Kitchen Progress: Butcher Block Shelf

Shortly after we moved in, I bought a used IKEA cart from a friend and that’s been our toaster and coffee station ever since.

Kitchen Cart Before 2.jpg

It did the job well and looked okay, but it was too narrow to balance out the width of the cabinet above it. I knew I’d want to replace it with something in a walnut finish after we had the cabinets painted white (more on that in a future post, and you can check out my saved Instagram Story.)

When I first started thinking about a replacement, I was focused on finding another multiple-shelf cart because that’s what we’ve had for so long. I do this sometimes: get focused on one option – thinking it’s THE solution – at the expense of considering other routes. Once I realized A) we have plenty of storage elsewhere and B) the trash and recycling would fit well here, everything clicked.

Before purchasing anything, I installed a test shelf using supplies I had on hand to make sure Jarrod and I liked this setup.

Trial Balloon Shelf.JPG

This trial balloon immediately made the kitchen flow so much better. Having the trashcans here makes the basement door much less crowded – it was fine for the most part before, but awkward/cramped when carrying things (e.g. laundry) downstairs.

Crowded Basement Door.JPG

By moving them, the door is more easily accessible and the trashcans are aligned with our work areas. It’s a straight, natural path to throw things away, as opposed to turning right around the counter.

I ordered these heavy-duty cast-iron brackets from House of Antique Hardware. I bought this butcher block countertop from Menard’s, which I cut to fit. While I love the look of the IKEA KARLBY countertop I used for our two-person desk, that surface is a thin veneer over particleboard. Jarrod has a major coffee catastrophe at least once a quarter (e.g. turning on the coffee maker without the carafe in place to receive the brewed coffee), so we need a solid wood surface that can take abuse and be refinished down the road.

Kitchen Butcher Block Shelf.jpg

I did sample swatches of two Varathane stain colors: American Walnut and Dark Walnut. American Walnut looked a little too country.

Varathane Stain - American Walnut.JPG

Dark Walnut looked a little too flat brown.

Varathane Stain - Dark Walnut.JPG

So, I ended up doing a 50/50 blend. I used Minwax’s Pre-Stain wood conditioner before applying the stain. This was my first time using Varathane stain and I really liked it – it’s less runny than Minwax stain and the pigmentation seemed richer.

Butcher Block Shelf Stain.JPG

I sealed the wood using four coats of Waterlox, following the steps Yellow Brick Home describes. Afterward, I drilled a hole for the appliance cords. (I knew that if I drilled the hole first, it would lead to a lot of messy drips.) I applied stain to the inside of the hole using a paper towel. In the end, you don’t even see it.

Cord Hole Drill.JPG

The dustbuster moved to the adjacent mudroom, the cat food station is now tucked next to the sink, and the cookware is in cabinets or the under-oven drawer (our previous range didn’t offer storage because the burner was in the bottom drawer).

Here’s what it looks like now:

Kitchen Butcher Block Shelf over Trashcans.jpg

I used this J-channel raceway to route the cords. It’s a little larger than other options, but I like that the design offers easy access to the cords – e.g. for removing the appliances when Jarrod has his quarterly coffee catastrophe. I painted it the same color as our walls (Irish Mist).

Kitchen Ledge with Small Appliances.jpg

The shelf height allows the can lids to open nearly entirely – at least 90%, which is totally sufficient for throwing stuff away. (The shelf is 36″ high, same as our counters – it just looks higher because of the camera perspective.) Ergonomically, the most important part of this placement is keeping the trashcans pulled toward the front of the shelf. If they’re pushed to the back, it’s less comfortable to use. Below, you can see how they align with the adjacent wall.

Kitchen Trashcans.jpg

There’s a secret trick: I installed a simple 5-inch deep ledge behind the trashcans to keep them in place and perfectly aligned. It also hides the cords and keeps them off of the ground.

Kitchen Appliance Cord Concealment.jpg

The ledge is hidden unless you’re crouched looking at it from this back angle, which is not where folks usually hang out.

Ledge Behind Trashcans.jpg

Shelf Over Kitchen Trashcans.jpg

The accent lamp adds some warmth to the space, especially in the evenings. The art is a vintage paint-by-numbers I found at an antique store in Normal, Illinois on our way to my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah. I’m still deciding on the frame – I think I like that it’s a little offbeat/ugly.

