Thursday, November 20, 2014

DIY Countertops from Cabinets

My apartment has a really small kitchen, and I love cooking. What to do?  For some reason, this particular apartment’s kitchen is in the middle of the house, which means no windows, and for some reason, no drawers and very little counter space.  It was not a nice place to hang out or to even look at, so something had to be done!  
“Where will I chop my delicious vegetables?” – I asked myself. And then I decided to build an extra counter.  Not knowing how to build anything, this was going to be an interesting experiment.  
The same day this idea popped into my head, I went to a thrift store and found two pieces of furniture that were more or less the same height: A bedroom dresser and a child’s desk. Both ugly and cheap, of course! 
I paid $4 for the dresser, and $7 for the desk, and planned on doing a lot of work on them.  

First, the dresser:
This was a filthy mess. Fingerprints, dirt, and beautiful 70’s stickers of roses on the drawer handles. 

I took off the knobs and handles and washed them, then power sanded so that the rough areas were flat.  

There was an unnecessary amount of knobs on the middle drawers, so I patched and sanded the middle sections.  No need to be excessive with knobs.
I then primed the drawers and cabinet with three coats of white primer. It looked so clean. I loved it and left it. 

I didn’t want to spend too much money, so instead of buying new knobs, I spray painted the existing ones.  This was my first time using spray paint, and I I loved it! 

I screwed the knobs and handles into a cardboard box and coated them several times with a white enamel that I found in my parents basement.  3 light coats of paint is all that was needed.  I love the way they look; they are a world of difference from the brass and white hideousness. 
From the table project, I had a large amount of light turquoise left over, so used three coats for the drawers.  

I let the paint dry overnight and then glazed the drawers and cabinet with three layers of water based varnish. 
The main body of the dresser was finished and I couldn’t stop looking at it.  But it was not done yet…
The desk. 

It was a similar process to the dresser, but fewer steps.  I took the handles off, only to discover that this desk had already been retrofit by the previous owner.  They did not, however patch the old holes, so I did that for them – and for me. 

After I patched the holes, I sanded the desk with my power sander to remove the rough edges.  While sanding I noticed how badly made this desk was. Parts of it were falling apart with the light touch of the sander.  Not great. 
I then primed the whole thing, then painted the drawers with the same turquoise and once it dried, I sealed each piece with a kiss of varnish.  
The risers. 

Both of these pieces of furniture are too short to use as a comfortable counter space. So instead of elevating from the bottom, like a normal human, I decided to build up from the tops of the dresser and desk.  
They measure 30 inches tall, and I want them at least 33 inches tall.  I know very little about building, but as a painter, I know how to make stretchers.  Like I was about to create a new wooden panel to paint on, I built two stretcher frames to sit on top of the furniture, to raise them 4 more inches.  
Because the tops of the original furniture are going to be covered, I didn’t bother repainting these surfaces.  

For the stretchers I used 2x4’s cut to fit on top of each piece of furniture, which I then screwed together, patched and sanded.  This kind of wood is really rough, so needed a lot of work.  Once I was happy with the sanding, I painted them white, and sanded varnished them. 

The countertop 

This was a nightmare.  I have 2 beautiful slabs of marble in my parents’ garage which were given to us ten years ago. They are beautiful and would make wonderful work surfaces.  They also weigh a million kilos. I tried moving them and nearly died! Something else was needed to replace the marble. Something light and that can be cleaned. 
I visited Home Depot and found sheets of melamine for $11. This was perfect!  I bought two 4 foot panels and had them cut to 21 inches wide. 

These however, need to be finished with a kind of adhesive tape which is applied with an iron. That’s kind of fun!  This gives the melamine a clean and crisp finish…but because its my first time doing this, let's just say that it looks better from far away.  

After applying the edges, cut away the excess with a sharp knife.  

I glued the melamine to the 2x4 frames and let them dry over night. Books, flower pots and condiments make excellent weights!  

This counter-hack has improved our kitchen tremendously. We now have kitchen counter space to work on and to make all sorts of amazing treats.  
I would recommend this technique if you are in a temporary situation, like we are and need a quick fix for counter space.  


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