When we first moved into our townhouse, we were “blessed” with what can only be described as the king of all bland kitchens. White washed cabinets, tan walls, white appliances – Nothing really matched its beige-family neighbor, and to say it clashed would be a gross understatement. I can’t believe I’m even sharing this poorly lit, awful, disgusting “Before” photo. Prepare to be shocked…
Thankfully, we have moved FAR beyond that initial untouched state by refinishing the cabinets, painting the backsplash a cool mint color and just generally clearing clutter and getting organized. But there was one last thing we hoped to work on…The island countertop.
While it wasn’t in our budget to completely replace the old formica countertops, we decided to invest some time and money into just the island counter. Our hope was that, by turning it into a focal point with a brand new custom oak surface, it would distract the eye from the rest of the less-than-ideal finishes.
The other goal in replacing the countertop on the island was to transform it into a breakfast bar as well. An extra 9 inches off the back end would give us a much better place to enjoy meals and evening conversations. Our old situation (of leaning too far forward with buckled knees) is demonstrated nicely by this cute fella.
Who ya gonna call when you need wood working help? My dad, of course! He’s one talented guy when it comes to wood projects, having built about half the pieces in my parents’ home, and a good bit in ours as well. We’re talking entertainment centers, buffets, benches, slim entry tables, drafting tables, desks, mirrors, shelves, gates, decks, fences, coffee tables, frames, a shed, boxes, birdfeeders – You name it and he’s probably built it. I am indescribably fortunate to have access to such talent, and so is our home, as you’ll see very shortly.
But this particular story begins at Wall Lumber Co. in Mayodan, North Carolina. I had just quit my job and was feeling SUPER low about life, so my dad offered to take me with him on his trip to pick up lumber for my island project and a few others. It turned out to be just what the doctor ordered.
This place was SO neat. Every type of wood that you can think of, from oak to maple, to zebra and ambrosia. The huge warehouse was stacked floor to ceiling with massive, raw slabs, the natural bark still peaking from the edges, and others perfectly shaped with the grain looking like some kind of intentionally designed pattern.
That last one is called ambrosia wood, named for the beetles that burrow their way into the wood, creating those tiny pin-prick holes and ghost-like patterns in the grain. Alas, we weren’t there for ambrosia – We needed oak, and lots of it. All told, the wood cost somewhere in the range of $150-$175.
Now, for once, I’m not able to give you a play-by-play in terms of a tutorial. There was a lot of sanding, gluing, clamping, joining, more sanding, lots of stain and polyurethane, but ultimately, all of that work left us with an absolutely stunning show stopper in our kitchen.
That mirror-like finish gets me every time I walk into the room…Oh, and if you’re worried about workability being that it’s located in the kitchen, don’t. It took me a couple of days not to shy away from putting so much as a glass of water on that beautiful perfect surface, but dad ASSURES us that the amount of sealant on top makes it perfectly suited to food and water. If anything happens to get spilled, we just wipe it up with a rag as we would any other precious surface. So far, we aren’t seeing any wear and tear from everyday use.
Besides the shiny surface and the added functionality of the newly widened square footage, my absolute favorite thing is the grain. It is truly one-of-a-kind and our own piece of art. I could get lost in all of that striped pattern – Couldn’t you?
We couldn’t possibly be happier and don’t miss the old countertop one bit, as I’m sure you can imagine (and probably relate).
Isn’t my dad the coolest?