I‘ve got a big issue in my room — or rather, a little one: My room is really little, like 96 square feet little. I’ve been grappling with space issues since I switched over in April from my previous, equally tiny room, but now that things are beginning to accumulate (as things do), my room and I are feelin’ it.
I first laid down the must-have’s: a full size bed, basically my only requirement, ensuring more square footage of my room is devoted to sleeping than anything else. Since my closet is kind of a conundrum of a wacky protruding cube in the corner, that does nothing but squelch every plan of rearranging ANYTHING (it previously had a flush door on it — a door — as if there were space to swing it open. DREAMS!), I am left with little floor space. That leaves a laughable area to house a dresser, a desk and storage for all my tchotchke.
I’ve been sitting on things for a while now, also, reading lots of interior blogs. It appears that this is a really common problem in the city, where space is a premium and spatial Tetris is a sport, because hardly anyone has enough room to live normal. If there is a space glorifying contraption that can be dreamed, pasted together from IKEA units, or built with one’s two hands, there is a Brooklynite, somewhere, doing it. You better believe they’re blogging the crap out of it, too.
Enter this dream I had on Friday night, where I realized that my Saturday was a giant void of avoiding doing laundry, and I desperately needed to make something besides noodles and sauce. I’ve been seeing these ledges pop up all over blogs, and thought it would make a nice project if I could find all the pieces. I was pretty sure I couldn’t, so just shrugged it off and decided to head to the hardware store anyway.
It’s a little terrifying to plan to build something 8 feet long when you are 5 feet tall. Also, buying 8 feet of anything in Brooklyn is pretty risky, what with transportation options (trains and feet) and also, being 5 feet tall. Oh, the days of driving to Menards, Lowes and Home Depot, you were so glorious and I took you for GRANTED! Luckily Yelp directed me to a hardware store right around the corner (that I had overlooked somehow, despite being jacked up with larger-than-life inflatable Santas and an insurmountable clutter of doodads plastering every window).
To explain the hardware store situation, I need to back up a moment. When I was in college, I had the most ah-mazing tool shop instructor named Ken. Ken was the definition of clockwork and a walking glossary of information. He could tell you every grit of sandpaper, every strength of glue, even identify the forest a piece of wood came from. This man could cast bronze in his sleep and teach a baby how to operate a bandsaw. He tediously whittled elaborate toys for each of his grandchildren every Christmas out of rare and delicate woods. He was awesome. The best thing about Ken was that I could bring him a crazy sketch of mine and he would always know how to decipher it, tell me that it wasn’t feasible, then help me completely rewrite my plan to adhere to real-world, gravity-abiding principles. When I would make something 18 times my size and 12 times my weight, Ken would help me install it, and when I had a question about construction, log furniture (his true passion) or cruises (his other pastime), I could count on Ken for an answer.
So when I walked into Mayday Hardware yesterday, I was expecting a Ken. Then reality met me at the door in the form of Harry, a plump, shiny man of my height, whose bald head was capped with a fuzzy Santa hat, and whose voice was sandpaper incarnate. I told Harry I was looking for wood, and we zigzagged to the back of the store. I grazed the selection and specified what sizes I needed, trying to explain my project whilst Harry tinkered with the lumber. My explanation yielded confusion, so I tore out a clumsy sketch I’d doodled on my way out the door for this specific reason. Harry glanced, chuckled, and said to me in sheer honesty, “Look, I got no idea about this stuff. This is my drinking money job.” If there was ever a “Jenny, I don’t think we’re in College anymore” moment, Harry had just affirmed it.
After a complete explanation of how he worked behind a computer in an office during the week, how he got all of his Christmas shopping done online, how he wouldn’t even think about participating in Black Friday sales, and how he didn’t think what I was making would look good, Harry handed me the can of white paint I’d requested, but in the wrong finish. I’d had to improvise on the sizes of boards because the store didn’t carry 1×4’s, and in order to appear confident in Harry’s eyes about what I was making, I actually faked confidence. Harry’s approval was important, because this was his drinking money job, and he’d insinuated that what I was about to build would fail.
Then, after carrying a stack of 1x2s several blocks like a pole vaulter, up to the third floor, laying them in my work area (a 3 foot wide space on my bedroom floor), I got to work. But not before I borrowed a drill from the downstairs neighbor by means of a text conversation where he told me he was out of town for the day, but gave me strict orders and permission to climb down the fire escape and through his kitchen window to get the drill from his closet (“top shelf, in the [150 pound] tool box, below the [85 pound] blue duffle bag”)* (which I did, in true Mission Impossible fashion). (This sounds bad, I know.)
Lots of tinkering, measuring, reassuring, drilling, drill batteries dying immediately, locating another drill, painting, screwing, eyeballing, waiting, and a little installation help from my roommates led to…
Yes, these. My happy 8′ long wall ledges that make me — and my room — so, so happy.
A quick shout out to Harry for filling me with doubt, and my gut instincts for proving that I could make this work.
Also, total cost for both (not including paint): $18. Beats the crap out of these tiny shelves I was considering…
Feels so good to build something.
*On any other day, I would never have done this. But I meant business, and my neighbor is a friendly Texan.