The finished product
For a few years, I?ve been using a wooden shoe rack that I found on the street. It was much sturdier than the balsa ones IKEA sells. The pic below shows it in action when I lived alone.
This worked fine when it only housed my own shoes, even though it didn?t store them very efficiently. But when my then-girlfriend (now wife!) Atia moved in, I was in need of something with more capacity. So I planned to return my rack to the street for someone else to enjoy and make my own rack from reclaimed wood that could hold more shoes. It would have at least three shelves and would be wider by roughly a foot to fit the space better. I was looking forward to the project since it probably wouldn?t be too complicated, though it would require a fair amount of measuring, cutting, and sanding.
But the more I looked at my old shoe rack, the more I started to think that there must be a better option than just getting rid of it and starting from scratch. And as I pondered my old rack, I realized that there was indeed an obvious solution. In its current configuration, there was too much unused headroom above each row of shoes, and I could see from holes drilled in the legs that the rack had once had another shelf. So all I would have to do to increase the rack?s capacity was delve into my large supply of scrounged scrap wood and add my own additional shelves.
I unscrewed the middle shelf and moved it to the bottom level, leaving enough space underneath it so flat footwear (like flip-flops and slippers) could fit underneath it. Using some slats left over from an old wooden bed frame, I was able to add two more shelves without having to measure and cut too many pieces. So counting the top level as well as the floor, I successfully expanded my shoe rack from three levels to five! The rack is now quite heavy because of all of the solid wood it?s made of, but that just makes the piece feel more sturdy and solid, especially since I also added some screws for extra reinforcement. This thing definitely won?t tip over easily.
I like the color of natural wood, especially after it has been stained and oiled, but Atia wanted the rack to add more color to the room. So we went to Home Depot and picked out this vibrant, energizing red. Atia and I put on two coats of paint (with built-in primer), then waited for the paint to cure, which means allowing the paint to dry all the way through to the wood.
While I?ve used stain, oils, and polyurethanes before, I realized that I really didn?t have much experience painting furniture. So I was surprised to learn that a freshly painted piece of furniture needs roughly 30 days to cure before it can be used! While paint only needs a few hours for the surface to be dry to the touch, all of the oils and chemicals in the paint that are not exposed to the air need much more time to dry so they adhere to the wood. I was once told that paint is really just a type of glue with color added to it, and you wouldn?t want to put shoes on a piece of furniture covered in not-quite-dry glue.
I let the rack cure in the garage with a fan blowing on it to speed up the process. After about 2?3 weeks, I decided that the paint seemed dry enough, so I moved the rack inside and started using it ? and I love it! The red paint really pops, and it makes the rack feel like a totally new piece of furniture. With all of the extra storage, Atia and I can now put most of our shoes away after each use instead of having an unruly pile of them in front of the rack.
Looking at the completed rack now, I honestly feel a bit silly that I was so close to tossing it out on the street and starting over. The rack now has a wonderful third life (I consider my finding it to be its second life), and I undoubtedly saved myself many hours designing, measuring, cutting, sanding, and finishing a new rack. While I?m obviously not quick to throw things away, this project has been a good reminder for me to always consider refurbishing or modifying an existing piece before spending money on a new one or undertaking the fairly drastic process of building something from scratch. The results can be just as satisfying as building something new, and potentially even more so since I can pat myself on the back for coming up with a more clever, less wasteful solution that saved me so much time.
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