Friday, January 27, 2017

Gifting Art with Minted

Valentine's Day is around the corner, as I'm sure you know from all of the pink and red filled candy aisles at the grocery store, and many people are starting to think about what to gift loved ones for cupid's holiday. Nick and I have never been much for V-Day gifts or even a special dinner (other than heart-shaped pizza), but if we do exchange gifts, I want it to be personal and meaningful.

When Minted reached out to us about their Valentine's Day collection and giving art as a gift, I couldn't believe that it hadn't crossed my mind before. No one ever really thinks to give art as gifts, but as new-ish homeowners, I just love that idea so much. We have so many blank spaces to fill in our home and I'm sure others do too. The idea of giving someone a piece of art that they can hang and reflect on for years to come is so much more meaningful than a box of candy or a teddy bear.

We're in the midst of a few projects right now, like the bedroom, dining area, and guest room, and we're definitely going to need beautiful art for each space. For Valentine's Day, Nick and I are each going to pick out a Minted print for each other - I'm excited to see what we pick! (We'll update this post once our prints arrive so you can see too!)

Below are some of my favorite individual art pieces from the Minted Valentine's Day collection:

Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha - This would be great in a gallery wall or above a desk, perhaps to brighten someone's work day.
Forty-Six - If you know my obsession with keys, this one will come as no surprise to you.
Pretzel - Pop-art pretzel, what's not to love?
French Dreams - I know so many people that have visited Paris recently - this would be perfect for them.
Shining Statement - This floral piece is so gorgeous. It would be pretty above a bed!
Summer Tanagers - I love abstract pieces that you can work into any room or gallery well. This watercolor print is so cool.

By the way, one of the best things about Minted is that you can order your prints already framed, which makes this gifting process easier than ever. If you're looking for something super personalized, Minted offers a Minimalist Quote Keepsake, where you can completely customize a print with a photo and quote of your choice. You can learn more about this and all of Minted's awesome Valentine's Day gift ideas here (I really love the custom map prints too!)

From now until the 30th you can take 20% off all foil Valentines cards and gifts, and 15% off all other Valentines cards and gifts with code BEMINE.

If you're interested in purchasing art for a loved one this Valentine's Day, make sure you order by the cutoff dates below to receive your pieces in time!
  • Ground Shipping: 11:59 pm PST on February 1
  • Priority Shipping: 11:59 pm PST on February 4
  • Expedited Shipping: 11:59 pm PST on February 5
  • Rush Shipping: 11:59 pm PST on February 6
Happy gift giving!

Sarah & Nick

This post is in collaboration with Minted, but all opinions and favorite pieces are our own. Thanks for supporting the companies that support the Common Room (can't wait to show you our new art!)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

20 Questions with Surznick

Hi everyone! It's been quite a while since we've done any sort of post introducing ourselves or sharing a little bit about who we really are. Last year was an exciting year for us, and we wanted to say welcome to some of our new readers and friends by putting up a few "get to know us" questions. We're glad you're here, and we hope you enjoy hanging out with us!

Ok, here we go:

1. What is your biggest fear?
S - My mom and Nick dying (starting this out on a really depressing note, here...)

N - Aliens.

2. What would you change about yourself if you could?
S - Sometimes I say the complete opposite of what I'm trying to say (mixing up off/on, inside/outside, etc.) It's like wires in my brain get crossed and I have no idea it's happening until Nick corrects me.

N- Stop myself from interrupting people. I get SO excited during other people's stories, and I have this overwhelming desire to show that I am connecting with them and can add/agree with/bond over all the similarities I'm noticing when they're talking, but really I'm just being rude and interrupting them. Also, every single time in the history of the world that Sarah has cracked a joke, I immediately say the same joke, but try to make it funnier. That's got to be so annoying. I'd like to change that.

3. What makes you laugh the most?
S - Nick. He's the most hilariously weird person I know and I couldn't even begin to describe why he's funny. He just is. (Edit: After reading his responses to these questions I think it's obvious that he's funny.)

N - Blooper reels. These are truly such a simple pleasure in life. Some of my favorites are Parks and Recreation, and I love all the old ones they would play after each episode of Home Improvement.

