Tuesday, September 15, 2009

From Garage to Glam: A Cinderella Story

As you may have already learned, one of my favorite things to do is to repurpose items, or revamp and rediscover the things I already have. That’s where my (and maybe your) next project comes into play. First, allow me to set the scene. When I was in school, a young scholar if you will, my parents always asked that I please not sell back my textbooks at the end of each semester. Why? Well, I like to think it’s because much like Thomas Jefferson, they believed I would never stop learning and that I would like to hang on to them/use them for reference in a future career. However, I think the more likely scenario is they didn’t want me to sell back a $150.00 book (which they paid for) for $20.00 worth of beer money. So the lesson is, The Norton Anthology of English Literature ≠ Pabst Blue Ribbon. Got it.

Needless to say, with this expectation in place, one Bachelor of Science degree and one Master of Education degree later, I have a lot of books. I also have a lot of books from when I rediscovered the joys of pleasure reading after graduation (aka how to pass the time without a husband…maybe that will be the title of my first book). As a photographer, I also have a lot of photos, and like any other average human being, I have a lot of stuff (chotchkies, bric-a-brac, knick-knacks, stereo equipment, crap, junk, etc.) But where does it all go? Well, on shelving of course. (Just as side note, Urban Dictionary defines Chotchkie as: A small piece of worthless crap, a decorative knick knack with little or no purpose. Sample usage in a sentence: Meg loved her cow figurine, but Dave thought it was a useless Chotchkie.) Love it.

Some of us are blessed with homes with “libraries” and built-in bookcases and well, some of us are not. If you don’t live in one of these blessed homes, I think bookcases and shelving can be tricky. Real bookcases can be quite expensive, and sometimes you’re just not ready to make that purchase or commitment to cherry or mahogany stain. Installing built-in shelving can not only be expensive, but labor intensive, and impossible/against the rules if you are renting. Plus, you shouldn’t be sinking your hard-earned money into somebody else’s property/equity. However, you also have to be careful with bookcases and shelving from home goods and stores that you wouldn’t call “furniture stores.” Shelving units that are made with cheaper materials can start to sag from too much weight, pegs, can snap, etc. I’ve owned my fair share of wobbly IKEA shelves, but they can certainly do the job from time to time. I’m also really wary of “collapsible shelves.” First off, the fact that something collapses is not a prime feature for me like airbags or antilock brakes. Once I put a bookcase in place, I don’t have major plans to collapse it and move it around very often. I also don’t move residences that often, making the collapsible feature kind of “ehhh” for me. I like my bookcases like I like my amusement park rides: heavy duty, permanent, and bolted to the ground. (I refuse to ride any ride that can be packed up and moved on a flat bed from town to town, it’s ok, I can come to you, you don’t have to bring the ferris wheel to me.) I also feel like when you market something as collapsible, there’s a chance I may load it up with books and then it might, well, you know…collapse. I’m just saying.

So, in the spirit of repurposing and rethinking, I wanted to find a bookcase or some shelving that could handle my collection and still look aesthetically pleasing (that’s the whole point, after all) I found the answer in the garage. No, I don’t mean I’m going to store my books and Chotchkies in the garage. I’m talking about garage or utility shelving. Before you read on, I have to provide a disclaimer: these shelves are very industrial, modern, and may be more suited for “modern” spaces. That being said, you never know, you may like it. The 5 shelf unit (purchased at Lowes of Charlottesville), typically used for garages and storage sheds is made of heavy-gauge steel (silver in color), they lock together in place without the use of nuts and bolts, and the best part, the whole unit is large (much bigger than your average Target bookcase) and is built to hold 5,000 pounds. Done! Well, not quite. The shelves are finished plywood. While I love the industrial look, that’s a little too industrial/unfinished for my taste, and that’s where Fairy God Mother steps in and we go to the Ball. Each of the wood shelves just fits on top of the steel outlined supports, so why not just replace the wood shelves? The replacement? Glass! How sleek and sexy is that? Nice, steel frame with clean, modern lines, finished out with nice glass shelves. I love it already.

You’re not a glass cutter? Well, crap. Neither am I. The easiest thing to do is to take one of the wood shelves with you to a glass store and have the shelves cut to fit the dimensions of the wood shelf. You’ll want to let the glass experts help you select the thickness/type of glass. However, you’ll want something that will suit your design needs. If you just plan to place Chotchkies and photos on the shelves, you won’t need anything too heavy duty. If you plan to load that puppy up with textbooks and stereo equipment, you’re going to want a thicker, reinforced glass. Either way, don’t expect to maximize the full 5,000 lb. capacity using glass instead of wood. I also hope you don’t have 5,000 lbs. of books/Chotchkies. Go for something with a nice edge to get that clean, green glass line you always see in high-end bathroom shelving. Charlottesville Glass & Mirror won’t steer you wrong or overcharge you! They’ve been in business for over 55 years, are friendly, and have locations both in Cville and Ruckersville to take care of your glass needs. Just be sure to take the wood shelf with you. The glass shelving totally transforms the piece, lets light through, and really takes the whole concept from rags to riches. It’s a great marriage of masculine and feminine with the hard, stainless steel/clean lines and the light airy feel of the glass. Adding your collections and items to the shelves will also soften the piece up considerably, as well as personalize it. Is this unit going to look right in a very traditional living room full of Grandma’s antiques? Probably not. However, you can incorporate this idea into your home, even if you don’t live in a loft with concrete floors and stainless steel walls. Think about it anywhere from a modern kitchen, holding extra appliances (stand mixers, cookbooks, canisters for food, etc), to a media room with stereo equipment, family keepsakes, and photos, to a teenager’s room with books, trophies, and video equipment. For close to what you would pay for pre-fabricated shelves, you’ll get a unique piece with a custom, high-end look that’s sure to hold all of your goods, give you room to grow, and keep your friends guessing.

And remember, Garage = Glam, pre-fabricated does not always = fabulous, and college textbooks ≠ Pabst Blue Ribbon (even though sometimes, they do.) Thanks, Mom and Dad.


The Shelves: http://www.lowes.com/lowes/lkn?action=productDetail&productId=101933-1281-CR4824&detail=&lpage=none
On Sale: $76.98
Height: 72 Inches
Width: 48 Inches
Depth: 24 Inches

Image lifted from lowes.com

Charlottesville Glass & Mirror: http://www.charlottesvilleglassandmirror.com/

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