Concrete Countertops and more kitchen updates

It’s been almost 4 years since we gutted our kitchen, but it never really felt done to me. Honestly we were in such a rush to get the kitchen done so we could move in that it was never really thoughtfully decorated. Well now with most of the rest of the house done I’ve finally turned my attention back to the kitchen.

The biggest change we made were the countertops. The island was stripped down to the original wood and sealed with dutch oil to give it a more natural finish. You can see the originals here.

The rest of the kitchen got brand new concrete countertops that we made ourselves in the garage. The price was cheap but it was definitely a labor of love that took almost 2 months to finish.

The sink slab actually took 8 men to carry in. We also finally upgraded to a stainless steel farmhouse sink and commercial faucet. I cannot even describe how happy both of them make me.

I seriously love this sink! (Sorry for the crappy picture. It was snowing  outside!)

One of the easiest things I did was upgrade the backsplash with a new grout color.

My husband did such an amazing job  installing the herringbone title backsplash (see how he did it here) and unfortunately he picked the wrong grout color. Not only did the color he picked make the grout look dingy but it also hid the beautiful pattern he had designed. The solution was Polyblend Grout Renew in Charcoal.  With just a toothbrush and less than a bottle I was able to completely transform the backsplash. Here is a before and after….

We also stripped down the old shelves and stained them in walnut as well as finally got some decorative elements in the room.


We took out the old dining table and put in a couch that is perfect for wine sipping and chatting with the cook. The kids also like to do their homework here.

I still need a rug for the reading/wine nook as well as a runner for the kitchen.

The kitchen is finally starting to feel completed.

And while it has taken up a couple of years to get here, I’m pretty proud that everything was done completely by us. Here is a reminder of how far we’ve come:

kitchen makeover

Carpet to Wood stair makeover reveal

carpet to wood stair makeoverIt’s finally time for the kitchen stair makeover reveal! Many of us are stuck with builder’s grade carpeted stairs, but that doesn’t mean we have to live with them! For about $150 we were able to transform our boring old stairs into beautiful custom looking wood stairs! I already shared with you how we built the stair treads ourselves, so let’s get straight to the pretty pictures!

P.s you can see all my inspiration for this project here.

wood stairwell makeover


stairway makeover from carpet to wood


covnert carpet to wood stairs

So shiny!

ebony stained handrail

And my favorite part! Before and after pictures!

stair makeover

The view from the pantry…..

stairs before and afterAnd a picture from before we even moved in…..

stair makeover before and afterThese are the stairs that go from our kitchen to our play room (room over the garage), so they are slightly shorter than average stairs. We used this project as a practice run for our foyer stairs which will hopefully be getting the same treatment before Christmas!



UPDATE 2017: The foyer stairs are finally done! Check them out here!


If you were just here for the pretty pictures this is your queue to leave. Now on to some of the more technical aspects of this makeover…..

The stair risers are made from stain grade plywood (same thing we made the foyer wainscoting, island cover panel, and faux chimney box from). After each piece was cut to size I rolled on two coats of primer and two coats of white paint each. I spread them out on table in the dining room while painting.

After they were dry Cody used a pneumatic nail gun to attach them to each riser. You can see them going up below……

making stair risersPainting the bannisters was a major pain in the butt. They each got two coats of primer and two coats of paint multiplied by 4 sides since I could only paint 1 side at a time. Even though I put on very light coats I still wound up with a lot of drips. They are still not perfect, but as long as you don’t look too close you won’t notice.

When we do the foyer steps, I am planning on spraying the banisters, so I’ll let you know how that goes.

painting banisters

The part of this project that wound up being the most difficult was staining to newel post and handrails. I already had Polyshades Classic Black* in the garage and I devised this perfect plan of just giving everything a light sanding followed by a quick wipe down with a TSP substitute*. Then magically I would just glaze the handrails with the black stain.  Well I tried that then sat back for 3 days waiting for the stain to dry to no avail. I don’t know if I didn’t mix the stain well enough or it was too humid in the garage, but my plan definitely wasn’t working.

*These links are affiliate links. I include them as a reference for the products we use and hope they are helpful to you; however, if you make a purchase we may make a small commission.

ebony stained handrailSo, on to plan B which involved using a chemical stripper* and stripper after wash* to remove both the black and original finish. The good news is that after being stripped the ebony stain adhered beautifully. I gave it all two coats of the stain. It already had gloss polyurethane in it, so there was no need for a finish.  The hand rails are my favorite part of the design. I love how glossy they are. It’s like jewelry for the stairs!
stair makeoverWe finished each riser with decorative molding under each step. Before we put the molding on the steps looks sort of blah. In fact I kept calling them Ikea steps (as in perfectly functional but white and boring). The molding made all the difference. In the picture above you can see the top riser without molding.
So, there it is! I hope this reveal was as exciting for you as it was for us! I can’t begin to tell you how nice it is to look into the kitchen and not have the stairwell acting as a black hole/energy suck in the room design. In fact, there is actually only one more project (built in banquette) left to do in the kitchen before we can call the room done.
One last question! How do you feel about a runner on the stairs? We’re still torn on the idea and would love to hear your input!
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How to make wood stairs treads for cheap

DIY stair treadsIf you’ve been following me on Facebook or Instagram then you already know that we have been tackling a makeover on our kitchen stairwell. I originally intended to just make one big stair makeover reveal post, but then I realized that it would be a ridiculously long post and pretty boring for those of you who just want to see the pretty “after” pictures. So, instead I decided that this post  would be about the more technical aspects of building new wood stair treads and finishing them. Look for the whole stair makeover reveal later this week.

