office

My 3 Year Bookcase Project

Posted by mitch on May 20, 2015
home, productivity

Back in 2011 over the Thanksgiving break, I was playing with learning how to do things in SketchUp and drew a 3d model of a bookcase idea I had for my office. My office is in the “1/2 story” (the third floor) of my house, which means low ceilings. In my 2008 remodel, I gutted it, rewired it, vaulted the ceiling, and so on.

About 16 months later in early 2013, I drew this picture and sent it to my architect, Carl Oldenburg:

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I have a lot of heavy books and wanted short spans to avoid bowing. Carl whipped up this awesome SketchUp rendering:

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Who could say no to building that? Inspired by Carl’s skills, I spent some time practicing and playing with ideas. I really wanted to know what this was going to be like:

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After various distractions, we had the design finalized by December 2013:

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In early 2014, I got in touch with Aaron Honore, who is the most serious, hardcore, and awesome cabinetry carpenter I’ve known (and I’ve known more than one). Aaron was booked for 6 months, but I was willing to wait.

Construction finally happened in September 2014. I worked out of my workshop during this time:

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In 2008, before moving into the house, many rooms were gutted, the house was rewired, etc–this is what the front wall of office looked like about 4 months after moving in:

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The below picture is what it looked like by the time Aaron was done with it. I think the install took about 2 weeks, I don’t really remember–certainly Aaron took his time and made it perfect:

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For such a small project, it was still quite an outlay of time and a bit of stress. But having had the bookcase now for 8 months, I have no regrets. I certainly took my time and thought it through in great detail. There’s a built-in stereo section that connects an amp to the old speaker wire drops I put in during the 2008 remodel, LED lights under the eaves and the wall lights in the ‘A’ are wonderful.

My house is small. I highly recommend built-ins for small living. You can use every bit of space, and there’s no gap between the storage and the wall, which in some cases, saved me 2-3″. By customizing the depth of built-ins to narrower-than-usual in some cases (my living room has a 10″ deep bookcase that is 14 ft long), I’ve saved an effective 5″ of space in a room. If a room is 12 ft across, that’s significant.

What’s the point of this post? Beats me. “Take your time and do it right,” perhaps.

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Update: I realized after posting this that I didn’t mention some of the non-obvious features of the bookcase. Sure, you can tell from the photos there are lights and doors. For anyone thinking about doing this, here’s a few things I did that I really like:

1. The deep shelves under the eaves have glass shelf insets to let in light to the back of the lower shelf. I’ve doubled up books on the bottom shelf, and this lets me see what’s back there if my eyes are aligned with the roof angle. The light spilling out above the books below makes the space feel more open that it would if it was dark:

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2. The speaker posts, Ethernet ports, and power are in the back of the lower shelves where I thought I might want audio equipment. I also ran a 50 ft TOSlink in the bookcase from one end to the other, just in case I ever wanted it. One thing I did not consider was how difficult it would be to do the wiring because the shelf is fixed and only 10″ high. Having the removable glass panels turned out to be quite handy for that.

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3. The light switch for the eave LEDs and the ‘A’ lights is hidden behind one of the shaker panels. It’s a double switch in a 1-gang box.

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Getting Back Into It

Posted by mitch on March 10, 2013
home

Over the last 25 weeks, I’ve been trying hard to do very little beyond sleep and goof off. Even though I don’t have a job and have been considering myself on vacation, looking back at my calendar, I still managed to do over 100 business-related meetings and spent 4 weeks on the road. Nevertheless, I’ve been relaxing–I bought a Playstation Vita last March and didn’t start playing it until January.

I’m starting to get going on a few projects and as I fiddle around with possible next directions, and come to realize that I don’t have enough desk space to juggle completely different activities that hit creative road blocks. I was at a stand-still most of last week because my desk was covered with a project that wasn’t going anywhere. I needed another desk to dump it on so I can still look at it, but engage on another project while it percolates. Since I’m doing some other remodeling this year, I started looking at reclaiming my closet (which is just a junk room) to pick up an extra 35 sq ft of “spreading out” surface area.

I’m also finding that I have too little in the way of filing space–despite moving most “archive” files into banker boxes and shredding about 60 gallons of files, I still lack sufficient filing space. So this configuration adds a second linear file cabinet.

Some other remodel considerations for the office:

1. Build a large built-in bookcase at the front of the office. In this configuration, it will hold most of my office-related books. Barely–which would be a big improvement over the current situation. Below is a rendering that my architect created of the bookcase. I also plan to reclaim space under the eave to put the stereo without it taking up floor space in the room where it currently resides.

2. Remove the chimney. I should have done this 5 years ago but felt like I had feature-creeped on the first remodel too much as it was. To finish a software release, you have to stop adding crap to the release and get things fixed. The same applies to a remodel.
3. Finally install a split AC system. I got a quote for this years ago, but could never get the fellow to come out and do the work.

Sadly, remodeling in real life isn’t as fast as a few hours of monkeying around in SketchUp… so until then, piles of stuff it is!

If you came to this post hoping to read about what I’m working on and you weren’t happy to hear about goofing off, come back in 25 weeks!

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