All posts tagged: Organization

The Pantry is Done!

jars3

Growing up, I had a few very particular habits and hobbies, most of which entailed spending a lot of time by myself. While my siblings were out playing sports, or watching sports, or everyone was upstairs watching ESPN, or whatever else it was that my heterosexual family did, I could typically be found sitting in a room in our basement, watching hours and hours of HGTV and working on a collection of truly hideous but impressively elaborate scrapbooks. Sometimes I’d move on and build a scaled model of some house I’d dreamt up, or sketch the elevations of a renovation plan I had for one of the few remaining cute 50s ramblers that still dotted my mostly new-construction street (torn down now, sadly, because my plan was pretty slick). Every now and then, my idea of a good time was to make myself insane by organizing the garage or the basement or the laundry room or my mother’s office—really, I don’t think any space in our house escaped my clutches. Our label-maker was one of my closest confidants, and The Container Store was far and away my favorite retail conglomerate on earth. It was a sick, perverse kind of pleasure: the messier a space was, the more exciting the process of organizing it became. The act of impressing order onto the chaos made me feel so…alive. As you can tell, I’ve really made great strides toward personal change in the intervening years.

There was one space, though, that was consistently the biggest thorn in my side and light of my life, year after year. The pantry. The room was maybe somewhere around 5×8, lined with deep shelves and consistently—and, to me at least, alarmingly—unkempt. It wasn’t that it was dirty or even all that cluttered to the naked eye, but once you started really poking around, it didn’t take long to pick up on some major organizational issues. Expired boxes of cereal and cans of beans lurked behind fresh ones, and there were too few containers to wrangle the smaller or more irregular shaped items, which tended to get stuffed wherever they’d fit. Unopened boxes of last year’s Passover matzah, duplicate and triplicate jars of spices, some of them old enough that the labels had been redesigned, snacks that my siblings and I had courted for brief periods (Go-Gurt) before moving on for greener pastures (Danimals Drinkable Yogurt)—it was paradise. I’d typically spread the fun out over a few days, at which point I’d stage a big reveal and make all the members of my family admire it while explaining slowly and clearly where everything now belonged.

Like I said. Totally different person now.

I guess my point here is that I feel like my life experience has really prepared me to make a pantry of my own. I’ve seen time and again how pantries start out with the best intentions and descend into total chaos, and hopefully learned enough to avoid letting that happen to me.

before2

Anyway, taking a little trip back in time…here’s about where we started. The pantry space takes up the footprint of an old stairwell (removed circa 1930), and prior to my work on it was divided into two closets. Busting out the wall that divided the closets and removing the (non-original) closet and doorway from the dining room was definitely the right choice, but also left behind a really strange space to work with. The pantry is 8 feet deep and only about 32″ wide, meaning that actual storage options are kind of limited since I’m basically building a pantry in a narrow hallway. It also needed mostly new walls, a refinished floor, electrical (lighting and outlets), paint, and of course shelving and stuff! Sometimes the smallest spaces are just as complicated as the big ones.

After-2

And here we go! It’s a pantry! Finally! YAY.

I know it’s really annoying when bloggers point this shit out, but some of the photos in this post were taken a few weeks ago and some were taken today (including the one above), and I’m way too lazy to style a pantry. Which is why I didn’t unwrap the plastic from my paper towel rolls. I promise Bounty isn’t paying me. They really are the quicker picker-upper, though, you know? My late-in-life discovery of washable microfiber cloths has drastically cut down on my paper towel usage, by the way, but I’m not ready to cut them out of my life entirely at this juncture.

Semi-related: since when/why is every roll individually wrapped inside the bulk-wrapped pack of 12 rolls or whatever? It’s like they’re determined to make up for being bad for the environment by being worse for the environment. Human beings are screwed.

The point is, due to what I’m now referring to as my “blogging hiatus” over the past couple of weeks (oooooops), I’ve now had a nice amount of time to actually use this space and can happily report that it WORKS. At least for me. I really don’t put any hard work or effort into keeping it clean and orderly because I think it’s pretty effectively designed to stay clean and orderly! I kind of dragged my feet about working on this space for a long time but it really has made an enormous difference to the kitchen and the way I cook and grocery shop and all of that. I’m all about my pantry.

