Thursday, July 23, 2015

How to Replace the Mesh in a Torn Window Screen

It's that time of year when the presence of buzzing insects in your home alerts you that your screens are no longer an impenetrable defense. Before you start pricing new screens, see how easy (and inexpensive!) it is to simply replace the mesh.

Screen Repair Kit from Home Depot SRP $10

  • Roll of mesh
  • Spline
  • Roller
  • Utility knife
  • Scissors

Time: About 30 minutes each screen

Level of difficulty: Easy

Step 1: Remove your window screens.

We have Andersen windows in the cottage and an unmarked brand in our apartment - the kind that "tilt in" for easy cleaning when you live in a high rise. I'll try to address both types.

To remove the Andersen screens, lift up on the tab at the bottom and pull toward you. The springs are in the top and they will easily give.

To remove the tilt-in for cleaning type in our apartment, there are pins at the bottom of the screen on either side. Just push the sliders in with your fingers and it releases the pins from the sides of the windows. As you push the sliders in on either side, gently push the screen up and grasp it (before it falls six stories to the garden). Tilt it to the side to bring it inside.

Step 2. Lay the screen flat and find a good corner to start prying out the spline.

On the Andersen windows the spline is metal and reusable. Pry slowly and try not to bend or dent it.

On the other type screens the spline is rubbery black cord that is disposable. You replace this with the new spline from your kit.

Step 3: Roll out the mesh, place the empty screen frame over it, and cut to fit. Cut slightly bigger than the inside frame of your screen. You don't have to be particularly careful. You can trim excess later.

Step 4: Keeping the new mesh taut, replace the spline by pressing it back in place with first your fingers, then the roller tool.

Step 5: Trim access mesh.

Step 6: Return the screen into your window, spring side first. For the Andersen screens this means putting the top in first. For the other type, you'll do this by holding back the pins until the screen is in place in the window frame, then release the pulls. 

Test the screen by raising it and lowering it to make sure it's in snugly but moves freely.

Depending on the size of your windows, one kit can be used to replace multiple screens. It's an easy DIY, certainly less expensive than ordering new screens, and you will be surprised how it freshens up the look of your windows, while keeping buzzing/biting critters out.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Midcentury Lighting Fixtures I Love

Choosing lighting fixtures when you are remodeling can be difficult because you may not have firmed up in your mind's eye, where you are putting various pieces of furniture and how you plan to use particular area of your home. Here's a look at some of the options I considered.

In this apartment, built in 1946, there is the sweetest entry foyer. The kind that New York developers rarely devote the space to any more. It is a true entry way, about 9 feet by 12 feet of room intended for nothing other than getting one's bearings upon entering the apartment.

I was not sure how I was ultimately going to use that space - I'm still not certain I won't one day place a desk or a table there - but I did know that I wanted a light fixture that would set the tone for the whole apartment.

I very seriously considered this cool Atomic-Age chandelier:

I also liked this very simple oversize modern pendant:

But I ultimately went with a sputnik-influenced chandelier:

For the bathroom ceiling, I loved the Buick-inspired chrome on this pillbox flushmount:

I even considered this very inexpensive but elegant paper pillbox fixture from Ikea:

And I looked at many a classic schoolhouse fixture:

And, in fact, I gave very serious thought to this art deco schoolhouse fixture that I felt would complement the shower door - one of the only original fixtures left in the bathroom:
But I ultimately decided on this gray-striped schoolhouse flush mount. Something about it's retro-modern style I felt would really bring out the best in the Dwell Collection half-hex floor from Heath Ceramics:

And I chose this simple retro fixture right outside the bathroom to light the hallway:

For the bathroom sconces on either side of the medicine cabinet, I considered these very retro ceramic fixtures:

But ultimately went with these deco sconces:

For the dining area, over the tulip table and Catifa 53 chairs, I loved these British-made fixtures, but they didn't come in American electrical standards, unfortunately:
And I really liked this Jetson-Space-age pendant, though I wasn't hot about that crackly cord:

I ultimately went with this very similar pendant to hang low over the 47" round dining room table:

And I replaced all the dated 1980s ceiling fans with this baby - the Haiku from The Big Ass Fan Company:

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Custom Metal Designs for Your Home

Iron Gate, Vallessa Monk

A while back I posted about how hard it was to find a security gate that didn't look like prison bars. I ended up having a one custom made by Brooklyn metal sculptor Vallessa Monk.

