Adding a rustic touch to my urban kitchen

Like most city dwellers, I am desperate for kitchen storage and counter space. The small, galley kitchen in my NYC pre-war apartment just wasn’t cutting it, so I began searching for a rolling kitchen island unit. I was dismayed to discover that they were pretty expensive ($200 +). Even used, it was tough to find anything for less than $100 – and they were generally pretty small.

Then one day while trolling Craigslist, I stumbled upon this…


It needed some love, but it’s a great piece overall AND it was only $80, which is an incredible price for a kitchen unit of this size and quality.

Having successfully(?) refinished my grandmother’s table and chairs, my imagination was in overdrive, teeming  with ideas for improving my new acquisition. I immediately went out and bought dark goldish/bronze metallic paint, some vellum paper (cut to fit the screen doors) and some LED lights, with the idea that I’d turn it into a sleek, modern piece with see-through, back-lit doors. It was gonna be wicked cool.

Then I remembered that sleek and modern aren’t really my style. Also, I realized what a pain in the ass that was going to be.

So I did this instead:

green cart

Here’s how I did it. [My inspiration for the aging/distressing techniques I used on this project came from here.]

Step 1: Sand, sand, sand, sand, sand. Then sand again. 

Luckily, there wasn’t much sanding to be done on this piece. It was pretty naked, but I gave it a good once over anyway (mostly because I wanted an excuse to play with my new power sander.)


IMG_3718Step 2: Stain

I chose a very dark stain (Minwax PolyShade Stain & Polyurethane (2-in-1!) in Espresso Satin) because I planned to paint over it and I wanted to make the wood look somewhat aged. I applied two coats of stain and let it dry for about six hours before painting.

[Note: Buy a cheap, disposable brush for this part. Especially if you are an apartment dweller with poor ventilation who doesn’t want to bother with smelly paint thinners in your kitchen. Through trial error (while trying to salvage one of my nicer brushes) I discovered that Coconut oil will work in a pinch, but it makes a huge mess in the sink.]

Tip: Do remember to gently stir your stain before applying it, or this will happen….


Which would be fine except I was going for this…


Thankfully, it was an easy fix.

This is what it looked like with two coats when it was dry.


I probably could have left it like this and it would’ve been lovely, but I had already bought the paint and it was non-refundable so…

Step 3: Aging the wood with wax

* Rub a candle over the edges and corners of the wood, basically anyplace where normal wear and tear would occur.


* With a clean, dry brush, gently brush away the excess wax.

Step 4: Paint

I used two coats of Behr Premium Plus Ultra Paint & Primer in Rolling Hills. Normally, I would use a nice brush when painting over another painted/stained surface, but I used a crappier one because I wanted the brush strokes to be visible, adding to the rustic look.


Step 5: Scrape off the wax 

* When the paint is fully dry, lightly run a scraper around the edges of the wood – anywhere you put the wax. Go slowly with this process to avoid taking off too much of the paint.


* Then gently sand the edges with a fine grit sanding block.


Step 6: Aging the wood by creating a patina 

* Mix a small amount of acrylic paint (I used a light brown that was left over from another project) with water in a disposable bowl. It should be really runny. Think, three or four parts water to one part paint.


[Actually, I made two glazes with two different shades of brown, but I opted for the lighter one after testing a small area on the back.]

* Using a sponge brush, apply a ridiculously small amount of glaze to your painted surface and immediately wipe it with a dry, lint-free cloth.

Tip: For a more aged look, you might want to limit the glaze to the edges, corners, fixtures – any areas that are prone to wear and tear. Since I was going for a more weathered look, I applied a very thin coat of glaze all over.


It dries pretty fast, so you’ll want to apply it to a small area and wipe as you go.

Step 7: Protective Finish

With a good brush, apply your clear, protective finish. I used Minwax Water Based Polycrylic in Clear Satin as I didn’t want a glossy finish for my rustic cabinet. It’s super fast drying and one coat is usually enough.

Step 8: Beautifying the doors

The screen doors that came with the piece were slightly damaged and not particularly attractive, so I decided to do something about it.


* Using an X-Acto Knife, I carefully removed the screen from the frame.


* Then, with the help of my handy dandy staple gun, I recovered the screen with some gorgeous fabric that I found online for only $2!


Then, just for fun, I lined the insides of the drawers with scrapbooking paper which I affixed using Mod Podge.


Lastly, I rubbed some wood conditioner onto the butcher block to both protect the cabinet top and to enrich the color of the wood.


Here’s a close up of my new rustic kitchen island!


I could not be more pleased with how it turned out. So much so, that I can’t even think of one snarky thing to say about myself, and that’s got to be a first.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Sarah’s Summer Renovations!

2 thoughts on “Adding a rustic touch to my urban kitchen

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s