It is not enough just to live. It is not enough to be surrounded by four walls and a roof that only leaks a little at the seams and to fall asleep safe with the knowledge that it will take an especially strong boot to kick in the front door and take the Xbox that was worth something three years ago. It’s not enough to have cabinets that hold dishes accumulated over two decades of poor taste. Never mind that those cabinets work. Never mind that someone carefully selected them and assembled them and admired how they glowed there beneath the fluorescent light.
They needed to go. The Internet said so.
I moved in with my boyfriend recently and decided — in a move so uncharacteristic that I retch as I admit this — that I was one of those sledgehammer-wielding HGTV DIY ladies. I could measure things! I could paint! I could replace electric socket covers! I could paint!
I became an interior design expert in days. Which is how I came to decide that the kitchen cabinets just weren’t working. After we’d painted ceilings and walls and bought new lighting and replaced old blinds and said the word “treatments” while referring to windows, I took a look at our tiny kitchen and its butterscotch cabinets and shook my head. No. Something had to be done here.
The Internet agreed with me. I stumbled upon this gel stain craze that was sweeping the DIY ladynation, and I knew this was for me. I emailed a link to my boyfriend: “Can we do this?” I asked, even though I knew the answer. How could he say no? THIS NEEDED TO HAPPEN! NOTHING COULD GO WRONG.
So the first thing that went wrong is that we bought the wrong stain. Regular stain sat there on the wood, sticky and unimpressed. Even after I’d sanded and pre-treated and done everything else to guarantee a smooth transformation, the stain wouldn’t adhere to the wood. It looked like this:
Which would have been great in the 70s. (Which reminds me: Is wood paneling making a comeback? Maybe that’s my next project. For the bedroom. And while I’m sitting here, I’m looking at this end table that needs to be sanded and painted. Maybe yellow. No, red. Yes, definitely red.)
Anyway, I consulted the Internet, which told me that I’d bought the wrong stain, and that I needed to order a bucket of GEL stain from Amazon and wait for it to arrive. Which I did. Meanwhile, the kitchen looked like this.
I waited for my boyfriend to reconsider his life choices, among them letting me move in. He, sweetly, said nothing. Not even when I made him pull the refrigerator to the middle of the room and keep it there for two weeks.
So, let’s fast forward. Gel stain arrives. I smear it all over everything. The internet told me to steal my “hubby’s socks,” but I am neither married nor a sadist, so I used sponge brushes instead to spread this chemical pudding on the wood. I thought it smelled pretty good, like dessert or nail polish, but apparently I was wrong. My boyfriend arrived home one night after I’d been staining for a few hours and could barely tolerate the fumes. I told him he looked as pretty as Cher, only with insect legs, and then I washed my face down the drain.
So this was kind of what it looked like by now. Now we were no longer able to use our kitchen OR our living room. We got used to jumping and weaving. I was served with an eviction notice.
By now, I hated this project. I didn’t care what it was going to look like. I only wanted it to be done. I wanted our life back. I wanted the doors back on the cabinets, and I wanted to make an egg sandwich without my butt sticking to the counter. I dreamed of a life where I could run the dishwasher and fix myself a drink.
One day, after three or four coats of gel stain and two coats of polyurethane, I bought some new silver handles at Lowe’s and screwed on the cabinet doors and screwed on the new hardware and screwed up about half of it. But I didn’t care. I hardly noticed the imperfections (that came later) and just stood back and marveled what the DIY Beast herself had accomplished.
I showed a picture to my dad and he was kind of meh.
So now I’m thinking about painting them teal and buying all new appliances once I check out of rehab rehab. And pulling down those fluorescent lights and putting in something that leaves the cabinets in the shadows. Maybe it just needs a wall sculpture. Or a backsplash. The Internet can teach me how to do that, right?