The Wall Street Journal just published a profile of Vallessa.

Wall Street Journal

I love this glimpse inside her studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It makes me wish that I had visited her on the job, though I may have keeled over with tool-shop envy!

                                      Wall Street Journal says Vallessa learned to weld at the age of 10, under the guidance of her stepfather, a blacksmith. And though many remark on her work as a woman in a male dominated field, she likens welding to "sewing with fire." I love that!

"One of her most popular homeowner requests is her Moroccan window grilles, an artistic alternative to 'burglar bars.' She makes sinuous vine and leaf patterns in steel or bronze. Recent works have a more three-dimensional quality, bursting with plasma-cut leaves, dahlia blossoms and butterflies." - Wall Street Journal

That pretty much describes the window grille that she designed for us. It is bursting with energy,  life, and movement, which is amazing when you consider that it's metal. 

It is like having a sculpture in the room - one that just happens to be securing our fire escape window. I'm considering night stands next.

Other custom-made metal works for the home, shown at Monk-Designs:
  • Tables
  • Chairs
  • Lamps
  • Light fixtures
  • Drawer/Cabinet pulls
  • Balustrades
  • Bannisters
  • Fireplace grilles

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Artwork in the Bathroom

The empty wall 

It's been a little over a year since the big bathroom reveal, and I still had this blank wall.

I'm a big fan of artwork in the bathroom. Well, of artwork everywhere, really. And for many years, the bathroom was the place where I'd hang some of my lesser favorites or framed posters, thinking any moisture damage wouldn't bother me so much. But I've spent so much time designing this bathroom that I couldn't put just anything in here. I've been holding out for the right thing.

At first, I looked at oversized photos on canvas or behind glass, such as the large photographic treatments of Etsy photographer Katherine Gendreau:


This scene reminds me very much of our local beach at Rocky Point on the Long Island Sound. And that got me thinking how cool it would be if the photo actually was our beach. Or at least a beach we'd been to. A place with personal significance.

I was pretty sure that I wanted a nature theme, and likely something that evoked the ocean.

Looking at bathroom art on Houzz, the trend seems to fall into three categories: nature, nudes, and humor - or some combination of.

THE END: A still from a Hollywood film - clever!                                                               Houzz

Art that reminds you where you are                                                                Houzz
A tasteful nude is always at home in the bath                                                       Houzz
And I was coming around to preferring an oil on canvas. As an artist recently pointed out to me, oil paintings are probably safest to hang, as the paint is similar to marine paint. A painting would likely withstand the rigors of a damp room more readily than paper between two sheets of glass or plexiglass, which both require some care.

This past fall Ross and I came across a painting we liked at the Dumbo Arts Festival. The subject was the boardwalk at Coney Island - scene of some of our early first dates - and the treatment was a unique collage composed of oil on canvas, vintage photographs, advertisements, and newsprint. It wasn't being shown in any of the numerous gallery open houses that day, but by the artist himself right on the sidewalk under the Brooklyn Bridge. So, the price was right. But the proportions were way way off. The piece measured about 8 feet wide and 4 feet high. We couldn't imagine how we'd get it home in the Mini Cooper, even with the top down. And that's what stopped me. We walked on. But I somehow never got that painting out of my mind. Eventually I was kicking myself for not buying it. It was a canvas, so in hindsight, I could have removed it from its frame, then once I got it home stretched it across a smaller frame. At one point, I tried a google search for the artist but no luck.

The one that got away.

Well, I can finally let that one go. Because this weekend we found the perfect piece.

Isn't it lovely? It was painted by Northfork artist Isabelle Haran-Leonardi, who does large-scale landscapes of the beaches and vineyards of Eastern Long Island.

