So two days before we left on our big exciting trip to Sweden and Finland, I took a little impromptu trip to IKEA. At the time I probably could have told you why, but now all I remember is picking up a few things from the market place before I turned my back on my cart for about 2 minutes in the plants section. When I came back, the cart was gone.
If you’ve ever been to IKEA, you know what a fucking travesty this is. Moment of silence, please.
So I circled around the plants and candles about 30 times before deciding that the cart was gone for good, went back to the beginning of the marketplace and sped my ass through the whole thing, having no recollection of what I had picked up the first time around except for a few replacement wine glasses and a tea towel. I knew I was forgetting a few things,* but at that point there was only so much more suffering a person could reasonably be expected to endure, so I headed for the check-out line.
*a vegetable peeler, a corkscrew, and a set of measuring cups.
And then it stopped me, like it always does. The As-Is Section. I cannot resist its seductive siren call of already-cheap items rendered even cheaper by little details like being completely fucking shattered to pieces. Though my personal history with the As-Is section is essentially one of dashed dreams, heartbreak, and disappointment—by which I mean that I once paid $10 for a tabletop that ended up being much too large and on the curb—I cannot skip it. I am drawn to it, like a moth to flame. Like sorority girls to blow. Like Max to his Taylor Swift “channel” or whatever on “rdio” or whatever. It’s like my body spontaneously begins to reject all its organs if I try to leave the building without going in.
Casually looking around for nothing in particular, I noticed a cabinet frame that was the exact size I was planning to put in my kitchen. Oh, and look! Another one! Two cabinet frames, 38% off, totaling $24 in savings.
Irresistible. I could get like 300 buckets of Swedish meatballs with my savings. I could pour them all in a bathtub and swim around in them.
So I swiftly picked up the two cabinet frames and bought them.
At this point I basically wanted to die because I had to load two enormous cabinets in a very small car on a hot day and then I had to go back into IKEA (round 3, for those keeping track) to buy all the hinges and doors and shelves and suspension rail that go with these stupid frames. If you’ve ever bought cabinets at IKEA, this means going to the kitchen section, waiting for an employee, listing all said parts to said employee who enters them on a computer and prints you a list, which then you have to take to checkout, wait in line, pay for, then bring the list to another counter where they give you a number and take your information and you wait and wait and wait for your number to pop up on a screen while you go buy a dozen cinnamon rolls and slowly eat each one, sobbing tears of anguish into the sticky box.
We’ve all been there.
A couple hints: 1) you actually can pay for your kitchen stuff right on the spot when you order it from the original employee. That means they’ll start processing your order in the warehouse before you even get to checkout, meaning it’s usually ready by the time you get there or shortly thereafter. 2) if you’re waiting for a long time for your number to pop up, go get food. By the time you return, your stuff will be ready. (100% effectiveness rate over the course of 1 experience)
But my kitchen, it needed new cabinets. So I did all of these miserable things.
For a long, long time I really wanted to try to salvage the existing upper cabinets, but here were all the problems with that plan:
1. They were horrible cabinets. The shelves didn’t adjust, which made them really spatially inefficient. Added to that, the big cabinet on the right had a big facer (the vertical piece of wood between the two doors) that really limited the amount of stuff we could easily take in and out of that cabinet. A year of frustration and I wanted to send it through a wood chipper.
2. I hate that diagonal corner cabinet. Cabinets with diagonal walls just end up super disorganized and everything in them is annoyingly inaccessible and hard to see. HATE.
3. Keeping them would have meant painting the frames and doors, or doing something with the doors (like on my old vanity?), or just replacing the doors so they match all the other new cabinets, after which I’d still be left with frames I was far less than enthusiastic about. Doing any of this would have been super time and labor intensive for a product that would still essentially suck.
4. The new cabinets that I installed on the other side of the room are 39″ tall, while the existing ones on this side are only 30″. That means that even if I painted the frames or refaced the doors, the old cabinets would still be small and still wouldn’t take better advantage of the almost 9′ ceiling height in our apartment.
I know it seems a little crazy town to rip out cabinets in a rental unit, even for me, but at this point, having already added 6 new cabinets to the kitchen and re-facing another, I now feel like it’s way more important for everything to be consistent and match than it is to preserve any of the “original” kitchen that was installed (badly) circa 1994.
So with less than 48 hours left before we were getting on a series of international flights, I hauled all of this crap home and set to work bringing all of it up five flights of stairs and taking out all the contents of our cabinets.
