Backsplash and Trim

This post won’t be super educational in that it won’t explain, in step-by-step detail how we installed our backsplash. Why? The backsplash installation is the one part of the kitchen re-model that we didn’t do ourselves. I was so pleased with the way the backsplash came out.

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We went with gorgeous marble subway tiles. Here’s a close up.

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It was one of our only splurges in the kitchen (the fridge was the other). Given how the tiles were pretty expensive, and we had no experience installing backsplash, we thought it was best to get an expert. Plus, as part of the quote, we asked the contractor to install the top trim to the cabinets. Installing the trim wouldn’t be too difficult, but it would be time intensive. The contractor said he could get it all done in a day, which sounded great to us.

Half way into the day, I got a call from Dan. Both of us were at work, and I knew it couldn’t be good. Apparently, the contractor informed him that he did not think we had enough of the marble subway tile to do the whole area. And the worst part is that Dan had been calling home improvement stores non-stop, and the type of tile we had wasn’t available anywhere quickly. O. M. G.

The contractors kept on working, while we tried to figure out a solution. We found similar tiles in that they were the same size, but they were glossy. Our tiles were more raw, and didn’t have any sheen to them. The contractor told us he could buff down the tiles to take the shine away, but we’d need to get them quickly if we wanted them installed same day. My wonderful mother-in-law went out and purchased a box of the shiny tiles for us. By the time I got home from work, the tiles were all buffed, and there was still a few feet of backsplash that needed to go up. Crisis averted.

Looking back, I think the issue was that between the time we bought the tiles to the time we were having them installed, we decided to put backsplash tile all the way up the wall near the window.

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We measured out the added area to cover against what the tiles should have covered and thought we were OK. I don’t know, maybe we missed something, but I think this was were we went awry.

Even with our unexpected setback, the contractors were done in one day. Given the slow and steady pace we had been used to, the drastic change by adding the backsplash and trim in one day was huge to us.

We’re rounding the final lap and coming up to the finish line now. Just a few more kitchen updates to go!

Adding a Kitchen Island

Once we found ourselves with a working kitchen, the speed of our kitchen updates dropped significantly. Since all the projects that were left were small ones, we took the approach of getting to them a little at a time, when we had a few free hours on a weekend here and there. In time, we added floor trim, vented the microwave, installed cabinet hardware, put in toe kick under the cabinets, put in a new fan (a Hunter fan found at a thrift shop and painted), added pendant lights over the peninsula ($15 each from Ikea), and finally put in the back board of the peninsula.

This whole time of smaller updates, I used the kitchen daily. Luckily, the layout was working great, and I was enjoying all the space. But, I felt like something was missing. I had always thought that we would need an island of some sort, but I knew putting in a permanent island would make the space tight. If we had an island similar to the peninsula (basically, cabinets with a countertop), I worried that the kitchen would look and feel cramped. But, after using the kitchen for a while, I  thought an island would be really functional. The kitchen worked well if was just me cooking, but not if Dan joined me in the kitchen. The main working space was the peninsula area, and there was only space for one of us to work at a time, especially if I was doing something that took up a lot of space, liking putting cookies on a cookie sheet. While we had other countertop space, none of it was really that functional as a prep space.

I looked at some islands that were selling at Crate & Barrel and Target online, and measured out the available area we had in our kitchen. I took some painter’s tape and taped out a rectangle on the floor to get an idea of how adding something to the middle the room would look. After a few weeks of tape on the floor, Dan reluctantly agreed we could look into purchase a moveable kitchen island off craigslist. His reasoning was that we could try a piece of furniture in the space, but if it didn’t work (meaning, he thought it was too cramped in the kitchen), we would just re-sell it.

After a few weeks of looking, I found an older model of this Crate & Barrel Sheridan Kitchen Island. I liked that it was open on the bottom, so hopefully, it wouldn’t looked sandwiched into the space. While the new model of the island was about $700, we were able to negotiate with the sellers to pay only $190 for the older piece. We picked it up, fit it into our teeny car, and got it home and into the kitchen.

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I knew I didn’t want to leave the raw wood unpainted, but, I also didn’t want to invest the time into painting it, then decide it wasn’t working for us. So, we left the island as it was for a while, to see if we liked it. I loved having the extra prep space, and even Dan had to agree it helped the kitchen be more functional. After a few weeks, we decided to make it a fixture in our kitchen. We were keeping it.

