As rule I shy away from “garden decor.” Who needs things whirling, whizzing and peeking out from your shrubbery? (Though I admit to having a soft spot for garden gnomes, it’s true.) This adorable family of ducks at Uncommon Goods is just charming enough to almost change my mind. They’re made from recycled plastic and filled with clay and newspaper and are quite durable. Momma duck is $35 and each of the little ones is $28 — but wouldn’t it be tragic to break up a family? See uncommongoods.com for more details.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
This post is sponsored by Lowe’s.
We firmly believe in being your own handyman. Whether it’s installing our own back splash tile in the kitchen, renovating our backyard deck or giving a staircase a ombre hue, we regularly roll-up our sleeves and tackle little projects all over our homes. Sometimes things go wrong. Paints drip on the floor. Tiles dry crookedly. Equipment gets rusty. We pull our hair out. No one is happy.
Luckily, there’s a little help to be found via Vine and these handy D.I.Y. videos produced by Lowe’s. The wonderful thing about Vine is that the videos are super short — 6 seconds! — and loop over and over. So if you miss something the first time, don’t sweat it, you can catch the second or third time around. Here are six cool tricks we learned from watching these Vines — though if you start playing around on the social network’s app you’ll find many, many more.
Six Handy Tricks We Learned From Lowe’s Vine Videos:
1. Potatoes aren’t just for dinner — or making crafty stamps! The next time you are dealing with a broken lightbulb in lamp, use a potato to unscrew it without risking a finger cut.
2. Rubber bands have many uses (besides being woven into colorful bracelets for grade-schoolers). You can use them to catch paint drips from a can, or twist out a stripped down screw.
3. For your next colorful paint project, don’t mess with a new paint tray for each color. Simply line your old ones in aluminum foil and reuse.
4. Take the guesswork out of picture hanging. A piece of tape can help measure the distance between holes and get things picture perfect.
5. You don’t need luck to make your tiles line up perfectly. Pennies placed in between the rows of tiles will do the trick until they dry nicely.
6. What could be more dull than a rusty knife? Dip your cutters in some lemon juice for 15 minutes and see how they shine.
Have you discovered any great DIY Vine videos? Let us know and we’ll feature them on Shelterrific!
This is a sponsored post.
Even though our team is no longer in the running, it’s still fun to keep up with what’s going on in the Re-Energized By Design competition. This week, the remaining three teams made over their laundry rooms.
In addition to $500 and energy efficient lighting from GE, the homeowners each received an brand new set of Frigidaire Affinity laundry equipment. These are not your average high-efficiency washers & dryers — this is serious technology in action here. The Affinity dryer will dry a full load in less than 30 minutes, and the washer features allergen reduction and sanitizing features along with having the highest energy star rating. And aesthetically they please, too (though I have to wonder why no one picked the red option).
Love what those scrappy Sayers did in their space with that upcycled laundry drum light fixture. Their creative approach is always surprising, and will be tough to beat in the final round. In the end, the Mendes family’s pastel laundry room didn’t make the cut — that leaves the Sayers and the Reillys to duke it out in the kitchen challenge! who do you think will win?!
This is a sponsored post.
What is Re-Energized by Design, you ask? Well, it is an awesome web series that Shelterrific is excited to be participating in — produced by Puget Sound Energy, it’s all about incorporating energy efficiency into home design. The challenge is this: six teams of homeowners are paired with design coaches and together they compete to re-design 5 rooms with a focus on saving energy with a small budget. Cameras are documenting each leg of the challenge, and with every room one team gets the boot! The prizes are great: a home full of new LED and CFL lightbulbs from GE, a full suite of kitchen and laundry appliances from Frigidaire, and $5000.
I was fortunate to be paired with the Bedford family, who are just delightful. Kristen and her husband Slade have a great contemporary house, fun design aesthetic, and are really willing to completely put themselves into every challenge. This experience for me has literally been re-energizing to me as well, ending a year-long creative rut and getting me back into blogging and crafting and having fun again. I can’t wait to share what we’ve created together.
But as of today, I won’t have to wait much longer, as the first webisode is available at 6am PST at the Re-Energized By Design site — this week’s is an introduction to all the contestants. And stay tuned each week as we reveal another webisode. Also be sure to go to the Re-Energized page on Facebook, where you can enter to win a new Frigidaire appliance like those featured in the challenge!
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.
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.
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!
Sawing in action, with some stain tests at the top.
See more about our cottage renovation here!