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Friday, November 17, 2017

The Credenza that Almost Ruined my Marriage

You might look at that title and think: Oh, she's joking.

I'm not. Not even a little. 

Ok...well...maybe I'm being a little over-dramatic, BUT the credenza fiasco was a big deal, and became the proverbial thorn in Vern's bony little side for well over a year.  

Let me explain...

When we received the keys for the 503 House we did an initial walk-through to figure out where to start.  This mostly consisted of me pointing at things and saying "That needs to go" or pointing at walls and asking Vern if they could be removed.  We almost never used the front door at 503, instead we always chose to enter through the side/kitchen door.  When we walked in that first night, I ran my hand along a cabinet base that was to my immediate left and said, "Don't throw this away. I want it.  It would make a great credenza."

This is the best "before" picture I could find. Sorry folks!
"What the hell is a credenza?" Vern responded.  

I patiently explained the purpose of a credenza and why I felt I absolutely needed this cabinet to make one.

"Where's it going to go?" He asked.  "Behind the couch!" I responded gleefully.

He rolled his eyes, and we continued with our walk-through.

Although we have plenty of square footage at our current house, there's a limited amount of functional storage space.  Functional in the sense that it's not an entire closed off room filled with random crap (sadly, we have more than one of those).  For months I had been searching for something to take up the large wall behind our couch and quickly became discouraged. We'd attempted bookshelves, the computer, and some cube shelves, but nothing really seemed to fit.  I figured a credenza would look good and provide us with the extra storage we needed.  The only downside? Legit credenzas are ridiculously expensive.  Like $700-$1,200 expensive (or more) - which is way out of the acceptable price range for me.

When it came time to rip out the kitchen cabinets at 503, Vern carefully pulled the credenza cabinet out and set it under the carport...where it sat for the next four months.

Weeks before 503 was scheduled to go on the market, Vern pointed out that I hadn't touched any part of my beloved credenza.  "You know you're not going to do anything with it," he griped, "let's burn it!"  I proceeded to sulk and pretty much stomp my feet around in protest until he said, "Fine, I'll make you a deal.  If you don't finish the credenza by your birthday I get to run it over with my tractor."

"Fine." I responded.  It was July.  My birthday was in October.  Easy peezy!

October came and went and the credenza sat under our carport.  With each passing month, Vern's agitation grew and the threats of a tractor death became more and more frequent.  Seriously.  The arguments we found ourselves in over this credenza cabinet were ridiculous.  I couldn't understand how a wood box could ignite so much agitation - but it did and with each month the credenza sat collecting dust, Vern grew more and more furious.

Somehow, I convinced him to move it to our basement living room.  Promising that I would get to it "soon."

Soon turned into three more months. Whoops!

See, what Vern has yet to realize is that if something is in "my" space (aka inside the house) and I have to walk by it enough, I will get frustrated and get the project done.  If something is sitting in "his" space (aka outside, in the carport, junk room) I generally leave it alone.  This isn't an exact science.  There are plenty of things I walk by every day that aren't done.  We've been missing grout in the tile above our kitchen cabinets for the last two years and I have yet to fix it, but that could be because I've very short and I don't normally look that high.  I digress.

Our laundry room is downstairs and I was forced to see the cabinet every time I went to the laundry room.  It drove me crazy.  So after almost a year of dragging this huge thing from one place to another, I got to work.

The doors and cabinet doors were wiped down with TSP and the hardware and key hanger were removed.  Sorry key hanger!

Then I busted out one of Vern's Festool sanders and got to work.  Side note - although they are ridiculously expensive, any Festool tools are pretty much the most amazing tools ever.  Vern purchased their drywall sander and vacuum when we worked on 503 and he's been buying almost nothing but Festool ever since.   

That handy little 6-inch sander and the small vacuum worked like magic.  I didn't even need to set up shop in the carport.  The vacuum is powerful enough that all the sanding dust went right into the vacuum and not all over the downstairs living room. 

Roughly ten minutes on each door and various grits of sandpaper left me with smooth maple colored surface. 

At this point, Vern came downstairs to check on my progress.  "You know that thing isn't made out of anything good right? It's just a plywood box with veneer." 

"It's fine!"

"I'll just buy you a damn credenza if you give this up." 

"NO!" I shouted back at him.  This was a principal based project now. 

"Whatever."  He said as he went back upstairs.

By the end of the evening I had sanded off most of the previous finish, as well as hacked off the bottom two inches with Vern's jigsaw.  I planned on attaching legs to the bottom of the cabinet and was worried that it would look like a giant cabinet on little legs, so I resolved to remove as much as I could in order to prevent that.  (Spoiler Alert - it still looks like a big cabinet on little legs.)

