City DIY Mini-series: Construction-free DIY

4 Aug

So, I LOVE a zillion different DIY blogs.  My first foray into the make-your-house-cool-all-by-yourself world was via Young House Love.  I’ve mentioned them before, and I feel the need to do so again, because they have what is quite possibly the best blog of all time.  Haha – ok, a little over the top, but to me they’re great.  Sherry and John Petersik are former NYC’ers (woo woo!) who bought and renovated a house in Richmond, VA a few years ago.  In order to keep their family up to date on their progress, they started a blog.  But then every DIY-er on the internet got addicted to the blog, and now these two adorable lovebirds are professional, full-time, DIY bloggers (along with their cutesy baby, Clara, and their hilarious chihuahua, Burger).  They recently bought a new house, and I’m glued to the screen every day on my lunch break, as I catch up with their latest projects.

Aren't they adorable?! Click the link above and check them out!

But, out of the suburbs and back to city life:  basically, apartment dwellers like you and me have to just drool over homeowner DIY projects from afar.  Half the time our leases restrict us from making any improvements or modifications to our homes, and the rest of the time it just doesn’t pay off to put money into a place you don’t own.  So, painting walls and hanging pictures is as far as my DIY projects tend to stretch.

Until recently.

Right after I moved into my apartment, I stumbled upon a couple of minor (but not so minor for me) household issues.  So, I thought I’d share a few of them with you.  Over the next week or so, I’ll share a few little stories and ideas that will make you feel like a DIY-ing homeowner, rather than a flush-money-down-the-toilet-every-month renter.  Maybe you’re another city-dweller dreaming about having space to use a table-saw or a sewing machine.  If so, we can totally be BFFs.

Let’s start small, though.  Today, we’ll delve into the joys of constructing IKEA furniture.

I should say this to start:  IKEA is beautifully accessible for city folk.  If you’re living in Mid-Upper Manhattan or the Bronx, there is a free shuttle bus that leaves regularly from the Port Authority Bus Terminal, that will take you to the IKEA in northern New Jersey.  From Lower Manhattan, take the free ferry from the Financial District to the IKEA in Red Hook, Brooklyn.  If you’re in Queens or Brooklyn, take the free shuttle bus from Borough Hall in downtown Brooklyn, to the IKEA in Red Hook.

My sister and me, on the IKEA ferry (slash water taxi). See the store in the background? The boat brings you right up to the back door, practically!

Ok, so you had a fun carnival-like day at IKEA (how do they manage to make that place SO FUN!?), and you lugged home boxes that were ridiculously heavy, full of furniture parts.  Now, you have to put everything together.  IKEA-ing is prototypical city DIY work.  It makes us feel like we’re doing work around the house, but no power tools are involved, and there’s no need for a huge workspace.  Woo woo!

Putting together Ikea furniture is my idea of a good time.  I like working on puzzles and building things, whenever I can.  If I buy a new gadget or home item, I feel an unstoppable urge to get that item set up or assembled right away.  So, after moving, I began reconstructing my Expedit bookshelf from IKEA as soon as I’d cleared enough floor space in my new abode.

Here is a pic of the Expedit during de-construction. Might give you an idea of how it goes together. See the pegs sticking out of the shelf?

These are the pegs. Vader thought they were fun to gnaw on. I'm an awful cat parent.

I was concerned about how well the unit would hold up once I took it apart, transported it, and then reassembled.  However, the process went very smoothly, and putting the shelves back together was quite simple, actually.  The whole enchilada goes together with a bunch of wooden pegs and 8 screws.  Easy peasy.  Back when we bought the Expedit I’d read online that the most efficient method of putting it together was just to use a hammer to secure the wooden pegs in place, and that is certainly the way to go.  So, this time, in about 45 minutes, I had the shelf fully assembled, lying in the middle of my living room floor.  Problem was, I couldn’t get the damn thing to stand up.

When I first realized I couldn’t lift the unit, my plan was to hoist one corner of it and shimmy a pillow underneath the bottom edge to prop it up.  I figured once it was no longer flush against the floor, I’d be able to get a better grip and I’d be all set.  A crowbar would have been the perfect hoisting tool, except that I was so afraid of scratching my gloriously shiny new floors.

Unfortunately, without a crowbar, I couldn’t even get the shelf off the ground the couple of inches I needed to slide the pillow under.  Damn.  I tried and tried to move this thing until I was sitting in the middle of the living room, sweating buckets and completely frustrated.

This is not one of those posts where I tell you some cool trick to hoist a large bookshelf on your own.  There is no such trick.  Consider this more of a reassurance that your IKEA furniture should be able to travel well and be reassembled – assuming you treat it with a little gentle loving kindness.  Also consider this a warning that you should wait to put any large furniture together until you have another person there to help stand it up.  Or, take it upon yourself to go make friends with one of your new neighbors.

My sister was in town that weekend, and once we were able to get our fingers under the unit, it was super easy to hoist the unit all the way up (the shelves were empty, afterall).  But even with two sets of hands, the initial task of grasping the shelves enough to lift it and prop something under the edge was a sweat-inducing endeavor.  The largest version of Expedit (5 shelves tall by 5 shelves wide) is just extremely heavy and you end up scared to death that you’ll chop off all your fingers if you somehow get them caught underneath the bookself without a firm grip.

See the screw in the top corner? There are 8 in the whole unit, and the shelves come with the little allen keys that you need to screw them in. The rest of the parts involved are just the pegs.

Tah-dahhh! Hoisted!

So, for all the IKEA fans out there:  you can get to IKEA super easily in NYC, which means you’ll have all the put-shit-together projects your little heart desires, right at your fingertips.  No need for a car or any stressful travel arrangements.  No need for any real construction or equipment.  Also, if and when you move apartments any oversized IKEA furniture will likely travel well, if you dismantle it.  My Expedit bookshelf is just as sturdy now as it was upon the initial assembly.  Just make sure you have another set of hands ready when it comes to lifting that sturdy unit.  Or hit the gym and build up those biceps!

Coming up: fake sewing, hanging art on stud-less walls, closet collapses, and mini-makeovers!  Stay tuned, all you DIY-loving urbanites!


2 Responses to “City DIY Mini-series: Construction-free DIY”

  1. jk August 5, 2011 at 8:43 am #

    Free transportation AND all the fun of assembly make for a perfect weekend adventure. Even Salander in The Girl who Played with Fire enjoyed the Ikea challenge!

  2. Leslie January 14, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

    It is in point of fact a great and helpful piece of
    info. I am happy that you shared this helpful info with us.
    Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

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