An area of my kitchen was in need of a makeover, thanks to the “resourcefulness” of one of my home’s previous owners. It looked as if they’d had one of those seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time moments while attempting to add some additional storage space. Their creation was one that made me stand and stare for a moment while thinking, “Hmm. Really?”
That’s the same reaction most visitors had when seeing my kitchen for the first time. It amused me to watch the the “Hmm. Really?” look wash over their faces when they rounded the corner and saw it. The “it” was two mis-matched cabinets—one stuck to the underside of the other—in an area next to the fridge. Here it is. Now you can have the “look” too.
I’m guessing a previous owner saw the “cabinet-stack” as a quick and easy storage solution. While I do respect their creativity and agree that the idea wasn’t all that bad, there were some obvious problems. The door styles didn’t match, the cabinets were made from two different types of wood, the stain colors didn’t match and one cabinet had exposed hinges, and the other had hidden hinges. And the doors were crooked. Yikes. It all had to go.
Since my kitchen is small, it was important to make the best possible use of space, and custom open shelving was the way to go. First, I must say that there should be a kitchen law that states any builder who installs 30″ upper cabinets (that don’t go all the way to the ceiling) in their kitchens should be thrown in the slammer. Upon release, they should be required to register as a kitchen offender. Thirty-inch cabinets in small kitchens are a bad idea because instead of storage, that full foot of unused open space above the cabinets is reduced to a dust-catcher.
I’ve heard the argument that an average-height person can’t reach the top shelf of a 42″ cabinet. There’s this thing called a step stool, and I’ll gladly use one in order to have a place to put seldom-used, but vital kitchen items like my waffle iron and my ice bucket that hasn’t been used since 1995. Needless to say, I was going all the way to the ceiling with my shelving unit.
Basically, I built a bookcase without a bottom shelf because I wanted the area to look “hutchy”. I agonized over how deep to make it. After all, this was my big chance to gain some extra inches, but I didn’t want the shelves so deep that it would look odd. I was trying to rid this kitchen of odd, after all. I decided to make the shelves 16″ deep, so I gained four inches of depth per shelf over the 12″ deep cabinets that were there previously. Here’s the shell assembled and painted.
The beauty in all of this is I was able to space the shelves to accommodate my personal stacks of plates, the height of my drinking glasses and the size of my mixing bowls that I planned to display.
I added beadboard backing for interest, but it also helped me to keep the project square. I drove nails through the back of the beadboard and into each shelf to give added support so the shelves wouldn’t warp over time. I built the unit with 3/4″ plywood that was cut to size for me at Lowe’s. I made it about a half-inch smaller than the opening to allow for any wonkiness in the walls. Even so, it had to be “persuaded” into its new home, and was then attached to the studs in the wall behind it.
Since I knew I’d be sliding dishes across the shelves, I decided to use laminated shelving rather than painted plywood. That turned out to be a good decision. I’ll never have to re-paint the shelves or worry about paint scratching or rubbing off onto my glassware. Plus I have a bad habit of putting away dishes when they’re still wet. Not a problem with laminate!
I had a nicely-shaped piece of routed trim that was given to me by neighbors who knew I hoarded that sort of thing, so I used it to trim out the top of my shelves. My super-talented carpenter brother, Mike, cut it down to size for me. He removed the excess from the middle of the piece since both ends were tapered, and then used my Kreg Jig to join the two pieces back together. You can’t even tell he altered it. Genius.
Small kitchen. Small crown. I used a modest 2.5″ crown molding in addition to the very, very red trim piece (thank goodness for quality primer) for trimming out the upper part of the unit. It was the perfect size, and added presence without going overboard. I gotta be honest. My bro installed the majority of the crown molding in my kitchen. A carpenter I know (could’ve been my brother) said it’s not difficult to install. I disagree. Completely. I installed a couple of pieces and I’m grateful to whoever invented caulk. That’s all I’m gonna say.
I added fluted trim to the vertical sides, and had some smaller trim added to the front edge of the shelves to cover the rough plywood edges. And there you have it!
I had the base cabinet swapped out so I could have drawers instead of doors. It’s much more efficient for pots and pans. I also made a counter top out of some re-claimed wood (aka, wood I found and “claimed” from a curb). So a big thank you to whoever abandoned it, and I love the stain color you chose! Note the change in the counter top in the next two photos.
I had to wait a few months for the back-ordered drawer pulls, but it was worth the wait. Love them!
Now for the before and after photos. Note in the first “before” photo, that my silverware was stored on top of the counter. It lived there for a full year because the two small drawers in the original base cabinet weren’t wide enough for my silverware divider. Now I have a big-girl silverware drawer!
In the next two photos, you can see how the empty space above the cabinets went from dust-catcher to display space. So much better. I also swapped out the cabinet over the refrigerator with a deeper one.
Check out the charming penguin wine glasses in the next photo. They were purchased at a thrift store here in Central Illinois called “Two Sisters and a Warehouse”. A dear friend owns the shop that’s full of unique treasures. For more information, check out their website at www.TwoSistersAndAWarehouse.com.
Here’s the whole area before and after. I changed out my door casing, baseboards, doors and door hardware, and swapped out my refrigerator for a stainless steel one.
I love being able to store my dishes within easy reach, and love that this shelving unit holds much more than any standard cabinet would have. It also cost a lot less than buying something manufactured. I’m also happier with my lighter, brighter kitchen.
More about the full kitchen remodel later!
This post was written by Tracy Evans who is a Journeyman Painter and Certified Home Stager/Redesigner. If you enjoy gardening, you may want to visit her gardening blog at MyUrbanGardenOasis.Wordpress.com.