Blast From the Past: Memory Countertop

This is an old project that came to mind the other day when talking to a new client. Unfortunately I often kick myself for not keeping the best picture record of projects. In this case, I have pictures of the finished counter, but not particularly good pictures of the counter once it was installed. Hopefully there is enough here to give you an idea of what can be done.

This project was the renovation of an old summer cottage. The style was dated, but filled with memories for the Owner’s family. The kitchen and bathroom had deteriorated to the point of discouraging use of the entire cottage. The plan was to do a renovation in the style of the older portion of the home, but including an addition which expanded the kitchen, included a small dining area and created an enlarged bathroom with modern amenities.

Sketch/plan for pass-through

The home’s “living room” was in the center with no windows. Everything was heavy woodwork with dark stain. Again, they wanted to keep the style due to the historic ties, but also wanted more light. The solution was to brighten up the kitchen including lots of windows and bright colors and then create a pass-through window to transfer some of the light to the interior living room. It was very important to the family to preserve the character and style of the original cottage, so a lot went into making sure the addition blended new with old.

A lot of discussion went into how to accomplish the connection and it was determined that the pass-through should also serve as a bar top creating a supplemental eating space. A sketch/plan for the top was created and approved. The top cantilevered into the living room space held up with decorative support brackets. The pass-through was cased in oak similar to the rustic trim throughout the house. Plinth’s were used around the opening to cover gaps necessary to fit the completed top into place.

Finished top before installation

The Owner was a photographic artist and had preserved many historic photos of gatherings at the home. She had a vision of including these photos in the renovation. A little research on our part uncovered a product called Kleer Kote from U.S. Composites. The product is an clear epoxy coating that is self-leveling and creates a glass-like finish. The Owner provided specially duplicated photographs that were compatible with the Kleer Kote and gave us an arrangement she wanted. We then placed them on the top and permanently adhered and protected them with the coating.

For those of you considering this, a few tips on using the Kleer Kote: 1) The product has to be mixed slowly to avoid creating air bubbles , 2) the product is flowable, but thick when applied, so care must be taken not to move the media being preserved during installation and 3) the product is self-leveling, but is syrupy as it goes on, so care must be taken not to over fill the borders of the area being filled. You can work it a little to help the spread, but again, this must be done carefully to prevent creating bubbles.

Before

This is the original cottage before the addition was built. The door shown entered a hall into a narrow kitchen and the room extending on the right was a small breakfast nook. The stairs were in poor condition and the railing was unsafe. The cottage was winterized each year via a series of pipes and valves in the basement. (Which only one family member knew how to do.) The basement walls were deteriorating to the point light could be seen through mortar joints. The breakfast nook itself was actually an addition many decades old, but its foundations were in worse shape than the original cottage foundation which was much, much older.

After

The renovation included removing the old structure for that housed the breakfast nook and expanding that space to include the new kitchen, dining area and bathroom. The space is still compact, but fitting with the rest of the home. The smaller, high windows were updated, but in a similar style. New steps and railing were installed to improve access. The plumbing was reconfigured and valving was created to make winterization easy and self-explanatory.

There was a tree that was dying near the home which created a potential future hazard. The tree had meaning to the family and was difficult to lose. As a solution, we removed the tree and had a local chainsaw artist create a carving and bench. The bench includes wood burning art and a plaque commemorating family members, their interests and their time at the cottage.

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