Flooring for the kitchen–a diy dilemma

Our DIY kitchen renovation is unquestionably the largest project we’ve undertaken since buying the house, but I can’t rightly call it finished. There remains one critical eye sore in the room as it stands—the flooring.

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It’s this very unpleasant tiling–beige with brown marbling–that is suppose to have the intended effect of camouflaging dirt. The unfortunate truth is it does the opposite. Even after a deep clean, the floor ALWAYS looks dirty. Mark my words, 2015 will be the year that we finally toss the dingy tiles in favor of something a little more fresh and fun.

But what?

As I recently wrote, for our renovation projects, it is important that we make era-appropriate style choices for upgrading our space. But that leaves me with a lot of questions for what to do about the floors. My first instinct: classic linoleum.

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But picking the right shade and texture of flooring to match our eclectic and busy kitchen, would be a challenge. Enter the wonders of photoshop to help point me in the right direction. Right away, two clear winners stood out.

The classic checkerboard:

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And dark grey:

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Linoleum definitely fits in with the ’50’s scheme, but the more I thought about durability and style, the more I started to wonder about other contenders. I knew I was a fan of the darker grey color for the floor, but wondered if something a little more sleek would make sense.

Dark grey tiles, perhaps?

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I am definitely a fan of the way the floor tiles sort of mirror the mosaic backplash, but one of the reasons I was drawn to linoleum in the first place  was because I wanted to avoid having grout, if at all possible. The kitchen arguably gets more traffic than any other room in the house. And the fewer cracks and crevices in which dirt can collect, the better. Which led me to my final proposition: concrete.

I’ve always loved concrete flooring, but had reservations about how that industrial look would fit in with a mid century vibe. While there is potential for it to clash, I’ve equal reason to believe the contrast could be a refreshing change.

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While it’s not an exact science, photoshop confirmed my suspicions. There could be some real potential in demolishing the existing tile and giving the concrete underneath some TLC.

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I’m a big fan of how the polished concrete reflects the light (which the small, one-window kitchen definitely needs) and how it would likely make for easy cleaning. What say you Internet? Am I grasping at straws or could there be something to this whole concrete idea? Does the industrial flooring complement or clash with the warm wooden cabinetry? I’m legitimately flummoxed.

 

 


Preservation vs. Rejuvenation: Questions about updating older homes

Over the weekend, I was *THRILLED* to find that Apartment Therapy featured our DIY kitchen renovation on their blog.

I have never hidden the fact that AT is a huge inspirational blog for me, so it was really humbling to see our kitchen featured on their site. One thing that surprised me, however, was many of the comments. Namely, many people were surprised (some pleasantly, some not so) to see I kept the knotty pine cabinets rather than paint over them.

I can’t say I blame those curious commentors. In fact, when we first purchased our new house, I even wrote a blog entitled “Naughty Pine” all about how much I hate how knotty pine cabinets look. They were, I reckoned, dated and dark and dirty. The fact that I decided to keep them surprised me as much as anyone else. So, why did I do it?

For one, we didn’t have it in our budget to rebuild the cabinets or change the general layout of the kitchen. That certainly plays a significant role.

But why not paint?

It’s generally acknowledged that kitchens and bathrooms are the spaces in homes that age most poorly. Today, it’s all about granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances. But in the ’90s it was mostly country chic that dominated the Better Homes and Gardens catalogs. The ’80s, dark wood trim surrounding stark white cabinets seemed to be all the rage. And in the ’70s, avocado green appliances were the standard. What I’m getting at is this: every era has had it’s signature look that ultimately becomes dated and disliked. Trends and fashions are cyclical and even if you renovate to achieve the most modern look possible, history says it will one day be out of style, old fashioned and in need of a yet another “upgrade.”

A traditional ’90s kitchen from gardenweb.com

An '80s kitchen with lattice wallpaper

An ’80s kitchen courtesy Mirror80

So rather than try and completely modernize the kitchen, I decided to embrace the era in which the house was built–1957–but still give the kitchen some life and updated style. It’s why we bought a Big Chill fridge (my most prized possession) and opted to keep the classic, mid-century cabinets in their knotty pine glory while still bringing in a shiny and new countertop and back splash.  At the end of the day, a 2012 kitchen in a 1957 home didn’t seem like the best fit.

