Bachelor Pad Island Makeover

So I have this friend of a friend who recently reclaimed his kitchen. He asked me to keep an eye out for an island so whenever I stopped into a thrift shop or GoodWill I looked but nothing caught my eye. Now, plenty of things found their way home with me but nothing that would work for him. Good old Craigslist and my go-to online garage sale sites turned up squat too. Sadly, I was *this* close to telling him to buy retail {gasp}.

You can imagine my giddy when I was on the way home from running the boy to school one day and caught something out of the corner of my eye. I slammed on my brakes cautiously turned the corner and pulled up in front of the neighbor’s house. Who am I kidding? I’m betting those folks still have skid marks in front of their house. I hopped out of the truck to get a better look.

diy kitchen island

This chick had great bones. She was solidly built and other than a few dings was in good shape so I loaded her up and took her home. I had no immediate plans but a free desk is a free desk. Being greedy generous, I posted a pic on my Facebook page thinking someone might spot me $20 for need a desk. I had no takers but I had an idea.

I sent the photo over to my pal and told him all the awesome things I could do to recreate it as an island. He was a good sport and entertained my nonsense but wasn’t a fan of the dark wood. Plus, he had his heart set on a butcherblock top and didn’t think I could do much this boring old desk. Sigh. So. close.

And so it sat in my garage all summer and well into the fall. Cleaning up after our neighborhood rummage sale, I pulled it out and grabbed some sandpaper. It didn’t take long to see some potential. As much as I hated the veneer top I loved its rounded edge. Since it was secured with screws it came off easily. I set it on the ground and placed the desk on top of it. Wait a minute…

I was stoked and broke out the primer.

The original desk’s height was 30″. Standard counter height is 36″. Even with a new top, I’d need to make up a 4″ difference. The obvious choice was to add feet. Surfing the ‘net I found a few retail options priced at $7 or more – each. Uh. Yeah. No. So I headed over to Menards and grabbed a hunk of 3″ x 3″ x 36″ hardwood for $12. I used a jigsaw to bevel the corners at 45 degrees. It felt a tad chunky so I manually rounded out the edges. The result wasn’t exactly the same as my inspiration but totally doable.

{Tip: It’s not a bad idea to bring your inspiration piece home to use as a sample. Just be sure to keep your receipt and take it back when you’re done. $7 can buy you a gallon of Oops paint yo!}

Ideally, my buddy wanted open shelving and a concealed garbage area. The measurements of the existing chair opening proved too narrow, so I performed minor lumber surgery where the drawers had been and found plans for a tilt-out trash can on a fellow blogger’s site. Since I was restricted by the desk’s original dimensions, I made slight modifications to the plan (read: I crossed my fingers & cut) but overall it was a very simple build.

The drawers weren’t the same size and after framing out the fronts, I opted to flip-flop them and cut off a bit of the overhang. I cut the shelf out of plywood then glued and screwed it to the existing supports. To play off the once-top-now-bottom’s rounded edge I nailed in some scrap shoe molding to the shelf (this did double duty to hide minor gaps).

Are you feeling overwhelmed yet? Don’t be. This stuff is easier than it looks. For the record, I don’t worry about being too precise in my measurements. Spackle and paint make a girl what she ain’t.

See? A flawless finish.

As you’re working it’s a good idea to frequently step back and give your piece a once over. A few times great ideas in my head didn’t look so hot in reality. Originally, I had grand plans to hand-fab the wood top out of 2″ x 6″ rosewood lumber. I placed the wood on the base and snapped a photo and sent it to my friend for a second opinion who was quick to point out that I had installed the hinges incorrectly.

Being a hobby woodworker, he wanted to know how I planned to square up and plane the hunks of wood for the top. Um…well….yeah, it didn’t take long before I realized that I didn’t have the proper tools (table saw, planer, wood clamps, etc.) to accomplish the task. Grrr.

So I did what any good DIYer would do – I turned to alcohol Google for advice. At 2:00 am, I stumbled upon a pinned photo of an old dresser turned kitchen island. So the next day I picked up a 30″ x 60″ edge glued slab and cut it down lengthwise; sanded it down and brushed on some wood conditioner. Then I trimmed out the edges with lattice and (3) stain and (4) seal applications later the top was done! Crisis and alcoholism averted again.

