LIVING AND WORKING AREAS: Dining Rooms

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Formal dining rooms tend to favor formal storage solutions: closets, buffets, and china cabinets. Less formal dining spaces adapt readily to more casual solutions, including open shelving, which can be created from commercial kits or from do-it- yourself plans.

Either approach helps to provide convenient places for silverware, china, linens, centerpieces, and the large trays and bowls required for food service.

You may want open or glass-fronted shelves to display fine china or dinnerware. And you’ll probably favor cabinets with solid doors for more utilitarian pieces.

Many families use dining tables for homework, hobbies, puzzles, and games. If your dining room does such double duty, it will need extra storage space for books, games, photo albums, or maybe even a home office.

Here are some ideas and projects to help you get more comfort and enjoyment from these spaces. The projects below can be adapted to living and family rooms by varying the materials and finishes to fit the style of the room.


A classic dining sideboard can display cherished china and hold yards of linens and tableware in its doors and drawers below.


(left) A cafe-style booth, such as this breakfast nook, can swallow enormous amounts of gear under its bench seats. (right) if your formal dining room is serving Sunday dinners and taking most of the week off, put it to work as a home office in its slack hours.

BUILDING A SIDEBOARD

You can make this simple yet elegant sideboard using a standard kitchen wall cabinet. The 12-inch depth is perfect for storing plates and bowls, glasses and stemware, and linens. And it does not intrude into the room as would base cabinets, which are twice as wide.

TWO ADDITIONS: Making the cabinet into a sideboard requires adding only two items:

• An attractive and durable top.

• A recessed and elevating toe kick.

The toe kick enables the door to open easily and raises the cabinet off the floor so the shelves are more accessible.

For the top, buy cabinet-grade ¾” plywood that matches the cabinet’s wood species (or that can be stained and finished to match). Apply veneer edging, fill holes, sand smooth, and apply the matching finish. Attach the top to the cabinet using #6 screws, driving them from inside the cabinet up into the plywood.

An alternative is to use solid wood of the correct variety for the top. But, unless you find a plank 13 or 14 inches wide, you would have to edge-glue two pieces together, which complicates the project.

TWO METHODS: There are two ways to make the toe kick:

• Here, we show cutting 4-inch strips of the same cabinet-grade plywood you used for the top. Build a simple box frame, making sure to reinforce the corners with wood block braces or metal corner angles. Use simple butt joints at the rear corners, but make 45-degree miter joints for the front corners. Sand and finish the toe kick as you did the top.

• Alternatively, many cabinet manufacturers make 1/8-inch-thick toe-kick trim that matches the cabinet finish, If you use it, make the frame out of 1x4 pine strips, then glue and nail on the trim strips. Attach the toe-kick unit by screwing #8 screws through the bottom of the cabinet into the frame.


Sideboard

MATERIALS LIST

Item

Material

Length

Qty

Cabinet

Top

Toe kick front

Toe kick back

Toe kick sides

Toe kick brace

wall cabinets

¾” plywood

¼” plywood

¼” plywood

¾” plywood

¾” plywood

12x30x36”

13x74”

4x66’

4x64½”

4x9”

4x7½”

2

1

1

1

2

1

Cabinet toe-kick trim; veneer tape; 3d and 6d finish nails; 1¼” #6 and 1½” #8 drywall screws; white carpenter’s glue; stain or varnish

BUILDING A CORNER CABINET

Your search for storage space can explore every corner. Here’s an attractive unit that can add many square feet of storage or display space. It can become a china cabinet in the dining room, a display case in the living room, or a bookcase in your den.


PLAYING THE ANGLES: Wedged into a corner, this open-front unit is perfect for storing books and mementos, Adding doors can make it suitable for holding any number of items, from pots and pans to clothing. Add glass inserts to the doors and you have a beautiful china cabinet.

