Turning a Buffet/Sideboard into a Kitchen Island

Since I’ve had my kitchen island for over 3 years, I tend to take it for granted. Then it will appear in a post, like it did this past week, and it will get lots of comments. I think it’s time to talk about it again and share some more details on just how the transformation came about.

I wanted an island and I had this idea. I was on the lookout for a vintage buffet or sideboard. I wanted one rather like the one in the photo below – long, with drawers and cupboards. I’ve had to use this photo from Pinterest because for some reason, I didn’t take a photo of the sideboard in its original state.

Mine was much like this, but not nearly as pretty. It had a very dark finish. What this one has in common with mine is all the wonderful detail and carving that really pops when it’s painted, as well as the decorative carved piece at the rear of the top surface. I found it on my local auction’s website, measured to make sure it would fit, then bid and got it for $60. It is a very heavy piece. When Don and I first brought it in the house, he thought it was going to be too big. But I knew he only thought that because it was so dark and appeared bigger than it really was.
I took off the old, dark hardware, cleaned it and immediately slapped on a coat of primer because I wanted to show Don that it would work in the space.
Once the primer was on, he relaxed. Mission accomplished. You just have to be able to visualize what a piece can become. A couple of coats of primer later and I was able to start painting the top coat. Meanwhile, here was the back:

Not a problem if the piece was being used for its original intention – then it would have been placed against a wall. What to do? I immediately thought of beadboard. I love beadboard. I went on a little trip to Lowe’s, had two pieces cut to fit the back, and bought some trim. I nailed it on with finishing nails and then cut the trim to fit.

You recall there was a piece of decorative trim at the back of this piece. I didn’t want it there, so I took it off. That piece of trim (which was awfully pretty) became this:

Reuse. Recycle. One old, dark piece of furniture became two pieces – a beautiful island and a chalkboard.

I replaced the old hardware with glass knobs. See how painting it this creamy color really makes the details pop?

Here it is today. The paint gets chipped from all the banging around the kitchen we do. So every year or so, I give it another coat of paint. Then I don’t let Don touch it for a while. Eventually, I give up being the “island monitor” and Don can relax once again.

It also separates the eating area from the rest of the kitchen. I painted the kitchen table the same color. (I’m not sure why the floor appears to be slanting down and to the right in this photo, but I assure you it isn’t.)

And there’s all sorts of fun decorating possibilities with the beadboard backing. Like this banner. Or you could hang a chalkboard on the back. Or a yard-long rose painting. Or a sign.

I’ve seen this type of sideboard everywhere. Often, you’ll find them at Goodwill or the Salvation Army. I found mine at an auction. Because they look dark and heavy to the average shopper, they are passed by. So, you benefit! You can get one for very little money.

It’s one of my favorite transformations. And it’s pretty darned easy.

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  1. says

    Hi Claudia,
    Ooh, the sideboard looks so pretty as a center island…..how clever!

    I love the idea of using the beadboard on the back.

    Your kitchen looks warm, lovely and inviting.


  2. says

    i love it .. it is so beautiful.. i would turn it around and have the beadboard side face the kitchen and the front of the buffet facing the dining area.. it is so beautiful to enjoy!

  3. says

    That is gorgeous. I can’t stop looking at it and I have a side-board that may some day have a new look. Thanks for the idea. Your kitchen is the ‘drop in for a cup of tea’ kinda kitchen. Love it. Hugs, Deb=^..^=x4

  4. says

    I remember when you did this side board…it caught my eye then, as it still does today…I love it!!!
    I cannot replicate it, but I sure do love to look at it, and your whole kitchen! Beautiful!!!

  5. says

    That is very, very pretty Claudia!
    You have got such a lovely house. I really like it when a house isn’t overly decorated as if it is a showhome.
    Love your floors.

  6. says

    I loooove what you did with that, honey. I was just thinking of doing something similar but I don’t think our kitchen is even as big as your area. I’m not too sure hubs would want such a big piece in the middle either. But yours looks and fits perfectly.

