An Island of Humanity

After we determined that we would be creating a center island, it was time to scope out what type of island we wanted. I had searched online for pre-built models, but something the relative size we were wanting we were looking at over $1,500+ and I thought there must be a better option. Plus, nothing really had all of the features I wanted. We had talked about adding a sink in the center island, and most just didn't have the potential.

I found just what I was looking for at the Habitat for Humanity Restore in Moorhead. I came across this beauty and decided it was worth a shot. I was able to get it one sale for $112. After pricing out the hardware for the slides alone, I decided it was worth the risk. A custom built cabinet, it was very sturdy and the drawer to the right has a tip out front on it to accommodate a prep sink. It took 4 college students to get it loaded in the back of the pickup and I was on my way!

While I wasn't a fan of the 1980s round white knobs, the bead board on the doors, was a nice fit considering we had just added bead board to our other doors.

While I had been looking at other cabinets I really liked the idea of an island contrasting in color to the white cabinets that are in the rest of the room. It would break up the white a bit, and wanting the countertop to have an overhang to sit at, a bit darker color might disguise shoe scuffs and the like.

While it didn't have a top, I knew we would be able to find something to work, perhaps stone, or concrete, or laminate.

The cabinets proved to be the right size for the space, but we were busy working on the cabinets, painting, re-working the doors and painting and the like, so it would spend the next week or so sitting in the center of the room, covered with rosin paper, plastic and whatever tools, primer or paints we were currently working with.

We added bead board to the ends and back side of the island and stained to match the front. It was really finally coming together.

We started talking a bit about the size of the countertop we wanted, when I remembered that we had a piece of one inch thick wheatboard that we had once cut with thoughts on making it into a mantle for a fireplace in the basement that never transpired. It had been assigned to live for the past year or two in the white shed on the farm. I sent Tom in search of it, thinking, if nothing else it would give us a bit better flat surface to use while we continued the journey.

So we placed it on the cabinets and decided that it would remain there until the rest of the cabinets were finished. This would give us enough time to get a sense the amount of room that we wanted on either side, or on the ends. Not wanting to commit to a pricey piece of stone until we really knew the optimal size.

While I was waiting for a coat of paint to dry, I had an idea.....do you suppose you could stain wheatboard? There was only one way to find out, so I grabbed some stain and got started.

It soaked up the stain really well, and I really liked the texture, so I continued until I had the color that matched the base cabinets. I followed with several coats of polyurethane to seal it up. I was pleasantly surprised with the overall look, and decided that we would keep it a bit longer than we had initially thought. Perhaps permanently.

Life is full of little surprises. While it had some scratches, dings and dents, the look was really growing on me, imperfections and all.

Next up....Let there be Light!



The Flip Side

While we had an overall basic plan for the kitchen reconfiguration we had been really focused on the actual cabinets themselves. If the trim adding/painting wasn't going to work, we would have to scrap that and look at new cabinets. We knew that the new configuration was going to have the stove on the opposite wall and that we were removing the small 6 inch stub of a cabinet that came off of the 10 foot run of cabinets toward the stove. The removing of the stub cabinet was as much of a financial strategy than anything cosmetic. It also required us to use that full 24 inches in depth which would shorten the potential for an island.

When you start looking at counter top, the easiest way to increase the price of your purchase...add a corner. Straight runs of counter top are simply less expensive and I don't like the corner seam. This little 6-inch dilapidated pan cabinet and pot holder drawer was going to cost us far more that it was worth and it was time to go. We had anticipated that prior to refinishing the floor and had removed it so that the floor under that space was all ready finished.

I had made a plan for a center work island, which I will highlight later, but what we knew we needed on the wall opposite the existing cabinets was simple....the Refrigerator and Dishwasher (which were currently recessed into the wall) and the stove, plus some sort of small cabinet maybe 18 inches wide. We now needed to solidify that plan and get working on pulling that side of the room together. Because the three appliances were side by side, securely supporting the counter top over the dishwasher was a concern. We chose to add a small space between the dishwasher and stove to allow for a support.

Throughout the planning process I consulted friends who work with kitchen design, online resources and did a bit of reading on Feng Shui, plus just a little common sense thrown in for good measure. When entertaining, the area in front of the stove/sink became a big bottleneck. That is where last minute food preparations were taking place, but it was also the main traffic flow from the entry to the dining and living rooms. I wanted to shift that prep traffic to the opposite side of the room. If we had needed to replace the cabinets, I would have moved the sink to the island, but things seemed to be progressing fine, and not wanting to tackle plumbing at this point, it was going to stay put. We could always add a prep sink in the island down the road if necessary.

One of the biggest issues we had with our existing current design was lack of counter space. Years ago, my grandmother had opted for a glass-top stove out of sheer need to extend the counter space. For as long as I remember at celebrations, a board would be brought out to cover the sink and allow for a more steady run for setting up the food buffet, we followed suit when replacing the stove. We had purchased a pub height table which seated 8 to give us a bit more surface area to work with, but it still wasn't the same as having counter space. The new plan more than doubled the counter space, something I know my grandmother would have thoroughly enjoyed over the course of the thousands of loaves of bread, buns, cookies, cakes and some pretty spectacular divinity.

I had reconfigured that side of the room at least 100 times. My name is Brenda, and I am a spatial relations freak, and I never stop thinking about how to more efficiently arrange things, there I said it, is there a support group for that? Not that it was a secret to my dear husband or anyone who has ever shared office space with me.