Lattice trim was cut, mitered and installed on the garbage door front and island side panels. Then all the holes were filled and the entire piece was sanded, primed and painted. And sanded and painted. And painted.

And then I decided I didn’t like the monotone all-over green color and took some designer liberties.

{Tip: Adding some white to your paint will maintain the tone but modify saturation resulting in a lighter shade. This is much easier than trying to coordinate color swatches at the store. Plus it’s quicker and cheaper and all the rage now thanks to the ombre effect.}

After the paint dried, the back (1/8″ mdf) went on along with support brackets ($1 thrift store shelf arms) and trim (1/4″ wood lattice) with glue and nails.

I was in such a rush to get this delivered, I completely forgot to take photos of the top install. (Assuming you’re still reading I’ll describe the process.) I placed the finished wood slab upside down and flipped the cabinet base on top. Using a nail to mark the existing holes in the frame I marked out where to pre-drill the wood (to prevent splitting). I reattached the original screws and flipped it back over to add my ReStore score hardware {$0.25 a piece!}.

I’m so glad I decided to pull designer rank because the lighter door fronts contrast the darker base perfectly. The hardware is modern and that tilt-out door is just sassy. Sassy I say.

Can you believe it’s even the same piece?? Let me save you the trouble of scrolling back up…

I know right? And he didn’t think it could be done…pshaw.

Thank you for making it all the way to the end of this post. I feel like you should win a prize or something.



  1. Gina February 17, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    That was awesome, and you are funny! Made me laugh all the way to the bottom of the post!

  2. Playing on the Furniture July 20, 2015 at 5:24 am

    This is well written and humorous! Nice job.

  3. easyresiduals July 21, 2014 at 9:48 am

    very nice Dee

  4. Karen Jo September 25, 2013 at 6:01 am

    How did you attach the feet?

    • Dee September 25, 2013 at 8:51 am

      I used stair rail baluster screws and a special drill bit that drills them into the wood of one piece (predrill first) and then you screw that in to the other piece (predrill also). Sometimes they are called metal dowels or metal dowel screws. They are perfect for attaching any two pieces of wood together where you can't/don't want a screw head showing or getting in the way.

      • amanda January 4, 2015 at 10:12 pm

        Can you explain what exactly you used for the top? I can’t find a suitable top for mine and butcher block is sooooo expensive! Help!

        • Dee January 5, 2015 at 3:21 am

          It’s called edge glued wood and it comes in several sizes at your home improvement store. It’s already planed so it’s perfect for a table top. Just remember to sand and prestain (it’s pine) prior to staining.

  5. Leahona Gifford August 10, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    I love hearing about upcycling furniture. I used an old chest of drawers to make a rabbit hutch.

    • Dee August 13, 2013 at 8:49 am

      I'd love to see the photo of that when you're done Leahona!

  6. Kathleen July 28, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    Very, very cool. I LOVE what you did with that desk. You are very creative.

  7. cori warner July 22, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    Woot! What a great job!! Way to work it!

  8. Debi Jordan July 22, 2013 at 7:40 am

    This is amazing!!!!! I love that it got so many comments!!!!

  9. Anne@DesignDreams July 2, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    Awesome job! love it!

  10. Kelly February 25, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    This looks FANTASTIC!! Thanks so much for linking up this incredible piece to the par-tay! xo

  11. Beckie February 22, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    You are amazing! I love its new contemporary look. Definitely better than the old one! Great job Dee!

  12. Jess February 22, 2013 at 5:51 am

    This looks awesome! Thanks for joining my Blog Hop! 🙂

  13. Daniela @frugal ain& February 20, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    it looks wonderful!!! I actually have a very similar desk (that I am using as a desk…but don't worry it had it's makeover). That is really a great idea!

  14. Debbie February 20, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    Wow!!! Wow, awesome transformation! Wow…

    Saw you sharing at Live Laugh Linky Thursday

    Debbie 🙂

  15. Lolly Jane February 20, 2013 at 7:22 am

    That's a lot of work! Good job! (:

    Thanks for linking to our ombre wall too! XO

  16. Roeshel February 2, 2013 at 11:28 am

    Looks like one happy customer! You did an awesome job! Clever, affordable and perfect for the space. Great job, Dee!

    • Dee February 5, 2013 at 4:25 am

      Thanks Roeshel! I'm glad it fit – I hadn't seen the space before we set it up just in time for the turkey!

