Built in Hutch

If we hop into the way back machine, it shows a kitchen closed off by a wall of dark oak cabinetry.  Ignore the boxes, this was right around moving in.


Not only did those cabinets make the kitchen feel isolated, it made a fun game of ring around the island to get anything ready to cook.  When we remodeled the kitchen, we pulled those out.


To open the kitchen to the dining and living rooms on the other side, we knocked down most of that wall, leaving us with the glorious open floor plan we love.


Across from the breakfast table, there’s about six feet of wall to work with.  Initially, we considered hanging art or a tv above a base cabinet, like so:


The base cabinet became our bar area, which has quickly expanded from a few bottles to a variety.


To accommodate bottles, bar ware, extra serving platters, and dishes, we agreed a built-in hutch above the base cabinet was the best use of space.


My plan included one open shelf for easy access for drinks in addition to three shelves closed off by glass doors.  Ben surprised me by including under cabinet lights to illuminate the glasses.


To easily store serving platters, dishes, and anything else, we wanted adjustable shelves.  Tucking the tracks between 1/4 inch thick MDF gives a smooth inside.


And here it is, done.


Kidding, only the building was complete there.  Primer and paint to the rescue!


This was after paint, but before shelves went in, but take a look at the way the lights make the glasses sparkle.


I’m sure the placement of everything inside will change many times, but I’m calling the hutch complete.


On the counter, the bottles are super easy to get to, along with glasses right within reach.


Glass front cabinets are one of my favorite elements in kitchens, striking the perfect balance between solid doors and open shelving.



Taking the cabinet sides down to the counter grounds the upper cabinet, making it one piece and gives this small side definition.


Platters, large bowls, and other special smaller pieces are safely on display in the above cabinet, but can easily be pulled out to use.


Before, those pantries took over that side of the kitchen.


Wow, that feels like a million miles ago, but a year ago, we had that view.  Now, it’s bright and open, while still making that corner functional.


Wrapping up small projects is on the list before we gut the basement, and it feels amazing to cross this off the list.  Using it is pretty great, and having a drink station came in so handy on Thanksgiving.

Kitchen Update

Months ago, when we installed the island bar top, we chose maple for its durable, stand up to abuse nature.


To finish it, I applied a coat of teak oil, but didn’t like the way it yellowed the wood.  So, I sanded it smooth and put on four layers of polyurethane.  After a month or two of use, the poly started flaking off-bummer.  Knowing I didn’t like just oil, I settled on staining the wood dark, then applying an oil finish for easy touch ups.  Of course this sounds so much easier than it was to sand everything a third time, getting into every corner, but it was 100% worth trapping myself inside a Dexter-esque plastic bubble.


It’s still a hard to scratch or dent surface, unlike the softer walnut, but even better, the dark finish makes the island more cohesive.


In other island news, we have new stools!  We brought the old World Market trio with us from the old house, which was better than nothing.  Though the extra two feet of counter space made three stools spaced too far apart.


Not knowing exactly what I wanted, I waited, and waited.  And waited some more, until a stroke of pure luck.  As I wandered around World Market, I spotted a notice about the Twist stools, they had been recalled due to the weld at the seat base breaking.  At home, I checked the code on the bottom of the stools, and sure enough, the numbers matched.  Next time I had a chance, I popped in the store to get more details and ask how to go about the recall.  The nice manager told me to bring the stools in for a store credit or cash refund.  At that same time, I checked out their stool selection, but didn’t see any I loved and fit my needs.  I knew I wanted something durable and wipeable, so fabric was out.  Light weight was also a plus, to make it easier for the boys and their friends to pull out.  Finally, something with plastic feet, to protect the slate floors from scratches.  After getting the cash refund, I turned to the internet to score a set of four stools.


Sleuthing brought up a 29 inch Better Homes and Gardens café stool with excellent reviews.  It ticked all the boxes, durable metal, wipeable, light weight, with black rubber feet, and only $40 each.  After a debate between silver and white, I decided on white to keep the focus on the actual island and all that beautiful walnut.



