Tag "work tables"


After our yellow stools arrived, Evan and I moved our kitchen island—the GROLAND from IKEA, which we’ve had pushed up against a side wall in the kitchen for the past 7 years—to the center of the room, which is where we’ve been planning to put it if/when we eventually buy the world’s cutest refrigerator. As soon as we moved it into place, though, we know it wasn’t right. It looked so tiny! Our kitchen is a very decent size for an old house (about 12×12′), but between the three doorways, two huge windows and the hearth, there’s not a lot of usable wall space. The center of the room is very important, but because the ceiling is so high (11′), anything we put there tends to look a little anemic. The yellow stools looked weirdly giant next to the GROLAND. It was just wrong.

So, we slid the island back against the side wall (which I guess makes it technically not an island but more of a peninsula) and decided we’d have to keep our eyes open for the right thing.

Lately we haven’t been doing a whole lot of thrifting and scavenging like we used to, but this past weekend I started feeling lucky and the bug hit me again in a BIG way. We spent all of Saturday driving around the Hudson Valley hitting up salvage/antique/junk shops in secret locations, but everything was either closed or devoid of anything we were interested in. Later in the afternoon, resigned to just having lunch and heading home again, we happened to wander into a mysterious-looking store we’d never noticed before with nothing on the sign out front but an engraving of an eyeball: Alms & Terra.

We weren’t even really looking for a kitchen island at that point, but there it was: A beautiful old work table that had probably spent the past 70 years in someone’s basement workshop, all beat-up wood and steel legs. Perfect. We checked the measurements to make sure it would be big enough (again, perfect), and made up our minds to bring it home with us after about 15 seconds of deliberation.



Now, I know there’s bound to be one person who’s going to see these photos and start crying about how the table was better before I fixed it up, but I’m here to tell that person: No. You’re wrong. Look, there’s patina and then there’s “patina.” The former is the loveliness that age imparts on something over the course of time and use, and the latter is a euphemism for “grungy and greasy and paint-spattered and about to fill your hands with splinters.” This table, while certainly very lovely, was closer to having a “patina” than having a patina. It needed work. Not much, but some.


I love the legs. They’re painted a battleship gray color that I’m OK with, but they’re pretty rusty—past the point of what can be cleaned up with steel wool. Since this is going in a kitchen, I think it’s best to give the legs a nice finish. It’s too cold outside to do much about it now, but when it warms up in springtime I’ll give them a good scrubbing, a rust-proofing treatment and a couple of coats of matte black Rust-Oleum. They’ll look great.

I’m also going to take that 2×4 off the bottom and make a deeper, functional shelf to put in its place. It’ll be a good spot to have some baskets for storing placemats and candles and stuff like that.


Dust mask, random orbit sander, sandpaper. I know renting tools is a great option for people who just work on occasional home projects, but when you own an old house that you’re going to be working on for at least a decade or two, buying the things you’ll be using all the time makes much more sense. We’ve had a Bosch random orbit sander (they don’t make the exact model we have anymore, but this one is very similar) for about five years, and I use it constantly. Random orbit sanders spin while moving elliptically, so you don’t get swirl marks etched in your wood. You also don’t have to worry about sanding against the grain. You can’t do super-detailed work (I use my Mouse sander for that), but for big blocks of wood like tabletops, doors and floorboards, they’re great.


I started off doing a first pass with 80-grit sandpaper (the lower the number, the coarser the grit), then followed with two passes at 120-grit, and a finished with at least four passes at 220-grit (very fine). I just kept going until the surface of the table felt velvety-smooth. I had to spent some extra time on the areas with a lot of grease staining, but in all the entire sanding process took less than 30 minutes.*

*Excluding cleanup time, of course, which added on another two hours. If you’ve ever power-sanded anything indoors before, you know exactly what I’m talking about.



Pretty nice, yeah? The deeper stains (burns, etc.) didn’t come out, but that’s OK. All of the paint smears, grease stains and other unpleasantries took a hike, and that’s the stuff I don’t want in my kitchen. I’m no expert when it comes to identifying wood types, but based on the hardness of the wood and its smoothness post-sanding, I’m pretty certain this is maple.