  17. Arlene January 27, 2013 at 2:30 am

    WOW! This is really a diamond … I don't own the tools needed to do something like this, but it sure is a dream of mine to have a kitchen island that is portable. Your ingenuity is impressive. Keep up the great work. I'm going to facebook to see your page now. Thank you thank you thank you 🙂

    • Dee February 20, 2013 at 7:36 am

      No Arlene, thank you!!!!

  18. ngnrdgrl January 26, 2013 at 10:32 am

    I am soooo impressed! I thought I was clicking on just another makeover using paint. WOW! You really transformed that piece into a brand new animal. I love it! The top is so beautiful! Bravo!!! I am now following you via facebook, twitter and pinterest. Thank you for sharing this wonderful piece with us!

    • Dee January 26, 2013 at 3:14 pm

      Wow – thank you for the awesome feedback! 🙂 You made my night!

  19. Peggy-PJH Designs January 1, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing at Transformed Tuesday. I hope you'll share with us again this week. Hugs Peggy

    • Dee January 1, 2013 at 1:17 pm

      I most certainly will Peggy! Thanks for taking the time to stop by & comment. 🙂

  20. Amy December 26, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    What a fabulous up-cycle. Great use of a free item! I am jealous of how awesome this turned out 🙂

    • Dee December 26, 2012 at 5:17 pm

      Thanks Amy! All the positive feedback makes me eager to get started on the next one!

  21. Linda December 22, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    What a transformation, I've bookmarked this for future inspiration!

    • Dee December 26, 2012 at 5:20 pm

      Thanks Linda! Now that the holidays are over I'll get back to posting more revamped items.

  22. Shelly December 22, 2012 at 9:18 am

    So creative!! The top is such a beautiful accent!

    • Dee December 26, 2012 at 5:21 pm

      The top was the biggest challenge! So glad you like it!

  23. susan townsend December 22, 2012 at 1:17 am

    Great job. I love your transformation. Found you through Roadkill Rescue. Great color too.

    • Dee December 26, 2012 at 5:22 pm

      Thanks Susan. Heading over to check out your site now… 😉

  24. Peggy-PJH Designs December 12, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    I tried making one of these once. Let's just say yours turned out much better! I love it! Would you come by and share at Transformed Tuesday? I know my readers would love to see. Party is going strong until Saturday.… Hugs, Peggy

    • Dee December 13, 2012 at 5:13 am

      Thanks Peggy. I'd be happy to share – on my way over!

  25. Faye (MacGIRLver) November 26, 2012 at 11:15 am

    I love, love, love people who think outside the box, fabulous job!

  26. Tracie@MiddleClassMo November 26, 2012 at 9:44 am

    WOW. I love it! I would've never seen a kitchen island in that little desk.

  27. Stephanie November 26, 2012 at 5:49 am

    LOVE IT- what a huge difference! Sometimes just having good bones is all you need to make something completely different.

  28. Kenz @ Interiors By November 26, 2012 at 5:27 am

    Looks great!! I love this!

    Feel free to bring your post over to our link party!

    • Dee November 26, 2012 at 5:36 am

      Thanks Kenz!! OOOOOON my way over! 🙂

  29. Emma (Broke Ass Home November 26, 2012 at 5:24 am

    Wow! I can not believe that is the same piece of furniture! What a transformation! Thank you, for putting it in the link party 🙂

    • Dee November 26, 2012 at 5:36 am

      Thank you so much Emma! I love, love, love when fellow DIYB's respond. Do you think Angelina appreciates comments from fellow actors?? 🙂 (kidding) Still linking up to your 4-some. No clue why I keep getting sidetracked by your projects!!!! (curse of a creative mind!)

      • Emma (Broke Ass Home November 26, 2012 at 5:43 am

        I appreciate that! (I know…I'm a comment lover myself- I love when people say stuff, it's fuel for the creative mind.)

  30. denyse@crazy beautif November 26, 2012 at 5:23 am

    All I can is WOW!! You did an amazing transformation on that desk.


    • Dee November 26, 2012 at 5:43 am

      Thanks Denyse! (for some reason you went to my spam comments) Gonna refill the latte & go check out your page. I'm obsessed w/blue all of a sudden and you've got lots of it! 🙂

  31. sharon buege November 23, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    Looks great Deanna.

  32. Nike Onile November 23, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    Awesome job Dee!!! You definitely have skills!

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