Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Space Case

So, a few months back, Mel and I started on a daunting task: reorganizing the house

Now, when I say "a few" I mean "right before Christmas"; and when I say daunting, what I mean is about 4000 sq feet worth of stuff, two adults, two kids, two dogs, and two cats; packed into about 1800 square feet of house.

Our house is laid out a bit oddly. We have essentially an "L" shaped ranch (probably the most common house style in the Phoenix metro area), on an inside corner/cul-de-sac lot (the street is a cul-de-sac, but the yards form square corners, so we've got kind of a rhomboid shaped yard). The house is about 60 feet in both legs of the "L", with one leg being 26' wide, and the other being about 14' wide.

My semi-detached office is at one end of the L; the three bedrooms and two bathrooms (including a master with en suite) are at the other, and in the angle where they meet are our entryway, the kitchen, the dining room, and the living room, on a kind of open plan (actually half open half not. Big open archways without doors, but full height walls).

I call the office semi-detached, because it is its own completely separate construction onto the house (from the late 70s or early 80s). It's 16'x14', with its own entrance, and its own sliding glass back door into the back yard. It's on two separate electrical circuits from the main house etc... The only thing it shares is ventilation really; and its vent trunk is completely separate from the main trunk of the house as well.

Unfortunately, it doesn't have a door to close it off from the rest of the house, just an open archway into the kitchen; so we got two sets of heavy privacy curtains, and hung them on both sides of the arch; and it actually blocks out sound better than most interior doors would.

We had originally intended this space to be a sort of rec room, and we semi-ironically titled it the "rumpus" room; serving as a general craft, arts, recreation, etc... area; but instead, it quickly got turned into ... bulk storage would probably be the best way to describe it.

Now, I have to explain something here. Mel is a wonderful wife and mother, she takes care of the kids and me better than anyone could ask for, but there are two things she is absolutely hopeless at:
  1. Cleaning
  2. Organization
So understand that when I say "bulk storage" I mean the room was essentially filled, to the point of being inaccessible, with "stuff"; that she just couldn't find a home for elsewhere.

Meanwhile, I managed to pack my home office, all my gun stuff, all my tools, all the camping gear, and a whole bunch of other crap besides, into the 12'x12' "third bedroom" (maybe for a small child, but to me it's an overgrown closet).

I was bursting at the seams in there; and trying to maintain organization, and have enough space to work... it just wasn't happening. Plus, Mel was having a hell of a time keeping her crafitn gorganize,d having to break everythign pout and clear off space, then set everything back when she was done.

So, a few months back, we decided to make the rumpus room my office, gunroom, hobby room etc... and take what I had been using for the purpose, and make it Mels craft/sewing/reading room.

We also decided to reorganize the back half of the living room, which is currently an unusable jumble of exercise area, bookshelves, and the kids computer desk and art area.

So we started out by cleaning up, and moving, all the stuff that was "in the way" (which in fact temporarily made everything worse) and we trashed a whole bunch of stuff that was just taking up space.

Then we went down to our friendly neighborhood Ikea, and bought the book cases, drawers, shelving units, desks, tables, and chairs necessary to complete our tasks.

This of course made everything even worse again.

We've tossed most everything that needs to be tossed (we'll need to make a final cull out I'm sure, but we've got the majority); and we've done the math: once we have all the shelves and drawers and everything else setup and filled up, our house will actually be clean and organized...

... or at least as clean and organized as an 1800sq ft, house with 2 cats, 2 dogs, and 2 kids under seven CAN be.

Oh and we moved the 700lb 4 foot wide 5 foot high 2 foot deep gun safe into my new office as well; and the part of our old sectional that didn't break horribly, so I can have additional seating and lounging area (Mel likes to join me while I'm working sometimes, just reading next to me etc... It's very nice).

Then life happened.

First, the court troubles of earlier this year hit us, and made it impossible to concentrate on anything else through March.

Then we get a bunch of crap from the city about my tools being outside, and needing to build a shed (still unfinished by the by. I've got everything ready to go, and built the foundation and deck; but then it rained literally every day I had off for six weeks, and it's been 100+ degrees out every day I've had off since).

Then Mels mom got sick.

Meanwhile, we're packed into even less space than before, because of all the stuff waiting to be assembled and/or moved. We've got so much stuff out of sorts that our covered back porch is full of "stored" stuff; and I've been using our not very large (and again overfull of stuff) bedroom as an office.

Seriously folks, it may sound nice, working from your bedroom all day; but I'm in this one room 16 hours a day, and believe me that isn't fun.

Well, no more; or at least in the process of being no more.

When Mels mom passed, she left behind a HUGE amount of craft supplies, books etc... and Mel wants her craft room to keep them all in; so today, she finally started back in digging out those two rooms.