Trying to utilize the space that the fridge and dishwasher were currently occupying, was killing me. In the end, what made the most sense was to pull them out from the wall, and utilize the top of the dishwasher for counter top and adding a 18 inch stack of drawers we purchased at Lowes. The refrigerator posed a bit more of a problem, we currently had a 30" model. In the process of pricing out new appliances it became obvious that the size of refrigerators is growing and I wanted to make sure we made accommodations for a larger one should we need to replace ours in the near future. We built out a frame so that trim boards could easily be removed to make space for a larger appliance. For now though, I was able to continue to recess a portion of the refrigerator into the wall allowing it to magically appear counter depth.

The upper cabinets, posed a bit more of a problem. We actually had a fair amount of space in our existing cabinets, and I really like having a bit more space above my stove, plus I didn't want to try to match what was already there. After some searching on Pinterest and across the web, I decided I wanted more of a mantle on that side than traditional upper cabinets. I needed some storage for spices and other items, but wanted more of a display area for artwork. I still wasn't sure of the height or size, but had determined that traditional upper cabinets weren't happening.

Here is my horribly Photoshopped, perspectively skewed mockup. Over the course of the remodel, my husband was blessed with a number of these lovelies.

We now had a straight run of cabinets on one side of the room with the sink. And the fridge, dishwasher and stove on the other side. Perhaps not the perfect triangle workspace, but a vast improvement over the previous configuration.

After exploring a lot of back splash options and having nothing really resonated, we chose to add bead board to the back splash area and from counter top to the ceiling above the stove wall. The selection of back splash is quite overwhelming, so many ways to go. During a refinance, I had talked a bit to the appraiser about what we had hoped to do. She had some sage advice which was echoed by several friends....Let it be what it is, a near century old farmhouse kitchen. Adding fancy tiles or stone just didn't seem right. As I had always liked the bead board look, we chose that as our back splash material as well. Hesitant that the groves might proof difficult to clean, we decided it was the best choice, time will tell.

Trying to find a way to tie both sides of the room together, we decided to add bead board wainscoting to the other two walls to tie-in the cabinet door insets and the rest of the room. Remember that I now still have 4 doorways in the kitchen which really break up the visual flow of the room, I was hoping this would help to aid in that visual continuity.

Throughout the process I had been emailing photos of the progress to my father who commented that as a child he remembered there being wainscoting on those walls. The thought of that made me smile, probably a few smiles in heaven as well.

Up next...An Island of Humanity



Primed for Painting!

Once we had the door fronts cut, trimmed, sanded, had inserted bead board, filled all the nail holes, it was time to prime and paint so that we could really see what the doors would look like once they were all done. This was the moment of truth, was this really going to work and look attractive once we were all done? There is only one way to know, dive in and start priming.

I have long been a Sherwin Williams paint fan, our entire house has a coat of Classic99 in a variety of fruit flavors, and I really like how it goes on, covers and cleans up. Yes, they are more expensive, but my experience has been that it is well worth the couple of extra bucks. So back to SW I go, seeking some advice on painting cabinets. They recommended an Adhesion Primer followed by the ProClassic. We thoroughly washed the cabinets with TSP and lightly sanded them as well. The adhesion primer went on easily, and if its adhearing properties to the cabinets we anything like it was to my skin, I knew we would be in business.

Primed doorThe first thing I tested was the a cabinet door, I just had to see if this was really going to look OK. I brushed a bit on and could tell I was going to like this look. It didn't appear that the moulding was a inexpensive fix, an add-on. As I squinted at the door in the poor light of the garage, trying to blur out the brush marks, the more I looked, the more I liked. And this was just the primer, but the door was coming together. As was my vision for the kitchen. 

After the first couple of doors and further inspection of the base and wall cabinets, painting was going to be a big project and we started exploring best methods for getting that done. We decided to buy a paint gun.

We purchased the Wagner Power Painter Plus from Home Depot. It was under $100 and boasted that it would continue to paint as it was turned on its side and a variety of different angles. Since we knew the insides of the cabinets were going to be a tight fit with lots of interesting angles, we decided it was worth the extra money over the entry level model.

When using a paint gun, you really need to take the extra time to mask things off, and cover anything you don't want covered in a fine mist of primer/paint. We covered the floor of the garage with a large drop cloth and placed 2x4s on the floor to elevate the doors slightly, making it easier to get the edges of the doors more easily. The sprayer made short work of the priming and the doors were starting to really look nice all one color. After the priming I notice the grain on some of the raw wood, so I took a sanding block and just hit it one more time to even it out. We primed another coat and let dry thoroughly.

I had explored a few different color options and 50 different whites, and what I came back to was the plain, untinted stock white. I had considered a slightly off white color, but we already had white appliances that were in pretty good shape and I wasn't ready to finance that investment quite yet. In addition, since we were using white and a kitchen tends to be messy, I wanted to sure fire touch up without worrying about it not matching perfectly. The contrast of the white, with the dark flooring appealed to me as well.

Primed cabinetsNext, we are on to the cabinets themselves. The paint gun made short order of priming & painting the uppers and base cabinets and was worth the investment for that alone. Getting good coverage in the adjustable shelf brackets would have been a nightmare and within a matter of minutes it was done and looking good.

After cleaning the gun once, we took a bit of extra care in planning so we could prime one side of the doors then prime the cabinets, wait a bit, go back to the flip side of the doors and then back to the cabinets again. Not that the gun is that difficult to clean, but the primer did a great job of adhering to everything making it more of a pain to clean.

Things were really starting to shape up now and it was easier to visualize the space now. The gamble on the cabinet doors looked like is was going to pay off but we still had some scheming/planning/dreaming to do.

Up next....The Flip Side.