The Doors+Drawers, Hardware and What’s Left To Do in the Kitchen

This past weekend, we tackled putting together all the drawers, attaching the 32 drawers and 8 doors to the cabinet boxes followed up by adding shiny new hardware.

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The drawers weren’t hard to put together, but there were so many, both of our hands had blisters on them before we were finished Saturday night–which is when most of these photos were taken so I apologize about the lighting. But the blisters (and back aches) were the only downside to the project. Truly, it was such a rewarding turning point in the kitchen; We have real usable cabinets!

Like most projects, Chris and I come up with a system that works well for us. In this case, I put together the drawers and he attached all the doors and drawer rails to the cabinet boxes. Over and over and over again. When it came time for hardware, he marked and drilled little pilot holes (this tool is a must have for attaching hardware!) and then we both screwed in the hardware by hand.

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Just like in the laundry room, we used these 4″ mission bin pulls from Rejuvenation in unlacquered brass on all the doors and drawers alike. On the doors, we mounted them in the same place we would the drawers and I love how everything looks uniform. One particularly wide set of 36″ drawers, we added two pulls to each drawer and it completely transformed the budget Ikea cabinets into something much more high end.

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Spending a few hundred dollars on hardware will really make even Ikea cabinets shine. Hardware is a great thing to splurge on, in my opinion.

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We didn’t get to the cover panels or toe kicks this weekend, so all of the brown cabinet boxes and legs you’re seeing will be covered eventually–hopefully before the week’s up! One change to the kitchen’s layout we haven’t talked about much, but is finally becoming apparent in photos is the island and island seating specifically. We still wanted a place to casually sit in the kitchen and island stools are so great for that, but in the former kitchen, the seating was on the right side of the counter making that portion an unusable work space. Since we moved our fridge (and microwave) to that side of the room, we really wanted to keep the adjacent countertop accessible and functional for prep. So, the walnut countertop will extend out toward the dining room leaving an overhang in that direction for tucked in stools. The solution not only makes the kitchen feel larger, the workspace is more functional and we gained extra cabinetry on the right side.

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With all of this, a few of you have expressed that it seems like we’re about done. Yes and no. We have come so far and most of the dirty work is done, so I can see how it must feel like there should be a reveal, like, tomorrow!–especially now that all the cabinets are in and usable. But, there’s still quite a bit to do and we don’t want to lose momentum in the final stretch. This weekend, we even thought about loading up the cabinets, but we fear that if we don’t finish 100% before “moving in”, we might never finish lots of little things.

We still need to:

-Finish dyeing the tile grout (you can see it started on the left side but not on the right)
-Sand, seal and install the walnut countertop on island
-Build island support legs
-Install toe kicks, cover panels and trim (including window, crown and baseboards)
-Tile and grout the backsplash (we’ve been working on this the past two nights!)
-Seal the countertops
-Stain/Install the pocket door
-Install accent lights including island lighting and sconces
-Order stools for the island
-Order runner(s)
-Install all appliances (next week!)
-Hang open shelves on either side of the window
-Design and build the range hood cover
-Design the pantry shelves

We’d still, ideally, like to be done by the end of next week but we’re taking it a day at a time and still crossing our fingers everything continues to go smoothly.

Lights On In the Kitchen!

This weekend, we got all the cabinet fittings in, which amounted to about 40 doors and drawers!, and all the hardware on and everything cleaned up (again). I can’t wait to share those details and photos with you later this week, but today I wanted to circle back around to a project we did a couple weeks ago, that made a huge difference–the recessed lighting in the kitchen!

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Our old kitchen was rocking three fluorescent lights and a boob light. Talk about a deadly combination.

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We thought a lot about what kind of lighting we wanted in the kitchen, and we settled on a mix of island pendants (these), sconces (these) over the window and recessed lighting to really brighten the whole space. We had our guy, Francisco, run all the electrical for the lighting, but we had to mark exactly where we wanted everything placed. The pendants and sconces were easy enough, but the recessed lights took a bit more mapping out.

