IKEA Hack 2: Besta Built-In Family Room TV Bookshelf

We love our latest IKEA built-in hack in the great room! (See the built-in IKEA Besta/Pax hack in the living room we finished a year before.) In the great room, we’d had a dark IKEA shelving unit on the TV wall. We decided to replace that shelving unit with a full wall of built-in shelves with lower cabinets, using IKEA Besta shelves, with a few creative touches thrown in. “We” (loosely used; here, meaning 95% Chris, 5% Shirley) probably spent a few hours a day for the better part of a week on this project.

Here’s the result:

 

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Powering Our Home With Solar Panels

We recently had solar panels installed on our home by Real Goods Solar in March of this year. This post describes some of the process and analysis that went into the decision, the installation and tracking the results.

Background 

We are a pretty green family and try to minimize our impact on the environment.  Chris has been very interested in energy use and the environment for a long time (including majoring in this subject in college and grad school and is currently working in the field).

Solar electricity produces no air pollutants or greenhouse gas emissions during operation (there is some energy and pollution generated when the panels are made, but that is typically offset in a year or two).  It also produces electricity during times when demand is highest which helps to alleviate stress on the electric grid.  Peak electricity use in California occurs in summer afternoons, when air conditioning use is highest.  Since we don’t have air conditioning, the excess electricity that we generate during these hours helps to reduce demand during peak hours (which offsets electricity use from inefficient and polluting peaking power plants) and reduces strain on the transmission and distribution system.

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Home Improvement – Driveway and Fence

One of the big areas of our yard that needed some improvement was the driveway side of our house. The side of the house (you could maybe call it a driveway, though it’s not really wide enough to drive a car on, at least if you want to open the doors) was never really finished but was more of a overgrown weed patch that needed to be cut back every once in awhile. Plus if you look at the pictures of our neighbor’s fence, you’ll understand why we wanted to tackle this project. We hesitate to put too many “before” pictures . . .

This project was too big to tackle ourselves, so we had our contractor Mohsen come and pour a new concrete side driveway, build a new fence and lay a paver front driveway for our car.

The view on the side of the house looking towards the street.

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DIY: Built-ins using IKEA Besta shelves and Pax wardrobes

Here is our IKEA built-in shelf/closet project in our living room!! Read on to see how we got here…

Also see our latest IKEA built-in project. . .

The latest project is one that we’ve seen on HGTV and online (like here and here): to take premade bookshelves and cabinets and add molding and baseboards to make it look built-in. We especially wanted to try this on the first floor because Shirley has a lot of books and there’s not a single closet on this floor. We started with the living room, in part because we wanted some place to put the vacuum cleaner. Continue reading

Building a planter box and planting fruits and veggies

Since we moved to the new house, the yard hasn’t been in the best of shape and we haven’t been able to grow any food, like we did at our old place.  So Chris decided to build a planter box in the back yard.  After a couple of trips to Home Depot for redwood 2x6s, it was a quick job, cutting and screwing together the planter box.

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DIY – Building a Farmhouse Table and Bench

When Shirley mentioned she liked farmhouse tables, the wheels in Chris’s head started turning and he decided he would try to build one.

Research phase:

There are a number of examples online of people building some great tables online (e.g. here and here). Also there were also some great ideas of making new wood look like old, aged barnwood, which involved dissolving steel wool in vinegar and wiping the wood with a mixture of the solution and tea to “weather” the wood. This causes a reaction between the dissolved iron and the tannic acid in the wood (and the tea) to create a greyish color that mimics weathered wood.

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IKEA Kitchen Install

The next bit of work to do after the flooring installation was to assemble and install the kitchen cabinets. We had purchased them from IKEA.  The previous kitchen we removed already had a range hood vent exhaust through the wall so Chris designed the kichen around that range hood location.  IKEA kitchens are very modular so we could find the right cabinets and pieces to fit perfectly into the space.  We went with the Tidaholm style doors (which look most like shaker style cabinets, which we like).  Our plan is to paint them at some point in the future.  We also got the Farmhouse (Domjso double bowl) sink.

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New House: Installing Bamboo Flooring

We just bought a new place in Albany (closed at the end of September). There’s a lot of work that needs to be done in the place, but the main things to do before we can move in are painting, new flooring on the first floor and a new kitchen.

We hired some painters to do the painting. Chris wanted to do the flooring so we bought 53 boxes of strand bamboo flooring (super durable)  from Lumber Liquidators (at 50 lbs each, Chris had to carry each box into the house) and rented a floor nailer from the tool/party rental place.

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