a very special piece of furniture


refinished kitchen island

A few months ago I was approached by friends of mine, David & Gina (Gina is actually my second cousin – this detail is important later on in my little story) about a kitchen renovation / addition project they were getting started on. They were looking for some help with colour choices, my thoughts on refinishing their existing kitchen cabinetry and repainting a gorgeous antique piece they use as an island. Along with repainting, the antique cabinet needed a new top built for it.

After our first walk through, the creative juices were flowing and ideas started flying back and forth. It was obvious we were all on the same page and excited about the project – which is so much fun.

Some patience was going to be required on all of our parts, as construction was barely under way and these things always take so much longer than you want them to. There was, however, one task I could get started on right away. Constructing the new top for their island. First thing I had to do was find the right wood. We wanted something with some character and initially considered using some old boards that were torn out during the reno. Repurposing part of their house? That would be very cool. Unfortunately a lot of the wood was in bad shape and it just wasn’t going to work. So, I set out to find something else, something special.

While discussing the project with my dad, it donned on me that he had some wood stored in the shop from Gina’s grandpa. Nine or ten years ago my dad helped Gina’s grandpa cut down and mill some spruce trees on his property. He donated much of the lumber to a non-for-profit to be used for building projects and asked my dad to store the rest of it for him to use for a special project – one he hadn’t yet dreamt up. He passed away before he had the opportunity to use it. The lumber had been sitting in my dad’s shop ever since with his name written on the end of one of the boards.

Needless to say, I knew right away that this was what I had to use.  I also knew it was going to basically TORTURE me to keep this a secret from Gina, but I swore I would because it was going to be so much more fun to tell her the story once the piece was all finished.

The wood wasn’t ideal – spruce is very soft and that isn’t what you want for a countertop, but I was determined to make this work. I did some research and asked my aunt, who had used some old barn board wood for her kitchen countertop, what product would be best to seal/harden the wood. Waterlox was the answer.

My dad and I spent a Saturday in the shop cutting, planing and jointing the wood (pictures below!). Once that was complete, I did some serious sanding, smoothing out the wood, rounding the edges and corners.

The staining and sealing still needed to be done, but it was time to reveal the nearly finished countertop and the story behind the lumber to Gina. I had, of course, hyped this up, expressing my aggressive excitement about the wood I had found without explaining why. David & Gina were very gracious and didn’t ask questions. Gina told me she was SO EXCITED too, which was awesome, given the fact she had no clue what I was doing and had agreed to trust me, and pay me, to do it. Have I mentioned how much I love this job?

Gina came up to the shop to pick it up and it was then that I finally got to tell her the story. It was a lovely moment. There were tears and OMG’s and thank you’s and it will probably always be one of my favourite client moments. I feel so grateful for the opportunity to add a piece of family history to Gina & David’s beautiful kitchen! What’s even better is the island cabinet is not built in, so they can take it with them if they ever move.

Thank you Gina & David for having me take part in your amazing renovation!

Take a look at the gallery below to see the whole process.
[click pictures to expand]

Another post coming soon with pictures of the finished kitchen renovation, stay tuned!

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3 Responses to a very special piece of furniture

  1. Gina says:

    I’m in Tears again reading this!!!!! What a special piece made by very special people. So much love has gone into our house and our reno and it makes my heart warm to know that our family and community came together to help make it happen. I’m so touched by your thoughtful gesture and incredible talent!!!! We’re so blessed to have you in the family (and in the neighbourhood!)!!!! :):):) xoxoxoxoxoxo Gina:)

  2. Emily N says:

    Heather, I love this story. It is so very special. And if there is any of that “Grandpa spruce” left in your dad’s shop, keep it for me, please, for some yet unknown project. The story just may continue ….

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