The dimensions of the space were a major challenge, but turned out to be a great opportunity. I think probably the most common issue with pantries is that the shelves are just too deep, so things get lost and you can’t see what you actually have. Then you end up re-buying things you already have, or letting things expire, or you’re always digging for stuff…I’m totally convinced that shallow shelves are vastly superior, and luckily that’s about all this room can accommodate anyway.

Having said that, some deeper storage is definitely important as well! Most pantry items (at least the ones that I buy?) seem to be 6″ in depth or smaller, but sometimes you need a few boxes of cereal or crackers or bags of chips or whatever and so having some good deep shelves is important, too. In this space, the deeper shelving could really only go at the back…so I guess we’ll start there?

cleatsbondo

Part of the fun of this space was trying to spend as little money as possible while still making it cute and functional, which involved a lot of raiding of my scrap wood piles! I made all of the shelving out of the fir 2 x 12 framing lumber that I used for the old kitchen countertops (stained and poly’d this time around), and lots of scraps of 1-by lumber for the cleats that the deeper shelves are supported by. I decided to use wood cleats instead of large brackets just to save some money (brackets add up, even when they’re cheap!), but I’m really happy with how they turned out!

cleat-marking

Hanging cleats for shelving is one of those things that seems sort of complicated but really isn’t. I always just figure out my shelf spacing and mark where the TOP of the cleat should sit (1 x 2 lumber works great). Then I use my mark and a level to draw pencil lines around where the cleat will go. After cutting my 1 x 2 pieces to size, I line them up with my markings and face-nail them into place with 2″ finishing nails, and then I go back in and drive some longer screws (2.5 or 3″ drywalls screws work nicely) into studs. Easy!

If I’m doing multiple shelves, I like to pre-mark all the cleat locations and then pre-cut all my pieces of wood so I can put it all up faster. Getting all these little pieces up took maybe an hour or so from start to finish.

The longest part of the process is the patching/caulking/painting, which I think just makes everything feel more finished and is worthwhile, even though it’s no fun and can feel a little overly-anal while you’re doing it. I’m used to that feeling, though. I like to just paint the cleats with whatever wall paint I’m using so they blend in. Exciting stuff.

cleatsupandpainted

This room is super wonky so you’re just going to have to trust me that this is all level, even though it looks nuts.

kitchenmadness

Lest you think I’m better at all of this than I am, this is my kitchen during the process! As much as I don’t love everything about this kitchen, I love that I can use and abuse it a little and it bounces back just fine. Eventually I’d like to set up a nice little shop space in the basement or garage, but for now I tend to just destroy whatever space is closest to where I’m working and deal with it later.

The deeper shelving is really comprised of two pieces of 2-by lumber, which saved me from making any complicated cuts around that plumbing chase in the corner. One piece comes out to the depth of the front of the chase (about 5.5″) and the next piece extends out 10.5″ for an overall depth of 16″. The only real thought that went into the spacing and depth was that I wanted to be able to fit the microwave back there. I don’t like having that thing taking up counter space in the kitchen, but I don’t know what I’d do without a microwave! I’m always impressed by/fearful of people who don’t have them. This one was generously donated by my pal, Anna, who consequently doesn’t have one anymore so I assume she’s starving to death whenever I’m nuking leftover Chinese food.

brackets-up-and-back-shelves

Before I installed the front piece of those shelves in the back, I marked and installed my shallow shelving brackets using the level of the cleats as my guide. I wanted the shelves to appear kind of continuous to cut down on any visual/physical clutter. These brackets came from Lowe’s for about $5 a pop. Using 2-by lumber meant that I could space them wider than I typically would (therefore using fewer of them), so I only needed 10 to get the job done. These brackets are nice because they can be hung two ways, so you have the option of a 6.5″-ish deep shelf or 12″-ish deep shelf depending on how you hang them.