4. What did you want to be when you were small?
S - Very early on I wanted to be a hairdresser. Eventually I changed my mind to teacher, and later veterinarian.

N - There were more than a few things on my "when I grow up" list. Notably among them were: professional soccer player, scientist, volcano chaser, bald eagle trainer, and window repair truck driver.

5. If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be?
S - It's a toss-up between drinking an iced latte and exploring a new city, or laying on my couch and binging a Netflix series.

N - Murder without consequence. I mean, probably just pointing to a map and exploring somewhere new.

6. What would you sing at Karaoke night?
S - 'Punk Rock Princess' by Something Corporate. I've been "planning" to sing this at karaoke for a few months now but never have enough liquid courage.

N - Well most recently I sang "All Star" by Smash Mouth. That was a real bucket list moment. But, if the crowd is just right and rowdy enough, I think "Fat Lip" by Sum 41 could be pretty great.

7. Which would you rather do: wash dishes, mow the lawn, clean the bathroom, or vacuum the house?
S - Wash the dishes

N - I hate the thought of mowing the lawn, but once I start, I really love it. Still, I'd rather wash dishes. Mowing the lawn is too loud for listening to music.

8. If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

N - Pizza (pizza)

9. Who is your favorite author?
S - Right now I'd say Jonathan Safran Foer. I'm currently reading "Eating Animals" (my third Foer book) and absolutely loving it. I really enjoy his writing style and have yet to find a book of his I don't like.

N - I've always been a super huge Vonnegut fan, but it's been a long time since I've read anything by him. No one has "officially" overthrown him, but I really like Jonathan Tropper, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Chuck Klosterman.

10. Would you rather vacation in Hawaii or Alaska, and why?
S - While I haven't been to either and would love to visit both, I'm going to say Alaska because my best friend is currently living there (hi, B!) and her photos of Alaska are GORGEOUS. I'm also not much of a beach person.

N -Alaska, baby! I love the cold, and I'm a huge fan of mountains, and all things forest, and snow, and wildlife, and pretty much anything. (I mean that. I'm a fan of pretty much anything.) I know Hawaii has a lot of mountains and tons of cool stuff too, but my Instagram vibe is definitely more "Alaska," ya know?

11. If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to?
S - This is tough because I'm not really a history person, but I would say sometime in the 50s for the cute dresses.

N - This is a tough one, but I like the whole roaring 20s idea. It'd be fun to do some good natured illegal activity, and be right on the edge of learning how to lash out and be a bit outrageous for the first time.

12. Aside from necessities, what one thing could you not go a day without?
S - My phone

N - Music. If I didn't have actual music to listen to, I'd drive myself bonkers singing the songs I'd wish I was hearing.

13. What would you do if you won the lottery?
S - Pay off my student loans. Pay off our mortgage. Quit my job. Travel everywhere.

N - Boring answer, but pay off all my debt. Pay off all my family's debts, and make myself cozy to live a regular life. I'd likely still want to work, but with a much diminished sense of necessity, with more freedom to travel and explore.

14. What's your favorite holiday?
S - Halloween! I love dressing up, the scary movies, the parties, the cool fall weather. It's the best time of the year.

N - Halloween. I love spooky stuff, especially old scary music and some good spooky party tunes.

15. What three items would you take with you on a deserted island?
S - Nick, a good book, and a good album.

N - Is Sarah an item? (We'll just say yes) A guitar and a toolbox (you know, for some light recreational woodworking for when I get bored.)

16. Which of the five senses would you say is your strongest?
S - Certainly not hearing or sight... maybe smell?

N - My taste. As weird as it is, I can't hear for beans, and I have a super critical palate. I'm always like "Woah, this has such a strong _____ flavor" and Sarah's just like "what does?"

17. Are you related or distantly related to anyone famous?
S - Milton Hershey, although I don't know exactly how (I need to myself.) My family is from Lancaster County and my mom's maiden name is Hershey.

N - No.

18. What was your first job?
S - Cashier and key cutting extraordinaire at a hardware store.

N - Kitchen worker at a hospital (basically a nightmare scenario).

