I recently moved into a new apartment, which is an exciting thing after living with my mom for more than a year. Don't get me wrong. Delicious homemade meals served to me daily are very nice, but being yelled at like a child for leaving my dirty shirt on the floor is pretty demeaning. Especially from a Mexican mother. If there was a yelling category in the Olympics, Mexican moms would take the gold regularly. They'd be the Romanian gymnasts of yelling.
I packed up all my things and headed for freedom and then realized something I hadn't remembered since the last time I moved, which is that moving is the f**cking worst. How did I accumulate so much stuff? I cursed all the estate sales, yard sales, swap meet trips and flea markets from which I've acquired little knick-knacks throughout the years. With everything unpacked and only boxes and boxes of books, records and animal-shaped figurines left, I figured I would need some sort of cabinet or shelving.
I asked my good friend, Matt, a DIY genius, for some advice. I don't throw out the term "genius" very often, unless it's preceded by "evil" and in reference to the Kardashians. (Seriously, how did they do it?) But Matt deserves the word. He told me that when he was in a similar bind he took to craigslist and found old school lockers. He sanded them and spray painted them and now his TV rests upon the lockers in his home. I saw the result and they looked really cool. So I was inspired to create my own.
With a promise from Matt to help me with any DIY issues, I checked craigslist to see what I could find. After some searching, I came across an old metal filing cabinet, the kind you see at the doctor's office holding patient files. I thought the rusty cabinet could be spruced up and serve me right. My boyfriend wasn't so convinced. He thought it would be too big, in size and in hassle. I assured him he just lacked imagination and that it would be amazing. We drove to East County to pick up the cabinet and I will admit here that yes, my boyfriend was right. At 7 feet tall, 4 feet deep and 2 feet wide, it was way too big. Not backing down, though, I insisted we take it. We could work with it. The man we bought it from, perhaps desperate to get rid of it, offered to drive it to my boyfriend's old place. And there it sat for weeks. I stared at it and laid out everything I was planning on doing with it and how great it would look. Then I'd drink from my Slurpee and walk away.
Finally the day came when I couldn't handle the boxes piled up in the living room anymore. Matt and his handy truck came by to help load the cabinet and put the lipstick on the pig. We got to work. First, with the power of his manliness, he hammered out these crazy looking screws to bring it down to a size that wouldn't overtake my small living room. He then inspected the cabinet and saw that the spaces provided wouldn't be big enough for my records. So what does this handy man do? He takes out a die grinder, attaches a cutting wheel to it and cut off four of the dividers to make room like it was no big deal. Sparks were flying everywhere. I lost a few arm hairs. To smooth out any sharp edges left from cutting the metal, he attached a grinding wheel to the die grinder and went to town on those rough patches.
I'm really into DIY and I'm pretty good with some power tools. But for this sort of thing, I definitely recommend getting help from someone who can assure you that no eyeballs or fingers will be lost. I didn't expect this much work would be needed, and I suppose it actually wasn't needed. So for anyone who wants to take on a similar project, you can skip this hardcore metal-cutting part.
Once the hard part was done, I rolled up my sleeves and actually started helping. For this, Matt said we wouldn't need to primer. Thank, jebus! Primering is a pain in the ass. Instead, we sanded the area that would be painted with the rough side of a dishwashing sponge until it was dull. It's important to get that shine off to ensure the paint doesn't chip off easily.
Following that, we prepped the cabinet, using painter's tape and newspaper to cover the spaces that would not be getting spray painted. According to Matt, "preparation is the most important thing." It's tedious, but if you don't want something to look like it was painted by a drunken toddler, then it's important to be patient and get those edges, corners and interiors covered.
Then I got a lesson in proper spray painting. Matt told me it was absolutely imperative to press down on the nozzle in a way that your finger does not hook over the front of it. Doing that causes droplets of paint to fall on your project. I have made this mistake in the past and was glad to get this lesson. It's also important to hold the spray-paint can about four to six inches away from the project and spray in big swipes. So start spraying a few inches away from the project then make your way across it in a stroke and stop spraying when you've gone past the project. We repeated this over and over and over again with the spray paint I bought at Michaels a few days before. I chose Krylon's Oxford Blue spray paint in a satin finish to go with my aqua-colored walls. Michaels actually has a great selection of spray paint in some cool colors. I was really tempted to get a beautiful marigold or tomato color, but figured I can save that for a different project.
It took about five coats to get the color I wanted without any funky dark spots or stripes. In the past that would've taken forever, but it was actually only about two hours of work thanks to Krylon's fast drying time. Each layer took about 10 minutes to dry, so waiting wasn't too painful.
The final product looks great in my living room. Granted I'm not into things looking super polished. I admit this isn't something you'd see at West Elm priced at $250. I was really happy with it, though. In total my boyfriend and I spent about $50 for everything it took to fix the cabinet and got it all done in a few hours, with help from Matt, of course. This got me thinking about my next big DIY project. Or perhaps another Slurpee until I'm ready.