When you live in a studio apartment, saving space is a top priority. It was the kitchen that won me over when I first saw this apartment a year ago and it had everything on my checklist. It was big, had plenty of cabinets, and most importantly, it was separate from my living space. The only problem: I couldn't fit a table in there comfortably. I'm a big proponent of eating at the table, so when I couldn't find what I needed at a store, I knew I'd have to design something from scratch.
Step 1: Get Materials
I was a little strapped for cash after putting down the deposit for my place, so the build would have to be done on a tight budget. Hardwood was definitely out of the question and frankly, too heavy for my old, pre-1920s walls. Plywood was the obvious next choice and I ended up getting a sheet of 3/4" for free!
- 1 sheet plywood (you can also use 2x4 if you prefer)
- shelf brackets (minimum half the depth of your counter top)
- wall screws (this depends on the type of wall you have)
- bracket screws
Step 2: Make Your Cuts
This was an intimidating step for me because it had been years since I had used power tools. Luckily, I had some help!
Joey, the former shop manager at Pier 9 helped me cut the 98" long piece of plywood on the table saw.
I decided that I wanted to try a biscuit joint to attach the edging and minimize the look of the plywood, so I made a 45 degree cut on my countertop piece and a 2" thick piece of edging.
Step 3: Biscuits
After cutting, it was time for biscuits. No, not the buttery kind. The oval-shaped connecters that join two pieces of wood. The biscuit joiner was a little intimidating at first, but once I made a few holes I felt comfortable using the tool. To ensure your biscuit holes match up, line up the edging strip with the table top and make your marks on both pieces of wood where you want to make a connection. The joiner has a red line in the center that helps you create evenly spaced out holes.
Step 4: Glue!
Making the holes was fun, but gluing the biscuits was a hoot! I glued one side of the biscuit at a time into the piece of edging, then glued the holes of the countertop. Once all the biscuits were in place and the countertop holes were glued I carefully lined up the countertop and edging and hammered the two pieces together.
Step 5: Clamp It Up
Then, I clamped the whole piece together and waited about two hours for it to dry. Those were two of the longest hours of my life, but I somehow made it through. :) I couldn't wait to take those clamps off and start finishing.
Step 6: But First, Sanding
Full disclosure: I neglected to give the countertop a good sanding before applying my stain. I thoroughly sanded the surface twice, but in the end it felt rough to the touch. Always, always, sand well before starting a stain or paint job.
Once the surface was sanded, I had to do a little patch work on my edging. The cut I made was slightly off on one side, and I used wood putty to fill it. This is a step you can avoid if you get your cut right. Measure twice and then measure two more times. :)
Another thing I learned while making the breakfast bar is that wood soaks up polyurethane pretty darn quick. I put on about three coats of poly, which I thought was enough, but it started to wear after a few months. I'm painting over the bar with an oil based paint which I think will be a lot better for cleaning and protecting the now damaged wood.
Any tips on staining or painting would be greatly appreciated!
Step 7: Install Hardware
One of the biggest challenges of making this was my massive (and beautiful!) kitchen window. The 5' width of the window is just wide enough to create a weakness in my countertop, so I opted to double up on the brackets on each side. I try not to put too much weight on the middle of the counter, but I'd love to hear your thoughts or ideas for strengthening it so I don't have to baby it so much.
I measured and drilled my bracket holes with a handheld drill -- that I found for free, thank you very much! Then I I carefully screwed in my wall screws. The brackets felt really secure because I screwed right into the wall studs. These babies weren't going anywhere.
Step 8: Enjoy It Alone or With a Friend!
And that's (almost) the end of my little project. I created an eat-in kitchen by taking advantage of an awkward space between my window and fridge. Now I get to enjoy a view every time I sit there! It's also helpful when I'm cooking. I love to cook, but it's more fun when you can chat up your friends while cooking. Now my guests can keep me company in the kitchen without having to stand around uncomfortably.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on my project and any tips you'd like to share.