19. If you had to describe yourself as an animal, which one would it be?
S - A cat. (Is that too predictable?)

N - I want to say something cool, but the truth is probably just the most obnoxious, annoying, curious puppy in the whole world.

20. What is one thing you will never do again?
S - Eat meat.

N - Wear boot cut jeans.

Thanks for reading!

Sarah & Nick

Monday, January 23, 2017

Tomato Herb Bisque

Everybody loves tomato soup. As kids, Sarah and I (and every other human in America) would crave the coveted grilled cheese and tomato soup meal. As we embark as adults to find a suitable alternative to the classic red can, who should come to the rescue but none other than Minimalist Baker.

Over these past two and a half years of being vegetarians, we have recreated countless numbers of Dana's creations, and every single one of them is delicious. If there happens to be anyone that reads our blog that doesn't frequent the Minimalist Baker blog, we hope that seeing the recipes here help show you the light.

This particular recipe came from the Minimalist Baker cookbook. It has been a lot of fun to flip through physical cookbooks to choose and read recipes instead of scrolling through Pinterest or Google results. This book is beautifully designed with amazing photography, and every recipe is a hit.

Here's what you need: (Recipe via Minimalist Baker)
For bisque:
- 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 6 oz. can tomato paste
- 1 cup water
- 14 oz. can coconut milk
- 1 tbsp. dried dill
- 1 tbsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- 3 tbsp. maple syrup

For croutons:
- 2 cups bread, cut into cubes
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp. sea salt
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp. dried basil

Here's what you do:
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Add soup ingredients to a large pot and heat on the stove until simmering. Reduce heat and stir every few minutes.
- Cut up bread cubes and add to a medium bowl. In a separate dish, combine olive oil and spices and stir to combine. Pour over bread cubes and stir to cover.
- Pour croutons onto a baking sheet and spread into a single layer. Bake for 15-20 minutes, tossing once halfway through.
- Serve soup topped with croutons.

As soon as we made this for the first time, it instantly sky rocketed to the top of my comfort food craves list. The creamy texture and sweetness that comes from the coconut milk is, to me, really what puts this soup over the edge. Every bite, combined with these perfectly seasoned croutons explodes with flavor. Brightness from the dill cuts down the richness of the coconut and tomato, and balances out the entire dish.

You can (and should) purchase Minimalist Baker's Everyday Cooking book HERE.

Hope you all have a great week ahead and you get a chance to try some of this incredible soup!

Sarah & Nick

Friday, January 20, 2017

Nashville, TN

Last weekend we packed our bags and hopped on a plane to Nashville, TN to spend our long weekend in the Music City! Neither of us had been to the Nashville before and we had such an awesome time. The flight was only an hour from Pittsburgh, so we're already itching to go back and check off more things from our huge Nashville to-do list. For now, we'll stick to recapping this visit - enjoy!

Where We Stayed
We stayed at the Hotel Preston, which was located between the airport and downtown. It's an affordable boutique hotel that had fun and interesting offerings, like lava lamps and pet fish that you could borrow for your room.

We actually didn't spend any time in the hotel other than to sleep, but it was a quick Uber to and from downtown, so it worked out well for us!

What We Ate (and Drank)

Barista Parlor - Our first stop of the trip! Barista Parlor is a well-known coffee shop in Nashville with a few locations around the city. We visited the East Nashville shop and sipped our coffees until it was time to meet friends for brunch later that morning. The atmosphere of Barista Parlor is pretty hipster-y and cool. It looked like they had some bomb breakfast sandwiches, but we sadly didn't get any. -S

Five Daughters Bakery - I'll admit I was mostly drawn to Five Daughters Bakery for their pink neon sign, but we picked up two of their '100 Layer Donuts' to have for breakfast the next day and they were so stinkin' delicious. I wish we'd gone back to get more. -S

The Wild Cow - We were really excited to meet our friends Jordan and Bethany for our first meal in town at an all-vegetarian restaurant in East Nashville. The food at this small space was seriously good and the menu was huge. We all got some sort of sandwich, (reuben, Philly cheese steak, buffalo) but I'd love to go back and try some of their incredible sounding soups, salads, and other entrees. If you decide to go, be sure to pet all the friendly cats you possibly can. -N

