Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Overhauling A Professional Puppeteers' Room: Part 2

I'm back with another puppet room update! If you missed it, be sure to check out Part 1 for the fun puppet storage wall we built last time.

With the actual puppet storage taken care of and the closet space maxed out, we turned our attention to the two workspaces on the left wall. Here's a reminder of the "Before":

You can see how the two different desks - and their lack of storage - is a big part of the visual clutter in this room. Even if you have a high clutter tolerance like I do, a lack of clear workspace is a huge motivation killer; creativity needs room for activities.

It took me a few weeks to wrap my spatially-challenged brain around a proper design here, because this build had a lot of requirements: The work spaces had to be cohesive but clearly divided, so Kelsey's sewing projects couldn't spill over. They had to have as much storage as possible, but also extra desktop area. Then they had to break down into smaller pieces to go up a set of stairs.

Finally, it all had to be as inexpensive as possible, both because we had zero budget and because that's how we roll. ::eye brow waggle::  (Our labor is always free, but in this case we're gifting the material costs as well.)

I started watching FB Marketplace for pieces we could incorporate into the desks, and soon scored this hefty pair of nightstands for $30:

They were dingy and dated, but the giant drawers were perfect for storage.

Next I talked through my ideas with John, and he worked his magic drawing up a scale sketch:

Can you visualize the finished build from these? I'll give you a hint: The center divider is a bookcase turned sideways.

So now that I've confused you further (snerk), let me show you what it looks like in real life.

First the Before again, because I like a dramatic reveal:

And now, preeeee-senting our newly installed, double-sided, 10-foot long custom work station:

::mini trumpet fanfare::


This baby's got it all, let me walk you through the details.

First, construction-wise, I cleaned up the nightstands and painted them a lovely gray:

I lined them with Dollar Tree contact paper, which matches perfectly and is super satisfying.

Here's the paint I used:
It took me 3 cans to do 2 coats on both nightstands. I wouldn't usually spray paint furniture since it's not very cost-effective, but I wanted those drawer fronts perfect. Then for extra durability John sprayed on a top coat of Minwax semigloss lacquer.

Finally I replaced the chipped wooden handles with these sweet metal ones from Amazon:

Not gonna lie, by the end I was low-key in love with these nightstands.

Next I lucked out & found the perfect size bookcase on FB Marketplace for $10:

 This was before I cleaned it; after a quick scrub it was about like new.
With those structural pieces found, John went to work making the laminate tops and riser shelf.

We've avoided building with laminate in the past because of the raw edges, but this iron-on edging lets John make the pieces look factory finished. SO COOL. And so much more durable than painted wood! Now that I know this is an option, look out, world.

John attached pegboard (which we had left over from another job) to the back of the bookcase, which both covered the ugly back *and* provides more storage, which you'll notice is something of a theme here. :p

The final step was adding legs and putting it all together.

The nightstands weren't tall enough to support the desk, so John added 5 inch risers cut from a 2inch dowel. Happily that makes the top of the nightstands an extra storage space, kind of a bonus cubby.

We planned to use the gray Adil legs from Ikea, but they only had white in stock, so we rolled with it. (They'd look better in gray, though. Hurmph.)

All told this was one of our harder projects to design, but one of the easiest to actually build, thanks to our using second-hand furniture.

Our total cost was about $120, here's a rough breakdown:

$40 nightstands & bookcase
27 laminate
10 laminate edging
10 handles
23 legs
10 spray paint

As much as I'm adverse to spending money, I gotta say, $120 is a BARGAIN, especially for something I hope will last Kelsey and Calvin many years. Not to mention the fun factor: John and I had such a blast with this, I can't wait to build more Franken-furniture!

Now back to the oh-so-satisfying before-and-afters.

Before, Kelsey's sewing space had zero storage, so all her materials and projects ended up on the table in a big jumble:

Now Kelsey has three storage areas: the desk drawers underneath, the pegboard to the right, and the shelves and basket on the wall in front for her works-in-progress:

The pegboard still needs maximizing, but we hung a few things for now:

Before there were 2 metal drawer units between the desks, buried and overflowing with fabric:

(Another challenge was all the puppet on-lookers wandering through. Octavian, move, you're in the shot!)

With the help of the fabric organizer from my last post and a little purging, Kelsey was able to consolidate down to just one drawer unit, which fits perfectly beneath the center T section:


Back over to the left you can see the fabric organizer in the closet is within easy reach:

We left some space between the desk and wall to make the closet
access easier, and it's just enough room for both their paper shredder and trash can. I expect we'll add corner shelves above those, because I'm determined to take advantage of every INCH of available space.

Now let's look at Calvin's side!

