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Tuesday Morning Tidy: From Desk to Bar

We recently took on one of our biggest DIY projects ever, and replaced our dated kitchen desk with a more functional dry bar.


There were a few reasons we chose to make this update. We've had an old dorm fridge in our garage for years, and it would be nicer to have those cold beverages in our house (especially since they've been known to explode when temperatures get really cold in the winter). We weighed a complete kitchen renovation, but with supply chain issues and challenges in finding qualified contractors, we just weren't ready for that commitment.


We've also had a butcher block island for over a year (Covid project!), and we absolutely love it. We did a multi-step Waterlox finish to make it kitchen-friendly, and it's both beautiful and durable! So, we knew the countertop for the bar was doable. We took the plunge on this project starting back in July!


Here is the before:

We painted the cabinets, trim and walls shortly after moving in, but the almond countertops were straight out of the 90's! And we never, ever used this desk except to gather junk.


To start the project, we purchased the cabinet and beverage fridge. We had to get a "built-in" refrigerator rather than a traditional mini-fridge so that it wouldn't overheat in the enclosed space. The fridge was around $500. The cabinet was an unfinished 34" base cabinet that I painted to match the other cabinetry in the kitchen. It's not an exact match, but it's very close and this part of our kitchen is off to the side at a distance from other cabinets.


We then trimmed up a 50" length of birch butcher block and followed the multi-step Waterlox process. In the meantime, we had a certified electrician move the existing outlet up to counter-height, and added an outlet for the fridge in the back. This was by far the most expensive phase of the project at around $700.


Now came the tricky part! Drywall is no simple feat, and I have a newfound respect for those who do this professionally. In fact, I will never again attempt it! We had to completely start over at one point, and it took weeks of mudding and sanding, mudding and sanding, and on and on.


I was so excited to tile the backsplash after this. I have always wanted a basic white subway tile with a light gray grout, and I finally had my chance! I actually purchased enough to do the backsplash in the entire kitchen, and we're hoping to have that complete by Thanksgiving (though that may be a little ambitious). This part was a bit harder than I anticipated, largely due to the fact that I got mesh-backed subway tile. If I were to do this over again, I would actually purchase individual tiles to ensure that I had total control over consistent spacing between tiles. That said, it looks really pretty and came together in just over a week.


I also found these beautiful custom floating shelves on Etsy! I measured multiple times, and they were still a little tricky to install over the tile where an anchor was required. However, the seller provided great instructions, and I prevailed with a little patience. They are just what I envisioned.


I largely committed to this project on my own, but it was a bit beyond my skillset. My husband jumped in with the countertop cuts and some of the drywall work. All in all, we stayed on budget, though, and it's functioning really well for our family!


Just this week, I installed the trim around the bar, so please forgive the touch ups I still need to do!

If you're interested in any aspects of this project, here is a full supply list of items we purchased:


Beverage Fridge - It looks like the version we purchased is no longer available, but this is the wine version. $550 for our version.


Butcher Block - This comes in a variety of lengths and widths for most standard kitchens. The 50" section runs $209.


Unfinished Cabinet - This base cabinet comes in a variety of sizes, and unfinished for customization. $125.


Ceramic Tile - Again, I recommend a slightly different product, but this is what we used.


Floating Shelves - These were beautifully crafted and packaged. I have no complaints! $200 each.


Various other supplies include:

- drywall for patching

- mud for patching

- mortar for tiling

- tile tools (spacer, sponge, haze remover, trowel, float, etc.)

- grout (we used Oyster Bay sandless)

- Caulk (color matched to grout)

- Waterlox Original Sealer

- Waterlox Satin Sealer (for final coat)

- Grout Sealer

- Ceramic Drill Bits


All in all, I'm glad we did it, and I'm really glad it's completed! If I did it over, I would definitely hire someone for the drywall portion, which was the biggest stressor of the project. At around $2500 to complete, this was a good investment in an under-utilized part of our kitchen.


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Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase we will earn a commission. Keep in mind that we link these companies and products because of their quality and not because of the commission we may receive.




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