Kitchen Design Ideas: Wow Guests with Natural Beauty

After photo of wood countertops
Chris and Michelle Estes get a kitchen renovation 20 years in the making, featuring butcher block countertops and an apron sink.

Want to add some natural beauty to your home? One of the top kitchen design trends is a butcher block countertop — it brings the outdoors in and helps create serene surroundings.

For the last 20 years, this house has been home to the Estes family. Now, Chris and Michelle’s daughter, Kaitlyn, is off at college and they have the place to themselves.

And they have some time to focus on a long-awaited kitchen renovation — and we’re here to guide that project along!

The Projects

Replace countertops

Before photo of laminate countertops
These laminate countertops will be replaced with butcher block.

The couple installed laminate countertops about 15 years ago and they want to replace them with butcher block that they’ve already purchased.

First, we need to size the wood. Ordinarily, we’d freehand crosscuts, but not on a countertop. Its edges have to be perfect so we’re using a saw edge guide from Woodcraft to cut them as straight as an arrow.

After we complete cuts for the countertop sections, we also cut a piece of the butcher block for the bar section. Then we’re ready to dry fit them.

Before we install the countertops, we take them outside to sand them with 320-grit sandpaper, stain them with Beltex pads and wear our respirators to finish them with Waterlox Original Sealer / Finish.

Then we install corner braces in the cabinets with Titebond II Wood Glue and nails and adhere the finished countertops to the corner braces with Titebond Construction Adhesive.

Install apron sink

Butcher block countertops
This apron sink, from Kohler, is a major upgrade from the Estes’ old sink. In fact, there’s enough room for Michelle to bathe her small dog in it.

We’re adding a stainless steel apron sink that will require removal of the front of the counter in order to fit.

So we put the countertop’s seam right in the middle because the sink will be cut out from the front, and just a tiny seam in the back of the sink will be visible.

Once the sink is cut out, we mark the cabinets to accommodate the sink’s depth.

Wooden bar
Extending the countertop provides space for a bar overlooking the Estes’ pool.

Extend countertop under window

Michelle wants to extend the countertop past the kitchen window so it becomes a bar — perfect for looking out at the couple’s pool.

The new bar top we’re putting under this window goes right underneath the window sill, so we need to remove the apron before we can install it.

Meanwhile, our electrician, Jeremy, installs two light fixtures (from Linea di Liara) that Michelle has purchased.

Install shelving

Shelf for hanging pots and pans
This shelf will place pots and pans within arm’s reach.

Michelle wants a place to hang pots and pans so they’re easy to grab, so we’re adding a shelf with hooks.

We drill into the mortar joints to install the pot and pan rack (it’s much easier to drill into those than old-school oven-made bricks!)

Michelle also wants to display family pictures and maybe a small plant on open shelving by the bar, so we use scrap wood from the countertops to add staggered floating shelving.

We use dowels — spaced apart 16 inches so they hit the wall’s studs — to attach the shelves.

Post-Production Thoughts

Danny, Chelsea and homeowners Michelle and Chris Estes
Danny, Chelsea and homeowners Chris and Michelle Estes

Chris and Michelle’s kitchen renovation has been ongoing for decades, so even their past improvements had become dated, and they didn’t fit their new lifestyle as empty nesters.
But with a few simple changes, we’ve given the room an entirely new feel.

The new wood countertops add warmth and style that was missing before our work began.
The new kitchen sink is not only enormous, but its clean lines and contemporary style also give the kitchen new life and vitality.
And the bar and pendant lights we added in front of the window extend that feeling throughout the whole space while making the kitchen better suit Chris and Michelle’s lifestyle.
Plus, the floating shelves, and the pot rack, give the room even more style.

And we did it all in just three days, with less than $1,500 in materials.


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