Crema - Another well-known coffee shop! Crema was small and cozy with a very clean and minimalistic interior. It was pretty packed inside and we were just getting coffee to go, so unfortunately we didn't get to sit and take in more of the atmosphere. I did particularly enjoy my almond milk iced latte on a rainy afternoon. -S

Burger Up - After walking down 12 South and poking our heads into a few of the shops, we decided to grab dinner before Jordan and Bethany headed back to Atlanta. After one peek at Burger Up's menu, we knew we had to eat there. Everything was SO good - the veggie burgers, mac and cheese bites, truffle fries, sauces, and even beers. 10/10 would go again, even though the place is rumored to be haunted. -S

Biscuit Love - Trying southern biscuits was really important to me on this trip, so I'm glad we got to visit Biscuit Love. We had to wait in a really long line to get inside, but we weren't in a rush so we didn't mind. Nick had the decadent biscuit French toast topped with lemon mascarpone and blueberry compote, while I stuck with my savory breakfast of vegetarian grits topped with dippy eggs and a biscuit on the side. Delish. -S

Tennessee Brew Works - Anytime we visit a new city, it's important to us to try some local beers. The best and easiest way to do this is to head straight to the breweries. Tennessee Brew Works was our first stop after breakfast Sunday morning, and no part of me regrets these delicious morning beers. All 5 of the samples we got in a flight were incredible. The atmosphere was this sort of new rustic meets industrial, hipster meets country that A LOT of Nashville seems to be. This place looked like a fun nighttime spot, but it was totally worth it for the great beers. -N

Jackalope Brewing Company - Next on our brewery stop, Jackalope didn't disappoint. The atmosphere here was a lot more modern coffee shop/lounge space, and the beers were top notch. Overall, the vibe here was more of my speed, and I loved the beer names (like the Coffee, Stills, and Mash)! -N

Nelson's Green Brier Distillery - When you're looking for breweries to visit, distilleries count as two! Nelson's Green Brier Distillery was a pretty cool place with some great whiskey. Whiskey is generally my spirit of choice when reaching for the bar cart, so I was really happy to have some true Tennessee Whiskey right from the source. -N

312 Pizza Company - After our day of brewery and distillery hopping, we were in a pizza mood. We wanted to get pizza at the Nashville Farmer's Market, but sadly it was closed. The next closest pizza place happened to be 312 Pizza Company, which did not disappoint. You know we love our Chicago deep-dish pizza. This was so good and exactly what we needed after our long day. -S

Piranha's Bar and Grille - The best thing about being a Pittsburgh fan is that no matter where you go, you're in Steelers Country. Last winter we watched the playoffs at a Steelers bar in Chicago, and this year, we had a blast watching the game at Prianha's Bar and Grille. Its so great to be in a strange city, and still have a spot to watch the game. -N

What We Did

When we first arrived in Nashville, we headed right from the airport to Barista Parlor and spent the rest of the morning walking around East Nashville. We found a few colorful walls and murals to take photos of and enjoyed just looking at all of the pretty houses in the area. After breakfast with Jordan and Bethany, the four of us walked around Five Points and checked out the different shops. None of us bought anything, but it was a fun way to get to know the area, and to meet the local cats.

Visiting Pinewood Social and seeing the totally Instagram-able bowling alley was high on my list of things to do, but didn't seem very practical since we weren't planning on bowling at all during the trip. I didn't realize that Pinewood is actually a bar/hangout/social space that happens to have a bowling alley in it, so luckily we had the opportunity to just poke our heads in, snap some photos, and head out.

Third Man Records - This place was awesome. Part music history museum, part record store, part music store, part collection of the coolest stuff. Jack White owns this place, and it is riddled with platinum records hanging on the walls, rare guitars and collectables, books for sale, and a make your own record machine (to name a few of the cool things in there). It was also pretty exciting to seeing 3 of White's Grammys in the display case (no big deal...)

