It's been almost 2 years since Kevin and I bought our waterfront fixer upper. Since that time we've hooked up a well, installed a new septic system, shored up the garage and house foundations, and gutted the interior walls down to the studs.
Opening up the house led us not only to repair shoddy construction and water damage, but to reimagine the layout. The original kitchen was located in the street-side corner of the house looking into the dining room, which looked onto water, with a wall separating both rooms from the living room.
I'm a person who seems to spend an inordinate amount of time at the kitchen sink, and the view from there, for me, is paramount. The view from the original sink was quite nice, it looked into the yard between home and house and took in part of our water view.
But once the walls were gone, we decided to move the kitchen to the waterfront side of the house at the opposite end of its original location. This way while cooking and washing dishes, we'd look out into the dining and living areas and onto our entire view.
In preparation for our move in at the end of February, where Kevin and our two-man crew constructed a temporary kitchen using new GE appliances we ordered, a reconfiguration of the existing kitchen cabinets, reuse of the original laminate countertops from both the kitchen and apartment at our last live-in project house in Gig Harbor, and reuse of a white porcelain sink removed from a client's kitchen remodel. A raised wall behind the sink is topped with the sandstone mantel from the unsafe fireplace we tore out of the living room, and serves as a visual barrier to kitchen clutter as well as a snack bar.
Kevin covered the walls in Tyvek wrap to give the kitchen a bright look in those dark winter days and printed out a photo to serve as a faux window above the stove until we frame the wall for a real window. He put Tyvek wrap on the ceiling as well and installed shop lights for overhead lighting. Unfortunately, our cats walked across the Tyvek ceiling and fell through—twice!—so I took it down.
Shortly after we moved in, we used leftover laminate floor planks from the downstairs apartment in Gig Harbor to cover the plywood we installed in our new kitchen. The green vinyl floor (photo above this one) is in the old family room footprint..
Everything was functional through the long winter; though having brown cabinets, dark brass hardware, gray appliances, and black (with white flecks) countertops was a lot of dark neutral for me.
Though this is a temporary kitchen, we will be using these cabinets in the final configuration—possibly painted by our crew as they did in our Gig Harbor house—since they're solid wood and in good shape. Given that, I decided to update the cabinet and drawer handles and hinges to polished nickel (which I can reuse in the final kitchen reno), which not only modernized the look, but solved the problem of my robe pockets getting caught on the ends of the drawer handles (a frequent occurrence in the colder months as I wore my robe over my clothes in our unheated home).
I even tried a wipe on stain in espresso to see if I could darken my cabinets without stripping them to coordinate better with the appliances and counters. I tested the back of one cabinet door and the results were so slight I decided it wasn't worth the effort.
I love the layout of the kitchen and the new appliances are wonderful, so I was hoping I could live with the all-dark look for another year or so...but as the days grew long and the skies and sea bluer, the desire for color and light in the kitchen kept whispering to me every time I was in the kitchen.
Last week I had some full days on my hands, Kevin was working on a project for friends who live over 50 miles away and stayed overnight at their house, so my kitchen needs were minimal.. On a whim, I decided to paint the countertops. They're already pieced in several places and not a perfect fit, so I know they'll be replaced eventually, which gave me the confidence to try the project solo and not worry if my efforts were imperfect.
First I ran painters tape along the top of all the cabinets and edges of the slide-in stovetop to prevent paint drips. Then I applied a single coat of exterior primer made for glossy surfaces, which only required a quick and slight hand sanding of the countertops.
After the primer dried I used a Sherwin Williams Color To Go sample labeled "Rain" (which may or may not be the correct name) that I picked up for free in the paint shed at our local household hazardous waste collection site.
I LOVE the color, but I didn't read the instructions until after I rolled on the first coat.
DIYers Beware: Color To Go is not paint!—it lacks the hardeners/adhesives of paint and is designed as an inexpensive way to see how a paint color will look on a relatively large surface (like a bedroom wall). It is meant to be painted over, or even removed with water.
It's an hour to the nearest Sherwin Williams store and I was deep in DIY mode. So, I conferred with Kevin—an expert on all aspects of remodeling—and we decided that since I'd planned to seal the countertops with polyurethane afterward for water protection, that would most likely mitigate the problem of paint adherence.
Over the course of one long 90 degree day I applied 3 coats of Color To Go—and there were a few places it didn't stick to my roller and the primer shows through; but they're temporary counters, so I can live with the imperfections!
I allowed the paint to dry overnight, and over the course of another long 90 degree day I applied 3 coats of polyurethane designed for floors. Despite my best efforts small fibers got on my roller and onto the counters, I immediately wiped what I could see while applying, but some fibers (probably cat hair) are trapped under the finish in a few spots...it's something I'd feel terrible about if this was work done for a client, or for something I intended to be "permanent," but since I know it' going to be replaced in a year or two, I've allowed the results to be good enough, and decided not to fret over imperfections no one sees but me.
The instructions say the polyurethane is ready for light foot traffic in 24 hours, but I waited 3 days before setting anything on the counter, and am waiting the full 7 days for the polyurethane to cure before setting the microwave and knife block back in their places.
One thing I've noticed about polyurethane coating is that it turns white when wet and also when exposed to heat—from a plate warmed in the microwave, for example—and it takes quite awhile, from hours to overnight for the white spots to disappear, only to have more form with the next splash...but it's only temporary (see how handy this mantra is?).
I was so happy with the progress that I grabbed more blue paint from my stash and painted the bedroom doors while my polyurethane was drying.
The kitchen feels lighter, brighter, and more unified in color. Even our small crew, who've done lots of painting and cabinet refinishing complimented me on how great the countertops look.
I'm thrilled with the results. Now, instead of inner-cringing, I feel like smiling whenever I set foot in the kitchen. With that mission accomplished it's time for a cup of tea. Join me.