small improvements: painting the closet.

April 29, 2021

No matter if you live in an old apartment or house or castle on a hill, I highly recommend a weekend project of painting the inside(s) of your closet(s). This is also my regular reminder to myself and others that sometimes, and probably most times, the best small improvements are those that make living in our homes more enjoyable for *ourselves,* no matter if anyone else ever sees the fruits of the labor. In the case of a freshly painted closet interior, putting a little work into it means getting a clean slate and a place that feels fresh and useable. In an old rental especially, the peace of mind from a fresh coat of paint is considerable.

If you follow me on Instagram, you might be aware that in our kids’ room there’s a large, makeshift closet/wardrobe/monstrosity/lifesaver. (What I call it changes depending on the day and my mood.) It’s one of two closets in our apartment and it’s where we hang up clothes and store our vacuum, and our linens and kids’ clothes that don’t currently fit anyone but that might soon enough. There are a few paint cans tucked into the top, a box of Christmas decorations, and in the off-season, two small fans and winter coats. In other words, as in any small space, it’s a multifunctional closet trying to meet a lot of different demands.

The particulars don’t really matter here, but I’ll share them anyway to give a sense of the improvement. The closet is built of plywood and is more or less tacked into the corner of the room. It partially covers a door that leads to the hallway and it was fitted in such a way that kept the molding and tin ceiling tiles undisturbed. When we moved in, the inside was like a mini time-capsule of the room’s former life: deep salmon walls and Grover-blue carpeting and some serious mustiness. I gave it a wipe down and covered the interior walls with three coats of white paint, tacked a drop cloth over the carpet, and hung up my beloved charcoal bags in hopes of soaking up some of the odor, but it wasn’t until I ripped out the carpet last weekend that we all got a literal breath of fresh air.

The carpet was nailed into place so removal was easy enough if very dusty. I wore a mask and kept an air purifier running on high next to me (and kept my kids out of the room) while I worked. Underneath the carpeting, the original wooden floor was painted brown and paint splattered. In the case that the closet walls ever come down, the painted floor will have to be refinished to the match the rest of the room, anyway, so I took the liberty of making it much easier to live with in the meantime and covered that with a fresh coat of white paint, too.

In a week when leaves have fully unfurled and the streets are awash with green pollen and pink petals, I’m especially grateful to not also be breathing in that carpet dust, too. In a later iteration of slow apartment progress, I’d love to find a dresser to upgrade our linen storage situation and to put the boxes I’ve been using for that purpose to work for the kids’ clothes in waiting. As with all things that will get done eventually and in the meantime, the improvement is considerable. Here’s to paying a little attention to even what usually doesn’t get seen.

For the curious:

There’s no mold in here, thank goodness, but cavernous floor gaps with a century of dust settling between them and perhaps also our new, slightly closer proximity to a major highway means that the whole family has been suffering a bit from allergies since our move. I reached out to Blueair earlier this year to see if I could try one of their air purifiers and using it for the last month has made a significant improvement.

I’ve sung its praises before, but I bought our vacuum cleaner in my last semester of graduate school and have used it every day for the last ten years. Best vacuum, period.

I found our vintage enamel wash basin locally years ago, but online options in all states of repair abound for treasure hunters.

More about our makeshift linen storage.

This post includes affiliate links. Reading My Tea Leaves might earn a small commission on the goods purchased through those links.

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  • Reply Christina April 29, 2021 at 4:27 pm

    Since the two of us in my house started working from home I noticed some symptoms that had me thinking our indoor quality here is probably worse than in the buildings where we work, where there are laboratories and the air is turned over many times an hour. I added one of those exact air purifiers to each of the bedrooms where we work, and we love them. I definitely wake up less dry and stuffy. We keep them on auto, and we notice that they kick into high gear right after we’ve been sauteeing something on the stove on high heat – all the way at the other end of our long and skinny 900 square foot house. That means that we’ve probably been sending small particulate matter into our bedroom at WHO-rated dangerous levels for years! (…I asked Blueair for the auto setting PM2.5 thresholds ). Anyway, I wasn’t an air purifier person until I started spending all my time at home, and now I am very much an air purifier person.

  • Reply Kat v April 29, 2021 at 4:45 pm

    Love this post, and eying my big brown wooden dresser with curiosity as to if I could paint it. I think the link to the vacuum is wrong? I don’t see it on the post you linked to. Thanks!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE April 29, 2021 at 4:48 pm

      Whoops! Fixed it! (And yes to that dresser!)

  • Reply Jessica April 29, 2021 at 6:57 pm

    We recently painted our floors while we spend time figuring out what we want to do more permanently. Our floors have huge gaps between boards! I used some self leveling gap filler in the cracks (sold in the concrete section of Home Depot and designed to fill gaps in concrete). So far it’s working great! We did a whole floor and had to use a large rented floor sander, so I put the gap filler down between sandings and then sanded it down along with the floors (it was kind of tacky — prob not intended to be sanded, but it worked out). I didn’t even know about painted floors until a few months ago! Such a great solution!

  • Reply Jamie April 29, 2021 at 8:30 pm

    Grover blue, love that !!
    When I was little ( in the 1970’s ) I had pink and green shag carpeting in my room. I remember thinking it looked like pink flowers and green grass.

  • Reply Lindy April 29, 2021 at 11:02 pm

    Hi Erin!
    Thieves essential oil truly does clean the air— ( Thief on Amazon is cheaper and perfect.
    I always feel comforted knowing I can rely on that. Plus the air purifier …

  • Reply MN April 30, 2021 at 9:56 am

    Yes, absolutely. We live in a house built in 1942. I have painted several closets, covering mint green, salmon pink, and chocolate brown with untinted white. I thought of it as yet another project on my to-do list, but now when I open these closets I am delighted. It’s not so much the brighter color or covering the dated colors; it’s that they look cared for. I am proud of them.

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