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Then and Now: Vintage Home Trends That’ll Take You Way Back

We opened The Family Handyman vault to bring you these fantastically tacky vintage home trends of decades past. Plus, see what similar projects look like today!

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’90s Closets

The ’90s brought us a lot of things, like the loud colors of the outfits and the bright red trim on the closet organizers in this cover from 1992.

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Turn of the Century Update

A simple shelf-and-rod system like this one takes the stress off the closet rod and creates zones for clothes. Learn how to build your own closet organizer on the cheap.

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Backyard Vacation

In the ’70s, the flannel flowed and we were building vacation spots (aka: a deck!) in the backyard.

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Backyard Oasis

We’ve beefed up our deck projects since the ’70s and came up with this elegant multi-level deck. It features cantilevered bays, overhead lattice, custom rails and cascading stairs. Plus: Check out these 14 DIY deck add-ons that are seriously cool.

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Wood Paneled Bar

The 1970s ushered in wood paneling, and boy are we glad it’s gone! This cover displays a family room service center and bar complete with recessed lighting.

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Bar Update

When we revisited the home bar a few decades later it compares to that of your favorite watering hole. We show you how to build it and how to sell it to the significant other. 

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Finishing Basements

We’ve been finishing basements since our beginning, and this one from 1957 transformed a basement into an activity room complete with a bar, television and fireplace.

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Activity Room Turns to Man Cave

We asked readers to send use their basement transformations and we got plenty of man cave ideas, like this one from from Brian Gartrell. He added a pool table and Muhammad Ali memorabilia. Getting jealous looking at this man cave? Check out 15 more to perhaps spur you to action. 

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Groovy Attic Room

Junior finally got his own room where he can listen to The Beach Boys all day. Of course, it’s in the attic but we transformed the space into a groovy room.

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Attic Play Space

Over the years people have taken to using the attic as a space for younger kids to spend time in, like this playroom. Be sure to take a look at these 15 amazing toy rooms that don’t require a remodel of the attic.

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Bunk Beds

Bunk beds have long been a staple for siblings growing up and these bunk beds from 1972 ventured away from the standard stacked bunk beds.

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Fit for a King

Bunk beds or in this case, a lofted bed, have gotten more elaborate for children, like this reader-built project. Your little knight in training can think he’s a king in this castle. You’ll be surprised at the other bunk bed creations readers have come up with.

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Year-Round Cottage

In 1961 we showed plans on how to build a year-round cottage by doing it in sections during the winter.

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Backyard Cottage

Forty years later we showed you a backyard cottage shed that you can build that’ll make it feel like you’re worlds away.

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Learning in the Workshop

Passing down workshop skills to the next generation has been a time-honored tradition for DIYers, and we captured the scene on a 1977 cover of father and son working together.

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Building a Bookcase

Justin and his son, Jackson, teamed up on a woodworking project together for a story we did a few years back. They built a bookcase together and Jackson got to learn some of the finer points of woodworking.

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DIY Kitchen

The ’80s brought us loads of interesting décor choices and really this red-and-white color combo is one of the more subdued designs. Red and white color schemes were rampant in the ’80s, remember red-framed glasses? They are starting to come back again.

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DIY Kitchen Evolves

As the years rolled on, plastic laminate faded away and gave way to wooden cabinets in kitchens across the country. Explore what you can do with kitchen cabinets after taking a look at these cabinets. 

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Home Innovations

As concern grew about the rising energy costs in the late ’70s and early ’80s, they tried different ideas. this home traced energy consumption down to the last watt. It was estimated then that earth-sheltered homes could reduce heating and cooling costs by 50-85 percent.

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Geothermal

As costs came down, geothermal has become more of an affordable option for home heating and cooling. A geothermal heat pump can immediately save you 30-60 percent on heating costs and 20-50 percent on cooling costs. Find out all you need to know about geothermal here. 

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Big-Top Basement

This ambitious basement project from 1965 showcases the imagination we’ve had when it comes to projects at home.

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Basement Theater

You can watch the circus comfortably from a leather sofa in a home theater. One of our readers submitted this project and you can get all of the details here. 

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Finished Basement Game Room

Back in 1958 playing shuffleboard in the basement sounded like a pretty good night. Put on the record hi-fi and settle down for a game of Scrabble later.

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Conventional Basement Family Room

Today’s finished basements tend to create more family living space or additional bedrooms. Finishing a basement adds useable living space to a home and can increase a home’s value. We show you what goes into finishing a basement and how to get started doing it.

