woodcounter_8
shag_indoor_outdoor_mat_in_various_dot_with_do
schoolhouselight1
fredthehumidifier
slabinhouse
greatroom1
vintageikea
merrypillows
paintedgourds2
grovemadedeskstuff

cottage renovation: turning a slab of wood into a countertop

woodcounter_8

When last we left off on our upstate cottage renovation, we had just purchased two pieces of slab wood to use as a counter in the kitchen. A lot has happened since then! The kitchen is complete and we have much to show off. But first, here’s the tale of how to turn a slab of wood into a countertop that will last and last, by Chad.

One of the reasons I didn’t want to do a butcher block countertop, even though we loved the look of them, is because of a conversation I had with our contractor. When I told him we were thinking about going that route he looked and me and said; “I’ll do whatever you want but I recommend you don’t do a butcher block countertop.” He went on to explain that although it looks great when first installed, time will not be kind to a wood countertop. He said he is constantly called upon to fix water damage around sink and facets.

With that in mind we decided to compromise and do only the peninsula in wood.

After picking out a gorgeous piece of wood and having it cut to size (making sure the “live edge”  was preserved), I did a lot of tests with different stains on a scrap piece.

The stains I tried really brought out the natural wood grain, but the wood itself is loaded with natural cracks, grooves and knots. All of those details looked interesting, but I wondered about the practicality of it as a kitchen surface.  I was also worried that a matte wood surface might not flow with the slick granite countertop beside it.

“I’d epoxy it,” our contractor Eric said.

My only experience with epoxied wood tables is what I’ve seen in theme restaurants — you know the kind: a bottle cap collection embedded in the thick clear coating on a tabletop like bugs trapped under an inch of amber. Coating it with epoxy was a hard sell; all of the stains I tried were so beautiful but the fact was that this piece of wood was going to be a kitchen surface. One coffee ring or spilled glass of wine and our beautiful planned wood would be ruined.

After watching a few YouTube videos on how to epoxy tables I became convinced this was a project I could handle.

woodcounter_1

You can pick it up epoxy at Home Depot or Lowes in the paint department . It is sold in a box which contains two bottles, one is the hardener and one is the resin. There are detailed instructions on how much to use depending on the square footage of your table. Ours is roughly 3ft x 6ft and the directions called for about 3-4 quarts.

Step One: Prepare The Wood: The first step is prepare the wood for application. I had to flip it over and work on the underside of the countertop. I filled all the cracks and anything that looked like a hole with Bondo brand Body Filler. This sealed anything that would have caused the epoxy from simply dripping through the countertop in spots. I was surprised at how many cracks there were. Once it was dry and sanded, the counter top was ready to be flipped again.

Luckily, our floors are still covered in paper and thin plywood to keep them protected during construction, but as an added measure I also covered the entire working space on the floor with plastic. I placed the wood on two saw horses and leveled it. This is important because epoxy is self leveling as it dries. If the countertop is not level the epoxy would not be a consistent thickness.

woodcounter_2
Step Two: Mix The Epoxy  The next, step is mixing the epoxy, and it is the most important part of the project. Improper mixing will cause soft or tacky spots in the surface. First, I separated the containers of hardener and resin, so I would not confuse the two. Be sure to wear safety glasses and rubber gloves. This stuff is hard to wash off and you don’t want to accidentally get any in your eyes. Make sure you are wearing shoes that you don’t care about because it will drip.

Take a look at the instructions and see how long they recommend to mix the two parts before you start pouring. Mine recommended 12 minutes. After putting on my safety glasses and gloves I poured three bottles of Resin into a new, clean pail. Then I poured all three Resin containers in and began to stir with a clean painting stir stick for 12 minutes.

Step Three: Pour The Mix Onto The Surface  Next, I poured the epoxy onto the table right down the middle. It has the consistency of maple syrup and stinks. You want to make sure the room temperature is at least 75 degrees so it will set up and cure properly. Using a paint brush I smoothed it out over the table and it dripped naturally over the sides. (Make sure you don’t use a cheap brush that will lose hair fibers in the epoxy.)

