Studio Progress — Cabinets Installed, Countertop Fail, and Countertop Fix

I got quite a bit done on the studio this past weekend, but I also had a set back with the countertop. It wasn’t necessarily a fail. It would have been just fine had I kept it the way it was initially, but I didn’t love it, so I’m determined to redo it.

But we’ll get to all of that in a minute. First, let’s go back to the cabinet install. When I left y’all on Friday, the cabinets in the office section of the studio had been assembled and the feet attached, but the cabinets weren’t actually installed on the wall because I was still trying to decide how to handle these spaces.

I didn’t have to deal with those spaces on the long wall because the IKEA cabinets were a much better fit on that wall (you can see how I installed those cabinets here). But for this shorter wall, in order to get the cabinets centered on the window and symmetrical on each side of the window, there had to be spaces.

Y’all gave me tons of ideas for how to use those spaces, but in the end, I decided it just wasn’t worth it. The space was only 4.5 inches wide, so by the time I subtract the width taken up by whatever I built for that space (for example, a pull out would have taken up one inch for the box (two sides of 1/2-inch plywood) plus 1/2-inch for the drawer pulls), the space left for actual use would have been so little as to not make it worth it for an office space. A kitchen would have made sense since spices or cookie sheets can fit in a tiny space like that, and since kitchen cabinets are 24 inches deep. But for this office space with 15-inch-deep cabinets, building something for those tiny spaces just seemed like a waste of time.

So I ended up just using spacers. These aren’t the finished look, obviously. The finish pieces will go on top of these spacers. But I made four identical spacers, and used two for each of the two spaces — on at the back of the space between the cabinets, and one at the front of the space with the front of the spacer flush with the front edges of the cabinet boxes. Then I’ll attach a finished 5/8-inch-thick piece of lumber to the front of the spacer, which means it will be flush with the fronts of my 5/8-inch-thick IKEA Veddinge doors.

Once I get the finish pieces attached to the front of those spacers, I might even dress it up to look like pull-out cubbies, kind of like the false drawer front on the kitchen sink cabinet or the bathroom sink cabinet that I always put a drawer pull on because I like the look. But we’ll see. I may just leave them as obvious spacers, which I’m okay with as long as I get my symmetry. 😀

And speaking of symmetry, in order to have both sides perfectly symmetrical, I’ll also be adding spacers and an end panel to this end. That way when I get my upper cabinets placed on top of the countertop and lined up with the bottom cabinets, they’ll be trimmed out identically. If that doesn’t make sense to you, I hope it will make more sense as I make more progress.

Okay, now let’s talk about the countertop. I’m a big fan of thick countertops. And by thick, I mean 1.5 inches. I almost always prefer them over thin countertops, by which I mean the standard .75-inch countertops. That’s not a hard and fast rule. In our master bathroom, we have .75-inch countertops, and I love them. So it really is dependent upon the individual room and situation, but I do tend to gravitate towards the thicker countertops in most situations.

So when it came time to make my countertops for the studio, I figured thick is good. And even if it’s thicker than 1.5 inches, that would be fine. I figured I would use two layers of 3/4-inch MDF for the base of the countertop, and then place the flooring boards that I selected for the countertop on top of the MDF. That was the plan, so I got my two layers of MDF on the cabinets, glued them together, and clamped them to dry.

And then I started cutting the flooring boards to go on the front edge of the MDF. I figured it would be easier to start at the front and work my way back towards the wall. So I cut strips to cover the 1.5 inches of MDF, and mitered the strips on the top with a 45-degree angle. I attached them with wood glue and 18-guage finish nails.

It’s hard to see that mitered top edge in pictures. Hopefully this will give you a better view of it…

And here you can see it on the corner and the side edge…

After those were installed, I cut and mitered the top pieces that would sit right against that front mitered piece to look like a solid piece. I attached these pieces in the same way…

By the time I got to this point, I was so proud of my progress, and I knew the hard part was over. Filling in the rest with straight cut pieces would be a breeze, and I’ve have this countertop finished in no time! But the longer I looked at it, the more I disliked it.

The thickness, which ended up being a two-inch finished thickness once the flooring boards were attached, was just too overpowering and bulky for my taste. It seems that my limit on countertop thickness is 1.5 inches.

I stopped working on it and figured I’d give myself (and my eyes) a break from the countertop for the evening and come back the next day and see what I thought. Well, the next day, it was still too thick for my liking. Thank goodness I started with the smaller countertop!

So I got busy on the long countertop, but this time, I only used one piece of 3/4-inch MDF as the base instead of two.

And then I followed with the exact same process, except that this time, the front pieces were 3/4-inch thinner than the previous front strips for the other cabinets.

This looked so much better to my eye.

So that’s as far as I got — second wall of cabinets installed, one countertop fail, and another countertop underway that I think is much better. I’m not too upset about that other countertop, though. It was a learning experience, and I learned something about my likes and dislikes that I didn’t previously know. Now I know! And thankfully, I have plenty of extra MDF, so I won’t need to make another trip to Home Depot to buy more. Hopefully there won’t be any more mistakes, and I can get these countertops knocked out very soon!


I finished the countertops! You can see the whole DIY process, plus the finished countertop, in this post:



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  1. If you had stayed with the thicker counter would that have put your counter higher than your window sill? Looking at the photo it appears that the narrower counter is level with the window sill. That would seem to me to be a very good thing. But perhaps it is an optical illusion either way. How are you finishing the windows?

  2. I love your trim design and want to do the same in my house, but I have a few tricky windows and doors where the spacing will require some creativity. So I’m very curious to see how you finish these windows where they meet the countertops!! I absolutely LOVE your work!! You’re a huge inspiration!

  3. I appreciate your dilemma with the too-thick countertop. Glad you were able to make the change without too much trouble. Kuddos on your symmetry – I love good symmetry also. Can’t wait to see your finished space!

  4. I’m so glad you’re using an mdf base for this project! I’ve been wanting to ask you a question and wasn’t sure how closely you monitor old posts.
    I read your mdf vs plywood post and when to use which. Here’s my project:
    I have a long wall I’m working with. There’s a bookcase in the middle, and on either side there are two drawer bases. One is in the corner, and the other is midway between the wall and the bookcase. I want to add a desktop from the wall to the bookcase on both sides. I planned to use 3/4in mdf, especially because my local Home Depot sells a melamine finished one that would save me some finishing time. Here are my questions:
    1. Given that you don’t recommend screws for mdf, what would you suggest for supporting the desktop on the bookcase side? I don’t want to attach anything to the wall or bookcase, so I’m thinking some sort of adjustable leg, but am unsure on how to attach it if the screws will pull threw.
    2. Have you ever used the iron-on banding to finish the front edge? Any recommendations on a specific product?
    Thanks so much! I reference your blog frequently when trying to figure out how to do something in my home.

    1. For a project like that, I’d use threaded inserts (they look like this) to fit the size screw you want to use. Drill a hole the required size in the MDF, add the inserts (if it were my project, I might also consider using adhesive to make sure the threaded inserts won’t budge), and then your screws will work just fine.

  5. Looking good. So exciting to see your studio getting worked on. I’m always excited for the days you will get to create in there. But meanwhile, totally enjoying the work you are doing right now. And yes, now that you say it, those spaces would be a waste of time and money. You will have great storage already anyway!

  6. I’m with you Kristi. I like the one board thickness better that the two board thickness. Looks cleaner for some reason. Your studio is going to be great!!
    Your whole house is great!