Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Inspiration Board Numero Dos

I was recently asked to design a new space for a client that had a combo living room/home office/guest bedroom. She already had beautiful curtains (in a safari print - how fun!) that she wanted to stay in the room. Because these curtains were taste specific, I based my design specifically around these curtains.

Trying to maximize this space to serve the needs of three specific rooms was my biggest hurdle, as the room would need to achieve the following:

- Not "look" like an office and disguise not one, not two, but three printers (one of which was extremely large...as in almost 3 feet tall) and a partridge in a pear tree fax machine
- Incorporate a stylish and comfortable sleeper sofa, that wouldn't require much furniture moving and wrangling when it was time to pull the mattress out
- Feel like a living room and serve as additional entertaining space

Here is what I came up with:

And, here is the floor plan:

While I know a picture is always worth 1,000 words, I feel like a few more words might help in understanding how this room will all come together. What can I say, I'm wordy. As the floor plan shows, the sofa bed will be against a window-less wall, with a vintage-style coffee table (on wheels) for easy transport out of the mattress's way when guests are staying over.

The other window-less wall will house all of the unsightly "office-y" supplies. Placed in the center of the wall is a dark walnut buffet with cabinet doors for stowing away printer paper, the fax machine, etc. Flanking each side of the buffet are file cabinets. Sitting on top of each cabinet are the two larger printers. In front of the printer/file cabinets are the most beautiful linen/nail-head trimmed screens. They are on wheels, too, for easy access to the printer as needed.

The desk is situated in front of three windows, providing a nice view when day dreaming calls. To the left of the desk is a tall bookcase, and the last of the three darned printers (which also happens to be the tiniest) sits on the bottom shelf. Slightly in front of the bookshelf and next to the window is a black wing chair and small end table.

All in all, both the client and I are thrilled with how this room turned out! It provides a welcoming space for overnight guests, an efficient home office space for the client's husband who works long hours from home, and lastly, the room looks and feels like a living room. Seeing it all come together has been thrilling!

If you are in need of design services and would like to receive a customized design board, floor plan, and a detailed source/shopping list within your budget send me an email - I'd love to help out!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

One of the World's Best Kept Diet Secrets...

It's no secret around here that I have a major sweet tooth. Unfortunately, that's not the only thing I'm a sucker for. I also love comfort foods, the cheesier the better......especially when the temperatures starts falling (like it rapidly is here in New England). So naturally, lasagna is one of my fave foods that I've been especially looking forward to eating lately. Having a lasagna a few times during the year really isn't a bad thing....but what do you do when you want lasagna on a weekly basis once the cold weather rolls in? Well, my lucky readers, I have the answer for you...................

Zucchini Lasagna!!! The idea is genius. I came across Gina's recipe on one of my favorite healthy cooking blogs: Skinnytaste. The recipe includes all of the typical lasagna ingredients - flavorful, thick sauce, ground meat, and lots of ricotta, parm/reggiano and mozzarella cheese. But no lasagna noodles. That clever Gina simply sliced zucchinis into long, thin strips and replaced the lasagna noodles with this low-cal, low-carb vedgie substitute. With the glorious sauce, fresh basil, loads of cheese and ground meat I can honestly say the lasagna noodles weren't missed and it 100% fulfilled my lasagna craving.

This recipe was simply too good to not share with as many people as possible, so I've posted it below. The only special comment I have regarding the recipe is be sure to read the entire recipe before you begin any steps. I always fall for not doing that, and sure enough, I missed a kind-of-important beginning step, which was to be sure and cut the zucchini and then sprinkle it with salt and let it sit for about 10 minutes before broiling it. This will help zap out moisture, as zucchini is known for retaining a lot of water. Other than that, the steps are easy and it's basically the same process as making lasagna the traditional way.

Wait, I lied - I do have one more special comment regarding this recipe. Gina's version below calls for 93% lean beef; I used 99% fat free turkey. It tasted amazing with turkey and by making this substitution it will definitely reduce the calories/fat in the nutrition information posted below.....that is unless you add in an extra handful of mozzarella cheese like I did.... :-)

Zucchini Lasagna
Servings: 6 • Serving Size: 1/6th • Calories: 418.8 • Fat: 17.6 g • Protein: 39.2 g • Carb: 20.9 g • Fiber: 3.1 g 
  • 1 lb 93% lean beef
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 3 medium zucchini, sliced 1/8" thick
  • 15 oz fat free ricotta
  • 16 oz reduced fat mozzarella cheese, shredded (Weight Watchers)
  • 1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1 large egg
On a gas grill or in the broiler, grill zucchini on each side, until cooked, about 1-2 minutes per side.

