Counter Productive

Let's talk about failure. The lack of success. The inability to perform a normal function. In the last month, this word has become synonymous with "kitchen counter" up at Camp Squalor. Since our last kitchen-related post, the only thing that has fallen apart more spectacularly than our various grand counter plans has been Margot's emotional state surrounding the room's main attraction. BUT. If at first you don't succeed...

We felt inclined to share our most frustrating story thus far as we're both firm believers in the concept of "failing forward." So yeah, our first attempts might've been total disasters. TOTAL HEARTBREAKING DISASTERS. But out of the rubble (literally) came a more creative and more personal concept. Of course, this concept would come with its own unique set of gloom-inspiring failures, but persistence proved key for our kitchen's magnum opus, so we persisted (and maybe cried a little). Finally, after hours upon hours of more tools, materials, and terrible ideas than we care to list, we made this kitchen counter our bitch. 


But let's go back to where it all began, the counter-productive saga of our kitchen counter. We started with some counter tops that were in decent enough condition to be covered by some other medium, fitting perfectly on top of our shelving, and requiring only two cuts – a hole to house our circular sink, and a slice to combine two pieces into one wall-to-wall counter.

Our first plan was to use the counter pieces as the base for a pseudo concrete countertop. We loved the look of concrete, but had no desire to actually build molds and pour a single-slab countertop (even if we'd had this desire, we wouldn't have been able to maneuver such a slab into place in our tiny abode). So we attempted to cheat by following some examples we found on the internet. We watched some youtube videos, all of which were apparently created by LIARS, that made us believe that carefully smearing concrete onto a roughed up counter top was an acceptable way to get the look we were going for. But NO. Life lesson learned, and you'da thunk we'd've known better: don't take the easy route. I mean really, since when do we try to do easy shit?

The ease of this technique started and ended with the sanding. Once we had a beautifully roughed-up surface, everything else went straight to hell. Smearing concrete is a silly idea. And a phenomenal mess. Don't try it. With inconsistent drying times, Austin was hand-mixing while Margot was hand-smearing, all in an anxious race against the clock. The result was a counter that even Wilma Flintstone would've snickered at. As if it wasn't enough that the counter looked like Helen Keller's attempt at claymation, it literally fell apart. Some spots could be flaked off with your finger nail, others just seemed to be made of dust, and the concept of a level surface was straight up inconceivable. Sanding proved worthless, sending huge chunks flying and exposing the wood of the counter itself. So, in a fit of rage, we scraped every stubborn bit of the concrete off, and went back to the drawing board. 

We wanted a quick fix. So we came up with decoupage, which we somehow convinced ourselves would be a quick fix. Three weeks later, Margot had made some slight progress on the decoupage-image-hoarding, and was becoming overwhelmed by the scale of this collage. While she lamented this project, Austin had the proverbial lightbulb moment. Margot's a graphic designer, with a lot of experience in large-scale graphic production. We were in need of a custom large-scale graphic. DUH.

So we measured out every nook, cranny and curve of our once again naked counter space, and Margot got busy geeking out in the Creative Suite. With a finalized design and access to a pretty sweet printer, we printed out the graphic in two horizontal pieces, with the intent to affix the graphics to the counter and heavily lacquer them in place. Sort of like decoupage! We got the graphics cut and spray-glued in place, manically because this counter fiasco was finally starting to look like it was going to stop being a fiasco. But it turned out in all the excitement, Margot apparently suffered from some sort of brain damage that made her forget, "Oh hey, we should test out our materials." Needless to say, we fucked it up. AGAIN. If you've never tried lacquering thin paper, just don't. 

So, after a brief stint in the fetal position, we tore off the awful mess of hardened high-gloss ruined paper with running ink. And this time, Margot actually used her brain. We reprinted, and immediately sealed both sides of the paper with numerous layers of acrylic sealant. Then, rather than use a workable spray glue, we used Mod Podge, which is actually intended for this type of stuff (and which Margot's used in her art probably 1 million times.... where was Captain Obvious on that one?!). A thin layer applied to the counter first, then sealed prints cut into four smaller pieces, a roller, and extreme patience resulted in a successful wrinkle-free application. The Mod Podge Hard Coat was able to adhere to the sealant rather than the paper itself (genius!) preventing wrinkling and bubbling, and we applied numerous layers to make sure that sucker wasn't going anywhere. Now all that's left to do it lacquer the whole thing, building up a thick high-gloss food-safe surface, install the sink, and we are in BUSINESS. Moral of the story: don't take short cuts, but more importantly don't give up. Out of all this counter nonsense, we ended up with a beautiful, one-of-a-kind, personalized graphic countertop, wild and wrinkle-free, and it's world's better than our original idea ever would have been. BOOM.