Archives for posts with tag: cabinets

Just try to get two six-year-olds to stop running. I dare you.

We had a tiring, but productive, weekend. Saturday morning my father and I met Jesse and my neighbor Doug on site for an extravaganza of heavy lifting. Totally macho. Or something.

Here’s the story. Our windows were delivered the same day as our concrete pour, which had been rescheduled from a few days earlier. So as a result there was nowhere to store the windows on site. Our good friends two doors away offered to allow us to store them in our garage. Problem solved!

Sort of.

The windows are massive. All the doors and most of the windows are eight feet tall. This makes for a very heavy window. The heaviest? Close to 500 pounds. Oh yeah, and we also have a pretty extensive window package. So not only are the windows hefty, but there are many of them.

But a few hours of work and the job was done.

So now it’s on to installation. Jesse is taking the lead on that and I hired a friend, Scott McSpadden, to help me with installation of the soffit. See the picture below, but we have 75 sheets of plywood for the soffit, which is the area under the roof. I love our house design, but it’s going to take a while to get this work done. We have a 2,190 s.f. house (plus the garage). And yet we have 2,200 s.f. of roof overhangs. Good times.

Finally, we’re just about through the big stuff with kitchen cabinets. We even mocked up our kitchen in our rental house. Fun stuff!

Here’s to a productive week.

It’s been what, almost a month since the last post? Way too long I know, but there are many very, very good reasons for the blogging vacation.

I referenced this in the last post, but we’ve been navigating a pretty stressful situation the past couple of months on site. Sadly, this led to sleepless nights, meetings with our bank, checks written to lawyers, and a new builder on site.¬†That’s also all I plan to write about the topic on this blog. As unhappy as I ended up, this is a blog about building a house, not flaming a builder.

But on to more interesting things. A week ago I flew to Chicago to meet my father, who lives in New York, and we then drove back to Spokane together. 1,900 miles and two-and-a-half days later we arrived home. Somehow we survived the long trip in an F-250 filled with a bed full of cabinet-making tools.

Cool rock outcroppings in Wisconsin.

More driving in Minnesota.

Only in South Dakota: "Help Manage Your Wildlie. WEAR FUR."

One of my neighbors asked how the drive went. My response? “Well, we didn’t bond enough when he was changing my diapers, so we needed a cross-country trip in a pickup with an AM radio.” I thought it was funny anyway.

So the past few days we’ve started working on our kitchen cabinets. To say we obsessed about the cabinet design is a massive understatement.

We’re building everything from beech, with the exception of the plywood boxes. Beech is a wood that for whatever reason is not in vogue at the moment. I love it though. It’s hard (similar to oak), reasonably stable and has a tight and consistent grain with subtle brown specks. You’ll often see it used in Scandinavian furniture. Lots of Danish Modern designs, for example, are made from beech.


So in addition to being great wood to work with, there’s another upside to beech–it’s relatively inexpensive. To put things into perspective, at wholesale prices beech runs about $2.85 per board foot. White oak is more like $8. This is a good thing, especially given the amount we’re using.

As an aside, if you’re looking for an affordable wood with more figure (or wavy, visibile grain) you should check out ash. It’s similar in appearance (except much whiter) and qualities to oak, but less expensive than even beech. It’s one of those things that confuses me. Outstanding wood, easy to source, absolultely beautiful, yet for some reason not popular.

OK, more about the design. The cabinets use butcher block for both the legs and the countertops. I ordered these through Country Mouldings in Ohio and can’t say enough good things about their service. I’m also thrilled with the quality. Beautiful wood, super-precise sizing, perfectly square corners and edges. Great stuff.

We have a highly-modular design based on using the blocks and plywood boxes. This makes the work relatively fast. The key word in the last sentence is “relatively.” Cabinet work is never terribly fast.

The boxes will sit 8″ off the ground. Some people would call this a waste of space. And yes, we could have shoved another drawer in the void, but I love the way it looks when you turn cabinetry into furniture. I’ll also to take a moment to point out to anyone who doubts this logic that it’s a beautiful waste of space.

Checking things out. The horizontal plywood strips will go away, replaced with a full piece of beech plywood.

Looks good now. When it's finished it should be incredible. And to you cabinet geeks, yes, those are drywall screws. They're temporary.

We haven’t done this yet, but we’ll also use a router to cut in a shallow rabbet, or square notch, anywhere two pieces of wood touch, like for example where a leg meets the counter. This does a couple of things for us. First, it helps hide any inconsistencies in the wood (or mistakes). It also creates a nice little shadow line.