Kitchen Shelf Styling.jpg

The basket holds our reusable napkins, which I love. They’re smaller than the average cloth napkin, absorbent, and perfect for daily use. I bought our first batch in 2013; in 2017, I replaced them with a new batch and the old batch is now used as rags. Five stars, highly recommend!

Butcher Block Kitchen Shelf.jpg

I’m still wrapping up the final details on the rest of this makeover. I’ll be back with a couple more kitchen posts once I do!

Kitchen Progress: Faucet, Hardware, and Window Trim

I dove into my kitchen makeover this past month and knocked out three things that already have me liking the space a lot more: a new faucet, cabinet hardware, and window moulding.

Faucet

Our previous faucet had a leak that was getting progressively worse: the water would only shut off when the handle was turned to a precise 9 o’clock position. Also, the faucet head was low which – when combined with our rather shallow sink – meant dishwashing space was kinda cramped.

Black Faucet Before

To replace it, I bought this Delta Trinsic faucet in stainless steel. It’s really nice and was easy to install. The feature that sold me on this one is the MagnaTite pull-down head: it has magnets, so it connects really securely to the faucet neck and, because magnets are magic, that connection won’t weaken over time.

arctic-stainless-delta-pull-down-faucets-9159-ar-dst-64_1000

You’ll have to stick around until the end of this post for faucet After photos…

Hardware

As I mentioned in my Kitchen Decision Making post, I ordered Amerock’s Blackrock knobs and pulls. Five of the drawers already had pulls, so I was able to simply swap out those.

Kitchen Drawer Pull Replacement

The other nine drawers had these tiny pull tabs – you could only grab them with your pincer fingers. (Thanks to this guy’s blog post for addressing the pincher/pincer word choice issue for me.)

Drawer Tab Pulls

The pulls weren’t practical, especially on the giant drawers laden with heavy cookware. Thanks to Jarrod for hand modeling the pincer issue for me.

Pincer Fingers.GIF

I bought a hardware installation template set and neither worked for my needs. The pull template wasn’t wide enough and the knob template didn’t have a hole option that aligned with where I wanted to place the knobs. D’oh. So, I improvised.

To install the pulls, I removed the front from one of the drawers that originally had a pull and used that as a template for the other drawers. I aligned the tops, made sure it was centered, clamped them together, and drilled.

Drawer Pull Template

I kept it simple and used the same size pulls on all of the drawers. It’s narrow enough to not look ridiculous on the smaller drawers, and wide enough to not get lost on the bigger drawers. EZPZ.

For the knobs, I made a simple template using scrap wood.

Cabinet Knob Template

Window Trim

In addition to my miter saw and drill, I used three new tools for the first time on my window trim project, so I thought I’d round them up quickly here.

Table saw: I finally bought my first table saw this year. It’s the final frontier of saws for me. Despite regularly using several other power saws, a table saw has always seemed daunting. I purchased this Dewalt 745S – Home Depot offers this “Special Buy” that packages the DW745 with a stand, which is indeed a good deal. It sat unopened in our basement for weeks until I discovered Steve Ramsey on YouTube. I don’t usually like how-to videos (I prefer to read instructions) but this 7 Things To Get You Started Using a Table Saw video is great: it gave me the confidence I needed to safely use my new saw.

Kreg Jig: Confession: I’ve had a Kreg Jig kit since 2013 and have never used it until now. Again, I watched a Steve Ramsay video – Beginner’s Guide to Pocket Hole Joinery – and then used it to join the wood for my window stool.

Joined Window Stool

Brad nailer: Whenever I see bloggers installing trim, they’re usually using a pancake compressor and gun (like trim pros Yellow Brick Home), so I assumed I’d have to invest in that as well. But I discovered this Ryobi AirStrike, which uses the same battery system as my drill (which I love) and my string trimmer (which I hate). This brad nailer worked great on my window trim and it’s made me more excited (read: less full-of-dread) about replacing the rest of the first floor moulding.

Now that we’ve addressed the tools, here’s the order in which I tackled the window trim.

1. I did a dry-fit of all the component parts, cutting everything to size with my table saw and miter saw. One tool I don’t have is a router, but I wanted a rounded edge for my window sill. This Alexandria Moulding Stool—available by the foot in-store—did the trick. It’s not deep enough for my window well (our bungalow’s exterior walls are built with two layers of bricks!), so I attached another piece of wood cut to the appropriate depth as shown above.

