Years ago–probably back before I started building my last house–I had this vision of what my “ideal life” would look like one day, and the gist of it was this: I would have the time and space and tools to create things when I was excited and inspired to create them (but wouldn’t be constantly bogged down by projects that I felt obligated to complete before I could work on anything else or pursue other hobbies.)
In my defense, at the time I’d planned for a couple of years of really hard work while I lived in a garage and built the house I thought I was going to live in for a long time. I was mentally prepared for that and considered two years of hard labor a fair price for having a beautiful, finished house, a big workshop, and the time to build all kinds of fun things when it was all done.
Obviously that’s not how things actually went, and here I am seven years later still just trying to get a house finished so that I can go back to having a “normal” life. (It make me laugh out loud just to type that. One of my hobbies is hoarding farm animals, there’s no way I’m ever going back to a normal life.) But the part about at some point having time to create things and do projects just for fun? Well, that’s not going to happen in the next year or so, but I’m still holding out hope.
In the meantime, every once in a while I’ll sneak a project in just because I’m excited about it or have a vision in my head that I really want to see come to life. Usually they’re quick little projects, and very often they’re for a friend or someone in my family. (See also: the duck house, this wine rack, these tables… and there may be one or two more I’ve done in the last year that I just now realize I never posted about, so you may see more on those soon.)
There are almost always more pressing projects to work on, and– while this may come as a surprise to anyone who has been watching the slow progress on the farm– a lot of time I do ignore the impulse to build things that are unrelated to my current projects. But, come on, a couple of times a year a girl just needs to cut loose and build a kitchen cart, okay?
Listen, I know I’ve got my own kitchen challenges going on right now…
So I’m not one to judge, but I recently saw one of my friends cook a meal in his kitchen (and this guy doesn’t subscribe to the cottage-cheese-straight-from-the-carton method of eating that I subsist on, he actually cooks. A lot.) And intellectually I knew his 1930’s galley-style kitchen didn’t have a lot of room, but then I actually sat there for an hour and watched him prep three different dishes in this one square foot of counter space.
And, you know, my eye started twitching violently.
I mean, when I don’t have available counter space (see above) it’s because I just haven’t put all of my shit back in the cabinets (or dishwasher) where it belongs. But when he doesn’t have counter space its because there’s no room left in the six whole cabinets that fit in his kitchen for things like his crockpot, or stand mixer, or the coconut oil that he buys by the bucket, apparently. All things he uses fairly often because, like I said, he actually cooks.
Usually my head goes immediately to the “big project”. You know, gut the room, move some walls around, re-frame a window or two, and then put in all new cabinets, counters, flooring, etc. etc. (and that’s exactly why my kitchen has had nothing but subfloor and plywood counters for year.) But the thing is, he actually really doesn’t need all that. He’s not aesthetically motivated to change the look or layout of his kitchen, he just needs it to actually work for him.
Which is why my head went to this…
That’s the kitchen in my first house, and, to the right, the little kitchen cart I bought twelve years ago to give me a little added counter space in that house. It’s been one of the handiest purchases I ever made. (And that’s the best picture I have of it from those days, apparently.)
It also gave me counter and storage space in that garage I lived in that I mentioned earlier:
It has also been handy for additional storage in my current house, working both as temporary storage in the mudroom (back when that room was bright green)…
And now as additional storage in the tool room…
Upon reflection this may actually be the most-used piece of furniture I’ve ever purchased, and I thought something similar would be the perfect addition to a little galley kitchen that needed more storage and counter space. Except in the 13 years since I bought this little cart apparently everything has gotten smaller, less sturdy, and more expensive.
Here’s the best thing I could find on short notice… 28×16″ kitchen cart from Lowe’s for $150.
Ugh, no. Not nearly big enough and the top can’t be used as additional counter space.
Because I didn’t have any better ideas I hit up Menards hoping for some inspiration. (I’m not a big Menards shopper but I’ve had a lot of luck there with shelving, like the industrial shelves I used in the big barn, and even the little cart I built my rolling target stand on.) Well they didn’t sell exactly what I was looking for, but it turns out they sell mix-and-match shelving pieces and small slabs of butcher block…
So instead of spending $150 on a tiny little kitchen cart, I spent around $110 in parts and was able to DIY a cart that was 24×48.
Assembly really just involved drilling a couple of 1″ holes (without drilling all the way through) for the butcher block to rest on the shelving poles. It does sit about an inch higher than standard 36″ counter height, though I suspect you could cut find a way to cut those legs down a bit if you wanted (they also sold casters so you could trim the legs and put it on wheels.)
But, for our purposes we kept it at 37″, mostly because we didn’t want the project to drag on (and I was excited about putting all of that kitchen equipment in its new spot to clear off the counters.)
Check that out. It took less than two hours, and only about 15 minutes of that was building/assembling the pieces for this cart. I think we quadrupled the counter space in that little kitchen, and all of the most-used appliances are still within easy reach.
Like I said, I don’t indulge myself in these kind of side projects often, but when I do it’s a hell of a lot of fun, and almost always gives me a little boost of energy for my own projects. In this case, that meant that I finally got my act together and ordered the butcher block for my own counters…
So now it’s back to the grind on my own house, but taking a little break from my own mess to help someone else out sure was fun.