This project always reminds me of the South Park episode about “White People Renovating Houses”... “what I’m thinking is to take out the wall between the kitchen and living room for a more open concept…” yeah what Randy said. But seriously that was the plan, how cliche are we?!
These two photos are of the house staged before we moved in. Behind the clock is the kitchen and in the second photo you can see how easy it would be to tear out. Not a huge wall or anything but to be able to talk to someone in the living room when you’re cooking in the kitchen, it was a no brainer.
This was Arya, so tiny, when we were viewing the house.
And another view of that wall we decided had to go probably the first day we saw the place.
Demo started fairly quickly after we settled in. We assumed it wasn’t structural mostly because we knew the direction of the floor beams and ceiling beams and this was not in the typical wall direction for it to be structural. Of course we suggest getting that figured out for real from an engineer but we felt confident enough after a talk with my uncle (a contractor) to move forward with the project.
Demo was easy but the house was built in the 50’s so the walls are not regular drywall but plaster instead so they’re very solid. We also got the plaster tested for lead and asbestos by ordering a test kit online. You take the samples, pack them up, and send them out in the provided box and then they get back to you within 5 days. We don’t seem to have anything to worry about.
You can see that there is a switch in the wall. We had to move that, thankfully that’s Rob’s specialty since hiring an electrician can be expensive.
Here’s another look of the plaster walls. They are pretty odd. Seems like a labor intensive way to do it but I doubt I can ask them why they did it that way.
You can see into the kitchen! I drew out the lines that I wanted the cut out to come to and Rob did most of the demo when I was away at work. Any overdoing it was gonna be mostly okay because the plan was to frame it up with beetle kill pine shiplap to go with the kitchen. And if you don’t know yet we really dislike doing any type of drywall work.
After removing the plaster walls we cut out the studs, there were only 3. Because of the age of the house you could tell how much nicer and straighter the 2x4s were than the ones you can buy today at Home Depot.
The roof didn’t collapse! YES! No the wall wasn’t structural we’d been right.
It was a giant mess. Thank goodness Arya is a good sleeper!
Even all roughed out like this we were really happy with the decision to remove the wall. So nice to see across the house.
We cleaned up and it sat like this for a while as we planned out the next steps. For Rob it was moving the wiring and adding another switch since I wanted some kind of pendant light here. I also had to come up with dimensions for the countertop that we wanted to be out of live edge wood.
I really wanted something like this. A round that you could see the rings of the tree but it was far out of our budget and Rob isn’t as fantastical as me. I had to sell him on the live edge. We finally decided on beetle kill pine because it matched the rest of the room. Yes pine is soft for a countertop. We were willing to deal with what comes with that.
Instead we started looking for live edge beetle kill pine like this:
And we found some too, 2 hours away. We were gonna drive there but it got so inconvenient that we came home empty handed and frustrated. That’s when I brought it up with one of the old timer woodworkers that frequents the salvage yard I work at and he pointed me to United Wood Products right outside town. The place is so my style, a kinda run down, low budget kind of place with dirt floors, potholes, and racks and racks of lumber at great prices, about a 10th the price we were gonna pay at the other place 2 hours away. The lumber is rough though so if you don’t have a planer or a jointer then you should probably get the other stuff.
We do have a Dewalt planer:
And a little Delta jointer:
The thing is, we had to butt up 2 live edge pieces to get the width we were looking for and their faces were too wide for either the pointer or the planer. We had to resort to some other methods. We are not professional woodworkers… maybe one day after all these projects we will be!
While we worked on the table top, Rob moved the outlet and added the second switch. I cannot reasonable tell you to do this yourself. Messing with your home electrical can be really dangerous and you really should make friends with a professional.
At this point I came in with the trim and shiplap boards. We bought the Makita battery powered finish nailer for this project and I LOVE it. Sometimes it misses a beat which can be frustrating. But the more we’ve used it the more “broken it” I think it’s becoming.
The day of trimwork over, we cleaned up, put everything back together to a liveable point and are even more satisfied with the decision to tear it out.
Rob cut the hole in the ceiling for where the pendant light will go and you can see the wire to where it’ll hook up to.
Arya will probably never remember what it was like when there was a wall there. You can see the pendant light, an old piece of burl I found on the Northern California Coast that Rob took and added LED lights to. I was on the search for an old light I could hack apart from Resource Central (the salvage yard I work at) so I could Frankenstein the light into something more permanent.
Unfortunatley I didn’t get photos of that exact live edge glue up but we did it again a month later when we started working on the pantry… but it looked the same. We had 2 pieces of live edge like this one below. We had to cut a straight line across one whole side so that we had a flat edge to glue up to. We did this by clamping a straight edge as a guide to the piece and then using our large circular saw along the guide. Not the most accurate way to do it but with the tools we had it was the easiest.
This was me using an old dull chisel to get the bark off. Yeah it woulda been cool to keep the bark on but it’s such a hassle to deal with if you wanna keep it on. It involves resin and that was more than we wanted to get into.
After we cut the straight edges we ran the edges through the jointer to straighten them up for glueing. Again this is a photo of the glue up for our pantry countertop but you get the idea the difference is there were only 2 pieces and both outer sides were live edge (that makes it more difficult to get the clamps on nicely.
Our planer only fits a 12 inch board through and we were about 19.5 inches in width so we built ourselves a sled and spent the time routing the entire surface level. Yes it takes a while.
It looks rough like this when it’s done so the next step is to take the sander to it. We started with 60 grit I think and moved all the way up to 120. And when it was sanded to our satisfaction we measured 3 times and cut it to size.
Our measurements were perfect. And we used liquid nails to hold it in place. But we needed to sturdy it up because I know Rob and my friends, if they sat on it I’d be worried. So we ordered L brackets for the cantilivered side.
You can also see here that I found a light to take apart and Frankenstein that better looking ceiling mount to the light.
I asked Rob for “warm white” LEDs but he had to get rainbow color changing… There is a warm setting but here he was testing it out.
Again that’s the bar top and the light and the trim… and the Walking Dead on the computer beyond that… that I can watch from the kitchen if I want!
I used Tung oil from the Real Milk Paint Company as a finish because i wanted the most minimal finish I could find and that was as non-toxic as I could get. I think a few months later now that I need to re-apply. In this photo you can see the garland I made for Christmas, Out Amarylis, and those 3 black L brackets I found on Amazon. I also got some stools from my work but they made their way to the garage ...
...when I found these beauties in the salvage yard instead. Old weathered, leather and wood, and Arya’s booster seat fits perfect!
Arya’s happy! And we’re happy. It is a central part of the house now and gets used all day every day. Really one of the best projects we’ve done. No wonder it’s cliche enough to make a South Park episode out of, the open concept is such a thing. I wonder if it’ll ever go out of style?
What do you think about the project? Anything you’d have done different? So far the soft pine counter is holding up except Arya banging her sippy cup on it has given it some “love divots” but I’m really hoping for it to get a well worn look, kind of like an old barn table that’s seen years of life go on around it.