We’re slowly chugging along on finishing up the bedroom, while also planning for laundry cabinets and drawing up ideas for the backyard this summer(!). Today, I wanted to share a super simple IKEA hack – with the term hack being used lightly – for a perfectly sized, slim floating vanity using the EKBY ALEX.
Stepping back quickly to our PAX wardrobes, our entire goal was to eliminate the need for a dresser (or two), as we wanted to keep the walls free of any heavy furniture. Instead, I knew I wanted to have a small landing spot for a vanity to hold my equally small stash of makeup and jewelry, and we both agreed it’d be nice if it was long enough to display a few favorite items, too. After debating between countless skinny consoles or DIY, we ultimately landed on the inexpensive EKBY ALEX – with just a few modifications, of course!
The EKBY is meant to be installed using a minimum of two brackets (like this), although three is recommended. We both loved the simple shape and the slim depth, but against our dark walls, we weren’t loving the idea of adding brackets – even if we did go with black. Endless Googling showed variations with legs, wrapped in wood or wallpapered, and although we toyed with the idea of using hunky industrial L-brackets and painting them the same color as the wall, we were determined to keep it looking light. Could we make it float?
Eventually, I turned up this BESTA hack using heavy duty corner braces. If it seems obvious, it’s because it is! Unlike L brackets, corner braces can be completely hidden from the inside and attach on three sides. I bought two packs of these 3″ heavy duty braces, and we were golden. Tip: Always drill a pilot hole before screwing anything into IKEA furniture (or anything, really)! To prevent us from accidentally going through the other side, we flag our drill bit with a piece of blue tape, which tells us when to ‘stop.’
We discarded the back of the unit (which was a thin piece of cardboard, more or less), which allowed us to attach the braces to the wall. In order to gain access, we had to stop short of installing the bottom piece and sliding in the drawers. We were able to hit a stud on one of the braces, and for the other two (we installed three total), we used toggle bolts. This was surely overkill as nothing in this vanity is more than a few ounces on its own, but it’s also nice to know that this thing is strong. Float, float!
With the unit on the wall and the bottom in place, we went to slide in the drawers and hit one small obstacle: IKEA includes thick plastic bolts to attach the sides of the drawer to the back, but the slightly rounded head hits the edge of the corner brace! We removed the bolts and (carefully!) used wood screws instead.
As it turns out, it will float! The vanity is installed along the wall that leads into the bedroom, right next to the laundry room door. The 12″ depth makes it a non-issue, allowing for easy flow between both rooms and back out into the studio.
Inside the drawers, I used a flatware organizer for makeup and small bowls for containing my fancy (ha!) jewelry:
The drawers don’t pull out all the way due to built-in stops (the photos above show the extent of their range if you’re curious), which I thought might be a problem in the beginning but having used the floating vanity for several weeks now, it’s a non issue. The notched out pull is decently sized, so I push my trays to the back of the drawer when they’re not in use, and you can barely (like, baaarely) see them with the drawers closed, which makes me happy.
We also picked up the IKORNNES mirror after seeing how cute it is in Anna’s bedroom, which is such an IKEA gem! We wanted a small-ish mirror that would sit on top since we’ll be hanging art above the vanity. Speaking of which, we’re waiting on a few photo prints, frames and one more sconce to arrive, and soon enough, we’ll be calling this room done!
Over the last several days, your kindness was, and still is, overwhelming. After a medical emergency for our Maddie girl, we had to make the heartbreaking, yet compassionate, decision to allow her go to a pain-free place on Saturday. She was thirteen. It was the absolute worst, but we know it was the right choice, something I’m only able to admit days later (although still struggling with all at once). She was the queen of our entire household and deserves a million tributes in her name; I’ll do my best to start right now.
I adopted Maddie when I was in college. Growing up in a full pet household, this felt momentous, as she was the first pet I brought home on my own as an adult. I bargained with my landlord – who had a no pet policy – that I would clean the common hallway and move the building’s trash to the curb every week if he could make just one exception on his strict rule. I’m sure he thought he had struck gold with my proposition, but really, I felt like I’d won that game. The shelter told me that they estimated her to be around 9 or 10 weeks old, and I was drawn to her low-key mellow attitude. She fell asleep in my hand, I paid the $60 adoption fee (draining my entire college-day checking account!), and together with my roommate, we brought her right to the pet supply store where we picked up the essentials – toys, a tiny bed, cat nip, and oh yeah, food and litter.
Almost immediately, she fell ill. She was already scheduled for her first post-adoption check up, and when I brought her in, the veterinarian told me I had a barely 3-week-old little lady on my hands! She was weak and needed nutritious, fatty food. For a month, I stirred high protein wet sludge with dry kitty kibble, adding drops of water and nuking it all in the microwave to keep it extra soft and manageable. I fed her from my finger, and I used a syringe to shoot water into her mouth. She made a full and fast recovery, and as a result, she became fiercely loyal to me.
During the course of her younger years, she saw several roommates come and go, but she took to me, her mom, more than anyone. Whereas I could scoop her up, rub her belly and stroke the top of her head whenever, wherever, she loved Scott on her terms only. She chirped when he came near, and she put on airs as he pet her, despite her loud telltale purrs. Maddie was just this way, not only with Scott, but with most. She was sassy, but she kept my head warm (and my hair tangled) during the night. She could mean mug like no other, but she smiled and kneaded all the biscuits while she slept. She protected her kitty sister, Libby, from the pups, but if she suspected we saw her being sweet, she’d flip up her tail and sashay away.
