Everything in the house is being moved around and becoming rather cluttered as our focus has been on another project: the kitchen breakfast nook.
We love this little kitchen breakfast nook. This is the place where our friends and family gather when they visit. It seems our whole house revolves around this corner.
But there was a big problem with it: it was orange. And yellow. And dark. And our beloved bench was totally unfinished, consisting of ugly particle board with placemats haphazardly tacked around the edges.
So we updated our kitchen breakfast nook with a fresh coat of paint and some AirStone! How pretty is that? I'm not totally sold on the neutral buttercream color we went with: Olympic Premium No-VOC Interior Latex Semi-Gloss in Beeswax from Lowe's.
The stone around the bench, however, is definitely a keeper. Here's how we did it.
Updating the Kitchen Breakfast Nook
I know that it can be a little tricky to get every nook and cranny covered when you're doing stonework, so I started by painting the kitchen breakfast nook gray (reusing the paint from the gray bathroom makeover) just in case there were any gaps in my stone work. I didn't want that ugly particle board showing through! While I was at it, I painted the moulding and those built-in shelves with a highly-durable paint: Olympic One Paint + Primer In One in True White. It's the only standard paint with VOC that we use in our house, as we've found that no-VOC paints just aren't durable enough for moulding and cabinetry. While I had out the white and gray paint, I went all update-y on the fireplace as well. Is it just me, or do these projects seem to rapidly spread from room to room?
Now here's the real star of the show: AirStone! I didn't want to deal with trying to cut real stone, on top of the fact that it was pretty much off-the-table budgetwise for this particular area. AirStone is an artificial stone that looks real, weighs 75% less than natural stone, and can easily be installed with pre-mixed adhesive, a putty knife and hacksaw. Best of all, it's made from 80% recycled materials. I found that the trick to applying it was going row by row from the bottom of the bench to the top, so that I could make sure all the stones were level all the way across.
That corner area shown above was definitely the trickiest section, with a couple strange angles. I was really nervous about that and saved it for the very end. I marked the angles and the lengths needed on the stone and then cut them with my hacksaw, re-cutting and sanding as needed to make them fit. I felt like I was totally winging it and honestly didn't expect it to come together properly, but it did! It was kind of like putting together a puzzle where some of the pieces aren't cut yet. Hard to wrap the mind around, but surprisingly easy once you get down to it.
One of our AirStone boxes had a lot of broken stones in it, which I added to by dropping several throughout the puttying process. I'm a klutz, and this stuff does break pretty easily on tile floors. That's the downfall of using an ultra-light artificial stone – the upside being that it's super-easy to cut and adhere. I ended up just setting aside the broken pieces and cutting them down to the sizes I needed for those awkward angles and the ends of the bench, so it worked out well.
If you ever try to tackle stone work, my biggest piece of advice is to not stress about the putty application. I wasted a ton of time trying to delicately apply the putty to the stone all perfectionist-like. The stones weren't drying securely with that method and I realized that what was really needed was imprecision. I started thickly globbing the putty on there and squishing the stones up against the wall to let the mixture spread on its own through the nooks and crannies. They held WAY better that way, and I didn't have to drive myself nuts with delicate putty detail work!
Lastly, I topped the stones with a single coat of my favorite floor sealant, Carroll Down Under. This stuff foams up oddly when you apply it, but it somehow re-liquifies as it dries, leaving a strong and smooth coating to protect high-traffic areas from scuffs and splatter and make kitchen spaces easier to clean.
As you can see above, the stones are available in both straight and outer corner stones so there doesn't have to be an awkward abutting at the outer edges. The straight ones and the outer corner ones come in separate boxes so you can cater the amount of each size to your project. Since I didn't have a lot of outer corners on this bench I ended up having a bunch of corner stones left over, which I found could easily be cut down into small straight stones to help fill awkward spaces like that inner corner.
I'm thinking I may look for some 3/4″ trim to wrap around the top of the stone, just under where the bench cushions go. And I'm not wild about the brown cushion color, but that's a sewing update project for later. Overall, I think this is a HUGE improvement! The kitchen breakfast nook bench project cost around $220 including all the stone, putty, putty knife and hacksaw. AirStone even has a handy calculator on their site to tell you exactly how much stone you'll need. The stone work portion took about six hours for me (having never worked with stone of any sort before), with the vast majority of that spent on the inner corner. A straight bench could easily be done in three hours.
Now, guests keep remarking over the professional-looking handiwork in our kitchen breakfast nook. It does feel pretty snazzy. Best of all, I no longer feel compelled to constantly explain that the house's previous owners made some odd color and construction choices that we're…uh…working on.
How would you use AirStone in your home? It's even durable enough for outdoor projects!