By the way, I saved staining/poly-ing the fronts and tops of the shelving until after everything was installed, which was just easier than trying to get the stain to look good while everything was laying on sawhorses in the basement. That’s why the front of the shelves look all crappy in these pictures. I just ran my mouse sander over the fronts, did a quick staining job, and three coats of water-based poly on everything. Now the shelves look uniform and are super clean-able when they eventually start to gather dust, which happens quickly around these parts because I live in a construction zone. Not sure if you heard.

shelvesup

It’s hard to tell from the picture, but I installed some mending strips I had lying around on the underside where the deep shelves transition to the shallow ones. This just helped bring everything to the same level. I hit the strips with a couple coats of black spray paint before putting them up just to keep them inconspicuous and matching the black brackets.

jars1

That was really about it! Once the shelves were dry, it was time to install the outlets, touch up whatever paint on the walls I’d screwed up, and start loading in food!

Yes, by the way, I hate myself for the extreme decanting situation up in here, but I also LOVE IT. I love decanting things. I have no idea why. I think it’s a fetish. In any case, it makes me feel like I’m doing something important and worthwhile even though all I’m doing is moving things from one container into a different container. These jars are the KORKEN jars from IKEA, which are great! I like the classic shape and the rubber seal makes them effectively airtight. I’ve basically been buying a few of them every time I’ve been to IKEA in the past two years in preparation for this moment, so they never felt like a big expense even though I guess I’ve probably sunk a lot of money into having so many stupid glass jars at this point. Sometimes you just need to trick yourself that way.

jars2

There was some pretty extreme disagreement between Max and I on how the jars should be labeled. I figured a regular waterproof label would suffice, but he thought it was likely that the jars wouldn’t always be holding the same thing and wanted something more easily removable. Hence, these weird white chalk markers that go on sort of wet, become sort of dry, and look so super twee when combined with cute handwriting!  I feel like such a Pinterest garbage blogger person. I’m totally incapable of writing with the pens on these jars in a way that looks at all nice or legible (I think it’s the curved surface combined with being a lefty?), so I’ll forever be reliant on Max for labeling the dry goods.

It’s so dumb and I love it so much. SUE ME.

The shallow shelves are great, though, because I can really see everything when I go to make a shopping list or, more commonly, wait until I’m starving to death and crawl into the pantry in search of some semblance of ingredients that could be potentially combined to create a meal. Back when I had all of this stuff in the deeper kitchen cabinets, this tended to involve, like, a can of anchovies, a jar of salsa, and mayonnaise, but now I can easily locate and cook some lentils to add to my desperation-recipes! So my life and nutrition has really improved by leaps and bounds.

microwaveshelf

So far, the deeper shelves at the back are possibly being under-utilized. If I go on some kind of cereal diet (I hear it’s going to be the new juice cleanse in 2016), I can always relocate the cookbooks and gain a couple more shelves? I don’t know. As long as the microwave fits. Eyes on the prize. The vintage bowls hold onions and garlic and potatoes and stuff.

door1

One of my very favorite things in the pantry is the inside of the door! I’m obsessed with these things. I got them at The Container Store. It’s all Elfa brand (which is on sale right now!) and the baskets hang off of one central track, which is screwed into the door (you can also hang it from the top of the door with an additional piece of hardware, but I don’t know why you’d do that, really…this looks much cleaner to me). They come in a few difference widths and depths, so I put the deeper ones on the bottom for a couple frequently-used cleaning supplies, various cooking oils and stuff, and then the top ones are all for spices! For some reason it’s REALLY hard to find a decent wall-mounted spice solution and this has been working out super well. I hate having spices in a cabinet because I always end up with like 3 bottles of thyme and no crushed red pepper. Crushed red pepper comprises like 40% of my diet, so you understand the issue.

Obviously my plan is to start buying all the same brand of spices (the ones from our local grocery store chain, Adams, seem to fit particularly well) to achieve maximum consistency and creepiness. I want people to fear me when they walk into my pantry, and this just isn’t cutting it…yet. Give me a year or two and it’ll look about as approachable as a museum.

drawerafter

My other favorite thing? THAT DRAWER. After painting it, I just added a cheap brass sash lift to the front that I had for some reason. I feel like it’s pretty classic looking and doesn’t draw a ton of attention. It turned out a lot better and less bizarre-looking than I was expecting. Success!

draweropen

The impetus for building this thing was mostly to hide the awkward plumbing chase by building out a falsely-wide front, but the drawer itself has turned out to be SUPER handy and functional. It’s really large and fits the tallest spray bottles I have and various other cleaning supplies that I don’t really want to look at but use frequently. It’s nice to have some enclosed storage in here! I ended up painting the interior of the cabinet, too, to protect the wood from spills and moisture and keep it easily cleanable.

after1

I think that’s about it! Especially considering where this space came from, I’m really really pleased with how this turned out and how it functions. It’s made me more inclined to cook (and more efficient at it, too), not to mention freeing up some space in the kitchen and allowing me to go on a huge reorganization binge in there, too. I just can’t help myself.

