For the better part of 15 years, I owned a cat, or rather she owned me. She also owned a room in my house, and this is the story of how I renovated it after she passed.
Finley was a rescue, an abandoned kitty when I took her in, early in 2001 in Lewisville, Texas. Together, we lived in Lewisville and in Dallas, Texas, as well as in two houses in Norman, Okla. As she got older, her kidneys failed her progressively, and that made for many a homeowner headache as I tried to give her the best life possible.
I customized a room for her, leveraging some suggestions I gleaned from Jackson Galaxy’s TV show, “My Cat From Hell.” I would pay attention to where she was going to the bathroom and put a litter box in that spot. Soon her room was filled with cat furniture, scratch pads, a bed and up to seven litter boxes, a feline Grey Gardens of sorts.
Once she passed, while I was sad, I was also ready to reclaim this room. My primary focus was turning her old room into a man cave of sorts, and for me that meant a room where I could read, listen to music and watch old Johnny Carson episodes.
That effort started with the floors.
I investigated a wood refinishing process called N-Hance, which uses ultraviolet rays to give a hardwood floor a new finish. It doesn’t repair stains in full, but it causes many of the imperfections to blend into the fabric of the floor such that it looks like the floor has character as opposed to a decade’s worth of cat.
That cost me $500 for one room, and I wasn’t sold on the results.
I went through Home Depot to have this done, and I believe I was oversold how much the N-Hance process would help with cat-related hardwood floor issues. If I had to do over again, I would probably just have the floor sanded all the way down and re-done. The reason I didn’t do that in the first place is because I had no urge to fill the air with wood shavings. No, thanks. Once I decide to sell this house, I’ll deal with the consequences and have the floors done properly.
Alas, more than one person has told me that, frankly, many of the imperfections in my hardwood floors will be seen as character. We’ll see.
The next thing I did was develop a vision for the room’s aesthetic. That meant color, decoration and furnishings. You might think that as a small-town rube from eastern Oklahoma, I wouldn’t be any good at this. However, this isn’t completely true. I’m not going to be an interior decorator any time soon, however, I dabble a bit with the ol’ color wheel and I understand some of the basics of color theory. I also have a girlfriend (Kristi) with a good eye for color, and we went to Sherwin-Williams and picked out 413 color swatches. That might be an exaggeration. Our focus eventually went to shades of gray and yellow. To help us along, I utilized Sherwin-Williams’ ColorSnap visualizer, which indicated that a yellowish color called Brittlebush that I liked would go well with another shade called Quest Gray.
Yellow and gray was very much within my palette sensibilities. My house was built in 1960, and so it’s very what they call mid-mod. My thought was that this house felt very early-1970s to me, and I really like that vibe. I ended up using another variation of gray, called Tin Lizzie. I don’t know how I ended up with that instead of Quest Gray, but it worked out just fine. It was just a tad darker.
Before I thought about furniture, I thought about a floor rug, something 8×10. I wanted to be able to take off my shoes and have something soft to walk on after a long day. And I wanted it to be white. I didn’t have an animal to mess it up any more, so I figured I’d get something bright and pristine. Also, I wanted a recliner with a side table and a floor lamp for reading.
The rug part of the equation was easy. I picked one up for less than $100 at Walmart, if memory serves me correctly. And I got lucky on a heck of a deal on the recliner and side table at Bob Mills Furniture. I got both for less than $200. You read that right. Kristi and I went to Bob Mills Furniture on New Year’s Day and stumbled into a sale within a sale. Our first salesperson led us along to the most expensive pieces, and then a second salesperson said, “Come here. You won’t believe this deal.”
It was an electric, white recliner for $119. There was no catch.
I told her, “You are the keeper of great deals. You must show me more!”
And she did. She sold me a side table for $29.
The room was coming together nicely, but I knew that I wanted a bookcase and an entertainment center. I had a very specific vision for both: a bookcase that was both relatively tall and wide and an entertainment center that was wide and white. The other part of this equation is that I’d rather drink Clorox than have to put either of these things together a la something you’d get from IKEA.
That’s where it pays to have a brother who does woodworking. And, no, my brother is not Nick Offerman. His name is John, and he has a business called Sooner Woodworking. People dream up what they’d like, and he builds it on spec.
Yes, it would be cheaper to buy your bookcase or entertainment center at a furniture store, but if you want a custom-sized mobile kitchen cart, an extra large Adirondack chair or a personalized toy chest, finding a skilled woodworker is the way to go. For the record, I got a heck of a deal. I paid cost for both of these pieces.
Getting the ball rolling was easy, too. I drew what I wanted the bookcase and entertainment center to look like, and I ballparked some dimensions. With the size of my room, I knew how wide and tall I wanted each piece to be.
Picking a color was my favorite part of the process. With Brittlebush and Tin Lizzie, a yellow and a gray, I aimed for a bright color that would stand out. So for the bookcase, I picked Sherwin-Williams’ Larchmere, SW 6752. It’s kind of a blue-green, heavier on the blue than the green. The entertainment center I wanted to be white or a cream-variant of white.
John’s been doing this for years, a hobby he turned into a business, and it’s something for him to do that relaxes him after a long shift as a nurse at a hospital.
“I have always had an interest in woodworking, but there was a nurse I worked with who did a lot of it. He showed me a lot of my fundamental joinery and tools needed such that I could get a head start,” John told me. “I have thrown myself into every aspect of woodworking education, such as Fine Woodworking magazine, the Woodtalk podcast and more.”
He’s been doing this now for five years. I asked him about the wood he used to build my bookcase and entertainment center.
“I used yellow pine, and I used yellow pine because it’s considered one of the strongest, most versatile species of wood, competitively priced,” he said.
When he finished them, John delivered the bookcase and entertainment center and helped me get it in the house and positioned just where I wanted it. He also brought me the leftover paint and two paint brushes, secured with an air-tight cover to ensure usability in the future.
Even if he weren’t my brother, I would almost certainly sought out something custom-made for this room. I had waited a long time to create a room where I could take the edge off after a long day, and I wanted to put some creativity and effort into it.
I would encourage you to go like John’s Facebook page, “Sooner Woodworking,” in the event you get a pinch of inspiration for a piece of furniture you’d never find just-how-you-like-it at some store.