Unfinished projects whine

A lot of work has happened in the house over the past few months. The team of tireless workers has made that happen so I don't want to sound ungrateful but sometimes its very frustrating when smaller projects drag on.

I've been very lucky that most of the really frustrating projects have been pretty unimportant in the scheme of things. That doesn't make it much less irritating.

Here is a sneak peek at two projects that take two steps forward and one step back on a regular basis.

The first is the built in unit in the little room that sits between my living and dining rooms. I'm told its a "music room", useful for the Victorians but who knows if that is true. Since its too small to put it to any specific purpose, we decided to make it a bit of a pass through library. I wanted to make use of the leaded glass doors that were elsewhere in the house (and couldn't be used in their old spot)
Leaded Doors used for Built-ins
As part of the bid for the contractor, I drew this out sketch so the contractor could see exactly what I had in mind.
Built-in : Millworkdrawing
Ok, so maybe its not the worlds most beautiful drawing but I think the general look is pretty clear. I made notes in the margins about how it was to be constructed as well as providing photos of other cabinets that looked similar.

I had discussed exactly what I wanted with the contractor multiple times after the drawing was given to make sure it was on track. I was told it was being custom made at the woodworker and would be installed toward the end of the job. We'll, "it" was installed
Built-In WTF?
I'm not sure what drawing they were looking at but it was not what I had specified and it was definitely not custom made. Not entirely apparent from this photo but this is a bunch of crappy stock cabinetry screwed together. I was not a happy camper.

I seriously considered having them remove the whole thing and scrap the project because after seeing this, I was so frustrated and I didn't want to deal with it. But then I remembered they had removed some of the inlay detail floors under this to repair the missing pieces in the living room. Arrghh.

In the interest of maintaing good relations and my own sanity, I focused on the two main issues: the cabinet doors were tiny (to give you a sense of scale, they were about as wide as a shoebox) . I wanted 4 doors, not 8! I also pointed out that there was a lot of molding that needed to get added to make this look finished. I let go the other issues of it not being made of quality wood; the lower part not having the inset style as specified, it having a toe kick area despite specifiying a furniture like base, it not being custom fit for the space; it not going all the way to the ceiling; as well as a few other problems. He agreed to make the change and it looked a lot better.
Built In: Better but still argh!
But it still wasn't right. For one, they had broken our glass doors while installing them. Did they think I was not going to notice that? Secondly, the doors and drawers didn't work properly. And lastly the molding was added but in a weird way - like the crown was not sitting at the edge but rather it was pushed back a few inches. And there were other issues too (I won't bother boring you with those).

This built-in continues to be a source of annoyance. Every time something gets fixed, something else is either broken or done improperly. I have nightmares about this monstrosity. Hopefully it will get done "well enough" and I'll replace it with what I really want some years down the road when my memories of this renovation has faded.

The other nagging project is our closet systems. This has nothing to do with the contractor. My annoyance is aimed directly at the Container Store. Dear Container Store: You lured me in with your pretty advertisements and promises of an organized wardrobe in easy to follow steps. You cruel vixen, you evil temptress, I trusted you and you have left me unfashionably bereft.

Elfa Walnut and Platinum
We selected the Container Store's elfa closet system because it was a) easy to get b) could be configured to make the best use of the space c) cheaper than similar alternatives d) looked pretty cute in the store and e) promised it was easy to install.

My Closet
My closet all ready to receive its due.

We went to the Container Store during their 30% off sale with measurements in hand. The salespeople were very helpful and designed our closets for us. They even delivered right to our door! It seemed pretty straightforward. We left with the plans and waited for the parts to get there.

When the boxes did arrive our hopes for a straight forward assembly vanished! There were so many parts without much in the way of labeling. We had ordered systems for all of the clothing closets in the house so it took us a lot of carrying these heavy things all over the house to get them to the right room.

