Nuts for Walnut

In the master bath, the room looked cold before adding the dark walnut vanity.  After, the room came to life, and contrasted against the darker elements.

Seeing the result, and the combo with the slate tile, we knew we wanted a similar look in the kitchen.  Essentially, several elements from the bathroom were a trial run for the kitchen remodel; slate floors, tongue and groove planks, and walnut cabinetry.  The slate has held up beautifully, and we love the subtle texture the tongue and groove adds.  Just recently, we added the walnut to the kitchen scene.  It’s so amazing how different wood looks unfinished versus unfinished.


Bland, gray-ish sanded wood transforms to bold and beautiful.  Not to be confused with The Bold and the Beautiful soap opera.  The change isn’t nearly as dramatic.  Nothing dead coming back to life twenty years later.

One drawer stack oiled, the other waiting to get attention:


The left side below the cooktop is actually two fronts attached to the single trash drawer.  Super sneaky ninja move right there.


Getting all the drawer fronts attached and oiled made a world of difference, but the lack of toe kick needed attention.  I pestered Ben a few times, trying to get out of the 90-95% finished rut.


Voila, the magic of the internet.  Toe kicks instantly appear.


To skip the awkward leaning on the floor, applying oil while avoiding getting it on the floor, shoulder cramps that’ll surely follow routine, I applied water based poly before install.   That way it’s a one and done deal.  The rest is sealed with teak oil.

So far, I’ve got three coats on everything.  Lightly sanding between coats makes the finish ultra smooth, leaving a subtle sheen.


We chose teak oil because it’s easy to reapply as necessary.  Either as a rejuvenating/refresher coat or if there’s a damaged area in need of sanding.  On this side of the kitchen, we have to finish the last 5% by closing off the sink cabinet.


And grout the tile behind the cooktop.


Sometimes, as we work on things, plans change.  In our original plan, the walnut also covered the back of the bar area.  For a few reasons, we had to change gears and go in a different direction.  Nine foot, clear (no knot holes completely through) boards are seemingly impossible to get right now.  We also couldn’t secure the boards without visible nails or screws marring the faces.  Which kind of defeated the purpose of attaching a pretty wood to the back.  A line of nails would bug the crap out of me.  Plywood only comes in 8 foot lengths, leaving a seam somewhere along the back.  Again, it would drive me nuts.


Ben suggested tiling the back to match the backsplash, but I thought it’d look too busy.  Instead, we attached 1/2 inch MDF, with casement covering the seam and divided the back into four areas.  Once we get four stools, each will have a designated area.  Not our first plan, but the white looks fresh against the maple.

Now I have to finish the wall smoothing and we’ll be able to build the cabinet across from the breakfast nook.  I’m really pushing to become a 100% finisher.  Any lingering projects you’re finishing up?

16 thoughts on “Nuts for Walnut

  1. That walnut is so pretty! I love it! Are you going to do anything with the island countertop(s)? It seems like that wood tone competes with/takes away from the gorgeous walnut.

    1. Hey Liz!

      I do agree with you about the butcher block. I’m not loving the way the teak oil yellowed it and looks against the beautiful walnut. We’ll see, I’m still debating.


  2. sort of agree with Liz above. The three wood tones together of the stained walnut, butcher block, bar is distracting. Adding the white in there for a fourth finish in the same small area just seems too busy

    1. Hi Jenw,

      The white was our quick backing option. If we can find walnut without knots, I’d still love to wrap the back in walnut. Just not sure how long we could live without a back. 🙂


  3. So I was waiting until the project was wrapping up to ask this, because I wasn’t sure how much more you were planning to do to the island.

    Can you explain the thought process of blending so many different edges and colors and types of wood in the island? I do agree with the commenter above that it looks quite busy and unfinished.

    I also thought you guys were going to do a waterfall edge to the bar part of the island, but it looks like there is still a significant gap between the counter and the sides?

    I do really like the drawer fronts on the island, as well as the sink – I would love to have a sunken sink like that to be able to more easily brush cooking debris into the garbage disposal.

    1. Hey Lauren!

      Great question. We had the butcher block in the kitchen and really loved the function of it, so that was the starting point. Also, with the length of the island, we wanted to avoid seams in a stone top, especially on the bar. Unfortunately, clear walnut planks are really hard to get here right now, so we carried the maple to the bar top.

      The sink is so great for wiping off the counters!


  4. I think the walnut on the front of the island is really beautiful but the waterfall edge and white paneling looks so disjointed to me. I can’t think of the best way to tie it all together. I am interested in seeing what the final result will be.

  5. Yep, I’ve been puzzled, too. While I love all of the elements of the kitchen, I do not like them all together. It looks like a half-finished project. I think you should put the black soapstone (or whatever that countertop material is) on the island, and paint the breakfast bar surrounding thing white to match the back of it. That will get rid of two finishes that don’t make sense and make it too busy, and tie it all together with the white paneled ceiling.

    1. Hi Jessie!

      Though we love the function of the butcher block, against the walnut it’s not my favorite. Unfinished, I liked the color, but we need a protective coat and everything yellows the finish. A stone counter would be really nice to match the perimeter. I understand why you’d suggest painting the bar white, but I’m almost positive the finish wouldn’t hold up. Thanks for the suggestions!!


  6. You’re making great strides with the kitchen! I only wish mine was so close to finished.

    I’ve wrangled with the contrasting island question in my current kitchen. I adore walnut, but can’t really afford it. In general, you don’t want two wood tones on the one bank of cabinets (countertop, drawer fronts). I think that a little way down the line a different countertop on the island would really let the walnut shine. And maybe when you’ve saved some more a really beautiful slab of walnut for the eating height counter? I don’t think stained maple is going to look as beautiful next to the real walnut. Or you could do a white quartz, I’ve seen so many beautiful white quartz waterfall countertops. Pity it doesn’t suit my much older house.

    Are you planning on painting the back of the island with that dark slate blue? That will look awesome. My island is a really deep blue, with the other cabinets white, and white quartz, with garnet shellacked trim and wooden floors. So, a similar colour pallette to yours, but slightly different arrangement.

    1. Hi Annie!

      If/when we can find walnut, we’d still love to cover the back of the island to match the fronts. We discussed paint options for the back, but decided white would work best with the rest of the cabinets. Introducing another color seemed even more busy.


  7. Amanda- I love the work that you and Ben do and have missed your blog posts. Is everything OK??? Post something soon, I’m dying to see how things are going in your kitchen/house!!

    1. Thanks for the link, Jackie! We’re using black walnut, but the problem isn’t getting walnut, it’s getting the length and clear boards. The guys at the lumber department told me the mills are sending a lot of the nicer boards to make veneer. Stores are just having a hard time getting the good stuff.

      The drawers were easier because we only needed 3 foot sections and could cut out the bad areas or knots. We’ll see how it goes.


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