Space with Access

Access Makes the Difference

By Richard Connolly


In 1973, my wife, Mary, and I general contracted our dream home in Weymouth, and The Boston Globe chronicled our memorable adventure in a thirteen-part series that anticipated by many years the do-it-yourself movement.

Four decades later, our house is a still a place where dreams come true, however, anyone visiting today would not know its age. We recently re-faced in cherry our kitchen and bathroom cabinets – saved 50% compared to replacing them – and added granite countertops and new appliances.

I had intended to make the raised panel doors and reface the cabinets but decided against it because the project would have taken several unsettling months. Instead, we hired a carpenter while I concentrated on staining and finishing the veneer surfaces and new cherry soffits. We experienced little disruption to our lives once this work began.

The kitchen and bathrooms are stunning, but something was amiss: a better use of their space, especially access to items stored under the sinks. A local retailer carried easy to install pullouts that addressedthat problem nicely without my having to provide a custom solution.

By easy, I mean the directions were clear, because there was nothing simple about working in a confined space, something I found extremely frustrating and time consuming.

The kitchen and bathrooms were not the only areas needing better space planning. Five closets beckoned: one in the kitchen, another in the dining room, a third in the front hallway, and two more upstairs in ahallway and bathroom.

On my computer, I designed pullouts for the kitchen and dining room closets, a base cabinet and vanity, additional shelving in the hallways, and adjustable shelving for the bathroom and developed a list of materials that cost $1,800.

Then I conferred with Mary, who asked thatfateful question: “How long will it take?”
“At least two weeks withlittle disruption to the house,” I proffered.

I tackled the kitchen first and built a cabinet to slide into a 24” x 26” x 78” cavity. Without removing the closet door and reframing the opening, I could not make the unit larger. I made and installed eight dovetailed, custom-sized pullouts that increased the shelving from 13.4 square feet to 24.9 – an 85% difference.

The 36” x 28” x 78” dining room unit increased my swearing. The luan plywood panels had bowed, which made assembly of the case difficult despite extensive clamping to square it. This double bank of pullouts enlarged the shelves from 33.9 square feet to 43.5, or 28%, and the convenience exponentially.

Given their weight and size, it was impossible to move the finished units from my basement workshop to the first floor, so I assembled them in place, added runners, and inserted the pullouts. Again, Confinement Devil appeared, but Mary’s periodic help contained him.

While working in the kitchen and dining room, I added two dovetailed pullouts to a base cabinet with two vertical separators for flat and baking pans. It was impossible to find the right one without removing the others, but a manufactured pullout solved that problem.

The two I made, Mary filled immediately with spices from our cornercabinet and labeledtheir covers to identify the contents with minimal movement of jars.

The hallway closet posed no problems, and I completed it in one day by removing and replacing the shelf and its supports, painting the insides, adding two more shelves, and lowering the pole.

We eliminated a large bag crammed withwinter items and neatly placedits contentson shelves, one for Mary, another for me. On the third, we stored items seldom used.

Beyond deepening an existing shelf, we did nothing to the upstairs hall closet containingthe equipment for our built-in vacuum system and various things belonging to Mary.

I installed in the bathroom closet a double bank of adjustable shelving and two dovetailed pullouts originally intended for the vanity. Although doubling the space from 19 to 38 square feet, the deep shelves improved access but did not solve it entirely.

Under the sink of the bathroom vanity, I added two manufactured pulloutsbut left undisturbed a small shelf because Mary needed the space.

Sevenweeksafter startingandwith modest disruption, I completed the list and one side job -shelving in the laundry facility – and generated garden mulch from 15 gallons of expensive sawdust.The new arrangementswork beautifully, my hands ache no more, and our dreams live on.

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