Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Complete Kitchen

The original villa kitchen was located on the upper level of the farmhouse above the barn. When the farmhouse was first renovated, the upper level rooms became bedrooms, and a kitchen was created from a room in the barn that had been used for a variety of tasks, including cheese making, preserving garden produce, doing laundry, and also as a place for wine storage. During the first renovation, the new owners decided to retain the original stone floor. It required only some minor repairs and a bit of polish on the stones. Then, many years later, a different owner from the same family completed additional renovations to add more modern amenities; but the stone floor remained untouched.

The villa kitchen is located at one end of the house. The interior wall is shared by the dining room, but now the end wall has been prepared and is ready to be raised. The front arch will be added at a later date.

The end wall is up and secured.

It's time to start making the stones for the kitchen floor; the cork coasters may look familiar!

For the cork to look more stone-like, I applied a thin layer of joint compound to each piece of cork and let it dry.

No sanding involved here; I just applied a variety of paint colors to the cork.

I painted the plywood base a dark gray in case the wood showed through any gaps in the stones. Then I tore the cork into random shapes and used the straightest pieces along the edges of the room.

This was a fun floor to make - very similar to working a jigsaw puzzle.

I decided to add a few real stones for a little variety.

All the stones - real and otherwise - have been laid. I touched up the paint where some of the color had chipped off. I used many tiny pieces of cork as filler in the gaps. That was very time consuming, but I couldn't think of a way to grout the stones that wouldn't remove more of the finish.

To insure that all the gaps were filled, I spread a thick layer of fine sand (model railroad landscaping sand) over all the floor and swished and patted it around until I thought the gaps were gone.

I swept up all the used sand with a soft brush - and kept on sweeping for quite a while!

The stones are clear of loose sand, and the gaps are filled. 

I covered the two kitchen walls and sprayed a light coat of fixative over the entire floor to ensure that the sand was firmly fixed. I don't want to keep on keeping on with the sweeping!

Floor Finished!

And now for the kitchen sink and work space. I cut the sink and work tops from styrofoam. 

The supports for the sink and work tops are styrofoam as well - they will be finished to look like stone slabs. I mounted the pieces securely against the back wall of the kitchen.

The bottom of the sink seemed to sit too low; I needed more space for the plumbing, so I cut it down a bit. 

A layer of joint compound was applied to the sink and work tops, then dried and lightly sanded.

I painted the walls with two or three colors of paint and a whitewash to give them a "sooty" finish. The kitchen has made use of a wood-burning stove for generations now. Fresh paint does not look fresh for long. The sink and work tops were given a stone-like finish.

This was a spur-of-the-moment whim. Remember all those extra terra cotta tiles that I made? I cut (roughly) quarter-inch tiles and glued the tiles onto the work tops on either side of the sink. That pewter hound dog was the heaviest small thing that I could find at hand to use as a weight while the glue dried.

I cut two deep shelves that will go in the spaces under the work tops.

I stained the shelves and the shelf supports, and while I waited for the stain to dry...

...I applied a coat of varnish to the terra cotta tiles, then aged them a little when the varnish was dry.

After the lower shelves were in place, I searched through my collection of odds and ends and gathered the parts for the plumbing fixtures. My wrists aren't as strong as they used to be, and the copper tubing for the drain pipe was harder to work with than I expected, so Robert bent the tubing into shape for me. (You may need to "poke the picture" to see the bitsy pieces clearly.)

I first painted all the different components black...

...then added some brownish paint...

...and finished them off with touches of brass powder. I didn't want the pieces to look too shiny bright. (It has, after all, been many long years since this plumbing was newly installed.)

The faucet and drain cover have been assembled and attached, and the under-sink drain pipe is in, although it doesn't show in this photo.

I bought an unfinished plate rack with a shelf and hooks attached. I wanted a rack over the sink, but this one took up too much space from top to bottom.

So I cut off the shelf; I can use it somewhere, sometime.

I stained the plate rack and decided to add a dowel that can be used as a towel rack.    

The dowel is stained, and the plate rack is ready to hang.

I glued the plate rack over the sink. This photo shows the drain pipe and trap under the sink.

I had a hard time finding metal shelf brackets for the shelves that I wanted on the wall with the plate rack. I finally ordered bracket and shelf sets online - but someone (who, me?) made a mistake, and I received shelves painted for a nursery. Very cute, but very wrong!

So I repainted the shelves and metal brackets...

...and hung them (glued them) over the work tops.

After all that was done, I decided to add a longer shelf across the top - and fortunately I had ordered an extra set of brackets, so I cut a long shelf and stained/painted the pieces.

The long shelf is ready to hang.

I needed one last thing - a skirt attached under the sink to hide the drain pipe. I cut off a strip from an antique handkerchief; the embroidered scalloped edge needed no hem, and the fabric is soft and pliable.