Here's the bummer about veneer: it splinters and cracks.  While the top and the inside of the cabinet survived my vigorous sanding, the sides did not fair so well.  The veneer started cracking and peeling off in thin strips.  I considered applying new veneer over the old stuff, but everything I read online advised that you should remove the old stuff first. 

Because I'm lazy, I did no such thing and instead used wood filler to fill in the splintered pieces.  I figured that I could sand it down and it would survive a coat (or 10) of paint just fine. 

By the end of the week it looked like this - and I hated it.

The top of the credenza had looked great after I had sanded all of the old finish off, but when I applied new stain, you could see huge circle marks all over from my vigorous sanding. They were everywhere.  I tried to remedy the situation by applying more stain, which only made them more noticeable. Credenza/Vern - 1.  Tawnya - 0

My patch job on the side veneer also wasn't fairing well.  As hard as I tried to sand it smooth and even, it just wouldn't work.  There was no amount of paint that was going to make the cracked veneer look better. Credenza/Vern - 2.  Tawnya - 0.

Frustrated, I sat down and started to think that maybe Vern was right.  This was a project worth giving up on.  I put everything away and slumped upstairs to pout.

"How's it going down there?" Vern asked.

"Fine. Everything is fine." I snapped.

"Should I start the tractor?" He offered.  I glared at him in response.

Weeks passed and the credenza sat downstairs while we continued our daily lives.  Mind you, at this point it was over a year since we had finished 503 and Vern was wrapping up work on the Larch house.  We had moved a lot of our furniture from downstairs to Larch in order to stage it for selling. As we moved the credenza from one part of the room to the other so that we could get the couch out, I realized that the solution to my problem wasn't that complicated.  Cut the top off!

Bear with me.

I figured that if I cut the top off, I could wrap the whole thing in project board, which would make it easier to attach the legs and would hide some of my shitty craftsmanship.

Kind of like the picture above, but you know...not as nice and expensive looking.  

So off came the top - which was surprisingly difficult to do.  Possibly because I wasn't using the proper tools - and also because I refused to ask Vern for any sort of help. 

The base of the cabinet, doors, and drawer fronts all received a bazillion coats of Benjamin Moore's Advanced paint in white.  Once each coat was dry I did a quick sand with 400 grit sandpaper before applying another coat. 

The purpose of this was to make the finish as smooth as possible.  Again, I was super lazy with this project and didn't want to go through the trouble of setting up the spray gun to spray everything down, which would have required me to drag everything upstairs to the carport.  Nope.  Instead, I used a 4-inch foam roller and just applied light coats every night for a week.  The bummer of using a foam roller is that no matter how light you apply pressure, you're still going to get air bubbles.  I've tried every trick in the book to prevent this - and it still happens.  Also - we live with four animals - four very curious animals.  No matter how hard I tried to keep them away, I constantly found some sort of animal fur stuck in my paint and one time I found clear and concise kitty prints all over the doors.  

Sanding between coats got rid of these imperfections and helped me keep a smooth surface. 

While things dried, I got to work staining the project wood.  Stain and a Moscow Mule.  That's my idea of a good Friday night!

Wood stained, paint drying (Hi Oakley!), one more step closer to a finished project. 

After this point I stopped taking pictures and went into overdrive.  I had promised Vern that by the time he returned from his weekend climbing trip, the credenza would be done.  Once everything was dry, I cut the wood down to wrap the sides, top and bottom of the cabinet, attached some legs, put everything back together and then proceeded to shimmy it upstairs by myself.  

Seriously.  Getting it upstairs took me like three hours and involved some seriously uncomfortable positions up the stairs.  Somehow I managed to get it into place and...

BAM! Credenza!!!!!!!

Okay, okay, it's not the prettiest thing in the world, but it works and it was free. FREE!

That's my favorite price!  I'd like to think Vern was impressed when he returned home, but if he was he didn't give me any indication other than a monotone "good job."  However, he did help me hang some picture ledges above the credenza to display/store our record collection. 

It's still bulky and definitely doesn't look like an expensive, well-made piece of furniture, but it makes me happy and I now have a place to store all of the things!  One side is for cookbooks and the other side has become a make-shift liquor cabinet.  The drawers contain various items like extra candles and odds and ends that belong in the living room area.  

Vern still hasn't admitted that he likes it, but I'm sure he's happy that he didn't have to buy me a $700 cabinet and I'm happy that he's stopped complaining. 

A few weeks ago we had an architect come to the house to help us plan out our master bedroom addition.  She met with Vern while I was at work, so when I got home that evening he was filling me in on the details.  "She commented on your cabinet." He said.  

"My cabinet?"  

"Yeah, the credenza.  She said she liked it."

And that my friends, made me smile.

I win.  
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