This picture of me dry-fitting everything cracks me up because a) Where is my head? and b) Those shoes are hideous. Fleet Feet (a local shoe store) gives you sass if you express concern about aesthetics of athletic shoes instead of fit, which is how I ended up with these froggers.

Headless Horseman

2. Once I confirmed everything fit properly, it all went back to the basement for a first coat of paint.

Window Trim Painting

2. Then it was time to install for real. The window stool went in first; it’s nailed and glued in place.

Window Stool Installation

2. The side trim pieces (AKA casing) went up next. It’s simple moulding from Home Depot.

Window Trim Side Casing

3. For the header (AKA architrave), I used this Interior Primed MDF Window and Door Casing (Model #538A-MDF8) from Lowe’s. It’s all one piece, making it easier to install – I just needed to cut the return pieces. (See this post from Ana White for more details.)

Window Trim Header

4. I used a piece of cove moulding as a simple apron below the stool. I wanted something under the sill to make the window look more finished, but it couldn’t be very wide because it would further accentuate the slight slant of the counter backsplash. My trim is perfectly level and square, but everything around it isn’t!

Window Trim Cove Moulding

I cut the cove moulding at an outward angle to make the ends look more polished.

Kitchen Window Apron

5.  The window well is more rhombus than square, so I used backer rod and caulk to fill in the unavoidable gaps on the sides of the stool.

Window Sill Backer Rod

Note: ideally the stool would be flush with the bottom of the window, but that wasn’t an option here. You only notice that it’s raised when you’re looking at it from this angle, and why are you looking at it from this angle?

Window Sill Installation

Here’s everything all caulked, patched, and painted, along with the new faucet and hardware:

Kitchen Window Trim After

Just like with my remodeled bathroom window trim, now this window looks like a feature of the room – not an afterthought.

Kitchen Window Before

Kitchen Window Trim

So glad to get rid of those stainless bar pulls. And I don’t have to worry about patching the holes they left behind because the cabinet painter will do it: yessss.

Up next: floor refinishing, then appliance delivery, then cabinet paint. (And art, and lighting, and more!)

Kitchen Decision Making

I am planning a make-it-work makeover of our kitchen. As a reminder, it looked like this when we bought the house:

downstairs18

And it looks like this now (“now” = when it’s spotless and I’ve cleared all the crap off the counter):

Current Kitchen

Why not a full remodel?

If I were to totally renovate this kitchen, it would lead to gutting the entire space: tearing up the floor, pulling down the ceiling, moving gas and plumbing lines, etc.

I think renovation money should be spent on major pain points (either structural or emotional), and this kitchen isn’t one for us. I’m sure there’s some ideal layout that would maximize the space and make us marginally happier, but eh. We’re not Dream Kitchen people. We’re Trader Joe’s Orange Chicken Kitchen people.

Also, I need to be mindful of not putting too much money into this house. (See this post from Room for Tuesday for some good thoughts on home renovation and property value.) If Jarrod and I are still here in 15 years (“here” = in this house or, you know, on this planet in a functioning society) and our property value has appreciated significantly, then we can reevaluate.

So, just like I did with my half-bath renovation, here’s a round-up of the decisions I’m making.

Floors – Proceeding with Cautious Optimism

The previous owner installed Brazilian cherry in the kitchen, seemingly on top of the existing floor. No idea why they did this. During our home inspection, our inspector joked “You’re not allowed to ask why,” which is advice I’ve tried to bear in mind whenever reckoning with the previous owner’s decisions.

Cherry Floor.jpg

The floor is super red, clashing with the general aesthetic of the rest of the house. The internet gives me hope that sanding it down and applying dark stain will help kill the red (e.g. see this Houzz thread). It won’t match the oak, and it won’t be my ideal floor color, but it will be better than the red. Fingers crossed.

Cabinets – 100% Decided

They’ll get painted white by a professional. Painted because they’re otherwise fine – nice even, for the most part. White because I love white kitchens. A professional because I hate painting and I’m a perfectionist, which is a fatal combo when it comes to a job like this.

I’m hiring someone who specializes in cabinetry and has impeccable reviews. They spray the cabinets, so it looks (and lasts) like a factory finish. I’ll document this process when it happens, but here’s an example of their prep work:

CabinetPrep.jpg

Just thinking about doing that prep work makes me want to cry, so it is worth giving them a big chunk of my annual bonus to do it for me.

Hardware – Already Here!

