AN AFFORDABLE KITCHEN ISLAND UPDATE

I recently shared my “limited” kitchen makeover so if you haven’t already seen that then go take a look. In that post, I briefly mentioned my kitchen island update and promised a post about it. I am delivering on my promise today. 

Let’s start by taking a look at what my kitchen island used to look like:

This is a common builder grade kitchen island. It’s a large stock base cabinet with a countertop stuck on top. Our kitchen cabinets are solid wood fronts, but the rest of the cabinet is made from laminate. So the sides and back of the cabinet are fake wood which looks really cheap. As soon as we moved into our house (over a decade ago), I hated how cheap the island looked and instantly hatched a plan to make it look better. But life and all of its busyness has kept me from doing anything about it until now.

Custom kitchen islands are very popular these days and for good reason. They are very functional and can create an attractive focal point in the room. But they can also be expensive. I certainly didn’t want to invest the money for a brand new island in my low-budget kitchen update. So instead I worked with what I had. 

I decided to add side walls to the island in order to make it look more like a piece of furniture. This would also completely cover both ends of the cheap laminate base cabinet and fill in the gap of the large overhang on my countertop. When we had our countertops replaced many years ago, they installed the island countertop in a weird way that left a large overhang on each end. 

The first thing I did was try to figure out exactly how wide I wanted to make the side walls on my island. They needed to be the right amount to fill in the extra overhang on the countertop, but also look proportionally correct with the overall size of the island. The overhang on each end of my countertop was about 7”. So I decided to make my side walls 5 1/2” wide which would ultimately result in a closer to normal overhang of 2”. The 5 1/2” size also looked proportionally right with the overall size of my island—it wasn’t too narrow and weak looking or too chunky and overwhelming looking.

Here’s a plan drawing of what I did to my island:

Now I know most people don’t have a large overhang on their island countertops like we do, but you could still get the same look even without that situation.

Here’s a plan drawing of what you could do to an island with a normal countertop overhang in order to get the same look:

If you are going to do this with a normal amount of countertop overhang then you will want to not only make sure you choose a side wall width that is proportional with the size of your overall island, but also make sure it isn’t so wide that it takes up too much leg room under the counter.

Now that I knew my wall size, I knew I’d need to use ripped down 2×6’s to frame the wall. I bought some 2×6’s and a sheet of 1/2” cabinet grade plywood. I used a table saw to rip the 2×6’s down to 2×4.5’s based on this simple math:

4 1/2” stud + (2) 1/2” plywood on each side = 5 1/2” wide wall

A SPECIAL FURNITURE PROJECT

I’ve recently started work on a couple different areas of our house and will be sharing posts about these various projects over the coming months. One of the rooms I’m working on is our guest bedroom which we want to move from a spare room upstairs to a spare room downstairs in order to create a first floor guest suite. I won’t be reusing anything from our current guest room so I am working on sourcing all new furniture and decor for the new bedroom. Fortunately, I have a set of inherited nightstands I can use, and they became my first project for this room.

About 5 years ago, I was at my parents’ house in their guest bedroom when the pair of nightstands they had in the room caught my eye. They were a mid-century modern style which is unusual because my parents didn’t own any other modern furniture. I asked my mom where they came from and she told me my grandfather made them many years ago. I immediately asked if she’d be willing to pass them down to me, and she said yes. I love mid-century modern furniture and the fact that my grandfather handmade these makes them very special to me.

My Grandpa Irv passed away 20 years ago. He was Swedish American and lived in Michigan, which was far away from where I grew up so I didn’t get to know him real well. But I knew him well enough to have great admiration for him. He was part of America’s Greatest Generation and fought in World War II surviving the horrible Battle of the Bulge despite being significantly injured. He was a kind-hearted hard working man who was always willing to help others and liked to joke around with his grandkids.

My grandfather was very creative and resourceful which meant that if my grandmother wanted some new furniture my Grandpa Irv would often make it for her from anything he had lying around his garage. His large detached garage was a complete woodworking shop, and I think he enjoyed working out there fixing up old things and creating unique pieces. These matching mid-century nightstands were just a couple examples of what he made decades ago, and thankfully, they ultimately got passed down to me.

This is how the nightstands looked when I got them

I had originally planned to use these in our master bedroom, but then I realized they won’t work in there because they are very small and we have a king size bed so proportionally they would look weird next to each other. But our guest bedroom is a much smaller room with a smaller bed so they would be perfect in that room.

While I love the shape of these pieces, the color and drawer handles looked very dated and don’t work well with the mid-century style (again, I bet my grandfather used stain and drawer handles he already had instead of buying anything new), so I knew these needed a quick makeover before I put them in our new guest bedroom.

