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″)

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]

This is not the fun part

bathroom remodel, phase one.

The landing pad for our leap of faith is a lovely rental. It has huge windows. The sun pours through them and slides across the floor and slips onto my lap on the couch and … oh. The sun. The slices of blue sky I can see from said couch. The frosty white, massive popcorn clouds. The sunsets that just don’t quit.

Our rental also has a sweet gas fireplace, open kitchen, vaulted ceilings, and it’s two minutes from our daughter’s school.

But. It has three bathrooms. This does not go into the “pros” category. There are only three people in our family, and one of them is only 42 inches tall. We do not need FIVE bathroom sinks. Double vanities, you know. For crying out loud. Just stocking the toilet paper takes me ten minutes. I’ll pass.

And it has no yard. People think I mean it has a tiny yard. But it really has zero yard. Well, a strip of grass next to the driveway. It’s in a development planned for high density, or some such, with a communal driveway and garages that all face each other off the back of the houses. The front door opens toward a perfectly smooth, new sidewalk (and those spectacular skies. Did I mention those?) — and a really busy street.

So we moved to a town where the outdoors are glorious, but we can’t actually BE outside at our own home. For a natural born couch-lounger like me, this is deadly. I need a backyard, or I don’t leave the upholstery. And for a kid like ours, who runs up mountain trails with glee, it’s the same thing as confining a border collie to a studio apartment in the city.

Also, I think I mentioned a wistful hope for chickens? Yeah.

Needless to say — when we landed here we knew we wanted to shop for our next house right away. We wanted to get settled. To start layering the memories. To Be Here Now. Top on our list of requirements: a big yard. Also: something newer than 1940, but older than 1980. Two bathrooms. (Just two.) A garage. Not too many projects required — just enough that we could put our stamp on the place. And oh wouldn’t it be great if we could buy at a price that allowed us a full down payment from our little nest egg, plus some leftover for improvements.

First reality check: big yards are fairly rare in this outdoor mecca. Weird. People say it’s because “the whole region is your backyard!” (true) and “our playgrounds are so new and beautiful!” (true) and “oh, they developed the new neighborhoods to bring everyone out front, together — it’s a community building feature” (puhleeze) and even “you’ll be surprised at how cold it gets in the winter. You won’t go outside that much.” (Wait. What? See number 1.)

After much searching, and much indignance at chicken-dream crushing HOA covenants, we discovered what seems to be one of the only mid century neighborhoods in town. That is to say, there are plenty of houses built in the mid century scattered around the area. But this neighborhood was actually a planned, developed area in the early ’60s — and it’s full of low-slung ranches, clerestory windows, entryways — and huge yards.

We refreshed listings obsessively for about a month, and there it was. The house. It hit 89% of our wish list–for starters, a 100×90-foot lot that spaciously holds about 14 towering juniper trees. Also, two bathrooms, three bedrooms, and a super fabulous brick fireplace. And the place was bank-owned. Which means, do a super-thorough inspection (you get it as-is) and expect a lightning-fast closing. And a three digit mortgage, ohmygod. The windows were all way too small, and the chain link fence would have to go, but it was obviously the one.

We closed on November 16. My Pinterest boards suddenly had a place to manifest. Chevron area rugs! Lovingly organized kitchen drawers! Hall closets converted into adorable reading nooks! Industrial-chic pendant lights! It was going to be so much fun!

It is now February 12.

After ripping out the carpet and tearing down the kitchen cabinets and hiring a contractor and painstakingly designing custom cabinets only to hyperventilate over the $8,000 estimate (CANCEL) and going into shock over a plumbing bill and shouting at each other about the electrician’s schedule and postponing giving notice to our landlord AGAIN, this is where we are: insulation and drywall is up. Mudding, texturing, and coating the dining room’s popcorn ceiling is “almost done.” Next is painting, flooring, kitchen cabinets (IKEA), kitchen sink, bathroom vanity, bathroom tile … and so on.

We have five weeks until moving day.

To be fair, project creep was actually fairly minor, but holy hell all of this takes a lot longer than planned. And is way more expensive than even our best, semi-experienced guesses imagined. (This is where my little brother presses his lips together and gives me the “I told you so. Nobody ever listens to me.” look.)

I can now identify wood species at a glance. See, the Big Thing, the Main Vision for this place was to remove the filthy carpet and replace it with beautiful wood floors. The floors, the FLOORS! We just knew they would entirely alter the identity of the house. They would be light and lovely, they would make the rooms glide, one into another, in graceful lines of organic-modern style. Please god, none of that tappy-sounding cheap Pergo shit. The floors would be the very symbol of the success of our life-altering leap of faith.

Five, six, I don’t know seven? visits to flooring display rooms later, I had cried more than twice, and whipped out my claws on a snippy “flooring and room designer” aka bored, wealthy cougar salesperson who thought she could tell ME about grain variations in that tone of voice. Nuh uh.

So the natural-finish, 5″-wide, engineered maple floors are finally ordered. I have been beaten to near-apathy by indecision, waffling, and second-guesses. The spouse’s knuckles are scraped and bloody from multiple late nights spent crawling around in the attic, tracing and building circuits.

Countertops. Paint chips. We can do this.