Before, Calvin was somehow producing an entire web series from the tiniest corner desk I've ever seen:

This thing was maybe 15 inches deep? Yeesh. Calvin was storing his paperwork, books, and binders on various display shelves around the room, which of course didn't look great, plus their brand new printer was still in a box on the floor, because they had no place to put it.

Now Calvin has a proper depth worktop, custom riser shelf for his Mac, and space for the printer. Woohoo!

Here's a little fish-eye lens (WOMP WOMP) to give you a better idea of this corner:

The bookcase hides the seam, so this only LOOKS like a 10-foot long desk. The whole setup breaks down into 4 pieces: two 5-ft desks, the center T jut-out, and the bookcase. Even the legs unscrew, so when it comes time to move this should be a cinch.

Calvin was away doing Cool Puppeteer Stuff while we were installing, so his side is less filled, but you can see he has plenty of room in the book case for books and paperwork and whatnot:

I love how turning the bookshelf this way hides the paperwork clutter from the rest of the room, so there's less pressure to keep it pretty.

I'm also really proud that we managed to keep almost ALL of the wall art and displays, with only minimal re-arranging:

We only lost a single piece of art from this wall, which we'll hang on the other side of the room.

If you're wondering how close the puppets are to all this, here's a wide angle with a teeny sliver of feathers on the right to give you an idea:

And the view looking back toward the closet:

I'm so stinkin' happy with how far we've come, but this room isn't finished yet! I'd say we're about 80% there. We still have more boxes and clutter to organize, better lighting to install, and I'm hoping we can arrange these display cases a bit better:

(Taken before we installed the puppet wall.)

I'll leave you with one last nugget: remember how I said last time I wanted to fill that second shoe organizer with dollar store pencil boxes? Well we did, and it is AWESOME.

I'll try to get better photos next time.

I hope this inspires you to see your space with fresh eyes, or to tackle that pile of things that needs organizing, or to consider secondhand nightstands the next time you're building a desk.

Unlike re-decorating, organizing your space doesn't have to cost a lot of money - or sometimes any at all! So if you have extra time but no extra funds, trust me, just start. You can add the fancy bins or new furniture later - and you may be surprised how far you can get using only what you have.


Another option: If you're local to the Orlando area and need help with an interior home repair or project you otherwise can't afford, then please, e-mail us! John and I are insured professionals with two decade's experience in all areas of construction, and we always work for free. Whether it's replacing a toilet or overhauling a puppet room, Project: Epbot is our way of working together and showing some love to our community. So hit us up!


Now before you go, let's announce some art winners from my last post:

The winner of the Pixar print set is MadWild

The winner of the Star Wars set is Degera

And the winner of the Borderlands set is the appropriately named Pandora

Congrats, you three, and please e-mail me your mailing addresses!


  1. Y'all are absolute wizards in what you're able to accomplish. I wish that there was a Project Epbot: On the Road edition so that I could let y'all loose on my house! I've actually got two spaces I'm hoping to update someday soon. :) (One just needs better lighting, and the other would be a board game room that's set up to record and stream playthroughs.)

    I love watching y'all work! Thanks for bringing us along for the ride.

  2. Ahhhhhhhhhmazing! You are wizards who work wonders. Great job!

  3. Can you give a little more detail on how the dowel risers were attached to the desk and nightstands?

    1. Sure! The wooden dowels are attached to the nightstands by extra long screws going UP through the top of the nightstands, then John added a flat board across the top of the two dowels to increase the support area for the desk to sit on. Finally that extra board is screwed up into the desktop itself. Hope that makes sense!

  4. OMG...all the emotions! So amazing, I kept reacting out loud.."oh yeah ya did!" and the like. And then the warm fuzzies (and cut onions) at the end remembering how you both are so big-hearted and sharing your gifts this way. So inspiring! <3

  5. You guys gotta road trip to connecticut, I have the perfect playroom for you to overhaul

  6. You guys should start offering design services virtually while waiting on physical projects to become available! I’d hire you for my weird hallway that needs a desk and storage, or make a donation to a charity of your choice.

    1. I second this! I need help figuring out how to incorporate a full time office into my craft room. I can do (or figure out how to do) the leg work, but need help with the inspiration.

    2. If you could, 100% on this. I have Weird And Specific Challenges and just don't have the whatever-it-takes to solve all of them, although I've inched along as I've thought of slightly better solutions. But oy. A pair - nay, two pairs - of non-judgmental eyes to figure out how to get things to work would be so valuable. (but if you do your magic by actually seeing the space in person, that wouldn't work, and that is totally fine. But if you could work from photos/dimensions... ahhhh.)

    3. I've debated trying this, maybe have y'all send in pics and a video walk-though, and then John and I could brainstorm up a sketch and some ideas. If you're willing to let me post your pics on Epbot, we could even open it up as a crowd-sourced thing, since we have a lot of talented creatives here. Could be a fun group exercise!

