before & after: kitchen island redo + a pair of chairs

Someday, I hope to rent a place with a kitchen large enough to accommodate a kitchen island, but for now, I’ll just have to admire them from afar :) This kitchen island from Sarah Hart Morgan is one of the more creative and unusual versions I’ve encountered. The antique sage color was a wise choice; it reduces the bulkiness of the base and provides a great contrast to the dark woods. It’s those little details that make for a wonderful, standout piece. Great job, Sarah! — Kate

Have a Before & After you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

Read more about Sarah Morgan’s kitchen island and Sarah Torrence’s chair makeovers after the jump!

Time: 2 months

Cost: $642

Basic Steps: I gave the piece a good sanding, painted it my choice of color, took a hand sander to distress the areas I wanted and then used a glaze mixture I made myself to give further depth and age to the piece. I decided to keep the original wood knobs to tie into the top, so I did tape over those before painting. We attached a piece of bead board to finish the back, and I also used a wipe-on polyurethane for this piece. We added the corbels that I stained in a cherry finish after the top was in place. They aren’t needed to support the top but do add a nice “finished” look to the piece. I’m still looking for the perfect bar stools to go with the piece so we can use it to its full potential.

My advice: Keep your eyes and mind open. We really weren’t too picky about the piece of furniture. It just had to be the right size with lots of storage. We knew we wanted to convert a piece of furniture to be the island, so we searched out all the standard places. I ended up finding this one at a consignment store on clearance. I could see it needed a little work, so I asked if they were willing to take the price down. Lucky for me, they were! The piece kind of happened very organically; I let the furniture do the talking, and for the most part, it told me what it wanted. Looking back, I don’t think I would’ve picked out these particular corbels. While they are beautiful, they were VERY expensive. I ended up finding similar large ones at the same home improvement store that were much less expensive just a few weeks later! — Sarah

You gotta love big, bold stripes. They always make a statement, even in tiny doses, like on these chair cushions by Sarah Torrence. While I would be equally pleased with these chairs in their original dark finish, I appreciate the high contrast that Sarah has created, and the finish is impeccably done. Well done, Sarah!

Time: 3–4 days

Cost: $175

Basic Steps: We did some MAJOR deconstruction first. This included ripping off all the old cushioning (which, among other materials, had horse hair and straw!), taking the springs and canvas out of the seat and then one by one taking out hundreds of little nails/tacks used to reupholster them in the past. Then we did some minor repair work to make sure the set was extra sturdy. After sanding, we did not use primer — we just applied 2 to 3 coats of bright white paint. We did this so we could go crazy with the distressing (mostly done by hand). We wanted a lot of that beautiful old wood to show through. Finally, we applied Fiddes wax (clear) to make sure they could withstand some good wear and tear. We took the original springs to the upholsterer to re-use, so they would have a similar feel to the original seat. We wanted very wide, more modern black-and-white striped fabric to contrast with the vintage look of the chairs, and with that black trim setting it off against the white, they turned out better than I hoped!

My advice is: PATIENCE! Working on something this old is going to take a lot of work — bottom line. But rescuing these two magnificent chairs was totally worth it in the end to get a piece that is like no other. Plus, you never know what you are going to run into with a project like this — it is all a learning process — which is so rewarding! — Sarah

{After image of chairs taken by Kelly at Kellan studios}

  1. Carolyn says:

    Wow, the island looks incredible!! I love the stripes on the counter!

  2. virginia says:

    i really really love the color choice for the kitchen island. i’m not so crazy about the wood color stripes, but it definitely makes for an interesting piece. and those chairs!!

  3. I really like the striped surface! I think it adds personality and an unexpected flair without appearing out-of-place in the space. I’d love to see the beadboard on the back! Good solution and inspiring.

  4. these both look great. Nice job.

  5. Cher says:

    I would love to know how the friend made the butcher block counter top. Gorgeous.

  6. I’m in awe of that kitchen island. What a creative use of an old piece of furniture!

  7. Connie says:

    I love the detail work and carvings on both pieces. Great find!

  8. caliwils says:

    That kitchen island is jaw dropping! Like seriously, I had to pick it up so I wouldn’t drool around my coworkers.

  9. Greta Ackerman says:

    Lovely work, to both Sarahs! Sarah M., would you mind sharing the lovely gray paint color you used for the island? I have a similarly heinous piece I’d like to sand and repaint and I’m loving this shade. Thank you!

  10. Nadine says:

    The chairs look just amazing! I’ve been able to recuperate some chairs for free, and hope to work on them in the next few weeks.

  11. Rosella says:

    Love that kitchen island! I really would have liked to see the back with the corbels and the beadboard that is described in the text though.

  12. leigh says:

    For those of you who want to see the back of the piece if you visit Sarah’s blog by clicking on the link there are more gorgeous images. I love that butcher block top….so beautiful.

  13. Love the black and white chair fabric ;) Where’s that beauty from?!

  14. Sarah Morgan says:

    Thank you all for your lovely comments on my kitchen island! for those wondering, the paint color is Cityscape by Sherwin Williams. and if you click on the link in the text you can see the rest of the island including the corbels and bead board. thanks again!

  15. Daphne Collins says:

    I’m agree with Rosella, I’d love to see the back side with the corbels. Great kitchen island transformation.

  16. rockchick says:

    The chairs are magnificent. Well done! Sorry, but I appear be the only person on the planet who would have liked the new top on the old base (cleaned up of course). Interesting idea, but not quite right. Again, sorry.

  17. Zarich says:

    Although I’m not fond of the striped worktop on the kitchen island I love the cabinet itself – it looks fantastic. All that texture and scrollwork is just gorgeous!

    The chairs are brilliant.

  18. sarah says:

    Thanks to all for your kind words on the chairs too! Amy- the fabric is sold a bunch of places online. Look for 3″ black & white stripes. This one is just 100% Cotton Duck 7 oz- basic but durable! I sprayed scotch guard on these too.

  19. Anastasia says:

    I think this is the most beautiful before/after I’ve seen to date on D*S. Kudos! Butcher block top in those colors is amazing, and the antique look of the cabinet. Wow/ wow/ wow.

  20. Kristina says:

    I’ve always wondered how easy it is to use bar stools next to a counter top or other surface where there’s no room for your legs! I wish we could have Before + Afters Afters so we could see the projects further down the road, like the lawns that were also done to see how the plants grew in! Or this one to see the bar stools that were chosen.

  21. jacoba says:

    your work is amazing!!!

  22. Linda says:

    I absolutely love the island! So, so, creative. Love the sage-y color and the striped butcher block top.


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