the walls, the painted brick where the addition tied into the original house and to top it all off the popcorn ceiling.

Mudroom issues

This definitely was not the first impression I wanted to give when people came to my house. And it’s not the first thing I wanted to see when I came home at night.

Stick around, and I’ll show you what I did to fix it.

But first, I want to hear from you. What’s your favourite feature of the original mudroom? What would you do to fix it? Do you have a mudroom? What is absolutely essential in your dream mudroom?

DIY doldrums

I’m in an uncomfortable stage right now. I have unfinished projects staring at me from all over, and I’m not liking what I see.

Usually, I try to be a one project kind of woman.

However, I currently have a mudroom that’s half-way through a makeover, a new feature in the kitchen that’s spawned other updates (mysterious, I know. I’ll have lots of posts soon), some outstanding finishing touches around the basement and the beginnings of a spring to-do list.

In the mudroom, the sticking point is the trim. We’ve stripped the wallpaper, patched holes, painted the walls, installed new baseboard, made an umbrella stand, built a bench, hung some hooks and fit out the closet with new shelving.

The baseboard is fully painted, but the window trim has just one coat and the trim around both doors and the closet is still the lovely flesh tone.

Mudroom painted Wythe Blue by Benjamin Moore

Trim painting is slow and tedious, and not my favourite way to spend my time. Some of the more appealing jobs that are also on the mudroom to-do list are refinishing the closet doors and staining the bench.

The basement bathroom is some trim (seems to be a theme), a drawer and a single hinge away from being finished. I bought the trim and the drawer guides–both for the built-in storage unit–at least a month ago. I hung the cabinet door on the built-in also about a month ago, but couldn’t get the hinges aligned properly, so it hasn’t swung smoothly in all this time.

Built in bathroom shelving

Building a drawer, painting and installing the trim and trying a new hinge would probably take less than one day. For a little amount of time, the satisfaction of finally crossing one room completely off the to-do list would be large.

In the rest of the basement, I’d really like to branch out beyond the TV area and begin to furnish and decorate the other rooms. These bigger to-dos are accompanied by smaller ones like fixing a shelf in the front hall closet and repairing the window screens (remember this one from the fall to-do list?) so they’re ready to install as soon as warm weather arrives. Oh, and then there are the mysterious kitchen fixes.

Fortunately this weekend, I have not just one day, not just two, but four thanks to the Easter holiday. I have grand ambitions for the next four days.

What are your plans for your weekend? Is it all about chocolates and family dinners, or do you have a project list too? Happy Easter, everyone, whatever you get up to.

Umbrella-ella-ella, the country version

I finally took up the challenge, all in the hopes of resolving a challenging situation that has plagued me for years.

I’m speaking of course of the Pinterest Challenge and umbrella storage–life changing, I know.

Pinterest Challenge

The idea behind the Pinterest Challenge is, in the words of Sherry from Young House Love, to “stop pinning and start doing.”

My (p)inspiration was Karen’s Country Living-inspired basket. Karen posted a great tutorial on her blog, The Art of Doing Stuff, back in the summer that I pinned right away with exactly this project in mind.

I used a few different materials (no peach basket) and changed up the assembly a little bit, but the end result is the same–a rustic, stylish and super functional basket. Perfect for wrangling all of our unruly umbrellas.

Rustic DIY umbrella stand

Here is the cast of characters:

Tools and materials for building a rustic umbrella stand

The materials: sturdy wooden board, wire mesh, veneer, wire and wood strips. The tools: sander, jigsaw, staple gun, snips, tape measure. Absent from this shot is a sharp utility knife, a metal ruler or straight-edge of some kind and a glue gun.

I chose a sturdy piece of wood for the base, as I wanted the stand to have some weight so that it would not tip over once it was full of umbrellas. Instead of a peach basket, I used a roll of veneer. The strips are the spacers that are used in big skids of lumber.

That woman in a business suit and heels you saw last week at Home Depot crawling around, stretching to reach under the stacks of lumber? Yeah, that was me. It’s hard to find strips that are long enough as most of them get snapped as people go through the piles, but they were the perfect rough texture for my basket, and best of all they were free.

