In Which Megan Narrowly Avoids Death by Cabinetry

hall-cabinetRaney Nelson was at my house a month or so ago, and mentioned that, while the kitchen looked nice, I could use more storage. I’m loathe to admit it, but he was right. I had no good place to hide a box of kitty litter, extra paper towels, tertiary pots and pans, and the like.

So today, I built what I swear on a stack of Shakespeares is the last kitchen cabinet – though it’s not technically in the kitchen; it’s in the tiny hall that leads to it from the living room. (Perfect – the litter box is in the half-bath off that hallway…I had to stand in it to take the picture.)

Hauling home from the shop a 35″-wide, 85″-tall cabinet in a Subaru is stupid. I had the driver’s seat pulled all the way forward and sat legs akimbo with my knees jammed into the dashboard, the top of the cabinet basically resting on my shoulder blades. I had to use bungee cords to keep the hatch closed. (And have I mentioned I drive a manual shift?) Had I been hit from behind, I’d have been decapitated by a cabinet. It would have be an undignified death indeed. (I do have bruises on both shoulders from a too-sudden stop, but there’s been no bloodletting.)

So now I have plenty of storage (the center shelf is fixed, the rest are adjustable). But there’s still a face frame and double doors to make – and won’t that be fun! Notice the uneven gap down the left side? The cabinet is straight, level and square. The wall (actually, it’s ductwork there to the left) is not, nor is the door frame to which I’ll need to scribe a wide face frame. There’s a 5/8″ differential between the widest and narrowest points…not that they’re points in a straight line, mind you – it’s more of a gentle wave pattern. But if I can get the face frame scribed and installed correctly, that will (obviously) make fitting the doors a far simpler process.

overfridgeOh – and there are two doors still to make for the cabinet I made last weekend…which I vowed, as I installed it, was the last kitchen cabinet.

I guess technically it was.

So no more cabinets – if for no other reason than I’m finally out of the eight sheets of 3/4″ plywood I had delivered lo these many months ago. And no matter how idiotic the driving risks I’m willing to take, a 4’x8′ sheet simply will not fit in my car. But that’s a problem; I need one last sheet of 1/4″ for the doors. Maybe it will bend enough…

Posted in Uncategorized | 23 Comments

Regression and Memory


I realized this evening that I already have the perfect island-height stool to tide me over until I find the right ones to buy – and it takes me back four decades.

(I don’t want to make the kitchen stools – I want a brushed metal base to tie in with the appliances, and don’t have the time to learn metalwork and welding.)

This venerable Cosco Counter Step Stool has been in my family now for three generations (though the second generation – me – isn’t turning it over the third just yet). My Aunt Denise tells me she and her older brother, Chuck, used to fight over who got to sit in it; that must have been in the mid- to late-1950s.

And I clearly recall sitting at the end of the table in my grandmother’s kitchen 40-odd years ago in this yellow stool and begging to use the “eye spoon” – a silver-plate spoon on which the plating had rubbed off the back in the shape of…wait for it…an eye. I don’t know why I thought that spoon was so special…except that my younger brother, Ian, wanted it, too. (We also fought over the stool, which made my grandmother threaten to “get the stick.”)

After my grandparents died, most of their belongings were passed down to their three daughters and son (naturally), though I did get a fair number of my grandfather’s tools and carvings, and a bookcase I use as a china cabinet. And I got the vintage Cosco stool.

So tonight, I pulled it out of its usual nook, tossed some rubber and felt furniture sliders under the legs (the plastic protective cuffs have long since rotted away) and gave it a try. Perfect. The yellow even matches the wall – serendipity.

Now I want to know who has the eye spoon.







Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Stool Samples


With my island almost done (the oil/varnish blend – because I was too impatient to wait for spraying weather – is drying on all the pieces right now), I’m now on the hunt for  stools.

A few weeks ago, someone posted a picture of what might have been the perfect stools on Instagram or Twitter (I’d at least like to take a closer look), and I thought I’d taken a screen shot…but no. (They were maker made and available in walnut and, I think, maple. Was it you? If so, please send me that link!)

And since I can’t dig up that picture of possible perfection, I’ve been hunting on the Internet. As it turns out, everything I even remotely like is something I can’t make. I wonder if there’s something Freudian in that.

In order of preference above are the ones I’d consider buying, but unfortunately, only the one on the far right is available in the U.S. … and it’s my least favorite of the three. Figures.

So I think I’m going to start haunting the local antique malls in search of two perfect stools – and they needn’t match, as long as they look cool together.

In the meantime, I’ll buy a cheap and ugly wooden stool from Target. That ought to visually offend me enough to start shopping right away.

Dy faster, dammit.

Dy faster, dammit.

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

The Yowling


The felines, they are still hissing, spitting and yowling at one another.

It’s been five months. I’ve tried everything I, the Internet and my vet can think of. Except for one thing.

Barring blood, it’s time let them fight it out.

Viola is ready. Come play with me…for ever, and ever, and ever.


Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Between Scylla & Charybdis & Bad Timing


With my kitchen 90 percent done, I’ve been thinking about putting my house on the market again come spring (which gives me a few months to complete the 10 percent). So I’ve been looking online (and visiting a few open houses) in my neighborhood.

But I’m particular (others might choose a different word)…and there isn’t much in my neighborhood (in which I’d like to remain) that fits the bill and also fits anywhere near the budget.

The challenge is (as it was last year), that I want a house with a garage or first-floor family room (read:workshop), but I also want a living room, dining room and kitchen, as I now have. And it has to have at least 2 full baths, and three or more bedrooms (one of which would be a study). Oh – and it has to have been built prior to around 1930.

At the moment, there are only two properties in my ‘hood that match; one of them is listed at $320k (it’s gorgeous) and the other at $260k (it is slightly less gorgeous, but still does not completely suck). My goal was to find one for around $120k that was livable and could become gorgeous with a lot of work. Last year, there were several of those on the market around here (granted, they all smelled pretty bad, but…). But almost everything on the acceptable streets (read: reasonably safe) has now been bought and rehabbed, or is in the midst of being rehabbed…at which point it will be listed for $250k or more. (Including the stinky ones I looked at last year.)

And frankly, I kinda like my house. Now. Now that I’ve put a lot of time, effort and money into it. (If only I had pictures and smell-o-vision of the Kelly green carpet that covered three rooms and the hall when I moved in…).

But it still doesn’t have room for a shop – no matter how many times Christopher Schwarz tells me I don’t need a dining room. (He also thinks I should “just dig out the basement” to make room for power tools down there – never mind that it’s field stone and has a recurring water feature when it rains. Also, almost zero natural light. And spiders. Lots of spiders.)

So I’ve circled back to considering an addition, with a first floor family room (shop) and an additional bedroom (or whatever) above, and possibly another full bath. (See my terrible sketch at top for the first floor…and note that I’d be tearing into the back wall of my 90-percent-done kitchen. Or someone would. Dammit.)

So today, I checked in with the zoning department. I’m screwed. Any structure or addition must be set 20′ back from the rear property line. Those of you with eagle eyes may see the 315″ in my drawing above, from the back wall of my existing house to the rear of my property. Now math is not my strong suit, but I’m pretty sure that leaves me about 6′ for an in-code addition.

If want to pursue this, I’ll need a variance. That application costs $300-$500 (it’s unclear to me which app I have to submit), plus one has to submit approved site plans, which I’m sure will cost far more than $500. That’s an expensive gambit with odds heavily on failure.

While there are many houses around me that don’t meet this particular code (among myriad other violations), the neighbor behind me is likely to say no, because he’d then be squeezed by code violators on both sides. In which case, I lose. And even if he says yes, I could still be turned down. There’s simply no telling.


I  don’t want to spend $1k+ to be told, “no variance for you.”

But I really don’t want to give up my dining room.

Posted in Uncategorized | 28 Comments

Island Design Playlist

Songs for a cool, rainy weekend evening of sitting in front of the computer, with hot cider and bourbon in one hand, a mouse in the other.

Ani DiFranco – “32 Flavors”

The Decemberists – “Rise to Me”

Xavier Rudd – “Messages”

Indigo Girls – “World Falls”

Be Good Tanyas – “Light Enough to Travel”

Grateful Dead – “Ripple”

The Weepies – “Please Speak Well of Me”

Holly Williams – “The Highway”

Government Mule – “Soulshine”

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

As Long as I Don’t Answer Back…


I was in the shop last weekend surfacing lumber for the Roubo bench-style kitchen island I planned (lo these many months ago). But as I was surfacing the walnut, it started talking to me. It whispered “Please don’t rip then reglue me into a thick benchtop. I’m too pretty.”


OK. I’m listening. But now it’s back to the drawing board. Or really, to the sketchbook (napkins) then to SketchUp.

So now, thanks in part to a couple comments resulting from my chalk drawings posted on the PWM blog, I’m thinking of something inspired by a library table. I still have strict requirements for this piece: counter height, hold a microwave on a shelf underneath the top, no wider than about 22″, no longer than about 52″, has to clear an air vent, must have  room at the end for two stools…and four knees. But a thinner top will bring the microwave shelf a few inches higher, and, because it will weigh significantly less, I won’t have as much concern about tippiness* at the end where the stools (and knees) will go.

I’ve spent some time over the last couple days poring over Internet images. Below, I’ve posted three inspirations pieces that I’ll use as a (re)starting point. (The first two are unattributed pieces; the last is by Frank Lloyd Wright.)

Time to sharpen my pencils. I have to get this thing (re)designed and built…so I can move onto the next thing. (I’m tired of thinking about islands that involve no beaches or umbrella drinks.) More to come…and soon.

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 9.51.20 PM

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 9.50.36 PM

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 9.51.44 PM

*Fun with neologisms.

Posted in Uncategorized | 16 Comments