The built-in blitz continues…dining room edition part II

After a week straight of nonstop work the dining room built-in is finished. And this time, since it’s been so long since part one and you’ve all waited patiently (all ten of you), let’s just reveal the final product here right at the start before picking up where we left off.

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I couldn’t have gotten this one done anywhere near as fast without Lily’s grandmother Janny here at the house for a week. She came into town two Fridays ago and stayed a week and a day, which totally freed me up to work on this thing nonstop on the weekend and after work during the week.

I started in the afternoon two Saturdays ago, after a trek to DC Brau to fill up my growlers with a new brew and a stop at Community Forklift to find some salvaged cabinet doors, and spent probably 12-14 hours on Saturday-Sunday together working on this one ( as well as the fireplace cabinet) at which point the bulk of the actual cabinet was finished. After that, most of the week was spent painting and working on the trim and final touches.

When we left things in the last post, the cabinet itself was finished, but all of the trim and finish work still remained, as well as the shelves over the cabinet. And that expected gap between the cabinet and the knee wall.

finished cabinet box and frame

To integrate the new cabinet into the rest of the wall and make it look as seamless as possible, they key was to continue the trim from the kitchen knee wall all the way down in front of the cabinet and try to repeat the same look as much as possible. First, I ripped off all the current trim on the bottom of the knee wall, starting with the toe moulding (which was saved to re-use), the baseboard and the ogee cap trim. This was a good excuse to get rid of the knotty pine baseboard that our contractor used on the knee wall just because I had it laying around the house instead of MDF or clear pine.

I bought a long length of MDF baseboard to run all the way from the right edge across the cabinet to the left wall. Which does more than anything to make it look totally integrated.

The other major issue was to cover the gap between the knee wall and the cabinet face. That face is flush with the knee wall depth, so covering the gap was as simple as getting a clear pine 1×3 to cover the gap. And above the baseboard, I used the same ogee trim moulding as a cap on the baseboard and just continued it on the other side of the new 1×3 board.

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With the paint on, it’s a nice seamless transition between the two very separate pieces — the back of the kitchen counter knee wall and the new built-in.

We already had that same ogee moulding flipped upside down under the overhanging lip of the granite countertop, so we repeated that same pattern at the top of the cabinet as the bottom, just upside down.

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The last remaining detail, and one that we didn’t have a good idea about when we started, was how to cover the top of the cabinet. I built the box with nice enough wood that we could have left the top as the wood of the cabinet box with some trim around the top edges to cover the gaps with the wall. But that would have been a little too plain.

Once again, Community Forklift to the rescue.

I went back to Community Forklift the following Friday to see if I could find something good to cover the top with. We had talked about granite, but without an expensive diamond tipped blade, I had no way to cut granite, so even if I found a good enough remnant, I’d end up having to pay someone to come and cut it anyway. But I thought I might be able to find a good piece of solid wood I could cut down, or some other inexpensive countertop material I could cut down with ordinary saw blades. Really, I had no specific idea when I walked in the door.

After thinking I was going to be leaving empty-handed, I went back to the shelves of Corian scrap and found a long piece of gray speckled Corian that had just enough un-cut and un-damaged surface to cut out to fit the top. And Corian is basically condensed plastic, so you can cut it with an ordinary saw, though it does stink like burning plastic when you do. I had to buy more than I needed with an 8-foot piece, but it was only $25 total for the whole scrap.

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Once I cut it down and dropped it in place, I knew we had found the right item. The grey color was perfect. It compliments the countertop color without competing with it (and it’s half the thickness so there’s a clear separation), and it matches perfectly with the light and darker shades of gray we have on the walls in the dining room already. Rachel said that if we were buying Corian from the store brand new to match our room, it’s probably the exact color we would have chosen.

Once again, Community Forklift for the win!

I thought about routing the front edge to give it a lip, but the consensus from Rachel and her mom was that it looked best with a squared edge — made the whole thing look like a slab of stone.

After gluing it down with construction adhesive, to complete the look, I just put quarter-round moulding around the edges to fill the slight gaps with the non-square wall around the top.

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With the top and all moulding in place, that just left the shelves to finish.

I liked the look of Alex and Wendy’s open kitchen wine bar shelves so much that I more or less replicated ’em. I actually stumbled on the same corbels/brackets at Home Depot, used 1×12’s for the shelves, and then ran a 1×2 lip around each shelf to make them look more substantial. I shifted the brackets out to the edges to hit studs since I had two available, and then ran a small cleat across the gap between them that went into the wall first and hit a middle stud. Mounting the cleat first makes leveling the shelves much easier since you only have to level and mount a small cleat rather than a big clumsy shelf.

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(Though as that picture shows, I had to do a little extra work to level this shelf front to back, because the wall is not square and some of the screws in the corbel weren’t properly grabbing the wall and pulling the shelf tight to the wall.)

After filling the nail holes and touching up with paint, the project was a wrap — save for the missing piece of trim on the door frame that I am going to strip down and repaint while I’ve got it off the wall before putting it back up.

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Now is the time that Rachel would probably like me to note that the shelves are not fully decorated (just the rest of my beer glasses!), and yes, that is blue painter’s tape on the edge. We were hosting the dessert for our annual block party progressive dinner so I wanted to make sure people didn’t lean against the wall where the trim was missing and get plaster dust on their clothes.

She would probably also like to add that she’s totally thrilled that the little ipod stereo and baby monitor now have a home that’s not on the knee wall countertop. Ideally, she’d have nothing up there at all. She’s a clutter nazi. In a good way, of course.

So that’s that! The built-in bonanza is done. For at least a week or two. Then, the most demanding one yet — new entertainment center/shelves combo for the living room. Should be a challenge.

(We’ll close with one last picture…)

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