If you are just joining us this is what we started with:

kitchen stairs beforeI had hoped that when we ripped up the carpet that we would find nice wood stair treads that we could refinish underneath, but like many 1980’s era track homes we found particle board instead. I was pretty bummed, but Cody was actually relieved. He had already decided that building new treads would actually be less work than trying to revive old ones full of staples and nails.

Now, you can buy pine stair treads at Home Depot for about $10.64 a piece.  These treads are basically a pine board that has been routed to be round on the front of the tread. We needed 10 treads, so that would have brought us to $106.40. That’s not terrible, but there were a couple of issues with these treads. 1) they are only 1 in think which we decided would look pretty puny once installed and 2) ours stairs have exposed sides which means we still would have had to route some of the boards.

I found these nice chunky 2 in stairs treads, but at $123.75 a piece for “paint-grade” ($1237.50 total!) they totally blew the budget. So, we decided to just make our own stair treads.

Building stair treads

The treads are built from 2″x12″ pine boards that were 12′ long.  Look for boards with the least amount of knots and that are not warped.

make your own stair treadsCody started by securing a 12′ board to a table and routing the front of each board with roundover bit.

routing stair treadsHere’s an idea of what it will look like when it’s done. Don’t worry about any imperfections now. Those will be sanded out later. If any of your steps are open on the side (like our bottom 5) you will also have to route the side of those steps.

how to make your own stair treadsOnce the routing was complete, Cody used a table saw to cut 1″ off the back of each board to make the steps the depth that we wanted.

how to make stair treadsFinally, he measured and cut each board to the appropriate tread length using a chop saw.

how to make your own stepsCody measured and cut each step individually as there were some slight variations is lengths. We dry fitted the steps as we went to make sure everything fit perfect. The bottom 5 steps also required some fancy cuts to account for the newel post, exposed sides, and hand rails.

how to make wood stair treadsFinally, we sanded the crap of of each tread with an electric sander to get the boards as smooth as possible.

Staining and Installing

We are finally at my favorite part: staining the treads! I knew from the beginning that I wanted to stain them Mission Oak. It’s my favorite stain color and the same color we used on our industrial console table.  Cody didn’t want to take any chances with the color though so I tested out a few options we had lying around on a leftover piece of pine.

staing wood stair treadsOur goal was to match the laminate floors in the kitchen as much as possible. The dark walnut (same as we used on the kitchen counters) and the Jacobean were both a little too dark and didn’t have enough of a honey tone as I would have liked. We decided that mission oak was the winner, but we didn’t want the kind with the polyurethane in it (which is what I had on hand), so off to the store I went only to find out that Mission Oak is only sold as a Polyshades. Sigh….. So, I scoured the shelves for a color that was the most similar to Mission Oak and settled on Special Walnut. I tested it on the pine and we were sold!

Before I started staining the treads I removed any dust with cheesecloth then applied a coat of wood conditioner.  Wood conditioner allows the stain to penetrate the wood more evenly. I always use it when staining a highly visible area such as a table top or in this case stair treads.

pre stain on tableI allowed the wood conditioner to dry to the touch then using an old rag applied the first coat of stain making sure to go in the direction of the grain. I set up a staining station in the dining room because it was too humid in the garage to get the stain to dry properly.

staining stair treadsI applied two coats of stain over the course of one day than allowed the treads to dry overnight before applying the sealer. Finally the treads got two coats of Pro finisher Polyurethane for Floors. I choose a satin finish to keep the treads looking a little rustic like our floors, plus they are easier to keep clean. I sanded between coats then let them dry overnight before installing the treads.

To install the treads Cody started by applying liquid nails to the stair braces (just made up that term). We did this to reduce noticeable nails on the treads and to keep the steps from wiggling.

installing wood stair treadsNext, Cody shot in about four finishing nails on the sides of the treads. This helps them stay in place as the glue dries. We opted not to fill in the nail holds as they were hardly noticeable and added a little more rustic glamor to the steps.

installing stair treadsAnd with that we had working steps again! Building our own steps cost about $100. The same as the off the shelf Home Depot treads except ours our 1 3/4 in thick (that’s $1100 less than the 2 in treads we found online!)

Update: The stairs are done! Check out the complete reveal here!

Update 2017: We used the same treads for our foyer stairs. Check out the whole makeover here!


