For years, in order to shuttle passengers between terminals, Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. had its own particular brand of ground transportation that I have yet to encounter anywhere else. Foregoing both the speed and efficiency of an underground train system and the decidedly proletariat alternative of standing-room-only buses I’ve found myself on so many times, Dulles bravely balked the trends. Instead, they forged ahead with something more civilized, a beautiful idea that they dubbed the “Mobile Lounge.” The size of a double-wide trailer and no faster than a golf cart, the Mobile Lounge saunters lazily around the airport grounds, raised about 15 feet in the air atop enormous wheels. Mostly due to its name, it recalls a bygone era of air travel, when people dressed up and small children could visit the cockpit without being tased by an air marshall disguised as just another friendly citizen. Going to the airport wasn’t a hassle, but an event, and the plane ride was half the fun of the vacation.
“Can I take your coat?” a Mobile Lounge attendant might ask gently, while slipping a cocktail into your hand. From there, you’d be led through smoke-filled air to a private table, where plush velvet-upholstered benches would be waiting to accommodate your buttocks. “Just let me know if you need anything,” she’d offer before slipping away to greet the next set of guests, her sporty little uniform disappearing into the crowd. A tinkling of jazz would emanate from the corner, while people chatted quietly at the bar on the starboard side. Ah, the Mobile Lounge, where the drinks flow like water from a natural spring and the music is always right. The message is clear. Take a load off, it says. Relax. Where the Mobile Lounge is concerned, it’s about the journey, not the destination.
Of course, the Mobile Lounge bespeaks a kind of dignity and sophistication that is unambiguously betrayed by the lived experience of actually traveling on it. In reality, the people are packed in like sardines, only after which the driver enters and slowly makes his way through the length of the train to the front, tripping over carry-ons and strollers on the way. A promotional recording plays during the trip, cheerily informing you that the Mobile Lounge is not only innovative, but also comfortable and a fabulous opportunity to witness the advanced workings of a thriving international airport. This might be true, if you are lucky enough to have a view of the windows or are remotely interested in that sort of thing. But as it is, the announcement reads mostly as desperation. Like me, the Mobile Lounge cries. I’m really wonderful if you’d just give me a chance.
I returned from Egypt on Sunday night and have since been drawing inspiration from the Dulles Airport Mobile Lounges with a little invention I like to call the Jet Lag Lounge. Catering to the extremely tired and erratic sleeper, a Jet Lag Lounge is, put simply, any place that looks comfortable enough to doze off for a short spell, regardless of location or time of day. Sleep on me, they call out. Just for a minute, nobody will notice. The living room sofa could be one such lounge, but why stop there, especially when the floor is calling? The shower is a perfectly acceptable place whether or not the water is running, and of course the toilet is always fair game. The real beauty of a Jet Lag Lounge is its ambiguity: anywhere can be a lounge if you squint hard enough. Communal tables at the coffee shop, movie theater seats, park benches—the options are virtually boundless.
Jet Lag never used to bother me, but it’s been several years since I did any sort of serious international travel, and the intervening years have brought me to my early 20s, rendering my body broken-down and fragile. My sleep schedule has never been a terribly reliable thing, much like that friend you had in college who you thought just liked to have fun and then turned out to be an alcoholic. If I’ve given the impression that all I’ve been doing for the last few days is sleeping, that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s more an issue of when: the sudden and unpredictable onset of extreme fatigue, followed by the unavoidable nap, followed by intense, manic energy when I should be sleeping. If I didn’t know any better, I might think I was sick or losing my mind, but I’d prefer to just go with it. Ride out the trip. Let my body sort itself out. In the meantime, I think I’ll just go ahead and take advantage of my fucked up circadian rhythms and take care of some things.
The remainder of Sunday and Monday passed by in a complete haze, but roundabout 11 pm Monday night? Why, I think I’ll just start in on painting the kitchen! No better time than the present, really. Sleep a couple hours, and Home Depot and IKEA start calling my name on Tuesday. Don’t mind if I do! Then, crash. And so on.
By last night, we had gone from this:
One of the things I’m learning about living with Max is that we’re both totally crazy and obsessive in our own quaint little ways, which makes us a highly effective team if you’re into working until it feels like your bones might fall apart and you’re liable to die of starvation. I tend to worry endlessly about little things going awry over the course of a project, but Max just wants to get it done. I’ll admit, I like the process of making a project happen, whereas in Max’s world, the disorder that comes along with something like this is extraordinarily stressful.
