Archive for August, 2011
First of all- holy cow. We just had a crazy earthquake a few minutes ago. Very strong! It was completely unexpected for our area (we’ve never had a strong one before). The epicenter was right outside of Richmond (only about 35 miles from our house) and it registered about a 5.9! We’ve even heard from friends up in NY who felt it. Miraculously nothing fell off the walls or broke, but the whole house shook violently and it was insanely loud (we all gathered under a steel-enforced doorway and stared at each other). So yes, we were all shaken up by it but very thankful that we’re ok and hope that everyone else who experienced it is too.
Now for the cabinets. We promised to share all of the other places we hunted/solutions we considered when it came to the office built-ins (mentioned here) – because our thrift store cabinets definitely weren’t the first things we found. And we figure since not everyone can stumble upon six cabs for six bucks (uh, we never even thought that was possible until this recent discovery) we hoped that detailing a few other options that we considered might help anyone else who can’t find secondhand cabinets that work for them. So here we go, on a virtual cabinet-hunting whirlwind of sorts…
Our first stop was actually the Richmond Habitat for Humanity ReStore, but we didn’t find much in the way of cabinets. We did find that Clara loves the breeze from a big industrial fan.
And that they had this crazy big leather / zebra-print lounger thing if anyone’s interested. Tres practical for storytime, no?
The cabinet situation though was almost enough to make us give up on the ReStore entirely (everything was too tall or too wide and we couldn’t find six identical cabinets (or three identical double-wide-ones) that would work to make our wall of built-ins look related enough (and not like a mismatched secondhand cabinet sale). They did put us on a notification list in case anything that matched our needs came in, which was nice (never knew they did that).
So next we dragged the kiddos (yes, Burger included) to Lowe’s and Home Depot to see if their stock cabinets could do the trick. They had a lot of affordable-ish options for unfinished cabinets in a slew of shapes and sizes. Our rough math put us at about a $300 investment for three double-wide cabinets (to create left, middle, and right cabinets with two open spaces for our chairs along the built-in wall like this). Then we could have just painted them and topped them with a wood counter, which wouldn’t have been too bad for a wall of built-ins and a nice long two-person desk (around $400 for two desks or something custom built-in along an entire wall sounded about right I guess).
The only hitch in our plan were the cabinet sizes. Base cabinets were the perfect depth for a standard counter (24″) but their toe-kick made them too high (35″) for our chairs (27″). We contemplated adding casters to our chairs to make them higher, but weren’t sold on the idea (especially because 2″ casters might be cool, but 4″ casters would be a bit much for our chairs). So we looked at 30″ upper cabinets instead, but at only 12″ deep it’d make for either a super narrow desk or cabinets that floated a foot away from the wall. Definitely something we could remedy by buying additional lumber, but again, not ideal.
Then it was time to do some Craigslist surfing, but nothing turned up in the way of cabinets that would be the right depth or height off the bat (and we worried about sacrificing stability and making things look a little – uh, shady- by trying to cut something down or build it out). If we had found something super cheap or almost perfect (like our much-shorter-than-average $6 ReStore cabinets) we would definitely have pounced on them. Even for around $100 for the set. But nothing with the right dimensions came up after a few consecutive weeks of checking back.
Then we turned to Ana-White.com to see if we could find any awesome plans to build something ourselves (like the plans that inspired our giant console table build). There were definitely a few workable options, but we realized that a lot of the plans would cost more than $30 per cabinet (thanks to lumber, hardware, hinges, and interior fittings) – and because we noticed that many secondhand cabinets on craigslist and in thrift stores were under $30 (and some were priced waaaay under that), it made us wonder if we’d actually spend more building something than retrofitting something existing.
