Painting. More painting. Baseboards. Dryer vent. New breakers. The one-chance, don’t-mess-it-up, IKEA-is-three-hours-away drilling of cabinet faces for handles. (Not pictured: Major garage clean out. Debris sort and load. DIY installation of custom countertop supports. Scrubbing. I don’t even know what else.)
This is it. We’re one week out from loading a truck and making this new house a new home. We have raw subfloor. We have no kitchen countertop or sink. No dryer vent. No bedroom doors. The working bathroom is resplendent in original filth and 1965 awkwardness, and the “new” bathroom is nothing but sheetrock and Hardie Backer.
[Pessimist swings to Optimist, annnnnd … go!]
We have beautiful floors. The kitchen cabinets are millimeters away from done. All of the appliances are in place and ready to turn on with a few small adjustments. The countertops have been promised by Tuesday. The carpet is on a truck, on its way, and installers are ready to go. We hired a tile guy. We have a deposit to the carpenter for the bathroom vanity. We have a working shower and toilet (YAY for second bathrooms!). All of the baseboards and walls will be painted by the end of the weekend. We kept all of our moving boxes and bubble wrap, so packing up the rental should be straightforward. There are crocuses, day lilies, and lupine sprouting up in the backyard. We met a neighbor who has an 8-year-old little girl.
The sun is angling down through the split in the trees, melting the frost underfoot. The trail ahead seems narrow and steep, but the view from the top is going to be awesome.
Ever forward, everybody.
I bought my kid a pair of red shoes. They’re covered in white polka dots and bedecked with white bows on the toes. I didn’t like them. She loved them. I said yes. She was beaming, floating on air, not just because they are bright and fancy, but because I let her pick.
Now I love those shoes too, not because they’re bright and fancy, but because they make her feel so good about herself and her choices. May it always be so.
She and I are dancing around the edges of a showdown on her new bedroom. She wanted to paint it “all rainbows, with red on that wall and orange on that wall and blue on that wall and …” etc. I dodged that bullet and we settled on a bright blue that she calls turquoise and that reminds me of the Caribbean ocean.
But we only painted that color (Sherwin Williams Belize) on one wall. Busted. Her High Empress is … displeased.
I have several adult votes on the side of standing firm, but it’s amazing how the will and persistence of a six-year-old feels weightier.
Also. The secret is … I kind of like the idea of painting the whole thing to feel like a goddamned tropical ocean. My advisers tell me it will make it feel too small. Or that it will be “too much.” But somehow it doesn’t feel done, to me.
I should be happy it’s blue, right? Since one day, she’ll want to paint her bedroom black and invite her friends over to smash red handprints all over her homemade loft bed and lock the door and play Depeche Mode’s “Black Celebration” on repeat and wait that was me.
I know it’s just paint, but I don’t want to pick up another paintbrush for a very long time after moving day.
What do you think?
(And should I paint the window trim?)
(Consider: carpet will be pale cream. Furniture is white. The wall opposite the window is mostly doors — mirrored double-sliders on the closet, white door to the dining room. Wall to the left has a white door to the bathroom.)
Disclaimer: this is a long-winded and overly emotional post about kitchen tile. The short version: expensive tile from Japan FTW!
It turns out, renovating a house isn’t … fun.
Not unless you have a gajillion dollars and an architect on call and probably an interior designer that shows up to appointments with lattes and a bag of chocolate croissants.
Yeah, no. Maybe in another life.
What I’ve learned is this: renovating a house is a lesson in facing reality. It has four parts: 1) need vs. want; 2) compromise; 3) processing disappointment; and 4) the time-quality-cost (or “triple constraint”) triangle.
A little explanation on number four, if you’re not familiar — you can’t increase one arm of the time-cost-quality triangle without reducing the others. You can have it cheap and fast, if you settle for lower quality. You can have great quality, quickly, at a high price. Or you can have excellent quality at a good price, if you’re able to wait.