In a medium sauce pan, brown meat and season with salt. When cooked drain in colander to remove any fat. Add olive oil to the pan and saute garlic and onions about 2 minutes. Return the meat to the pan, add tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. Simmer on low for at least 30-40minutes, covered. Do not add extra water, the sauce should be thick.

Meanwhile, slice zucchini into 1/8" thick slices, add salt and set aside or 10 minutes. Zucchini has a lot of water when cooked, salting it takes out a lot of moisture. After 10 minutes, blot excess moisture with a paper towel.

In a medium bowl mix ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese and egg. Stir well.

Preheat oven to 350°

In a 9x12 casserole spread some sauce on the bottom and layer the zucchini to cover. Then place some of the ricotta cheese mixture, then top with the mozzarella cheese and repeat the process until all your ingredients are used up. Top with sauce and mozzarella and cover with foil.

Bake 45 minutes covered at 375°, then uncovered 15 minutes. Let stand about 5 - 10 minutes before serving.

 Bon Appetit! Does anyone else have any other healthy recipes to share??! Do tell!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Inspiration Board for a Nautical Inspired Bar/Living Room

G'day to all of my lovely and faithful readers out there (if any of you remain after my extended summer hiatus from blogging).....for a host of reasons, I decided to take the summer off, and I am happy to write that I am officially back in the swing of things, including blogging and serial DIY-ing! What's my latest project, you ask?

I have been dabbling with the idea of creating inspiration boards to help me pull together all of the design visions running through my head - both for my own home and for others that have sought out my design perspective. There are many a talented designer out there currently using inspiration boards (both virtual and in the flesh, or, er, paper) and I thought I would try hand at it, too.

My first go around with a virtual inspiration board has revolved around a minor makeover plan for our living room. Overall, Mr. C. and I think the living room is pretty and for the most part all of the rooms on the first floor of our home are for the most part, finished. Up until a few weeks ago, here is what our living room looked like:

However, we spend the vast majority of our time in only half of those rooms - namely the kitchen and our family room. The dining room gets used on Thanksgiving and the living room, well, never. I want our rooms to not only look good, but to serve a purpose so we can actually use them on a somewhat regular basis.

Inspired by our recent vacation to Napa and our love for wine (and probably by our most recent fascination with "Mad Men,") we have decided to use this living room as more of a wine tasting/bar/lounge space. Mr. C. and I both have always had a love for reds (Mr. C's first choice is Malbec, mine = Cabernet) and we are starting to build a decent collection. We also enjoy a good cocktail, so we have a pretty decently stocked bar, as well. So, our love of booze (ughh, does that sound really bad!?) has helped us decide how we would like to utilize this space.

Turns out I'm not the only one to have this brilliant idea for their living room.....apparently between the 16-18th century, many homes contained "drawing rooms," which is where the owner of the home (and his wife) would withdraw after dinner for cordials and cigars. Although we won't be called this space a "drawing room," we will definitely be using it as such. That is, until AA comes a-knocking at our door. Bad, I know.

So, here is my first inspiration board featuring the design vision for our living room/lounge. I was feeling a nautical style (of course!), but I wanted the room to have a decidedly more formal look and almost resemble being aboard a fancy yacht bar...if that makes any sense. That's what I was picturing in my head, anyway.....and here it is pictured below in my first-ever inspiration board:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Red and White Striped Decor

