Home Improvement

Let’s Take Some Shelfies

You know, as opposed to selfies.

If only we had Beyonce around to photobomb them, they’d be the best shelfies ever…

The no-Beyonce consolation prize is that we finally got the floating shelves up in the kitchen, and it suddenly feels like we’re turning a corner. We still have a few major things on the list (like painting those cabinets) but the shelves make such a gigantic difference as opposed to the dark cabinetry that used to hang on either side of that window. Here’s how it looked a few weeks ago after we removed the wallpaper.

And here it is from the same POV now, after removing the cabinets, re-hanging the crown molding, patching/priming/painting the walls, trim, and ceilings, upgrading the lighting, and hanging those new shelves of ours. These pictures don’t even do it justice – it’s literally at least twice as bright and feels a lot bigger and more open as well.

When it comes to how we hung them (they’re lack shelves from Ikea), we decided to line the bottom shelf up with the cabinet on the left of the shot above (18″ above the counter) so that they all related to one another. The pre-made sizes allowed for a couple inches of breathing room around the window too, which we liked anyways. We just spaced the height of the second shelf by eye and chose 14″ above the other shelf, which gave us enough room to load up the bottom shelf without things feeling cramped, but also allows a shorty like me to easily reach items on that top shelf.

As for actually hanging them, we held up the bottom shelf in place and made sure it was level…

… before marking the top corners on each side and drawing a line across the top, like you see below.

These longer shelves come with a metal hanging brace and screw, so when you open things up, this is what you’re dealing with.

The metal brace is actually pretty smart. It has a bunch of holes all along it so you can just find a stud (we used a basic stud finder) and screw into at least two of those along the span of the shelf, so you know it’s extra secure. The instructions show a few recommended screw-to-stud placements.

Next I placed the brace along the horizontal area where we wanted to hang the shelf. I just measured in a few inches on each side from our little pencil corner guides since the metal brace doesn’t run as long as the shelves themselves) and I used one screw into the drywall right in the middle, just to hold the brace in place.

That freed up my hands so I could use the stud finder to find the actual studs, and drive two more nice long screws (provided with the shelves) into the studs on that wall, so it was held up really strongly (John aided me by holding the level to be sure it didn’t tweak up or down on a certain side as I went).

There are these little metal plates that you use when you drive the screw into the stud (they’re sort of like washers, they go under the screw and hold the brace even more firmly than a screw alone could), so those three metal rectangles that you see below are where two went into studs (we also added one more with an anchor for even more holding power).

Then you just slide the shelf onto the brace and tighten the three provided screws that go into the three pre-drilled holes in the shelves. At first I did it by hand, all allen-wrench-style. That was for the birds (took a million years)…

… so I broke out the power drill to drive those in a lot faster.

We repeated that process for the higher shelf, and when it came to the little side shelves, those were really easy. We just used heavy duty anchors driven into the pre-selected spots on the wall that aligned with where we wanted to hang each shelf. As opposed to the longer shelves, which are screwed into place pretty firmly in three places each, these can also be popped on and off easily, which is awesome because we’ll temporarily remove these guys when it’s cabinet painting time.

They’ve been really sturdy so far. The stronger the anchor you use, the more stable your shelves will be – and of course if they’re not placed perfectly level into the wall, they might wobble. So be sure to measure at least twice and break out that level for the best result. I think as the room evolves, the items on each shelf will too (for example, I might hang a small framed photo above that stack of plates on the wall, or place something taller on that bottom shelf for some fun color/height).

But for now they’re super functional – I just filled the bottom ones with the stuff we use all the time, and the top ones with items we just love to see. For example, things I might leave out on the counter to be decorative (like a potted plant or a pitcher-turned-vase) along with other items we use a lot that didn’t quite fit onto those bottom shelves (like more plates and mugs).

Here they are from the other angle. Oh man, it’s so much faster to unload the dishwasher again (we seriously missed that perk of open shelving from our last house) and we love that although they flank the window on each side, they don’t really block any light since they’re shiny and white (they bounce light around a lot themselves) and they’re not dark and solid like the old cabinets were.

Update: These longer shelves should each be able to hold 33 lbs according to Ikea if you go into studs (we went into two of them), and so far ours have been really strong no matter how much china we throw at them put on them. Giant upper cabinets full of dishes are held up the same way (screws into studs) so that definitely helps to ease our mind, along with the fact that we had good luck with  the same type of Lack shelves in the dining area of our first house for 4+ years.

It’s certainly a far cry from the room that we started with around 6 months ago…

… and we’re crazy excited to lighten up those upper cabinets and go even deeper/richer with the lower cabinets. We’ve never had a tuxedo kitchen, but we’ve been such huge fans for a long time (just look at how gorgeous this one is). In fact we’re sanding and priming this week, so we hope to have a whole “new” kitchen for 2014!

Was anyone else doing last minute home projects this weekend in anticipation of the holidays? Do you have any big projects planned this week? We seem to have a tradition of doing something big and house-interrupting right in the middle of the Christmas craziness…

Psst- We’re taking more quizzes on Young House Life. And this one was crazy accurate!


Hood… There It Is!