      The biggest hurdle for me is visualizing when I can't physically be in the space... but I'm willing to try! So yeah, if any of you want to e-mail some pics a quick video our way, hit me up. No charge because I get blog post fodder out of it, and I think others would enjoy the challenge, so could be a win-win-win!

  7. You guys are so amazing in so many ways!!!

  8. You are both miracle workers, I wish I had someone like you and John to help organise my new at home office.

  9. AAH! I wish y'all lived in the DMV, I have a craft room/home office/music studio that is in utter shambles! I like the two-in-one desk set up. Even though I'm only one person, I might borrow that idea to separate my office desk top from my crafting work top.

    1. Yes! One thing I've learned is the value of zoning: having those designated areas is so good for our brains when looking at a space.

  10. This is an inspired design! I love repourposing furniture pieces, and this room just turned out amazing!

  11. I'm in love with those nightstands! Your desk design is perfect. I would love to see the client's reaction on video when you do a reveal.

  12. You can't see it, but I'm Muppet flailing like a loon.

    1. Bahaha! It's a good day when I can be responsible for some loony Muppet flailing.

  13. "Calvin was away doing Cool Puppeteer Stuff while we were installing, so his side is less filled"
    .... will we get a description/video of the reveal? That's always a part I like in decorating shows! That's an amazing setup and it gives me ideas for a working at home setup too!

    1. Hey, that's a fun idea! Kelsey has been here through the whole process, but Calvin is away for another few weeks. If we get *everything* done in time, maybe we'll see how he feels about a video reveal. They're both entertainers, so at least we know they're not camera-shy. :D

    2. Also, yes, I will absolutely do a video walk-though when we're done - it's so hard to show everything in still photos alone!

  14. Oh my goodness, I let out an audible gasp when I saw my name in the prize announcement at the end, hoe exciting! Thank you so much, I'll email straight away!

    The room is looking amazing and I love all the little hints and tips. Those pencil boxes in that organiser are *chef's kiss*.

    1. Oops, I meant 'how exciting' not 'hoe exciting'. Clearly too excited to proof-read!

      I've sent the email, I used the jen[at]epbot address, hope that's the correct one. Looking forward to hearing from you. Thank you again!

  15. I was like "Weird, I'd swear that was a picture of my girl Katya by the sewing machine", and then I looked at it close up and IT IS my girl Katya and I am SHOOK! Wasn't expecting my favourite queen, but I should be used to her surprising me.

    No shade all love, but the first thing I though when I saw the Before pix was "Well, first off all, those desks are ridiculously small and they have got to GO. How do/did they work this way so well for so long?!" Great job, you guys!

    Your Pal,

    Storm the Klingon

  16. OMG - the pencil box storage!!!!! Perfect for my H.S. Costume Crew! No more digging for snaps in a large box. And the peg board on the bookcase - stealing THAT idea for our home sewing space.You people ROCK.

  17. Was the clamp-mounted head display for the Donald Duck Mickey hat something they already had, or something you found for them? I would love to have one like that for my Batgirl cowl so it wouldn't tip over from just being *looked at* like my current one does. :P

    1. Kelsey already had that, I'll ask where she found it!

    2. That's a "wig block", which is the real, actually sturdy thing that those cheapo Styrofoam wig heads are trying to be and HOLY CATS THEY'RE ONLY LIKE $25 ON AMAZON NOW they used to cost a fortune! Anyway, they're for styling wigs, unless Kelsey has another use? You use long T-pins to mount the wig to it, and tease that thing til it cries.

      Your Pal,

      Storm the Klingon

  18. Bravo! I'm imagining Crocodile Dundee saying: "That's not a desk. This is a desk!"

  19. Excellent use of the space! Looks really functional, and a great improvement storage-wise.

  20. Ooh, lovely!
    Though I will admit that my brain says there is clearly an artwork missing from the white end/side of the bookcase :P

  21. Someday.... I will call upon thee for an assist! Your posts get me all revved up for a good room makeover!!

  22. oh I'm so glad I saw this because I need to know the name of that stuff you've used on the sewing machine side of the partition - with the little holes in it ! It's driving me nuts because I need some and can't search for it without the name! what is it? awesome remodel as always xxx

    1. That's called pegboard! You can find it at Lowe's or Home Depot.

  23. I think those nightstands perfectly match the bed I have... which is hilarious because my bed was apparently made in 1987!


Please be respectful when commenting; dissenting opinions are great, but personal attacks or hateful remarks will be removed. Also, including a link? Then here's your html cheat sheet: <a href="LINK ADDRESS">YOUR TEXT</a>