Next we checked out Ikea. From their website, it looked like we could build their cabinets without a toe-kick, making them the perfect height (around 28-30″ instead of 35″+, which would be too tall for our existing chairs (even if we added casters to them). Score! And we all know Ikea has tons of customization options, so it was starting to feel like a perfect solution… even if it was a bit pricier – roughly about $500 if I did my math right, since we definitely wanted doored cabinets over open shelving (for Clara reasons along with the general desire to very roughly mimic the look of the base cabinets from our built-ins – though not exactly). We were actually pretty invested in this being a good solution, so I started mapping it out using their online planner tool (technically for kitchens) since we were planning a stop there after our visit with Cat, Travis, Elsa and their new son Edison.
But that trip to Ikea never happened, thanks to our decision to give the Alexandria Habitat For Humanity ReStore a chance while out of town. Though even that trip started off somewhat discouraging. They certainly had more cabinets than our ReStore in Richmond…
…but the prices weren’t necessarily screaming “take me home” at first. Yowsa.
Of course, that was until we came across the ones in the very back with $1 stickers on them that screamed “You’d be an idiot not to take us home. We’re six friggin dollars!” And the rest, as they say, is history.
Well, not totally history – there’s still lots to do to these puppies. But that’s a story (and a project) for another day. Someday soon hopefully. You know Sherry and her propensity to paint anything that doesn’t move…
So in summary, it was harder than we thought to find cabinets that were deep enough (24″) and not too tall (over 30″) and we ended up checking two thrift stores, two home improvement stores, an online build-it-yourself website, a Swedish warehouse, and the list of a man named Craig. The cost of the project ranged from around $300-$500 at most places that actually had things that might work (not including a countertop), which was definitely making us sweat a little. Custom built-ins can obviously add function and value to a house, but unlike adding a patio to a monkey-grass-riddled side yard, it somehow felt a bit more like a rushed gamble to spend half of 1K on a desk, at least for cheap-os like us (who built our current desk from an old bathroom door). So we’re glad we took our time and eventually came across something around 95% cheaper. The lesson: hold out if you can, and leave no stone (or store) unturned (unvisited?). Whenever we dive in too soon we get all nervous and twitchy and sometimes even lay awake wondering if we rushed into something that might not be the best thing for our house/lifestyle in the long run. So there you go.
What have you hunted down after visiting a bunch of stores or googling a ton of options? Is there some sort of magic number (like five places) that usually results in a major score? Have you been searching for something for months or even years that continues to allude you? Isn’t it funny how the perfect thing is always in the last place you look? Probably because once you find it you finally stop looking.
Psst- The lady wife did a fun little interview about how our blog has grown and revealed a lot of behind the scenes blogging and book-writing info for anyone interested right here (it’s long, but full of tons of juicy stuff, at least in my humble husband opinion). We’re also over on BabyCenter talking about a sweet little boy’s nursery that we crashed (coolest light fixture we’ve seen in a long time).
Last weekend we journeyed two hours north to Arlington, Virginia so Clara could have some quality time with her cousin Elsa (and apparently so my cousin Travis and I could rock some daddy-plaid, shorts, flip flops, and matching Kettler bikes together (the latter of which were both his, found for a huge deal on craigslist).
While there, Elsa’s mom, Cat (who is Sherry’s BFF that we introduced to my cousin back in 2007 – and now they’re married with two kids) took us to this cool shop in Old Town, Alexandra called Red Barn Mercantile. It had tons of beautiful stuff, but what caught our eye most was this bowl of vintage printing press letters.
Six bucks later we snagged a “C” so that Clara can be now represented amongst our original collection of letters and numbers (7, J, S, L, O, V, E). The first three were purchased at a NYC flea market just weeks after we started dating on 7/7/05 (which explains our love of the number 7) and the last four came from a flea market in DC a few years later. We also looked for a “B” for Burger, but they only had lowercase ones (which just look like a “d” instead, since they’re backwards). Sorry Burgs! The search for an uppercase B continues…
But that’s admittedly not that amazing as $6 purchases go. It was actually our other $6 find on that trip that we’re still pinching ourselves about. You ready for this jelly?
