Mar 28, 2012
Jesse

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream Cabinet

I think I can finally write about this.

My injuries have healed–the physical ones, at least–and the smell has gone away. It was a long road to recovery, but it was worth it.

Decorating my apartment is my favorite hobby. My only real goal is to make it as adorable as possible. (There was a point a few months ago when I thought I had made my apartment as cute as it could be, and I sank into a deep depression. Then I realized that absolute adorability can never be reached, so I righted myself and bought some curtains.)

This leads me to my biggest project to date. The project that inspired this post. The project that nearly ended my DIYing life.

It began with this cabinet. Doesn’t she look innocent? A little white thing with legs akimbo. She all but bats her eyelashes. I found her at my favorite furniture thrift store.

Cabinet before, all akimbo.

The cabinet was just exactly the size I needed, and it was a reasonable price. I knocked on it, and it sounded like wood. I figured I could spend a weekend repainting it and have just exactly the cabinet I wanted.

I was so young.

My plan was to combine paint and stain to get something two-toned like this. It was going to be so fancy. I bought my paint and can of Zip Strip and got to work on a Friday night after work.

I polled Twitter with my paint swatches. Mostly I just like to say "swatches".

I figured I could strip the cabinet on Friday, paint a coat on Saturday, and finish up on Sunday. I opened the can of Zip Strip. Or, I attempted to. I tried pushing the lid down. The lid made a clicking noise. It was like it was telling me that it could open, it just didn’t want to. I tried pulling the lid up. That didn’t work either. I banged on it with my screw driver. I stood on it, balancing my heel on the lid and imagining what would happen if I burst the can and sprayed caustic chemicals everywhere.

I called my dad. He said that my choices were to wait until he got up there or go back to the hardware store. I drove back to Ace, ashamed. When I explained the situation, the woman at the desk announced over the PA that I needed assistance. She called “Big Tom” to the front. Big Tom was about 6’2 and twelve years old. It took him four seconds to open the can of Zip Strip. Big Tom was one of those smirky tweens.

So began my DIY troubles. I hurried home, trying to get a start on the cabinet before dark. I opened the doors and started to peel up the shelf paper that covered the inside. I wouldn’t peel. It wasn’t shelf paper.

It was wallpaper.

Who wallpapers furniture? Unrepentant sinners with limited vision and a complete lack of foresight, that’s who.

Wallpaper. Inside the cabinet.

Not to be deterred, I looked up wallpaper removal. Everyone recommended some fancy wallpaper eating tool, but I didn’t need no stinking tools. I got out my Xacto knife and started cutting scores in the wall paper to let the Zip Strip seep through. I did not swear.

I couldn’t remove paint until the next day. This way, I had fresh and hopeful new light shining to reveal the next horror.

My cabinet, my friendly little wooden cabinet, the cabinet that I was going to stain and also paint, was not wood. It was laminate. I was nearly defeated. My plans were ruined. I pressed on.

Poor naked cabinet.

The paint fumes started to get to me. I used four cans of Zip Strip. I used it wrongly. Somewhere around Saturday evening, my cozy mystery audiobook ended and I switched to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. The wrinkled paint started to develop pretty patterns.

Sunday night, I hit my groove. I figured out the Zip Strip. (Reading instructions helps. Who knew?) I had five hours of daylight left, and I was going to remove the paint from that rebellious cabinet. When I smashed my finger during a particularly zealous sanding maneuver, I shook off the dizziness and nausea, but decided to take a break when my finger threatened to bleed on my nearly stripped cabinet.

When I returned to work on Monday, I had trouble focusing. I wasn’t sure if it all those hours spent with noxious gasses or just my utter need complete my project, but even my waiting-for-files-to-load doodles were cabinet-themed.

Doodles at work.

The actual painting of the cabinet was uneventful. I went with a vintage olive green. The legs of the cabinet did turn out to be solid wood, so I finished them in a walnutty color. The cabinet took me three weeks of weekends and weeknights to finish. The cost of the materials would easily have covered a new cabinet, so when I finally finished, I took stock of what I learned: I gained a little experience, a little humility. And I gained a little green cabinet whose paint chipped when I moved it into place.

In my little living room.

 


Title taken from this movie. If you don’t like it, we can’t be friends.

Photos were all sent through Instagram to try to hide the fact that they are, in fact, iPhone photos. In case you were wondering, it is unwise to pour your coffee into your purse when your purse contains your nice camera.

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7 Comments

  • Brilliant. Bloody brilliant in fact.

    Strangely reminds of the doctor trying to fly the tardis…

    Favorite line:
    “…I realized that absolute adorability can never be reached…”

    And lastly, I love Cary Grant. While not as good as The Baby Goose, there’s something that feels like my childhood about him with a mix of the ever hopeful future.

    • Eric, you’re great. And I’m ashamed to say I have no idea who the baby goose is, unless you are referring to Ryan Gosling.

  • You got it…love me that Ryan Gosling.

  • Look. I have nothing against Ryan Gosling (or Eric. Eric’s nice. Hi, Eric.) But I don’t consider him to be comparable to Cary Grant. They don’t even do the same things. That’s like comparing a baby goose and…another bird who is as awesome as Cary Grant. Which is impossible because I’m no ornithologist, but I’m pretty sure a bird as awesome as Cary Grant doesn’t exist. Imagine a bird looking cool and sophisticated while falling down stairs…or doing somersaults with Katharine Hepburn. (Well, ok, that’d be pretty cool.)

    Anyway. In spite of the craziness of the laminate, your cabinet is beautiful. I think it makes a fine addition to your adorable living room, which I shall be in again very soon! Can’t wait. πŸ™‚

    • Hi Sharone! What Baby Goose movies have you seen? I mean, are we talking the Crazy Stupid Love Baby Goose or the Drive/Half Nelson/Lars and the Real Girl Baby Goose? Anyway – they are very different – but both are actors, and I prefer the Baby Goose. Just sayin’.

  • that sounds like a huge mess. but you got a good product in the end!

  • Hi Jesse,
    I have learned that when you put re in front of a word like build, paint, do, varnish, what it really means is you put 3X in front of any and all time estimates for the job. It takes X time to build something and 3X to rebuild it! So I do not know what the prefix re means except maybe “again” but it should be “three times it dude and you got it.” πŸ™‚
    At least you can look at that cabinet and say “I did that” instead of “I bought that”.
    Mark

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