Step Four: Get Rid of Air Bubbles What surprised me at this point were how many bubbles there were in the maple syrup like epoxy, not just from stirring but also bubbles that were rising up from air pockets in the hundreds of tiny cracks in the wood.

To get rid of them I used a straw to blow directly on the bubble and pop it. The epoxy around it fills it in and I moved on to look another bubble. It took about an hour for the epoxy to set up to the point that blowing on a bubble would cause a dent on the countertop.  So I left it to cure.
woodcounter_5

Step Five: Let It Cure The directions say to let it cure for 12 hours before applying another coat. At this point I wasn’t sure what to do about the bubbles and air craters that appeared from overnight. I took an orbital sander and sanded it smooth with 400 grit sandpaper. Wiping it clean with acetate and a clean rag.

Step Six: Apply Second Coat Now the table was pit marked with craters and also had a foggy appearance to it from the sanding which I didn’t like because I couldn’t see the wood grain clearly. I decided to do another coat of epoxy. This time I would be more diligent about finding bubbles with my straw. I walked around the table for about an hour as it set up. and I couldn’t see any bubbles. But the next day there were 3 small ones right in the middle. Those bubbles would wreak havoc with my OCD if I left them so I decided to do one more coat. This time if was perfect, like a smooth sheet of ice once it set up.

woodcounter_6

Step Seven: Clean The Edges  After this was all done, there were a ton of stalactite drips that had formed on the underside of the counter. I used an orbital sander to remove those, but was careful not to sand the top

Step Eight: Wait To Marvel At Your Work It will not be fully cured for 14 days, so be sure not leave objects on the surface until then.

The end results, as you can see from the photos above, are pretty gorgeous. The grain shines through and the wood is smooth to touch, and safe for coffee cups and wine glasses alike. Phew!

 Want to see more about our cottage renovation? You can follow our progress here.

From our partners

stepping into spring with chilewich’s new dot rugs

shag_indoor_outdoor_mat_in_various_dot_with_do

What is it about circle rugs that are so appealing? I’ve been a fan of them since my early renter days. Currently we have a pretty genius Ikea hack in our upstairs landing, featuring one rug made up of lots of dots. Chilewich’s new indoor-outdoor dot rugs have just the kind of playful whimsy we’ve been looking for. They come in bright, popping colors of the season that is almost here (melt snow, melt!). I think they’d be groovy in place of a runner in a long hall, or in a kitchen where orange, citron and green are always welcome. About $100/each at Armara.

From our partners

ode to schoolhouse electric. there aren’t enough light fixtures in our lives!

schoolhouselight1

As we finish up the heavy lifting on the cottage renovation, it’s time to start thinking about the fun stuff — decorating! Though our depleted budget will mean that the we’ll be opting for more creative ways of recycling yard sale finds and upcycling Ikea with clever hacks, there is one thing that we are going to splurge on: Lighting fixtures. We are looking for a couple of lights that will go in the kitchen area: One for over the sink and another for the bar that divides the living room from the kitchen space. The mode we’re going for is modern industrial Swedish farmhouse. Does that make any sense? That means that we want some Edison bulbs with simple fixtures that aren’t too sleek or modern.

Our quest has sent to an old favorite, Schoolhouse Electric, which upon rediscovery, we love more than ever. Beautifully made in Portland, Oregan, the company began by finding old milk glass lighting fixtures and reproducing them for modern spaces. Now the company has expanded to include furniture, tableware and even jewelry — all with the same beautiful lines and clean design. But the core of the company remains its beautiful lighting. One new gorgeous design is the Ion C- Series, a playful tabletop light that would bright a splash of color to any office. For our dining area, we’re looking at the City Chandelier, which features 7 Edison bulbs hanging from sturdy chords. Like many of Schoolhouse Electric’s designs, you decide the bulb shape and the finish on the chord and hardware, allowing for amazing customization.

