[Note1: This entry was actually written in April 2013. I changed the posting date to keep my blog entries in chronological order]

[Note2: Some of the tasks below require specialized knowledge and skill in electrical installation. If you do not possess this, you should contact a licensed electrician.]

by George Taniwaki

In the original layout of our house, the first thing one saw down the hall after stepping in the front door was the side of the refrigerator (Fig 1a). Not very appealing. Part of the rationale for the kitchen remodel was to improve this view. (In fact, part of the rationale of buying this house was to remodel it.) The design by Soderstrom Architects includes a breakfast bar with stained wood panels, a wide curved black granite countertop, a raised glass countertop, pendant lights hanging from a soffit that matches the curve of the glass, and a backlit wine rack (Fig 1b).

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Figures 1a and 1b. The view from the entry way of the house before the kitchen remodel (top) and after (bottom)

A few side notes regarding Figure 1b. First, we moved the front door opening 10 inches to the left and reversed the swing direction to improve traffic flow. Second, the staircase remodel is still in progress. We completed demolition of the pony wall but can’t continue until we lay the new flooring on the second story. Finally, this blog post will cover design, construction, and installation of the breakfast bar. The wine rack will be covered in an Oct 2012 post.

Similar to the kitchen island (see Sept 2012 post), the breakfast bar is made from IKEA cabinets that are covered in plywood panels. Based on the architect’s drawings, I create a pencil sketch (Fig 2a) and notice that the overhang of the granite countertop will be almost 2-feet and decide to add some brackets to support the weight. A detailed exploded view of the breakfast bar with brackets is shown in Figure 2b.

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Figures 2a and 2b. Pencil sketch of breakfast bar (top) and exploded view of cabinets only (bottom)

Frame the soffit

Before building the breakfast bar which will make access to the ceiling above it difficult, you will want to install the soffit. The soffit acts to emphasize the division of space between the kitchen and the dining room. The shape of the soffit matches the glass countertop and is placed directly above it. Both the soffit and the glass countertop have compound curves. Instructions for creating templates with compound curves are provided in a Sept 2012 blog post.

Using the template, trace out two copies of the soffit shape onto 3/4″ MDF. These will be framing for the top and bottom of the soffit. Draw another line 1/4″ inside the traced line to account for the thickness of the drywall that will be applied to the frame. Cut out the shapes at the inside line using a handheld scroll saw. Stack the two pieces and sand or file the curves until smooth.

On the bottom MDF piece, mark three holes evenly spaced in a straight diagonal line along the midline of the peninsula. Using a hole saw, cut holes sized to hold the electrical boxes for the pendant lights. In the top MDF piece, cut one large hole (about 6″ diameter) near the base of the peninsula so that you can fish the electrical wires with your hands. Use 10.5″ long 2″x4″s as spacers between the top and bottom pieces. Place the faces flat along the edge of the MDF. Hold everything together with deck screws (Fig 3).

Using the template and pencil, trace out the location of the soffit on the ceiling. Make sure the electrical lines are accessible from the ceiling through the hole in the soffit frame. The soffit frame is heavy. To temporarily support the weight, create a scaffold (using two 2″x4″ to create a T-shaped brace). Lift the soffit to the ceiling, align it, and use deck screws to attach it to the ceiling joists (Fig 4).

Install three deep light fixture boxes and complete the rough-in wiring.

Using the template, cut out a piece of 1/2″ drywall and attach it to the bottom face of the soffit. Cover the straight side and the large radius curved side of the soffit with 1/4″ drywall, you may need to wet it down to make it fit the curve. The small radius curve is too tight for 1/4″ drywall, even after wetting it down. Instead, I found that 1/4″ x 3.5″ flexible plastic lawn edging (Casa Verde bender board available from Home Depot) did the trick. Cut pieces to length to wrap around the curve. Use deck screws to attach the strips to the 2″x4″s. Cover the edges of the bender board with paper tape and several coats of rough plaster. Use paper tape on all the edges and add another coat of smooth plaster. The finished soffit is shown in Figure 5.

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Figures 3, 4, and 5. Constructing the soffit

Install the pedestal

After the soffit is in place, we can install the pedestal. The pedestal supports the weight of the cabinets and provides the backing support for the back panels. First, mark the floor in the kitchen where the pedestal will sit. Remember to leave allowance for a toe kick for the front side. For the breakfast bar, the pedestal will be 22″x65-1/2″. Cut four 2″x4″s to fit and use 3″ deck screws to fasten them into the floor joists. Repeat twice to form a three layer stack staggering the joints. This will be 4.5-inch tall. Just the right height for a toe kick, which we will install later.

