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!

Customizing an IKEA SILVERAN Bathroom Vanity

This post details how I customized an IKEA SILVERĂ…N vanity for our newly-remodeled half-bathroom. Because this powder room is in a visible spot on our first floor, I wanted a vanity that looked like a piece of furniture we’d have elsewhere in the house.

Powder Room.jpg

As I mentioned in my Bathroom Decision Making post, I was unable to find an off-the-shelf vanity that fit both my taste and the small space. I got quotes from a variety of places for a simple custom vanity, all of which came in around $1k (for the cabinet only – sink not included). I didn’t want to spend that kind of money on such a small piece and decided to take my chances on an IKEA hack.

SILVERAN Cabinet

There are two IKEA SILVERĂ…N cabinet finishes: white and light brown. The white one is made up of particleboard and plastic. It’s $20 less expensive, but it feels and looks even cheaper. The light brown one is solid pine. I chose this one because it felt sturdier and would be easier to customize. I bought it when IKEA had a 20% off sale on bathroom products, which made it $88. Cheap! And, I reused the existing sink. Free!

To start, I cut the vanity’s depth down to size to fit our 14″ sink. The 9″ SILVERAN was too shallow, so I bought the 15″ version and cut a couple of inches off the side panels. I won’t go into detail on this because I can’t imagine anyone would find it interesting.

Painting the vanity was straightforward: I sanded the wood to rough up the lacquer, then primed and painted. I used Benjamin Moore’s Mopboard Black; it’s part of their Williamsburg Collection, which also includes the Gunsmith Gray color I used on our house’s exterior. I like curated color collections like this – helps me from getting overwhelmed by options.

Primer on IKEA Vanity.JPG

I wanted legs that tapered on two sides, and Google led me to Osborne Wood Products. I ordered the 5″ tapered feet. I chose the red oak option because it’s a hard wood and I figured it would stand up better to dings than some of the cheaper options would. (Did you know there’s a scale called the Janka hardness test?) Osborne offers a lot of nice furniture feet options – way more than you’ll find at a local hardware store.
Tapered Foot.jpg

The feet were a little chunkier than my mental ideal, so I shaved an inch off both flat sides with my miter saw. Craziness like this is why Jarrod calls me “Particular Palermo.” I assembled the painted frame per the IKEA instructions, and then used both glue and screws to secure the feet to the vanity.

I started by drilling pilot holes into the bottom of the vanity, safely on either side of the cam bolt (but not so wide that there was a risk of the screws coming through the taped side of the leg). Anyone who has assembled IKEA furniture knows this bolt + metal dowel combo is what makes the furniture sturdy, so I didn’t want to mess with that.

Drilled Holes.JPG

On the other side of the vanity base, I used a countersink bit in the pilot hole so the screws would be flush with the wood.

Drill Sink Bit.JPG

I used Liquid Nails construction glue and clamps to hold the legs in place.

Attaching Legs to an IKEA Vanity.JPG

After the glue dried, I drilled in my screws and then painted the legs.

Attaching Legs to an IKEA Vanity 2.JPG

I installed adjustable feet in the legs using these threaded furniture glides.

Vanity Leg Feet.JPG

The vanity is fully wall-mounted, so the legs are mostly just for show, but they do offer secondary support. I can easily twist the adjustable feet to raise/lower them, which lets me slide the rug under!

IMG_7190.JPG

The screws are barely noticeable when the doors are open. The vanity came with a shelf which I didn’t use because the plumbing didn’t leave enough room for it. This isn’t a problem, however, because there’s plenty of space for the few things I want to keep in there.

IKEA SILVERAN vanity open.jpg

I added Tolson cabinet knobs from Rejuvenation.

IKEA SILVERAN vanity.jpg

I didn’t have to wrestle with IKEA plumbing because I used the existing sink and a new MOEN faucet. If you need tips for installing IKEA plumbing, see my previous post: How I Installed an IKEA Bathroom Vanity.

IKEA SILVERAN bathroom vanity.jpg

Bathroom Sink.jpg

And that’s it! A pretty easy hack for a very pretty vanity.