After Third Man, we headed to 12 South, which was home to so many cute shops and colorful walls. Standouts were Craft South, the blue and white striped wall outside Draper James (Reese Witherspoon's store), Sprinkles cupcake ATM, White's Mercantile, and Burger Up.

We ended our first day in Nashville on Broadway. Broadway is pretty much what it looks like. It's an insane strip of neon lights, mega-bars, and constant live music. Every floor of every bar has a band playing, every night. It's truly awesome to realize how central music is to this community, and the level of talent that tends to generate. It's so great to have such quality live music wherever you look. Though the bands were incredible, Sarah and I were still backpacking it at this point of our trip, since we hadn't yet been to the hotel. Because of this, most of the bars we tried to get into wouldn't let us in with our bags. So, we just hopped around and found places that didn't have a security guard checking people at the door. Pro tip: don't wear a backpack and try to bar hop.

To escape the craziness of Broadway and find a more peaceful spot to catch an Uber, we walked across the Pedestrian Bridge to the other side of the river. Though I'm sure its an awesome view in the daylight, the night time view isn't half bad either.

Carter Vintage Guitars - This place came as a recommendation from some friends, and I'm so glad we spoke with them before we left or we would have missed this place. I had no idea that a guitar store could be this awesome. And I love guitar stores! This place has some of the coolest, rarest guitars around and it is so much fun browsing through them. Carter Vintage Guitars is PACKED with hundreds and hundreds of guitars, banjos, mandolins, basses, amplifiers, you name it. I was thiiiiiis close to walking away with a 1955 Fender Stratocaster, but I was $28,500 short on cash.

And that's pretty much it for this trip! Don't worry, Nashville... we'll be back.

Sarah & Nick

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Copper Pipe Magazine Rack

When we moved into our home back in June, we decided to only update the house room by room to help keep our projects in check, and maintain at least a bit of order inside. Though the living room wasn't on the list quite so early, it seems we've been spending a lot of time updating the space. When I teach music lessons in the house a few times a week, my students' parents sit in our living room for the duration of the lesson, so we want to make sure it's comfortable, clean, and welcoming.

This magazine rack is a perfect item for this space. We have quite a few magazines that we keep around for our guests to flip through. We don't want them in a giant stack on the coffee table, and they really don't belong on our nice new bookshelves, so we needed a spot for them.

The copper pipe look is something we've had a little bit of experience with in the past when we built this simple plant stand, and we've seen similar takes on a copper magazine rack around the web. It's so easy to make up a quick project, and it always looks clean and awesome. Want to make your own?

Here's what you need:
- 1/2 in. copper pipe in the following lengths:
- 14 in. - 2 pieces
- 11 in. - 4 pieces
- 6 in. - 8 pieces
- 90° elbow joint - 8 pieces
- Copper Tee - 4 pieces
- 1 yard fabric of your choice
- Stitch Witchery
- Spray bottle of water
- Clothing iron

Here's what you do:
- Cut a piece of fabric that is 24" wide by 36" long and iron it flat (spray with water if necessary to remove wrinkles.)
- On the 24" sides of the fabric, fold over the ends 3/4" and iron to flatten. Insert a piece of stitch witchery in the fold you just created, spray with water, and then iron to seal your fold together. Be sure to press your iron in increments, do not slide iron over the fabric. Repeat with second 24" side.
- Fold your fabric in half length-wise with the seamed edges on the outside. Insert a piece of stitch witchery between the 36" sides you matched together, spray with water, and then iron to seal.
- You should now have a "circle" of fabric. Flip it inside out so that all of the stitch witchery seams are on the inside.
- Fold over the short sides of the fabric about 3-4" to make your loop that will hang on the copper pipe. Insert a piece of stitch witchery between the fabric, spray with water, and then iron to seal. Repeat with the second side.

- Cut the copper pipe with a pipe cutter to the lengths above, or to the lengths you decide on for your own design.
- For the piping structure itself, I think it would be a bit confusing to try to explain the design I came up with, so hopefully this quick little GIF below will shed some light on how we put it together!