Totally no pressure. Totally wouldn’t be terrible if something went wrong and I hit weird snags and I left town for three weeks without kitchen cabinets. That would have been fun to explain to the petsitter.
Taking down the first cabinet ended up being way, WAY more difficult than I imagined it could be. Even after removing like 25 screws from the top and the bottom of the frame and about 7 screwed into the cabinet next door, it still took a fair amount of persuasion just to get it away from the wall where it’s been stuck for 15-20 years.
As with most things in my apartment that I’ve uncovered for the first time, the space between the back of the cabinet and the wall had become a veritable cockroach mass grave. There’s really nothing very interesting to say about a bunch of dead cockroaches, I just thought it was notable. We do not have a roach problem anymore, but all the clues point to an insane infestation at some point.
With all the cabinets down, the kitchen already felt so, so much bigger and brighter and all of a sudden everything seemed possible. As you can tell by this chaotic picture.
The green tape line marks 8 feet from the floor and demarcates the height of the other cabinets across the room. Taking the time to tape something like that is so very unlike me, I’m not even sure why I did it.
Now, IKEA cabinets basically hang off of a metal rail, which has to be secured to the wall really well so that everything doesn’t come crashing down. Especially in buildings like mine, where a few renovations over the course of 120+ years have made stud placement fairly unreliable, I like to supplement with intense anchors, and these toggle anchors are my favorite. Each one is supposed to hold 90 pounds in drywall and I find them really easy to work with. There seems to be a lot of confusion about how these work so I figured I’d explain here.
1. This is what your anchor will look like when the two plastic pieces are lined up.
2. To start, move the plastic pieces out of alignment so that the metal piece at the end is vertical.
3. The anchors will say on the package what size hole you need to drill in the drywall, I think these were 1/2″. After drilling the hole insert the metal end of the anchor all the way through the drywall until you feel it come out the other side.
4. Pull the two plastic pieces back into alignment, pulling the metal piece against the back of the drywall. With the plastic pieces aligned, you should no longer be able to pull the metal piece out of the wall. Then push the plastic “T” piece down towards the drywall firmly. When that piece has reached the wall, make sure it is as tight as it goes without pulling too hard on the plastic ends or pushing too hard—the plastic can tear away from the metal, leaving you anchor-less and loveless.
5. Once the T piece is all tight, bend the two plastic legs back and forth a couple of times until they snap.
6. Look! A fancy hole you can put the bolt into, where it will screw into that metal piece waiting for it inside the wall.
So fast. So easy. The suspension rail hangs a bit below the top of the cabinets (which was supposed to be the bottom of the green tape line), but unfortunately I had to drop it another inch or so because at EXACTLY 8′ up the wall, there was a thick metal beam that was not on the other side of the room. Instead of trying to drill into that, I just lowered the cabinets an inch (you can’t tell that there’s a discrepancy between cabinet heights on opposite side of the room) so that I could drill into wood studs and drywall.
And here they are, in all their glory! As you can see, I am a stupid idiot and didn’t buy enough hinges for the last door.
I love the new cabinets from a function perspective—they really do hold almost everything that fit in the older, much bulkier cabinets (save for that big wok on top and a couple things we brought to Salvation Army), but are obviously much easier on the eyes. Also, the old cabinets were hung with about 22″ of backsplash height, so by replacing the cabinets I was able to bring them down to the standard 18″, which helps make grabbing stuff on the first three shelves easier for a vertically-challenged person such as myself.
I know this result is not the best looking thing ever, but just wait! It will be. I have several more large important things to do that will make everything look awesome and not just like I threw up a couple IKEA cabinets and left things looking unfinished and horrible.
One of those big important things is that I’d like to extend the backsplash along the rest of the wall, since I think it’s fucking weird that it ends just *before* the stove (which is where you’d actually want a backsplash, right?). I thought getting 4.25″ x 4.25″ white tile would be the easiest, cheapest thing in the entire world, but after a trip to both Home Depot and Lowes, it’s proving to be super challenging to find a tile that even passably matches the originals. They’re way creamier and just a totally different white—like, cannot-exist-on-the-same-wall-different.
I need a hero. Where do I go? What do I do? I suppose I need to go to a real tile shop or something, but I’m worried that MY WHOLE PLAN will be derailed, meaning my WHOLE LIFE will be derailed, meaning I am WORTHLESS.