IKEA SILVERAN vanity hack.jpg

Previous posts

2016: The Year of the Exterior

This past year, most of our money was poured (and painted and planted) into our home’s yard and exterior. The other projects you’ve seen here (e.g. bathroom, bedroom, and desk) were smaller-scale improvements I tackled myself. Our big ticket projects involved plenty of our own labor, yes, but also a lot of contractors and a lot of dough.

This is where we started:

House Front.jpg

Our house’s exterior isn’t necessarily the most pressing issue on our property, but it’s what I chose to prioritize for 2016 for three primary reasons:

#1. It’s an investment in our neighborhood, which I hope will continue to grow and improve. There are several nice properties on our street, but there are also a lot of homes in need of major repair. Should any of those houses go on the market, I want potential buyers to see that there are neighbors putting money and care into their home.

#2. Tackling the landscaping early on in our home ownership will pay off in the years to come as the plants mature. We plan to stay in this house for a long time, so we’re playing the long game.

#3. In the short term, there were major wins that we could benefit from immediately: most notably, a new fence and patio.

I’m going to break up this into several posts, because a lot has changed and I haven’t covered any of it on this blog yet! I’ll start with what we tackled immediately after buying the house: the garage.

garage-fence-back

For reasons unknown, the previous owner blocked the garage with:

1) A chainlink fence
2) A wood fence
3) Several solid steel posts planted in the asphalt

Those aren’t multiple choice options: he actually used three types of barricades. We wanted to park our car in the garage – crazy, I know – so all that had to go.

We started by cutting out the overgrown alley jungle.

Garage Fence Front.jpg

Then we took out as much of the fence as we were able.

GarageFence.jpg

That left us with the steel posts. I bought a $30 angle grinder, psyched myself up, and went out to do battle. Coincidentally, there was a contractor 20 feet away, working on a neighboring building’s metal parking fence. He watched me work for a bit (barely making a dent in the post), and then he shouted “I’ve got something that would probably do that job better.” I walked over and he threw open the back of his van, which was FULL of metal-cutting equipment. (Note: If I get abducted, it’ll be because a man led me to his van with the promise of tools.)

We talked about the options for a couple of minutes, and then I had a stroke of brilliance: I asked “Are you free when you’re finished with this job?” He was. I offered $50, which he happily accepted. He thought he’d be able to cut them out pretty quickly.

Metal Cutting.jpg

He worked on them for over an hour, returning to his van repeatedly to get progressively larger and more terrifying saws. My piddly angle grinder never stood a chance.

SawGif.GIF

Moving along: the garage was full of crap left behind by the previous owners.

Garage Before 4.JPG

The only upside was that I inherited a lot of a nice scrap wood, with which and for which I built a corral in the back corner.

Wood Corral Building.jpg

Wood Corral.JPG

Before:
Garage Before 5.jpg

After:
Garage After Kayak.jpg

(Our second car is a Wavewalk kayak that my stepfather handed down. Jarrod wheels it from our garage, down the sidewalk, to the nearby river.)

Before:
Garage Before 6.jpg

After:
Garage After Tool Wall.jpg

Everything feels more organized when it’s up off the floor, but there’s no need for for fancy garage organizers. I drill holes through the handles of things, run twine through them, and hang them up. Voila!

Handle Hanging String.jpg

Handle Hanging.jpg

Finally, the biggest expense was a new garage door and opener – the previous door was rotted and there was no motorized lift. We paid $1k, including installation, from Roberts Garage Door. Great reviews on Angie’s List, very cost-competitive, and really nice to work with.

Before:
Garage Door Before.JPG

garage-alley-before

After:garage-door-after

I mean, it’s a Chicago alley in the dead of winter, so let’s not get too excited, but it’s still a big improvement. And, you see a sneak peak of two upcoming posts: exterior painting and cedar fence installation.

Bathroom Closet Before & After

Just a quick post about improvements I made to our bathroom closet. First off: bathroom closet! I’ve never had one before, and it’s crazy nice. There’s a ton of room. But when we moved in, there was only one long shelf in there.

Bathroom Closet Shelf Before 2.JPG

It wasn’t an efficient use of the space at all.