Now came the task of figuring out what paint color to use. We quickly discussed and dismissed painting the island white. Our kitchen was already white (cabinets and pedestal table) and grey (countertops). White would just look like more of the same. Grey was thrown out as well. With the stainless steel top, I wanted the island color to contrast, not blend in with the countertop. I took a quick look on pinterest and noticed many of the kitchens I was drawn to used a pop of color to really make their kitchen unique. To me, if you’re going to add a bold color to a space, it needs to be in an accessory piece. Like, you get a radioactive yellow pillow, not a radioactive yellow couch. Why not use the island as the kitchen’s pop of color?

Sticking with our house color scheme, I knew we’d want something in the blue family. I thought about using the same blue color that I used for the pasta frames and cucina sign, but I thought the color was too dark. I wanted something bright, almost neon. We perused the blue spray paints (we thought spray paint would give the island a better, more even, less brush stroke-y look), and decided on Rust-Oleum’s Caribbean Blue to give the kitchen that little something extra.

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Bright, right? I thought that at first too, when I saw a couple coats of paint on it. But, I told myself that once we moved the island into our very neutral colored kitchen, it would complement the space nicely…I hoped. After three coats of spray paint and one coat of sealer, the island was ready to move into the kitchen.

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Not too shabby! I picked up some inexpensive blue colored kitchen towels (seen on the dishwasher and hanging on the island), just to finish the look. We have other towels too, so everything doesn’t always look matchy-matchy.

Believe it or not, the kitchen remodel STILL isn’t finished at this point. Items remaining on our to do list: adding under cabinet lights, installing the backsplash that’s been sitting in our garage for months, creating built-in kitchen bench seating, adding trim to the top of the cabinets (which has also been sitting in our garage for months) and finding a free-standing large shelf/cabinet for a bare corner. Still a lot to do, but we’re miles away from where we started.

Countertop Shopping

Once our kitchen cabinets were installed, we realized that we needed to order countertops, like, immediately.

Before getting too far into planning our kitchen remodel, we decided to go with quartz countertops. I didn’t like the look of granite, because the pattern throughout the slab wasn’t very uniform. Many houses we saw when we were home shopping had semi-updated kitchens, which almost always had granite countertops. I dubbed one house the “paprika house” because the counters looked like they had been permanently stained with paprika, due to the granite slab that was chosen. Plus, granite needed to be sealed every year or so, and I knew that wouldn’t be high on my priority list. And lastly, granite stained and chipped rather easily. We’re big cooks, and use the kitchen just about everyday. I needed a countertop that could withstand heavy use.

Quartz appealed to us immediately. It never had to be sealed, it could withstand high temperatures (for the pan that comes out of the oven and set directly on the countertop without a trivet), and it looked very uniform all over the countertop. But, quartz is more expensive than granite. Of course.

We reviewed our options of where to buy.

Option 1: Rock Counter

Again, we headed to Rock Counter to see about ordering our countertops there. The selection for quartz was somewhat limited. Still, we found a color we liked and got a quote.

Option 2: Local cabinet store

Here, there were more quartz options, but it was so expensive. Because of our long countertop length, we would require two quartz slabs. For the bigger shops, selling smaller slabs of quartz wasn’t a big deal. But at a store that doesn’t sell much quartz, we would be required to purchase the entire two slabs, not just a portion of the second one. That made the pricing too high for us. Also, we would have to find our own contractor to install the countertop. That didn’t appeal to me at all, as I was set on finding a seller who also installed. My biggest concern would be if the quartz breaks in transit or during installation. If you have different parties doing the work, what happens if something goes wrong? If you buy from a one stop shop, there would be no question that if the quartz broke, the company would have to replace it. So, even if the pricing was comparable, I wouldn’t have gone with a seller who couldn’t install.

Option 3: A larger local home store selling tile, countertops, and more

The selection was great, the price was the cheapest, and we would only be required to buy the actual square footage we needed. We quickly put in our order for Caeserstone quartz in the Concrete color. The salesman was going to come by in a couple days to measure, and then he would put in our order. The next day, he called us and told us they were out of the color we had chosen. OK, well, how long until it’s back in stock? Over 3 months! Every store in America was out of this particular quartz, and it wasn’t being shipped back into the country for at least 3 months. Waiting another 3 months without a functional kitchen was not an option.