The main rails that the system hangs on got installed but other things were going on so I decided I'd take a crack at putting it together myself. Just unpacking the boxes took forever b/c every part is wrapped within an inch of its life. And then to be extra annoying, every single piece (and there were many) had one of these sku # stickers on them. Is this really necessary? Its time consuming enough to put this together, peeling each of these off one by one only adds to the frustration level.
My Elfa Closet in Progress - Those Damn Stickers on EVERY PIECE
The shelves have a locking mechanism to keep them in place. It took me about 20 minutes to figure out how to press down in the right place and the right amount of brute force (while precariously balanced on a ladder) before I picked up the technique. So far, so good.

The drawers were a lot less cooperative. I spent at least an hour unpacking, unpeeling, setting up on the rails followed by trying to lock them into place, hearing the telltale "clicking into place" sound only to have the drawers fall to the ground if I put some minor pressure on them. I kept reading the directions, trying again and I'd still get a heap of drawers at my feet. Arrgggghhhh!
My Elfa Closet in Progress

In walks contractor who tells me he tried to install this all earlier and the drawers don't lock into place properly. File that under things I would have liked to know before. :)

Anyone else have these drawers and like to share with me the secret to getting these things not to fall out into a heap of metal and wood veneer?

Contractor's solution is to put a screw in the sides of the drawer rail to hold in place. Seems like a good idea. Of course, its not done yet and so my closet sits idlely mocking me while I continue to fish my clothing out of cardboard boxes.

Ok, end of bitch session. Im hoping both of these projects will be done by next week and I'll be able to share the happy outcome. Anyone want to take the under/over?


  1. That is so sad , I feel your pain, the built in looks great, I imagine they will fix the glass for you?
    You would think the closet system would be easy to do, there must be a trick you don't know, were they not helpful at the store?
    It will all come together, but in all reno's there must be problems, people wouldn't divorce at a higer rate after them if it wasn't annoying.
    If it makes you feel any better from the outside world I am jealous jealous, looks all good from here.

  2. Yes, the fixed the glass but instead of repairing the broken pieces with the salvage glass we had, they replaced the whole thing with new modern glass. Im still pissed about that.

  3. Anonymous1:24 PM

    Me thinks you like to brag !!

  4. Gosh, what a nightmare. Why does it have to be this hard? I think we girls really need to go into home renovation, because I think we can actually follow a drawing...and care!

    Your home is magnificent! I am horribly jealous (in a really loving, proud-of-you kind of way). I wish you were my friend so I could come visit your lovely home, and I could give you a hug and say "there there" when you have bad days. ;)

    Chin up! You are doing great!

  5. Anonymous5:40 PM

    Do the drawers from Elfa stay in in the store model, etc? see if you can get their advice, without involving the contractor.

    BTW, the built-in bookcase thing was a complete shafu - you have a right to make the guy pretty miserable :-)

    Alina (from GT)

  6. Anonymous9:25 PM

    Actually, I also purchased the Elfa system and my GC installed it. He dreaded it initially but had no problems and said it was kinda fun. Sorry! When I purchased the system, they were adament that I learn how to install each piece, including the drawers. If your system is not in, go back and see them about installing the drawers. I;m not moved in yet but everyone loves my closet. Good luck.


  7. Anonymous11:10 PM

    omg! lol!!! i FEEL YOUR PAIN =) i thought it was just me who had all of these problems with contractors. i HATE contractors - lol! why can't they do what you tell them, how you tell them and when you tell them?! it's YOUR house and YOUR money and they are working for YOU!!!!! i'm sorry you're having such a rough time, but it sure is good to know it's not just me, and i have NEVER tackled a project as big as yours and NEVER will - lol! contractors make me CRAZY! thanks for letting me vent... ha! debbie =)

  8. Anonymous1:57 PM

    You are the second person I've heard having installation issues with these. A good friend of mine just asked me if I had heard of this store (I had not before she had mentioned) and had a lot of problems / frustrations with hers as well.

  9. Ha! Love it. The built-ins are to die for. Can I have your house, lol? Just gorgeous!

  10. Anonymous10:40 AM

    Take it from an "old" experienced designer.....
    Put "everything" in writing with the contractor's signature on "two" copies one for him and one for you.
    Check out their customer list and make phone calls. Get at least (3) bids...
    Don't always go with the cheapest.


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