We don't really know what to call this thing. Work station. Chopping block. Kitchen island. Floor cabinet. And we're okay with that because we built it to be exactly this: an ambiguous work / storage / organization unit.
When we took out the old bench that was previously along this wall, we wanted to make this space work-ready. So we designed a folding desk that we ripped off of an IKEA product (thanks, IKEA!). But then we had this other nebulous space to fill. And so we designed this thing.
Building a nebulous thing from scratch is hard. A lot of time was spent researching just what to put there. Would it be another work space? Would we use it when prepping meals in the kitchen? Did we need more storage? At one point we just considered buying a kitchen cart to go there. But we decided it was a mix of all of the above. So, we built what I'll just call henceforth the cabinet.
The Design Phase
The first thing you need to know about the cabinet is it's not perfect. I'll explain this all later, but listen: it's just not perfect. If we could redo it, we probably would. But it's there now. And we use it. And it's fine.
One of the big reasons it's not perfect is the wheel well. It sat right where this cabinet would be, so whatever we put there would need to clear this thing all the way around. And being an old trailer, you can guess already that this thing was a weird size/shape. Which would plague us time and again. Remember: wheel well = problems.
Anywho, the first thing we did was sketch it out. We ultimately planned for a floor cabinet with two bookshelves and a junk drawer.
- It was me who suggested the junk drawer. I always think it's helpful to have a catch all for pens, office supplies, keys, papers -- anything, really. We are crazy glad we added this. It stores a lot and is really handy. Plus it let Mel use these cool Anthropologie handles she'd purchased and hadn't found a use for yet.
- Carson wanted the bookshelves. He's a writer, after all, and there's just books he needs with him. Plus, reading is a big hobby for writers. And kind of one for me. He wanted a big ol' shelf that would store all the books we'd be bringing along and look cool, too.
The only thing we knew going into the design phase was that it would match the folding desk we'd just built. We purchased the same size of pine board for the top that we used in the desk and also knew we wanted it to be the same heigh as the desk. That basically informed how tall it should be. And width we basically just decided based on how much space we had left between the desk and the front door.
Tragedy + Triumph
Jerry and Carson built the cabinet frame in literally an hour. It kind of shocked me how quickly it came together. They measured the wheel well, built it to the right height/depth with some leftover plywood and primed/painted this thing the next day. However, THE WHEEL WELL. They brought the cabinet in to check their work before going any further. The cabinet was perfect with the exception of the wheel well not being square all the way around. The wheel well was not the same height all the way across, meaning they needed to give it more breathing room. GRRRRR! They disassembled it and started over (cue the sad trumpet noise).
Now these guys are crazy resilient having worked on Elsie and her many problems for the past 8 months, so they don't let it slow them down. They reuse as many of the original pieces as they can and persevere. While they were doing that, Carson had a design epiphany.
If you've been following along on our series, you know we ripped out all the old copper water and propane lines in Elsie. We'd saved all that copper wanting to hopefully repurpose it, and the floor cabinet gave us our first chance. We'd need something to secure stuff from falling out of the front of the unit and this is where Carson had the idea to use the copper bars. They drilled holes, cut these suckers, and slid them into place during the second build. And they looked fantastic!
In the original design, we'd planned for two book shelves and a junk drawer. But when we had to increase the clearance for the wheel well, it kind of messed things up. Now instead of a junk drawer + two bookshelves we had one standard size bookshelf, a junk drawer and this weird gap. Truth be told, it's a pretty tight squeeze and there's not much room for practical stuff. But whatever. We built this thing from scratch people. We keep a weather radio and our computers in there when we're not moving / traveling.
Alright, after building it a second time and ensuring it fit, we were ready to install. We sanded and stained the top piece and affixed it permanently to the cabinet with screws. Then we attached the entire unit to the wall using some L brackets along the back pieces which are not visible by the normal human eye unless you go looking for them. After it was 100% secured, we polyurethaned the top and were ready to call it quits. But...
One Last Thing
Then I decided I wanted a door to cover up the actual wheel well. My reasoning was that if we were going to store stuff in the leftover spaces down there, it'd be cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing to not have to look at it all the time. Carson and Jerry begrudgingly cut a wood piece for the door. Attached two of Mel's Anthropologie handles. Attached a base board to the wheel well. Added hinges to that base board and the new wooden door piece (which was primed and painted white like all the rest). The door was now ready to open and shut from the bottom. Only thing left to do was secure it. We used a double roller catch latch.
Now remember how I told you this cabinet isn't perfect? Well, it's not.
- The bookshelf is too short. It does not fit a regular size book, so only really short books can fit here. Which is only like 2% of the total book population. GRRR. So what do we keep there now? A printer. And some old notebooks / misc. Carson stuff in baskets. We store our books in the cabinet above our bed.
- That gap. It sucks. We can't keep much in there. And the copper bar prevents you from keeping even semi-normal sized stuff there. Whatever.
- The drawer sticks. It's big drawer and we built it using a spring loaded system. You know, those are the drawers that you push shut and they slowly shut on their own. Anywho, that doesn't really work 90% of the time. I mean it shuts. But you know.
- The roller catch doesn't keep the bottom door in place when we're driving. So now we have to secure it with some twine to the copper bars above it each time we travel.
So there you have it folks. It looks pretty, but maybe in another life / day / time we'll make some adjustments to account for our errors. Or we won't. Heck, we're a couple months in and we're living with it!