Here is my island "before". Or rather, during, because we painted the base black when we did the kitchen. Rosie had seen an island on Craigslist that looked pretty much like ours (only painted) for a couple of hundred dollars. Why not just go with what we have for now? I admit I'd prefer something more antique looking as a base, but honestly, the storage in this is so very handy.
Here's a true "before" picture.
(While you are here take a good look at that floor. Now who in their right mind would go out and purposely choose dirt-colored linoleum? Who? Answer me. Sometime soon I'll show you the new utterly fabulous floor.)
This island has that odious rounded edged white Formica thing going on, but it also has a serious hidden vice that you know nothing about.
That cutting board? It fits into a cutout in the Formica. It's removable. And when you cut something on it, as sometimes you will -- something with crumbs, like, say, bread; or something with juices, like, say, meat -- those little bits of food fall down into that cutout and land in the drawers beneath. So your silverware drawer gets...gross. All the time. We had all had it with that island. To me it screamed 70s and whispered "bad housekeeper".
Now, I could go for this, I suppose:
But I want you to know that they don't even put the price on this baby. Since the islands that look like they are made in a rickety factory in China with poor workers who understandably do not have a clear idea of what an island really is cost $2445, we don't even want to ask what this one costs. We don't want to know.
Use what you have if you can, right?
Well, in the long-ago 80s, when the butcher block aesthetic was at its height and I wasn't very good at being thrifty, we foolish newlyweds purchased for the Chief a desk of sorts. It had a maple butcher block top and file cabinets for sides.
It seemed practical and sort of refreshingly form-follows-function at the time, but let me tell you, I developed an animosity towards that thing. In a way I wish I had a "before" picture to show you, but in another way I couldn't bear it.
First, it had the same wretched rounded corners as the island. Second, it got...grubby...and the file drawers sort of bent...and the top was hard to keep ungrimy. And while it might have had a certain kind of urban apartment-living funky feel to it at the time, it was so out of place here in the country in the Chief's office with its built-in bookcases, high ceilings, and wood stove.
But I when we got Grandpa's beautiful oak table desk for the office, I realized that the butcher block top could be -- a butcher block! We have the technology to cut off those rounded edges and sand it down, and the wonderful Brian (who installed the floor and many other things in our house) had the idea of putting an edge on it to make it wide enough to go on the island base.
The amazing Chief got to work, actually enjoying making those joints just so and getting the whole thing ready for me! The trim pieces are poplar, the only wood they had at Home Depot with the right dimensions.
Now I'm going to tell you what I found out about finishing a butcher block that you plan to use as butcher block. You get your mineral oil at CVS in the laxative department (this is deep, I know) and you wipe that on really well, rubbing it in, letting it soak, and rubbing it off. (That link to the expensive island up above has some good information, actually.)
Then heat up the mineral oil in a jar with some real beeswax, in a ratio of about 4 parts oil to 1 part wax. This sounds precise but is actually guesswork. Do the mysteriously knowledgeable people on the internet mean parts by weight? Volume? I did volume.
I bought my beeswax here at what seems like a good price, and it came quickly and is lovely.
Someday we will have our own beeswax!
But for now, I bought some.
I heated up water in a small slow cooker and put the jar of oil in that. Then I cut up small pieces of wax and plopped them in there. I stirred with a wooden skewer until they melted and the whole thing became as one. I tell you these details in case you are like me and would really like to know (see weight/volume issue above).
This is the hot mixture. Then I let it cool a bit (it gets to be a thick paste) but while it was still somewhat warm I applied it to the top and sides, let it sit, and then buffed it. These processes (oil, oil-and-wax) may be repeated at will.
And here it is with a "tea" on it, and a little peek of the floor! I admit I'm a little afraid of putting food on it! (The island, not the floor.)