Sunday, March 27, 2011

If you build it, they will clean.

The bathroom cabinet we put in the girls' bathroom upon moving into this house nearly seven years ago has seen better days. Target furniture was not meant to last this long. Not only is it chipped and falling apart, it's gross, too. Covered in toothpaste, hair, and other unidentifiable goobers, the cabinet was beyond saving.

So last week, as I began to scrape the popcorn ceilings from the basement and quickly realized how much fun that is, I decided to design and build a new cabinet for the girls.

The girls' bathroom is on the list of projects to tackle after I finish the basement. I may have even promised to start it this coming fall if the girls can keep their sink and vanity toothpaste-free for the next six months. Ha. I won't hold my breath. In the spirit of clean, though, this cabinet is a place for the girls to keep their hair clutter, toothbrushes, and tubes (and tubes and tubes) of toothpaste. How did we end up with so much toothpaste? Maybe the cabinet will help them toward their goal of maintaining a clean bathroom (I did, in fact, say that with a straight face).

In anticipation of gutting and re-doing the girls' bathroom, I built the cabinet not only to grow with the girls and be one of few fixtures that will return to the bathroom after the remodel, but I also painted it colors to go with the new bathroom. The deep teal inside the cabinet and inside the drawers will blend perfectly with the new Mexican sink. I imagine that the rest of the bathroom will be white, or nearly all white.

Love that teal interior -- it's actually much lighter than it appears in this photo. As soon as I can pick up some more wood, I'll cut and paint the shelves for the interior.

This cabinet was a great learning experience for me. Designing it from scratch took some time and a few wasted materials, but I figure I will be building similar ones for other bathrooms eventually, so I took copious notes as I worked. In the end, here are the things I learned:

  1. Do not be afraid of making drawer faces and cabinet doors fit tightly. They can always be made smaller, but not the other way around.
  2. Krylon "crystal clear" spray finish is not actually clear. It's yellow. I will be budgeting some time for re-painting this piece in the next month or so. But it WAS on sale for $2.55/bottle at K Mart, so I now have four bottles which I will happily use on colored pieces from now on. Or sparingly over white.
  3. Using the table saw to route space for 1/8" MDF for drawer bottoms or cabinet backs works well (as seen on The New Yankee Workshop, thank you very much Norm Abrams). But the MDF cut to fit in those spaces must be square. And you should do the routing BEFORE cutting the wood to size. Routing small pieces on a crappy table saw is like asking to get a finger cut off.
  4. Plan for drawer faces to be a dimensional wood size so that you don't have to rip a half inch off of a drawer face to make it fit. If I had made the drawer spaces a tad bigger or a tad smaller, I could have used 1x6s or 1x8s. Instead, I had to rip a 1x8 to fit -- always a risky procedure on my lame (but better than nothing) table saw.
  5. Cabinet makers build overlay doors for a reason. They don't have to be as exact as inset doors. Duh. Maybe next time.
  6. Cute trim takes a piece from boring to adorable -- it is okay to trim a cabinet within an inch of its life. In this case, that meant quarter round around the top (which covers a multitude of cutting sins, such as having a miter saw too small to cut a 1x8), beaded crown under the top, more beading around the middle (covering more mistakes but also adding fun detail), and base trim at the bottom. Trim really makes a piece look finished and covers mistake after mistake after mistake.
  7. Learn your stinkin' math facts so that you don't end up with a drawer opening that is off by an inch and a half. But I'm the only one who will ever know!
  8. Shelving jigs rock. The one I bought was not cheap (about $20 for a piece of plastic) but it allowed me to drill perfectly spaced holes for shelf pins on the inside of the cabinet. I will definitely get my money's worth for that overpriced piece of plastic.
  9. A bathroom cabinet can't be too big, especially in a bathroom inhabited by two semi-high-maintenance girls. This one is 24"w x 40"t. It might hold most of the stuff it needs to hold.

So, yeah, I learned a lot. But am I totally stoked to have a new cabinet to organize the chaos that is the girls' bathroom? Absolutely. Am I thrilled that it has an endlessly wipe-able surface? Even more. Will I be making a second (although not identical) cabinet to go in the new basement bathroom? Without question. And eventually two for our bathroom, also. Yep, despite all of the "learning experiences" involved in building this, I love my new cabinet.

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