Mary and I met Isabelle in her studio Nova Constellatio on Main Street in Greenport this weekend when we were staying at the cottage. We stopped in after a morning of antiquing and had such a nice chat with her about her work and her daughter who is studying ornithology (Isabelle has some lovely paintings of birds) and about nature walks on the Northfork. This painting caught my eye and I commented that it reminded me of a beach near us, by the Soundview Inn. Isabelle said that's exactly what it is - that stretch of The Sound, where a friend of hers has a house.

There are so many beautiful paintings of The Sound in Isabelle's shop that I knew I wasn't leaving without one. And this one I just love. The movement of the waves, that tidal vacuum created as water is sucked off the sand and rushes back out to sea is so evocative of this place.

When you think about it, hanging art in a bathroom makes perfect sense. The bath is the very time and place one has the leisure to really gaze at a painting.  

I can imagine looking at this one for the next 50 years - summer, winter, spring or fall, rain or shine - and being brought right back to The Sound. Like the roiling tide being sucked off the sand and swept back out to sea.

Monday, April 6, 2015

First-Time Renovation? What to Expect and Some Things to Avoid

Inspired by this floor I saw on Houzz, I made it a focal point in my bathroom renovation
Getting ready to start a renovation project and wondering what to expect? Every project will vary, depending on the room you are renovating and the scope of changes. But the process from inspiration through execution remains pretty much the same. Most renovation projects follow these phases in this order:

Phase 1: Inspiration

Like many people, I enjoy the inspiration phase. For me it involves hours of poring over beautiful rooms on Houzz and Pinterest. Both sites allow you to easily peruse and collect photos of rooms you love and categorize them. Start small with just one ideabook or board, I called my first Houzz collection Bathroom Ideas. Very soon you will find yourself breaking out subcategories, such as Black & White Bath, Marble Bath, Subway Tile Bath, Retro Bath, Clawfoots, etc. It's a fun way to know what's out there and to get in touch with what you love. 

Inspired by this marble tub apron on Houzz, I made it another focal point
What do you take away from these inspiration boards? A lot of good design ideas and one or two show-stoppers. It can be tempting to make every single product something "special", but don't fall into that trap. It's a good way to blow your budget and end up creating a room that is overly busy. Everything can't be a "focal point" or the eye doesn't know where to settle. Choose one or two items to be focal points.

In a bathroom, this might be a deep-soaking tub and some beautiful floor tile. Or a vanity and a lighting fixture. In a kitchen it might be a professional range and a colorful backsplash or a copper farmhouse sink and a patterned cement floor. Then go plain to neutral on your other choices. It's the neutrals such as simple subway tile that create the backdrop against which your focal points stand out.

Our bath is your standard mid-centry New York City apartment bathroom. The only thing at all "special" about it is the standalone shower stall. This meant that I could have a deep soaking tub without an enclosure as my main focal point. Then I fell in love with a floor tile from Heath Ceramics Dwell Collection that I knew was going to make a strong statement. After that, my other choices needed to be plain - white porcelain sink and white field tile for the walls and gray subway tile in the shower. It was tempting while ordering the sink to consider a marble top or while standing in the tile studio to consider adding some flashy glass boarder tiles to the shower. I resisted, and I'm glad I did.

You will be making a lot of decisions in isolation that will later be combined together and will need to add up to one singular effect. While it's natural at each decision point to want to spend your money on the thing that is most special, every single choice doesn't have to be a show-stopper. And it shouldn't be.

Phase 2: Planning

Once you have a good idea about what you like, depending on the size of your project it might be time to meet with an architect, especially if you intend to change the floor plan of your house by, say, bumping out a wall or adding an addition. 

