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Making Cool Shelving from Lemons

November 26, 2011

Okay, so while the analogy about, “when life give you lemons, make lemonade” might fit here, the shelves have nothing to do with lemons. They’re just a cool example of reuse.

 The situation: Faithful readers will recall in our construction phase we needed to partially deconstruct our finished basement. This was so that the walls could be braced to support the eight foot foundation wall for our addition being poured outside. Something about the hydrostatic pressure of the curing cement.

At any rate, the furnishings, kids toys and assorted room contents had to be removed and the sheetrock, insulation and framing could be ripped out on the right and left side of the room, and bracing installed. The bracing stayed up for a few days, and once it was gone, we were left with a mess in a former shell of our basement. What to do!

 The solution: Shortly after the bracing was gone, we looked at the two holes in our walls and thought that, rather than just re-sheetrock the whole thing, something could be done with them. And in fact, we concluded that the hole on the left side of our basement would be a cool spot to do built-in shelves.

We re-insulated and re-sheetrocked what we had to do – namely the right side of the basement, and a bit of the left side that was too low for a shelf. While the sheetrock was new, the insulation was reused. The additional wood 2×4’s that was needed to repair the opening was reused from the lumber the builder left for the bracing.

The total opening was roughly 10 feet wide, but 3 feet tall. In this space we planned for four shelf “boxes” – each box would be its own contained shelf unit. The backing for the boxes was some leftover plywood from the eaves, while the boxes themselves were reclaimed wood from the outside of our house. This wood had some really cool knots and old nail holes in it, but it needed to be planed and cut down to size.

We had some help from family in constructing the boxes, which was nice, because it required a bit of time and a lot of skill, when our skill and patience was being spent hanging on ladders with a nail gun outside!

We’ve chosen to finish the wood according to its type. The plywood back just gets two coats of white recycled house paint. The reclaimed wood got a whitewash treatment (one part white primer, two parts water) which helped bring out the grain and add some contrast without obscuring it too much. We tried whitewashing everything, and even varied the formula, but the plywood just never took it as well as the old wood did, and so it got paint.

We’ve added a trim on the outside which helps tie it all in. It’s the color of white primer now, but we haven’t decided on the finish yet. Once we fill some nail holes and sand, the wood will get a coating of clear sealant.

How do like THOSE lemons?

Shelf by the window with a clear/white finish

This is an old cabinet in our basement we refinshed the same way as the shelves


From → Basement

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