The shelves are 19 inches at the deepest point, a greater span than normal for dimension lumber. Unless you are proficient at edge-gluing boards, it’s best to use plywood for the shelves and the top and bottom pieces. You can make the face frame and rear spine out of solid wood.

From ¾-inch cabinet-grade plywood or solid 1-inch-thick pine or hardwood boards, rip two 5½-inch-wide strips for the side pieces. Determine the desired height of the cabinet (72 inches is comfortable), then cut two 5½-inch strips to that length. Next rip a 45-degree rabbet along the back edge of each side piece. Crosscut a ¼-inch-deep and ¾” rabbet at the inner top of each side piece.

Butt the backs of the two side pieces against each other, with the inside faces up. Lay out your desired shelf plan on the inside faces, then cut a 3/4" dado in each side piece for each shelf. Be sure the facing dadoes line up with each other so the shelves will be level.

Cut a 2x4 to the same length as the side pieces. Bevel it into a trapezoidal shape by making two rip cuts at 45 degrees, one along each side of the piece. Then, using a side piece as a gauge to make cuts on the spine, cut the rabbet and dadoes across the wide face of the spine to match the side pieces.

The top of the case is a shelf that sits in rabbets cut into the sides and spine. Cut the shelves and top from 3 plywood to the dimensions shown. To cover the plywood edges, attach a strip of ¼ x ¾” hardwood banding to the front edge of each shelf. If you use iron-on edging, the dimensions of the shelves will have to be larger.


COMBINING WALL AND BASE CABINETS

If you have sufficient floor area in which you can use standard 24-inch-wide base cabinets, here’s an idea. Attach standard base and wall cabinet units to the wall studs. To make it look like a hutch, connect the two units with knee braces made out of matching wood, creating your own curved, angled, or straight design on the front of the brace. You also can fill in the back of the open space with matching wood to emphasize the look of a one- piece hutch. The brace is for looks only. Don’t try to support the upper wall cabinet with it; mount that cabinet to the wall studs. In the dining room you probably won’t want a plastic laminate countertop on the base unit. A butcher block, ceramic tile, granite, or slate top would be more attractive.

You can use this idea in rooms other than the dining room. For example, you could install a small sink in one of the base cabinets and a refrigerator in the adjoining units and have a setup for a wet bar in the family room or game room.


Detail of shelves

GENERAL ASSEMBLY: Assemble the main framework with the case face down. Do a dry run before actually gluing it. Fit one side piece to the edges of the top and shelves. Apply glue to each dado and fit the side and shelves together, making sure the edge of the shelves and the side piece are flush at the front, Secure the joints with 6d finish nails. Set the other side piece and the spine in place. With the case still face down, square it up by measuring corner to corner. Make sure it is not twisted, then let the glued joints set.

Add the back panels while the case is still face down. Each panel should extend from the notch at the back of the side panel to the back edge of the spine. Apply glue to the sides and spine, insert the back pieces, and nail with 5 brads.

Set the case upright and measure the front. Cut all the pieces for the face frame from 1x2 and 1x6 solid stock.

OPTIONAL EQUIPMENT: The illustration shows the frame around the perimeter of the case, but you may wish to add a center stile, as well as one or more intermediary rails, This would allow you to attach several smaller door panels rather one or two large doors. Join the corners of the face frame together. Nail the frame to the front of the case. Set the nail heads and fill holes and gaps with wood putty. Then sand and apply the finish of your choice.

MATERIALS LIST

Item

Material

Length

Qty

Sides

Back panels

Top

Shelves

Face frame top

Face frame sides

Face frame bottom

Spine

Trim

¾” plywood

¼” plywood

¾” plywood

¾” plywood

1x6 pine

1x2 pine

1x6 pine

2x4 pine

Hardwood

5½x72”

21½”x72”

29”

72”

29”

72”

¼”x ¾” x 8’

2

2

1

5

1

2

1

1

6d finish nails; 5/8” brads; white carpenter’s glue; wood putty; paint, stain, or varnish

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