I didn't require an architect on our home renovation. But I did have to do a lot of planning, some of it pretty technical. I read up on and learned a lot about what goes on behind the walls of a bathroom, spent hours on the phone with the Kohler reps to understand what kinds of plumbing valves I needed to order, and drafted this shower configuration to have ready to hand to my contractor:

My shower configuration was fairly simple. It can get complicated. If you are dreaming about multiple wall sprayers, you need to know the size of the pipes in your wall. The standard behind most walls, especially in older homes, is 1/2". If your shower configuration calls for multiple body sprayers, that likely requires 3/4" pipes - certainly in the supply lines. And then you have to learn if your water heater is up to the task of supplying enough hot water. Do you want the shower heads and sprayers running at the same time? Or do you want each controlled separately? This decides the number and types of valves you need to order. Your handle style can impact your valve choices. You need to discuss all of this with your contractor so that you know what to order. My bathroom order contained about 20 products.

If it's a kitchen you are renovating there will be double that amount of products to order. Now might be the time to consider hiring a kitchen planner who will help you with this. All of the big box stores have kitchen planners on site to help. And if you are taking advantage of a seasonal sale, this can be a good way to go. 

Or perhaps you are planning to use Ikea cabinetry. Go in first to look at styles and colors, then mess around a bit with their online planning tool before meeting with one of their kitchen designers. If you like Ikea's prices and love their organization tools but worry about your kitchen looking too "cookie cutter", consider buying just the cabinets and having the doors custom made. Companies like SemiHandmade and Dunsmuir, make doors in all kinds of beautiful even exotic woods to exactly fit Ikea cabinets. You simply buy only the cabinets without doors, then send the company a copy of your final Ikea purchase order. They will make doors to your wood finish and/or paint color specifications. 

The SemiHandmade doors made this kitchen of Sarah and Rupert Samuel at Smitten Studio something rather special:

Smitten Studio
If planning is just not your thing and you know it, congratulate yourself for being a realist. There is no reason to do it yourself if you don't like this kind of thing. There are independent kitchen designers out there who have years of experience who can help you think through how you live and what you need. You will find references and reviews on sites like Yelp, Angie's List, and Sweeten - or even better, ask friends who have had renovations done that you admire to recommend someone. Just note that some kitchen designers are affiliated with certain product lines and they will only show you products from those lines. You could miss knowing something else even exists. That might be okay with you but it's  good to ask upfront if this is the case before you hire.

Phase 3: Hiring Your General Contractor

Much has been written about hiring contractors, and I've read a lot of it. The horror stories about bad general contractors are enough to keep a person from even embarking on a renovation project. I'm not here to tell you any scary stories.  I've been hiring contractors for more than a dozen years and I've had only good experiences so far. How do I account for this good contractor karma?

I do what the experts say to do:
  • Get recommendations
  • View past projects
  • Get everything in writing
  • And pay in thirds (first third on contract signing, second halfway through the job, third upon completion)
When I am interviewing, I look at the person's past jobs. Remember, you are not judging the taste of the homeowner, but looking at the workmanship of the contractor - is everything symmetrical and finished looking? If not, ask for explanations. Was the job a similar complexity to yours? Are you comparing gut reno bath to gut reno bath? Full scale kitchen reno to full scale kitchen reno? If you can get in to see one of his current job sites, do it. Is the job site neat and tidy? That's a very important sign in my book. 

My go-to contractor, Henry Almeida of Almeida Renovations in Kew Gardens
Above all, I look for a person who conveys collaboration. No project is ever perfect. There are going to be problems. You will invariably have to troubleshoot together with your contractor, sometimes in stressful, time-strapped situations. I look for a professional with a collaborative spirit. Not a boss, not an employee, not an advisor, but a team mate. For your own part, expect to be a good collaborator also. You will at some point have to compromise on something you wanted or have to quickly change a product order. These things happen.

Subcontractors installing marble tub surround
Meet perspective contractors at your job site. Walk them through the project, showing sketches, layouts, designs if you have them. Ask them to get back to you by a specific date with a detailed breakout of the work they will be doing, material they will be supplying, and a price quote.

Phase 4: Ordering 

Once you've decided on a general contractor, you are well on your way. He will hire out and oversee the other work that has to be done, including plumbing, electrical, carpentry & framing, plaster or wall board, and paint.