I started by removing the backing from each nightstand. I guess my grandfather had chosen to use a cheap piece of fiberboard for the backing. I didn’t like the faux pattern painted on it and it couldn’t be stained to match the rest of the wood, so I knew I wanted to replace the backings with some plywood that I would be able to stain to match everything else.

With the backings removed, I got started sanding off all of the old stain. This process revealed more about my grandfather. I discovered that all of one nightstand and part of the other one appear to be made from a wood species that I can’t quite figure out. The rest of the one nightstand was made from pine. My guess is he ran out of the wood he was originally using and had to finish it up with some pine. My grandfather was not a trained furniture maker, and the way these were built wasn’t the way a high quality furniture maker would have built them. But I’m sure my grandfather didn’t care. He was using what he had—including his own creativity—to make what he could.

The sanded nightstands with the backings removed

MY FIREPLACE GETS A WHOLE NEW LOOK

Hi everyone! I know I’ve been MIA for a while, and I apologize for that. Earlier this year, I started a new job working at a local architecture firm. The firm does all kinds of work but mostly residential renovations and new construction. I really do love going to work each week, but it limits how much time I have to work on my own house. So I’m unable to post as often as I was, but I’m still here!!!

Today I’m going to share my most recent DIY project. I’ve started a complete makeover of our great room. This is a big project because I’m changing out pretty much everything in the room and it’s a decent size room. But the first thing I wanted to do was address my existing fireplace…

BEFORE

This is what it looked like before. It’s a standard, traditional wood mantle on a plain wall. This a common mantel style where we live. In fact, every home in our neighborhood has pretty much the exact same mantel. Boring! I wanted to change it to something more modern and interesting, something kind of like this:

source
source

Since we couldn’t afford to hire a contractor to completely change out the whole fireplace, I decided to figure out a way to DIY this project myself (with the help of my husband). I came up with a a very affordable and doable plan…

I started by completely removing the old fireplace mantel and the two baseboards that flanked it. I was happy to find there was nothing unexpected happening behind it.

With the old mantle off, it was now time to build the new fireplace wall. I drew everything out on the computer before I even started so I knew how it would all come together.

I kept the existing gas fireplace exactly as it was because I certainly wasn’t going to change that out or move it. I also decided to keep the existing stone fireplace surround because there is nothing wrong with it and I like the simple black look. Plus, keeping it the way it was simplifies the project and saves me some money.

But it did mean that before I framed out a new wall for the fireplace I needed to attach a few pieces of wood to the wall in order to create one level plane for the new wall I build to rest against.

The pink pieces are the 1×4 boards I will be adding to the wall.

I attached some 1x4s to the wall making sure to secure them into the existing studs.

Now the black stone around the fireplace sits flush with all of the 1x4s.

The next step was to basically build a new wall from 2x6s.

The orange pieces are the 2x6s I’ll be adding.

My husband and I built the new frame flat on the floor and then lifted it into place on the wall, securing it to the existing studs with screws.

The mantel will later be secured to the double 2x6s which are screwed into the wall studs.

MY FOYER/HALLWAY MAKEOVER: PHASE TWO

The work on my foyer/entry continues! If you missed my phase one reveal then go check it out first. Today I’m going to share phase two of this makeover…

I started off this phase by fixing an area of our foyer that wasn’t quite right. When we moved into our home I noticed that there is an area of molding underneath the main staircase that looks unfinished. Take a look:

I believe it was built this way, and it looks like the builder maybe ran out of materials and just threw on what he had left instead of buying what was needed to finish this correctly. Who knows?! But it was time for me to finally make this area look the way it was supposed to look to begin with.

I added two pieces of wood below the stringer and then continued the base cap molding all around the edges. I also installed new taller baseboards in this area. So now the whole area looks like this…

(this is after we painted the walls and before we painted the trim)

Looking better… it just needs to be painted which I’ll do later.

With that area fixed, I then continued with the baseboards. I installed new taller baseboards through the entire entry area and the upstairs hallway. Fortunately, the baseboards on both staircases were already 5 1/4” tall.

Next, it was time to get painting! My husband helped me prime and paint all the walls in the entry, upstairs hall and back staircase.

This is what it looked like before:

And after the paint:

I went with a basic white and I was surprised by how much brighter the rooms instantly felt after changing the paint color.

Painting all of the trim was the next step, but first I needed to do another project…

I wanted to do something with these decorative pieces on the end of each step on our main staircase in the foyer. These are officially called stair brackets. I am personally NOT a fan of these. I guess they are an added decorative feature, but in the area I live in these are nothing special. They are a standard builder grade element in the typical suburban house. I personally feel like this particular bracket design is very colonial looking and our home is not a pure colonial style. They just don’t fit! I’d prefer a very clean minimal look to these stairs.