We didn't use any adhesive on the joints because they seem to fit super tight anyway. This piece really won't be under a whole lot of stress, so we're going to just let it be! Obviously, you could customize the dimensions and the design to however you want it!

After a quick kitten inspection, we were so glad and relieved to hear that this piece is Poppy approved. The magazine rack is a perfect addition to this space, and it's so nice to have a spot for the magazines that have been piling up. I'd love to hear what sort of copper pipe projects you've been up to, so be sure to share any with us!

Sarah & Nick

Friday, January 6, 2017

Baked Falafel & Curry

This is unrelated to the content of this post, but Nick and I have been together 8 years today! Isn't that crazy? This is strange, but I always think of years in terms of how long I was in high school and/or college. Like, in the time we've been together, I could have gone through all of high school and college AGAIN. We must really like each other.

We also really like this falafel & curry dish, which has become a staple in the Surznick house. It's one of those meals that is easy enough to whip up when you have guests, but probably still new and different for them to try. We love it and we think you will too!

print recipe

Falafel & Curry
  • 1 15 oz. can of chickpeas
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 tbsp. flour
  • 1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 15 oz. can coconut milk
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder powder
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger powder
  • 1 cup jasmine rice
1. Drain and rinse your chickpeas and add to a food processor. 2. Add garlic cloves, lemon juice, cumin, chopped shallot, and salt and pepper. Process until mixture is combined but still a little chunky. You will likely need to scrape the sides several times until everything is combined.3. Transfer falafel mixture to a separate bowl and add flour. Combine and then form into 12 falafel. Transfer to a foil lined baking sheet.4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and place sheet of falafel in the fridge to firm up for 15 minutes.5. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping once halfway through. At the halfway point, you can begin to prepare your curry and rice.6. In a large saucepan, combine tomato sauce, coconut milk, curry powder, onion powder, and ginger. Bring to a boil and then simmer, stirring frequently.7. Prepare rice according to package instructions.
8. Serve rice on a plate topped with curry and falafel. Enjoy!
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4 Servings

Curry recipe inspired by Elephantastic Vegan and falafel recipe inspired by Minimalist Baker.

If you try this, be sure to let us know! Leave us a comment or tag us on social media (@sawissinger and @nmalburg.) Have a great weekend!

Sarah & Nick

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

IKEA Built-In Billy Bookcases

Ever since we started amassing a large collection of books a few years ago, I've dreamed of having beautiful floor-to-ceiling bookshelves to house them in. In our last apartment, we had our books stored in bookcases that we nabbed from my childhood bedroom, and they just didn't do them justice. When we found our house back in the spring, we realized our soon-to-be living room had a wall that would be a perfect contender to make this dream a reality.

Last year Sarah showed me a blog post from The Makerista and the built-ins she designed using IKEA Billy bookcases. They were awesome. While Sarah and I like to DIY a lot of stuff, we don't have the tools or time needed to build bookcases from scratch, so using Billy bookcases as a jumping off point is perfect for us. They are customizable with different sizes and colors, they're sturdy, and they're a great price for the quality.

What we thought would be a fairly straightforward project turned out to be an absolutely massive undertaking. It was our intention all along to show you exactly how we built in these bookshelves, so you could do the same, but every step of the way was met with unseen challenges, changes to our plan, and last-minute fixes.

In the final days of the project, we were basically working around the clock, nailing in pieces in the dark at 7 AM, and painting and caulking late into the evenings. We're going to do our best to share our process with you through the photos we have, though the shelves are customized exactly for our space, and are executed using our exact limited resources and tools. There are probably better ways to do a lot of these things, but this was as much a learning opportunity and adventure for us as it was a project. I was literally making it up as I went! (And I had a blast doing it.)

WARNING: This post is about to get incredibly detailed. So detailed in fact, that I won't at all mind if you'd like to just scroll though, enjoy the photos (even the ugly, night time process photos), and pretend like you read the whole thing. If you don't want to know about all of our trials and tribulations throughout this process, don't sweat it, skip it!

Here's what we did:

Our wall measures about 88x96". We needed to make sure that the bookcases were close enough to the ceiling so they could be made to look built in, while keeping them low enough to the floor to make sure that our floor moulding would reach from the floor to the bottom shelf. We figured out that we would need to lift the bookcases off the floor about 2.5".