Six dollars got us more than just this cabinet hardware…
…it even got us more than this whole cabinet…
…it actually got us SIX CABINETS. All for just six measly dollars. Not each. Total.
If you’re in as much disbelief as I was when Sherry first told me about her find (Clara was napping in the car, so I stayed outside with her and Sherry went in and called me with the details), here’s some proof:
We found them at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Alexandria (sooooo glad we decided to swing by there while visiting the area) and they truly were just selling them for a dollar each. Apparently they were once nightstands at a hotel. The hotel donated a truckload of them and the ReStore had finally gotten rid of them all (priced at $15 each)… until some overzealous purchaser brought back a bunch that he had leftover. So the ReStore guy told us they priced them at just $1 to get rid of them quickly (they already made their money we assume, since they have a No Refund policy).
Oh and for anyone worried about bedbugs, I’m an obsessed checker-outer due to a life-changing encounter with them back in NYC, so I frantically looked over every inch of them like a paranoid weirdo before taking them home (and then did another thorough check once at home, just to be sure). You can read about that harrowing NY experience here. When it comes to what I look for, I’ve learned that bed bugs are visible to the naked eye, so you should be able to see them and their droppings if you look everything over and check cracks & crevices. They also don’t like slick surfaces like glossy cabinets or plastic bags and prefer softer things like mattresses and upholstery where they can more easily walk, along with dark crevices where they can lurk/hide/ruin your life. So when buying something with more places to hide than cabinets (like an upholstered armchair) you’ll want to be extra careful – but you should still see some evidence of them in the form of small little stains on the upholstery, usually along the seams – which are (shudder) their droppings. You can also leave things in a holding area like a garage or sunroom for a day or two and recheck them again before bringing them inside.
And speaking of getting them home, miraculously we could fit two into our Altima – even with all of our travel gear like a pack & play, a dog crate, a baby in a big ol’ carseat, a husband, a wife, etc (one cabinet fit in the trunk and the other sat in the front seat while Sherry rode in the back with the Burger, the bean, the pack & play, and the folded up dog crate). The ReStore held the others since my dad was serendipitously going to be in the same area for a meeting (he drives a Honda Pilot so the remaining four fit nicely inside). We’re usually the suckers without any means to get big things anywhere (especially when we’re so far away from home), so it was a nice change of pace. I guess these $6 cabinets were just meant to be ours…
Well, as evidenced above, they actually cost us $6.30 with tax. So I guess it was the best six dollars and thirty cents that we ever spent.
They certainly don’t feel like shoddy $1 cabinets. I mean, just check out the interior fittings on them. Hellooooo slide-out shelves!
If you didn’t already connect the dots, they’re meant for our built-in office workstation that we talked about in this post and we hope to set them up like this: two cabinets against the left wall, open space for a chair, two cabinets in the middle, open space for a chair, two cabinets against the right wall to create built-ins that we discussed right here in this floor planning post…
With that arrangement we’ll have exactly 30″ for each of our chair openings, which is perfect since our chairs are 24″ wide (and six inches of wiggle room is a lot more than we have in our current small-homemade-desk-made-from-a-door situation). Of course our new cabinet friends do need a bit of work before they’re ready to move in permanently. For starters, they need a coat of primer and some glossy white paint (they appear to be 100% solid wood, so they should be great when it comes to adhesion and durability like traditional painted cabinets). Oh but we’re not going to paint the inside of them (lots of white built-ins actually have wood interiors – which hide marks and smudges a little more, too). All of the new white KraftMaid drawers from our first kitchen were wood on the inside, and we really loved it. But don’t worry, we’ll share all the painting details as we go.
We also need to do something about their height, because they’re only about 26″ tall and our chairs are 27″ (so the arms wouldn’t even slide under them if we added a countertop at this point).
