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A million coats later…

Hey, guess what you guys did! You voted VATW into the final round of the Apartment Therapy Homie awards! I can’t even believe how silly it looks on that list with “legit” blogs. It’s definitely a one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-other situation. I don’t care what happens in this last round of voting. I’m just so thankful to you for voting, and for making this blog such a fun place to hang out!

* * *

Back to the closet!

There was a brief moment last week when I thought I might not actually survive the painting of the closet shelves. And by “brief moment,” I mean — prolonged, anguished period of several hours and/or days.
How to build closet shelves
It’s all a problem of false expectations, if I’m being honest. For some reason I thought I’d pop in there, roll on a quick coat of paint, probably whistling merrily, and have a freshly painted room within 15 minutes. Maybe 20, if I was extra careful and thorough.

But then, as I was getting started, Andy reminded me I needed to prime first, and I instantly collapsed into a ball on the floor and banged my fists on the carpet like a two-year-old. I DIDN’T WANNA PRIME!

So that’s pretty much the attitude I had going in to this: extreme impatience and unrealistic expectations.

It took me three hours to do two coats of primer. When that part was done, fueled by hope and a surge of optimism – the hardest part was behind me now! The rest would be easy! – I posted a primed photo on instagram:
Then I went to sleep, confident I’d have the whole thing done by lunchtime the next day. Well, days dragged into weeks, which turned into months and YEARS!!… not really. But I did think I’d be painting until the literal end of days.

Each coat took me about two looong hours, in which the paint fumes were going to my head, causing time to slow to half its normal pace, and giving me hallucinations of random people knocking at my door asking if we had any stray jobs they could do for us. Anything at all they could help us with!

Clearly I needed a little fresh air and perspective. (And to be a little less dramatic about this!)

I don’t usually use painter’s tape when I cut in, but I did come up with this solution for the bottom area of the shelves that touch the carpet. Duct tape. Because it was within reach. (Hey, it did the job.)
Use duct tape to paint near carpet!
After four hours and two coats of paint (on top of two coats of primer), this was the situation. Areas of imperfections that needed to be re-caulked had emerged:
And the paint had still not covered in some areas.
We used Lowes Valspar paint, which we tend to really, really like, having used almost every brand in the past. So I don’t think it was a coverage issue, as much as an I’m-an-impatient-painter issue.

It ended up taking two full coats and one last-touch up coat to get the shelves to a nice crisp white. The color is Benjamin Moore Atrium White, because we had it on hand, left over from painting the trim everywhere else in the house:

For the ceiling, I wanted to do something a little different, because why not, right? Since this wallpaper will be on the back wall of the closet…

I thought either the light teal color or some pink might be fun. Then I scrounged in the garage and emerged victorious! I found the leftover blush color we used in Mila’s nursery (Olympic Irish Lace):

And I figured, eh? It’s free! Let’s try it! My decisions are all very calculated and thought-out like that.

So here’s where we are now.
Right side closet painted
Painted_ceiling (Custom)
I feel a little bit like I just birthed that closet. There’s an intense euphoria, the bad memories are already beginning to fade, and I need you to pretend that those photos are the most beautiful photos you’ve ever seen, of anything, regardless of the fact that the back wall is still unpainted and there’s a bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. And it’s just shelves, not the Grand Canyon or an actual human baby or something.

Obviously there’s still lots to be done! Here’s what’s coming:

  • Build and install the drawers. (Already started! Should be done soon!)
  • Create a light fixture
  • Install the wallpaper
  • Install undercabinet lighting (Yes! This is happening. We just decided.)
  • Add all the closet rods and fun stuff.

What do you think? It’s basically the Grand Canyon, right? Never have you seen such a stunning paint job? Lie to me.
Closet mama

Let's connect


  1. Your closet is beeaauutiful Kelly….in fact, it kinda makes me want to birth closet too!!

  2. Those shelves look awesome! I’m very, very jealous, as I stare at my gross wire shelving in my closet. 🙂

  3. It’s turning out to be your own little boutique closet. I just know it.

  4. It looks great! That wallpaper is amazing. I can also feel your pain; extreme impatience and unrealistic expectations pretty much describe my mindset going into all home improvement tasks as well. 🙂

  5. Oh it is getting sooo close! I was just thinking about you and your closet project yesterday (I promise that is not as creepy as it sounds! I am building some very simple shelves in our MBR so have pretty shelves on the radar…) and wondering if you had gotten the shelves done yet. They do look great!! Glad you didn’t suffer any lasting damage from the fumes…

  6. looking so pretty!!! love the ceiling color!
    fyi, i use a HUGE 12″ spatula when i paint trim and move it along the floor with me as i paint to protect carpet. works like a charm!

