DIY: Building a New Home for my Shoes

Those of you who know a bit about us know we used to operate a bed and breakfast. The one thing you have lots of when you close your b&b is space. We went from living in ONE bedroom in a 9-bedroom house to having all those rooms to ourselves. All those rooms to fill with junk! Yes, it’s a hoarder’s paradise. . .

Anyhow, back when the house was converted into a b&b all but 4 closets were changed into bathrooms. The result is a bathroom-rich, closet-poor house. My shoes were spread through the entire house, crammed in various closets. They weren’t happy.

Last year I decided to take a room we’d been using as a sitting room–which had become more of a dust-gathering room–and convert it into a dressing room. Yes, a real-live dressing room. Just like in those historical romance novels I enjoy so much. . .

I have FINALLY finished everything and taken pictures. But first, here is a little about the torturous process.

Here are a couple before pictures of the sitting room, which has its own bathroom and wet bar (yeeeeessssss, that means my dressing room has its own wet bar!!):


And here is another, taken from the other direction. That arched doorway leads to our bedroom. That cow scull on the wall is genuine, certified, organic longhorn. Seriously. Unfortunately I had no wall space to accommodate it in the new Shoe Palace.

CWI 077

Once I took everything out of it (almost–see how those boxes of shoes have already sneaked in to check out their new home?) it looked like this:


I knew I didn’t want California Closets closets for two reasons: one, they wouldn’t fit the character of the adobe and viga construction and two, I couldn’t afford them. I decided I wanted something more rustic and rugged, so I settled on plumbing piping, which I’d seen used in a swanky too-cool clothing shop on my last visit to Toronto.

As usual, I’m kind of lousy with photographing every step. But the process is actually pretty straight forward. Decide on the size of unit you want and measure and then buy a whole pile of metal pipes, elbows, three-ways, and flanges for connecting the unit. The only tricky part (okay, so it turns out there is a SECOND tricky part, but I’ll get to that below) is accounting for the threads on each piece to make sure you end up with what you measured. That was a bit trial and error and many harsh words were spoken by me, to myself, because I had nobody else to blame.

Anyhow, I spray painted the pieces separately and then screwed them all together and spray painted them again. In the middle of all this it rained several times. Here is a picture I took after having to hustle everything back into the house when it rained, drag it back out afterward, and spray it again:


So, that’s a pretty eyeball-boggling photo, but you get the gist.

The second thing I hadn’t counted on was the irregular surface on the adobe walls and ceiling, none of which are flush or straight (part of the joy of adobe). This meant that each and every segment was a bit different and I had only measured in one place for each unit. Whoops! The good news is that plumbing pipes come in so many pieces and sizes! Yes, I just purchased a few 1/2 and 1/4 sections, spray painted and screwed those puppies on, and everything worked out just fine. The large pieces–the 4 and 5 foot hanging sections–I had cut at the lumber yard.

Here are a few pictures of experiments with different segments. You’ll notice, in the final picture, that some of the sections didn’t make the final cut. I realized that putting built-ins on small sections of wall wasn’t very economical. (For example, the picture below.) Luckily, I just propped up the pipe and used some scrap lumber for shelving to check this out before I actually screwed anything down.


Here is the work in progress. See how tidy I am?


And now for the fun pictures:


Yes! A sitting area to sip cocktails or tea!


And, finally. . . the Wall of Shoes:




Part II of This Old Adobe House…the Stairs…

Several months back I began a post about the floor we removed between our first and second floor. The floor was built over a circular staircase over twenty years ago when the house was converted into a bed and breakfast. When we decided to convert the Cottonwood Inn back into a house we removed the floor.

Removing the floor left a “hanging” door to a deck which was accessible only from the second floor. We needed a solution. I spoke to an architect and a master carpenter but neither could come up with a solution to the problem.

Enter: Mom.

Yes, my mother. She was a general contractor for several years and enjoys engaging in architectural projects for fun.