Hi all! I’m Jennifer and I write for Arcadian Home Decor, a site that chronicles the work of top interior designers and home decor trends around the world. I've been writing about home decor since graduating university and have loved it ever since. I'm addicted to patterned fabrics, Jonathan Adler, chaise lounges, old doors, milk glass jars, antiques, and chandeliers. Erin, the owner of Stillwater Story blog, and I both have a love for everything Martha Stewart and reading blogs (I've always been a fan of her posts), so I was tickled pink (or red!) when I found out I'd be writing a guest post for her about red and white striped decor. Thanks Erin! Stripes are beautiful. They work in formal as well as casual spaces, they look great on walls, furniture and they can really be used to achieve any stylish look. Fat stripes, thin stripes and even those that are zigzagged, here are a few rooms boasting red and white striped decor. Give a transitional space like a hall or entryway some whimsy with bold red and white stripes. The traditional furniture is a pretty juxtaposition from the eccentricity of the wallpaper.
Red and white striped dishes on an open shelving display can become the showpiece of a kitchen or dining room.
Flex that patriotic muscle with a bedroom inspired by the red and white stripes of the American flag. Stripes run rampant in this space with lined furniture, carpeting and window treatments.
Striped bedding and vibrant wallcoverings add dimension to this bedroom with bunk beds - the pale-coloured furniture and flooring offset the loudness of the red and white stripes.
Give a tired workspace some life with red and white striped curtains - it instantly amplifies the plain space and becomes a place where the eye is immediately drawn.
What's sweeter than a sweet table flanked by red and white stripes? The wall provides a fun backdrop, while the colour scheme is carried through in the red and white polka-dot ribbon and white paper snowflakes.
Who loves red and white stripes? The Cat in the Hat, of course! The character who loves rhyme is perfect for over a crib and looks even more visually appealing when placed over a red and white striped wall.
The soft red and white tones of this bedroom are reflected in the fabric details of this space, adding just enough panache.
Content provided by Arcadian Home Decor, a site that specializes in top quality items at extremely affordable prices. Come visit us today!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"Stainless Steel" Appliances for $10? Yes, Please!

Happy Wednesday, Everyone!

In my post last week, I talked about how Mr. C and I stained Ikea butcher block countertops to give them a more custom look in our newly remodeled white kitchen. During the last phase of the countertop project, I started debating whether or not to spray paint our icky white trash compactor. I knew it would be perfect timing for such a project, since there were no countertops to contend with - we could easily move the appliance in and out....that is until the new butcher block got installed. It wouldn't be impossible to remove the trash compactor with countertops above it....but with all the blood, sweat and tears we had just put into that project I wasn't lovin that idea. So I figured it was now or never!!! 

I had read mixed reviews of other bloggers using stainless steel spray paint....some people with success, and some people that claimed to utterly regret the decision. I weighed the pros/cons carefully, and in the end decided to go for it because:

1) Our trash compactor is a small appliance - much smaller than spraying say, a fridge. I figured with less surface area, there is less room to mess up.
2) The trash compactor is old and always looks dirty - no matter how many times it's been scrubbed down. In my eyes...a slightly imperfect paint job (that was clean looking, at least) would be an improvement to a dirty appliance.
3) All of our other appliances are stainless steel. The white trash compactor sticks out like a sore white thumb.
4) If all else fails and I botch the compactor up something fierce...well, it can be replaced. It is an older appliance - probably going on 10 years, now...at some point, we were bound to replace it. Why not spend the $10 on spray paint first to see if we can give the ole' compactor a face lift that will buy us a few years?? And lastly.....
5) My Mom, the mecca of all crafty, DIY projects, had sprayed my younger brother's appliances stainless in his first apartment and said it was a piece of cake....and she had tackled the big boys - fridge, dishwasher, etc. Even though I had read mixed reviews online, getting in-person feedback from a highly trusted source gave me the last bit of reassurance I needed to get in the rink with a measly little trash compactor.

I really wish I had taken more pictures of the icky white "before" trash compactor to show off the extreme difference in the before/after shots below...but I just couldn't bring myself to photograph that thing up close and personal when it was in our house. So, here are the best "before" pictures I have - with glimpses of the original compactor:

Compactor is in the bottom left corner...

Here are the afters:

Is my "new" compactor perfect looking? No. Would I do it again, though? YES! For an hour or so of my time and for $10, I am beyond pleased with the results.