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Stone Fire Pit

We’ve shown readers how to construct fire pits from nearly the beginning of the magazine in 1951. This fire pit appeared in a 1955 issue.

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Updated Fire Feature

We got a little outside of the box with a fire table creation some years later. It’s a little less maintenance and looks pretty good on a cool summer evening.

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Fireplace

This 1960 edition explained how to cure a smoking fireplace, just in time for the holidays.

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Fancy Fireplace

It’s safe to say fireplaces have changed dramatically since the introduction of gas fireplaces.

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Flexible Wall Unit

We showed off this flexible wall unit in 1961. Back then it included a hi-fi, desk, a place for records, books and storage.

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Showcase Built-In Bookcase

Nearly a half century later we took the concept of the flexible wall unit and turned it into a stunning showcase built-in bookcase at a relatively cheap price.

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Garage Bump Out

We didn’t call it a garage bump out in 1954, but that’s what this project did.

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Garage Bump Out Now

We classed it up a little more the second time around. A garage bump out can make maneuvering around a little easier.

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Garden House

This storage shed in 1967 was built with a brand-new construction method designed by Amco Engineering Co. It combined extruded aluminum framing members with special matching corner fixtures that tied them together.

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Garden Closet

Fast forward a few years and we put together this garden closet that fits perfectly into place for homes that don’t have the space for a large, freestanding shed. It accommodates the gangly items you need for the yard just fine.

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Bedroom From a Bare Wall

This 1972 cover billed this bedroom as a dream room for your daughter. It combined a vanity and dresser while creating storage below the bed. We’re not exactly sure how this would fly today though.

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A Playhouse Bunk Bed

This adorable bunk bed, shared with us by Facebook fan Nicolas Csonka, doubles as a child’s playhouse or indoor fort, complete with tiny door and window. You’ve got to check out the 14 coolest bunk beds out there today, too.

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All Things Outdoors

This June-July issue from 1953 covered a lot of issues related to the yard, but it’s the unusual grill incinerator that caught our eye in particular. F.S. Church submitted his grill incinerator for a “How I Built My Outdoor Grill” contest and took first prize. He received a 20-in. tilting table jig saw made by Shopmaster, Inc.

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Brick Barbecue Bar

There was no prize involved with this construction, instead reader John Kubicki submitted his brick barbecue bar to our brag board. Like F.S. Church, Kubicki never laid a brick before taking on this project.

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Emergency Home Repairs

Let’s just say we’ve been solving home emergencies for a long time and many of them have been plumbing related. Seems like sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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Leaking Pipes

In addition to solving home emergencies, we’ve been pretty good about providing solutions on how to prevent them, like with this “Stop Lurking Leaks” story.

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Hot Tubs

Sometimes it’s better to know someone with a hot tub rather than have your own hot tub. Back in ’79 we showed you how to install one.

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Above-Ground Pool

Decades later we moved on to swimming pools, like this above-ground swimming pool. If you’re in the mood for a pool, check out these incredible backyard pools.

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Underground Sprinkler System

Installing an underground sprinkler system was a little more labor intensive when we wrote about it in our third-ever issue in 1951.

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Underground Sprinkler System Now

The plan from 1951 is pretty comparable to a story we did in 2018 on irrigation. Except the men doing the work above are using a vibratory plow to pull polyethylene pipe through the ground. We show you how to get the job done in 11 steps.

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Kitchen Convenience

Even in 1956 we were looking for ways to find more space in the kitchen with this kitchen cabinet setup.

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Blind-Corner Cabinets

Blind-corner cabinets are cabinets on inside corners that are accessible from only one door. If you have a blind-corner cabinet in your kitchen, you know how hard it is to reach anything that gets shoved to the back. Most kitchen designers will try to plan space for a lazy Susan base cabinet instead of a blind corner. These have rotating shelves that provide good access to the contents. But if you’re stuck with a blind-corner cabinet and no lazy Susan, here are a few options worth exploring.

Discover 10 clever, simple and inexpensive kitchen cabinet add-ons and storage solutions you can use to transform standard kitchen cabinets.

Photo: Courtesy of Knape & Vogt

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Kitchen Remodeling

People have long turned to The Family Handyman for tips and ideas on how to remodel a kitchen. In 1960 we showed readers how to remodel part of a kitchen and buy part of the remodel.

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Kitchen Remodeling Now

We’ve still got great ideas on how to remodel a kitchen in our magazine and on our website.

This existing house was a single-story, 1,500-sq.-ft., two-bedroom, one-bath home. It was quaint, but too tight for a growing young family with two kids. The newly remodeled kitchen features a low peninsula countertop, which allows family and friends to sit and be a part of activity in the kitchen while still staying out from underfoot.