(For pictures of a similar pedestal, see Figures 2 to 5 of blog post entitled Build a Kitchen Island.)

Cut the panels and molding

There are three panels on the kitchen island. They are made of 3/4″ sande plywood (available from Home Depot) stained, varnished, and engraved with a grid pattern. The technique for making them and the joint that connects the two back panels  is described in an Oct 2012 blog post. Cut the grid pattern to align with the existing pattern on the wall.

There will be two types of molding. L-shaped molding is used on the edges where the side panel meets the front and back. Flat molding is used where the panels meet the floor or countertop. The techniques for making them are described with pictures in the same Oct 2012 blog post.

Cut the brackets and filler blocks

To support the weight of the granite countertop, cantilevered brackets are added to the sides of the IKEA cabinets.

There are three brackets. They are all made of poplar with 2″ x 5″ nominal (1.5″ x 4.5″ actual) cross-section and vary in length. The calculations for determining the appropriate lengths are shown in Figure 6. Make the section of the bracket that is glued to the cabinet 16″ long, if possible, to ensure good support (W1). Make the exposed section of the bracket 2″ shorter than the countertop overhang (W2). The side bracket actually doesn’t provide much support, it is mostly decorative.

To make the brackets, start with two 1″x5″x8′ S4S poplar stock and glue them together. Hand plane (or run them through the jointer) to smooth the glued edges. Cut into three pieces of lengths 30″, 25″ and 11″ and cut one end of each piece at 12.5°. Sand, stain, and varnish the visible portions of the brackets.

The brackets will be attached to the sides of the cabinets and project out the back. The front of the cabinets will need filler blocks. These are made by gluing up two pieces of 1″x2″x8′ S4S poplar stock. Cut into two pieces, each 30-7/16″ long (same height as the IKEA cabinets). Fill, sand, and apply three coats of gloss enamel on all the visible surfaces. Cut the remaining piece of stock in half (each pieces about 17-1/2″ long). These filler blocks will go on the bottom rear of the cabinets. They will not be visible and do not need any finish.

To balance the appearance of the cabinet, a final pair of filler blocks will be added to the right of the cabinet. They will be made from 1″x5″x8′ S4S poplar stock. The front block is cut to 35″ long (it touches the floor) while the back filler block is 30-7/16″ long and not visible. Fill, sand, and apply three coats of gloss enamel on all the visible surfaces of the front filler block.

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Figure 6. Calculations for the bracket dimensions

Assemble the breakfast bar

Unpack the two IKEA cabinets and assemble them. The 36″ cabinet will be on the left closest to the base of the peninsula. The 24″ cabinet will go on the right closest to the tip of the peninsula. Glue and clamp the longest bracket and filler blocks to the left side of the left cabinet (Fig 7). Glue the mid-length bracket and filler blocks to the right side of the cabinet. Glue and clamp the right filler blocks on the right side of the right cabinet (Fig 8). After the glue is cured, set the two cabinets in place, measure the overhang over the pedestal, check for level, shim if necessary, and screw the cabinets down into the pedestal.

Using an oscillating saw or scroll saw, cut notches in the plywood panels for the brackets. Dry fit the panels, glue them to the cabinets and pedestal, and tack them in place with brads driven through the black grid (this will hide them). For the side panel, add several clamps on the joint between the panel and the filler block to make a tight fit that will hide the seam (Fig 9).

Mark the location of the side bracket. Using an oscillating saw or scroll saw, cut notches through the IKEA cabinet and the plywood panel. Cut the bracket flush to the IKEA cabinet to ensure it does not interfere with the opening and closing of the drawer. Attach the bracket to the IKEA cabinet using a joist hanger and add a reinforcing bar at the bottom to keep the bracket from sagging (Fig 10).

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Figures 7 to 10. Assembling the breakfast bar

Fabricate and install the countertops

The technique for creating the templates for the upper glass countertop, the matching soffit, and the base granite countertop is described in a Sept 2012 blog post.

After calling several glass shops we select Peter David Studio of Seattle as our supplier for the upper countertop. They have a very helpful staff and a great selection of glass and fabrication options. We decide on a 1″ thick glass slab with clear sides and a texture called ice glass.

For this project, they make a metal mold based on the template, line it with ceramic fiber cloth, and fill it with broken plate-glass and glass powder (frit). To eliminate the green tint that is visible in regular glass, they add manganese dioxide. It will react with and remove the green ferrous oxide leaving the glass clear. They place the glass-filled mold in a kiln for a few days to melt and fuse the glass. After cooling, the glass slab is cut to size, machined to eliminate any sharp edges, and has a 1/4″ hole drilled through it for the support post. Then it is put back in the kiln at a lower temperature for a few more days to temper it. The final glass has the look of icy clouds in the sky and is shaped like an airplane wing. Both images are very apropos for a home in Seattle, where Boeing has several large facilities (Fig 11).

