Friday, September 5, 2014

Toddler "Proofing" Home Office: Drawer to Door

For the record, the title has quotation marks because anyone with a toddler knows  nothing is ever truly toddler proof; we just do our best to slow them down.

Well, it has been a while since I posted. In the past few months I have moved, given birth, and shown and rented numerous apartments. I also learned to fix multiple aspects of toilets, make screens, auger drains, and repair bathtub trip levers. Yes, I have moved into the fantastic world of property management. As summers are (they tell me) the property's busiest time (this is a college town in a desert; we have lots of moving out and in as well as problems with swamp coolers and AC), most of my time has been spent doing maintenance. Thus, very little has been spent on actually making our apartment our home. That really hasn't stopped us from some grand plans.

When we moved from our old apartment, we got rid of a fair amount of furniture. The truth was we had gotten most of it for free in the first place and it wasn't nice enough to be worth the move. Thus we gave a lot of it away and made plans of how to replace it. We have built two cube storage units, one that sits in the entry area of the living room and one that we use as a dresser with fabric drawers for socks and things while we stack the shirts and pants on the shelves. We modified some plans from Ana White for this project.

Other plans that we still have to tackle include a beside fridge pantry, a bed frame for David (for when new baby Peter takes over his current bed), and many others. This list also used to include a secretary desk. It was going to be great with doors on the bottom to hide the printer and scanner and enough space on top to house the rather large computer screen that my husband really wanted for programming purposes but which doubles as our video playing device. The desk would cover everything up, keeping David from playing in it and guests from seeing it.

But all plans were on hold this week as Peter, David, and I all had a slight cold. It wasn't that bad except for the part where it made Peter and I tired but not David. I know he was sick due to the amount of nose wiping I did this week, but if anything he was more hyper and extremely cranky. Thus by Thursday he had had it with being inside and so I packed us all up and went to the thrift store with no plan but to browse the aisles and come home. I got to the store about 15 minutes before it opened (mainly because I couldn't keep David satisfied with being in the house after 9:30) and David pretended to drive the car while we waited.

Once the store opened and the crowd of people waiting in the front went in (seriously, I must be missing something about thrift store openings), I followed at a safe distance (never been much of a Black Friday type shopper). As I passed the furniture section, I looked down the rows of cast off TV cabinets and saw something wonderful. It was dirty, banged up, and made of particle board covered in foil, but it was also sturdy, completely functional, and only $45. I concluded that we could do something with the bottom drawer (which was rather deep) to fit a printer and decided that though the screen could not fit in the desk part as it was, it could still be housed in the top glass cabinets. I called up Patrick and we discussed the pros and cons and decided that we had about had it with pulling David off the computer desk (he is a bit of a climber). I paid the $45; got in the car; turned on the car, turned off the windshield wipers, turn signal, headlights, and heat; and went home, waiting anxiously for Patrick to get home to go get the desk sans car seats in the car.

Patrick told me he was quite surprised when they brought out the desk. I guess I had played up the not nice aspects too much and he was picturing something a lot less grand looking. He removed the screws holding the top and bottom together and brought it home. After we got it inside, we went to cleaning it. David helped by climbing inside the top and getting a lot of finger prints on the glass.

Once we had put the boys to bed, we went right to getting the printer into the desk (David has been driving me nuts with his ability to get into everything; I found him in the kitchen sink the other day). We decided the best thing to do would be to make the drawer front into a door. This required disassembling the drawer and making a new bottom for the space left behind.

For this project we used a piece of plywood we had bought for another project and then never used, some scraps of 2 x 2, and a set of hinges that were waste from a project my husband did back when he was doing general maintenance work for the company we now manage for. In other words, we bought nothing but the desk.

We attached the plywood to the bottom of the desk, put the 2 x 2 pieces in each front corner, and attached the hinges to the 2 x 2 pieces and the drawer front. We would not have had to use the 2 x 2 pieces if we had had a different kind of hinge, but we had these on hand. The hinges we used are made to lift up slightly when the door opens to reduce the amount of space needed between the door and another object. This was crucial for us because we were dealing with something that used to be a drawer.

These hinges also require drilling a 1.25 inch indent in the door. Unfortunately, we did not have the right tools for this. By far the most time consuming part of this project was getting around that fact. The 1 inch drill bit we had could not be used to make more than a tiny indent because of the pointed part that drills deeper than the actual 1 inch part; we didn't want to risk drilling through the front. Thus, we drilled a small indent and used a utility knife, flat screw driver, and smaller drill bit to make our indent. It was really good that we were dealing with particle board or we would never have made this work. Really, we needed a Dremel rotary tool; it would have been over in a couple minutes. The moral of the story is have the right tools.

 In the end, though, it all worked out. We attached the drawer front as a door and put the printer, scanner, and a mass of cords in the new garage. Really the door stays closed well on its own, but we attached some child locks to keep David out and prevent the door from falling if it gets bumped somehow. David can open several types of child locks but lacks the physical capability to open the printer garage when it is closed due to short arms. So far the desk was worth the $45 solely for the sanity it saves. It also looks pretty and hides our desk, which is out of necessity in our living room.

I have plans to maybe change out the hardware in the future. The desk has a bit of a library look, which would be fantastic if I had a library to put it in (kind of a dream of mine), but as I do not, it looks a little out of place in my living room. Perhaps that will be a post of its own in the future.


  1. Looks great, Beth! Wish I had something like this to hide my living-room desk,too!

    1. Thanks, Martha! It was a lucky find. I could send you some half baked building plans if you felt up to it, though!


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