Building the panic room

I’ve done three projects over the past six months or so: I made a patio cover and built a sectional for it, I did an easy-to-revert conversion of our garage into a home theater, and I built a loft for Ben.

The loft project started when Ben said he wanted to rearrange his space a little. We looked at it, and talked about his options, but I kept coming back to the notion that he was just sort of maxed out: A full bed, a desk for his computer, a giant beanbag for his gaming area … there just wasn’t much space, and rearranging it felt like it wouldn’t net much.

I proposed a loft, and after a little debate we decided to add it to my backlog.

Thinking back to my own lofts in college, and remembering when Ben had a rickety IKEA one when he was much younger, one thing I knew I wanted to get rid of was the need for a ladder or a climb up the end from floor-level. After some poking around, I found this design on

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It had a few benefits:

  • stairs instead of ladders, with a deck at a decent level to make it easy to get in and out of the bed
  • simple design using 2x4 and 2x6, with no tricky cuts or techniques.
  • easily modified design: I could see how to increase its depth to accommodate a full bed, increase its width to go wall-to-wall in Ben’s room, and increase the height of the down-below area to make it easier for 6’2” Ben to get in and out.

Ben signed off and we took about three days to complete the basic loft, from clearing out his room to give me space to build all the way to screwing the stairs down to complete it.

Besides modifying the basic dimensions, I reused Ben’s IKEA slats system, rather than putting the mattress down on 2x4s for a little better feel.

Because I ended up going wall-to-wall, I was able to add more stability to offset the increased height and width by bolting ledgers to two of the walls and anchoring to them. I experimented with knee braces before settling on that, and they helped a lot, but just anchoring on ledgers makes it rock solid.

He was able to use it on the first night:

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On the second, I had the deck in place, but couldn’t quite get to the stairs.

On the third night, I had the stairs in place, and we decided to partially enclose the bottom area with a piece of plywood:

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The plywood didn’t sit that well with me visually, even less so when I built a sliding barn door for the bottom, so I got some cedar fencing and cut it to size to provide a facade that matches the door:

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The wall and door make it feel pretty cozy down below. He put an extra rug down, and it works with the mattress ceiling to dampen the sound in there, creating this sense that you’re in a very different space from the outer room.

Fiiiiinally took the time to get pi-hole up on the Synology. Pausing for a moment to remember the day my server started making burnt plastic smells in the nursery and I decided shared hosting was probably fine for my purposes.


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Solitairica is pretty fun! It’s a rogue-lite solitaire card crawler thing with character classes, procedurally generated bosses, and a lot of polish. The art reminds me a lot of the Kingdom Rush series, and it has a similar sense of humor.

The classes are pretty well differentiated, with some interesting dynamics to attend to for each depending on their unique starting spells or ability. I seem to do best with the spellcaster types, can’t really crack the code on the tanks, and have had middling success with the healer types.

Part of the fun has been experimenting with different builds: You buy spells and items throughout the game as you earn gold, all of which show up in the store at random, so you never know which will be available before a given round. There’s also no perfect build. Some of the bosses use direct attacks, requiring a lot of armor and healing gear; some alter cards on the table in such a way that you need to be able to cleanse or remove them quickly. By the time a 19-match progression is in the final stages, you’re swapping spells and items in and out to cope with the (unique each time) characteristics of a given boss, so it’s wise to think in terms of grabbing things that you might not need right now, but will when a certain permutation of boss shows up. The store allows you to place a hold on an item you can’t afford for a little gold, which is also a good way to keep certain spells available until you need them.

I think it’s a pretty good comment on the game’s balance that a lot of rounds come down to “just one health left, one card to remove, boss has a finishing move queued up, will the right card come up?” sorts of situations. Those moments far outweigh the occasional “can’t draw a single useful card” wipeouts.

It also suits my gaming lifestyle: Each round takes about five minutes (barring some bosses that have annoying game-prolonging abilities) so it’s great for picking up and putting down throughout the day. I think I like the vague reminder of Hearthstone, which I put down because the solitaire modes weren’t what I wanted.

Available on Steam, iOS, and Google Play. It’s $3.99, and while it has IAP, it’s just for a few extra decks/classes, so it’s not the gross kind.