Project by Home Front Build.

Photo: Cris Nolasco

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Kitchen Upgrade on a Budget

Life gets chaotic, but we’ve always had ways to make your home work and be stylish like this 1983 edition.

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Kitchen Rollouts

We’ve rolled out kitchen cabinet rollout storage systems to make room for everything and clear the clutter. You’ll want to know these nine genius tips for organizing kitchens and clearing the clutter.

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Laundry Room Planning

The laundry room always seems to be a catch-all place where clutter builds up but we’ve had an eye toward preventing an eyesore, like we did with this cover story from 1969.

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Laundry Room Update

This sleek laundry room organization system can be one fix to a cluttered laundry room. Even if you have a small laundry room, we’ve got a solution for you to make the laundry room work better for you. 

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Lawn Care

From a portable lawn sprinkler to an underground watering system, we’ve tried to find ways to save on water and make lawn care easier.

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Lawn Care Fixes

We’ve kept the tips coming through the years, like watering your lawn in the fall. Check out these 10 tips for smarter watering.

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Library Room

We’ve long had a focus on literature like with this 1994 cover that created a library room in the house.

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Bookcases, Bookcases, Bookcases

We’ve got countless bookcase projects, many of which are simple and will make a drastic difference in a room.

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Home Improvement

Whether it’s the simple home improvement or something for a more advanced DIYer, we’ve had a multitude of projects to choose from to improve your home. We dressed up walls in this 1970 edition and we’ve continued to show more ways to class up walls.

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Weekend Wainscoting

You can add classy wainscoting to your home in a weekend, here’s how.

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Home Modules

This 1976 issue showed readers how to build modules for the home that could be assembled on an as-needed basis.

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Modular Masterpiece

Later on we showed readers a clever modular bookcase that can be thought of as a collection of boxes.

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Old Kitchen Transformed into Family Room

This 1964 issue featured a kitchen that transitioned into a family room.

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The Kitchen is Open

Years later we featured a family and their kitchen designer, Kathie Maughan, who found a way to give them everything they wanted. No space was added; the kitchen was simply opened up and reconfigured. She removed the wall that separated the kitchen from the formal dining room, and then designed matching cabinetry to flow through both spaces to help blend them together. This new space became an informal sitting area. The existing informal family room/eating space was spruced up to become a more sophisticated formal dining room. Find out the 10 things you should never do during a kitchen remodel.

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Outdoor Living Room

We’ve been coming up with ideas to bring a living room outdoors for years, just like we did with this outdoor living room in 1960.

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Outdoor Living Room Now

We got a little more elaborate with a screened-in version of an outdoor living room. 

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Decorating Ideas

Whether it’s painting the home’s interior or finding the right carpet, we’ve had the ideas homeowners have wanted to see through the years like these projects from 1982.

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Painting Tips

Painting has always been one of those projects that can turn into a mess if you’re not careful, but we’ve always had great tips on how to paint without making a mess. 

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Terrace Building

From complex projects to just a simple terrace idea, we’ve ran the gamut. This terrace design comes from 1954.

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Stone Path and Steps

We showed how to build a stone path and steps for a more intensive patio project later on.

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Simple Terrace Upgrade

The plans haven’t always been so complex that a first-time DIYer couldn’t attempt, as was the case with this terrace plan from 1967.

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Perfect Patio Combo

Not only have we shown readers countless patio projects, we’ve also shown the ways to furnish them, like this perfect patio combo.

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Patio Shelter

This patio shelter from 1959 carved out a perfect spot to relax in the backyard.

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Sheltered Patio

After the turn of the century we employed unique sandwich construction to build this stunning sheltered patio.

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Pergola

We haven’t shied away from trying new designs, and did it in the early days like with this pergola from 1961.

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Classic Pergola

We’ve vacillated between the creative and the classic and opted for a traditional look with this pergola construction. Sometimes understated can have just as much of an impact aesthetically.

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Play Shelter

As The Family Handyman, the “family” portion of our name has remained central to the projects we showcase. This play shelter turned out to be a good place for the kids to swing rain or shine.

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Rebuilt Play Set

Reader Ben Hoyle wanted to build a swing set in the backyard of his house for his daughters. So he found a used swing set that someone was giving away and decided to rebuild it. We love the opportunity to repurpose old items, like using these 80 items perfect for repurposing.

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Patio Barbecue Cart

We’ve had many barbecue projects for readers to choose from through the years and this barbecue wagon from 1958 is certainly one of the most creative we’ve made.