To determine how far apart to space recessed lights, divide the height of the ceiling by two. If a room has standard 8 foot ceilings, like our home, the recessed lights should be approximately 4 feet apart. So, if the ceiling is 10 feet, you’ll want to put about 5 feet of space in between each fixture, make sense?  Since we really wanted to make sure the counterspace was lit well, we started on the left side of the kitchen, about 2 ft away from the wall, so the recessed lighting was lined up just outside of the countertop. We used 5″ Halo cans.

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We spaced each light about 4 ft apart, with rows of 3 cans on either side of the kitchen and one recessed light in front of where the ranges will be. I have been working with Cree for the past few months (mostly on social media) and they asked if there was any use for their LED bulbs in our kitchen renovation.

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I said, we’d love to give them a try in our new recessed lights! All of their bulbs look like normal bulbs, but last 25 times longer than regular bulbs (as in, we’ll have to change them when Greta graduates high school!), they’re dimmable (which isn’t always the case with LEDs), and they only use 9 watts of power so we’re saving money and energy.

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Probably my biggest and only hesitation was the time it takes LEDs to heat up and come to full power to light the room. I know it’s a small trade off to saving energy, but can we all agree the heat up process is a bummer? That’s why I was so pleasantly surprised to learn that Cree bulbs come right on. Full power. Full brightness. I took a little 15 second video to demonstrate (there’s a sneak peek at the cabinets and hardware, too!).

I know daylight bulbs are all the rage (and Cree has those, too), but I am partial to their soft white color. It still shows colors really well and true, but there is a warmth it adds to a room that I just love. Soft White, forever!

Here’s a lights off/lights on so you can see the brightness and color difference:

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It’s bright and happy and cozy. Caring about the color of your light bulbs must officially make you an adult. Ha!

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Cree bulbs are available at Home Depot, but we’re also doing a giveaway for them on Instagram today! Head over there (@chrislovesjulia) to get entered.

This post is sponsored by Cree.  The sent us their BR30 LED bulbs to use in our kitchen, but you can check out their  full selection of LED bulbs right here

DIY White Concrete Countertops

Ever since we came in contact with the Pugmire’s concrete countertops in their kitchen, we have had it in the back of our minds for ours–except in white to contrast our dark cabinets. We love to mix traditional and modern with an industrial edge in our home and white concrete countertops around the perimeter of the kitchen (with a walnut island top) not only sounded like a fun project to do and share, but we hoped it would add a bit of modern character to the kitchen. There are a few different kinds of concrete countertops floating around blog land, but for ours, we poured them in place using white countertop concrete mix and squared edge counterforms from Z Counterforms. Last Saturday, with the help of our friend Preston (musician, DIY master, concrete worker extraordinaire), we DIYed our countertops and today I’m here to spill all the details, the results and a few lessons we learned.

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PREP

The prep work is the most important part of DIYing concrete countertops. We started out by screwing in 5/8″ CDX plywood from underneath our cabinets. Although our countertops turned out awesome, if we were doing it again, we would definitely use Durock cement boards in place of the plywood. While plywood is an acceptable base, we learned that Durock absorbs liquid, while plywood repels it. This concrete mix was more fluid and we had quite a mess on our hands at one point. Like I said, it all turned out great in the end, so all is well that ends well, but after talking to the guys at Z Counterform, Durock would have eliminated a lot of the excess liquid.

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

Once the plywood was set, we started attaching the forms. Preston is the one who told us about Z Counterforms because he had worked with them before, had great results and they are geared to DIYers and professionals alike. The backside of the countertop had a simple 90 degree straight edge form:

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

While the form for the front edges had a dip in it so it would go slightly down in front of the cabinets appearing to be a full 2 1/4″ thick. They had all sorts of fancy profiles for countertops, but we like the simple square edge.

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

Since we were planning on an undermount sink and pouring concrete in place, this is the time to undermount the sink! It felt a little backwards at first, but we cut the hole for the sink and siliconed and braced it in place.

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

To protect the sink from getting mounds of poured concrete in it, we used the sink template to cut out a form in 2″ blueboard styrofoam. We wrapped the edges in packing tape to promote the smoothest finish on the sink edge, marked where the top of the concrete would sit and siliconed that to the sink (came right off after the concrete dried!). We did a similar process for the faucet hole.