Bathroom Closet Shelf Before

I put everything out on a towel while I was working and Doozy made himself comfortable. Cat logic: “If I fits, I sits.”

Bathroom Mess Nest

The first thing I tackled was the floor. It was splattered with paint, and had an overall gritty texture that never felt clean even when it was. The perimeter of the floor had been covered and then exposed at some point, so it looked unnecessarily shitty. Sanding it to the point of perfection would have required a belt sander. Given that it’s a closet floor, I didn’t need perfection — I just wanted it to feel clean. So, I sanded a bit, followed by a quick coat of stain and poly. I also added some trim using wood I had on hand, to cover up the gaps around the perimeter.

Before:

Bathroom Closet Floor Before

After:

Bathroom Closet Floor After

Before:

Bathroom Closet Floor Before 3

After:

Bathroom Closet Floor After 2

Before:

Bathroom Closet Floor Before 2

After:

Bathroom Closet Floor After 4

Next up was shelving. We had an IKEA Billy bookcase from two apartments ago that I kept in our basement at our last apartment. I thought about selling it several times, but I decided not to because I knew it might come in handy wherever we lived next. It’s a perfect fit here!

Bathroom Closet Shelves 2

Next to it I added shelves using brackets left in the house and two cheap Rubbermaid laminate boards from The Home Depot. I cut them to fit using my mitre saw. They look the same, but they’re actually slightly different lengths because this closet’s angles are not at all square. When you want a perfectly tight fit, be sure to measure for each shelf, and error on the side of cutting too long – you can always shave off if needed!

Bathroom Closet Shelves

I like to use paint pens for making dark screws less conspicuous.

Painters Pen

The closet had a light fixture that looked kinda cool, but it was rusted and used antiquated bulbs.

Bathroom Closet Light Before

I was very excited to replace this light fixture with a $3 porcelain lamp holder. This created a perfectly-placed outlet so that we now have a place to plug in our radio (AM NPR FTW) and charge toothbrushes, razors, etc.

I think these lamp holders are a great way to add outlets for low-voltage use. If you’re not comfortable with replacing a light fixture (or if you’re not allowed to as a renter), an even easier alternative is to use a screw-in socket adapter.

Bathroom Closet Charging Station

The drill piece kit I mentioned in this post included attachments for cutting holes – they’re awesome. I had previously hacked through things with a cheap keyhole saw and this is so much easier.

Drill for Cutting Holes

The closet door awkwardly abutted the bathroom door, so I removed it. I plan to hang up a simple curtain instead. I used slivers of wood and spackling paste to fill in the door frame gaps where the closet door hinges used to be.

Bathroom Closet Hinge

After:

Bathroom Closet Hinge After.JPG

That’s it! Now we have a clean floor, a charging station, and plenty of room to spare.

Bathroom Closet Storage After.JPG

The basket holds cleaning supplies, which is really nice to have upstairs.

Bathroom Closet Shelves 3.JPG

Toilet necessities tucked into the back corner, and a hook rail because Jarrod always hangs out his clothes the night before work like a crazy person. On Friday, he hangs out his clothes for Monday: crazy person!

Bathroom Closet After.JPG

Before:

Bathroom Closet Before

After:

Bathroom Closet After 2.JPG

I’m waiting for the closet curtain to come back from the tailor and then this bathroom will be finished – photos to come!

Bottles in Boots, Y’all

Unintended two-months-plus hiatus!  Sorry about that. Let’s ease back into blogging with a very quick post:

Bottles in boots, y’all.

(In my head, that’s said like James Franco in Spring Breakers, or Tami “Rayna James” Taylor.)

Combine two of your favorite things by dropping empty wine bottles into your tall boots: the circumference keeps their shape and the weight keeps them upright.

BootBottle

Buy a variety of wine in pairs – different girths work better for different shafts.  (Lord knows  those keywords aren’t going to help my “Very poor” child safety rating on Web of Trust – which, BTW, WTF?).

In conclusion: Cocobon is my favorite Trader Joe’s wine.  Tastes good, inexpensive, nice label and, most importantly, a not-embarrassing name – here’s looking at you, MĂ©nage Ă  Trois (and eat it, Web of Trust).