This is the story of wandering around Crate and Barrel looking for storage ideas for my dining room. In this story I see a ladder shelf with a standing desk and think, wow, that would be perfect for my dining room to store my serving dishes. In this story I also look at the shelf, see the price tag of $500 and think...I can build that. Why I thought I could build it, I have no idea. I have zero experience save for the outdoor couches I made last summer, and that was really just nailing 2 x 4's together. This though, this would require fancy things like pocket holes and angled cuts. Who looks at furniture and thinks, "oh I can build that" having NEVER ACTUALLY BUILT FURNITURE. Well, me apparently. So, this is the story of how I did it.
The first thing I did was go to Ana White's website because she is the goddess of all things DIY furniture related. I found plans for a similar shelving system and after reading it every day for a week, built up the courage to try it. What I love about her is that she gives you a shopping list, cut list, and step by step instructions. It's like a recipe. A furniture recipe. It's like cooking but with power-tools. Seriously, if you can follow a recipe, you can build!
I'm not going to walk you through step by step, because you should just follow her plans, I will give you a general idea though.
First, I went to Lowes with my shopping list to get my supplies. When I first walked out the door I was wearing some cute booties and a nice jacket. I went back in and changed into the closest thing I have to work boots and a more comfy waffle shirt. I mean, you have to look the part right? I then took great pleasure in walking around Lowes and looking like I knew what I was doing. I made a pretty decent show about looking for boards that weren't bowed, and when I asked where the Kreg Jigs were, I think I fooled the guy into thinking that I knew what that was. I did have a moment where I loaded up my whole cart and realized that I had taken fencing instead of lumber. Oops. I eventually found the right aisle with the "1x" boards and it all came together. At any rate, Ana's plans made it really easy to find all the supplies once I figured out where the boards were, I just went down the "shopping list" checking things off.
My next stop was at my dad's house to borrow the aforementioned power-tools. Credit to my Dad, he probably thought I was nuts, but he still let me borrow his saw, drill, and a few other things. Like me, he looks at things and says "I can find a cheaper way to do that" and he just does it, even if he doesn't really know how it will turn out. I guess I inherited that from him.
So I returned home and brought all my supplies into the dining room and thought "now what"? I decided to make all my cuts at once. Now, I'm not sure where you live, but it's probably cold. It's been cold everywhere lately. I have to tell you though, it's been really, really, really, really (okay you get the idea) cold in New England. So ideally, like me, you want to wait until a really cold day to be out on the deck cutting wood. In case you didn't realize it, that was totally sarcastic. I do NOT recommend cutting wood in the cold. I have serious respect for cold-weather carpenters.
I found some clamps (Disclaimer, I now believe they were not clamps but something for a car. Hey, they worked!) and a T-square in the basement and measured out all of my cuts on all of my boards. I went outside, clamped down... and started cutting.
Guys, can I just tell you how awesome it feels to saw something? It feels really, really, awesome. I felt like fricken Bob Vila. I couldn't believe I'd been afraid of saws all this time. You know when you have a really, really great meal. The kind where you think about it days afterwards and can't wait to have it again? I think furniture building is like that. You build something, you want to do more. I absolutely loved sawing all the wood. Although, I had to go inside every two to three cuts to thaw my hands. So maybe wait until it's warm!
Incidentally bf came home while I was doing this. I hadn't actually told him I was going to be building furniture that day, so he just walked into me sawing things on our back deck. Much like my Dad he did not dissuade me or ask what I was doing. He just looked at me and continued on into the house. I think he's getting used to my crazy projects.
So now that my cuts were made, I just had to assemble. It started out okay, but then I split a few boards and couldn't balance the shelf while the glue was drying and dropped something on my foot. I hit a moment in every project that I refer to as the "oh sh*t" moment. The moment when it dawns on me that I have zero business doing what I'm doing and that there's a real possibility this will be a disaster. The thing that I've learned though, is that if you just push through the "oh sh*t" moment, it always works out. Maybe not how you envisioned it, but usually better. I pushed through, I assembled the two ladders first and then connected them through the middle. I just followed the plans, and 'ta-da' I had a ladder shelf system for way less money! I was pretty darn proud of myself!
I confess I had another "moment" when I got to the middle, I realized that I had cut a board wrong, and that I'd have to get a whole new piece of wood, instead though, I just went with a longer piece, and it turned out way better! instead of a little standing desk, my shelf system has a sort of buffet/bar thing in the middle.
The third "moment" came after I stained the whole thing and realized it was black instead of brown. I thought about stripping, sanding, and re-staining. Then I remembered it's winter outside and I'd have to do all that inside. I've lived with the color for a week, and I'm happy to report I really like it. In another happy accident the giant clock I had on my wall, still fit in the opening-score!
Now that I have all of my serving dishes and extra utensils on it, I am in LOVE with this room even more. The space is becoming the dining room I've always dreamed of. I love decorating with items that I use every day like bowls, and platters.
Seriously though, if I can do this, you can absolutely do this. I had zero, none, nilch, nada, experience with this kinda thing, and I got an awesome product out of it.
The Crate and Barrel shelves I wanted cost $500. My shelf system, including the stain and nails cost $120. Not too bad for a weekend project. Now I'm itching for what to build next! What's your favorite DIY to date?
Ana's original plan that I adapted can be found here.
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