Home Projects: Kitchen Island
Project: Antiqued Kitchen Island
Jack Kurilla’s craftsmanship is about perfection. As a high-end cabinetmaker in the small southern New Hampshire town of Dublin, Kurilla needs his work to be flawless. But when it came to building a new kitchen island for his own home, he took a different tack.
Wood knots, splits, and seams? He embraced them all, and then some, as he worked to create a piece that looked old, and looked worn. “I wanted something that appeared as though it might have been an old tavern table or was left in an old barn,” he says. “Maybe it got moved around a lot. It was fun.”
Kurilla, who works out of a shop next to his home, wanted old, but he didn’t want it to look forced. “Antiquing is a big trend now,” he says. “But most of what’s done is overdone. It doesn’t look authentic.” He “wore” down, for example, only the spots that would typically wear over time: bottom corners where feet might rub up against them; spots behind the drawer handles.
For the sides and legs, Kurilla turned to some flawed cherry he’d bought and later rejected for a client job. For each of the legs, he planed and glued five boards, then hand-turned the blocks on a lathe to create a simple style featuring beads, coves, and ball-foot ends. On one of them, his chisel caught a small section of dry rot, chipping the wood slightly: the perfect touch. In addition, Kurilla intentionally didn’t sand the seams, giving the appearance that the wood has shifted or buckled a little with age.
Along the top, a slab of six pine boards glued together, Kurilla was less gentle. After hand-planing the boards for a wavy, uneven feel, he checkered the surface with tools he threw down on it and then briefly beat it with chains. For one corner, he turned to a friend who’s a gunsmith and asked him to actually shoot at the top, spraying the planks with bird shot. “It looks as though it has worm holes,” Kurilla says proudly, “or that it’s an old bench that somebody has been working on for years.”
Kurilla finished his piece by painting the cherry a lacquered barn red, followed by a generous layer of black crackle paint. He then rubbed down his “wear” spots with a coarse rag dipped in lacquer thinner. He stained the top multiple times with various colors: orange, yellow, and then black to draw out the knots.
Finally, he sprayed the entire island with a final coat of clear catalytic varnish to protect the wood. The result of all this is a dull sheen that looks like an old oiled finish.
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The look, Kurilla reports: “I’ve had clients of mine who know antiques come over and ask me if it’s 200 years old.”
About $600 for lumber and hardware
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