Want to look back on the seemingly never-ending pantry project? I don’t because PTSD, but here’s a handy round-up for your procrastination pleasure if you’re so inclined…

1. DINING ROOM CLOSET DEMO + PANTRY!
2. BEYOND THE LAUNDRY ROOM: WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
3. PREPPING THE PANTRY!
4. TRANSOM WINDOW IN THE PANTRY
5. BUILDING THE PANTRY CABINET!

Desk Drawer Redo!

drawers4

I guess there are certain things you’re supposed to do when moving to a new place, and there are very few places where these conventions are more entrenched than on college campuses. When I got to college, I kind of tried to do these things. I committed myself to making friends and enjoying the city with all the bright-eyed-bushy-tailedness that my persistently-nervewracked brain could handle. I didn’t get involved in any clubs or student organizations or anything like that, but I tried in my own way to be a productive, socially-healthy member of NYU and New York City at large.

It was only a couple of weeks into this New Socially Fluent Me that I was somewhere in Chelsea, let’s say, coming back from somewhere exciting, let’s say. I was too distracted by trying to act like less like a feral animal and more like a likable and attractive person to remember details. All I really remember is getting Indian food that was far too spicy, and a long internal debate that followed about whether it would be worse to order something else and risk looking like a pansy or grin and bear it. I chose Option B and sobbed/hiccuped (does anyone else hiccup uncontrollably when eating impossibly spicy food?) my way through the meal, which must have definitely made me look very attractive. No question.

There’s a valuable window of time in New York between when you and your acquaintances leave wherever you’ve been and walk to the subway. Amidst the traffic and the weird smells and the weird people and the weird-smelling people, it’s a time to reflect, to dispense final thoughts, and to debate your best route home. The goodbye itself is abrupt because everyone literally has a train to catch, so this window of time is not only brief but also pivotal to ending things with a good impression. This is what I was trying to do, after the Indian food fiasco. I’m so charming! I’m funny! BE FRIENDS WITH ME!

And then I saw a little crappy wood nightstand popping out of a pile of garbage and instinct took over. I NEED THIS GROSS DUMPSTER THING, my brain told me. I WILL MAKE OF IT A NIGHTSTAND (it was already a nightstand) AND IT WILL BE GOOD. I WILL STAIN IT. I WILL REPLACE THE HARDWARE. I WILL BE SO CRAFTY. I hailed the closest cab. THERE WILL ALWAYS BE MORE FRIENDS, my brain said while I tossed it in the trunk, BUT THERE IS ONLY ONE DUMPSTER THING. And that’s how I left things.

Charming and attractive.

before

On the left, that’s how it looked once I un-stuck some wallpaper (which I distinctly remember doing with rubbing alcohol, for some reason, which led my roommate to believe briefly that I had a hidden drinking problem), stained the unfinished pine, and replaced the hardware. Then, when the spirit moved me to own a desk, I did some primitive cobbling together of things to create a desk out of it. Which I had for a while until I replaced it with this desk, which is much more practical for our apartment. Sorry, old cobbled-together desk.

Some readers suggested that I try to sell the desk, but after a few years of use and abuse and my slightly shoddy workmanship to begin with (no formal training! can you believe it? I can.), I just couldn’t really imagine doing that. It would be like posting an ad on craigslist for a used dishrag. “PLEASE BUY THIS SCHMATA I’M DONE WITH IT.”  <– not something you would do.