I’m not really planning to use this work table as a cutting surface because there are so many crevices that would be a huge pain to keep clean, and I have enough cutting boards and other areas of the kitchen to work directly on already. Even so, I wanted to finish the table with something food-safe. There are at least a dozen schools of thought on how best to finish wood surfaces in kitchens, and aside from the two most basic rules—don’t use anything that’s toxic to consume, and don’t use any food oils that can turn rancid—they’re all correct. For a long time I regularly treated all of my wood cutting boards, spoons, counters and salad bowls with John Boos Mystery Oil, until I realized I was paying $10+ for a small bottle of what was basically just mineral oil with some linseed and orange oils added in. I have way too much wood stuff for that to be cost-effective. SKYDD oil from IKEA is half the price—it’s just pure, food grade white mineral oil. I’ve been using it for years now, and it’s great, cheap stuff.

When I have a really thirsty/dry piece of wood, especially something that’s just been sanded, I like to “bathe” it in oil until it can’t absorb any more. I used about 10oz of mineral oil on this table initially, and I’ll repeat the application weekly for the next month or so. I just pour it on, use an old t-shirt to spread it around, and leave it alone for a few hours or overnight. Any excess is easy to just wipe off, and the finish isn’t greasy or anything like that. I’ve never felt the need to wax my kitchen wood, but some people like to—it’s all just personal preference. I like mineral oil because it’s cheap, easy and it keeps the wood protected from water/dryness and looking good. It’s also non-combustible and odorless, which is nice.



Oh, yeahhhhhh. Immediately post-oiling (top), and about two hours later. See how nice and matte the finish looks once the oil sinks in? I can’t stop touching the table. I love it so so so so so so so much. SO MUCH. This is exactly what I had envisioned having as a kitchen island. It’s going to be so great having that much prep area when I’m cooking, not to mention having a spot to sit for breakfast and coffee in the mornings. And now when we have guests over for dinner they’ll have to place to put their wine down and eat snacks while they’re hovering over my cooking!



I’m very happy with how the kitchen is coming along. Now that everything is painted, wallpapering the side wall (opposite the stove) is next. In the spring the radiators will be removed and sandblasted, powder coated and re-plumbed, and I’ll finally be able to finish the tiling while they’re out. We’re also going to have to think about replacing the floor at the same time for a couple of reasons—but I’ll save that for another post. (Spoiler alert: It involves a secretly-leaking refrigerator…and insects. Sadface.) Our shelving will be delivered any day now, so I’ll finally be able to put the dishes away and put out food in the pantry…exciting stuff. Moving right along!!


Bonus shot! Since my hands were already covered with oil, I decided to give every piece of wood in my kitchen a deep oiling. So satisfying.

Brooklyn work space

I realized last night (upon receiving lease renewal forms) that it’s already been 10 months since we rented “the new apartment” in Brooklyn. Whaaaat?! I don’t really understand how it’s been almost a year already, but geez—I guess I should take some more pictures of it. A little while back I showed you one side of the main room, now here’s another side. This room contains the kitchen, dining room, living room and office, all compressed into a surprisingly spacious-feeling 220 square feet.

When I was planning out this room, one thing I knew I wanted was a nice work surface. I don’t like compact desks. I considered a few possibilities, and eventually arrived at a combination of two VIKA LERBERG trestles ($10 each) and a VIKA FURUSKOG table top (regularly $60, but I found it for 50% off), both from IKEA. That’s a 60×30″ work surface for $50—not bad! The table is actually deep enough that Evan and I can both sit and work opposite each other at the same time if we need to.* Plus, if we slide the iMac to the end of the desk (or put it on the floor), the table is big enough to seat 4 people—really nice if we have friends over for dinner.**

*This has never happened. But it could!
**This has also never happened. I blame the lure of the roof deck.

Brooklyn work space

The IKEA PS cabinet holds everything…and then some. I was sad to have to give up the awesome fauxdenza from our old apartment (it’s since been relocated to a closet at the house—more about that in another post!) because of space, but this guy really does an amazing job of storing way more stuff than it seems like it would be able to. All of our office supplies, tools, dog stuff, papers, and other things are in there, with room to spare. Our PS cabinet has been with us since 2003—almost a decade now. It’s an IKEA classic at this point, and I really think it’s one of their all-time best products.

