The first time I tackled this project
I used IKEA butcher block for the counters under the bookcases. It always looks great! But from what I hear, IKEA doesn’t carry the true
butcher block anymore — the kind that is wood all the way through. (If I’m wrong please let me know!)
They had the best price I found anywhere for basic butcher I could cut and stain. The last few times I’ve built built ins I’ve used a different tactic for the counter. I first tried this on the half wall bookcase
I made in our last house:
This is a little trick that costs WAY less than “real” wood counters, and it’s super easy to create. Because I needed to cover so much surface on this current project, I knew this version would save us a ton of money.
Instead of thick countertops, I just have a 4×8 panel of wood cut down to the sizes I need:
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They will cut this down for you at most larger hardware stores. I picked birch because it’s one of the most inexpensive options, but still looks good.
Unlike true butcher, the edges on these panels aren’t pretty — the “nice” wood is just on the top, not all the way through:
If you are OK with a thinner look for the counters on your built ins, you can get banding for the edges. You just iron it on and then paint or stain it to match the counters.
But I prefer something a little thicker! My easy fix is to add this simple “lattice” trim to the edges instead:
I’ve used this inexpensive trim for SO many projects! It’s just thin wood that is perfect for all kinds of fixes. You can usually find it in a couple different thicknesses.
I just cut it down to fit around the countertop:
Make sure it’s level with the top of the counters while installing. Then I sand down the corners a bit and then where the counters and trim meet.
You can add stainable filler in between the two, but I don’t think it’s necessary. After that you can treat the counters however you’d like — paint or stain. I used my favorite stain color, Provincial by Minwax:
You can barely tell there’s trim on the front! Someone would really have to look for it to notice. I promise — most people would never know you spent a fraction of the money!
One thing you’ll want to consider is that different types of wood will stain differently — I used birch for the counters and my trim was pine, so they matched up well. Some species won’t match perfectly when stained.
Here’s a quick tip if you’re staining or protecting wood with polyurethane. If I don’t have steel wool on hand, I’ll use a scrap piece of paper bag to get the wood perfectly smooth instead:
It works so well! You can use this in between coats and at the end — it won’t mess up your finish at all.
The little countertop trick will give you the look of thicker wood counters for WAY less:
I would have spent at least $400 on birch butcher block counters for the built ins. Instead I spent around $70 with this option.
My advice would be to use this for areas that won’t get a lot of water, just because of that tiny gap in between the counter and trim.
It’s perfect for built ins! I did this on my office bookcases as well:
I’m truckin’ right along on these! Here’s a sneak peek at the wallpaper I’m using behind the bookcases:
You can find this same wallpaper a few places. It’s available on Amazon
and at Target
I’ll be back soon with another update on this big project! I’m SO DANG EXCITED about it!