  7. says

    All I can do is let out one big SIGH. It is beautiful…and so is your kitchen! I have a very small kitchen, and sometimes when I see some very large and spacious kitchens I think ‘I want, I want’ but then I look around my own tiny homey one and think ‘no you don’t, you greedy girl, this is perfect’. Fewer steps and easy to keep clean.

    I think we love a lot of the same things Claudia. I LOVE the chalkboard you made from the lovely trim pieces of the buffet. And that color…yum!
    hugs from here…

  8. says

    I’m looking for a buffet just like that to paint white and use in my kitchen- I’m planning that it will go against a wall, but if it doesn’t I LOVE your beadboard idea.

  9. says

    I’ve always loved your idea for a kitchen island. It is one of the best and affordable of all the ideas that I’ve seen Claudia, and it suits your home.

    Thank you for sharing your idea for making it.


  10. says

    Claudia, I love the idea of turning a buffet/sideboard into a kitchen island. I have tons of Romantic Country Magazines. I treasure them! On the cover of the issue which says Display Until Sept. 20, 2010, they have the same concept. They show the photo of a beautiful kitchen with a sideboard being used as a kitchen island, something like yours. You did a fantastic job on it! You were so lucky to find this particular piece of furniture at such a reasonable price.

  11. says

    And not only do you have the prettiest kitchen island in Blog Land, but you used some of it to put a decorative finish on something else! Doubly fantastic! I think your kitchen belongs in a magazine, Claudia. I like it THAT much. Have you thought of putting a chalkboard frame on some of the back for notes and quotes? Could be big, could be small.

  12. Stacey@A Sort Of Fairytale says

    Oh my, this is just lovely!!! You did a great job, live the bead board on the back, great idea! It looks perfect in your pretty kitchen!!

  13. says

    I once lived in a place that did not have kitchen cabinets, just a tall shelving unit. I snatched a very worn child’s dresser out of the shed and finished peeling off the peeling veneer. Ii originally had 3 drawers, I kept the intact top drawer, cut out the center rail and installed a piece of wood for the bottom, then painted it all. I used left over squares of self stick kitchen tile for the top, my utensils and silverware went in the drawer and the huge microwave sat on the bottom shelf. Later I hung a paper towel holder on one side. Can you tell I had no money to work with? I used it for 9 years then passed it on to a friend when I moved. He may still be using it 10 years later!

  14. says

    I want to cry! I just sold my buffet last month. I re-did it years ago & it lived in every room in the house (except the kitchen) it had been in the garage for over a year so I let it go. Wonder if I can get it back:)

  15. says

    Fabulous Claudia! I will keep this in mind for my next home which I hope will not have a galley kitchen! I am very limited…. I love how you transformed this piece and the added beadboard is the perfect backdrop for any added embellishments you may want to add. Love it. Ann

  16. says

    I absolutely love, love, love your kitchen! The sideboard-turned-island is just my absolute favorite. I’m going to have to keep my eyes out for one!

    Also, I’m really excited to read the series that you and Brenda are doing. I really love smaller spaces — I find then so much more charming and cozy — but they definitely have their challenges, too! I am looking forward to hearing ideas from the both of you.



  17. says

    Hi Claudia. I picked up an old sideboard that I want to paint like you did. Did you just primer first? This one has veneer on it that I’m repairing, and I’m concerned about sanding it.

  18. says

    How beautiful Claudia, what a wonderful furnichure,-I love you painted it white to use here in your kitchen- looks so great. And the blackboard is looking sweet and vintage ,too.And love the beadboard.

  19. says

    Hi Claudia. this is Judy from Cranberry Morning. I have been hunting for the photo of that buffet-turned-kitchen island ever since I first saw it last November! I LOVE it and told a lot of people about it and asked if anyone knew where they’d seen it. Many people said they remembered seeing it, but didn’t know where. At last, this afternoon, I managed to type in the right words in my Google image search – and there it was ! ‘vintage buffet white island.’ YEA. And how fun to see that it is yours!! :-) It’s a terrific idea.

  20. says

    Claudia, I have just found your blog and read about your sideboard which you turned into a kitchen island …..well “snap” I did the same! Except I didn’t paint mine as mine is made from wood and split bamboo…but it works perfectly! “Great minds think alike” Best Wishes, Daphne

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