Here are my tips for spraying appliances stainless steel:

* Clean your appliance! Get it as clean as possible so you have a nice, even surface to work with. Make sure you dry it thoroughly, too.
* If possible, move your appliance outside. Not only will this help to dissipate spray paint fumes, but you won't have to worry about carefully covering up your kitchen floor, counters, cabinets, etc.
* If you aren't an experienced spray painter, practice on something else first! Grab some cardboard boxes - anything! Practice until you're comfortable.
* Spray in even, thin coats. Multiple thin coats will always look better than one heavy, goopy coat.
* Buy extra spray paint. I thought I could get away with only one $3.99 can....then halfway through my paint job I had to make a second run to Wally World to pick up two more cans. In reality, I probably should have bought at least three more.
* Consider buying a spray gun handle. I actually don't have one of these (yet), but my carpenter brother in law suggested I get one...especially for a job like this. A spray gun handle is inexpensive and would make the job much easier on your hands. Here is one for under 4 bucks.
* Use a paint brand you trust. This is not an area to try and save a buck or two. If possible, go with a product brand you're familiar with, or ask a salesperson for a recommendation if you're a novice sprayer. I went with my old standby, Krylon stainless steel....Walmart sells it for $3.99.
* Let your appliance fully dry before moving it back inside - follow the drying time recommendation on your spray can.
* Make sure you get the entire area covered. I even sprayed inside the trash compactor; if I hadn't, you'd see the original white every time you opened the door. Who wants that?!?

Anyone else have success with spraying an appliance stainless??!?! Do share!!

I am linking up to the following blog parties: http://betweennapsontheporch.blogspot.com/ and http://stillwaterstory.blogspot.com/p/link-parties.html

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bathroom Remodeling Advice

As I've mentioned in the past (here and here), updating our master bathroom has been on the back burner since we bought our house. Now that the kitchen renovation is coming to a close, why not forgo a break and focus all of my energy on the bathroom now?! Well, in reality I'll still probably take a nice, long break before even setting foot in the bathroom remodeling section of Lowe's....but that doesn't mean I can't still search for gorgeous inspiration pictures and make a mental list blog post of my remodeling ideas in the mean time, right?! And it just so happens that one of my friends recently asked for suggestions on remodeling her own bathroom....perfect timing, eh!?! She is drawn to white/gray colors in the bathroom, like me(!!), so there was no way I could say so no to dreaming up plans and ideas for a beautiful gray and white bathroom for my friend, and of course - for all my lovely readers out there!
Here are my tips for creating a classic white/gray bathroom that will stand the test of time (and trends), not break the bank and maximize the space (whether your bathroom is big or small):
Tip #1: Avoid trendy/highly patterned/taste specific/brightly colored/etc. big ticket purchases, such as your tile choices, vanity and shower/tub. Trendy purchases are usually not only expensive, but quickly become outdated as yesterday's news. Stick with classic, neutral colors for your tiles and other big purchases (such as white 3x6" subway tile, or carrara marble tile (or marble such as venetian/greecian marble and/or ceramic tile with similar gray/white coloring that is less expensive than carrara). If you like, let your trendy side come out through less permanent and less expensive purchases like wall paint, accessories, linens and artwork:

$24 bath mat from West Elm
Tip #2: Speaking of accessories - don't go overboard.  Having a lot of toiletries sitting around on your vanity will give the impression that there is no other place to store your stuff and make the bathroom feel smaller. If you are lucky enough to have a linen closet in your bathroom, organize it effectively so you can keep your vanity as clutter-free as possible.

Tip #:3: To make a small (or medium/large for that matter) bathroom appear larger, one of the best strategies to achieve this is by replacing your shower rod and curtain with a seamless glass door. Shower curtains visually cut into the space and square footage of the bathroom, making the eye believe the room is smaller than it actually is. The small bathrooms pictured below look much larger thanks to the seamless glass shower doors.

Tip #4: Stick with a color scheme of only a few colors - preferably neutrals - and mix and match these colors in different sizes and shapes of tile. By mixing and matching your tile, you can splurge on one or maybe two high end accents, and keep the rest inexpensive. For example, the bathroom below consists of mostly of white subway tile (very inexpensive yet classic and beautiful) paired with a splurge of carrara tile on the floor: 

Sarah Richardson via Pinterest
Another option would be to splurge on a solid carrara vanity, then save money by going with a honed venetian/greecian marble or ceramic tile for the floor to compliment the gray/white tones of the vanity, like Sarah Richardson has done in the bathroom below. Actually, she may have gone with carrara tile for the floor here, but a less expensive venetian marble would look virtually identical to carrara. She also saved money by using inexpensive white subway tile in the shower.