We are bedeviled by this triangle, mainly because
we don’t live inside Dwell magazine we have limited cash, and limited time to make the most of the cash we have. (No, I cannot reasonably spend another minute googling “large area rugs under $300.”). So there has been lots and lots of compromise where the “cost” arm wins big. No quartz countertops. No select-grade wood floors. No soaker bathtub. Tons of DIY. Etcetera.
Monday was Tile or Die Day. With a two-week delivery window, and three weeks until we move in, it had to be done. I was resigned to accepting the most basic, white subway tile available and moving on, because it was also Carpet or Die Day. Choosing carpet sucks away my will to live, because I dislike carpeted rooms in general — so I’m paying for something I’ll inevitably resent. Thus, I was all set to spend a bunch of money feeling pinched and hateful.
(How many of you want to work on a renovation project with me right about now? Yeah. Me either.)
And then I walked past the tile clearance display. I turned to the spouse and said, “Look at that. I love that. It reminds me of everything happy about my childhood.”
Those words tumbled out before the impression was clear in my mind. Who has a visceral, emotional reaction to kitchen tile?
They are earthy, polished, glazed ceramic, the dimensions a balance between light and grounded. They remind me of the thick, stoneware dinner plates from my childhood. Those plates were made by a family friend and potter by trade. He had a huge, braying laugh. We used to trek, with his kids, down to the mucky drainage ditch behind his house and look for salamanders.
The tiles remind me of vegetarian feasts. Of teapots and sunlight and incense. They remind me of the smell of a hot slide projector and the sound of Tangerine Dream at my parents’ parties. Our giant backyard garden.
But … on clearance this tile was $7.50 per square foot. Twice what basic tile costs. And they had only half of what we needed–the rest would have to be ordered at full price. A very full price.
We’re doing it. We’re getting that tile because part of this project was about trying harder to surround ourselves with things that make us feel healthy and happy. Rooted and aspirational.
Triangle, meet rectangles.
We can’t mount our range hood or open shelving until we’ve chosen and installed our backsplash tile. Assuming we’re doing tile. We’re doing tile. Aren’t we? Are we?
Should we just put up a stainless backsplash behind the stove, caulk the back edge of the countertop, and call it good?
Are we saying that because we’re tired?
That’s about how the breakfast conversation went today.
We’ve rounded up a few options from our friends at Home Depot. We’re going for white, because
we’re an indecisive Libra/Gemini couple that’s afraid of color commitment it’s timeless and adaptable, and matches our cabinet faces. I’d like to bring in some curves and shapes, since everything else in the room has straight, modern lines. The spouse has always imagined subway tile. Penny tile seems to be the middle ground, and comes in 12×12″ mesh sheets for easy install. (If we DIY. Which is a serious debate at the mo’.)
Or, for real–should we just go for the stainless panel behind the stove and move on?
Votes? Speak to me, good people.
1. Merola cobble subway tile (1×2″ inch mini)
2. Lantern tile in matte white
3. Merola Cosmo penny tile
4. Basic Merola Palace tile
5. Basic white subway tile (3×6″)
I have had exactly one new appliance ever before in my life. Today? An entire set … nay, a suite of them! So shiny. So KITCHEN-Y! I think the delivery guys thought I was a total nutcase. Me: “It’s like my baby was just born!” Yeah.
Here’s what’s on deck this weekend: Freelance work. Painting baseboards. Finishing the lower cabinets (cover panels, spacers, etc.). Deciding on backsplash tile. Finalizing the open shelving design. We think we can, we think we can … somebody bring us a pan of brownies and some coffee. We’ll be up late.
Above, all in brushed, smudge-resistant stainless:
- Frigidaire 30-inch wall-mount canopy hood
- Frigidaire Professional dual-fuel 30-inch slide-in range
- Frigidaire Gallery 24-inch dishwasher
- Frigidaire side-by-side 23-cu/ft counter-depth refrigerator