Our kitchen island is complete!
First, I’ll admit that I really struggled with taking photos of the island since our kitchen is an oddly shaped box full of challenges (hi, furnace!), so you’ll notice that in most cases, it’s not actually in place. It’s also been an emotional roller coaster of a week with our kitchen in general, as timelines have been extended with the back door, which in turn prevents other things from happening (baseboards!), but has us turning our attention towards under cabinet lighting, tiling and even prepping some of our artwork. We know that these things will make all the difference in the world, but for some reason, this girl is having a hard time seeing the finish line. We’ve been spending a lot of time on those 5% fixes as well, and every decision feels so heavy. Perhaps it’s the middle-of-the-renovation blues? That stretch of sort-of-there but not-really-there-at-all? Or winter? Boo, winter.
In any case, let’s go back to what we did complete recently, and that’s the island! If you take a peek at our pins, you’ll notice that a lot of our favorite kitchens have a contrasting island. We love that look, as it feels so classic and right for this house.
In person, it feels good and – after struggling with butcher block measurements – appropriately sized considering it’s living in the middle of the room. Being able to walk around it easily from stove to sink and sink to fridge was obviously important, and at its current length (54″), you can access all the appliances with ease. Remember when it looked like this?:
WHAT WE DID. First, we had to remove the dresser top, which included releasing a row of nails across the back and several screws from the underside.
Once we were able to lift it free, we realized that there were several trim strips along the underside which acted as a ‘stop’ of sorts; they prevented the top two drawers from sagging when you pull them out. At this point, we set the top to the side, knowing we would re-use those strips on our butcher block.
The back of the dresser had a thin piece of board, and the surface was pretty rough to the touch:
We left the backing board in place, but we reinforced it with an additional sheet of 1/8″ project board cut to size at the hardware store. At this time, we also cut down strips of 1″ x 2″ poplar trim for the sides and bottom of the dresser, which would balance the trim already in place on the front of the dresser. We applied heavy duty construction adhesive to keep it in place, and we finished it off with 1″ nails along the perimeter – that board wasn’t going anywhere!
Once that was complete, the result was strong and durable. I ran a bead of caulk along all the seams, and you can see now that with the addition of the poplar trim, the profile matches up with the front.
Throughout all this, we had begun the process of filling the knob holes with wood putty (all the dents and scratches, really). This took at least two rounds of putty, sanding between each application and finishing them off with a thin layer of drywall mud. The mud has such a smooth finish, that I found it helpful to make things as perfect as possible.
I ended up sanding the entire dresser by hand with 150 grit sandpaper, but I didn’t spend too much time doing so – just enough to give the surface a bit of texture for my primer to adhere to. To finish, I washed down every surface with no-rinse TSP, which removes any remaining dirt and grime while de-glossing the surface. You’ll notice that somewhere along the way, we also added these Shepherd casters, which are so, so good! They have a great weight to them, lock solidly into place and roll easily when needed. Plus, brassy.
After all of that prep work, it was time to paint! I used the same PrimeRx primer that we’ve used on several doors, and it’s proven itself to be a powerhouse against scratches or chips. For the color, we went with our tried and true favorite, Nein! Nein! Nein! OK Fine by Clark+Kensington and completed the finish with three coats of Polycrylic in satin.
We allowed everything to dry for several days, and in the meantime, we went shopping for a butcher block top. We considered Ikea, local hardware stores and kitchen outlets, but ultimately, we found a friendly Wisconsin maker, Tony, specializing in maple. Although it wasn’t the least expensive option, his prices were extremely fair, and maple is a durable hard wood when compared to birch, so it’ll last for the long haul. When we gave him a call, it turned out that he was making a trip through Chicago, and would you just like me to drop it off for you? Um, yes!
After carefully measuring and re-installing those ‘stop’ strips from the dresser top onto the new butcher block, we screwed it in place:
Tony told us that we could either oil it liberally (weekly) for the next month (and then once monthly after that), or we could apply an oil based polyurethane on top and call it a day. Because we have no intention of cutting or prepping food directly on the butcher block, we would have been fine going the poly route, but we personally don’t like how that will allow yellowing over time. Instead, he gave us the okay to use Danish oil, and we also got the green light to to darken it up in a walnut finish.
Before the butcher block purchase, we debated on its final size endlessly, measuring daily, taping it out and using an old sheet of MDF to see what felt comfortable in the room. In the end, we went for a 10″ overhang, which is the minimum (that is, according to Google!) considered for comfort when using a stool. While this may not be ideal for everyone in every height or size, we’re happy to have been able to accommodate an overhang at all! This house is a challenge, and the kitchen has been our biggest to date.
All said and done, our island measures 54″ wide x 29″ deep. I already mentioned the struggle to photograph the island as a whole, but I still think it’s necessary to show how it fits in the middle of the room while allowing movement and flow. My wide angle lens shows distortion, but there is 3′ between the island and wet wall, and the island and stove. You can access the sink from the stove without having to dip around the island, and as much as we agonized over a larger vs. smaller overhang (or no overhang at all!), we couldn’t be happier with how it fits in the room:
Looking at these photos has me itching to add color with art (in the works!) and, man, tile! We’re now back to debating between darker grout or something more soft. Looking at our pins has us realizing that there’s a lot of soft grout in our favorite photos, which surprised us since we were initially leaning so heavily towards a charcoal shade. What would you do?
To play off of those brassy casters, we chose these 4″ Mission pulls from Rejuvenation. By opting for handles instead of knobs (these were a close second), we think it helps our island step away from its former life as a dresser. They are, hands down, the icing on the cake!
If all goes well, we’ll be working on our under cabinet and overhead lighting this weekend, as well as some 5%-ers, too. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll find a moment to step away from the kitchen and do nothing at all? I’d drink to that!
Rejuvenation provided the hardware for our island, and we’re so thrilled they wanted to be a part of our renovation. Also? There’ll be something in it for you – soon!