Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Overhauling A Professional Puppeteers' Room: Part 1

Listen, some things are just more fun to organize than others. Paperwork? Bleh. Tupperware lids? Mostly bleh. (Unless you can fan them out in rainbow order.)

Ahh, but organizing puppets?


Happily that's exactly what John did when he got the e-mail for our latest room makeover.

Kelsey and Calvin are professional entertainers, puppeteers, and Muppeteers here in Orlando. Not only do they perform at the local theme parks, they also have some incredible side projects and passions. Kelsey does adorable puppet videos on TikTok for nearly a million followers, while Calvin is the creator of his own entire puppet troupe (!!), Bird Call. Bird Call has a family-friendly Youtube series, a 2-part musical, and even appears at live events here around town.

So yeah, these two are total rock stars.

And since they're friends of friends - and Kelsey's sis is a longtime Epbot reader (hi, Elizabeth!) - we connected a few months ago to discuss... THE PUPPET ROOM.

This felt like a good time to bring back dramatic chipmunk.

We're still mid-process, but let me take you on a tour of the Before, and talk about some of the things John and I hope to help with. This won't be the prettiest post, since the eye candy will (hopefully) be when we reach the "Afters", but I think you'll still find some helpful nuggets.

Let us... BEGIN.

Stepping inside is a short hallway -  you can already see this is an oddly shaped room.

Inside is a large-ish space that functions as both Calvin's office and Kelsey's puppet-making work area. They also display lots of Super Cool Stuff, which Distracted Jen A Whole Lot. :D

The first challenge in this room is lighting: We need more of it. However. Challenge #2 is that this is a rental, so we can't hard wire anything or do too much damage to the walls. That's... tricky.

The next - and arguably biggest - challenge is creating efficient storage. Everything is surprisingly well organized and even labeled, but Kelsey & Calvin had run out of places to put all the various bins and bags. That's why I did a happy dance when I looked in the closet:

 Look at all that underused space! YUSS.

I like to start with the closet when re-organizing a room; once you maximize that, you know exactly how much storage you'll need in the rest of the room.

Usually we'd take out that white wire shelf and build a whole mess of custom shelving here, but again, it's a rental. So instead you can see John and I've already taken off the bifold doors (I think we'd been there 10 minutes?) to make it easier to access and open up the corner. (We stored the doors in their garage; it's easy enough to put them back when they move.)

With the doors out of the way, we turned our attention to finding tall things we could move out of the room and into the closet, like these plastic storage towers:

After some measuring and a little stacking, we discovered all 4 of their drawer units fit PERFECTLY inside the closet:


Without the closet doors in the way they have full access to all the drawers, plus there's an extra 4-5 inches on either side for my clever - if I do say so myself - fabric organizer.

We added plastic slider feet & a wire handle to the side towers, so they can slide out of the way to better reach those side walls, too.

Here's a better look at the fabric, since I'm proud of all my rainbow rolls:

As a puppet maker Kelsey has LOTS of fabric scraps, which used to be stacked in drawers or bags where she couldn't see what she had. Now they're neatly rolled in rainbow order, and the clear pouches let her see them all at a glance!

That's a hanging shoe holder, btw:

These are $10 on Amazon, and I got one for each side of the closet. We only needed one for the fabric scraps, though, so for the other side I'm thinking something like this:

See how perfectly this plastic pencil box fits? This gives me... IDEAS.  ::eyebrow dance::

I'm hoping to find a bunch more pencil boxes - ideally at a dollar store to keep the cost down - and then fill them with sewing notions, art supplies, puppet eyes, etc. I really love this idea, y'all. You could store several drawers' worth of small items in a single organizer, all super visible and easy to grab! Perfect for these awkward edge spaces, or you could hang it over a door or even on a wall where you can't fit bulkier shelving or furniture.

Next we cleared a little more space in the room by assembling a shelving unit in an outside storage closet, and Tetris'ing all the long-term storage bins (mostly set pieces and backdrops) into place:

I think there was half an inch clearance with the door closed. MASTER LEVEL UNLOCKED.

On our second visit you can see some of the display cases have been shifted around, because we were moving on to our next challenge: the windows. Here's the first Before:

And the second Before:

The room has 3 windows, which eats up valuable wall space. Worse, Calvin and Kelsey don't even WANT sunlight in here, because it could fade the puppets. (Those are room-darkening curtains.)

So where ARE the puppets? In boxes. Many, many boxes.

But! All those puppets are about to go right over the center window. Lemme show you how:

After carefully measuring and drawing up plans, John went to the hardware store and loaded up on 3/4" PVC pipe, end caps, and T joints.

Everywhere you see a T joint we had to cut the pipe:

Then after the frame we had to cut about 23 support rods. So, a LOT of cuts.

Fortunately I was able to help, but only after John added these extenders to our piper cutter:

A++ would recommend if you have a pipe cutter and small hands, like me.

Here's where we were reeeeallly hoping our measurements were right:

Installation Day!

First John removed the curtain hardware and tacked the room-darkening shade directly to the wall with thumbtacks:

Testing the fit...

Of course we wanted that window to disappear completely, though, so what you haven't seen yet was all the fabric John cut and hemmed to fit precisely behind the PVC frame:


I love it when a good build comes together.

John attached the frame to the wall with 4 C clamps to steady it, but the majority of the weight rests on the PVC legs on the carpet. So again, very renter-friendly, with minimal wall damage.


