Choosing backsplash tile

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.

Backsplash tile choices

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″)

It’s quadruplets!

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.



Stainless Frigidaire appliances

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


We’re moving on to faucets.

But I need to pause here. In the midst of all this, I have an idea. It’s something so small in the scheme of things, but big on the soul-side. Something that feels way more real than any part of this renovation. So keep reading. I need your help.


Electrical and plumbing is done. Paint, floors, kitchen cabinets — done. Countertops ordered. I’ve mastered the glossaries for all of these. That’s the way I make choices; I learn the language first. So now it’s gooseneck, swivel, single-handle, side handle, pullout sprayer. Chrome vs. nickel vs. stainless. Aerator. Insta-hot. Or not.


It’s too much. Too much information, too many choices, too many stores and price-compares, packaging, shipping charges, and STUFF. I’ve mentioned before my uncomfortable sense of privilege with this project, modest as it may be. A home renovation puts you right in the belly of American consumer choices, perceived value, discardable everything. Your Stuff versus your self. Your House versus your home. I get to choose from hundreds of faucet designs. Somewhere, a woman is walking for miles, every day, to get jugs of clean water back to her family.

Early this morning, sitting with this itchy feeling of materialism, I made a commitment to myself that I will a) set a budget for our faucet fixtures, and b) come in under that budget, and c) donate the remainder to a water-focused charitable organization.

It’s nothing. Maybe it’s even obnoxious, I don’t know. But I feel compelled to bring some balance of … responsibility? accountability? kindness? humility? … to this project. A gesture of gratitude to the universe. A bow.

So, I googled “water charities.” And what pops up but this remarkable coincidence (AKA, affirmation from the universe): 2013 is the United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation. And, March 22 is World Water Day — just eight days from today. Meant to be, right?

But that google search? I’m right back in the maelstrom of information and choices. There are dozens of organizations doing amazing work with water resources. I need recommendations — from real people, not a search engine.

If you had a very small amount of money to donate to an effort that helps bring clean water to developing communities, where would you send it? Here are just three options that rose to the top for me.

Ryan’s Well Foundation – started by a first grade boy, the foundation has now built 710 wells and 910 latrines in developing countries.

WATERisLIFE – brings clean water solutions and programs to developing countries, including the WaterisLife Straw: a personal, portable water filtration straw that filters out waterborne diseases. Each straw costs $10. – Partners with indigenous organizations that have real understandings of their local culture, which helps ensure long-term oversight, ownership, and success. Through a small-loan program, communities partially fund their own projects.

What do you think? Comments are wide open and can be anonymous if you choose. Your email address stays private. I’d love to hear your ideas.

Kitchen update

I’m starting to bite my nails. (Well, I always bite my nails, but I’m biting with more … assertion, these days.) We are three weeks out, people! The spouse is a true hero — several late nights this week, just him and the IKEA manuals, power tools and a whole lot of Rage Against the Machine.

The contractors cleared out today — gigantic pile of tools and equipment, and a whole ton of dust and debris, GONE. They did a great job, but we’re ready to claim our space and all of the remaining projects that come with it. Before they drove away, I made them carry our orphaned toilet out of the kid’s future bedroom and scrub off a crazy, thick layer of splattered wall texture goo. We need to reuse that toilet, fellas. It’s the little things.

I thought I might hold back these progress photos, but you guys. I’m starting to get excited. Look at these before-and-afters. Oh, heck yes:

peninsula before

peninsula phase 2

The angle on these above shots isn’t identical (I was able to stand inside the new refrigerator nook to take the second one — more on that below). But, you can see that we gained a ton of space by pushing the peninsula out into the dining area. Also — notice how the sink used to be bizarrely off-center from the window? No way. That could not stand, man. It made my weird spatial-alignment sensitivities go haywire. Fixed.

I haven’t yet mentioned the pantry. It was much worse than this before photo leads you to believe — cracked and broken accordion doors, screwy shelving. It did offer a lot of storage, but it also offered a great place to relocate the fridge. This means significantly increased counter, cabinet, and butt space. We think the upgraded cabinet solutions will make up for the loss of shelving, and we did retain a smaller pantry (on the left, bottom photo — it still needs shelves):

pantry beforepantry phase 2

And then. AND THEN! There’s this:

kitchen view before

kitchen view phase 2Open, light, full of personality and functionality. It’s starting to take shape.

Can I get an amen?

In the spirit of celebration and back-patting, I will not list all of the things we still have to do before move-in day. Instead, here’s the (almost certainly incomplete and in no way representative of actual effort) checklist of everything accomplished to reach this stage of the kitchen reno:

  • Ripped out cabinetry, appliances, and soffits
  • Ripped out carpet and Pergo
  • Tore out and reconfigured pantry space to relocate fridge (we lost some bedroom closet space, but restored it by framing out an extra several inches into the bedroom)
  • Traced circuits, relocated various outlets and switches, installed can lights, added electrical to the fridge space, added a 240-volt circuit for the oven
  • Rerouted plumbing in order to center the sink under the window; plumbed the fridge space
  • Extensively repaired drywall, taped, mudded, patched, and textured
  • Skim coated the ceiling to cover up the popcorn (especially necessary since the kitchen didn’t have a popcorn texture, and without the soffits and upper cabinets the division in the ceiling line was gone)
  • Chose paint. Chose a different paint. Polled the family and chose yet a third color. Painted.
  • Chose the wood flooring. Chose again. And again. Entered a long period of doubt and indecision. Bought wood flooring. Installed wood flooring. Mourned our choice. Started to grow fond of it.
  • Designed an IKEA kitchen, sent the spouse by plane to Portland, where he rented a truck and did the heroic IKEA thing to bring back a pile of flatpack.
  • Built lower cabinet boxes, including a custom corner unit.

How’s that for a progress report? [knucks]

Akurum. Gezundheit.

Today’s number one goal: base cabinets, complete. We’re past due on ordering the counter top. And I still have to choose and purchase the sink and fixtures. I really, really hope I don’t have to wash dishes in the bathtub come March 31.

Wait. We don’t have bath fixtures installed, either.

Or flooring in the bedrooms. Or a shower surround. The toilet is still in Nora’s bedroom. And the closets don’t have hanger rods. Or doors. Come to think of it, the bathroom doesn’t have doors, either.

I operate best under pressure.

(Have you read the New York Times article about why some of us do well under stress, and others not as well? Super fascinating. It’s all about dopamine and enzymes — good news is, we can condition ourselves in either direction.)

IKEA Akurum