By the time I got off work, she was ready for me to do the literal heavy lifting, and move my two gun benches.

I tell you, she got an amazing amount of work done in a few hours.

I've now got the makings of my working area set up, with an 8 foot long counter high welded steel bench with a 4" butcherblock top along one wall (under a 6' picture window actually; it's quite nice), end capped with my 28" rollaway tool box on one side, and butted into my 4'x2' flat workbench (also counter height) in the corner; giving me 12 linear feet of 2 foot deep work space. (the rollaway top has my top chest on it).

Butted up against that flat bench on the one blank wall in the room, is my 5' loading bench, with my work hutch, powder measure, press etc... on it; making the total linear bench space 17 feet (though the last 5 is obstructed).

The tool hutch is also a vented work hood for doing brazing, soldering, and other work where sparks might fly, or flammables need to be controlled; and it's got a work light and power strip on a filtered UPS, rated high enough for using a Foredom or a 200 watt soldering iron.

Unfortunately, the next 4 feet of wall are taken up by a closet door (at the other end of the "L' beyond the roll-away is my entry door), so I can't really extend out any further; and my options for a "U" leg on the current "L" are somewhat limited.

What I'm thinking though, is that I'm going to take the press off the corner of my current loading bench, and build a 6'x2' deep flat bench to match the existing setup; butting it into the face of the current loading bench where the press is mounted, and mounting the press on the 2x6s inside facing corner instead. This way I'll get 8' of linear bench space that I can walk around three sides, as well as all the undertop storage space (which believe me I need). There's plenty of floor space in that "U" area for this. Oh and I'm going to build some book shelves along the entire back face of the bench, and the side of the other bench, to take advantage of that space (about 4 feet) between the "island" and the opposite wall.

Finally, I'm going to take an existing 48' x 28" desk I have, and butt it up to the side of my rollaway, and use that as a pass table for things that belong in the office, but that everyone uses; like my office printer/copier/scanner; and the camera and video camera charging stations.

This will end up as kind of a "c" shape really, except the bottom leg of the C is flat, with a 4 foot entryway into the interior of the work space; and will give me a total of 27 linear feet of 2 foot or so deep work space, with under-top storage; and wall hutch/wall shelf storage for 9 of those feet.
On the long steel bench, I'm setting up a computer work station near one end, with an under counter arm mounted keyboard drawer; and my two tower PCs, and NAS array underneath (there's plenty of room).

Oh and I've got my GigE/wireless N router and GigE switch set up underneath, as well as my multiline cordless phone set up on the corner of the bench with the computer station. I've also got triplex high gain extension antennae mounted up near the ceiling in the two corners, and center of the wall. All of that is on its own small filtered UPS, separate from the computers and the tools; so that if my power goes, I'll still have my cordless phone,and hopefully my DSL.

I've also mounted a full length 16 outlet industrial power strip, and a copper grounding bar to the back of the 8 foot bench (love that steel construction); and I've got the whole thing on a Xantrex 1800watt filtered UPS and reserve power supply (4 hours reserve time at 1800 watts draw). The Xantrex is rated for 20 amp tool use on each of the six main outlets on the unit (the thing is the size of a full tower PC and weighs about 100lbs), so I'm not worried about it handling anything I throw at it, and keeping mr. power spike and mrs. brown-out away.

In fact, the only thing in the room not on a filtered UPS is the lights (and actually, I've got two low voltage fluorescents on the UPSes just for emergency lighting). I've learned my lesson on dirty power.

The wall opposite the picture window (the perpendicular angle to the closet), is 16 feet long, but 6 of those feet are taken up by a sliding glass door; and 2.5 of them by the door swing of the closet. The rest, has the aforementioned 4' wide safe (actually it's 3.5'), a 2.5' wide 6' high 5 tier shelf unit, and the 6' remains of my old sectional, technically blocking the sliding glass door.

The final wall has 10 linear feet blank, before the 4' wide archway into the kitchen, so we've got 6' high 5 tier shelving along 8 of those feet, and a 2' wide, 5' high ammo cabinet taking up the rest of it. Unfortunately the bottom two tiers of the shelving unit in the corner are partially blocked by the sofa, but they can still be accessed, and used for bulky items I don't need very often.

So, as of right now, the basic framework is set up; but nothing is actually squared away; which is going to be a huge job in and of itself. I expect it will take me a full week or more to get things set right.

I just hope I have enough space for everything... but I don't think I do. Honestly, I don't see how I can possibly squeeze any more useful workspace, or storage space, into a 16'x14' room. I need to figure out what can go into storage, and what needs to stay...

Oh, and I need to finish the damn shed.