Our $70 Kitchen Renovation


If you remember from way back in January, I started this blog by giving Le Tour Grande of our kitchen—all 7′ by 6′ of it. While everything above the counter was in reasonably good condition (everything organized and more or less reachable), I didn’t get into the details of the below-the-waist goings-on. One particular corner of our little cucina was particularly shameful: the space between the stove and the wall.

In any home, I wouldn’t want to go fishing around behind the stove; in an old apartment, with no hood over the stove, no counters flush with the stovetop, and all manner of old electrical wiring and piping, no man can know what festers back there. So I’ll simplify by saying Grease + Dust + City Soot * Unreachable, Uncovered Space = Mung. (Mung was a word we used during my NYC days. Two kinds of dirt exist in New York: Schmutz and mung. Schmutz brushes off, like dust. Mung does not.)

Our particular mung magnet was occupied by a little shelving unit (built by RocketMan) that, in any other kitchen, would have been a lovely butcher block. Four wood shelves, supporting by pipes, with wheels at the bottom. Because the sides were open, though, anything that went on the shelves was open to the Mung Invasion, and anything that went in the back of the shelves—crockpot, muffin tin, empty jars—came out feeling a bit like a sticky kiwi. And because I have the memory retention of a two-year-old, I would find myself thinking “We should get a muffin tin” every time I went into Sur La Table.

Enter RocketMan. We decided to build a new shelving unit that would better meet our needs:

  • Enclosed, so as to keep the mung at bay;
  • Flush with the stovetop, so as to prevent splashbacks and food from falling in the crack;
  • Sliding shelving, so we could reach deeper items without having to move the unit or dig for it;
  • Wheeled


I’ll spare you the photos of what the space looked like after we pulled out the shelf. People have open, airy kitchens will be horrified by our seeming lack of housekeeping skills, and people with kitchens like mine already know exactly what I mean; let’s leave it there. With our specs in hand, I headed off to code software, and RM headed off to schlep lumber. Mine is a rough life.

The Miracle of the Sliding Shelves

Several trips to Cole’s Hardware later, and we had this finished product. It’s light; it’s enclosed; it’s exactly the height of the stove. Lastly, wonder of wonder, miracles of miracles, it has shelves. That glide. Those of you who do not find this miraculous have never wrestled with the wooden drawers in our kitchen’s only built-in: drawers that have no wheels, no brackets, no metal innards, and therefore require nothing less than brute strength to yank them open. And here, in my sixth month of pregnancy, my husband hath hunted and gathered, and brought to our homestead shelves that glide frictionlessly, like a Penguin on a freshly Zambonied rink.

It’s a simple construction: Two sheets of plywood for the sides, pegboard for the back; plywood shelves; and basic wheeled drawer slides. The first time I pulled out the shelf to grab a can, I had to repeat the process three or four times to confirm that, yes, RocketGirl, there is a Santa Claus, and he wears a toolbelt.


The Aftershocks

After filling the shelves, I turned to see we’d actually committed to a real reorganization of the kitchen. We have so many items on shelves that to put them in an easily accessible space, out of sight, cleared off at least three shelves, and allowed us to move the heavy objects from the highest shelf above the door (the one I feared would cause death by bucket o’couscous). And RM hasn’t even started his second shelving project, in which he performs the miracle of Getting the Cookie Sheets Off the Floor and Onto a Real Shelf. He did, however, throw in this blender shelf.

Here’s the price breakdown. The wood for the sides came from another shelving unit in the kitchen (the one he’s rebuilding next), and the wheels came from the original piece.

Item Price Total
20″ Drawer Slides (12) $10.50/pair $31.50
3/4″ Plywood Sheet $30 $30
Pegboard Sheet $7 $7
TOTAL: $70
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