Hold on to your butts, everyone: I’m about to get all crafty all up in this site. A few Sundays ago, Bobby and I were running some errands and happened into the West Hollywood CB2, which is always great but is quickly becoming the new expensive Ikea because, if you own anything from there, people know that you got it from there. We had been talking about getting a bench to place plants on in front of a window in our apartment for some time and, when eyeing a $300 bench at CB2, I called bullshit on selling a piece of wood that was intended to look old but was new and three hundred dollars. I announced, “You know, I can build a bench for us that is a quarter of the price. Let’s go to Home Depot.” And, away we went to the Home Depot on Sunset and Wilton!
We arrived at the Depot admittedly unprepared, a casual shopping trip turned into a craft project. We headed straight for the 2x4s, guessing how big we needed it: seven feet long? six feet long? five feet long? How long is our window? No idea. So, first step in making a shelf: measure how long you want the shelf to be. Our window ended up being 7.5 feet long and we guessed to go with 6.5 feet for the wood, giving about half a foot on either side of space, a perfect framing for it. Be sure to ask someone at the store to cut the wood down for you as well.
To dress and liven up the bench, we grabbed a tiny, tiny can of slate grey paint to stain the wood and a few sheets of sandpaper to sand the wood’s blemishes down some. For mounting the bench, we grabbed some heavy duty shelf brackets in white, to make them almost fade into the wall. They were 8×10 as well, which was enough to stabilize the shelf to the wall and to the wood itself.
Now, for the plants. We had in our heads that we wanted succulents so we got succulents. We grabbed pots and soil and the plants all at Home Depot, which had a surprisingly OK selection of things. However, if money was overflowing from our pockets and we had more time, we would have stopped into Potted, Rolling Greens, The Juicy Leaf, Sunset Nursery, Gillyflowers, My Secret Garden, Garden Temple, or California Cactus Center to get everything we needed. Alas: Home Depot worked just fine.
We grabbed ten pots and plants of varying size and color, threw them in our cart, and were on our way. In total, the cost of everything came to about $100–and the bench itself was about $20 for the brackets, wood, and screws. The plants and pots were the expensive part. Take that, CB2 and other manufacturers!
At home on the kitchen floor, I laid the wood down and got to sanding it, smoothing out any rough spots and spiked edges, so no one touched it and had a splinter friend chilling in their finger. After about twenty minutes of buffing things out, I laid down a bed of newspapers and began painting one side with a water diluted version of the slate paint. This was the longest part of the job, as you have to wait for the paint to dry, etc., etc., etc. While it dried, though, I marked where the shelf was going to be, which was harder than any math I have done in the past eight years since finishing high school as it involved figuring where the shelf would go within the frame of the window, how low it would be from the sill, and where the brackets would go in the wood. This is of course different for everyone’s situation but, if you must know, ask and I can relay those plans. Once everything was dried, I lightly sanded the wood at points where the paint was too dark and then mounted it to the wall.
As all of this was happening, Bobby, the succulents, pots, and potting soil were having a party planting the plants. As you can see, they’ve seen better days and reflect our inability to keep plants alive. Thus, please note that not all succulents are created equal and some need lots more water than others, which is something we are learning everyday since getting them. If you need help selecting some, we recommend this little guide from Apartment Therapy. We ended up going with a gang of plants that I cannot name aside from that tall green one, those colorful cactuses, the one with the fat leaves that are purple, the one that now has tall flowers on it, the one that is spikey and pink, and the various ones that just look like soft green pencils.
All in all, building a simple succulent shelf was easy and very Southern Californian. It was a simple, cheap endeavor that only requires about $100, two hours of your time, and room to work and place a shelf. It’s the perfect way to welcome Spring in Los Angeles and, of course, is an excellent way to screw businesses who are trying to get away with selling stuff we can all make ourselves, if you have the time and energy to make it. It’s well worth it and makes you feel like you’re some sort of domestic handy God.