Our Kitchen Renovation: Countertops

So you already know that we’re renovating our kitchen. But not a typical renovation. This all has to be done on a low, low, low, extremely low budget. Remember, we’re starving artists so the top two tools for this renovation are 1) Creativity and 2) Sweat Equity.

So we started with converting a kitchen closet into a semi-walk-in pantry. And then we got sidetracked by removing the floor. Then we got sidetracked again with testing out an idea I had for the countertops: Decoupage.

Below are images of the whole process. I’m thinking the pictures are not doing it justice because the counter turned out amazing! Have two more counters to go now!

We have two different countertops in our kitchen and as you can see, they're not in great shape.
I tore pictures from an outdated cookbook that was mostly all text. Then I wrinkled the pages and Mod Podged them to the countertop by applying glue to the pages and a thin layer to the countertop as well. I then rolled it down with considerable pressure to remove any air bubbles.
Continue gluing and rolling until completely covered.
Now the fun part — painting! First color down is a yellow hue that was thinned out with a mixing medium. Painted random strokes and then rubbed it in with a cloth towel. Then I mixed in a reddish brown color and applied to different sections and rubbing/blotting with the towel.
Applying paint and rubbing with a towel. After the yellow and orange/brown colors, two layers of different shades of gray are applied in particular spots to create the ethereal effect.
My part is done. Eric is applying the lacquer. Remember to wear one of those high-end filtered masks since this product has lots of fumes! We estimated about 10 coats are needed.
This is one of the final pics taken. Need about 4 more layers of lacquer and next I will decoupage the back edging to complete this countertop. We love the way it turned out! Especially how the colors change with the daylight and overhead lights at night.


28 thoughts on “Our Kitchen Renovation: Countertops”

  1. Hi there, Just saw this site and love the counter top. I’ve actually been wanting to decopodge my kitchen counter tops for a while. I never thought about using paint to add other dimension. You mentioned color down? What exactly did you use? I’m guessing it would be an acrylic paint mixed with glaze for thinning. Please let me know if there is something different you used for that process. Your help is appreciated!! (Ps. A while back I started printing off various old post cards and destination places on a little bit thicker card stock than regular paper. I’ve also seen people use the polyurthene as the glue as well. Thoughts thanks!

  2. Hi. This is fantastic. I have been researching the craft paper/brown bag method for kitchen counters. When I found this method I loved it instantly. I have a few questions perhaps you could answer. Why did you choose the decoupage method vs the glue down method? Are these products safe to be used where food is prepared? No matter how much I try to be neat and stay on cutting boards there is always some food and utensils sitting on my counter tops. It is fabulous that your share your talents with others, thanks again,Karen

    1. Thank you Karen. Actually it really is sort of a “glue down method”. You modge-podge the bottom (glue down) and then I painted on top of it. Then modged over that. Then my husband used food-grade lacquer and applied 7 coats of it. So it is safe to prepare food but not for cutting.

  3. Thank you for posting your project.
    I was wondering if the lacquer you used holds up to kitchen counter…water spills. I hear that some poly’s get cloudy if exposed to water. Is this true for the Lacquer? What do you clean it with? I am a big fan of my homemade mixture of 1 Part Rubbing Alcohol (70%) to 2 parts water and a dribble of Blue Dawn. Would that harm the Lacquer? I need something durable, easy clean up and waterproof (resistant). Thanks!

    1. Thanks Michelle. This countertop was actually perpendicular, and away from the main counter with the sink. We didn’t feel it would hold up surrounding the sink. But for the length of time we had this countertop, we simply used Windex! It was fine. However, I can’t tell you how it looks now because we have since sold the house! It actually sold in 9 Days after listing it. I wonder if the unique countertops helped sell it?? 🙂

      1. I have no doubt your creative touch was very instrumental in the house selling so quickly. People discourage creativity if there is any chance we will be selling in the future. If that is the case our home will never feel like our own! Eventually we will have to replace the counter top, which is why I am looking into doing a temporary fix that if it turns out great and lasts a long time, perfect, if not, well, we were going to change them out anyway!
        All things considered (thanks for the quick reply), I will continue to look into this on the web! What did we ever do before the internet??
        Take care and I look forward to reading more of your posts!!

        1. Thanks again Michelle! I agree… I’ve sold about four or five houses I’ve lived in over the years and I always made them personal. Not too personal, but enough where it showed some creativity and specialness. To me, that showed the potential buyer and the house was Loved! You should see where we live now! We decoupaged newspapers all over two bathroom walls and behind the sink and shower. It’s been over two years now and it’s still fine! No cloudiness or anything, but it’s a wall, not a countertop. I just posted an older DIY window film project I did in that same house that had the countertops I decoupaged. I’m going to start showing more of our funky house projects in the coming weeks. Yes, the internet is marvelous! LOL. Have fun with your countertops. Any questions when you are in the middle of it, just drop me a note! I’ll try and help you out. It really was so easy. Except for the lacquering. I left that up to my husband and he said that was no fun!!

