February 18, 2015

Cabin Fireplace Part 2- Built Ins

Initially, when we planned the cabin fireplace project the idea was to flank our new fire with ready made shelving. We considered bookshelves from Ikea for their affordability- something like this design from The Letter Cottage which used Ikea Billy Bookcases.

After checking them out in person though, we chose to go with real wood instead of particle board, so that they would feel more apart of the home, like they had been here all along.  ("If you're going to do it, do it right," my father always says.)  

Then we looked into pre-made cabinets from big box hardware stores, something like this: 

But I didn't like the styles that I had to choose from in the pre-made cabinets, and even these featured a lot of particle board.  At the end of the day I just couldn't justify the high cost for something that I knew I could make myself with a higher quality wood at a lower price.  We knew we'd have some customization to do with these pieces anyway to make them fit perfectly floor-to-ceiling, so why not just make the whole thing?  (Famous last words.)

Since this was my first attempt at designing a piece of furniture all by myself without the help of any plans, I spent an evening after the kiddos went to bed teaching myself how to use Google SketchUp.  (This tutorial from Ana White makes learning how to use the program easy.) Once I got the hang of it, it was actually a snap to use and it made designing furniture much easier as I could use the dimensions tool to quickly see what the size of my pieces needed to be.  Once I had a custom design I felt good about, we had Grandma come over on a Saturday afternoon to watch the boys while the Hubs and I built the cabinets together.  We had a lot to do in a short time, so we didn't stop to take photos along the way, but the plans can lead the way.

We started by building a box for the base cabinet.

Then placed a 1x4 in the back for support and mounting.

Then used 1x4s to create a face frame, and attached it to our box.

Next we tacked on a back panel made of 1/4 plywood.

And then placed a shelf in the inside.  I used this amazing tool from Rockler to create adjustable shelf pegs.

Once the base cabinet was built, we worked on the open shelving above it.  We built these all as separate pieces so that they can transport up to the cabin more easily.

We decided to use a paneled piece of wood for the back of the open shelves to give them more depth and texture.  At the end of day one we had two of these:


The next day I got to the more tricky and precise business of the cabinet doors.  I made this way harder than it had to be, as I really wanted to do an inset door instead of an overlap door, so the piece had a high quality, craftsman style.  It took awhile to get the math down to the 16th, and every cut had to be exact.  Why do I do this to myself?

 Luckily I had a little helper out in the garage with me for moral support.


He must have been good luck, because somehow, magically, on the first try I got this:
Those cabinet doors are just roughly sitting in there until this piece is painted so I can attach the hinges, but when they are installed there should be a perfect 1/8" gap on all sides of each cabinet door.  Cue uncontrollable, Carlton-esk party dance.

In a weekend we took this plan:

 And made two of these:

I can't wait to get them Up North and in place!  But first to fill and sand, and then fill and sand some more.  And then prime and paint and paint again... we're just getting started. 

February 6, 2015

The Cabin Fireplace- Part 1

The winters are chilly at our Cabin Up North, and after a long day exploring an island in the middle of a frozen lake:

Or making a train with sleds and ice fishing gear:

It would be nice to come in and warm up by the fire.  First though, we're going to have to build one. 

For a quick recap- we removed the original window in the Living Room back in the Fall:

To make room for our new fireplace and built ins:

We did a lot of fireplace shopping until we found the perfect unit for the space, and then began laying out the actual dimensions.   We decided that we wanted the fireplace to be just slightly (about 8") in front of the built ins to give the wall depth.  We also made the official decision to hide our TV behind retractable cabinet doors, (because apparently we can't do anything the easy way.)  Our to-scale layout looks something like this:

With all the big questions answered it was time to start building.  I used the framing specs for our fire box unit to build the 2x4 palace in which it would live.  We also built a couple of 1x2 stud walls for behind each bookcase so we could add a layer of insulation to the full wall.  (We had extra insulation left over from the crawl space clean out, and I'm all for anything that makes this place more efficient.)
But before we could put in either of our new walls, we had a little problem with flooring.  We installed our new wood floors all the way to the end of this wall, thinking that it would be awhile before we got around to this project.  But now that it's come a bit sooner than we thought, the flooring had to be removed under our fire and shelves so that we could accommodate the hearth tile.  

We measured dozens of times and then laid out tape as a nice, clean guide.

Just ignore those cable wires that will go up to the TV.  Everything is dead and safe, I promise.

 Thankfully my Dad offered to cut with the circular saw, as I'd have a heart attack cutting into this beautiful new floor.

It was loud.

He cut it perfectly, and we removed the beautiful, new wood floor to expose the glorious linoleum tile below once again.

 The tile that we installed in the new front entry fits like a glove, which will bring the two ends of the space together.

And on the sides the wood floor comes right up to the toe kicks of the built in cabinets.

Here's the full wall in all it's mid-reno glory:

We got one last peak at the nasty wall paper that used to fill this wall when we removed the ceiling trim to place in our new stud walls.

By the end of the evening the wall was filled with insulation panels and covered with a plastic vapor barrier.  Because there's no point adding a heat source if you're just going to lose it out the back of your wall.

So there's Part 1, the typically least glamorous part of a reno.  It may look a hot mess now, but the wheels are in motion and this bad boy is moving.  It will look beautiful before you know it.

You're going to have to trust me on that.