There are a handful of other blogs that reinforce this ideology. Retro Renovation, is one that very intentionally focuses on preserving the original integrity of older homes, and which has been a valuable resource for me. Check out some of their time capsule homes.

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Courtesy: Retro Renovation

Another local blogger (and amazing photographer) that understands the importance of balancing history with modernity is Heather Banks of  Brady Bunch Remodel fame.

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Courtesy: Brady Bunch Remodel

At the heart of it, what I’m trying to say is this: old homes have their charms and their flaws. And while it’s certainly tempting to demolish and reconstruct your home (if you have the means) to a more modern and magnificent space, there’s also something to be said for preservation. And I hope other caretakers of homes of other eras will find ways to enhance AND embrace the features that make those spaces a part of their city’s history.


It’s here: a (nearly) complete kitchen!

Today I write the blog entry I’ve (embarrassingly) been fantasizing about for awhile, the post on our newly renovated midcentury kitchen.  We have been planning and slowly chipping away at our kitchen renovation practically from the first moment we moved in.

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She was relatively functional, sure, but it wasn’t a place I wanted to spend much time in. And like others, as I grow older and try to become a culinary savant, having a comfortable cooking area has become more and more important to me. To make the space work for us, I spent months flipping through tons of magazines, pinterest boards and blog posts to figure out what would fit our space and our budget. We took it on bit-by-bit, first painting the walls and replacing the light fixtures. Then Heath spent his Christmas vacation sanding down and restaining the original knotty pine cabinets and adding new hardware, and we worked together the following spring break to remove the wood wall paneling and add more shelving and storage. About a month ago we tackled the most costly upgrade, replacing the countertops and redoing the plumbing. And to wrap it all up, last week we put in the tile backsplash, resulting in the nearly finished product we have today, 18 months after moving in.

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The original tile work was not a professionally executed job. There were broken pieces around the electrical outlets and jaggedly cut tiles around the sink. So when it came time replace it, we went back and forth on whether we should do it ourselves or have it professionally installed to avoid a debacle like what we began with. In the end, we decided to take it on ourselves, a decision I’m happy with, not only for the financial implications but for the sense of accomplishment and ownership we felt when it was all said and done.

We started as all young 21st century DIYers do, watching a YouTube video on the process.  We found this one to be the most helpful.

Contrary to our initial beliefs, installing the backsplash was relatively straight forward.

  • If you have uneven drywall like we did, use an all purpose joint compound on the wall to smooth out uneven areas before beginning.
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  • Butter the walls with adhesive.
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  • Lay the tile and wait 24 hours.
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  • Grout
  • Caulk

The tiling was a lot like putting together a puzzle, frustrating at times, but marvelously gratifying when you find the right piece to complete the sequence.  The corners and edges were predictably the most challenging areas to finish off, but we had a tile cutter that proved most helpful to create tiny pieces to finish off our pattern.

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And installing the tile was a true team effort. We started in the middle and worked our way out to either side. Then I did the grouting and Heath did the caulking. It was couple’s team building through and through.

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The tile backsplash was the cherry on top of the renovation sundae, leaving only the dishwasher and garbage disposal installation to be desired. It’s fantastic to be able to stand in our doorway today and take in the finished product that was more than a year in the making. While it’s not completely perfect, I can’t help but beam with pride at the first major renovation we conquered on our own, from the design to the execution (with a little help and support from loving family and friends). It was a long process to be certain and sometimes tested our patience, but it was also an experience we will carry with us as we continue to develop our skills and take on new challenges in the future.


Slowly but surely, the kitchen renovation continues

I suppose it’s time to make good on my promise to share all of the juicy (or rather saw dusty) details of our kitchen renovation.  Honestly, nothing would give me greater pleasure.

