Yes it goes on and on, my friends.
Bradley started working on it after Christmas, and it’s still not done. And, since I’ve been swamped with projects at work that have me working weekends and holidays, this cabinet has been 99% Bradley work. He’s been out in the (unheated) garage in sub-freezing temperatures every weekend trying to get this thing finished. I’m pretty sure he’ll cry tears of joy when this project is over, because it’s been quite an ordeal.
Did we mention this is the first cabinet Bradley’s ever made?
There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, though. Bradley’s painting that sucker as I write this. We’ll install it next weekend. Before we get into cabinet talk, check out the floating shelves Bradley made for the office closet:
They’re cut to fit our funky, angled corner.
It’s currently our catchall for whatever doesn’t have a home at the moment, but eventually this closet will be storage for all those office supplies and paperwork we don’t need on a daily basis.
Now on to the big cabinet project…
Our bathroom has zero storage, so the plan is to make a big cabinet to hold towels, extra toiletries and Costco-sized packages of TP. (We talked all about it in this post from August.)
(Yipes, remember when that hallway looked like a tornado went through it?)
Since this is going to be a custom built-in, Bradley started by taking measurements and drawing plans. This is what he gave me to photograph:
Yeah. I don’t get it either. So I asked Bradley for a better explanation of what he was planning, and he gave me this:
Still don’t get it? Me neither. Here’s the gist of it:
- The cabinet will go from floor to ceiling (just over 9′ tall)
- It’ll have 3 doors.
- It will be built mostly out of MDF to keep the cost down.
- The outside of the cabinet will be plywood (more expensive than MDF, but also much more sturdy).
Bradley put together a shopping list and we headed to Home Depot to get our supplies:
This was right after our spending freeze ended, so Bradley was on cloud nine.
We went with birch plywood for the outside of our cabinet. The plan was to stain it white — that way we could stain it and get a bleached-white wood look. We got back home, and Bradley immediately started making cuts:
The inside of the cabinet will be made entirely out of MDF. MDF is not the sturdiest thing in the world. It’s fine for shelves, but the edges need to be reinforced. Bradley’s plan was to do solid wood edge-banding using some 3/4″ thick poplar. Solid wood edge-banding — I had no idea what this meant — is basically gluing a strip of wood on the face of the cabinet. Like a thicker, fancier veneer.
This is how Bradley did it:
1. He used a table saw to cut 3/4″ wide x 1/8″ thick strips of poplar.
2. Then he cut a strip down to the size of the MDF shelf. He left a little extra room on the ends.
3. He smeared glue along the front-facing edge of the MDF.
4. Then he placed the poplar strip on top of the glued edge.
5. And he applied masking tape to hold the strip tightly in place.
6. After that, he used a wet paper towel to gently wipe up excess glue. He let the glue dry for 4 hours in a warm room. (He dragged each shelf into the house, let it sit by the fireplace, then dragged it back out to the garage 4 hours later.)
7. Finally, he removed the tape and sanded the strip down flush with the MDF.
Part of the reason this cabinet took so long is that there are so many edges that needed to be faced with wood. After a few days, though, things started coming together and we had something that resembled a real cabinet:
Or two cabinets, rather. Bradley built it in two separate sections that can be taken apart. That way, we can carry this beast upstairs a little easier.
Bradley picked up some hardware to install shelves inside:
Then he went through the long process of making each shelf:
It’s hard to believe how much time actually went into each and every shelf. Cutting, gluing, cleaning, drying, sanding. We definitely have a better appreciation of how much work goes into custom cabinets.
Here’s Bradley putting on the doors:
And here’s how the cabinet looks when the doors are open:
And here’s how it looks when the doors are closed:
No visible hardware! We decided to go with European hinges so the hardware is all concealed inside the cabinet:
Bradley ordered these hinges through his source at work, but they sell something similar at Home Depot & Lowe’s.
Once the cabinet was ready for finishing, we dragged it upstairs to the master bedroom:
We removed all of the hardware and prepped the cabinet for painting:
As Bradley removed each hinge, he labeled the hardware and its coordinating slot:
That way we just just pop each hinge back in place and not have to worry about readjusting each one all over again.
Next up: staining our doors:
Bradley got this white stain through his finishing supplier from work. Here’s how it went on straight out of the can:
We’re not sure if it was the cold weather or just the brand, but this stain was super thick and gloppy. Right away, Bradley thought something didn’t feel quite right, but he kept going with the door:
This is how it looked when he finished:
Blurgh. It was definitely not the cool, bleached wood look we were going for. And it was super streaky and blotchy in some parts. So Bradley decided to thin out the stain and try again.
He mixed the stain with lacquer thinner and gave it another shot:
It was a huge improvement as far as color goes. This is more the white-with-wood-grain that we were looking for. But it was still really streaky. And — here’s the weird part — the streaks ran sideways.
You can barely make it out in the photos, but the streaks weren’t running with the grain of the wood. There was something funky going on with the wood itself. Whatever it was, we decided to put the kibosh on the staining idea and went with Plan B: paint.
We loved the way our white-on-the-outside / teal-on-the-inside dresser turned out, so we decided to do something similar for the cabinet. The outside will be the same soft grey as the hallway walls. But the insides will be a super bold, super cheerful yellow:
I. Love. Yellow. I’ve been trying to talk Bradley into yellow paint pretty much from the moment we signed the papers and got the keys. Bradley’s a little color-phobic. Maybe it’s from years of living in NYC where everyone wears black and grey? After months of showing him Pinterest photos, I finally convinced him that a bright yellow, white and light grey bathroom would be crisp and clean and refreshing. So we decided to paint the cabinet to tie the bathroom and hallway together.
To save time — this project has already been going on for a month now — Bradley decided to use the spray paint gun instead of rolling on the paint. This has the added bonus of zero texture. The cabinet will look super sleek by the time we’re finished.
Here’s how it looks today:
We’re so close to wrapping up this project. Can’t. Wait. Here’s what we still have left to do:
- Sand the inside and shelves with 320-grit sandpaper
- Install the cabinet in the hallway
- Give the insides and shelves 2 coats of polyurethane
- Paint the outside of the cabinet and the doors grey
- Give the outside of the cabinet and doors 1 or 2 coats of polyurethane
And then we can finally start using the cabinet. This means we can move a bunch of stuff out of our bathrooms and they won’t be disaster zones anymore. And that means we can finally — finally!!! — show you some more rooms in our house. We’re super geeked because we’ve been dying to share what the rest of our house looks like. But we’re also mortified because our bathrooms are gross and hideous.
We’ll be back with the big reveal on the cabinets next weekend. And, now that our big, overwhelming, time-consuming cabinet project is done, we’ll be back to updating more regularly with more small projects. Stay tuned!