Dan's Kitchen: A Custom Solution

Dan's Kitchen: A Custom Solution

Feb 21, 2014
Custom shelves, perfectly sized for cookbooks.

Name: Dan Bailey
Type of Project: Kitchen remodel
Location: East Boston, Boston, Massachusetts
Type of building: 2nd Floor Condo in a Greek-Revival Row House

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The soapstone fabricator stopped by early this week to make a template for the kitchen countertops. But the day before he was scheduled to arrive, I finalized one last addition to the lower cabinets.

I wanted a small set of open shelves at the end of the run of lower cabinets. The shelves would sit in front of the pipe chase, allowing the countertop to extend around the front of the chase and filling in what would otherwise be an awkward, empty, notched space at the end of the cabinets. IKEA doesn't offer shelves or a cabinet that are the right size for this space. And even if they did, I would need shelves that could be painted to match the doors on the rest of the lower cabinets.

Completely custom – the new shelves installed and ready for primer and paint.

What I really needed were some custom shelves. So I asked my contractor, Gregg, to build some. So far Gregg has tackled all of my cabinet modification requests without a second thought, and this request was no different. The shelves turned out exactly as I had imagined they would. Gregg built them out of MDF panels with solid wood edge banding. He used a jig to drill four screw holes at an angle on the bottom of each shelf, such that the shelves could be screwed into the side panels. Once the shelves and the top, bottom, and side panels were assembled, Gregg attached a sheet of 1/4-inch plywood to close in the back of the shelves.

The shelves are put together in a way that mirrors the construction of an IKEA cabinet box, so they should blend right in with the rest of the cabinets. But at the same time, the shelves should give the kitchen a classy, custom look. They’ll also provide some extra storage space for cookbooks and various kitchen tchotchkes.

A sample piece of soapstone countertop. The stone will darken up after it’s treated with mineral oil.

We got the shelves in place just in time for the countertop template to be made. Rather than cutting a solid plywood template, the countertop fabricator made a lightweight template that framed the edges of the countertop. He laid out thin strips of balsa wood on top of the cabinet boxes to mark the edges of the countertop and used hot glue to hold the whole thing together. He had initially planned to fabricate the countertop in three sections, meaning there would only be one seam in the finished countertop. But after seeing that the condo is located at the top of a flight of curved stairs on the second floor, he decided to fabricate the countertop in four sections. Soapstone is really dense — it weighs around 20 pounds per square foot — so I can’t say I blame him. It will definitely be easier to carry the countertop upstairs in four pieces rather than three. This means that there will be two seams in the finished countertop, but apparently soapstone makes very tight, nearly invisible seams, so they shouldn’t be noticeable.

The soapstone slab from which my countertops will be fabricated. The darkened area has been treated with mineral oil.

I didn’t have time to select a soapstone slab for the countertops in person, so the soapstone company sent me photos of a few options. I ended up choosing a classic, dark charcoal stone with subtle white veining. The countertops are being fabricated now, and should be installed at the end of next week. Once the countertops are in, the plumber can hook up the sink and the dishwasher. So if all goes well, I could have a theoretically functional kitchen by the end of next week. Even so there’s still a lot of finish work ahead – painting, tilling, installing trim – so it feels like I still have a ways to go.

The current state of the kitchen – lots of finish work remains.

Estimated time for project: 28+ weeks
Time remaining: 2+ weeks

Check out the full series (so far) and be sure to join us next week for installment #30 of Dan's Kitchen Renovation.

(Images and diary text: Dan Bailey)

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