It would have read like this:

DESK. MADE IT WITH MY HANDS. NOW I’M A BLOGGER. MAY NEED SOME REPAIRS. REALLY NOT WORTH THE COST OF REPAIRS. BOYFRIEND SPILLED PLUG-IN OIL ON IT, ATE A HOLE THROUGH TOP PAINT & POLY. WEIRD STAINS ON PAINT. BOTTOM DRAWER KIND OF STICKS DUE TO WEIRD LEGS. TOP IS SAGGING A LITTLE, BUT NOT TOO BAD. NOT DEEP ENOUGH TO BE A GREAT DESK, EVER. OTHERWISE YOU WILL LOVE THIS DESK $4 OBO.

See? It’s not a good look.

Point is, desk was a fun experiment and looked good and all, but it was time to move on. Obviously I couldn’t just do the natural thing and get rid of it though.

drawers5

BOOM rolling tool cabinet. New look, same great taste. I have too many tools and nothing great to hold them in, and this fits perfectly in our little closet between the hamper and the suitcases. I will not be showing that, due to shame.

process

This doesn’t even really merit much explanation, but you’re already here so might as well:

1. Removed the legs from underneath the cabinet and screwed some little casters I had laying around directly into the frame.

1. Sawed down the original desktop (which is 2 pieces of 3/4″ MDF sandwiched together with wood glue) with a circular saw on the roof. Discarded excess.

2. Sanded the top and sides of the remaining top to rough up surface. There were some weird stains that wouldn’t come out and some chipped paint, so I decided to just repaint the whole thing.

3. Sanded the newly-sawed edge lightly and applied some Ready Patch with a spackle knife. Ready Patch is my new favorite thing in the world—harder than spackle, not as hard as wood filler, very easy to work with and dries quickly. Perfect filler for like everything?

4. Painted the top with a 2″ angle brush in semi-gloss white latex paint. When I did this originally, I used a small foam roller for the top, but I prefer the look of furniture when it’s painted with a brush. It’s a personal preference thing.

contents

And look! It does things! Like hold tools! Obviously I have more tools and DIY tchotchkes than fit in this little thingy, but this now holds pretty much all the essentials I’d want for a little fix-it job around the apartment. It’s easy to just roll it around to wherever I’m working and have everything at arm’s reach. Maybe I’ll even invest in a few drawer organizer things (like for utensils) to further organize stuff. I know, edge of your seat with excitement.

The knobs are the SNODD knob from IKEA, by the way. They were the cutest little knobs and IKEA only made them for like 5 minutes and it’s not fair. I should have bought a thousand of them, just to hoard. Or at least more than 4.

drawers1

Yay! This thing has more lives than Keanu Reeves.

Miles of Bookshelves

I’ve heard this nasty rumor going around that there are actually stores into which one can enter, select a piece of furniture, leave with said piece of furniture, maybe perform some light, jaunty assembly work at home, and begin using it immediately. It’s the sort of thing I imagine most intelligent people might take advantage of, or perhaps those with a vested interest in their own happiness.

I never fucking learn though. I convince myself that building projects will be easy and simple, that what I really want isn’t something that IKEA can readily provide, and that there’s no reason for me to shy away from a little DIY. Then I end up covered in plaster dust and ruing the day I ever turned my nose up at a perfectly good BILLY bookcase. This is the short story of my life, perpetually retold here for your edification and enjoyment.

When Max moved in, he didn’t bring that much stuff. This was a good thing, both because I am an evil dictator and because I already have a lot of stuff. But if you are planning to move in with Maxwell Tielman, know this: 1) I will cut you, get your filthy whore-paws off my man. 2) He comes with books, and lots of them.

For a couple weeks, there were basically books EVERYWHERE in the apartment—on two mini folding bookcases Max brought with as temporary measures, the horrible free milk crate monstrosity I cobbled together, and little piles all over the place. It became eminently clear that my little pipe and ply shelves of yore, which served me well in Manhattan, just weren’t going to cut it here. I’m a Brooklynite now; I read stuff.

But I had new things on the mind, anyway—or, rather, things fed to me by the industrious, ever-stylish, and regrettably blog-less Maya, who DIY’d up some amazing wall-to-wall shelves using standard steel L-brackets and nice chunky pieces of lumber at her digs:

Amazing, right? Unfortunately, I don’t have any walls in my apartment that are really ideal for some true wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling shelving, but I figured it could work for a smaller amount of space and still look pretty great. So I did it.

Yes, they’re big. They’re bold. These books ain’t messin’.