The key, I’ve discovered, is taking advantage of his chaos-anxiety and channeling it into something productive, like assembling IKEA cabinets. And didn’t he do a wonderful job? I’m so proud of my boy.
So here’s how it all went down. It started with this advanced plan that I drew on graph paper and everything, the bulk of which was in my head because I can’t draw for shit. But you get the idea.
Basically, I wanted the bottom cabinets and the tall cabinet on the side to protrude from the wall about 16 inches, which is a little over three inches deeper than standard IKEA wall cabinets sit when hung flush with the wall.
I’m quite positive that there’s a better/smarter/more efficient way to go about this, but I’m not that smart and decided to just go ahead an build a platform for the cabinets to mount to, which is screwed into the studs in the wall. It’s not entirely glamorous, but it works. All it took was 2×4’s, my chop saw, some 2.5″ screws, and my drill. Pretty simple.
The bottom cabinets are IKEA 30″ x 30″ wall cabinets. The platform bumps them up 5.5 inches, so with the addition of the 1″ thick countertop, they sit at standard countertop height. That board lying on the ground is going to become the baseboard molding for the entire room, which will wrap perfectly over the base of the cabinets and hide the 2×4 ugliness. They’re just 1×6 pine boards (but the 6″ is actually 5.5″, because wood is weird.).
Now, you might recall that I already had a big PAX wardrobe from IKEA, which moved with me from my last apartment, was in the bedroom for a while here before I moved it to the kitchen, where it sat awkwardly next to the fridge, like so:
The PAX was about 2 feet deep, which was too deep for this, so I broke out my circular saw and got to work.
Totally chopped the thing in half. It was a little crazy and precarious and I wasn’t sure if it would work, but it’s totally fine! I also chopped off the three or so inches that form the base on the bottom so that all the cabinets would look uniform and sit on the same level.
Here’s a process shot of building the little platform base for under the PAX, which I screwed into the other base for the bottom cabinets. Are you following? The PAX just sits on top of this, and I screwed the bottom of the PAX into this base and then attached it to the wall at the top with some small L-Brackets that I added to the inside to keep it from falling forward for any reason. It’s also screwed into all the cabinets, so it’s not going anywhere.
The next step was cutting the countertop. We chose the NUMERAR double-sided countertop, which is white laminate on one side and grey on the other, with an aluminum edging. Cutting was fairly straightforward—just draw a straight line and go to it with the circular saw. Easy-peesy. We’re not going to screw down the countertop, so if at some point the white side gets beaten up or we get bored of it, we can always just flip it over.
The next step was hanging the upper cabinets (30″x39″), which basically could not be easier. They hang off a steel suspension rail, so it’s important to make sure that’s VERY SECURE to the wall. I used about 8 big toggle anchors in addition to finding three studs, so the chances of these things falling are pretty slim. Max took this super flattering action shot of me, wherein I decided to dress like a lumberjack.
After cleaning for approximately forever, here’s where we stand! I’m pretty ridiculously happy with it. It holds a ton, gives us five (FIVE!!!) extra feet of counter space that we didn’t have before (we had been operating off four feet, which makes for some tricky cooking), and I think already looks pretty great despite the necessary finishing touches. By the way, that adorable clock on the wall was Max’s Christmas present to me. I LOVE it. I’ll take a better picture of it for the next post. It’s a sphere.
Anyway. Obviously this is a problem. IKEA sells cover panels for the sides of cabinets, so I need to go pick one up and cut it to the proper size. Soon! We also still have to:
1. Cut and install baseboards.
2. Install cabinet hardware.
3. Glue strip of aluminum trim to the cut side of the countertop.
4. Organize all my tools and fit them into the bottom cabinet on the right.
5. Paint the window molding (it’s primed in these photos, not painted).
6. Paint the other half of the ceiling.
The microwave is concealed in a cabinet! I am so pleased that I don’t have to look at it. As you can see, we left the backs of the base cabinets open, which lets us take advantage of the added depth, run cords through it, and provide more than enough ventilation for the microwave to function without being a hazard. It’s not pretty, but who cares? Not me.
Mostly, I think I’m just thrilled that I have a proper, fancy coffee station. I even bought Illy to celebrate, which means I’m probably never buying inferior coffee ever again.
Phew. Kitchen. Things are finally moving. I’d love to talk longer, but my new countertop is looking like a mighty fine place for a nap right now.