From Buffet to Kitchen Island

Just to start off – this has been such a frustrating project!!! 😩 I got there in the end though.

Now I know you’ve probably seen lots of these conversions on Pinterest, but I think there are a few points I encountered that weren’t covered by other people’s blog posts. So I thought I wouldn’t just do a before and after, but go into a little more detail so you don’t make the same mistakes I did.

Firslty, this took far longer than I expected. I think because this is for a long-standing project, ie the kitchen, I’m being far more careful. This is what I’m going for…

…and this is what I bought…

This is higher than a normal counter top, but not by so much that it’s unmanageable.

The first stage was to remove the top…

If you’re not interested in the how scroll down for the after.

Under the worktop you’ll find some battons with screws connecting the main body of the buffet to the top. Unscrew these and you can used a screw driver to pry between the worktop and buffet to seperate them. I’ve an idea for that buffet top that I plan to get to later.

As you can see the wood is a dark, warmer colour, so lightening it prior to revarnishing was my first task. I removed all the hardwear first and bagged it for later. This included the locks on the doors. I didn’t think our cupboards would be needing them, so I’m putting them aside for another project.

The more diy I do the more I act like a little old man with a garden shed full of screws and other bits and bobs. Truly, I’m becoming obsessed with salvaging anything I can.

To get the lighter wood I needed to strip the varnish and this is where my difficulties began. I started with a hand held sander, but it was taking so long. I kept looking over at the interior of the cupboard that I also wanted to strip and was imagining a week going by before the job was done. I had some paint stripper put away, so I thought this might speed up the job. Paint stripper is still hard work and, even though the can said extra strong, it didn’t seem to lift the varnish easily. In the end I added a layer, scrubbed it off with sanding pad that’s like an old fashioned scouring pad and then quickly sanded. The combination of the techniques made the job a lot quicker.

I varnished the wood in this shade called medium pine by Liberon (moyenne chêne if your heading to your local brico). I think it’s a lot warmer and is similar to the shade in my goal look.

I couldn’t start painting the doors first as they had a large holes in them from the locks. Although I want to add other handles the holes are still significantly bigger than needed, so they had to be filled with wood filler prior to painting. As the hole was the thickness of the door it needed a lot of filler and therefore times to dry. They also needed a few layers to get the wood filler to be sufficiently filled to sand it so it would be smoothly part of the door.

Even though I intended to use chalk paint I still sanded the piece down, including the doors. This is an old varnish and experience has taught me that there was likely to be some bleeding into the paint. It’s actually quicker to sand then correct any mistakes later.

I made my own chalk paint with water based paint and plaster of Paris using a recipe I found – but it wasn’t a very good one as the latex texture remained. When I find a good chalk paint recipe I’ll let you know. I added four layers to the main body whilst the wood filler set. Four sounds a lot, but I don’t want an overly distressed look so want sufficient paint that when it was sanded prior to waxing the paint wasn’t too thin.

To make sure the legs were painted well I tipped the cupboard on its back with a blanket underneath to protect the paintwork.

Now for the next area of difficulty. The doors and drawer fronts had all been painted too – I don’t paint the inside or sides of the drawers because doing so would add extra thickness to the drawer. Those coats of paint add up and can cause jamming. So varnishing them and then adding a coat of wax to make them slide more easily is a good solution. The inside I didn’t paint because cutlery provides lots of opportunities to scratch paintwork.

However prior to this project I’d only ever had doors that rested against the door frame. These ones had an insert that nestled within it, making them extra secure. All well and good, but the difficulty I’d avoided with the drawers was now being experienced with the doors. They were beautifully finished and I proudly put them on the main body of the buffet, shutting one to see how they looked and….they wouldn’t shut. I desperately searched for the blockage when I realised that it was this insert which had become to large with all those coats of paint. I ended up with one choice – remove the interior coat of paint and varnish it to match the rest the rest of the body.

Then I made my next mistake – I used a hot gun to remove the paint. Stupid; the heat from the gun transferred to the other side of the wood and the paint I wanted to keep blistered. I tried sanding the blistered patches, but when I tried to paint again it look really unprofessional.

So all the paint came off. The paint on the other doors was removed by hand, but only the exterior sides. These were then varnished where they’d tough the cupboard frame with the main door painted and, eventually, attached back on the buffet.

For ease of use I replaced the locking system with these magnets so that the doors stayed closed and added these wooden, stained doorknobs.

To secure the new worktop I firstly had batons of wood with drilled holes in them to secure them firstly to the sides of the buffet, so they aligned with the edge of the top, and more holds so that screws could be attached to the worktop. It was screwed in place.

I didn’t use wax on the cupboard but an acrylic, or water based, varnish that’s made for the kitchen to make it extra durable. I painted on the varnish with a brush, the strokes all going horizontal. Then, with no additional varnish, I very lightly stroked the brush vertically prior to it drying. It blurs any marks and gives it a very professional finish.

I also added a coat of clear acrylic filler to draw joists and the gaps between the worktop of cupboard.

This is the finished island – I’ll tell you about the stools next time.

The electrics are already in the floor to have plug sockets on one side and I’ll have towel holders on the other which I’ll add later. You can just see on the right hand corner that removing the plaster from the wall has started 😬☺️.

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La Maison du Sacre Coeur

Hi, I'm a SAHM who's moved to France with my husband and two daughters. My blog focuses on our family life & decorating our 18th century village house here. I'm scouring brocantes to find furniture to revive as well as little special somethings for our home. I love DIY and craft - sewing, painting, whatever. If any of these things interest you I'd love for you to stay and wander through the site - especially if you want to tell me what you think! God bless, Andrea

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