Did you know that ordering everything is on you? Not just the choosing, but the actual ordering. Unless otherwise specified your contractor will likely be supplying only framing supplies and perhaps some finishing wood like baseboards if stipulated in your agreement. Some contractors will be happy to order your tile or other products for you if agreed upon. Make sure that anything that you expect him to order is detailed in your contract with him.

It is a big responsibility to place these orders and have everything come in on time, and delays in product orders is also the number-one thing most likely to affect the timeline and cost overages of your project.

Ordering is stressful. The moment you start putting down your credit card against all your dream finishes brings a jolt of reality. First, it is a lot of money. But more than that, you are forced to rule things out. You may think you made a decision about something, only to realize that you are still vacillating. Get real with yourself quickly; your timeline depends upon it.

It's especially important that you order any custom materials immediately. Custom tile can take 10 -12 weeks to arrive. Special order bath fixtures can take 6-8 weeks. And they may arrive damaged and have to be sent back with and additional 12 weeks for a replacement. It happens all the time. It happened to me - my Kohler tub arrived damaged, twice! If you are hoping to have your renovation completed in six weeks - as they seem to do on so many home shows - you will have had to order these things a good six weeks before demo even starts.

Our bathtub arrived damaged and had to be replaced

Sit down with your contractor and walk through your purchasing plans. Have him take accurate measurements of your rooms so that you can place your tile or flooring orders. Make sure that the products you want will be able to be supported by the electrical and plumbing systems behind your walls.

Purchases that will need his input include:
  • Square footage for every type of tile you are using
  • Flooring square footage
  • Paint amounts/types
  • Size and weight of bathtub
  • Toilet rough-in specs 
  • Shower valves - behind the wall
  • Size and dimensions of kitchen appliances
  • Electrical specs for appliances and jet tubs (some need a dedicated line)
  • Light fixtures - if pendants, for example, how low can they hang?
  • Placement of outlets
Know that he may not have all the answers yet. Things like shower valves and weight of the tub may need to be confirmed after demolition, depending on your project. If this is the case, ask him how he is going to work around the product, given you can't order until he tells you this information.

Phase 5: Demolition

All those home shows make demo look like fun, as homeowners take a sledge hammer to old fixtures they dislike. In reality, for a person who likes cleanliness and order, it is dreary and depressing.

Make sure you have stipulated in your contract that your contractor bag and remove all debris promptly, especially if you are trying to live in your home while it's being renovated - which I do not recommend. I have a line in my agreements that the job site will be swept up at the end of every day. I learned this from one of my contractors who always includes it in his proposals.

Your contractor will lay down stiff boards and paper to protect floors that are already finished. And he can also close off finished rooms by hanging plastic. But for the next 4-6 weeks you will be looking at something like this. And it can get very tiresome very quickly. 

If you are renovating a bathroom in a home that only has one bath, forget about trying to live-in during demolition. The toilet could be out for days, depending on your order timelines and certainly the shower and bath will be out for weeks. If you are renovating a kitchen-only, you might be able to get by if you set up a table in your bathroom with washing up supplies and a morning coffee station. But it's not pleasant. Avoid it if you can.

Phase 6: Framing

Framing is an exciting and usually quick phase. By now debris is mostly disposed of and the job site swept clean. As 2x4s go up, you can start to envision how your new rooms are going to look.
Sink plumbing and electric boxes are in and wallboard is up

Phase 7: Electrical & Plumbing

This phase is exciting but can also become protracted and tedious, as your contractors and subcontractors rough-in electrical, plumbing and HVAC behind the walls. Make time to visit the job site regularly during this phase, even if it means taking some time off work. Be on hand to answer things like how high do you want this medicine cabinet? How far to the side the sconces? Now’s the time to note everywhere you want an outlet and what kind of switches they should have. In this phase, you will be making decisions and dealing with issues such as product delivery delays. And you will be hemorrhaging money. It's stressful. But try to remain calm and be quickly responsive to your contractor's texts so that you don't hold up the job or lose subcontractors' windows of availability and incur costs.

