Bluestone Cottage Kitchen: DIY Custom Millwork and Paint!

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Admittedly, with everything going on in the world, taking on this kitchen renovation right now—of all times—felt somewhere between foolish and extra-super-stupid, even by my standards (which are considerable), just a few weeks ago. But really, it’s gone amazingly smoothly? I was thinking about why that is. In part, I think it’s because I’ve had to really focus on planning ahead and ordering things to avoid frequent shopping trips, and luckily shipping has remained reliable and timely. Sure. Makes sense.

But also? I’m basically a doomsday prepper, except instead of canned goods and toilet paper, I have stockpiled lumber and other construction/renovation supplies for years, like a total lunatic. And now? This is my time to SHINE. I think this global health crisis has pushed us all to use what we have around just a little bit more. I have just happened to prepare myself by having a lot around. No brag.

Behold: this is but one corner of my garage, which is really just a glorified wood shed at this point. No car has entered its walls under my stewardship. I swear I keep it somewhat organized for occasions such as this.

Up top is a stack of crazy painted and abused 1x lumber. It is the remaining majority of everything that came out of Bluestone Cottage during demo that has been in my garage ever since. The rest I’ve already transported back over to the cottage. Actually putting it back from exactly whence it came doesn’t really make any sense because the floor plan and fenestration has changed, and I want the molding to have a bit more detail than just a simple 1x board, but it’s solid material? I mean the dimensions are all over the map, and it’s beat-up, and paint-covered, and riddled with staples, and holes from old curtain rod brackets, and some of it still has phone line stapled to the top, and it’s filthy as all get-out, but otherwise it’s fine??

And that’s my problem. I will over-complicate my life forever in the name of avoiding a trip to the dump and possibly, potentially, someday having the option to perhaps save a dollar because I have something lying around that will do the job.

Here you can get a better sense of what kind of condition this stuff is in. It’s pretty special.

Using some very basic carpentry (table saw, chop saw, nail gun), I turned it all into what think is a rather nice, appropriately modest and simple molding treatment, like so!

BEAR WITH ME. I KNOW IT LOOKS NUTSO. But the thing about historic moldings that separates them from new moldings is that they’re generally composed of various moldings layered together and combined, unlike new moldings that tend to have a lot of detail but not a lot of dimension, because they’re generally machine-made from one 3/4″ board. Historic moldings typically extend further out from the wall, which creates more dimension and shadow—they tend to be large and in charge and that’s why we like them! Make sense? I feel like this hits that goal and hey—free!

(If you still think I’m being ridiculous, let’s just note that so far we’ve managed to lay a wood floor, trim all the doors and windows, install wainscoting, and make all the cabinetry look custom and built-in with 2.5 sheets of plywood and a pack of shims as the only new lumber purchases in this space. SO LAUGH ALL YOU WANT. Of course, you could do the same thing with all new lumber, and experiment with combining different stock profiles to make something custom and unique! The combinations are endless, so look around for inspiration and have some fun seeing what you come up with! I’ve had to try to match a bunch of historic moldings over the years, but I wrote about this simple one 6 years ago, too!)

Back to the garage.

Below the trim boards, we have a large and impressive stack of 8″ pine shiplap, rescued from a house I worked on several years ago. You might know what shiplap is because a certain Joanna Gaines loves her some shiplap. The oft-overlooked reason that JoJo loves shiplap is because it’s a historic wall treatment down in Texas, which makes sense, because the Gaines family lives in Texas! I, however, live in Upstate, NY, where shiplap was commonly used on houses from around the turn of the century until…the 70s?…as exterior sheathing—that layer right over the studs (or rafters) that gets covered in housewrap and siding (or shingles).

My point is that shiplap itself doesn’t really make sense as an interior wall surface in this area; it just wasn’t used that way traditionally so it comes off feeling trendy. But you know what totes does make sense? Shiplap’s glamorous rich cousin, beadboard. Beadboard all day long. East coast historic houses love their beads.

First I had to make my baseboard, using the same supply of old 1x stock I used for the window and door casings. All it really takes to create an easy historic baseboard is adding a bead to the top of a piece of 1x stock. A 1/4″ bead added to the top of a 1×6 or 1×8 board both tend to look good and appropriate, particularly for more modest houses (like this one) or more modest spaces (like a bathroom or closet) in a more grand house. I have my Porter-Cable router installed onto this Bosch router table, which just makes milling a lot of material at once go faster and easier.

With the baseboards fabricated, time to get that shiplap beaded! For beadboard a smaller 1/8″ bead bit will generally look best, and again—it’s just a matter of running it through the router and voila! Beadboard!

NOW. Taking all this trash and turning it into parts of a house is all well and good, but it’s really only worthwhile if it also looks good when it’s all done and stands the test of time. Otherwise we’ve just nailed garbage to the walls and called it “reclaimed.” Which is to say: the paint process is KEY. And I have discovered a few new (to me) things to tell you about THAT.

We have three distinct challenges here:

  1. Old trim painted with god-knows-what. YES it’s all dirty, but underneath the grime, some of it is shiny whereas some is fairly matte, some appears to be oil-based paint, some appears to be latex, and some—I swear—appears to be some kind of acrylic art paint that is definitely not for painting the moldings in your house. So we need to worry about coverage, stain-blocking, and adhesion.
  2. Raw old knotty pine. Knotty pine will break your heart if you let it. Or if you treat her wrong. But it doesn’t HAVE to.
  3. Ultimately with these rough materials, we’re still after a smooth finish—for me, preferably one that looks and feels like it’s been here forever, still allows plenty of texture to show through, and will clean easily without losing its finish. It’s a kitchen, so things need to be easy to wipe down!

Meet my best friends. The two on the ends are new friends and the one in the middle is an old faithful. You can tell because she’s a mess, like myself.

Let’s start with the Valspar Stainblocking Bonding Primer. It is really good stuff.

With any material designed to expand and contract at a joint (like tongue-and-groove, shiplap, or clapboard), it’s smart to  take the time to pre-prime your boards, paying special attention to the part that won’t be visible (and therefore accessible with a paint brush) after installation. If/when the wood contracts, you don’t want to see a sliver of unpainted wood peeking out! Because I lack patience, resent pre-planning, and find pre-priming to be a tedious task, I chose to only pre-prime the rabbet joint and worry about the rest once it was on the wall.

This isn’t my first rodeo with this shiplap/beadboard, and in the past I’ve been pretty adamant about only using oil-based primer for this task. Traditional wisdom says that oil-based primer will adhere and stain-block better than latex counterparts, but it’s a real pain to work with and clean up, and it’s worse for the environment, and it takes a while to dry, and it stinks…all reasons why I was excited but apprehensive about using this $25 can of latex Valspar primer that claims to perform as well as what I’m used to, but with a much faster drying time and easier clean-up and improved workability and not a lot of stink.

I mean, look at that wood. I’m demanding a lot of this primer.

With the beadboard installed, I rolled a pretty thick coat of primer over the whole thing and followed up with a 3″ brush, smoothing it out side-to-side and making sure the primer made it all the way into the crevices.

To prep these multi-colored moldings, I followed the same basic steps I normally do: scrape off what’s flaking, sand down weird high spots to smooth things out a little, and clean it with TSP substitute. Because the Valspar bonding primer claims to adhere well to glossy and previously-painted surfaces and I like to test the limits, I didn’t worry at all about knocking down the shine on the glossier bits of old trim, or even being that thorough with my TSP rinse. Just kind of gave everything a once-over with a rag and a few minutes to air dry before priming.

VERDICT? This stuff works GREAT. It’s really thick but not gloppy, coverage is really very good and adhesion is excellent. I’m stoked to find a latex product that feels like a real alternative to oil-based primer—ESPECIALLY one that’s suitable for interior and exterior use. It worked perfectly for both of these applications, as different as they are, and because it was dry in an hour or so, I could get back to work faster! I’m psyched to have this in my arsenal next time I have to pre-prime a bunch of clapboard.

Next up: PATCH. I kind of enjoy patching salvaged wood because there’s the slightest amount of artistry involved—I try to strike a balance where it feels solid and easy to clean, doesn’t look newly installed, and still shows plenty of character and texture. So I pick and choose what to patch and what to leave alone. ANYWAY—said it before and I’ll say it again: 3M Patch Plus Primer is the best thing I’ve used for small patches in walls or moldings, full stop. Everything it says on the package is true, and I’ll add that it sands smoother than other patching compounds, which leads to a nicer painted result!

Now here’s my paint secret that I discovered too late in life. You know how sometimes when you’re working with unpainted softwood like pine, you can sand and sand and it’ll still have a sort of fuzzy texture? And then when you paint, that fuzzy texture dries and it feels kind of rough, and you’re annoyed because you did all that sanding and still have rough wood?

The secret is to let the primer fully dry (and patching compound, if present), and then go back over the whole thing with sandpaper—I like a 120 grit pad on my mouse sander for faster work. This pulls double-duty of smoothing out the patch compound and knocking down that dried painted wood fuzz to give you a truly smoooooth surface for the paint. Try it! You’ll like it. I’ve never lead you wrong before!!! (unless I have in which case, my apologies.)

Of course, after sanding, give everything a good vacuum to remove any dust.

I apologize profusely for the poor quality of this photo. You may be pleased to know that your support on Patreon has now bought me a long-needed replacement lens for my nice camera so I can stop using my phone for everything like I’ve never even heard of Pinterest. (THANK YOU, PATRONS!)

The point here is that while Valspar’s latex bonding primer has addressed most of my problems, I think the “stain-blocking” refers more to more common household stains, like nicotine or, say, blood spatter. But staining that results from the knots bleeding through the paint is a different animal, and one that I’ve found can really only be adequately addressed with shellac-base primer. Skipping shellac-base primer (whether you use oil or latex-based primer) on knots may seem OK at first, but days or weeks or months later, those knots will inevitably bleed through the paint and then you’ll have to decide whether you want to chock that up to character or repaint (in which case, if you think one or two more coats of paint will eliminate the problem, you will be going through the same thing a few days or weeks or months later). But through the unending power of shellac (I mean, what other all-natural product can fix your paint job AND coat the outside of a jelly bean?!), we can quickly fix this existential problem by just pre-treating knots with shellac-base primer and moving on with our lives. It IS stinky, but that’s mostly just the alcohol content and the smell doesn’t linger once it’s dried and the alcohol has evaporated. Otherwise, though, it’s easy to work with, dries VERY quickly, and most importantly is EFFECTIVE. And because I’m not all sticky and pissed off from forcing myself to use oil-based primer rather than my fancy new Valspar latex Bonding primer, spending a half-hour spot-priming with this stuff feels like an easy extra little step to ensure a good final result.

Finally, I caulked! You definitely want to be done with any sanding steps before caulk. I used my old faithful, Big Stretch. It hasn’t let me down yet! On the pricier side, but so, so worth it.

And now. The new light of my life and fire of my loins, Valspar’s Cabinet and Furniture Oil-Enriched Enamel.

I’m not sure what this particular flaw in my personality is called, but my immediate reaction to new products I’ve never tried tends to be one of immediate suspicion and speedy dismissal. I have painted plenty of things with perfectly nice paint that turned out perfectly nice, so surely this new thing I’ve never needed before is a marketing ploy that I can swiftly ignore. This is exactly how I approached high school trigonometry, and my private (now public) feelings about that new dish spray when dish soap has held it down for my entire lifetime. WHY. WHO ASKED FOR THIS. I’M NOT INTERESTED IN TRYING YOUR ~MILLENNIAL SOAP~, DIRTY HIPPIE!

I digress.

This is to say: in the last kitchen we renovated together, I used Valspar Signature paint on the cabinetry, inside and out. Which is great paint! I’ve used it a billion times for walls and trim and doors and shelves and cabinetry. No complaints!

And yet. Curiosity got the best of me, which is how I ended up giving the Cabinet and Furniture Oil-Enriched Enamel a shot, fully expecting it to be the same paint I already know but in a different package.

Fine. I admit it. THAT is some dope paint.

I can’t honestly explain to you what “oil-enriched” means—I did some cursory research and immediately felt overwhelmed and remembered I’m not a chemist. What I can tell you is that this paint has the convenience of latex (relatively speedy drying time, soap and water clean-up), but behaves much more like oil paint. It’s on the thinner side and has an extended drying time (dry to the touch in about 4 hours), which allows the paint to self-level really nicely and avoid visible brush-marks or texture from a paint roller. I painted two coats over my primer (same technique as the primer: roll on a thick coat, even out with long with-the-grain brush strokes), and the final finish is like VELVET. The satin has the perfect amount of sheen for me, too. It just turned out so slick. I couldn’t be happier with it.

It’s also scuff/scratch/fade resistant, and I feel really confident that it’ll stay looking great for years to come and be able to handle the day-to-day use and abuse that gets thrown at kitchens!

The color is Valspar’s Country Charm, by the way! I tried a bunch of samples but ultimately this won out, which is funny because I used it about a year ago in my bathroom! Beige = controversy, and I live for controversy. I used Valspar’s Wedding Cake (Valspar Signature, Flat) for the walls and ceiling.

As whacky as all of this stuff looks in a pile in my garage or when it first gets installed, I really do think all the layers of history and signs of age are a huge asset in this situation once it’s all evened out with the right combination of paints! I don’t think it translates super well to pictures, but having that subtle texture really changes the feel of a space, and I think will keep it from feeling immediately obvious that this was a complete gut renovation rather than a sensitively updated old house! Smoke n’ mirrors, baby!

The post Bluestone Cottage Kitchen: DIY Custom Millwork and Paint! appeared first on Daniel Kanter. If you are seeing this post anywhere else, it is without my permission.