I went with Amerock’s Blackrock line, which is what I’ve used elsewhere in the house (e.g. our entryway closet). It’s high quality metal, substantial, and affordable. $5/each for the pulls and $2/each for the knobs. Done.

amerock-blackrock-hardware.jpg

Brass would have been a nice contrast to the black counters, but I didn’t find any I loved enough to justify the significant increase in cost over the Blackrock. I’ve decided to bring brass in elsewhere in the kitchen, like the lighting.

Lighting – Working on It

There are several recessed lights in the ceiling. Their placement was determined by no perceptible rhyme or reason – they’re nominally over the island and sink, but not centered. (See previous “Don’t ask why” mantra.) They were worse when we bought the house:

Ceiling Before

I replaced the eyeballs with new LED fixtures and they’re okay now.

Ceiling After

I am considering a pair of hanging pendants over the island, but that would require moving electrical and I’m not sure I want the visual clutter. Though I am swayed by how much I like these Pottery Barn Milk Glass Pendants

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I’ll probably just replace the existing fixture with a new flush or semi-flush light. This submarine-porthole-looking fixture arrived today, but I’m thinking it may be too low-profile.

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Good thing about lighting decision making is that there’s no shortage of options!

Decoration – Temporary Insanity

With nearly everything else being black or white, I’ll add some color and warmth with decor. I’ve picked out a new rug, have a plan for art, moulding, and shelving, and am shopping for a new clock. Last week I texted Jarrod: “Kitchen brainflash: CUCKOO CLOCK.”

Clock.jpg

I was really excited about this modern one until we watched the YouTube chimes video – does that clock chime 20 times for 7pm?! PASS.

Appliances – Feedback Welcome

I prefer appliances to blend in as much as possible, so I definitely want a white dishwasher and fridge. I’ve already picked those out.

white-appliances.jpg

The oven is where I’m unsure. We need a slide-in gas range with the control area on the front. There are very few options out there. Based on cost and our specs, I’m leaning toward this model. But should it be white or black? White would match the painted cabinets; black would match the counter.

Range Options.jpg

I’m leaning toward white because matching appliances seems like the obvious answer – and I vastly prefer the white one – but I’m worried about the stark contrast between the countertop and the range top.

Here’s the existing range:

Black Range.jpg

Here’s a very crudely done Photoshop job to help(?) show the range top with adjacent white cabinets and dishwasher (don’t worry, my cabinet pulls aren’t Duplo-sized like that):

Range in Island White Cabinets.png

So, imagine that but way, way better. Do you think a white range top would be an abomination?

Update: Thanks for the feedback so far! To clarify: the reason I would replace the existing range even if it’s with a different black range is because I hate the existing one. I want grates that cover the entire range top so you can slide pans around, and I want a broiler that it’s in the oven, not in the bottom drawer. Also, this oven’s temperature is 25 to 50 degrees off – I know that’s something I could fix if I liked the oven, but I don’t.

2018 House Goals

No preamble; let’s do this! Here are 3 big things I want to get done in 2018.

1. Fix Up the Staircase

You’ve seen this central staircase in previous posts (e.g. our half bathroom). What you haven’t seen in great detail is what poor shape it’s in! The balusters have 100 years of paint glommed onto them. The risers are beat up and the treads are poorly stained. The cove moulding is half stained / half painted – maybe there used to be a runner rug?

StairsBefore.jpg

If you follow me on Instagram, you already know that I’ve started working on this project. (I have process shots pinned to my Instagram Stories, if you’re interested.) This staircase will be a very slow slog, but what else am I going to do with my free time? Relax? Pshaw.

Cat on Stairs.jpg

That’s Doozy doing his Lucille Bluth wink.

2. Install New Moulding

Friends: I struggle with the spelling of “moulding” vs. “molding.” I prefer the former. The latter looks like a verb, but it seems like it’s more commonly used online.

Anyway, I am sticking with moulding-with-a-u, and this is the year it will happen. I want to replace the existing trim on our front door, back door, passageways, etc. I bought a brad nailer (this Ryobi AirStrike) and am figuring out my plan of attack. This photo is from today, when I was experimenting with options. (That architrave would be cut shorter, obviously.)

Moulding Mock Up.jpg

This style and scale looks much better and more appropriate for the house than the moulding you see behind it, on the doorway leading to the kitchen, which leads me to my final to-do…

3. Makeover the Kitchen

I had initially thought I would fully renovate this kitchen, which is what I mentioned in this kitchen progress blog post. Having lived with the kitchen for over two years, however, I’ve come to realize it’s not a priority for me.