Phase 8: Plaster & Wallboard

Once the rough-ins are completed - and if required in your area, inspections - insulation, drywall, and plaster can commence. 

Phase 9: Finish Work

This is the phase where cabinets and countertops, moldings, floor refinishing, and painting happen. I personally love this phase, because the debris is almost nil and visually things are really starting to come together. 

But this stage is where the rubber hits the road for the home owner. If you did a good job planning and ordering, your products are coming in. Some are fitting as expected, some are not. You will find yourself running to stores or ordering online to make up for mistakes. 

On our current home reno project, in the 11th hour we realized we needed different finishing tiles for the beveled field tile in the bathroom. I had to find them, special order them, and pay an exorbitant overnight delivery fee to get them in on time. Even so, I counted myself lucky that the whites actually matched - if you have ever tried to color-match white tiles from two different product lines you will know how very many shades of white there are and what a miracle this was. On a previous project, the supplier sent the wrong shower body and it was installed in the wall and tiled over before anyone realized the mistake. I had to run out of work on my lunch hour to buy a different type of spout with a diverter that was needed the next day. Sadly, this meant that I couldn't have the Purist spout that matched my handles that I had my heart set on. I found one from another line that worked okay with the handles. These things happen. And you have to roll with it.

In the end, it all worked out, and we are very happy with our renovation.

Our finished bathroom

Things I would have done differently?
  • I wish I had spent more $ on full scale floor restoration. The price of full restoration of our pet-damaged hardwood floors was eyebrow-raising. We compromised and fixed only the worst and most visible areas of damage. I wish now that we'd spent a few thousand more to fully restore them. They turned out so beautifully that the few places I still see damage really rankle me. And we will never have that opportunity of an empty house again. 
  • I wish I had taken the day off to be on hand for the bathtub delivery to ensure it was thoroughly inspected before accepting. It had a crack that was not discovered for a few weeks when the guys fully uncrated it. In the end, Kohler came through with a replacement for us, but it was touch and go there for a while. Note: The second tub also arrived damaged, but in an area that would be hidden by the apron. The clock was ticking, so we accepted it. Just be aware that damage to tubs is very common, and the way they are crated and tied up makes them difficult to thoroughly inspect as they come off the truck. Don't worry about irritating the driver. Take your time and thoroughly inspect your product. Don't sign for it or accept it if it's damaged. It goes back on the truck.
  • I wish that I had pressed my contractor early on about the finishing tiles that I felt gut-certain we would need for the beveled tile positive corners. It turns out I was right, and trying to match whites from two different product lines was risky and could have been disastrous.
  • I wish that I had given more thought to my outlets and dimmers. I have two light fixtures that should have been on dimmers. Sure, I can still do this myself, but I could have had my contractor do it at no extra cost.
  • I wish that I had removed all the doors and cleaned up the original brass hardware. After the renovation was complete I removed all the doorknobs and boiled them on the stove to slough off years of paint. Then I shined them up with Brasso. They are original to the house and the mid-century brass just gleams. The hinges however are still all painted over, sadly. It's a project that I will get around to in the future, and I'll be wishing I had my contractor's guys around to do the heavy lifting.
  • I wish that I had let my contractor do my kitchen tile cuts. I was in DIY mode in the kitchen, and itching to try out the top of the line tile cutter he loaned me. I should have taken him up on his offer to let him do my cuts for me at no charge. I cut my top tiles unevenly; what a mess. It doesn't show because it's under sight line of the cabinets. But I know it's there!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Remodeling Around an Ugly Granite Countertop

Would you choose this granite for your countertop?

Our home's previous owner (PO) chose it. I think it is a Juparana Florence or Juparana Bordeaux or Juparana Crema. It's hard to know for sure. The color looks very different depending on the light.