          1. Okay, now you are talking my language!lol.
            I would LOVE to see your decoupaged walls! I have been searching the internet for several weeks trying to decide if we should use Luxury Vinyl Tile flooring (which we have purchased and is waiting to be installed) OR try out the brown paper decoupaged flooring I see all over the internet (WAY CHEAPER!). My Hubby loves the idea. Oh, I would love to try it but have never taken on such a project. I figure, if it does not turn out…I still have the vinyl flooring we can lay right over! Still considering! I have been thinking of the walls as well. My concern is, if we ever want to change it (decoupaged walls), will it be possible? Can they be painted over? If sooooo, could you post the decoupage wall project you did with all the names of the products you used? That would help in deciding what to do in my home! This is our makeover season! Although I have found quite a bit of ideas in Decoupaging our home in various ways, there still is not a TON of images out there. I have a feeling that will change.
            Okay, you have been MORE THAN PATIENT with me! THANK YOU for replying so quickly as I am surrounded by many home projects at this moment that need to be done soon! Seems like All or Nothing at times!!
            With much thankfulness!!

            1. LOL! I will try and post pics next week of the bathroom walls. If we want to change it in the future, we could not just paint over it unfortunately. We would have to do considerable removal work!! We joked about it while we were putting the paper up!!

              1. Which is why moving is always an option, lol!
                And the new owners get free Awesome art!!
                After I take some tile off around my sink and patch it up, I am thinking very seriously about decoupaging the wall the sink is on to include the back splash and around the mirror. I can wait on your pictures since you are busy. IF you have time, (this would not happen until this weekend) could you send me the brands you used for the Poly, and etc. I will be using scrapbook paper from Hobby lobby. How many coats, and etc. Thanks!! You are truly a blessing to give so much time…I have no doubt you are as busy as me!

                1. Good day!! We are in the midst of renovating and have about 3 projects going on at once! I was wondering if you have ever tired the Brown Paper bag flooring using decoupage technique on various floors topped with water based polyurethane used for floors.
                  I used the All Purpose elmer’s glue/water mixture and applied it onto old asbestos tiles that are very smooth and in good shape. However, after it dried, there were air bubbles that never settled. I tore one up and the whole paper started coming with it. Kinda what I would expect if I decoupaged over a filing cabinet. I want these floors covered for obvious reasons but not sure how to adhear it to the floor. Last night I tried gluing it down with the polyurethane instead of the Elmers. Verdict is still out on that. ANY advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

  4. This is the page i have been looking for. I have lots of old recipes from my family and I have been wanting to do this to my back splash…or something. Thinks for seeing that I am not crazy and this would really work. Awesome!

    1. Why thanks Tammy. There’s not too much instructions in my post but it’s really easy! Just work slowly… And it looks so much better in person!!

  5. wow it looks great I would love this! I need your expertise though my house is white black and grey. What colors and shades would looks good to smear? Thanks in advance!

    1. If you want to stay in the white, black and grey theme, then choose dark grays to paint on B/W pages. Or, this is where you could add color. A teal may look good or if you want to go bolder, you could use shades of red. But don’t let it get too pink!

  6. We should be creative at this time of high budget and costs. Kitchen renovation is the most costly part of the house and this can be affordable with a creativity and researches about it. There is nice renovation done and it’s also an informative post.

    1. You’re just buttering me up for the weekend… trying to give me “false confidence” for our 1st “Maine Pickers” event. You will never be the underdog. Eric and I have been going over our plan of action… we’re both gunning for you!

    1. Thanks Carol! In person they are really pretty. I wanted to do a small table of ours with maps and then I thought, what about doing that on the counter top! We had nothing to lose so I started gluing pages. It was fun! Except for Eric. He had the terrible task of layering the lacquer. You do need about 10 coats of lacquer. Or you could go with epoxy and do it once. But you have to build a dam around everything to do that.

      1. i am trying to makeover my shoebox apartment and plan on decoupaging my counters too. what varnish did you use and how many coats are needed? i have been trying to find a good alternative sealer to use, since im not a big fan of polyurethane fumes, but i can’t fine much. suggestions? or is poly the only way to go?

        1. I’m not sure how you get around that one. We used Helmsman’s lacquer and it does produce some serious fumes. We sealed off the doors to the rest of the house and put fans in the windows. I put it on with a brush and it was fast for each coat. The counter top was only 4’ long. I had a mask and was out of there after about five minutes. You can get the type that you mix together and pour. You will need to create a dam around the edges of the counter and you have to make sure the counter is pretty level. It took 2 quarts to get a good surface (about 15 coats) although you could put more. We figured we could always add at a later date if needed. Good luck, we are still happy that we did it.

        2. I hear you on the fumes! Unfortunately, you will have to use polyurethane. My husband did that portion and he wore a gas-type mask… the one with the two holes on the side that filter out fumes. And we sealed all the doors so it would not seep into the rest of the house. So poly is the only thing we could find in our research.

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