  7. Your closet is now in the “I’m a bit grouchy and pimply, but I’ll be coming out of it soon” adolescent stage. The shelving is looking great, although I’m totally with you in that priming and painting shelving is one of the most un-fun things. Good call on the ceiling paint, and the wallpaper will be amazing.

  8. Wow! I have closet envy…that is going to be so nice!!! xo Kristin


    We should never team up on a painting project. Unless we had like 5 years to do it.

    Painting is dumb.

  10. It might actually be Valspar causing you the trouble, but of course, you’ve liked it on other projects. We’ve used it on our trim and in our master bath, and we’re never going to use it again. Even with multiple coats and touchups, we still have spots that won’t seem to cover (and we primed twice). We haven’t had that issue with Olympic.

    • Ditto Emily… Same experience with Valspar. High price for cheating on my true love, Ben Moore… I’ll never stray again.

      • Valspar is one paint I will never, ever buy again! The coverage was so bad that I took my almost empty can back to Lowe’s, asked to speak to a manager. I told them how disappointed I was and that I would never buy their paint again. I asked for a refund and got it.

        I was also just reading another blog tonight and the blogger was complaining about how bad the Valspar spray paint was.

        • We had a Valspar NIGHTMARE on the very first room we painted in our house. I still get a twitch when I think about it. Since then we have only used Sherwin Williams {but I would totally use Benjamin Moore, too. The SW store is just closer}.

  11. Omg I love it! I cannot wait to see it with the wallpaper, it is going to look amazing. I hate doing primer too. It just makes it feel like a never ending process!!

  12. It’s looking sooooo good! And to think you only have five things left on your list of things to do in there. Home stretch!

  13. I have been looking at my closet (partly because I keep forgetting to close the door) but the thought of painting just doesn’t make me sing. It would look pretty with that wallpaper, though….

    Really nice start on yours. Can’t wait to see it when you finish.

  14. These projects always take longer than I think they will. Looking great though – the blush ceiling will be so great with that gorgeous paper!

  15. ha! this is the process I go through with pretty much every project we attempt: from “we’ll be done in an hour!” to “I will be trying to finish this right before I collapse on my death bed.” But, yeah, then it’s all worth it in the end, right? right? looking great in there!

  16. We had a very painful closet experience too. We weren’t even doing the work and it was still painful. I can’t even imagine! It’s going to be so beautiful once it’s all finished!

  17. don’t you worry, all your hard work will be paid off girl!

  18. I totally love it. It looks so pretty. I am really liking the dimensions of the closet and the scale of the shelves. I pay attention to those things 🙂 The blush is awesome. And it reminds me of the wedding colors of Steel Magnolias. The movie that is a quote a minute… Her colors were blush and bashful 🙂

    I just can’t wait to see the wallpaper up. Ohh and I am even more excited to see what light fixture you have in mind 🙂

  19. yayyyy for pink ceiling! Painting shelving like that is the worst. So hard to get in all of the nooks and corners. BUT probably not as painful as giving birth to the Grand Canyon. That’s just a hunch, though.

  20. Your writing style is so fun and engaging, Kelly!
    That closet is going to be a knock out…

  21. I love that blush color! Gah and priming is the WORST. I hate that stuff 😛 but I think it’s a necessary evil. I still adore that wallpaper!
    SO excited you made it into the finals! I voted for you!!! Good luck girl! 🙂

  22. What a champ. I would have given up after 2 hours and started crying into a bag of Cheetos.

    I’m obsessed with that wallpaper. Like I want them to make it into fabric so I can make a dress out of it and wear it in a room covered in the same wallpaper. I’ve swooned after it for years. I don’t even have a use for it because we have textured walls (ugh), but I’m tempted just to buy some and hoard it away for use later. I think it’d be adorable in a girl’s nursery or a grown woman’s closet.

  23. It’s looking so good!

  24. Have used duct tape on carpet – DON’T do this if it’s in an area that will be walked on! That super sticky glue that keeps duct tape in place will be on your carpet FOREVER and will pick up anything that is trod upon it. Blue tape! Even if you have to work yourself out of that cramped position that can get you into that farthest back corner! It’s good for your back to get up and get that blue tape!