We’ve been watching Libby to make sure she’s okay with the loss, too. She appears to be… fine. Jack forces himself into her cat bed, which besides not being physically possible, is both hilarious and gut wrenching. We find ourselves annoyed that the toilet paper has been staying perfectly raveled on its roll, and all of these deep window sills we’ve built – just for her! – are irritatingly bare.
Our house is six pounds lighter, although it feels like a thousand. In our minds, she’s curled up next to TP mountain, with all the window sills and all the sun. We can’t thank you enough for your generous and comforting comments, texts and emails. On a daily basis, it fills my heart to know that I’ve painted the pets that have left lasting impressions on your lives, too. Losing a pet is immensely difficult, and we know we’re not in this alone. We want to tell you, you’ve made us smile with the warmth you’ve sent our way.
One of the biggest perks we get from writing about our home renovation is connecting with like-minded people – you know, you. We receive emails on anything from where we like to shop to who we’d recommend for plumbing and electrical and whole-house-gutting, from paint color favorites to suggestions on Chicago pet rescues. It’s obvious we love discussing all things home + pets, and recently, I found myself in an email thread with reader, Rachael (hi, Rachael!), who was in the midst of a whole home refresh. Every wall, piece of trim and kitchen cabinet was getting the Light and Bright treatment, and by project’s end, I was just as invested in the final product as she was! Having hired out the work, she writes:
We took a few days to get out of dodge while the heavy lifting was taking place this week, and I haven’t slept a good night since! I keep second guessing all of my choices. Will the gray be too dark? Will the white be too white? Is matte the right finish choice for the walls? […] I don’t know how you take on these projects all the time. This is a serious strain on my sanity! Can you write a blog post on how you cope with the challenges of indecision and heartache and the voodoo tactics you employ to sleep at night while in the heart of the process?
I shared our conversation with Scott, and he responded with a yup!, as in, Rachael, we get you. Whether hired or DIY, both options can be a mental drain. When hired (aka, not in total control), we find ourselves more anxious about the final results, whereas DIY (aka, all the control we could ask for) is not always the fastest or, sometimes, even the most cost effective solution. I want to start by saying that, yes, we do have heartache when things break bad, we do lie awake at night overthinking super white versus bright white, and although we’ve yet to try voodoo tactics, we dosmudge.
I’m an over-analyzer and planner by nature, and as a result, we do our best to start every project with a purpose and loose timeline. (I say loose because larger projects that need hired contract work can – and have! – gone off course in the past.) Before beginning our three-room-triple-threat at the end of last year, we gave ourselves a pep talk. We said, these are some of the last rooms in our house that require big time demolition. Let’s promise to have fun with it. Saying these things aloud help us to conquer any fears we might individually have about what’s to come, what decisions are yet to be made and what problems – if any, but likely – will arise. It lets us know we’re starting any project, large or small, on the same page. While crossing that finish line is a great feeling, we should have fun doing it, too.
Let’s say you’ve just started your project, and you’ve stated your happy mantras aloud, and then before you know it, you’re cursing the plumbing stack you didn’t know was behind that wall and is now causing you to re-think everything. There’s no downplaying how upsetting that can be, but in the grand scheme of things, is it really that serious? In most cases, probably not. Plans change. We press ‘reset’ on our brains, and we move towards a new plan. It’s not always easy (the kitchen door debacle immediately comes to mind!), but we force ourselves into a mental shift. We remind ourselves that everything will work out, because it has to.
Remember the day we smashed champagne on the side of this house? We had no idea what was to come. We didn’t know there would be endless lath behind the walls or that there would be a lack of insulation. But we also didn’t know we’d discover a hidden arch in the entryway or a chimney in the studio! We learned quickly that it would become a requirement to begin each and every project with a come-what-may attitude. Those curveballs don’t matter much when you’re kind-of-sort-of expecting them.
It’s frustrating (and somehow funny) how working towards a greater end goal can so easily begin to feel cumbersome when you’re in the thick of it. Do you ever question why in the world you’ve started such-and-such project and is it even worth it? We do. We do all the time! I really think that’s because anything that important to us will keep anyone awake at night. It’s a mix of excitement and the unknown, and even after almost 7(!) years of documenting our journey from our actual yellow brick home to this – our gray vinyl siding home (ha) – I still feel abuzz when I sit down to write. I want our decisions (and indecisions) to play a role before I hit ‘publish.’ Because when something is worth it, it’s rarely simple.
So, why do we renovate? We do it because we can’t imagine not doing it. It won’t always be this way, so we remind ourselves to embrace the experience right now. Throwing sledgehammers through these walls will go down as some of our favorite memories, and we still get a crazy jolt of energy when we finally find the perfect fabric for an upholstery project or mortar the last tile onto the floor. And when we write the story of this house, we make an effort to share the bad with the good, right here.
We’re rounding out 3 years in our current home, and we still have entire rooms – and a whole back yard! – we haven’t even touched. How cliché of me to say, but slow and steady wins the race. Same with renovation and all it entails: indecision and heartache and celebration and everything in-between. We’ll get there. You’ll get there. With time.