The built-in blitz continues…dining room edition

Like I said before, one day I’m going to run out of spaces to fill and radiators to cover, and that’s going to be a sad day for me. Because I am really enjoying the built-in bonanza currently underway in the old rowhouse.

Though, based on the amount of time and effort these last two took and the fact that I had the luxury of having a grandparent here for the entire week to more or less cut me entirely loose of all baby duty, I’ll probably run out of available time long before I run out of space.

So up next? This little nook in the dining room/kitchen.

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That’s a shot from sometime in Nov. 2010 while the kitchen was still under construction. You can see the baseboard at right is missing its cap and the floors haven’t been refinished yet.

After we moved in, we filled that area with a little narrow, shallow cabinet we bought back when we lived in Arkansas. Actually, it’s part of a set of three pieces, which was the first furniture we ever bought after getting married. And that’s how things stayed until last weekend.

Dining room & kitchen southeast

The “plan” was to do a combination cabinet/wine rack, with open shelves above. We talked about doing a full height built-in cabinet — like the guest room — but decided that it would make the room feel small, and that we could get with the same amount of storage space with simple shelves above the level of the kitchen backsplash/knee wall and leaving things more open above.

Though with my generally “rough” planning skills, we revised things a few times along the way.

First, I took out the chair rail and the baseboards that would be in the way of the cabinet box. It was going to sit up on top of a base high enough to elevate the box above the top of a baseboard, so the back base didn’t have to come off.

dining room nook before built-in

Rachel found a picture of a few built-ins with integrated wine racks, so I was trying to do something along those lines. Though rather than making a slot for each bottle like we saw in a lot of photos, I was going to just put in two sloped open shelves on top of the cabinets for wine bottles.

Hence the sloped dadoes in the side of the box.

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That slot at right is for the top interior of the cabinet, and the slot at right will hold a shelf for wine bottles, with one more above that I hadn’t cut yet.

Because good cabinet doors with rail and stile and inset edges are crazy hard to make from scratch without a table saw and/or router table, I went over to Community Forklift two Saturdays ago to see what I could get in the way of salvaged cabinet doors. I found two fantastic off-white solid wood standard 30×18 door fronts that I painted white, along with four other identical doors in brown I’ll use soon for another project.

The best part? They look incredibly similar to our kitchen cabinets. From a distance, you probably would never notice any difference.

cabinet doors

Total cost? 2 bucks a door for a total of 12 dollars. Boom. And enough cabinet doors for my next project to boot.

The only problem — and I don’t have any pictures of this — is that after I finished the cabinet box and we squeezed it in place, it was too close to the left side trim (which I had to pull off to fit it in) and would obstruct the doors from opening properly. And because we had the height coming about six inches ABOVE the top of the counter at this point with two levels for wine bottles, there was no way to easily move it to the right or size it down.

What to do? Rachel and her mom had the idea of cutting down the height, which after running through all the possibilities, turned out to the best possible option. Cutting it down meant that the box could slide UNDER the counter lip to its right and slide just enough to the right to let those cabinet doors open on the left.

So I took it down to the shop and literally just lopped off the top six inches of the box and scrapped the second wine shelf.

And I have to say, I wish we’d planned it like this, because it fits the space infinitely better. Seriously, my original idea would’ve looked dumb compared to how it turned out.

cabinet box with face frame

There you have the box in place on the bottom frame of 2x8s after we cut it down and removed the top wine rack. You can’t tell from this photo, but the depth of the frame is flush with the knee wall to the right.

After painting the face frame and filling all the nail holes, I put the $4 cabinet doors in place and things were looking really solid.

finished cabinet box and frame

So after half a day on Saturday and a solid day of work on Sunday, by last Monday night I was about halfway home. At this point, it looks good, but there’s still a ton of trim work to do to fully integrate the piece and give it that great “built-in” look. And then there’s also the shelves on the wall above to build and install. (Yes, I did prime the 2×8 frame on the bottom so it would look better for this picture.)

Check back Tuesday or Wednesday for part two of the story of the new wine/liquor/stuff cabinet for the dining room and see the finished product, with the final coat of paint going on just literally hours before we hosted dessert for our annual block party.

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