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Updated Barbecue Cart

Fifty years later we had another take on the barbecue wagon. We removed the actual barbecue part but kept the wagon part to make cooking easier. Check out another crazy barbecue contraption—a barbecue and smoker locomotive you won’t believe.

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Private Patio

This 1957 project showed how to create a private patio and billed it as patio glamour. It certainly has the look as a perfect getaway spot at home.

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Living Wall

We took elements of patio glamour to create a living wall for more scenery in that getaway spot. Enjoy the sweet smells that a living wall can provide.

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Room Divider

In 1955 we came up with a room divider that almost looks like it leads to a secret room. These hidden rooms will have you asking how they did it.

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Room Divider Simplified

A room divider doesn’t have to be as complicated as the one from 1955 but it can be perfect to create a little privacy or an essential element for a studio apartment. See how we built this room divider.

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Store-All Garden Tool Shed

In 1963 we created a store-all garden tool shed that fit everything and looked great.

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Double-Duty Pub Shed

After a while the standard shed became a bit mundane and we turned toward creating a shed that could double as a gathering place with this pub shed.

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Solar Shed

In 1983 we opted for an environmentally friendly shed that used solar power.

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Solar Shed Now

We’ve included plans for solar-powered home features like landscape lights and other larger projects, like how to add solar power to a shed.

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Storage Wall

In 1974 we found homeowners some more storage space with a storage wall in their homes.

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Suspended Shelf

This wall-hung bookshelf is one of the easiest we’ve ever built. If you can stack blocks, you can build it. And installing the cable doesn’t require any more skill than drilling a hole. Things will go a lot quicker if you own a table saw, a miter saw and a pneumatic nailer, but you could easily build this project with just basic hand tools and a circular saw. We used a router to bevel the shelf edges, but this is optional. If you’re dead-set on finishing this project in a weekend, here’s how. Skip the Friday night movie and cut out the parts and get one coat of finish on. Then get up early on Saturday and apply another coat or two of finish and you’ll be ready to assemble and install the shelves on Sunday. We spent a little under $200 for the materials, including the oak boards, cables and other hardware.

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Super Wall Graphics

The ’70s ushered in, well, unique decor trends like the wall graphic shown in this 1978 cover.

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Wall Graphics

These days, wall papers has started to see a resurgence, like in this bedroom. Check out the other color trends you should know for modern times.

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Workshop Storage

Our workshop tips have kept readers’ shops tidy for more than six decades and this issue from 1964 showed readers an all-in-one workshop and storage wall.

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On-a-Roll Pegboard Doors

Maximize hand tool storage in a tool cabinet with this slick tip. The key to this project is a 4-ft.-long by-pass sliding door hardware set (about $15 at a home center).You mount 1/4-in. pegboard onto it, making sure to provide enough room (2 in.) to hang tools on the pegboard and still allow it to slide by the door in front.

The trick is to insert 1/2-in. plywood spacers in the roller hardware as shown. You can use the floor bracket that comes with the slider hardware to maintain the same 2-in. clearance at the bottom of the cabinet. For door handles, simply drill a couple of 1-1/4-in. holes in the pegboard with a spade bit. Now pop in the pegs and hang up your tools.

Tame the clutter in the workshop with this tip and several others. 

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Yard Shed

Shed building has been a hallmark of The Family Handyman since our beginning and this yard shed from 1991 showcases how valuable a good shed can be.

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Shed Shelter

This shed has a large sliding door on one end to access the 8 x 16-ft. storage area, three windows for lots of light and a front entry door for extra convenience. But the best feature is the large covered porch where you can work on projects or just hang out in the shade with friends. The front half of the roof is supported by 6×6 posts and 2×10 beams. We continued the post-and-beam look on the rest of the shed, using the 2×10 beams to support the wide roof overhangs. We used inexpensive standard framing lumber for the beams and corner boards, and coated it with a super-durable finish to give it a rich, rustic appearance. The windows are aluminum storm windows. The front door is a steel entry door purchased at a home center.

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Concrete Coloring

Concrete is great for a patio but it has plenty of drawbacks, including the dullness of the color. We tackled that subject as far back as 1956 to make a backyard patio a far more inviting space.

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Staining Concrete

We revisited the subject some years later but with an alternative take. Instead of coloring the concrete we opted to stain it for a fantastic look. See how we stained the concrete.

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Garage Clutter

We’ve provided life-changing garage organization ideas for decades like this setup from 1965.

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The Ultimate Wall Storage System

Years later we found French cleats provide an awesome answer for garage storage like this ultimate wall storage system we came up with after Y2K.