23 November 2009

The Art Cabinet

In the time since we have finished the kitchen, we have had approximately 100+ people pass through our house. That's a lot of people and a LOT of opinions (luckily, most of them good). Various features catch people's attention. Lots of people love the mosaic slate backsplash and hearth-like range area with griddle. Many gush over the amazing view out over the nook. There's a lot of interest in what technology goes into my speedcook oven.

But the #1 most complimented item? -- I never would have guessed. An 11th hour addition to the kitchen, it is an item which has nothing to do with cooking at all. It's an art cabinet for my kids. This simple inset box garners oohs, ahhs, and even a recent gasp out of an architect. One of my neighborhood friends likes to show off the cabinet with a Vanna-like flourishing wave of the hand revealing a new vowel.

Part of the appeal of the cabinet is the mystery. What is this door on a wall that goes to nowhere? What could you want to store in the wall? Is it spices? Is it wine?

Nope. It's just a humble, built-in art easel. There is also a magnet board inset on the backside of the door:

I'll tell you, this "cabinet" wasn't in any draft of the plan until The Last One. I originally wanted the stair wall cut all the way down to the treads, and banisters with handrail put in its place. But I only want banisters going into wood treads, not carpet (the stairs behind the wall were, and are, carpeted). Push comes to shove with the budget, and I had to accept a little pony half-wall for my stairs. I realized that the resulting wall would look ridiculous out of sorts, with the speedcook oven pushed so far to the left edge -- a position constrained by the staircase construction.

As a result, I had to come up with something to balance out the wall. I considered hanging art but it was too low on the wall. One day I was driving down the street and saw a neighbor had an art easel setup on their front porch for their kid. One idea led to another and I talked to my GC and next thing you know, the ideas for an art cabinet started to gel. Everything in my kitchen is so precisely measured and cut in the shop, except for this cabinet. It was basically built onsite once the staircase wall was exposed, and was truly a creative collaboration between myself and my GC.

A brief description:
- the cabinet is wall depth
- we cut out one stud, and the cabinet inset into the wall spans the resulting distance from stud to stud.
- during rough-in, the electricians did not realize it was going to be a cabinet, so they pulled all their wires through that space (later had to rewire, of course)
- I bought a roll of art paper (Melissa and Doug brand), and my GC took that roll to the shop and had them form a glorified toilet paper holder to fit the width of the paper
- along the right and bottom side of the inset, are simple black strips of magnetic metal
- pen and crayon holder baskets are from the container store
- the metal on the backside of the door is stamped and the edges rolled in the metal shop at my cabinetry firm. They have a huge metal shop because they do cruise ship stuff. And now art cabinets, apparently!
- the door stays open with hinges that are designed to open 179 degrees and stay open
- the pull (see top photo) is a drop ring pull from Schaub. I chose that pull for its very shallow projection. It is 1/8" less than the clearance from the opened door to the wall
- the installation of the wood frame around the door, and stile underneath the door on the wall, was really complex. It looks very simple, but to achieve the look I wanted, various pieces of wood are installed in 1/8" degrees of thickness. The trim carpenter looooved me! :) To his credit, he held up each piece of wood and asked if I liked it exactly that way before he installed it.
- There is a strip of silver metal installed right under the fancy toilet paper holder. That thin strip has some give to it. You can press it in with the pressure of one finger, and then tear off the paper roll against that metal guide.


And yes, my older daughter barely plays with the cabinet. She's only two, though, and she can only reach the bottom few inches unless she uses a stool. My friend's daughter is 8, and she loves the cabinet. I'm sure as my kids get older, they'll get some good use out of it. For now, though, I write my todo list for meal prep in the cabinet, and my husband and I check things off the list as we accomplish them.