There are some downsides to living in a fifth floor walk-up, like wheezing for breath by the time we get to our apartment door. But this also means we’re on the top floor, which means full, unrestricted roof access (you know, until I’m told otherwise. I don’t ask a lot of questions). Which means I finally have a place to build things and not turn our apartment into a total hellhole in the process.

Instead of using thicker pieces of timber, we opted for 1″x12″ pine boards, cut down to about seven foot lengths by the gentle, grumpy hands of Home Depot employees. The brackets are 12″ L-brackets, which I opted to spray paint Rustoleum matte black. After sanding everything down, I stained all the wood with a mix of Minwax’s Walnut and English Chestnut, which is basically the same as my favorite Jacobean stain that I think they stopped making. Boo.

Oh, and a word to the wise: ALWAYS keep your scraps, even if you don’t think you’ll need them. It’s nice to have a few pieces of leftover wood to test out your staining technique on, figure out how long you want to let your stain soak into the wood, etc. etc.

I’m hesitant to even show this picture of how they’re attached to the walls. Those of you who know anything about attaching very heavy things to walls are going to scream in anger about why I didn’t just screw directly into studs, and the answer is embarrassing. I couldn’t find them! I have an electronic stud-sensor, but it’s basically useless for old plaster walls since the plaster is on top of lathe, and the lathe is on top of studs, and this building was built in 1890 and your best guess as to where the studs are is as good as mine. I test-drilled and test-drilled and test-drilled for forever before giving up and just going with Plan B: toggle anchors. These babies are big and strong and require HUGE pilot holes in the walls (barely covered up by the brackets themselves), which I know full well are going to necessitate some exciting repair work for the brave soul who takes these shelves down. Hopefully that person is not me.

Drilling all those big holes is messy, messy, messy. I should really stop using my vacuum as a ShopVac, I think the identity crisis is slowly killing it.

Once all of the brackets were up and the shelves were screwed in (using 1/2″ wood screws), I decided to paint all the screw heads with Rustoleum matte-black enamel, an oil-based paint that matches the spray paint I’d already done on the brackets. I just went along, row-by-row, and touched up all the heads with a little foam brush. Twice. All 128 of them.

Because Max isn’t really one to stain wood or operate power tools or worry about painting screw heads, his major contribution during all of this was to design and print some custom little bookplates to go inside all of our books. You can read way more about that over on his blog, but I think they turned out to be the super-cutest pragmatic insurance policy ever. This way, if his eye lingers, I will know exactly which of these many books to bring to the roof, set aflame, and piss all over the ashes. No, I don’t repeat these threats several times a day, how dare you?!

Back to the books. So many books. The shelves are spaced so the bottom shelf is nicely size for larger-format texts (like design books, etc.), and the upper shelves are well-sized for more standard sized books.

Now I just need to pretty-up that region between the bottom shelf and my desk. And get over the fact that I now think I should have hung the whole thing about 4 inches lower. And my ever-sneaking suspicion that our vintage teak nightstand shelves make the whole room a little too shelfy. Here I go. Shutting up now.

Kitchen Hackin’

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.

Tools of the Trade

Part of clearing out my shame from Eva’s room last week involved facing a harsh reality. I’m not nearly organized enough. When space is at such a premium, however, something has to be done about that.

The tools, in particular, were in crisis. Check out the hardware drawer in my Ikea Pax Wardrobe. Shudder.

And to add insult to injury, here’s what Eva’s room vomited out, most of which also needed to fit.

One thing about the 39″ wide PAX wardrobe is that those drawers are HUGE, which makes them exceptionally hard to organize on their own. So off to the Container Store I went, naturally.

After a bout of sorting and organizing, here it sits. The containers are just those basic Container Store brand plastic boxes (the big ones are shoe boxes and the small ones are accessory boxes). The tops are fussy, so I don’t use them. I love these containers– well made enough, only $1.79 each, and offered in tons of different sizes to quell your psychopathic demands for uniformity in your organization.

In case you noticed a big something missing, the drill found its way into a shelf where it takes up less space.

Big manly drill... next to the sewing machine. Foiled again!

I promise I’ll stop showing off my messes soon. Because there won’t be any, of course.

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