When we first moved into our house almost three years ago, our circa 1958 dining room looked like this.
We replaced the existing sliding glass doors with wider, accordion-style doors from LaCANTINA which are essentially three panels of glass that are hinged together so you can either open one of the panels (one is designated for this purpose) as you would a regular swinging door, or push all the panels off to the side, leaving the entire opening free and clear–as opposed to a regular sliding glass door where one panel of glass slides and the other piece is always fixed in place. Boring explanation aside, the door is awesome and when it is fully ajar, suddenly the dining/living room feels that much bigger because the inside and outside read like one continuous space.
I believe our cat thinks it’s awesome, too.
For anyone who is thinking of installing these types of doors, I give a giant thumbs up, but a couple of things to note are if you can possibly keep your inside flooring material (e.g., wood; carpet; tile) in the same color family as any exterior flooring (e.g., wood; stone; concrete) the more seamless the effect is. In our case, we didn’t do this, because we kind of have this somewhat unintentional, but once recognized, appreciated and adhered to, theme of warm wood and concrete going everywhere, but if you HAD the option to stay in one color family, it would make the space seem that much larger.
The LaCANTINA door comes with three options of threshold heights and we found the trades (the salesman and installer and the company that poured our concrete patio) were adamant that we install a tall threshold to prevent rain from entering the interior, but that would have killed the smooth transition we were after. We were temporarily torn about what to do (we certainly didn’t want to welcome water into the house, but we didn’t want to relinquish our goal of creating a patio that was level with the interior floor it abutted). In the end, the solution was to go with the ADA threshold which isn’t completely flush, but close to it, and have the concrete crew cut into the stucco of our exterior walls and lay a waterproof membrane at the new height of the patio (the patio had to be extra thick in order to be flush with the interior floors); grade the patio so water only had one direction to flow–away from the house!–and to install a few French drains at any point we figured water would want to collect. Granted, rain in California is now as rare as unicorns, but we did get a few heavy rains post installation this past winter, and I’m happy to report nary a drop worked its way inside. Should you do this? The answer is consult with your builder or contractor as the slope of your individual property must be factored in and trapping moisture must always be avoided, but, if possible, it’s certainly ideal to avoid two different heights for both aesthetic reasons and to avoid tripping.
We painted the walls Benjamin Moore’s Simply White (in an eggshell sheen), replaced the existing chandelier with pendant lights from RH and added taller (5″ inch tall) baseboard. Side note: tall baseboard is one of those little details that is actually huge! Most builder-grade homes have diminutive baseboard, 3 1/2″ or shorter, as well as slim door and window casing, while higher-end homes and homes that were built prior to the 1950s, tend to have more generous trim. It’s true that many fancier and older homes have 9′ or taller ceilings, whereas builder-grade homes, and–darn it!–our, home has 8′ ceilings, so scale is at play, but there is something about good (and tall) trim that just adds a feeling of solid craftsmanship and tells the eye, “You are looking at quality.” So, whenever possible, I suggest replacing baseboard with something that is at least 4 1/4″ and, yes it depends on the style of your home, but nine times out of ten, I’d suggest avoiding flourishes like ogee detail and stick with the good ol’ clean lines of a straight or eased-edge Craftsman style baseboard.
Ogee detail at top of the baseboard
Plain and simple.
Fast forward to the point where our new floors are installed, we have our fireplace stuccoed to look like concrete (you can read all about that here) and we removed that weird pole that dropped down from the ceiling and died into the top of the pony wall. That left the next step: removing the wood cap from the pony wall.
Once the cap was removed, we were left with something like this…
We capped the pony wall with two pieces of Douglas Fir joined with construction adhesive (and clamped together as tightly as possible while the adhesive dried). We did a test run below.
Because this is only a temporary fix until we can spring for truly gutting and remodeling the kitchen, we attached the stained and finished Douglas Fir top by screwing it into the pony wall from the top down. If you were going to do this somewhat permanently, I’d suggest counter-sinking said screws and covering them with dowels that can be stained to match. We’re calling our exposed screws good enough and declaring them “Industrial Chic”–or the term I’m trying to coin: “Industic”.