Current Kitchen.jpg

Knowing me and my particular tastes, a full remodel would easily cost over $25,000 (and that’s being conservative). This kitchen isn’t a $25k+ problem I want or need to solve. The layout works well for us, the cabinets are fine, and I love the huge island. So, I plan to do a make-it-work makeover: professionally painted cabinets, new hardware, new appliances, better decoration, etc.

So, those are the big 3! There will surely be other projects along the way – including some leftovers from my 2017 list [shame] – I’ll do my best to keep the blog posts coming!

P.S. Shoutout to Megan from Roots Pizza – thank you for introducing yourself and for reading!

Kitchen Progress and Plans

I can’t believe it’s already been half a year since we moved into our house. Sorry I didn’t do a great job of keeping you all up to date on changes as they happened over the past six months! So, I thought I would do a shot-for-shot juxtaposition of the first floor tour I posted in August, filling you in on what has happened in the interim.

We’ll start in the kitchen. These photos haven’t been staged (not that I’m good at that if I had even tried): I just want to show you what I’ve done and tell you what I plan to do.

Before:

downstairs20

Now:

Dining Room.JPG

What’s been done:

  • The entire house was painted using the same color of just-barely-not-white that I used at our last apartment: Irish Mist by Behr. I may eventually paint rooms different colors, but I wanted a clean canvas for move-in and this was an easy choice.
  • The oak floors were in decent shape and I love the mid-tone brown color, so a full refinishing job wasn’t necessary. We had them buffed and recoated (also called “screened and recoated”): it’s a light sanding followed by a new coat of satin poly.
  • Replaced all of the kitchen lights with recessed LED lights.
  • Installed a pet door so that the cats can go on the enclosed back porch, where the litter box is located.
  • Hung temporary pleated shades (SCHOTTIS from IKEA).

Before:

downstairs19

Now:

Kitchen Dining Room.JPG

Our move-in goal was for everything to be clean, safe, and functional. With that achieved, I now plan to take my time decorating.

Before:

downstairs17

Now:

Kitchen Cart.JPG

The kitchen lights looked like chaotic eyeballs. The new flush recessed lights are much less crazy. I also scrubbed and spray painted the fan vent so that it blends in better. Yes, they installed a bathroom exhaust fan in the kitchen. SMH.

Before:

Ceiling Before.JPG

Now:

Ceiling After.JPG

Before:

downstairs18

Now:

Kitchen.JPG

Before:

downstairs16

Now:

Kitchen Island.JPG

I have no idea why the previous owner installed Brazilian cherry in the kitchen. It seems as though they layered it over the original oak. But that’s not weirdest thing about the kitchen. See how the ceiling dips down in the corners? That’s not an optical illusion. That’s not a structural flaw. That’s a design choice. The ceiling is a full several inches higher in the center of the room, and bows down evenly toward the north and south walls. My friend Carolyn joked “Well, the Concave Movement started in the early 1800s. It was an aesthetic designed to confuse and delight.”

Confuse and delight!

So weird! But less noticeable now that the walls are white. We’ll probably live with it forever, unless it impedes future kitchen renovation plans.

What I plan to do, short term (within a year or so):

  • Buy a new rug, table, and possibly chairs. The table is shot, and I’d prefer black chairs that are sturdier. The existing chairs still look good but are rickety for everyday use.
  • Buy a credenza or cabinet of some sort
  • Install window shades
  • Install a new light fixture
  • Hang art and add plants
  • Paint the wainscoting around the dining room (it’s currently the same color as the walls). I’ll probably do pure white – black or some other color would be interesting, but I’m afraid it would look too chopped up by the window and door.
  • Replace the back door with a glass door, so that we get more light and can see into our backyard.

What I plan to do, long term (five years from now, maybe?):

  • Full kitchen remodel: the existing kitchen is totally fine, so there’s no hurry to renovate, but we’ll eventually replace all of the cabinets and appliances.
  • Add a window to the east wall (so that we get more light and can see into our backyard, as with the glass door)
  • Replace the large window next to the dining table: the existing windows are vinyl and the style isn’t appropriate for the house. We’ll do Craftsman casement windows (something like these). The trim around the window will also be replaced with Craftsman style trim.

That’s enough for now!