Sarah Richardson via Pinterest
Save even more money by using all white tile, but tile it in an unexpected pattern rather than the same old grid pattern - try herringbone, brick or diamond. These patterns are still classic and traditional, but not as overly used as the standard grid layout. The shower below consists of inexpensive white subway tile, but when paired with high end shower fixtures it looks drop dead gorgeous:
The next bathroom pictured uses inexpensive white tile, yet in a variety of different sizes and shapes for another inexpensive yet beautiful effect:

If you are lucky enough to have a tub in your bathroom, save money by using white tile around the majority of the tub and add a backsplash splurge that coordinates with the floor, like this:
Or, splurge on one wall of fancy tile behind the tub (here the accent wall is pictured behind the sink, but it could totally work behind the tub, too):
Of course, you can always just continue your white subway tile (in an interesting pattern!) up the wall behind the shower; in fact, when in doubt I say just stick with the white:
If an all white shower is too white for you, consider adding one row of accent tiles (such as carrara mosaic) tiles mixed in with the white tiles, like this:

Aubrey & Lindsay's Blog

BTW, if you like the accent shower tile idea, be sure to read Tip #5 for some major money saving potential with that!
For the shower floor, continuing with the white tile (perhaps in a different shape - if your walls are 3x6" subway, try miniature white hexagons or 2x2" squares on the shower floor, etc.) is your most inexpensive option....a moderate upgrade would be carrara (or any similarly colored tile) mosaic tiles, or if you have an accent row of tiles in your shower (or your bathroom floor) you could repeat this on your shower floor. A pricier splurge would be a river rock floor in a white or gray color - although this could be considered a bit trendy/taste specific.
Tip #5: If you want an accent row of tiles above your vanity, tub and/or in your shower, buy the easy-to-install 12x12" mesh sheets of tile and cut these sheets into equal halves, thirds, quarters, etc. and you'll end up buying a much smaller quantity of the pricier 12x12 sheets. For example, if this sheet of carrara mosaic costs $12/sheet....
Home Depot
...Rather than having a 12" tall accent, simply cut this sheet containing 10 columns with 10 rows into 5 rows of 2x10 squares, or 2 rows of 5x10 squares. Your accent strip will be smaller, but you'll save a lot of money here. Remember how pretty this shower looked?
Aubrey and Lindsay's Blog
The accent row of tile is small but striking and this look could easily be recreated by cutting out mesh tile sheets.
Tip #6: To add architectural interest, consider wainscoating and/or other trim details to your bathroom.  The most inexpensive form of this would be beadboard, followed by DIY board and batten or DIY frame wainscoating. Or, you could add a chair rail and paint the top section a very light gray and underneath a slightly darker gray. Crown molding "finishes" a room in my opinion and would be an inexpensive, DIY project for the bathroom, as well.  Pricier options would include having frame wainscoating professionally installed or installing a coordinating tile underneath a tile chair rail.

Tip #7: Space verses Storage. Before remodeling your bathroom (and this is especially important if yours is on the smaller side) it's very important to think carefully about how much storage you will need in your bathroom, not only now, but five years from now. Think long term. Will kids eventually be sharing this bathroom? Then perhaps a single pedestal sink that offers no storage isn't your best bet. However, if storage isn't a problem and you want to make your bathroom feel larger, a pedestal sink takes up very little floor space and will help make your bathroom feel larger. Another way to nab more space is to have an open vanity, like the picture below. Like the pedestal sink, the drawback of an open vanity is that you lose under-the-sink storage space; however, it is important to also note that baskets could be placed underneath the vanity and you could add medicine cabinet mirrors above the vanity for additional storage, like this:
If storage overrides making the bathroom appear larger than I would stick with a traditional vanity with cabinets and drawers, like this (minus the tall side cabinets - unless you have room for them, then by all means go for it!):



Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How to Stain Butcher Block Countertops

Happy Summer, everyone! (School ends for me this week, so I'm in official summer-mode, whether or not it's June 21st!)  Mr. C and I finished up our countertop installation a little while ago, and it was the last major hurdle of our kitchen overhaul. You may recall that we hemmed and hawed over whether to go granite or butcher block for the majority of the countertop surface, along with whether to keep the breakfast bar granite or install carrara marble. If you missed my ramblings on this subject, feel free to get caught up here. In the end, we decided to go with the butcher block and keep our granite breakfast bar as is….and to allocate any recouped savings on curb appeal projects (much to Mr. C’s delight)...so this decision was a true win-win for both of us! Here are some preview pics of our kitchen after the countertops were installed and in its almost finished state:

Throughout the year we’d spent many an afternoon wandering through the kitchen remodel sections of several large “big box” remodel stores, and I was surprised to see how expensive butcher block countertops can be…..that is until we happened upon Ikea’s kitchen display. Ikea’s solid wood countertops are also extremely well priced and are extremely popular amongst DIYers lately. Throughout the year I’d read many success stories about Ikea’s butcher block and how home owners had even installed the wood themselves. Ikea offers three different types of butcher block, and they also sell a dark walnut laminate, which I honestly considered for a hot minute, but in the end, we knew that going with natural materials (granite, stone, butcher block, etc.) was ultimately what we wanted and would also be the safer investment for future home resale purposes.
Happy with the price (approx $600 including the home delivery fee) and quality of Ikea’s butcher block, I knew we had found a winner. However, I also knew that the coastal kitchen vision I had in mind for our butcher block countertops would require a few extra "customizing" steps to truly fit the bill. As my inspiration pictures here and here show, I am drawn to a darker walnut color butcher block. To achieve this walnut effect, all I needed to do was simply stain my beautiful yet light colored Ikea butcher block, right? Well, it sounded easy enough a solution to me….but up until that point all of the Ikea countertop pictures I’d seen in blogland featured the countertops in their natural state – which was beautiful but not the look I was going for. All of the wood we have in our house (floors, furniture, etc. is dark – it just wouldn’t mesh right. I have a thing for matching woods.)  So I scoured my favorite blog sites even deeper to try and see if someone out there had attempted such a project. And wouldn’t you know it, I stumbled across This and That featuring not only advice for installing an Ikea countertop, but specific directions for staining the wood!!! What a find, I tell you. I read and reread Vanessa's countertop post, asked questions (which she so kindly and promptly answered) and I ran my plan by Mr. C and our brother in law (whom happens to be an excellent carpenter). After studying up and ordering the necessary supplies, all systems were a go to stain and install our Ikea countertops. Before I get into the details and how-to, here is a before shot of our kitchen when we bought our house last year:

As I said, This and That's directions were extremely helpful and I don’t think I would have had the guts to go through with this idea without her extremely helpful advice that she shared on her blog. For that reason, I’ve also put together our slightly modified version of the installation/staining process (which focuses more so on the pre-stain prep, staining and post-stain work), to hopefully help out other DIY-ers that may attempt this relatively painless and inexpensive (yet time consuming) project.  The steps we followed do differ slightly from This and That, mainly because we had to deal with joining not one, not two, but three corners (although we didn’t have to contend with cutting out the sink hole).
Without further ado, here is our how-to:
* If you are lucky enough to have an Ikea near you, I highly suggest going to the store to check out the butcher block in person. Ikea sells three different types (oak, birch and beech) and there are color variances amongst each. In addition, the colors you see on your laptop may be very different from the in-person colors of the wood. I can personally attest to this, as Ikea's oak picture online looks pretty dark (dark enough that I could possibly get away without staining it) but when I saw it in person at the store it was much lighter. Note the comparisons below:
Online pic of Ikea's oak butcher block:


What it actually looks like in person:

After light sanding

After light sanding
* Before ordering your Ikea countertops, it goes without saying that you will need to carefully measure your existing countertops and/or the area that you plan to install your new countertops. Measure this area, measure it again, and then measure it one more time. Then, hand your tape measure off to someone else and have them repeat the process. Once you have determined your measurements, order your Ikea butcher block. Our kitchen countertop space was around 55 SF, so we needed to order three slabs at 96 7/8x25 5/8" each. You can purchase the butcher block in the store (which may require a heavy duty pick up to haul it home....and depending on how much you're getting it will be very, very heavy) or online with home delivery (this cost us just under $100 and we received our butcher block in about a week). As I said, this butcher block is solid and very heavy, so I am really happy we decided to have it shipped right to our house.....and btw it took two very large (well over 6 ft) dudes to carry it into our basement. Once your butcher block has arrived, keep it in its packaging until you're ready to start working with it - I repeat, don't open the boxes and leave your untreated butcher block laying around. Without proper sealing, butcher block can warp if wet and you realllly don't want that to happen.
* When you have a solid weekend carved out to dedicate to starting this project, you are finally ready to take your butcher block out of its packaging. Well, almost ready. First you need to remove your old countertops:

(Try not to remove part of the wall like we did)

Mr. C and my brother in law were able to do this relatively quickly and painlessly. Please be aware that you will now be countertop-less (and sink-less) until the project is complete, which could be as little as a week but possibly longer if you are a procrastinator, like us. It will all be worth it in the end though, promise!
* Now you are truly ready to remove your countertops from their packaging:

Using your countertop measurements, cut each board to size and if you have corners, drill the holes for the bolts to attach the two pieces of wood together (these bolts/directions should come with your Ikea package, fyi):

We were very lucky here, as our master carpenter brother-in-law took charge with this. Really, he's a master; just check out his big tools and fancy truck:

...And check out some of his amazingly beautiful custom woodwork on his website. If you live in MA and are in need of a gifted carpenter, he is sooo your man! So as I was saying, it is very important to drill your holes and make any necessary cuts to the wood (such as cutting out a sink hole) during this beginning step. If you have corners like we did, just drill the holes - you don't have to attach the two pieces together yet. Because our bro in law took care of this step, I don't have detailed directions for this step but I do believe it's absolutely something any DIY-er could do on their own. We only attached one corner during this stage, and that was only because we had an extremely small piece to add to a large piece.
* Before going any further, make sure your newly cut countertops fit properly in their new home:

 If you need to make any adjustments, do that now. Do not skip this ultra important step. Also, if you are installing a sink (old or new) within your new countertops, make sure your sink will fit in its new spot. We bought an Ikea's farmer sink (more on that in a future post):

and all we had to do was set the sink on top of the wood - but we still tested it out during this step to make sure it fit before continuing on. If you have a drop sink or a sink requiring more work, I highly suggest reviewing This and That's directions.
* As I said earlier, the Ikea countertops aren't fully sealed, but they do have a very light factory finish on them that will need to be sanded off before you can stain them. Sand the entire surface (front, back, side to side....front, front, back, back, side to side.....KIA anyone?!?! I love those hip gerbils!) Like This and That, we also used a 120 grit sandpaper followed by 220 grit paper and Mr. C. used an orbit sander to make the job go much faster than just by hand:

When sanding be sure to go with the grain of the wood, not against it:

Kaylee has officially taken on the role of this blog's version of "Where's Waldo Kaylee?"

* After sanding, wipe the wood down with a tac cloth to remove any dust. Now you're ready to apply a pre-stain wood conditioner. I used Minwax's Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner on all sides in the direction of the wood:

* It won't take too long for your wood conditioner to dry - maybe an hour or so; here is what our slabs looked like after their deep conditioning treatment: 

Once dry, sand down with 220 grit sandpaper and wipe with a tac cloth.
* Now you're ready to stain. If you've stained wood before, feel free to jump right in on your countertops. I, however, was a newbie to staining so I practiced my staining technique on a few scraps of the butcher block that were left over:

You can use a rag or brush - I say go with whatever you're most comfortable with and for me it was a brush. I applied two coats of Minwax's Dark Walnut 2716:

Once again, apply your stain in the direction of the wood grain and to all sides:

I noticed that it took much longer than I had expected for the stain to dry (as in, it took overnight and I still had to wipe off some excess in the AM). I asked my carpenter bro-in-law about this and he said that was perfectly normal for the type of wood (oak) I was using and not to worry. This and That mentioned that the final step (Waterlox) caused her stain to lighten slightly, so if you are worried about that I suggest staining a bit darker than what you want your end results to look like; you can see below that my newly stained countertops (pre sealer) are darker here before they got Water-loxed:

