You might remember (but you probably don’t) that back in the olden days of this past summer, I had two MOLGER benches from IKEA serving as temporary living room furniture—one as a coffee table and one as a TV stand—until I could find cheap, sexy, vintage, real furniture. I can’t give much praise to the way they handled these functions aesthetically, but they played their respective roles quite well. Purposefully, they were ugly enough that I wouldn’t allow myself to get used to them, but practical enough that they alleviated the pressure to furnish immediately with stuff I didn’t really love. Because when you’re relying on thrift stores for great, modestly-priced furniture in Manhattan, it’s best to prepare yourself for a wait.
Well, I showed you my coffee table already, so that takes care of one bench. Then I bought something to replace the other one, but you’ll have to wait to see it until I take some pictures. One bench, two bench (red bench, blue bench). I know, artful photography.
But I actually had an ulterior motive when I bought these in the first place. Since microwaves are kind of objectively ugly, I wanted it as out of sight as possible. They are also huge, and in a kitchen with less than 3.5 total feet of counter space, 1 foot of which needs to house a dish-drying rack 99% of the time, that thing just doesn’t fit anywhere. The only other wall in the kitchen doubles as the narrow path from the front door into the living room, so the storage solution to hold the microwave and other assorted things (and create another work surface on the top, besides), had to be way smaller than any of those nice IKEA kitchen carts. The MOLGER benches (find them in the bathroom section!) turned out to be the perfect width and depth for the space—and the microwave—but not nearly the right height. So this happened:
And now I’ll show you how.
Disassemble both benches. I started by deciding how tall it should be and settled on 31″—around console table height. I originally wanted it to be the height of the countertops (36.5″), but once I really looked at it, that just seemed really awkwardly tall and bulky and stupid. So I hacked 8 inches off the top of both frames from one of the benches. By the way, never buy a crappy plastic mitre box.
Then they need to be attached to each other in a secure and visually tidy way (read: no metal mending plates). Luckily, IKEA thoughtfully placed little rubber floor protectors at the bottom of the legs, which pop out easily. The holes are 5/16″ wide, which is a standard-sized drill bit. Since you’re pretty smart and you want the legs to match up as closely as possible, it’s easiest to use these lovingly mass-produced and therefore standardized-perfectly-to-center holes as drill guides, so you’re attaching the bottom of one set of legs to the bottom of the other set of legs (the top of which you just sawed off and discarded). In people, this would be something like the human centipede, or a really compelling sideshow act. Sorry, that was uncalled for and also why I don’t use the Twitter.
So, you need a 5/16″ drill bit, some 5/16″ x 1.5″ wood dowels, and some wood glue.
Drill down slightly into each hole on all four sets of bench frames to make it just a little bit deeper. Drop in a dollop of wood glue. Put in a dowel. Put one normal-sized frame on top of a midget frame. Press together vigorously. For me, this involved alternately balancing my entire weight on it and sitting on it until I was satisfied with its security, but you can decide how into it you want to get. Repeat. Let both pieces dry overnight. Sorry for the creepy-ish pictures, I only DIY in the dead of night as a general rule.
After both frames have dried, spackle over the seams and sand. Repeat, then repeat again. But not a fourth time because it’s near the floor and nobody cares anyway. While you’re at this, sand the entire frame so it’s ready to be painted. I also spackled over the original drill holes (except for the top ones), since the shelves needed to be 10.5″ apart in order to fit the microwave and the cute vintage breadbox, which is a wider spread than the original shelves.
I had an extra can of white spray paint so I used it to coat the legs. It takes a few coats. I don’t know why it looks so gloppy in the photo, I swear it’s smooth in real life. Regular latex would have worked just fine with a good primer, I just really love spray paint. Hearing it, feeling it, smelling that sweet aroma… what heaven.
After everything’s all painted up, it’s time to re-drill the screw holes in the sides to attach the shelves, keeping in mind the height of what you need to put on them and the thickness of the shelf. Also drill new holes in the bottoms of the legs for the little rubber floor protectors. Put it all back together and you’re done!
I’m including this side view, which shows the width of the path between the door and the living room. Nice and unobtrusive. I’m not sure I’m feeling the paper towel/parchment paper/tinfoil holder up there—I want so badly for it to fit—but I don’t think it’s working. Awkward placement. It might have to go (and by “go,” I mean back to my house-house, that place my parents live in).
Tada! Scarf props to my friend Eliza. I’m really loving having this storage and functionality in the kitchen. It got all the coffee stuff off the counter and nicely onto a little tray, comfortably holds the microwave and my cookbooks (don’t look too closely, lest you mistake me for somebody’s grandmother. But yes, my adorable sister did get me a first edition copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking on eBay for our birthday, she’s the greatest). The breadbox is too close to the floor to hold bread (I. fucking. hate. cockroaches.), so it holds all the tupperware instead.
Did I just write that paragraph? Jesus, I am an old lady.