We decided to head back in to the store to pick  a new color. We ended up with Silestone’s Cemento, which was very similar, just a little bit lighter in color. And it could be installed within  a week or so! Luckily, my dad agreed to head over to our house on installation day, as we were on vacation at the time. When we did get back home late from our trip, our countertops were in!

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There stood our kitchen in all its glory. Just ignore me lovingly stroking the countertop.

At this point, the kitchen still isn’t finished, and we’re now 3 months into the renovation. We still have to add backsplash, install/move the overhead lighting, install under cabinet lighting, finish the built in seating area, add floor trim, add trim to the cabinets, install cabinet hardware, and the list goes on. But for now, I could cook and wash dishes in the kitchen. For that, I was grateful.

The Cabinets Are In!!!

The title of this post should have had fifty exclamation marks and be in all caps to properly express how excited I was for the cabinets to arrive and be installed! It was Christmas come early in our household that day in October 2013.

The cabinets were delivered on a Thursday and the wait until Saturday for them to go up felt like an eternity. They sat in their boxes in the garage, just waiting.

Finally, it was Saturday! Cabinet day!

Bright and early, Dan’s parents and brother came over to help. We were so grateful of their offer to install our cabinets. We were told that hiring a contractor to install the cabinets would cost almost as much as the cabinets themselves! If that is the case, then Dan’s family’s generosity really saved us big time by DIYing the install ourselves.

Here’s a reminder of how my newly hardwood floored, freshly painted, appliance strewn kitchen looked.

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Here’s how it looked at the end of the day.

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Sure, it’s a bit rough looking (did you notice the folding table we used as a makeshift countertop?), but the cabinets and appliances were installed! You’ll notice those boxes in the middle of the floor. Those contained some of my most precious kitchen basic possessions that sat in our basement for three long months. You bet that once all the cabinets were in, I immediately started putting them to good use in housing my bowls, cookie cutters, and silverware.

Now, if you know me at all, I don’t think you would expect me to give a step by step tutorial on how how to do a full kitchen cabinet installation. Well, you’d be right. I mostly tried to stay out of the way as the men carried the cabinets through the house, hoisted them high on the walls, and secured them in place. I think I was painting a door or something, you know, a job that was tedious and messy, but not altogether too difficult. I did notice there was a lot of measuring, marking the wall with pencils, consulting the floor plan, then more measuring.

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It all paid off though as by the end of the day, all the cabinets were in place! Finally, we were able to make progress in our kitchen remodel. Now, as I mentioned before, the kitchen was still looking pretty rough. The fridge and stove worked, but the microwave wasn’t in, there was no sink (or running water), we didn’t have countertops, light fixtures and a fan needed to be moved/installed, the peninsula had a wooden back, the floor trim wasn’t in, we were missing all decorative finishes (cabinet/drawer pulls, backsplash, cabinet trim, under cabinet lights, etc…), and there was still so much left on our to-do list, but for the first time since we lived in the house, our kitchen actually LOOKED like a kitchen.

The next step would put our kitchen into functional mode – the countertop!

Roadside Table Refresh

Project #4 in the Great Cabinet Wait was refurbishing an old pedestal table we found on the side of the road. No joke.

Dan and I were visiting his parents house one day and left to run a quick errand. We got a few houses down their street when Dan spied a gorgeous pedestal table in front of someone’s house, next to the garbage cans. I was looking out the other side of the car and didn’t see it. Honoring the pact we made that Dan would always let me know when he saw some wayward piece of furniture on the side of the road, he stopped the car and pointed in the table’s direction.

I hopped out of the car and was in love with this table. It had four circular feet that connected into the one pedestal, which held up the table. It was exactly what I wanted for the kitchen seating area. I tried picking up the table, and it was heavy, indicating it was well made. Dan helped move the table on its side, and I saw a stamp that it was an Ethan Allen table! After a quick call to my father-in-law, he came out to help us take the table back to his parents’ house, where it sat until we were ready to start its make over.

I’ll just cut to the chase (mostly because I don’t have a before photo). Here’s how the space looked during partially-complete phase, which also happened to be around Christmas-time).

