Summertime DIY

Seeing as it’s only the first week of August, you still have time for some summer DIY projects, so I thought I would send some inspiration your way. Although our apartment is large by San Francisco standards, Shane and I have struggled within the confines of our 800 square foot unit. My shoe collection was out of control, we had jackets galore, and we couldn’t figure out how to display our zillions of photos from our years of adventuring. On top of all that, a burgeoning new lifestyle as a food blogger was testing the limits of our 10′ by 9′ kitchen, and then we had to grapple with our lack of outdoor space (none = sadface).

I never despair when it comes to home improvement projects, because I have the unfair advantage of a live-in Task Rabbit. Shane has worked in construction, remodeling, and handyman roles either formally or informally since he was a child. A life-long interest in making things with your hands amounts to an amazing inventory of  every possible tool and supply you could need for anything you ever wanted to make. Shane and I make a great team— I clog up our apartment with stuff, and he builds solutions to help us deal with my nonsense!

Here’s what Shane came up with:

1) Purple Shoe Rack


This one wasn’t entirely my fault, because we don’t have a hall closet or linen closet of any kind. We have only the one closet in our room, which is 98% my clothes, and 2% Shane’s clothes and two pairs of dress shoes. We keep all of our sheets and towels in large Rubbermaid bins under the bed, because alas, that’s where we can fit them. One of my life’s biggest dreams is to one day live in a dwelling where I have the luxury of a coat closet AND a linen closet! Getting greedy here!

Fortunately we had a few feet of “entryway.” Don’t call it a “foyer,” because that would be giving it too much credit. Shane took measurements and made this custom shoe rack to fit into the tiny indentation space in the wall. Directly overhead he mounted wood panels and measured out where the hooks should go so that the coats would be reasonably spaced. (Staggered hooks are the way to maximize coat space and prevents them all from clumping together.) This shoe rack was a real game changer, because all our shoes had been unceremoniously piled up in a heap right there for years on top of a sad flimsy towel. We’ve always had the no-shoes-in-house rule— I’m Dutch! Also, we live in San Francisco, and I highly advise anyone who lives in a city to not wear your dirty shoes inside your clean house… please.


2) French Door Photo Project


Up to now I’ve made our apartment sound pretty horrible, but it’s actually a really unique space with some sweet accents. Here you can see my beloved French doors that lead into the bedroom, and if you look down the hall we’ve enjoyed having those built-in bookshelves for displaying souvenirs from abroad. For years we wasted the real estate these doors have to offer. We used to enter our bedroom through these doors; recently we’ve shut these permanently and use the side door now to the bedroom. We are lucky to have this flexibility— long story short, San Francisco buildings are bizarre, and our bedroom isn’t even meant to be a bedroom anyway. By closing these doors, we were able to put in this bistro table in the living room. We were tired of eating on the couch for several years; the layout of our kitchen doesn’t accommodate a table of any kind.

When we closed these doors, I realized that we suddenly had 40 or so photo frames on the glass. We hardly ever printed photos from our round-the-world adventures, because we are too cheap to buy frames. Our “big investment” for this project came in the form of Glue Dots at Office Max. They are those sticky dots that come in the mail when you get a new credit card or coupon that is attached to a piece of paper. So far these have done a great job of holding the photos to the glass. We were surprisingly pleased with the quality of the photo prints from CVS as well. FYI These prints are 5″ x 7″. NB This is the project where I got to help! I stuck the Glue Dots onto the back of the pictures. : )


3) Custom Spice Rack


It was inevitable that a travel blogger living in San Francisco would eventually start writing about food. There was no way around it. As my cooking repertoire increased, so did my spice collection. I was using one of the narrow kitchen cabinets to contain my spices. It was overflowing, and I had to stand on a stool to see everything (story of my life). Not only that, it was also super inconvenient to have to take items out in order to reach anything that was towards the back. So Shane was a doll and designed a spice rack for me:


Here’s a close-up of the wood before he painted. I was amazed by the precision with which the end of the dowel rod is visible within the wood panel. Talk about accuracy!


Also notice here how there is an artistic overhang. I forget what it’s called, but it’s a sign of high-quality hand-made custom craftsmanship. Go Shane!

4) Wine-stand Succulent Arrangment


I mentioned the utter lack of outdoor space. Shane decided to bring the outside in with an arrangement of adorable succulents. I call them my pets. When Shane thinks that I don’t know he’s in the room, I pretend to talk to them; we are not allowed to have pets in our apartment.


Shane and I rode our bikes to the Clement Street farmers market (every Sunday until 2pm!) in the Inner Richmond and picked up the succulent assortment. We picked out the majority of them together; then I got to pick out one that I liked, and then he got to pick out one that he especially liked.

Our choices were going to all look really cute together, but we had to stop off at the nursery first (also on Clement Street- at 19th Ave.) in the Outer Richmond for soil and little clay pots! It’s worth stopping by the nursery just to enjoy the gorgeous outdoor space and check out their awesome Volkswagen.


Months prior Shane had found this abandoned wine bottle holder out on the street. San Francisco always has the greatest dumpster diving and street curb treasures. After making the spice rack, Shane put this arrangement together, all in one day!

I’m a very lucky girl. Shane does all the planning, design, measuring, physical labor, and installment. I offer my unsolicited opinion, take pictures, and write about the projects. Thank you, Shane!

PS While he’s slaving away making all these projects, I’m not sitting on the couch. I’m either making pestos, mixing up refreshing smoothies, or documenting his hard work!

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7 Comments on “Summertime DIY”

  1. William Roy August 4, 2015 at 12:13 #

    Enjoyed reading the latest Blog but one thing I have to ask is… “When you need something from the very top shelf of the spice rack and Shane is no where close, do you wait or damn the torpedoes, get a chair and get it myself.

    • Marisa LaValette August 4, 2015 at 12:41 #

      You’re right Bill. I still have to climb up to get to the top shelf!

  2. Lisa August 4, 2015 at 12:35 #

    Very cute and funny post! Of course, I like your “shout out’ to Shane 🙂

  3. Lisa August 4, 2015 at 12:36 #

    The nursery looks like the same one I bought the suncatcher for my friend at work. Is it?

    • Marisa LaValette August 4, 2015 at 12:40 #

      No it’s not. That one is in Fairfax up over the bridge. This one is directly in our neighborhood, but they do look very similar from the front!

  4. Martha LaValette August 4, 2015 at 16:24 #


  5. Paardje August 4, 2015 at 21:05 #

    I so love the purple shoerack and the succulents ❤ Genius, all of it really! 🙂

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