Problem Solving 101: Shannon’s Buffet

A while back, Shannon and I were discussing cooking. I went on, as I frequently do, about how cooking is one of the best skills a person can have. (Notice I didn’t write “woman.”) Not only is it healthier to make most of your meals from scratch, but it is also much, much cheaper than eating out, even at places such as McDonald’s or Burger King.

Shannon agreed, but she mentioned how hard it was to cook in her long, narrow kitchen, where counter space is practically non-existent.  She added that in such cramped quarters it was hard to get excited about cooking.

Shannon does, however, have a buffet in the kitchen. What about working on that?

“It’s too low,” Shannon replied. “It would hurt my back.”

I could see her point. Shannon does indeed have a touchy back, and after our visit, I continued to think about ways the buffet could be improved and thus used.

“What if we put something under it to make it higher?” I asked my husband, Clif, who not only is a geek extraordinaire but is also very handy. (Lucky me!)

“Sure,” he said. “I could make little risers for it. Have her send me a picture so that I can make the risers blend with the buffet.”

Shannon sent Clif a picture of her buffet, and Clif picked up a 2 x 4, cut eight little blocks, glued them together in twos to raise the buffet by four inches, sanded them , stained them a dark color to match the buffet, and gave them a coat of polyurethane.

Last weekend when we went to visit Shannon and Mike, we brought the finished blocks with us. Mike was at work, and with great difficulty the three of us moved the very heavy buffet closer to the sink and stove. Then, we lifted the sucker—as a Mainer might say—and slid the four blocks underneath the buffet. Clif had done such a good job matching the stain that it almost looked as though the blocks were part of the buffet.

But best of all was the height, which was exactly right for Shannon, and the additional working space it added to her kitchen. When Shannon first got the buffet, she had had a long glass top made to protect the surface. Unfortunately, this glass is not heat proof, but no matter—trivets and pads can be used.

That very night, the benefits of this project were immediately apparent. I was actually able to help Shannon with dinner and not be in her way.

“What a difference!” I said. “This is going to make it so much easier for you to work in this kitchen.”

Shannon concurred, and we all felt pretty pleased with ourselves. Now, lest readers think we became too swell-headed by our ingenuity, I do want to add that it took us three years to come up with this project. Fast thinkers we are not, and we all humbly acknowledged that the blocks should have been added years ago.

Nevertheless, even though we are slow thinkers, the risers for the buffet illustrated how for some problems, especially for home improvements, the solutions can be rather simple. But first the problem must be defined. Then solutions can be considered.

Today, I called Shannon to see if she still liked using the buffet for counter space.

“I sure do!” she said. “And even though it makes the kitchen more narrow by the stove, the gain in workspace is more than worth it.”

Another good lesson. Sometimes compromises must be made, but if the overall results are better, then the project really is worth while.

Shannon will be hosting Thanksgiving this year, and the additional counter space will come in very handy. Now, on to those shelves that we have been talking about for the past couple of years.


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