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

This is where you are going to want to silicone every crack where the concrete could leak out. Where the counterform meets plywood, all seams (from the outside)–we also duct taped the outside corners as an extra precaution, and where the counterform meets the wall in the back. We thought we did this pretty well, but we missed a few spots where the wall meets the form and had some leaks to clean up during the pouring process. We’d definitely spend more time on this part doing it again.

The last part of the prep was rolling out fiber glass mesh (equivalent to rebar in large concrete projects) we picked up from Z Counterform, too. It keeps the concrete from cracking and reinforces the counters.

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

Once we had it rolled out and cut, we attached what are called “Z clips“. They get screwed into the plywood and hold the mesh up and in place.

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

We laid out rosin paper on the floors and covered all the cabinet fronts, too, after the above photo was taken. And we were finally ready to start pouring the countertops!

MIXING AND POURING THE COUNTERTOPS

As I mentioned earlier, we used a countertop specific mix from Z Counterform–this one! The directions are right on the bag, but there is a little wiggle room in how much water you add to the mix.

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

Because we used plywood, instead of Durock, we settled on about 2.5 quarts per 50 lbs of concrete mix. We ended up using 14 bags of countertop mix for our perimeter countertops (about 35 sq feet).

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

The day started out with both Chris and Preston mixing, but after the first couple batches, Preston settled inside working on leveling the concrete while Chris kept mixing. In retrospect, we should have rented a mud mixer from the hardware store. Even these heavy duty drills were struggling to keep up and Chris’s shoulder was feeling it, too. Note: Rent a mud mixer!

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

After a bag was mixed up, it was poured onto the countertop:

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

And worked into the mesh with a magnesium float.

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

When there was enough concrete in place, Preston would level it first with a screed. This was one Chris made in a couple minutes using a scrap piece of wood and two handles that came on a pallet we got.

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

And then moved to the magnesium float:

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

While the concrete was still very wet, we took a palm sander (with no sandpaper on it) to the sides of the form and turned it on. This helped settle out any bubbles forming in the concrete.

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And finally, once things started setting up, a more flexible zinc trowel was used, which Preston explains a little more about in this short video that was shot during the final step right before we called it a night:

REMOVING THE FORMS AND SANDING

We finished that final step above on Saturday night. Monday night, we had the Pugmires over for dinner and to remove the edge forms. The back forms stay in place and will never be seen once we put in the backsplash. Z Counterforms are designed to bend and snap off–it’s the coolest and scariest part. Before removing the edge, we sanded over the form so we could pry it back a bit.

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

I took a 15 second video showing how easy it was to remove the forms.

The edges and underneath the counters are so, so smooth since they were up against the forms. The tops were pretty smooth thanks to all of the effort Preston put in during the first 5-6 hours after pouring, but still got sanded down after the forms were snapped off. We got this sanding block from Z Counterform and it has 3 different diamond sanders with velcro on the back (printed with the grit). We started with a 150 grit and went up to a 300 for a velvety smooth finish.

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

We couldn’t be happier with the results! The concrete is cool to the touch, like stone. It looks very organic with spots speckled with “pepper” and others swooshed with white. It’s smooth and thick, giving us a great overall counter + cabinet height.

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

The cost breakdown (not including sealer) is:

The concrete mix: $29 a bag x 14 bags= $406
Square Edging: $180
Fiberglass Mesh: $50
Z Clips: $20
Z Gem Pad (Diamond sanders): $60
Magnesium Float: $26
Zinc Trowel: $39
Screed: (DIYed)
Plywood: $45
Silicone: $15
Blueboard for sink: $15

TOTAL: $856

The last step is sealing it. We did a ton of research on sealers and invested in one that promises the utmost protection–fingers crossed! We are going to wait a full week, allowing it to cure completely, before doing that. So, I’ll share those details next week. We’re so glad we branched out a bit and tried something new to us. We love, love, love them. Is it something you would ever try?

UPDATE: Woot! I just got an email from Z Counterform and they’d like to offer all of our readers 15% off all products for the next 3 months using code CLJ015. Go get em, guys!