* After staining is complete, do another very light sanding (just to remove any air bubbles, etc.) in, you guessed it, the  direction of the wood and to all sides.
* You are now approaching the home stretch as it's time to seal your newly stained countertops! Unfortunately this is also the longest part of the process, as you will need to apply a handful of coats (to each side) and allow plenty of time for each coat to dry. We used Waterlox, and although the website says that it is sold in True Value stores, I highly suggest calling your True Value before driving to the store (especially if the store is an hour away, which was sadly the case for Mr. C)....and as it turned out all three True Values within a 2-hour proximity of us don't sell this product. This product can be purchased online, though, directly from their website. In addition to their original formula, they also sell a low VOC formula, which is what we opted for, since, well, its the only version that could be shipped to MA where we live. This was a bit pricey at $95 for the gallon we purchased....but in the end I was really happy with it as I was worried we might need to order a lot more (we would be water-loxing over 50 SF of countertops, on top and underneath, for a total of 7 coats) but the gallon size was more than enough for us. I sealed the bottom sides of the countertops twice and the tops five times. I let each coat dry at least 12 hours (usually I waited a full 24 hours, though) before adding another coat. Following This and That's suggestion, I sealed the bottoms first to prevent any damage to the tops. *I didn't take any pictures of the Waterlox stage, because even though we purchased the low-VOC version, I wore a mask during the Waterlox application, opened all windows in our basement, and just tried to minimize my time in the basement around the fumes in general. It does smell a bit. Applying the waterlox is very easy though, and after applying the wood conditioner and stain, you'll be an old pro at it.

* Once dry, I was content to just use a tac cloth to wipe them down a bit and call it a day (or month), but Mr. C insisted we ever so lightly sand the tops to make them smooth and get rid of any air bubbles. Iwas nervous to do this because I hadn't read about anyone else doing this...and I was so paranoid about making sure I sealed them properly - what if this final sanding undid all that sealer?! But I trusted his gut and I'm glad I did because it made a big difference in the finished look and feel of the countertops. Light sanding is the key here, though.

* Once everything was finally dry, our countertops sat around on various make-shift tables for another week or so in the basement:

 ....Yes, I was going crazy without any countertops (or a sink!) in our kitchen for around 3 weeks but we just got hung up with other things going on that we didn't get around to the final installation for another week. Our lifesaver of a brother-in-law once again generously agreed to lend a hand with installing the countertops. Ikea provides the necessary screws and directions to adhere your countertops to your cabinets..but beyond their directions, I really don't have any extra pearls of wisdom to share as I wasn't involved with this phase of the project (I was too busy spray painting our old white trash compactor stainless steel for under $10....tutorial coming soon!!):
Can you tell which appliance has been spray painted??!!

Ready for her close up
 However, I can attest that the men were finished the countertop installation much sooner than I was finished the spray painting, which was actually pretty quick - especially considering the fact that we had three corners to contend with in our U-shaped kitchen layout. Judging from so many other bloggers installing IKEA countertops on their own, it seems to be a pretty easy installation.

Overall, this multi-step project was time consuming, but not difficult if you do your research and follow the directions and guidelines. All in, this project cost us around $800 for the countertops and supplies.....which is 8 times less than our jet-mist granite quote. I love the end result of our new countertops and I feel like they give our kitchen an old beach house vibe. So far, they've been very easy to maintain - I simply wipe them down with soap and water as needed. I don't let big spills or water puddles sit around on the countertops, though...but I wouldn't do that with any countertops I had - old or new. They are perfectly safe for food prep thanks to the Waterlox sealer; however, it is extremely important not to cut directly onto the countertops - always use a cutting board! (Again, this is something I wouldn't do whether or not I had old/new countertops, but it's especially important with butcher block). One of the best features of the Waterlox is that it's a one time sealer - no further touch ups necessary! Many other sealers require monthly resealing so this was a huge selling point for us with the Waterlox. I probably should have mentioned these Waterlox tidbits during the actual Waterlox sealing "how to" section of this post...but this post is getting to be quite long now, and I'm at the point where I'm just spewing out information as it comes to me. I hope it helps someone else out there, just like Vanessa's post helped me! :-)
Here are more pictures of the kitchen in its current, almost finished state:

(I like cheese.)

The final remaining projects include installing white subway tile and installing under mount cabinet lighting. Prior to installing the cabinets, the first leg of the project was purchasing all new stainless steel appliances...new appliances were a necessity, not just an upgrade, as our house came with no appliances (including no washer/dryer). Next, we tackled painting our cabinets cream; you can read that tutorial here.

I am linking up to the following blog parties.