Renovating the kitchen has been on our to-do list for quite a while—practically from the first moment we saw the old girl.  It had good bones, but not a lot of personality, and we’re all about charisma in these parts.

For me, knotty pine is beautiful in small doses. The original kitchen had more than what I prefer.

It is spacious enough for what we need, and the cabinets weren’t in shabby condition, but overall it doesn’t inspire much creativity, a quality that should be mandatory in a space from which spectacular culinary masterpieces are expected to be born.

We had big, big plans for how to improve the looks and the functionality of this narrow knotty pine nook. We started small, first by painting the walls in a shade of green called spritz of lime…inspired by photos that brilliantly display the appealing divergence of the warm, honey-colored pine and the vibrant and verdant green.

green walls and knotty pine Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 4.16.17 PM tumblr_m8xkye6FA81ruu90ro1_500 And while from time-to-time I find myself questioning whether we went a tad too bright, I still think the pallet gave the kitchen some much needed contrast.

modernknottypinekitchen But with only one window and unflattering florescent lighting, the new green needed a pick-me up, so we updated the, what I’m calling, vet-clinic light fixtures with something a little shinier and more modern.

Modern track lighting from Lowe's for $40. And yet, still the kitchen felt a little…how to put it eloquently…blah.  The cabinets, while in good shape, were a little worn down from so many years of use, and the black hammered metal H-style hinges and matching handles were a little dated on top of the fact that they darkened the kitchen even more.  After a lot of debating and internet research, I opted to maintain the color and style of the naughty pine cabinets, which was a surprise even to me. At first, I jokingly referred to them as naughty pine, but that style is so indicative of the era the house was built in that I hesitated to change it. After all, if style is cyclical, it should only be a matter of time until they are all the rage again. Instead, I thought, better to find a way to update them so the kitchen can feel modern but still cohesive with the rest of the house. So over the Christmas holidays, we sanded and restained the cabinets and added updated nickel fixtures.

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The update was much needed and greatly appreciated but still our cooking space was far from what we hoped for in our dream kitchen, so next we opted to tackle removing the wood paneling from the walls and add some open shelving for increased storage.

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Still, what was and continues to be missing, is an update to the counters and back splash because poorly installed beige ceramic tiles just won’t do. This weekend, we took a sledge hammer to the terrible, TERRIBLE tile work and began the demolition, preparing for new shiny white counter tops.

We weren’t sure what would lie beneath the tile.  The original laminate perhaps?  Or rotted plywood?  Your guess was as good as mine.

tile demolition

Pulling up the tile was easier than I thought it would be. Perhaps that is because it was rather cathartic to smash into the surface I had so long despised—making the project feel less like work and more like play. Before I knew it, after just a little sweat and chiseling we, with the help and expertise of Heath’s family, completely scraped the countertops and backsplash free of the tile I found so appalling. In just a few hours we were able to remove all the tile AND salvage our deep stainless steel sink. A big money saver for we thrifty folk.

Heath tears down the wall.

Heath tears down the wall.

What we found underneath the tile was dry plywood, which ended up being a lifesaver, enabling us to still be able to use the kitchen counter and sink for the next two weeks while we wait for our white solid-surface countertop to come in. Though it’s not much to look at, I’m grateful for the interim surface.

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We also (drum roll please) had a plumber replace our kitchen faucet, both a cosmetic and functional improvement

Heath wonders how we lived so long with the leaky original.

Heath wonders how we lived so long with the leaky original.

The new one has a spay nozzle, more mobility and much improved water pressure. Winning!

The new one has a spay nozzle, more mobility and much improved water pressure. Winning!

And now that the tear-out is done and we have nothing to do but wait, we are busying ourselves with comparing our options for the backsplash.  So far it’s between a light blue subway tile and mini rectangular tiles in varying shades of blue. While I wasn’t keen on mini tiles at first, as of now I think it’s our front runner.

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The kitchen remodel has definitely been our longest-running home improvement project to-date, and it’s still a ways off from being complete, but I feel like we turned a corner with this week’s demolition. And I’m excited for how much it’s going to change for the better in the very near future.

demolition duo