That title is not hyperbole, y’all. We’re working on catching up with sharing everything we’ve done in the past year or so, and today I wanted to get down to the nitty gritty of the most useful project we’ve done at our home.
I’ve mentioned before that our kitchen/laundry room included an awkward space that we weren’t quite sure how to best utilize. There was a nice open stretch under the window and across from the laundry closet, but it wasn’t clear what we should do with it. For the first 2 years we lived here, it was an embarrassing jumble of junk: recycling, dog supplies, cleaning supplies, and all the gear that comes in from and goes out to the shop. WARNING: this post is chock-full of really glamorous photos 😉
It was not cute. In all honesty, it didn’t always look THIS bad, but even when it was a lot tidier than that, it still felt like a junk pile.
When we found out that Baby Muratet was on the way, it was the perfect motivation to finally get this area in gear and make it work harder for us. Our kitchen has plenty of storage, but there’s not really a dedicated pantry space. As a family of 2 (humans) this wasn’t an issue. We typically grocery shop for exactly what we’re going to eat that week, and we don’t really stockpile food items, so all our dry goods were just on a small shelf. We figured that once kids were in the mix though, we would need to have more food on hand, and it would be better to have more space for food so we wouldn’t have to shop as often. (Spoiler alert: I was right! Hah!)
Our original cabinet setup included a floor-to-ceiling cabinet next to the fridge, which came with a pull-out trashcan. While it was nice to have the trashcan concealed, it also felt like a lot of wasted space in this particular cabinet. (Forgive this terrible photo taken after we removed the trashcan, but it gives you an idea of how much space was wasted in that bottom portion when it only held the trashcan). We also had random cleaning supplies and our natural-disaster stockpile of water.
So we hatched a plan: build a new cabinet under the window that will house pull-out bins for trash, recycling, and dog food. Then we could turn the old trash cabinet into a pantry with organized pull-out shelves. Enter my favorite organizing supply ever: the Elfa System from The Container Store!
This piece was such a ridiculously perfect fit- it was like organizing destiny! We got 3 different sized drawers to help us corral dry goods, and there is a perfect space on top of the drawer unit to hold our reusable shopping bags. The great part about this solution is that we can take these drawers with us if we ever move. We had originally planned to build our own sliding shelves, but this honestly feels like a much better solution. Elfa for the win. Always.
I then drew up plans for a custom big built-in cabinet that would house our cleaning supplies, trash, recycling, and dog gear. But then, on a whim I decided to take a stroll through Ikea for inspiration. I found the infinitely hackable Ivar cabinetry, and I was sold. Bonus: it’s a perfect fit for the pull-out hardware and bins that we were already planning to get at Ikea. I picked up 2 of the 20″ deep cabinets, and they were each $20 off at the time.
The Ivar is ideal for this project because it’s solid wood and a perfect blank slate. Sure, we could have built something from scratch, but for about $140, I got to start with cabinets that were already planed, doors and shelves that were perfectly square, and all the hardware I needed. It was like starting at the halfway mark, and it was absolutely worth it. This was just like our- basically a solid wood starter-kit. How could you not?
After assembling the cabinets, we had to build a base to set them on. Because the doors run the entire height of the frame, you have to either wall-mount Ivar with a little space underneath, or add legs or a base to lift it off the ground. This way your doors swing freely without scraping the floor. We also wanted the base to help these new cabinets match the height of our existing cabinets so that this new area flows more seamlessly with the current kitchen.
*A quick aside about blending the new cabinets: since we matched the height, and since our previous cabinets are a pretty simple style, I think once it’s all painted the same color, it’s going to blend so nicely! We’ll replace the tile backsplash, and pull down the granite border backsplash as well, and it’s going to make a world of difference!
For your support, all you need to do is decide how much you want your base inset from the edges of the cabinets, and then you use 2×4’s to build a frame that you’ll drill down into through the bottom of the cabinets. We mitered the corners of our base for a more finished look, but because the base is inset you can hardly see the details, so that step isn’t completely necessary. We added 3 support braces from front-to-back so that we’d have a beam underneath the center of each cabinet, and in the very center of the overall piece.
Young House Love has a great example of this in their beach house kitchen install (since I forgot to snap a picture of our base support!) But here’s an illustration that also gives a great idea of what I mean.
Once all that was assembled, we had to make some big decisions about paint. The plan is to paint all the kitchen cabinets one day, so we needed to pick the color that we will use on all our base cabinets. This was no easy feat, and it required 5 trips to 2 different paint stores to tweak and re-tweak custom colors.
The goal with our base cabinet color was to really make it complement our existing countertops. They’re a very dark green granite, and they’re currently in very high contrast to the orangey- faux-wood cabinet finish. I don’t love the granite, but it does hide messes really well, it’s been quite resilient, and it’s only about 10 years old, so there was definitely no reason to rip it all out, it’s just not what I would pick for a kitchen if I were starting from scratch.
My plan was to pick a color that blended with the countertops so that they’re no longer the focal point, At the moment, the granite is a dark mass on top of a much lighter base, so they’re what draws your eye. I picked out the darkest blue-greens I could find and painted some samples on cardboard to hold them up to the cabinets underneath the countertops, and I was honestly shocked at how light they all looked. Our kitchen does get a good amount of natural light, but I also think that next to the very very dark countertop, everything just looked much lighter. We finally ended up with Sherwin Williams Marea Baja with an additional 32 units of Black. You know, because we are apparently super high maintenance with paint. It ended up being just right- the blue comes through really nicely, but it’s dark enough to blend well.
So we primed and painted the cabinets and installed the pull-out hardware and bins and it was an instant game-changer. Having all the necessary-but-ugly items concealed but easily accessible has been amazing. Here’s a little tour of our hard-working cabinetry.
On the left side, we installed a shelf for cleaning supplies above pull-out bins for the trash and recycling. We included a lid for the trash, obvs, but felt that we didn’t need one for the recycling bin. There was a decent amount of space free between the bins, and it ended up being a perfect fit for our in-house tool bag. We like to keep some basic tools easily accessible inside the house so that we don’t always have to go out to the shop just to get a hammer. It’s a silly thing, but it’s such a good feeling when you find the perfect spot for something and it fits so well.
On the right side is all our dog gear. Our pups are big, so we buy the largest bags of dog food and have always stored it in trash cans. We matched the pull-out bins from the other side, and then found the perfect set of drawers for the right side of this cabinet. (I couldn’t find our exact ones, but the link is for a very similar item). These drawers hold all the treats, medicine, toys and travel gear, and it has been SO NICE to have all that stuff better organized. We also added a hook on the inside of the door to hold their leashes and it is PERFECT!
We also snuck in some little-seen function on the outside of the cabinet. Because this area is also our laundry “room”, we wanted to have a small ironing board accessible. I mounted a hook on the outside of the cabinet and hung a small ironing board on it. Another perfect fit! I also hung the bag we use for the dog stuff when we travel and a towel for wiping muddy paws off at the back door. It’s a hard-working hook, but it’s pretty much hidden between the cabinet and the wall, so all that stuff is accessible without being an eyesore. This area is also a great spot to stash oversized cardboard boxes that need to go out to the recycling bin.
I’ve already gotten WAY too chatty about this project, so I’ll save the countertop DIY for a second post, but we’ll end today with one last look at our fully finished new cabinets!