The first step was removing the old floor trim, and clearing out the space. I then built a simple frame that we set in place and made sure was completely level using some shims (and some folded pieces of notebook paper.) This would become the base on which all the shelves would sit.

We knew that we wanted 3" pine boards to trim the vertical spaces between the shelves, so we measured the bookcases and positioned them far enough apart for the boards to cover the gaps between the three shelves. We then attached them to the wall and the floor base using small L-brackets and screws. Measuring the depth of the shelves, I attached a thin wood strip to the wall flush with the face of the shelves. This would give me a surface into which I could attach the front trim piece closest to the wall. (*Note, when a board says it's "three inches" wide, it's not. Always make sure you take actual measurements of your materials, don't rely on the name of the product! More on this topic later...)

Before we could measure the dimensions for the floor moulding, ceiling trim, and quarter round, we needed to attach the vertical trim pieces. Remember how I said we wanted 3" boards to separate the shelves? And how we attached the shelves at this specific spacing to both the floor base and the wall behind it? Well, 3" finished pine boards are only 2.5" wide in actuality. I assumed I would be able to nail the boards right into the front of the vertical shelf walls, but now I didn't have enough material to safely overlap and drive a nail through! As a fix, I glued up some scrap wood and cut some cleats I could nail in between the shelves from the sides. Once the cleats were in place, I was able to nail the pine boards right into them, and not rely on the vertical shelf pieces. Disaster #1: averted.

With the vertical trim pieces in place, I could measure for the floor moulding, quarter round, and the top trim. After taking the measurements, cutting the pieces to length, and doing several coats of paint, it was time to nail them into place. Except wait! The kick plate of the bookshelves is recessed about an inch and a half (and so is my floor base - my bad), and I have nothing to nail the pieces into. Again, with some overnight glue-ups, and some quick trims on the miter saw, some simple cleats gave me the surface I needed so I could nail in the pieces. Disaster #2: averted.

With the vertical pine boards not quite covering the entire gap between the shelves, I now had a slight reveal I wasn't anticipating. This meant I now had a 1/4" gap between my floor moulding and the bottom shelf. (See where I'm going here? One thing after another...) After cutting to size and gluing some extra thin strips to the top of each floor piece, they were ready to be attached. Disaster #3: averted.

For the outermost wall of the bookshelves, I needed a way to cover the exposed brackets, while creating enough width for the final vertical trim piece to sit flush with the outside edge. I decided to put one large 8' false wall on the outside of the bookshelves and paint it white. Figuring for the depth of false wall, the width of the front trim piece, and the depth of the side trim piece, I was left with a 1/2" gap I needed to fill. I decided to buy a large sheet of plywood that was 1/2" thick and cut some strips to fill the space. Attach the strips, nail in the false wall, trim the front, trim the side, measure for the floor moulding and quarter round, and the outside is done!

We're very close now except for the top trim. The plan all along was to just use quarter round at the top instead of some elaborate crown moulding or something. My tape measure must have been broken on day 1, because the quarter round was no where near large enough to cover the gap we had left between the top of the bookshelves and the ceiling. Luckily, I bought a large enough sheet of plywood to use for my spacers on the outside wall that I could just use them as trimming for the top! Disaster #4: averted. That same "reveal" I wasn't prepared to deal with for the floor moulding was also a factor at the top. This time, however, since my new trim was deep enough, I could just use some chisels to carve out the corners so the pieces could sit flush between the pine boards and against the face of the shelves. (There are no pictures of this step, as I had completely lost my mind by this point.)

Then it was on to a TON of caulking (because I'm still pretty new at all of this and there were a lot of gaps to be filled), filling nail holes, and a final coat of paint on everything, and we were done!

That's it! It's that simple (?!), and even you can make up a project step-by-step as you go!

In all seriousness, I'm extremely proud of how these turned out, and I love the way we have them styled. Finally, floor to ceiling built-in bookshelves are a reality in our home, and I couldn't be happier with them.

Sarah & Nick