Ideally we’d like our desk to be about 30″ tall, so I’m thinking I’ll build just a simple box on top of each cabinet pairing that I can paint along with the cabinets so they look seamless. Haven’t decided if it’s worth building it as a little open shelf up there or just fronting it with a solid piece of wood (kinda like those dummy drawers in front of kitchen sinks). Or we could build them up from the bottom. Not sure yet, but we’ll definitely keep you posted.
It was not only amazing to find $1 cabinets, but to realize that they weren’t too tall like 99.9% of the base cabinets out there (which are 35″ and hard to cut down since they’re one solid piece that includes the kickstep) was such a relief. Plus they were still deep enough for a desk (upper cabinets were the right height but only 12″ deep, which would make for a very very skinny desk or all need to be built out from the back with a lot more lumber than building these up a few inches). So yeah, we’re psyched. After some pretty thorough searching, the cabinet gods were good to us. Which was especially nice after the file cabinet gods weren’t as sweet (we searched for eight months for secondhand file cabinets for the office and ended up giving up and spending $150 on this system from Ikea). You win some, you lose some I guess.
Anyway, since not everyone can stumble upon the cabinet equivalent of The Dollar Store, we thought you might appreciate hearing the other places that we looked and the other solutions that we considered (of which there were maaaany). So we’ll be back to fill you in on all of that research / legwork / consideration in a few hours. Hopefully sharing a few other options that we considered may help someone else who can’t find secondhand cabinets that work for their project. In the meantime, what’s the best under-ten-dollar purchase that you’ve made? Was it clothing? House related? Did you buy a movie ticket and meet the man of your dreams there? Someone out there has to have one of those should-be-made-into-a-movie stories.
***This giveaway is no longer accepting entries – see who won below!***
Thanks to random.org, our four winners are…Kathryn (who wants to know how long this paint will keep, since she’s in an apartment now), Kristen: Turning A House Into A Home (who wonders if it’s better to dust or vacuum first), Alisa Decatur (who’d like to get to the bottom of her daughter’s summer-time procrastination) and Kassie (who wants to know how much painting she’ll be doing when she buys a house). Congrats ladies!
Toss on some old clothes, because four of you are about to get painting. This week’s giveaway will cover everything you’ll need, starting with $60 worth of Olympic ONE paint. ONE is Olympic’s new paint + primer in… wait for it… one. It hides stains, resists mildew, and survives scrubbing. And at about $25 per can, you’ll be able to score at least two cans with your prize (and maybe even an extra quart).
But you can’t paint without the proper supplies, so the folks over at StackExchange are also hooking up our four lucky winners with a bunch of stuff that we hand-picked for ya (cause we paint kind of a lot, actually). So we know good rollers, Frog Tape, a drop cloth, and a short handled brush can come in handy. If you still need another boost to get painting, head over to one of StackExchange’s 50+ community-driven Q&A sites. Their DIY channel in particular is always abuzz with topics like “What is low VOC paint?” or “Can you paint a popcorn ceiling?”
- PRIZE: A $60 coupon for Olympic ONE paint and a big ol’ set of painting supplies (courtesy of StackExchange) including a complete 9-piece kit, extra rollers, a canvas drop cloth, an extendable roller frame, three rolls of Frog Tape, and (of course) a short-handled brush for cutting in.
- TO ENTER: Comment on this post with the words “ONE THING I WANT TO KNOW IS” and…
- BONUS QUESTION: … fill in the blank: what’s one big question you’re dying to know the answer to? Wanna know if there’s life on other planets? Would you love to hear the truth about an infamous conspiracy? Or maybe you’d be satisfied to get the real story behind the latest gossip headlines?
- GIVEAWAY CLOSES: Wednesday, August 24th at 8pm EST
- NUMBER OF WINNERS: Four
- PRIZE SHIPS: The 50 United States
- USUAL STUFF: One entry per e-mail address is permitted. The winners will be selected using random.org and announced on Thursday as an update to this post. That’s right, come right back here on Thursday for the announcement of our winner. Good luck…