We have a ton more work to do, both in terms of detailing and basic cutting, biscuiting, screwing and gluing. But the general idea is captured here. More to come in the next few days though. It’s a pretty fun start though.

An update and cabinets: Part One.

About a year ago I was doing some work with a consultant who described a situation he was in. He referred to it as “starting with a ‘d’ and rhyming with ‘mama.'”

Yep, we’ve had a bit of this lately so you’ll have to excuse the rarity of recent posts. All is well though, or at least it will be in the long run. Like anything in life, there are going to be speed bumps and barriers and learning curve and personalities and frustration. There will also be joy and awe and inspiration and personalities and gratitude.

One of the things I’ve been most excited about is the cabinetry and casework. We’ve put a ton of time into thinking through what we want aesthetically and functionally. K and I both lean towards the functional, but at the same time want something beautiful and that stirs something a bit…emotional I guess is the word.

A hallmark of Shaker cabinetry is restraint, simplicity and craftsmanship.

My father is a cabinet maker, so this goes a long way towards getting what we want. It also represents a pretty unique opportunity. The chance to work on something together will be special.

Originally we had some pretty involved ideas. Involved as in complicated and (even though our labor is free) expensive. When it comes to woodworking there’s an irony. In general, the simpler the look you want, the more work, precision and fussy details you need to expect. In other words, simple = difficult.

So for example, if you want a drawer to fit perfectly into an opening without trim, or wood overlapping or exposed hardware, it’s going to take a lot of time, effort or expensive equipment. Sometimes all three.

Anyway, we spent a lot of time looking at friends’ houses and magazines. We also spent a lot of time talking about what we liked about our old house, how we like to cook. We talked about what we want and what we don’t want.

In our old house we pulled all of the door fronts off of the upper cabinets to make it easier to access everything from plates to spices. Eventually we had to add a few upper doors because our dog was jumping up on the counters and stealing bags of chocolate chips from the top shelves. Nice.

We added wood countertops to our old kitchen and loved them. Solid, warm, beautiful. So that’s something to include too.

The pantry in our old turn-of-the-century house. This was after the doors had to be installed to thwart our thief of a dog.

We’re big fans of exposed joinery. Showing off dovetails or finger joints or through-mortises is our ideal. It shows how the piece is put together and is very Japanese and Craftsman in its aesthetic. But back to the introduction, this is also fussy work. There’s a reason that face-frame cabinetry is so popular. It’s strong, relatively simple to construct and fast.

In the right house some of the modular Italian cabinetry is fun to look at. It’s clean, organized and keeps everything out of sight. It’s also a bit too rigorous for us. Never having anything on display or easily accessible would be a pain. We felt like we’d be constantly opening and closing doors and drawers to find a spoon, a pot or the refrigerator. Too much. Plus, in my opinion I don’t think this kind of kitchen wears well. Chip the veneer on a cabinet front and it’s obvious, and looks like hell. If you’ve ever bought anything from Ikea made from melamine you’ll likely know what I mean.

Can't you imagine it? "My kitchen is the same color as my Ferrari. And I cook as well as I drive."

On a business trip to Seattle a couple of years ago I stopped in the Henrybuilt showroom. Crazy beautiful stuff. Crazy expensive, too. And while K likes their look, it’s not exactly what she wants either. But if you can afford $80k in cabinetry for your kitchen, check it out. Beautiful. Oh, they also have a lower cost line called Viola Park that’s quite nice too.

Henrybuilt. Batshit beautiful.

There’s a company called Kerf that does some cool stuff too. I like it, but overall it’s a bit too far to the mid-century side of the spectrum.

Kerf Design. Get your Eichler on.

Then I stumbled upon a company called Hansen Kitchen. This is a Danish outfit run by an architect. Fantastic. Their philosophy is very similar to what we want. They eschew cabinet doors (vs. drawers), use primarily solid wood and have a very clean, modular design. The modular aspect is especially appealing since we’ll build these ourselves and time is an influencer.

Check out the image below of the finger-jointed legs. Originally I wanted to copy/adapt this idea. Really strong design, and while difficult wouldn’t be too horrendous. It would require a ton of wood though. I would have been OK with this, but because of the earlier drama I alluded to we’ll be taking on quite a bit more work ourselves, so something a bit more straightforward might be the¬†right choice for us.

Up next: Why I just ordered 100+ feet of countertops, and an emerging design.