Need more inspiration? Watch the video below and take a tour of the factory.

From our partners

meet fred: the cutest humidifier we’ve ever seen

fredthehumidifier

Winter is really starting to kick in. After seven or so days of below freezing temperatures, my body starts to notice it. My shoulders are tense from the way I hurriedly rush outside, my hands need constant moisturizing, and of course our house feels dryer than a used a chalkboard. Last year we invested in a hefty humidifier from Stradler Form, and I love it. It purrs along through the night and helps keep us breathing clear — not to mention prevents our skin from scaling off. But after spotting this cute little number, I’m attempted to trade in dull Oskar. Meet Fred, the cutest, Jetson-esque humidifier I’ve ever seen. It’d be dreamy in a kid’s bedroom but is chic enough to hold its own in your main living spaces. More than a humidifier, Fred is a vaporizer. Add a scent and it will lift your spirits as well as your moisture levels. Fred at Stradler Form, $150.

More humidifier posts on Shelterrific.

From our partners

cottage renovation: falling hard for a slab of wood

slabinhouse

Forgive me for not writing sooner with an update on our little house project by the Hudson! We’ve been plugging away, making decisions and slowly getting to a place that we will be able to enjoy soon. The floors are down and stained (but not yet revealed). The new radiators are in place and keeping it warm. The kitchen cabinets have been built and appliances have been ordered. I’ll do a detailed post on the whole kitchen once I can show it off properly, but this morning I wanted to brag about the beautiful slab wood countertop we have found.

We’ve been having a HUGE debate about countertops. As any of you who have done renovations know, they are pricey and every material seems to have its ups and downs. I love the look of wooden, butcher block counterops, but our contractor and others have warned us against using them — especially with a farmhouse sink. We’ll probably settle on a granite or granite-like composite for the “working area” of the kitchen, but Chad and I had a solution for our “peninsula” which will serve as a bar/table that separates the kitchen the from the living room. We are putting a wooden slab on that part of the counter. Sound strange? Hear us out.

We always love the look and feel of natural, organic wooden counters. We see them often in some of our favorite stores and cafes in Hudson, NY. We’ve been trying to figure out a way to have this look in our newly spruced up cottage and have come up with a solution. We visited a local wood supplier and found that they had gorgeous selection slabs of wood — which are essentially vertical slices of entire trees.

Browsing around the warehouse, we quickly learned that because of the size we needed that we had one decision to make before we started. Did we want just one piece of wood or would we be okay with gluing two or more pieces together. The only wood that came in one piece that was least 32″ inches wide — the width we needed for the peninsula countertop — was a pine slab. We weren’t thrilled with that choice for a couple of reasons. First, pine is a soft wood and we were worried about wear and tear. And secondly the “live edge” — which means the bark side of the tree — wasn’t very interesting.

There were so many choices of hard wood slabs that were gorgeous — walnut, curly maple, cherry. We ended up picking a white oak because we loved the bark line and the knotty grain lines within. We also learned that the “glue up” option was nothing to be afraid of. The guys at our shop Ghent Wood are so talented: They showed us examples of their work and the results were pretty seamless. We ended up purchasing two slabs at about $150 a each. They were glued together to make one huge, heavy piece that was 92 inches by 30 square feet, with a live edge on one side. Our plan is to have that live edge face the living room, where we’d also have stools so the you could sit at the counter and watch me cook!

We will be staining the wood but have not decided on the color yet. WATCO Danish Oil was recommended to us, which seals and protects the wood but doesn’t give it a super shallaced look.

Here are a few photos!

nexttoslab
Isadora and I were exhausted by the wood slab choices, but these are the ones we decided on.

slabmeasure
The blue tape line shows where we’ll be cutting.

slabsaw
Sawing in action, with some stain tests at the top.

See more about our cottage renovation here!

From our partners