Dark area over the dishwasher

Distinctly coral-colored in the light near the window 
Lots of brown near the sink
While I'm not in love with this granite, I can cut our PO some slack. Having had the nail-biting pleasure of choosing a slate slab for my previous home's kitchen and a marble slab for this home's bathroom reno, I absolutely understand how a renovator with the best intentions can end up with stone that doesn't turn out as nice as what they'd intended.

When you go to "choose your slab" from the fabricator's yard, it comes out at you in big raw blocks like this:

You are generally standing outdoors in blinding natural light with only, if you are lucky, a door sample of your cabinetry to hold up next to it as a test. Meanwhile, your contractor is texting you that your timeline will be blown if you don't make a decision today.

So, I'm not baffled when so many people end up with granite they don't like (just Google "Ugly Granite" to read some harrowing tales). The question is, for those of us who inherit granite that we don't love, what if anything can we do about it?

Countertops are a costly rip out and redo. If you are replacing stone with stone it is going to run you $5k and up.

Can you "tame" your ugly granite? Is it even worthwhile to try? Ask yourself these questions:

1. Is the stone in good condition?

2. Is the footprint of your kitchen staying the same?

3. Are there colors in the granite that you DO like?

4. Are the cabinets paintable?

5. Can the backsplash be altered?

If the answer to these questions is yes, you may be able to dodge the "gut renovation" bullet and be on your way toward a not so costly remodel of a few thousand dollars.

Condition of the Stone

If your stone is in good shape - there is no pitting or cracking, chips or gouges and the seams, if any, are subtle and were properly joined - it's probably worth preserving.

The Footprint of Your Kitchen Isn't Changing

If you are not altering the layout of your kitchen, it's probably a good candidate for a remodel rather than a full scale renovation and that means preserving your granite.

There Are Colors in the Granite That You Like

All granite is multi-colored with 3 or 4 strains of color running through it. Our (I think) Juparana has a lot of cabernet, cream, chocolate, and coral in it. I'm not a fan of coral at all - and our backsplash was playing ours up - but I love both cabernet and cream. And that is important, because one of your granite colors is going to save the day.

The Cabinets Are Paintable or Re-stainable

Sometimes the problem is not the granite itself but the way its color is affected by surrounding colors, such as the color of your cabinets. Very often simply staining wood cabinets a darker color or painting them a lighter color will bring out other colors in your granite that you do like. And if the new colors are all complimentary, it will bring out the beauty in your stone in a way you can't even imagine.

This was what happened in our case. The yellow birch-look cabinetry in our kitchen clashed with the coral undertones of our granite that the pinky travertine-look backsplash was bringing out. Any one of the other underlying colors in our granite - cream, cabernet, or chocolate - applied to our cabinetry would have worked, and looked 100% better instantly.

I seriously considered the cabernet. A rich, dark red-brown would have looked great with this granite. I once helped my parents reno their kitchen using one of those Rustoleum kits in Cabernet and it turned out great (truly, this is not a paid testimonial). I was sort of itching to use that kit again for this project.

However, my parents had new stainless steel appliances that complemented the cabernet color. Our white appliances, which were all new Fridgidaire and in great condition, would look jarring with cabernet cabinets I felt. And new appliances were definitely not in our budget. In addition, ours was a narrow galley kitchen with just one window bringing in light. Dark cabinets were going to make the space seem even more closed in. We decided to paint our cabinets cream. 

And it was the right decision. You can see how this new color brought out the luster in the granite - before we even touched the pinky backsplash.

The Backsplash Can Be Altered

And what about that backsplash? Once you have your cabinetry color and granite colors working in harmony, updating your backsplash in a similar color is going to bring it all together. We chose a simple subway tile in almond.

If you are purchasing a new home and have inherited a granite countertop that you are not in love with, ask yourself the five questions above. If the granite is in good shape and has some colors in it that you do like, the kitchen footprint is not changing, the cabinets and backsplash are alterable, it's worth a shot to change the color of the cabinets and backsplash. A little bit of paint and tile is a lot less expensive than new stone countertops - and it's the greener way to go.

For a breakdown of the costs of our remodel see: Our White Kitchen Makeover for Under $3,000.