Has anyone else tackled a stairway makeover? Do you prefer wood or carpet stairs?

Kitchen update: New stove and Ikea Fintorp

Ikea fintorp and samsung slide in electric range

Ok, so we’ve technically had the new stove for a couple of months, but the Ikea Fintorp system is new.  Let me start with the stove by going all the way back to when we bought the house. The kitchen came with this pretty decent black stove. We always knew we’d replace it, but decided to save up our money and work with this one for a while.Kitchen

Then the oven died conveniently right after we received our tax return back. The hunt was on for a new stove. This was actually a really difficult decision for us because there were so many on the market. We knew we wanted something industrial looking, but we didn’t have a Viking kind of budget. Finally we narrowed down what we really wanted to:

  • slide-in electric range
  • large stainless steel knobs
  • no lip around the stove top (for easy cleaning)
  • the less black and more stainless the better

We were hoping to find a scratch and dent, but it wound up that our wants severely limited our options. In the end we choose the Samsung 30 in slide in (model #NE58F9500SS) basically because we liked how it looked the best.

Samsung 30-in Smooth Surface 5-Element 5.8-cu ft Self-Cleaning with Steam Slide-In Convection Electric Range (Stainless Steel)

It was actually the knobs that sold us. It was really difficult to find an electric range with knobs. Apparently they are all touch screen these days.

samsung eletric range knobs

We snagged it on President’s Day for 10% off at East Coast Appliance, but it still ran us about $1800. That was about $800 more than I wanted to spend, but in the end we decided to go with the stove we really wanted rather than a cheaper one that we’d quickly regret, So far we love it!

Once we got the range installed; however, we quickly ran into another problem. A really white wall!


Typically with a slide in range people create some type of inset in the tile behind the stove to break up the large surface area. Unfortunately, when we installed our herringbone subway tile we didn’t know that we would eventually be purchasing a slide in. So, there sat this big white space just mocking me for months. Luckily while making a trip back from Northern Virginia I stopped at Ikea and immediately spotted the solution! The Ikea Fintorp series is a rail system (much like the Grundtal which we had in our last kitchen) that allows you to mix and match components to create a custom organization center.

utensil rail for kitchen

Not only did it fill in the black space above the stove, but it’s also super functional.  I choose to go with the large wire basket with handle, the flatware caddy in white which holds a Fejka artificial plant (that totally looks real), and a Rort spoon and fork set held up by Fintorp black hooks. I also upgraded our oil dispenser and salt and pepper grinders since they are now on display.

kitchen rail system with utensils

Total we spent about $44 on this whole system, and it’s worth every penny! Which is great since we had to drill into the tile to hang it.  I also decided that the range hood with all the cabinets was a little too white, so I broke it all up with a mint monogram that I painted then distressed using acrylic paint. Still not sure if we love it, but it’s staying for now.

panit range hood

This area of the kitchen is officially done which means the kitchen itself is almost done! Next up is refinishing the kitchen stairs, a built in banquette for the bay window , and a little bit of decorating!

electric slide in range with knobs

For now; however, I’m just enjoying that our kitchen no longer looks like this:

Kitchen before

Schoolhouse pendant light for kitchen island

Newsflash: I’m a terrible blogger. It’s been over 2 weeks since my last post, and I have no excuse other than I’ve been busy. We’ve been working hard at the screened porch makeover, but it’s not all that interesting to talk about until it’s done. Our kitchen lights; however, have been finished for about a month now, and I still I haven’t mentioned them. See, bad blogger.

You may remember that I first introduced you to Barn  Light Electric and their amazing lights here.  That was way back before we even knew we would be moving last summer. I instantly fell in love with their Primary Schoolhouse Stem Mount Pendant and knew that one day I would design my kitchen around it.  That wound up being sooner than I had thought, and I actually wound up buying the light before we even closed on the house.

kitchen during

This was one of the last pictures I shared of the kitchen. You can see the pendant has already been installed but there were a couple of issues with it.

  1. The old light box was not centered with the new island
  2. It didn’t put out enough light
  3. The light was not making quite as big of a statement as I had hoped.

The solution was to buy another pendant and the result was perfect! But before we get to all the pretty pictures let me show you the mess we had to make in order to install and center both lights with the island.

installing pendants

Now to the pretty pictures:

schoolhouse pendants over island

schoolhouse pendant in kitchen

schoolhouse pendant in jadeite


barn light electric

The color of the pendants matches perfectly with the chandelier I painted over the table.

And a close-up:

Primary schoolhouse pendant in jadite

There are a lot of options to choose from in order to create a semi-custom light. Here are the options we choose below:

schoolhouse light

The original price was $182 a piece with free shipping which I think is awesome, but I was able to get both of mine for 10% off during their 4th of July and New Year’s Day sales. That made them only $167 a piece! Happy Dance!


As seen on:

good houskeepingBarn Light Electric

Glitter, Glue & Paint
Creativity Unleashed Link Party