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Figure 11. The glass countertop seen from above looks like an airplane wing

The glass countertop is connected to the lower countertop with a single 9″ long post. To make the outside of the post, cut a piece of 1″ OD chrome plated steel pipe 9″ long. To make the inside of the post, cut a piece of 1/4″ diameter threaded rod 12″ long. Push a 9″ long piece of 1/4″ ID PVC tubing onto it. To center the post on the threaded bolt, add a 1/4″ fender washer followed by a 1″ OD fender washer to each end of the rod. To eliminate rattle and prevent scratching either of the countertops, add 1″ OD rubber washers on each end. Coat the rubber washers with silver paint to camouflage them. The bottom of the post will pass through the granite countertop and is held in place with a washer and two nuts. The top of the post will pass through the glass countertop and is held in place with a silicone gasket and a brushed nickel cap (Fig 12 and 13).

The other end of the glass countertop will be connected to the wall using two 1/4″ anchor bolts. Cut the bolt ends to 1″ long and cover them with 1/4″ ID PVC tubing (Fig 14).

The template for the granite countertop must be rolled up and shipped to the fabrication plant. The Masonite template made originally cannot be rolled up. Use the rigid template to make a flexible one out of 3″ wide strips of thin flexible PVC hot glued together. Roll up the finished template and ship it to the factory.

The finished lower countertop is 3cm (1-1/4″) thick granite (absolute black anticado from Pental) with a chiseled edge. Once the slab arrives, use black sealant to attach the granite slab to the cabinets. Using the glass countertop template, mark the location for the hole for the support. Use a 1/4″ masonry drill bit to cut the stone.

Using the 9″ steel pipe support as a guide, mark the height on the wall where the top of the PVC tubing should touch the glass countertop. Measure down the distance to the center of the anchor bolts and drill two pilot holes about 2-1/2″ from each end of the glass countertop. Remove the PVC tubing from the anchor bolts, add two nuts to the anchor bolts and use a hex wrench to screw the anchors into the wall. (The wall should have blocking behind it.) Remove the nuts and put the PVC tubing back on. Dry fit the glass countertop. Use masking tape to tape off the wall around the glass countertop. Remove the glass countertop and apply a very thin coat of clear silicone sealant on the edge. Position the glass countertop against the wall, wipe away any excess sealant, and remove the masking tape (Fig 15).

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Figures 12 to 15. Installing the glass countertop

Finish up

Wire the three low-voltage pendant lights from the soffit. Each fixture will have its own step-down transformer hidden inside the electrical box.

This cabinet uses standard IKEA drawers and hardware. Install the drawers  following the directions. Sand the drawer faces (Härlig white) so that paint will adhere. Finish them with two coats of gloss enamel. Install the drawer faces using the IKEA hardware and attach the drawer pulls.

Cut the molding to length, glue it to the cabinet, and tack it in place with brads. Fill the nail holes and touch up with stain (Fig 16).

Cut a length of baseboard and nail it to the exposed pedestal (toe kick) in the front of the cabinet. Fill the nail holes and touch up with paint (Fig 17).

Add two bar stools to complete the breakfast bar. The seats should be adjusted to 26″ height so that your legs will fit under the countertop (Fig 16).

The two sides of the finished island are shown in Figures 16 and 17.

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Figure 16. The finished breakfast bar as seen from the dining room looking toward the kitchen

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Figure 17. The finished breakfast bar as seen from the kitchen looking toward the dining room (the wine bottle has magically moved)

The total cost for the project is itemized below.

Cabinets, including the drawers, doors, and hardware $  400
Lumber, drywall, lawn edging, plaster, and paint $  300
Carpentry, painting, and cabinet installation labor $      0
Electrical materials, pendant lights and 3 transformers $  550
Electrical labor, rough-in and finish $      0*
Countertop materials, 3cm granite slab and fabrication $1950
Countertop materials, 1″ glass slab and parts $2400
Countertop labor, templating and installation $  700
Furniture, 2 bar stools $  400
TOTAL $6700

*I am my own electrical contractor. If you hire this work out, it would add about $300

I spent about 200 hours designing and building the breakfast bar, including making the compound curve template, framing and plastering the soffit, and electrical work.

For more ideas on home remodeling projects see the Home Remodeling Guide.

All drawings and photographs by George Taniwaki

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