Saturday, March 23, 2013

Wine and refine

Have you ever had the pleasure of watching people talk to their TV sets?  I have such enduring fond childhood memories of my father jumping up and down and yelling things like "WHOA - off-side!" and "Interception!" as he watched football games. 
It actually does talk back, at least in a sense.

Microsoft clip art. 
Well, I popped into the world as a female and I'm not interested in football, but I do have plenty of feedback to offer to my favorite TV genre, which is home improvement shows.  And so it was that I recently heard the mesmerizing Jonathan Scott advise one of his on-screen clients to refurbish rather than replace their existing kitchen cabinets.  Paraphrased: "Why would you want to get rid of these?  New cabinets are made out of cardboard!"

Upon hearing this, I jumped up and down and yelled at my TV, "WHOA - dude - off-side!!  Liability alert!!  What are you, from freakin' Canada or something where they don't have as many lawsuits?!" 

The mesmerizing Mr. Scott was bluntly referring to what many people believe but few have the guts to offer in the way of a personal opinion:  current day kitchen cabinet construction is arguably not as robust as it potentially could be, and not as robust as it generally had been at different times in the past.
Coincidentally, one year ago, I waded into that same treacherous territory when I published a post on the importance of installing drawer and cabinet pulls
Incidentally, I know that I read this quote online at some point within the past year, but today when I go looking for it, I can't find it.  Perhaps the guy who said it got sued and had to remove it from publication.   
So Jonathan's point was that it's arguably a better investment to rehab existing solid wood or plywood cabinets, instead of buying new ones that are constructed largely of particle board

Three years ago when we were building this house, I took a slightly different tact.  Given that ours was a new build, we had no choice but to accept what the market offered in the way of cabinets.  And given that it was intentionally toward the "starter home" end of the size spectrum (i.e., much smaller than many surrounding homes), I concluded that installing anything of custom quality would not be a good investment. 

For those reasons and with a nod toward European sensibilities where they often take their kitchens with them when they move, I decided to augment rather than upgrade the cabinets that the builder installed. 
I've claimed previously that nothing comes into our house without first being cut out of either paper or cardboard, so that we can evaluate the suitability of the piece in the space prior to purchasing it.  I lied.  Sometimes I do mock-ups using other materials - in this case, a scrap of carpet underlayment fits the footprint of the unusually-large sideboard that I purchased as our house was under construction.  I needed to confirm that it would be properly proportioned for this wall, which faces the house's sole dining area. 

The behemoth sideboard was intended to seriously augment storage for this "starter home" kitchen.  What you see is what we got - there is only this small amount of upper cabinetry, and given that the under-counter area must incorporate sink, dishwasher, and oven, there aren't many lower cabinets either. 
I don't have a good full frontal pic of that massive sideboard at this point, but I got it from one of Houston's coolest import stores, which is Home Source, and it's made of reclaimed solid teak.  Not particle board. 

Anyway, it's not my purpose to talk about the sideboard itself, but rather, something we recently added to it.  I had been storing wine bottles in one of its open cubbies, but this uncontrolled stack had proven to be rather hazardous.  The problem is that, because the diameter decreases toward the cork ends of the bottles, they had a tendency to toboggan off the front of the shelf and come crashing down onto the ceramic tile floor.  Very bad situations involving broken glass were the result.  Yet simultaneously, I could not find a decent wine rack that I could insert into this cubby and have it look like it belonged there. 

Until now...
Enter the solution.  While watching yet another home improvement show, I learned about this product which is called Wine Hive
Especially given that we are a science and engineering household, we were suckers for this sales pitch.  Wine Hive is engineered as only one structural unit which builds out into any number of different configurations.  The structural members are made of heavy aluminum with amazingly tight tolerances.  This is a close-up pic of the joinery.  It's an expensive product but the high quality is clear to see. 

It's also an American design by an American micro-entrepreneur and manufactured in America, which appeals to me.  Apparently the designer launched with the help of Kickstarter.  I've funded a couple of Kickstarter projects in the past, but I hadn't heard of this one.   
It was modeled on honeycomb, which is one of the most efficient structures found in nature. 
Design-wise, when you have something old like reclaimed teak, it works best to balance it out with something hyper-new, like a high-tech wine rack. 
Definite improvement, eh?  No more sliding bottles.  And it looks cool. 

The one potential drawback of this design is the same limitation that affects many other wine racks: the holes are best suited to small-diameter bottles.  You can see that I've wedged an oversized bottle between the rack and the cubby wall to the right.  But if a partially-open configuration is constructed instead, some of those larger bottles can be accomodated by this product.  We needed a compact configuration here, obviously. 
And as a footnote...
...notice that I used the same contemporary knobs on both the kitchen cabinetry and on the drawers in the sideboard.  Cross-referencing is you-know-what.  This helps to unify the overall impression from kitchen to dining area, even though the wood species are different. 

Pic from this post on installing cabinet pulls

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