Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Counter Top Challenge

One of the features we fell in love with in this 1930's house is the uninterrupted length of counter space. What we found, however, is that white paint had been applied over contact paper. As we cleaned the paint began to lift turning my sponge white. Over a very short time, continued cleaning revealed pockets of the color it was covering. Not to mention, the color of the sponge was beginning to show on the paint creating a counter that looked dirtier with every wipe. Whether using a cleaning product or just water made no difference. The paint was not conducive to kitchen use. We became concerned with safety. If the paint was that easily picked up just by wiping, what was getting into our food? We talked about picking up a piece of acrylic or plexi-lass to place on top of the counter to give us a smooth clean surface, but we weren't sure we were prepared to put up that kind of money. Plus, the mess of a counter would still be visible. However, it wasn't far from our minds that we are not allowed to make any permanent changes. It's part of our rent agreement. We were left to think of a creative solution to make this work for us. 

While at the Dollar Tree one day, we came across contact paper and a solution was born. My husband asked how I felt about it and I was committed. Contact paper is removable, which is what makes this a temporary solution. Also, it's super easy to clean.We chose a green paisley inspired print, purchasing three rolls that ended up being the perfect amount. Two hours and $3 later, we had a cleanable, colorful, and usable counter top. I applied the contact paper much the same way one would hang wallpaper using the back of the counter as the ceiling and the front as the floor, overlapping each strip by a quarter of an inch. The house isn't square, or is old - remember 1930's? Running the paper in this direction allowed for fewer opportunities of noticing how much this house has shifted. Another benefit to laying it like this: there is less surface area per strip to allow bubbles or crinkling of the paper. I will say, though, that there are bubbles in mine, but I don't mind because the counter top has dips and bumps that I can't change, so there was no need for me to be a perfectionist. I quite think I may have lost my mind if I attempted to create a perfect end result. 

As far as the profile, I did this in a separate step. The large strips covered just the top of the counter, ending at the molding that creates the profile. I laid the strips to overlap the top surface a quarter of an inch. After smoothing the paper over the profile, I tucked it under the counter as much as I could. The profile is so detailed, much pressing was involved to ensure the adhesion of the paper to the wood molding. I did the same thing on the back of the counter to create a semi-straight line with the scraps, covering  the back splash about an eighth of an inch. Just enough to clean it up. The blue glass pulls are courtesy of my mom. She bought them years ago on sale and now no longer has use for them. I am happy to take them off of her hands :)

The window treatment: I have my husband to thank. Our kitchen window looks out to a public park and while the view is beautiful, we learned that one could see everything within our kitchen. We needed a solution that allowed us to enjoy the view, but gave us a sense of privacy. For whatever reason, my husband was rummaging in the basement when he found these old shutters. I cleaned them up and propped them on the sill. They are not fastened - no permanent changes - but the sill is wide enough to support their size. I do have to believe that at one time, these very shutters were hung in the windows of the dining room. For whatever reason they were taken down. Topping the shutters with the curtains my mother handed off completes the window. I'm telling you, second hand stuff is really great! We have been very fortunate that the items we've found or had passed on to us coordinate very well. I guess like people have like decorating pallets :)

A few things I have learned about contact paper over the past month: 

  1. While it is cleanable, one needs to be careful of a few things: If acidic products are left for a long period of time the contact paper will stain. Example: anything tomato based. I learned this after I found a stain. 
  2. Using a sponge that is too abrasive, or continued scrubbing can lift the color of the paper. It's not super noticeable, but over time it would make a visible difference in the appearance.
  3. Letting cleaner sit too long is not recommended. I am an avid believer in cleaning as you cook. Not only will it help with reducing elbow grease to remove the crusty, you won't have to spend time afterwards to clean. I know some things need to soak for a little bit of time to ensure easy wipe ability;  However, spraying an abrasive cleaner and letting it soak for too long may allow it to creep into your seams and loosen the adhesive. Remember, this is a removable product. 
  4. Pushing or pulling heavy appliances across the surface is not recommended. It will tear the contact paper. I tried placing our heavy microwave on the counter and them shimmy it into place. Guess what? I had tears where the four legs were pushed across the counter. Fortunately we inherited a microwave stand from a friend, and I had saved the scraps of contact paper. I cut little pieces to cover the holes. Now my much lighter toaster oven covers the patchwork...well, not all of it, but most. You can't see it in the pics though can you? ;)
  5. Chose a pattern, not a solid color. Trust me, those mentioned above will be much less conspicuous by your guests with a pattern.
I may have made mistakes along the way, but it is all worth it. I figure that if I were to completely ruin this beautiful counter top I made it would be perfectly fine. Why? It was only $3 and it is easily removable. We are no where near that, though, so I continue to enjoy this solution...

With a shutter put out to pasture, hand me down curtains and pulls, and $3 worth of contact paper a stark white kitchen transforms into a warm and inviting space for inspiration! 
Looking for solutions outside of where we are used to searching opens up a world of creativity and originality. I feel amazing every time I work in my kitchen knowing that 
a little bit of elbow grease, even less money, and a whole lot of imagination 
gave me a wonderful place to experiment with food and recipes :) 

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