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I originally planned to paint the feet and base white, and stain the top of the table a dark wood. Plans change though, as once I started sanding the top of the table, I quickly saw the top was not all wood. It was veneer. Boo. To make things easier for us, I agreed that the whole table should just be painted white.

The table was the kind that opened to insert leaves, to make the table expand. The leaves weren’t put out with the table, which was fine by me, as we didn’t have plans to expand it. However, our first task was to caulk the two side together, to make sure they didn’t open. Once we did that, we got on to my favorite part, you guessed it, the painting. After sanding, many coats (there were a lot of little nooks and crannies in the table that were hard to reach we eventually just coated with spray paint), and applying a sealer, the table was ready to go.

I had always wanted a built in kitchen nook, with bench seats that lift up for extra storage, but we were hesitant to build it until we had a better concept of how close the fridge would be to the seating area. We wouldn’t be able to physically see that until the cabinets were installed. In the interim, we decided to just use some old Windsor chairs we had around the house for the table. I thought about painting them various shades of minty blue green, but we ultimately decided that since the chairs were a temporary solution, we didn’t want to invest any time (or money) into the just-for-now solution.

A few weeks after using the wooden chairs, I spied these great Tabouret chairs on craigslist. Since the seller only had two left (she sold a set of two to a different buyer), she was sure she would have a hard time selling the two remaining chairs. We got the chairs for a steal – just $35 for the pair! Eventually, once the built in seating was complete, I knew we would only need the two chairs, so I was pretty excited for the great find. For the time being, I mixed the new chairs in with the old, added a chevron runner, and put an old ceramic picture filled with pink flowers on top of the table.

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We still had to wait for the cabinet installation to finish up the seating area…and to complete just about everything else in the kitchen. Sigh.


Last Minute (No Candy!) Easter Basket Ideas

I thought I’d sneak in a quick Easter post among the Kitchen Remodel series. You know, because it’s timely.

Every year, Dan and I put together Easter baskets for our nieces. I know they’ll be getting baskets from other family members, so I try to keep our baskets small, free from candy/sugar, but filled with fun items. I thought I’d share what I put in them in case you still needed some ideas for last minute basket fillers.

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Let’s start with the basket itself. I know some people buy a nice wooden basket and use that same basket each year. Others buy a new one every Easter. To me, a basket is fine and good, but it’s not really something you (or kids) use on an everyday basis. And whether you use the same basket, or a new one each time, you have to store those baskets somewhere. So, instead of a basket, I try to buy a storage tote, sand pail, or other bucket like item that has a use other than a used-once-a-year Easter basket. This year, I got the girls pails to use in the sandbox, at the beach, or in the pool. I thought it was so cute that a little shovel came with each bucket.

On to the fillers! Here’s what the girls are getting this year (shhhhhh, keep it a surprise!):

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I try to be on the lookout for little items I think the girls will like in their baskets throughout the year, so I’m not searching for (and buying) a bunch of stuff they don’t need a couple weeks before Easter. In fact, the Disney Princess Lip Smackers and bubble baths, and Jelly Belly scented nail polish kits were in the Target Christmas stocking stuffers aisle when I bought on clearance after the holidays. Since they aren’t adorned with wreaths and mistletoe, they don’t look Christmas-y and go great in the baskets.

One type of gift I always love getting the girls are items that let them put their creative imaginations to good use. With this purpose in mind, sidewalk chalk is always a must for my Easter baskets. Maybe I’m just hoping for warmer weather, but once it’s nice out, chalk reigns supreme.

While at Michael’s one afternoon, I discovered an aisle that had some old school games. How cute would that be in an Easter basket? I bought pick up sticks for one niece, a set of kiddie card games, including Old Maid, for the other, and both got a yo-yo.

Finally, as both girls love Frozen, I thought they would each enjoy a 200 pack of Frozen stickers and a pair of Frozen socks. You know, just for fun.

I just tried to place everything into the sand pail as neatly as possible (so everything fit), and attached a printable Easter basket tag (not pictured, but found here) to write each girl’s name.

There’s not a ton of stuff in each basket, just a bunch of little fun gifts I think the girls will really enjoy. I hope they like these!

We’ll be back to regularly scheduled (kitchen remodeling) programming next week.

Happy Easter!