Funny how much the (not) “new” apartment is starting to look like the old one, isn’t it? I even hung all of the artwork in the exact same arrangement. I still don’t think this place has the same kind of friendliness the old apartment did, but I am warming up to it! We definitely have a lot more visitors in DUMBO than we did in Washington Heights, that’s for sure, and I do love being able to open my home to people from out of town. It’s not big enough for overnight guests, but for hanging out for hours on end petting dogs and drinking coffee, it’s perfect! Every time friends or family come over, it really does start to feel a little more like it’s ours.

Herman Miller Lifework blog

If you’d like to see a few more photos of this side of the apartment (as well as some new pictures of the office at the house!) and read a little interview with me about work spaces, head over to the Herman Miller blog. I’m so honored to have been asked to contribute to their Lifework blog! I think it’s obvious to anyone who’s seen any part of my house or apartment that I have a considerable number of Herman Miller products in my life, so this was a lot of fun to do. (Thanks for inviting me, Amy!)

It’s taken me a long time to accept the fact that I don’t really like desks. At least not small ones that are designated for tasks that don’t involve spreading out—I need space. Because of my aversion to small desks, I’ve spent an awful lot of time over the last few years camped out on the sofa with my laptop doing freelance work at 2AM, and honestly, my body isn’t happy about it. I need to be sitting at a table in order to work (and sit) properly for any length of time, and that table needs to be spacious.

That said, you know what’s not spacious? The new apartment. The entire thing corner to corner is about 450sf, and that’s including a bedroom the approximate length and width of a Sucrets tin. The kitchen and living space are one open room, though, which does open up the possibility of having a decently-sized, multi-purpose table in the room—for working, eating, cooking, sewing and whatever else requires a flat surface.

Photo: Nina Broberg for Livet Hemma

I’ve been keeping this table idea in the back of my mind for a while now. It comes from IKEA’s Livet Hemma (Life At Home) blog, which, in case you’ve never seen it, is a trove of photos and project ideas that involve stuff from IKEA used in very un-showroom-like ways. To make this table, they just used a pair of inexpensive VIKA LERBERG trestles and some simple spruce planks for the top. I love the “runner” they created by painting the center boards! The great thing about the LERBERG trestles is that they’re less than 16″ deep, so it’s possible to make a shallower table with them to suit the amount space you have—and, of course, you can cut your planks to whatever length you’d like.

Photo: Corkellis House, interior design by Kathryn Tyler + Linea Studio

I definitely don’t have enough space for a setup like this, but I do like how much storage the base components provide. The top is supported by four VIKA ALEX units from IKEA—two with doors, and two with drawers. The depth is at least 22″, so it’s probably not an option to use even one of these drawer units in the new place (did I mention it’s tiny?), but I can still dream.

Speaking of dreaming, take a look at the entire house that this room is at part of. It’s one of those rare places I could move into fully furnished and not want to change anything.

Photos: House Tour: The Dickensons, Apartment Therapy (via sfgirlbybay)

OK, now we’re really getting somewhere. The second I saw this Victorian house tour, I knew I’d be needing some neon pink table legs in my future. I love the way this looks. Once again, the support for this table comes from IKEA—four VIKA FURUSUND legs—and the top appears to just be a simple piece of butcherblock countertop (NUMERAR, perhaps?). The legs are solid, unfinished pine, making them perfectly suited for painting. They’re really just asking to be neon pink, right?

I keep picturing a smaller-scale version of this table in the apartment, surrounded by the dowel-leg side shells currently in the “old” apartment kitchen (I have two more stashed in the basement at the house), and it just seems perfect. Enough space to have Daniel and Max over for dinner, even!

Yeah, this is my own big fat work table! It’s in the room at the house that Evan is now using as a studio, and it’s awesome. The top comes from my father’s huge old drafting table (the original legs are in storage, don’t worry!), and the legs are—you guessed it—VIKA MOLIDEN trestles from IKEA. You can see some more detailed photos of the top and the cool drawer handles in this old post. It’s a special table, this one.

More than any aspect of the new apartment (yes, even more than the roof deck), the possibility of having a big space to spread out and work is exciting me the most. I’m sure I’ll still spend plenty of time planted on the sofa with my laptop, yes, but for the long hauls, it’s going to be great to sit like a normal person. A normal person with dogs on my lap, of course.

p.s. Please vote for Manhattan Nest in the 2012 Homies Awards over at Apartment Therapy. You need to log in to vote, but it’s worth it. Daniel truly deserves to win this.