Inside This Wall of IKEA Cabinetry: The Ultimate Surprise in the Form of a Sink
A DIY turned the existing quirky feature around.
Published Aug 21, 2021 12:54 AM
“I call it the playroom because it’s where my kids play, but it’s also where I play,” says Gwen Hefner, also known as The Makerista. The space the seasoned DIYer is talking about is the sunroom in her family’s Kansas City, Missouri, home, which triples as a craft area for her children, a gardening spot for herself, and an electronics–slash–extra-decor storage space for the whole family. Hefner has a hunch the room was once used as a spa or salon of sorts. The giveaway? It houses a sink.
“My initial thought would have been to rip it out,” she recalls. Fortunately, not renovating immediately helped her realize that the feature was a welcome bonus. And as time proved, she has used the sink a lot. “Specifically for filling my watering cans,” she adds. Still, it needed some zhuzhing up—she didn’t want it to feel so out of place. “I wanted to take this opportunity to create some mystery as opposed to just like, ‘Well, that’s weird,’” says Hefner. Cue the mosaic.
Step one was disguising the sink when not in use. Cladding the entire wall in IKEA cabinets helped with that, but funny enough, the floor-to-ceiling storage system is the one thing she regrets from the sunroom remodel. Sure, it was budget-friendly at the start, but the time and energy that went into assembling the frames and custom door fronts—bifold sink doors included—wasn’t worth the initial cost. “It would have actually been cheaper to have a custom cabinetry place in our city do the entire thing,” she says. “Bringing in wisdom, if you can afford it, usually ends up saving you time and, sometimes, money.”
“I knew I wanted to cover it in tile,” says Hefner of her plant-watering nook. But not just any ordinary tile: Delft plates have a special place in her heart (her mom collected the pieces on vacations and from various antiques malls when Hefner was a kid). But because authentic ones can cost thousands of dollars, Hefner simply sourced all different kinds of blue and white plates from local thrift stores over the course of two weeks. “I thrift enough to know what I’ll see again and what I won’t,” she notes.
Step two was smashing the nonprecious plates with a hammer, laying the ceramic pieces in between two drop cloths on the ground so no shards would go flying around. For any plates with scenes she wanted to preserve, Hefner used a tile cutter to make precise breaks.
The time-consuming part was mapping it out. Hefner, a self-proclaimed perfectionist, did this by placing the shards on four clear pieces of contact paper (one for each side of the nook’s surface) on the ground. With the help of friends Tobe and Jeb, she fit them onto the adhesive backing and then transferred the whole sheets to the concrete backer board inside the sink crevice. Finally her contractor husband came in with the mortar and grout and sealed it. “It was very tedious work,” she recalls.
The dainty cup on the side wall was cut in half with a wet saw. The vessel can be filled with water so Hefner’s kiddos can wash their paintbrushes (or she can display flowers). Psst: Blue and white Delft-inspired designs aren’t the only options for this creative collage project. “It would be really beautiful to do this with a mix of floral china,” suggests Hefner.
Now when guests come over, they don’t say, “Oh, you’ve got a sink in here?” in total confusion. “When people open it, it’s a wonderful surprise,” says Hefner. “Their reaction is similar but different. It’s more, ‘Oh, wow, there’s a sink in here.’”