Okay, but “The table, the table!” you might be saying. Okay, getting there. We wanted a realllly long (96″) table following the principle that bigger furniture often makes a space look bigger than if you try to stick multiple tiny pieces in a room and your eye just reads the space as so small that it can only accommodate Lilliputian-sized stuff.
So we wanted to go big and what we wanted was this Parson’s table from RH.
RH’s Arles Rectangular Table in Grey Walnut.
But at $3,295, for the 96″ x 39″ x 30″ table, the price was steep, especially when I read the fine print that disclosed it only has veneer of Walnut wood. (Humph!)
We also liked this one.
RH’s Roebling Live-Edge Walnut Table
But at $14,995 for a 96″ x 44″ x 30″ table this was not only a wee bit wider than we wanted, but beyond a wee bit exorbitant and since we had already eaten up nearly the entire budget on five RH Rizzo chairs, we needed a new plan.
RH’s Rizzo chairs
So the plan was hatched to BUILD OUR OWN, from solid planks of wood! It all started with the customizable welded stainless steel legs that JB found from SteelImpression on Etsy. I cannot say enough good things about this company. Not only did the price seem reasonable ($220, including shipping, for the pair), but they had them finished and en route two days after we placed our order. We realized if we made the tabletop with the roughest grade of Redwood Home Depot carried, the boards were only $38 x 4 = $152 plus $220 legs, we were back on budget!
The following picture shows Douglas Fir boards since we started with DF boards which we glued together only to discover they didn’t stay that way (the fourth board, even after a second round of adhesive, refused to stay attached), which is how the pony wall cap project was born (waste not, want not). I am including this photo to show the important first step of using construction adhesive …
And biscuit joints! The combination of the two was the only way we could get four 96″ long boards to work as a team.
I cannot stress enough how crucial it is to keep the boards clamped together while drying.
After the four boards were properly joined, JB sanded them starting with 60 grit then working his way to 100, 150 then 120 grit. We used Minwax stain (color: Provincial) and sealed the top and bottom (to prevent moisture from entering and warping the boards) with Varathane clear water-based Polyurethane in Satin. On that note, if you have room inside (i.e., your garage), let the wood dry there and not outside where it will risk warping due to the elements (a misty morning or dewy evening is enough to cause some warping and create moisture blemishes on your finish).
Next was the bench which was much easier since it was just one piece of wood that needed to be cut and sanded.
We cut the bench to 74″ long to work with the 96″ long table.
Again with the staining and sealing. Once dry, we flipped it over and screwed in the custom legs. Also from SteelImpressions on Etsy.
Here is the bench where we first positioned it, against the wall, so the RH chairs could be more on display.
Once I reversed the chairs and bench for a photo shoot, I realized the dining room appeared much more open and airy–and the good lines of the bench were no longer hidden–when the bench was placed on the open side of table.
There you have it.
Very easy. Fairly inexpensive, certainly loads less than an RH table, and not a veneer, but solid, sandable wood.
And one more time…the Before (in preparation for hardwood floors and from the looks of that stag painting project in the background, Tannenbaum Time).
Wood for table: Four pieces of 2″ x 12” x 96″ rough-hewn Redwood planks from Home Depot at $38 each. We trimmed each board to 10″ wide so with four boards the final width of the table is 40″; the length is 96″ and with the legs it is 30″ tall.
Legs for table: $220, Steel Impressions from Etsy. 29″ tall x 36″ wide–total width, including the opening between the legs.
Wood for bench: One piece of rough-hewn Redwood 2″ x 12″ x 96″ cut to 74″ long, $38.
Legs for bench: $160, Steel Impressions from Etsy. 17″ tall x 10″ wide–total width, including the opening between the legs.
Stain: Minwax in color Provincial $8 per quart
Finish: Varathane Polyurethane, Satin, water-based $17 per quart
Total cost for the DIY modern table: $397
Total cost for the DIY modern bench: $98
Happy Saturday! 🙂