I gathered the fabric onto a sturdy wire and bent tiny loops in the ends of the wire.

I pinned the fabric into the shape I wanted...

...and saturated it with a glue and water mixture and let it dry.

Finally, I glued the top shelf in place, attached the curtain to the bottom of the sink, and the back kitchen wall is Finished!

I mounted the wall in place and secured it with glue and toothpicks. There were slight gaps along the corners, which I spackled over.

After the spackling paste was dry, I sanded a little and touched up the paint.
And......the villa-fattoria kitchen is complete!
(At least, in my mind it's complete. In some other minds, it still lacks a ceiling, a door, and a front arch! I do tend to overlook those minor details.)

Ruby, my six-year-old granddaughter, is helping me out by sorting small stones. I need very flat ones for the loggia floor, which may be one of the things I accomplish in July. I hope June was a good month for you, and that July will be even better!


  1. Whaow Marjorie you have been BUSY. And what fabulous results. I am amazed with what you can do with styrofoam. Your kitchen sink and side counters look fantastic. And your stone floor is great. I love that you photograph all the stages as you go along, it is both instructive and interesting.
    Well done on creating what looks like a cool (in terms of temperature) and completely non-fussy kitchen which is perfect for your villa.
    Carol x

    1. Hi, Carol, and thanks for your comments. The kitchen was a fun project (aren't they all?) and I'd love to have it all finished and furnished. But there's that "proper and fitting order of things" that tends to try my patience. So on to the next thing, to take my mind off this one! I'm glad that you stopped by - it's always nice to hear from you.

  2. Wow, Marjorie, you have accomplished a huge amount!!! The kitchen floor looks Fantastic! Those "stone" coasters are extremely versatile! I love the way you made the sink and the supports from foam.... I would have used wood and then would have to try to make it look like stone! I love that there is so much "history" to this house and that you know what it all is! LOL! Will there be a cookstove or an open hearth in this kitchen? For some reason I always build the stove or fireplace before I figure out the sink in my houses! It looks as though your granddaughter is very helpful! I look forward to seeing more of this wonderful project!

    1. Hi, Betsy. This villa just keeps whispering its history to me as I go about getting it built according to its own plan. (That sounds a little bizarre, but feels normal, which is also bizarre!) There has been a wood cookstove in the kitchen ever since the space was first used as a laundry room, but there was never an open hearth. The old stone sink was there first, minus the "modern" plumbing, so I just left it there and found another place for the stove. Styrofoam does work well as a substitute for stone, although it's a bit messy. But it's so easy; I have to admit that styrofoam requires little skill. Working with wood seems way beyond my ability. (All that measuring and sawing and holding it all together without its collapsing into chaos!) Someday, perhaps, I'll feel equal to the wood challenge, but I think I've been spoilt by styrofoam. I appreciate your interest and your comments - thanks for both.

  3. Wow I love your stone floor it is amazing. The sink unit and shelves look wonderful. I love how you make everything look so worn and loved. Looking forward to more. Have a wonderful July.
    Hugs Maria

    1. Hi, Maria - I had so much fun building the villa kitchen. Maybe it looks loved because I do love it for not causing me any trouble! I'm eager to get on with the next thing in July - and I hope I'll have fun with that as well. Thank you for your nice comments.

  4. Well, now I am going to have to add my "WOW" to those of all of the others- WOW, Marjorie! Your kitchen, its history and your execution of the floor, the sink and the counter are all Fantastic! I actually feel that your story regarding the family in residence- is Real!
    and I'm loving it! :D


    1. Hi, Elizabeth. I am having a good time getting to know the current residents of the villa. They reveal themselves bit by bit; I'm hoping to know them well by the time the villa is finished. (I'm moving along at a leisurely pace with this project, so the finish date is not even in sight yet!) Thanks for your comments!

  5. Hello Marjorie,
    This kitchen will be amazing. I LOVE the floor and think the sand was a very clever idea. The sink unit looks so realistic and is perfect in that style house. You really have some fantastic techniques and the finished results are amazing.
    Well done!
    Big hug

    1. Hello, Giac. Thanks for your encouraging comments on the villa kitchen. I'm especially pleased that you like my techniques, since I didn't realize that I had any! I'm really just feeling my way along, figuring things out as I go. But I think that's one of the fun and satisfying aspects of building this villa - I'm always curious to see what happens next, since the finished results are part of the Great Unknown!

  6. I am impressed with your kitchen. Everything looks great. I really like what you did with the floor. The sink skirt, plate rack, and shelves are all really nice too. Keep up the good work!

  7. Hi, Troy - I almost missed your nice comments, so I'm glad I checked back to this post. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for your interest. I'm working on my August post now, so I hope you'll find the time to follow my bits of progress.


I'd love to hear your comments!