Buttoning up the cupboards

Shelves look pretty scrappy loaded with stuff without doors.  Frantic with the visual noise of all our belongings in such a little living space, we had to get doors on all the cupboards.

I had the idea that we could use Coroplast for everything that would otherwise be a thin panel board, like all the side walls of the cupboards.  I got the idea from Ikea.  I’d seen coroplast used in the door panels of one of their cupboard choices.  At the time I was annoyed with it.  “That stuff’s so cheap, and they’re selling it for how much?”  But it did look sleek.  We’re talking about the corrugated plastic that’s used for election campaign signs everywhere.

I had to sell H.W. on it, since it’s a plastic product.  I figured it would be extremely lightweight, plenty strong, attractive in its simplicity, easy to wipe clean, wouldn’t harbour or spread mold, and perhaps above all, installing it would be dreamy.  It was flexible, and it could be cut up with a knife, instead of taking multiple runs at it with a jigsaw (making all the curves).

It was all those things and more.  Oh, it was so easy to install.  I didn’t have to move.  I’d cut my piece, that took about 10 seconds, then carve away at the foam to make a slit to fit it in, then shave my piece a little (repeat, repeat), get it all snug in, and then slice off the outer edge if it was proud, all in situ.  Wow.  I was thrilled with that, thinking of the back and forthing with the saw if we were using wood- worse even than I’d imagined.  It was finicky work, but still went smooth and faster than anything else had.  I have a lot of respect for the original builders who were working with an uninsulated shell.  I screwed it on with wafer screws, which look flashy and modern.

The thing I didn’t expect, that I realized as soon as I got a couple sides up, was that it lets light through!  Instead of creating little caves when the sides go up, the insides of the cabinets are flooded with natural light still.  You can see everywhere in it!  This is not to be underestimated.  I remember the old way, and when you’ve got a stuffed tiny, low cupboard with the only light coming from the door, you don’t even want to reach blind into the back of it.  Awesome!  I was ecstatic about the coroplast.

It wasn’t easy to find the coroplast.  It’s not something that’s retailed to individual consumers.  We wanted 4×8 sheets of it.  Ixnay Home Depot and Lowe’s, then we moved on to sign shops, which don’t carry that volume, but their suppliers do, and when we tracked down one of those, she had stacks of 4×8 sheets but only in white, and she wouldn’t tell us her supplier.   We almost caved for the opaque white at this point, but I really wanted to get the translucent kind I could see in my mind’s eye.  I knew it existed, therefore we could find it.

Back to the internet.  I’d found manufacturers, but they don’t sell a few sheets at a time, and they were too far away anyways.  Finally, on a model airplane building forum, I found that Sun Supply in Portland is the place.  Sure, we could stop by any time.  Sure, however many sheets we want.   Sure, all kinds of colours. Two kinds of translucent.

Apparently, I’m wearing a dress on the job.

Yay, internet.  What the heck do model plane builders use it for? Oh, and it’s called Corex in the States.  We choose the “natural”.  The other similar one is called “transparent”, which you can see detail through, although of course it’s not transparent.  We got one sheet of that for variety and put it on the solar panel, although the natural was the one for the interior, because it hides all the “stuff” in the cabinets.  That’s the point, to hide those details.

We made the doors by milling a pile of wood on the table saw with a rabbet in it, then making frames with mitred corners, stapling the coroplast into the back, and putting them on with hinges.  I was trying to arrange all the door openings so that we could use only simple hinges, because there was barely enough wood to use concealed hinges.  So some of the doors open like  oven doors so they don’t conflict with their neighbours, which works very nice.  You can drag things out onto the open door, somewhat.  However, we had to use a few concealed hinges, which were no fun in units built of 1×2, but I made them work.

We have the furnace with its black grill under the 12V fridge, then we have the world’s tiniest closet, with an 8” clothesrod in it, for hanging a few coats and shirts.  Next to the furnace we have a broom cupboard, for longer awkward things, and also access to the battery bank in the front corner. We have a his and hers side of various size shelf units, with equitable space (he has more; just saying), and we each have a bedside table area, drawer and cupboard.  It seems somehow more spacious than the original design, even though the kitchen is twice the size and there’s more storage than before.  I guess that came from nixing the bunkbeds.  Although, someone could sleep on the kitchen counter.  That’s where the beds were before.

The whole thing has a bright, light, clean look.  There’s a  lot of light bouncing around in there.  Our friend’s kid immediately recognized the Ikea influence, and said he thought that’s where we got all the cupboards.  Having the cupboard doors done made everything feel done and tidy.

Although we’d planned to have the kitchen open, as usual, the tupperware tubs are not really functional nor aesthetic, so I’m going to build a couple tipping forward bins and one big rolling drawer, to close it all up.  Now that there’s so little of the foam showing anymore, what with the windows and cupboards, shaving and painting that’s not the biggest priority now either.  After all, we need it for a habitat at the moment, and tackling the foam will be a big, messy job.

Open, normal position and view.
Open, ready for transport

The bookshelf above the bed was one piece of design I think I made up and am proud of.

In the first incarnation, the super-handy, essential, over-the-bed shelf was super-handy until you drove off, whereupon everything up there jumped out and strew itself about the camper. This time, I made a hinged front on it that folds up for transport and latches on the inside (well, H.W. did the actual work). It works perfectly.

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