Well actually, for the last couple of weeks it’s been more of a “hood… there it isn’t” situation in our kitchen.

You may remember that we removed our over-the-range microwave before painting the kitchen. It’s the only appliance we’ve planned to replace as part of our Phase 1 kitchen makeover, since it was so front & center in the room, it crowded our stove, and we always seem to prefer range hoods over microwaves with vents when it comes to performance. So we replaced it with a stainless countertop microwave (more on that here) which we’ll eventually get “installed” into our pantry for the long haul (even into Phase 2) – we just need an outlet to be added in there so we can plug it in. But that still left us lacking in the over-the-stove ventilation department.

We knew whatever hood we bought would be just a temporary solution – since we’ll probably ultimately go with an exposed hood or something in Phase 2 – so we didn’t want to spend lots of money, but we had seen a bunch of options pop up on craigslist over the last few months for under $30, which is exactly the right range for us (we figure we can just resell it for around the same amount when we’re onto Phase 2 if we keep it nice and clean). So when this $25 option popped up, we were ready to make the move.

We liked that it was a crisp white color, that it was the right size for our stove, and that it also had the right type of top-ventilation setup that we needed. The only issue was that it was giving me flashbacks of the last hood we bought off Craigslist (apparently it’s our go-to source) and how much work went into hanging that one. Since it didn’t come with any of the mounting hardware that’s usually sold with the hood – and was meant to hang under a cabinet – we had to engineer our own solution.

But guess what guys? This time around it was so much easier! I’m way too excited about it, but I’m just so relieved that I want to shout it from the rooftops – especially to anyone who’s nervous about making their own hood swap at home. We were lucky in that most of the stars aligned. And by stars, I mostly mean the duct work and the electrical. The hood we bought could be vented out the top or the back, and the existing rectangular opening on top lined right up with the rectangular vent already in our cabinet. So I just used silver duct tape (note: not the Duck brand tape that’s more common, since that’s not meant for actual ductwork) to seal up the second-option opening in the back.

There were already wires in our wall right where they’d need to snake through to connect within the hood itself. So we didn’t need to call an electrician, I just had to pop out this metal tab with a screwdriver to create access for those wires to be pulled into the hood and connected.

The only slight complication was that there was a lip under the cabinet, which got in the way of me screwing the hood directly into the bottom of the cabinet.

But thanks to a little scrap wood sandwich that I put together, I was able to screw blocks into either side of the cabinet so that the hood could be attached firmly while still being flush looking from the front.

The part I actually feared most was holding the hood in place while trying to perform tasks like screwing it in and wiring it together. I pictured some comical Cirque du Soleil style contortions between me and a certain pregnant lady as one of us hoisted it up and the other tried to screw it in. This dream sequence involved a lot of sweat and more than a couple curse words. And then I discovered this how-to video with an ingenious trick. Maybe everyone else would’ve thought of this on their own, but for me it was DIY gold. I clamped a thin 1 x 2″ scrap board across the opening so that it could help support the weight of the hood while I worked. It involved taking off one cabinet door temporarily, but it was soooo worth it.

The man in the video also temporarily screws a brace into the back wall to support the hood, but mine seemed to rest in place without it (which saved me from making a few unnecessary screw holes).

So not only were Sherry and I spared my hypothetical sweaty-tangled-curse-fest, I didn’t even have to steal her away from the stuff she was working on in Clara’s room (I believe we’ve dubbed it The Wall O’ Fun, which she hopes to share with you guys tomorrow).

With the hood resting in place, I was able to shimmy the clamps up until the top of the hood sat flush against the wood blocks – and I checked within the upper cabinet to make sure the duct settled nicely into the open exhaust hole on the hood (it did, but later I sealed it up with some more duct tape to be sure). Then I was able to screw them tightly together using a screw + washer through the keyhole opening in the hood. All of this was accessible from within the hood itself just by removing the two filter screens.

With all four screws in place (front & back on each side) I could attach the wiring into the electrical box within the hood itself.

The whole process (minus picture taking time) was probably 45 minutes total, and most of that was finding and cutting scrap wood to make my mounting blocks. It’s not the prettiest solution the Internet has ever seen – but for $25 and less than an hour of work, we’re just happy to have ventilation back above our stove. And a lot less of a cramped feeling now that our hulking microwave has been replaced. Plus we’re planning to craigslist that for at least the cost of this hood, so this little Phase 1 switch won’t be breaking any budgets.

Both Sherry and I have declared the cool little halogen lights our favorite part. Until we have a kitchen with under cabinet lighting, these throw off a nice shiny glow in the meantime.

In summary, it’s a welcome change for this sliver of the kitchen to go from this…

… to this.

Next up on our to-do list in here is to hang our floating shelves along the sink wall, and then we’re diving into cabinet painting. We thought that could be a good project to tackle over the holiday break, and maybe we’ll get to ring in the new year with some new looking cabinets!

Has anyone else switched out a vented microwave for a hood? Was it crazy complicated or blissfully uneventful? Don’t you love when you worry about something being full of challenges and then it ends up being fairly straightforward? It sure beats those “this should be easy” projects that somehow implode mid-way through…