First step was to make the base. I used a plate as my pattern and cut the circle with my jigsaw.

Cutting the circular base with the jigsaw

A few passes with my sander smoothed out the edges and took off the weathered grey outer layer–I wanted a natural wood finish for my basket.

Removing a weathered finish from wood with a sander

I rolled the base in the wire to figure out how long to cut the mesh–very scientific measuring method, I know–and nipped it across with my snips.

Cutting wire mesh with snips

To form the mesh into a cylinder, Karen showed two options in her post: green wire and twine. I chose a fine silver wire that I already had on hand and wound it through each square. It blends in with the mesh perfectly. To deal with the springiness of the mesh, it’s helpful to “tack” it in a few spots with small lengths of wire.

Wiring mesh together into a cylinder

My wire tube was pretty good looking, but to make it a functional umbrella stand, it needed a base. I slid the wood disc into the mesh, lined it up along one of the rows of wire and stapled it in place.

Stapling wire mesh to a wooden base

Now for the finishing touches. To cover up the staples, the raw edge of the base and the end of the mesh, I went to my roll of veneer. The veneer was about 6 inches wide, but I only needed strips that were 1 1/2 inches. This is where a good straight-edge and a sharp knife came in handy. I measured off my strips and then scored the veneer along the edge of my ruler.

Cutting veneer with a ruler and utility knife

The veneer was very thin, so the knife cut through it easily. The only challenge was that the knife wanted to follow the grain of the wood rather than the straight edge, so I had to make sure to keep the knife snug to the side of the ruler as I was cutting.

I had planned to tack the veneer to the basket with a couple of staples or small nails–I figured those would be in keeping with the rustic aesthetic I was going for. It turned out though that the veneer was pretty fragile. It cracked as soon as it was pierced. I returned to Karen’s tutorial and decided a glue gun was the way to go.

However, out of all of the tools that I own, a glue gun was not one of them, so the project was delayed until I could borrow a glue gun from my Mom. Turns out she had an extra from my grandmother that now belongs to me. Who knew Grandma was so crafty?

A bunch of daubs of glue around the base attached the veneer to the bottom of the stand. At the top, I sandwiched the mesh between two more strips of veneer and stuck them together with more glue. My edge turned out fairly tidy, so I didn’t apply twine like Karen did.

A couple quick nips with my jigsaw cut two of the lumber yard strips to the right length, and four more daubs of glue had them attached to my basket.

Using a glue gun to stick wood to wire mesh

Sorry for the poor image quality. The sun had set by the time I got to the glue gun stage.

I had forgotten how easy it is to work with a glue gun. It held all of the wood in place really securely and the glue set up really quickly. In no time, I was able to transfer my finished basket to the mudroom and fill it with umbrellas.

Rustic wood and wire mesh umbrella stand

We do not do cute shiny rubber boots here. They started out cute and colourful, but they are now very muddy.

The basket is perfect. Exactly the right rustic style, and exactly the right size (9 inches in diameter and 25 1/2 inches high, in case anyone is wondering). It easily fits our four umbrellas and could probably handle a couple more. I am quite excited to finally have a place to put them and to no longer have to deal with them flopping out of the closet at me. In fact, every time I walk past the mudroom now, I switch on the light just to look my new umbrella stand sitting tidily in the corner. Yep, I’m a little weird.

Now we just have to finish off the rest of the mudroom. We painted the walls on the weekend, but I still need to tackle the trim (currently painted a flesh-tone, ugh), fit out the closet, refinish the closet doors and build a bench. Right now, the umbrella stand is the best thing in there!

Are there any other Pinterest addicts out there? You can see all of my boards, including the mudroom one, here. Have you been inspired to make anything from Pinterest or participated in the Pinterest Challenge? You can check out all of the projects on Sherry’s, Katie’sMegan’s and Michelle’s blogs. Anyone else have a crafty grandma–or are you a crafty grandma yourself? Does anyone else find umbrellas hard to store?