With all the work we’ve put in over the summer to rebuild the deck, replace windows and siding, it’s nice to make a little more progress in the kitchen.  Though it’s been fully functional for about ten months, we still have minor things to finish up.


Like making a set of glass cabinet doors for the dish cabinet.


Side note, thanks for the help about the Command picture hanging strips.  They’re working great to hang the wood sign on the marble wall, without drilling.




Opposite, the base cabinet is done with the bar set up, but an upper cabinet will still go above, with glass doors.


In our usual fashion, these finishes will probably be finished in a year, since it’s not a pressing issue.  So, that’s the current status of the kitchen-100% functional, mostly finished, with a few details left to get to.

My Good Friend

I’m not sure about your house, but we have hard water, which leaves hard water spots that are especially noticeable on our stainless steel.  If the water gets wiped up right away, we don’t have problems, but of course, we actually live in our house so that doesn’t always happen.  Unfortunately, it leaves our sink area looking like this:


I know, it’s not completely awful, but my OCD side disagrees and I needed something that would work.  After discovering how awesome these cleaning wipes worked on our appliances, I thought I’d rest easy.  Cue the sad sound effects, because the wipes did work, but only until we wiped the sink with a wet rag and the spots showed up again.  I headed back to the store to see what else I could find, and that’s when I met my good friend, Bon Ami.


It’s about two dollars and basically powdered rocks, so it gently polishes the surface.  A damp sponge with a little sprinkle, followed up by a wet cloth to remove the residue, then a drying session does the trick for small areas like faucets.



Always go with the grain of stainless to avoid scratching, but it’s amazing and thrilling how shiny the stainless looks after.


What I really needed this for is our stainless steel shower pan.  As much as we love it, the water does spot like crazy.


See what I mean?


Finally, I’ve figured out a way to fight back, without using harsh, smelly chemicals.  To get a good clean, I generously sprinkle the base with the powder, then scrub, scrub, and scrub some more before rinsing and drying.


This was after a light scrubbing, which removes the droplets, but a more intense scrub gets the drain lines sparkly, too.


Not only does it work well on stainless, porcelain and enamel can get spiffed up.  Our old cast iron tub had a rust streak from the faucet, which came off with a good scrub.  Just thought this might be useful if you’re an OCD crazy and are prepping for guests this holiday weekend.

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?

Produce Cart

In addition to the new knife block, I’ve been working on organizing the rest of the kitchen.  It’s a great way to keep busy, while indulging my crazy.  Initially, I planned to have an under shelf mounted basket in the pantry, to store potatoes and extra fruit.  Because, well, Costco quantities.  Something similar to the baskets in the pantry below.

The problem with that is two-fold.  Finding the right mounting system is tricky.  Secondly, a secured basket would block the inside corner, making it useless.  Due to stubbornness, I didn’t let the issue go and searched for a better solution.  One night, as I couldn’t fall asleep, the perfect idea came to me.  Lightbulb-a wooden crate on casters!  I dug around our scrap bin, but didn’t see enough of any one thing.  Michael’s carries wooden crates, and the measurements were perfect.  Even easier than building a custom box.  For easier moving, I bought four fixed casters at Home Depot to attach to the base.

The base material is about 3/8 inch thick, so I used a combo of screws.  On the outer edge, along the 3/4 inch front piece, I used 1 inch screws.  Along the inside, shorter 1/2 inch screws to avoid going through the base.  Adding a quarter-inch thick block would also fix the problem, but I didn’t want to add height.


Swivel casters could work just as well, but fixed wheels made it easier to pull out and push in without hitting the sides.  Instead, the box smoothly slides straight in and out.


Inside, we store potatoes, oranges, and other room temperature produce.  Having gaps between strips allows adequate ventilation, keeping the contents fresh longer.


This system would work well for other heavy items, keeping contained, but easily accessible.  Not only in a pantry, but think of closets for shoes, toys, or sports gear.  Endless options, but super easy to get done.