So, here is an image showing where we were at the point the floor was removed:


And here is a photo of the stairs from the bottom…

The hidden staircase beneath the floor

This was closed off and used as a storage closet. The stairs are quite lovely and massive. 52 inches wide by 10×22 pie shaped wedges.

Here is a picture of the stairs after I  opened the doorway from 32 inches to 52 inches and then rebuilt the frame using lath and plaster (my first experience in working with lath).

Finished stairs.jpg

And, here we are constructing our new set of steps to the “hanging door.” That is Eva standing beside the project, keeping an eye on my work…


Yes, those are magic markers laying on the step. We only use professional grade products on all our jobs.


Mom supervising me to make sure everything goes together okay.

Here are the steps once I’ve made a heavy plywood platform for the top. I used scrap lumber for the sides–tongue and groove pieces left over from my pine flooring project.


You can see that I have begun to attach metal lath to the sides in prep for the plastering. This is not fun stuff to work with and it really tears up even the heaviest gloves.

A closer picture picture:


I wish I had taken pictures of the plastering process, but there was just mud and water everywhere. That was unfortunate because I had already stained and polished the steps with Minwax and had to do it all again after!

Anyhow, here it is as of now.


And another from the bottom looking up:


So, there it is.

On order are custom-made wrought iron railings for the platform.

Oh wait…one more picture: Here are Dottie and Lola (and Gloria’s butt) They hung out with me and held lumber while I cut. My hens have skills!



This Old Adobe House, Part I removing the floor…

When we decided to close down the Cottonwood Inn, Bed and Breakfast in Taos, NM and turn it back into a house we had several big projects.

The original house was built in the 1930s and expanded in the 1960s by artist Wolfgang Pogzeba. Pogzeba liked massive spaces and the nearly 8,000 square foot home was only three bedrooms. When it was converted into a B&B in 1995, the rooms were subdivided into 9 bedrooms.

We opened up the partitions between four of the rooms but our biggest challenge was opening the flow of the house from end to the other. There are two sets of semi-circular stairs but one had been built over in 1995.

In the interim, a deck had been built off the room. When we decided to remove the floor, it would leave a door hanging a couple feet above the stairs.

The photos below may do a better job of explaining . . .


This is the room with the floor we will be removing, starting on the left of the hot tub and going in a half-circle.

This is the room with the floor we will be removing, starting on the left of the hot tub and going in a half-circle.

First we remove the floor tiles. We tried to salvage as many as possible as the shiny saltillo is kind of unusual.

One tile at a time, starting at the right side of the hot tub.

One tile at a time, starting at the right side of the hot tub.

The fun started once the tiles were gone. Then the saws came out. We were able to salvage both sections of sub flooring along with the 2×6 supports that were below. These came in handy in our next project.

This was closed off and used as a storage closet. The stairs are quite lovely and massive. 52 inches wide by 10x22 pie shaped wedges.

This is the view beneath the floor. It was closed off and used as a storage closet. The stairs are quite lovely and massive. 52 inches wide by 10×22 pie shaped wedges.

That line around the wall was pretty distinct and was the perfect test for my beginner plastering skills. I’ve since learned that a slight patch is far worse than just jack hammering out a chunk and fixing it.

Here is the first section of floor removed.

Here is the first section of floor removed.

And how about a view from the stairs upward?

Can't see much in this picture but there is a 15x15 foot skylight over the hot tub.

Can’t see much in this picture but there is a 15×15 foot skylight over the hot tub.

Remember this door?

Here is the deck when you can actually get to it . . .

Here is the deck when you can actually get to it . . .

And here are a couple of pictures of afterward . . . (Yes, that is me, dressed bang up to the nines and directing air traffic on the giant landline headset).


Here are where the stairs begin. file-removal-17

Here is an area of lath and plaster I will get to fix.floor-removal-18

Here I am widening the doorway to the stairs, which had been narrowed to 30 inches and needed to go up to 52. You can’t see it, but I have a SAWZALL in my hand!floor-removal-19

Are you ready for some after?

oops! how did this get in here?

oops! how did this get in here?

Well, you’ll have to wait for the after pictures until Part II. . .