Kitchen Storage: Part I

This is a really big project. Did you know that? How come no one told us that?! 😉 Like most things though, it’s better to fully realize the magnitude when in the midst because, otherwise, you might never have journeyed to the center.

It also might blow up in our faces at any moment. But, ah, the risks we take…

Because this project is as big and unwieldy as it is, Fitz and I have developed quite the knack for multi-tasking – and for switching among projects of entirely different composition/consideration throughout the day. When you’re your own boss and you “work from home,” everything seems to get equal weight. It all needs to get done and, sometimes, it’s a juggling act. Our minds move in myriad directions. But, when we gear up to accomplish something, all hands are on deck for that particular task and its inherent set of problems begging to be solved. As of late, these projects have been coming fast and furious because, my friends, we’ve finally hit Finishes Land! This is the Land where all the designed objects and spaces from our “winter minds” get funneled through Home Depot, eBay or Eco Building Bargains (shout out to our friends down in Springfield, MA!) and into Amber Lane.

The beginning of this project was —> a lot of demolition —> a lot of code research —> endless design and consideration of our business plan (to make sure the designs held up in reality) —> and on and on, on repeat, in the cold. Then the middle of the project was —> a great deal of building/construction —> infrastructure! —> trenches, plumbing, electrical, framing this, engineering that, so. much. math. Now, as we round the bend toward third base, we begin the laundry list of finishes.

Projects we can rattle off a description of to friends and family in 2 minutes take 7 solid days to complete. Ideas we innocently sketched on notebook paper or rendered in 3-D on the computer months ago require 3 back-to-back 15 hour days. We finish a project worthy of any DIY-er’s Hall of Fame… the kind of project you post proudly on Instagram, the kind of project you talk about at barbeques for the next 2 summers, the kind of project you take months to recover from… those kinds of projects —> we’re popping ’em out 1-2 per week. I don’t mean anything against people celebrating the success of a single one of these projects… what I mean is simply a comparison to my own (current) reality and its complexity. I have found that, as Fitz and I near the end of a particular project, we are already thinking of what’s next. Very often, as the last piece of a puzzle slides into place, we’re discussing the logistics of the next item on the agenda. We barely step back to take a breath, let alone see the end of the project for what it is – the completion of a vision. Instead we stumble forward, a larger vision looming on the horizon – still a bit out of reach.

So I think this blog is important. For us. It is a great reminder of what we have accomplished to date. It frames in our understanding of what we’re doing. We take pictures with the blog in mind – and discuss little jokes or ideas “for the blog” all the time while we’re working. And, when I manage to squeeze in a few minutes to post something, I am reminded of all we’ve accomplished.

And – oh my goodness. I never realized it would be so much! I overheard someone at the grocery store the other day saying to a friend “You know he is really in over his head”. A passing comment, taken out of context. But I couldn’t help but attach the observation to my own head and the vast depths we have explored beneath its sensible position.

So. On we press.

This post is the first in a series about how Emme and Fitz do commercial kitchens… namely, storage within them. Stainless steel shelving? White walls? How boring! How about color-washed shelves, peacock wallpaper, and honeycomb brackets? Soooo much more our style! (So much more complicated!)

Part 1: Color-washing the shelves.

We purchased these beauties from Eco Building Bargains, mentioned earlier in this post as a mecca for western New England eco-minded builders like ourselves. Their warehouse and lumber yard are a treasure trove of building materials, salvaged from elsewhere and generously donated by community members to this non-profit organization. We rescued them in March from the lumber area where they’d patiently waited all winter long, agonizingly beyond our reach: “The Lumber Yard is Closed Due to Ice.” With the winter we had this year, this sign was up for MONTHS. No mid-winter thaw this year but, thankfully, spring arrived and, with it, came our shelves.

We bought huge 12-foot lengths to span an entire wall in the kitchen. We borrowed our electrician’s van to pick up the wood. Getting it upstairs was a feat (when isn’t getting something upstairs a feat here?!). The only way we were able to get the boards into the kitchen was because we had removed drywall in 2 rooms leading to the kitchen and could send the beams through the studs, into the back office, and back out to the kitchen. Future owners of this property will spend quite a long time wondering how on earth those shelves materialized in tact, in the kitchen!

As with most projects around here, we were limited by the material choice and availability. We typically choose difficult materials – either hard to work with, not readily available, or not quite right (size, shape, intended use) and then use those limitations to wax creative. Creativity seems to flourish within parameters, self-imposed or otherwise.

In this case, we wanted 5 rows of shelves… but, of course, there weren’t 5 12-foot lengths available. So we bought what they had and then devised a new plan: 3 rows of 12-foot lengths and 2 rows of smaller shelves with a break in the middle.


Day 1: wood-filling the holes and cracks.

We chose to color-wash the planks, a compromise between the beautiful raw wood and full paint. We wanted to keep the raw wood but the reddish color just doesn’t go with our kitchen. The full paint seemed too dense for the space. So, in the end, color-washing it is! We used “Evening Hush,” a color we are using extensively in the Gallery and Espresso Bar. We hadn’t considered it on the second floor but after going through several other paints kicking around here, it really was the best choice!

I did a lot of research on how to color-wash and white-wash. There seem to be several different methods. I recommend the following. Working in successive layers seems to be a great trick for better controlling the final product. We wanted something simple, with a clean look. But you can get really fancy with distressing the wood etc.

Our wood had a lot of character to it, interesting knots and swirls in the grain that really came through in the color-washing. I would say the wood-filled areas were very frustrating to try to color wash. The wood fill is a yellowish tan color and it wanted to either have ALL the paint or NONE of the paint. We needed to fill in the beams to create a smooth, easily cleanable surface. But, I’d recommend not wood filling boards you want to color wash if at all possible, especially if you want a really light wash. It just isn’t even. To fix that issue, I put darker paint in those areas and blended as needed. The end product is still quite nice!

Once I finished, we had several color-washed boards ready for install AND our kitchen back for doing things like like eating… and accessing the refrigerator… bedroom… a glass of water… (well, until the next phase). Stay tuned for more!




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