Want to see some puppets on this bad boy?


Boo to the YA.

These are only about half the total puppets, because we don't want to show the big name Bird Call characters stored this way. (It's a puppet philosophy thing, which I completely respect.) Once all the characters are up there all but three pegs are filled - and let me tell you, that wall is a Thing To Behold. I couldn't stop grinning! Kelsey brought out box after box, introducing us to each character and telling us a little about them before setting each bird in place, and the whole time my inner 6 year old was losing her gosh darn MIND.

You don't get sound with this .gif, so just imagine a high-pitched steam whistle.

I meant to show you the custom desk we're building today, too, but as usual I've talked too much and this post has gotten too long. So, next time! Hopefully by then I'll have a finished build to show, and you can see how we turned a couple of $15 nightstands and a shelf from FB Marketplace into a massive 10 foot divided workspace with built-in storage. I AM EXCITED. Stay tuned!


P.S. If you're new here and looking for more room makeover goodies, check out our extreme office makeover from last December, where we turned a similar closet with bi-fold doors into it's own mini craft room!


  1. Wow! I love looking at these posts because it gives me hope that my own crafty junk pile of a room will one day look like a studio and not the outgrown shell of a Labyrinth Junk Lady :) You two are the best.

  2. I absolutely love your organizer porn posts. I'm absolute pants at organizing my own space, but seeing the innovative and beautiful ways you transform spaces makes me feel better and even, dare I say, gives me hope.

  3. Um... I think that Dramatic Chipmunk is actually Dramatic Prairie Dog... :O

  4. OK, now to comment on the entire post: OH EM GEE! So cool so far!

  5. What a great reminder to really look at closets differently

  6. That puppet display is a thing of genius.

  7. Okay, putting the frame to turn the window into a wall is absolutely brilliant! I can't wait to see the rest!

  8. I lurve how you and John work together in solving a difficult room. The shape of the room is driving the drafts-person in me crazy!

  9. I have pencil boxes in a stack annoying me. I have the shoe organizer holding unprotected sewing assorted stuff annoying me.

    You are a genius and I'm now annoyed that I'm stuck at work and can't put the two together at home yet.

    1. LOL! Now I have to shop. Because the pencil cases I have don't fit the shoe organizer I have. There are smaller pencil cases (I have them to carry utensils in my lunch bag), so it will come together eventually.

  10. AAAHHHHH!!! Hi Jen & John! :-D I'm so excited that I got to put you guys together!!! The room is looking SO GOOD. You guys really create miracles <3 And Kelsey and Calvin (like so many people in 2020) have been through so much in the last year, I'm glad I could be even a little part of this magic. <3 <3 <3

  11. I LOVE your organizing posts! I'm not organized, though I want to be, & these posts help a lot. Even if all I get is some vicarious satisfaction. There used to be a show called Design on a Dime that I forced my family to watch, & these posts remind me of it & how great creative people can really be

    1. Oh my goodness, yes, I LOVED DESIGN ON A DIME!! I've searched in vain for it online, and frequently complain to John that I can't find a modern show like it. All the design shows now seem to spend a small fortune on their makeovers, I miss those $200 budget builds using garage sale finds.

      Funnily enough searching for that show is how I found Do It On A Dime on Youtube, which is now one of my favorite channels, highly recommend.

  12. This is amazing already - I can't wait for the final reveal! Would it be wrong to take up puppet making just to have a wall like that?

  13. OMGee! I just posted in a clown forum on Facebook asking how people organized their puppets! (I got few responses and no photos.) I have a hat rack that I was putting puppets on but I’ve acquired more hats and more puppets so I need something bigger. We already have the pvc and pipe cutter, so I think this is something we’ll have to try. Thank you!

    1. Yay, I hope this helps! Thanks to a few top secret backstage photos (shhhh), we know that this is almost identical to how professional puppets and Muppets are stored - right down to the PVC - so it's time-tested and pro-approved. :)

  14. This is marvelous! I'm particularly in awe of the pencil case dimension possibilities. May I ask, what is the puppet storage philosophy to which you allude?

    1. Hi Julie! The puppet philosophy thing is to never show a "dead" puppet, aka a puppet not being performed. I believe it may have started with Jim Henson, who wanted to protect that magical reality for the kids. In this case the performers are only protective of their main characters, and don't mind the more minor characters being shown in storage this way.

    2. Thank you! That makes sense, balancing storage and light solution with character sanctity.

  15. This. Is. FANTASTIC!

    They're both so creative and amazingly talented and I KNOW how much breathing room you've both given them to stop looking at clutter and start paying in a fantastic "new" space! As creators, we know all too well how not having things accessible or in sight or having to fight to make our things can slow us down or even stop us dead...leading to a snowball of anxiety and depression. These two deserve to just flourish and play and create.

    So while you've seemingly just organized a room?

    You two did something magical that'll create an impact on not just them but a ripple effect on those who are entertained by their work.

    John and Jen?

    You're unicorns.

    Amazing, fantastically magical unicorns.

    Thanks for leaving a trail of awesomeness where ever you go.

  16. I don't normally leave comments (I tend to be a lurker) but was that a The A-Team reference?? (''I love it when a good build comes together.'') I've never met another person who's seen it, haha.

    1. It was, yes! Funnily enough that's one of those quotes I use all the time, but then I have to stop to think where it comes from, lol.


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