  25. Why is it that the smallest spaces always take the longest to paint?! You’re a way stronger woman than me, that’s for sure! I would have thrown in the towel 2 hours in. I mean…The clothes will cover it up anyway, right?! 😉 That’s my logic for ya! It’s looking good in there! I can’t wait to see that wallpaper up!! It’s going to be FAB! XO

  26. It looks so goooood!

  27. Please please do a tutorial on those awesome shelves! With lots of details so I can talk my hubby into this ;-)) Your closet is going to be so pretty!

  28. It’s beautiful. In the way that newborns are beautiful but still a little wrinkly and so curled up you can’t really see them. But when it has lights and wall paper and all that other stuff? It will adorable in the way that a 6 month old is. (This is my arbitrary favorite of the infant stage.) Not QUITE so needy, un wrinkled, covered in fat rolls that you just wanna squish, adorable-ness. Until the teething sets in. I think my metaphor breaks down there. At least, I hope not does, for your sake.

  29. Looking good! That is some excellent painting you’ve done there. Can’t wait to see the finished closet – its going to be gorgeous. And congrats on making it to the final round of the Hommies. I voted for you again 🙂

  30. Donna Zoltanski says:

    Whoaaaa – excellent paint job! I am in awe of your effort. Oh how I’d enjoy filling that closet with fav fashions! Enjoy it!

  31. Dude. This so brings back memories of painting the shelves in Jack’s room. I have news from the other side though! I’m glad to tell you that I still love them even after they nearly killed me with their needyness of paint. I love them so much that I go up there and find one more book to put on the shelves almost everyday just so I can have that feeling of walking into the room and seeing them. True story! I’m confident you’ll love yours too for years to come!

  32. Absolutely breath taking!! So much more beautiful than Niagra Falls, or even the Grand Canyon!! hehehe, but seriously, this is going to be the envy of all closets that the average person can afford to have! I can’t wait to see it when it’s all done, but I really like the suspense and seeing it come together a little at a time! So glad you and Andy are feeling better.

  33. That’s going to be the prettiest closet ever created!

  34. I’m curious to see what you do for the light. Have you been to a ReStore? I recently went to ours and was blown away by the very cool lighting options that are calling for a makeover. They had a bazillion (okay, 15ish) chandys and some cool retro wood pendants for $15 each (I just knew when I left that I’d be mad at myself for not buying them. I was right – imagine that.) Our old house had a very large 1950s antique brass chandy with tons of drippy crystals sparkly things that I spray painted pale pink for my daughters room. We brought it to the new house but I couldn’t find a place to use it so I sold it.

  35. It’s really coming along! Every time I see it I really want to do my closet! I want your new closet. Want. It.

  36. Your shelves look fantastic! I am really liking the shade of that pink for the ceiling…nice touch!

  37. I feel your pain – I HATE to prime! But it’s even worse to need to prime and not prime and then really really wish you had just used the primer in the first place so your end result is what it should be. Sigh. don’t even ask me how I know!

  38. I’m so stinkin proud of you!!! Which sounds weird because 1- I’m not your mom and 2- we’ve never met in real life but fo’ real!!!! Also if I’m proud of you then I can sort of take credit when you win, right? That’s how this works. (Also: AHHHH!!!!)

  39. I was in Ikea today and literally was thinking of your closet. There is this awesome, sparkly, pink/purple/red/clear crystal chandelier in the kid’s department The catalog picture doesn’t look as colorful as it does in real life, unfortunately. I had it in my shopping cart and then realized I couldn’t get it to you even if you wanted it. How sick is that, that I am so involved with another person’s closet that I want to shop for them? Maybe you can use the picture for inspiration though…….

  40. You have more patience than me. I would have run away crying after the second coat. It looks great and will look even more amazing when done. Congrats on making to the final round on Apartment Therapy!

  41. Your closet is looking amazing!! I can’t wait to see the paper go up! And I was proud to cast my vote for you at the Homies! You seriously rock! 🙂

  42. I seriously snorted about “birthing the closet.” I feel that way about every single painting project I take on. Especially trim, cabinets and ceilings. Oh my gosh, ceilings make me want to throw myself off a building.

    But then, I forget all about it and just bask in the glory of a painted space.

    Your room is looking great. Love the ceiling in blush.

  43. Let’s just day I have been there with a never ending painting project when I decides to paint my front porch by hand last summer! Yikes! I feel your pain lady! The good thing is it is looks so beautiful and I just know the end result will be drool worthy!!!!

