Home bar renovation

posted by Jeff | Thursday, November 16, 2023, 5:00 PM | comments: 0

When we built our house in 2017, there was a nook between the kitchen and the dining room they referred to as a butler pantry. We don't have a butler, but I guess fancy people that do sometimes have an in between room as a place to stage food or dirty dishes. The builder gave two options for this spot: Nothing at all, or a sink, wine fridge and wine rack. We chose the latter because it seemed weird to have nothing at all there. I mean, at the very least, it meant that there would always be plumbing there.

We don't collect wine. We don't really drink it that often either. Diana and I both have a favorite, and we don't branch out much from there. (Dry Riesling for me, pinot noir for her, if you were wondering.) Having a wine rack, for us, was just wasted space. But we have developed a taste for mixology because of our cruises, and since I do not appear to have much instinct at all for cooking, "cooking" drinks seems manageable. It turns out that, as a hobby, it definitely isn't any cheaper than collecting wine, because it's like having the right seasoning to make the thing that you want. And at a rate of two or three drinks on a weekend, you tend to acquire a whole lot of bottles. So what has happened is that these bottles were all packed under the sink, with some relegated to the adjacent food pantry. It feels pretty weird when we have someone over, and to make someone a beverage, I'm digging it out from under the sink.

So while I've acquired the accoutrement to prepare beverages for guests efficiently, I've always had to dig around for the bottles. When I want to try something original, it also helps to visually see things in front of me, which isn't possible under the sink. We decided then to rip out the cabinet and put up some floating shelves. Like, solid walnut, expertly made shelves. There are a ton of businesses large and small doing this on the Internets, but I settled on this guy Ben in the Carolinas and his company Shelf Expression. I like the idea of a solo craftsman doing the work, and the cost is mostly the same anyway among vendors. I bought three 10"x50" walnut shelves from him. They're absolutely beautiful. In fact, I hate the fact that I still have the builder basic crap below the sink.

I took photos of everything in the house before the drywall went up, so they had to be floating shelves because there's plumbing in the side wall. The placement of the furring strips was apparently random, so I'd have to put at least one set of anchors through the air gap left there. Not ideal, but 2-1/2" concrete anchors through the furring strips and into the block aren't going anywhere. I was fairly confident. I mounted some Ikea media cabinets into the block wall at our previous house, and they didn't fall down (they're in wood studs in the current place). The old cabinet came down without much of a fight. Being that cheap particle board stuff, it wasn't heavy, just awkward. Once it was down, I found that there were about 32 different holes in the wall for what was ultimately just nine screws holding it up. About 20 of those holes were just along the bottom. Another quality job by the Pulte subcontractors!

The new shelves had Hovr brackets preinstalled. It's a really smart system that has an aluminum rail that uses the weight of the shelf to lock it in and keep it upright. It's really impressive. And it works great... if your wall is flat.

Getting these in was a learning experience, when it should have been easy. The first stupid think that I did was drill holes in the wall first instead of in the bracket. The alignment was not ideal. Then between the first and second shelves, I learned that the good drill bit I bought wasn't actually large enough for that size screw, so they struggled to go in, and I even broke a few. I used the previous bit I had (came with the last batch of screws) to widen the holes. I also learned that my impact wrench is frankly too aggressive for this application, which is probably why I broke the screws. Now, I would imagine that two screws on the top side of the rail would be enough to hold the shelves, relative to the weight of the original cabinets and contents, so six was likely overkill. The problem came when I tried to mount the first shelf, and it would only go on at one end. I could eyeball that the rail was bending just slightly at one end, away from the shelf. Using a laser from above, I could see the ever so slight bend. This was at the end with the air gap behind the drywall. Once I loosened that end just a little, the shelf dropped into place.

Putting the longest level I had across the wall, I could see that the problem wasn't just the lack of a furring strip at that end, the drywall just wasn't flat across the 50 inches. That meant that the other two shelves were just as difficult to get on. The trick is that the system requires the rail to be firm against the wall to make the amazing horizontalness. Too loose, and there's a little play and it sags a degree or two. Too tight on this wall, and the rail is not straight enough for the shelf to sit on. The middle shelf sags just a hair, while the top one, where the wall is warpiest, I seemed to have gotten just right. Of course, that's the one that's mostly for decoration, display or storage, because you need a step stool to reach it. (Edit: I couldn't deal with the middle shelf's slight sag. Tightened it up, tried again, and boom, it locked into place, level to the floor.) 

I'm not entirely happy with the position of the middle shelf, but I'm confident that it's not going anywhere. The end result is so much better and functional. In June, I installed a glass washer, and this silly thing brings me the greatest joy. I really enjoy making stuff for people, which is why I'm always inviting people over. I'd like to concentrate on garnishes and presentation as far as skill development, because I feel like that's the thing that further elevates what you serve. I'm feeling confident about mix ratios and getting to a certain taste, though I am still biased toward "boozyness" over sweetness, but I'm getting better about asking people what they prefer.


No comments yet.

Post your comment: