Before and After: Our Concrete Counters

When we bought our house last year, our kitchen looked like this. You can see more here.

Concrete Counters Before and After 1
Concrete Counters Before and After 2

Totally lovely.  Huge compared to our last space.  And very brown.  (Sidenote: I am grateful for the counter space, for the gas stove, and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD- THE DISHWASHER.  Seriously, before moving here, we had gone on three years without a dishwasher.  If you have lived your whole life with a dishwasher, you have no idea... the turmoil, the despair, and the anxiety that comes with hand washing

Well, we painted the yellow/beige walls white and mint which brightened it up quite a bit.

Concrete Counters Before and After 3
Concrete Counters Before and After 4

Anyway, the counter was really bumming me out.  Here is a zoomed in version of our counter tops. 

Concrete Counters Before and After 5

It had an amoeba/what-you-would-see-if-looking-at-a-petri-dish-through-a-microscope quality that didn't really sit well with cooking and serving food.  Alas, it had to go.  The problem we were facing was how to tie in our black appliances.  We eventually would like to paint our cabinets white (original, I know), but we do not want to replace our appliances.  For one thing, I like to operate that if it ain't broke, don't waste money replacing it. And second, I don't hate black.  In fact, I love black.  However, if our cabinets are white and then we have this black microwave sitting pretty right in the middle, it would look off balanced and out of place.  For example:

Concrete Counters Before and After 6

Right?  Your eyes goes straight to the appliances.  So I googled my heart out and found this very right on article about how to make white cabinets and black appliances work.  Thank you for figuring this out for me!  Kylie says that black appliances need something to grab on to -- think black countertops and dark backsplash or 'blacksplash' if you will.

When I read that Little Green Notebook had found a way to tint her concrete counter tops black, it was go time.  We followed Young House Love's instructions for the how to.  I would do a few things different, which I will get to in a second.  I waited until Thanksgiving break, so I could tackle the project as quickly as possible.  This is a project that will make cooking in your kitchen impossible for 3-4 days, so keep that in mind if you plan on doing it yourself.  Here are some of the befores.

Concrete Counters Before and After 7
Concrete Counters Before and After 1

I took very few pictures of the process. Essentially, it went like this.

Step 1. Mix concrete.

Step 2. Spread concrete.

Step 3: Allow it to dry.

Step 4: Sand your brains out.

Step 5: Repeat.

Here is just a small part of the mess that was made.

Concrete Counters Before and After 8

And without a shop vac, I resorted to this guy.

Concrete Counters Before and After 9

It was an arduous task to mix the concrete then spread it and then sand it.  My shoulders and arms were so tired.  Here is what the counters looked like before the sealer went on.

Concrete Counters Before and After 10
Concrete Counters Before and After 11

The one thing I would do differently is mix the concrete in cheaper, disposable containers.  The buckets I used were not disposable, and I only purchased two, so I had to clean off the dried concrete before mixing a new batch. 

Here are the afters.

Concrete Counters Before and After 12
Concrete Counters Before and After 13
Concrete Counters Before and After 14

I think once the cabinets are painted white and hardware is added, the kitchen won't appear as dark as it does in these photos.  I am saving painting cabinets for some day far in the future- most likely this summer.  We love how they turned out, and we did it all for under $200.  We call that a win in the Brack house. 

Still left to complete in the kitchen:

1. Paint cabinets

2. Choose and install hardware

3. Replace the florescent light

4. Add some can lighting

5. Paint the door

6. Find a cute rug

7. Add some open shelving on the empty wall

Let's do one before and after, shall we?

Concrete Counters Before and After 15

DIY: Tips and Tricks on Building Open Shelving for Your Home

Hi, friends!  I wanted to give you a glimpse into our living room today.  More specifically, our open shelving.  Open shelving always seems like something I hear about in relation to the kitchen regions, but we had seen this open shelving done in a friend's home and the price/ease of putting them together couldn't be beat!  Ikea sells these brackets for $2.00 a piece.  They originally come in black, but I spray painted them gold because I am a proud passenger on the gold-stuff-everywhere-bandwagon.  No shame.

I first used Illustrator to draw up a sketch of what I wanted them to look like.  I took into account the size of some of our art prints, a lamp, our television and where I would want to place them.  I loosely used the rule of thirds to start.


I originally planned on using the bracket above the boards, but that didn't pan out quite like I hoped.  The weird brown/grey box in the bottom left was originally going to be where our record player sat, but alas, that was a fail too.  The record player stuck out too much for us to feel comfortable leaving it there.  Two active dogs that like to wrestle + technology in not the securest location = mess that I don't have time for.

I did have an aha! moment when I was trying to do a lots of math to take into consideration the thickness of the boards and where to start screwing in the brackets. (Hello, I am a math teacher)  Our painters tape was almost exactly the same thickness of our wood, so I used our laser lever, and placed the tape where it felt right.  I started with the middle two shelves because they were at eye level, then I did the top two, and lastly, the bottom two shelves.

Open Shelving Tips and Tricks

This is where I made the decision to lose one of the shelves because when up on the wall, the shelves just looked WAY too close together.  Seeing it up on the wall gave me insight that a paper sketch/Illustrator file could not.

I was really glad I did this because when it was time to screw in the brackets, I had a perfect guide.  No guessing or fussing over keeping things level.  We then used a scrap piece of cardboard that was perfectly straight (we checked using a level...or Taylor "eye-balled" it) to make sure our brackets were lined up perfectly too. We used 1.5" hex screws and did our very best to hit those studs. 

Open Shelving Tips and Tricks

We then had our lovely Home Depot friends cut the wood for us.  For our shelves, we used 2x10s.  We made the following cuts: 3 at 8 feet in length, 1 at 4 feet in length, and 1 at 5 feet in length.  We sanded, and use Polyshades Stain & Polyurethane in 1 Step by Minwax to keep things moving quickly.  This is the same stain we used on the desk we made.

Open Shelving Tips and Tricks

Here's where pictures get slightly sparse.  Taylor put the boards on while I was at work one day, so I didn't get many process shots.

Open Shelving Tips and Tricks

He used 2.25" hex bolts and cap nuts to secure the board to the bracket.

Open Shelving Tips and Tricks

Yikes, ignore the finger prints/dust particles.

Open Shelving Tips and Tricks

And here is one of Pedro, obviously slowing us down with all the cuteness.  Oh my gosh, I forget home small he was.

Open Shelving Tips and Tricks

When it came to styling, we used things we already had and played around a bit.  We ran back over to Home Depot (trip #231) and grabbed some plants to add some life and clean air into our living room.

I love that we have most of our books in one place, that there are small baskets for decks of cards and other knick knacks, and our television is slightly camouflaged.  Taylor was really proud of his cactus arrangement that he picked out.

Open Shelving Tips and Tricks
Open Shelving Tips and Tricks
Open Shelving Tips and Tricks

I think that we spent right at $100 maybe $150.  This was back in September, so I am not quite sure, but I will say that it makes a huge impact in the space.  Especially, when it started out looking like this.

Open Shelving Tips and Tricks
Open Shelving Tips and Tricks