  44. Under cabinet lighting in your closet?! You go, girl! I honestly never heard or thought of this in a clothes closet (only under kitchen cabinets). I am so going to consider this whenever I finally do my closet. I think painting your ceiling a different color is going to be so fun. I’m learning a lot from other commenters (like using a spatula or blue tape along base boards, etc.) and am going back to jot a few of the tips down for future reference. What a funny and informative post.

    P.S.-Wonder if turning on a box or tower fan(s) have helped with the fumes? Last but not least, congratulations for making it to the final round of the Apartment Therapy Homie Awards!

  45. It looks AMAZING!!! And I feel you’re pain. I’m in the middle of trying to paint the beadboard we installed in our small bathroom, and after 2 coats, I need to do a 3rd. (And hmmm, its Valspar…maybe it is the brand–but we thought it was because it was beadboard. And the first coat was in SW using leftover paint, so who knows!) It sounds so easy but all the prep work + doing + cleaning up, in the middle of life just overwhelms me at times. Or maybe that’s the 2 weeks of me being sick, kids sick, me getting sick with the stomach flu talking.

  46. Thanks to you, I now want to redo ALL OF THE CLOSETS IN MY HOUSE! You’ve created a monster.

  47. You must have a very steady hand to not use painters tape when you cut in. I’m a little obsessed with painters tape. I get kind of crazy with it whenever we paint.

    And your closet is darling. So fun to see the vision becoming reality!

    P.S. Remember I’m the one with the short sale? Well we walked away from that but we found another house. 🙂 We move two weeks from Saturday! So excited! And there will be painting. Lots. And lots. Of painting.

  48. Nice!! I’m not lying when I say that I’m impressed! That only took you 4 hours to do the coats of paint??? What kind of crazy superhero are you? It takes me DAYS to paint. So I don’t. 😛
    (Actually, we are renting, and the idea of repainting when we move out in 6-18 months sounds…exhausting. As if packing up to move weren’t enough.)

    I hope your blog wins (I voted!). Not because it’s a pro-blog but because it ISN’T. Non-pro people can have pretty houses and fun DIY-ing? Say what? If you’re not careful, though, you’ll BE a pro soon…

  49. Ps. Unless you already have a plan for this… We used Ikea’s undercabinet lighting fixtures. Low-powered LED but very bright. Easy to install and cheap.

  50. When I painted our damn book nook in front of our house, it looked like crap (and that was being nice). After the second coat, which took much longer than anything so small had any right to but it was smack up against our retaining wall so I had to sort of sneak a loaded brush down there and just smear… it’s outside and HAD to be painted for protection, I announced to all the neighbors that it was a “work in progress” and the first person to criticize it just volunteered to paint the next coat.
    People who hadn’t even seen it assured me it was stunning. See, it’s easy to get compliments. You just have to phrase it the right way…

  51. The baseboard-to-carpet joint can be a treacherous bit to paint. Some paid painters may actually charge more to do the baseboards adjacent to carpet.

    You however, have shown a deft hand to keep the paint exactly where it belongs — NOT on the wall-to-wall carpet


  52. I hate painting for this very reason. I usually try to pass the buck off to David…who similarly hates painting. Can’t wait to see that wallpaper in though! omg. I have loved that for a while too. I think they had a plate set that was the same pattern. swoon.
    hardest part is over, right? can’t wait to see

  53. Your closet is looking great, I look forward to the final result! Congratulations on being a finalist at apartment therapy! That is very exciting and you DO belong!

  54. It’s going to look so good! I love the end results of DIY, but honestly I’m sooo bad at the getting there process. I enter every situation with completely unrealistic expectations and this false sense of achievement like, I’m totally going to be done with this in 40 minutes. What can I say? We never learn…

  55. Weeelllll….it’s not a human baby, but I’ve seen some of my friends who are mamas have very easy labors. Painting this closet may have been more painful in comparison 🙂 As someone who would love to undertake a project like this in the future…why didn’t you prime/paint the boards before installation? I’m wondering if you’ve learned from experience that they just get too dinged up during installation to make the pre-installation paint step worth it. Knowing that could save me time in the future.

    • We could have primed them first, but we would have had to caulk, repair and touch up the primer after. I don’t think it would’ve been wise to paint it first though, because you’d still have to caulk it and it would just look very “DIY.” 🙂

  56. That closet is SO good!

  57. Im in love with every project. I wish i could be able to do half of your projects hahahahaha.

  58. What are your dimensions for the side with the boots? And also your jewelry/drawer side? Absolutely love your spacings and everything!


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