This past June I finally finished a much needed update to my kitchen of 15 years.
I was inspired by my dear friend A & her husband, who completely gutted and renovated their kitchen... on their own. I admit to being a bit green with envy (in the kindest, most honorable way a friend can envy with great affection in her deepest heart) when they installed luscious, warm hardwood floors, delicious new cabinetry, stunning counter-tops, and shiny appliances... the whole shebang. It turned out lovely. More than lovely - an HGTV showroom worthy kitchen. Her husband installed the floors, cabinets, & tile backsplash HIMSELF. He is a handy-man extraordinaire, all-around great guy, and her knight in shining armor to boot. Their new culinary oasis is truly amazing. I must also tell you, A is one incredible cook. It is not only her kitchen I envy, but the ease with which she whips together perfect motherhood in there. She makes everything look effortless. It is something I've tried to emulate for nearly 2 decades now, but I digress...
I not only wanted to change things up in my own kitchen, but the decor was in desperate need of an update. When I say desperate, I mean desperate. Long story short — we bought our humble abode 15 years ago. I fell in love with it — the large eat-in kitchen, everything sparkling & brand new. I had 2 babies at home back then, and buying our first home in 2000 - life felt shimmery and perfect. It is a modest home at best ~ but it was ours. And at the time it was NEW! We felt invincible in the way that only people in their 20's can.
Fast-forward 15 years. One babe off to college & the other firmly nestled in high school. Add to that a divorce, a company downsize, and a heart-stricken mama holding it all together with string & prayer. It's all good as change must be... but fair to say a solid dose of Life happened. From there, I just couldn't see how my desperately sad, woefully dated kitchen was going to get the face lift it needed. The face lift I needed it to have. I wanted to walk into my kitchen and "like" it again. To breathe in that simple pleasure of enjoying my morning cuppa in a space that felt my own — and to show my Home a little appreciation along the way...gratitude for shelter provided, both figurative & literal. My nest needed some Love, my friends.
As much as I had dreamed for years of a gutted, reconfigured, completely custom designed reno,
all-new was not in the cards. For now.
I would have to come up with something - I couldn't even sell it like this if I wanted to. The tired honey-oak (pumpkin?) cabinetry, green walls (Yes, green. Booger green to be more accurate. I don't know what I was thinking - a decorator at the paint store 8 years ago said it would bring out the warmth in the honey-oak woodwork. That it did, but booger-green gets tired. Especially after 8 years...).
Add to that the sad sand-colored laminate (naughty word in realtor-ville) counter tops and it was something difficult to reconcile. The counters have never gone well with the cabinets - they were too cool & the cabinet stain too warm. A coat of paint on the wall was the most efficient mediator to employ. Unfortunately, I couldn't rip them out or smash them to bits with a sledge-hammer, but a girl can dream...
So dream I did.
One particular Sunday found me roaming the aisles of Lowe's (shout-out to Lowe's!) while on a run to pick up furnace filters and water softener salt. Home maintenance runs are my least favorite, but again - I digress.
I had some dream time... and while the whole house creaks & groans and all but bellows its cry for reform, that kitchen was stuck in my head. What could I do? Where would I start if I could??
That was easy. Tile.
A tile backsplash. Yes. That's where I would begin. I headed to the tile aisle to peruse, and was immediately drawn to
I love the greys & browns. The combination of glass & metal. Stainless steel & bronze.
Symmetry in asymmetry.
It didn't go in my kitchen at all. Not with the green walls and honey-oak.
No - this was decidedly different. Almost as different from yellow-green as you could get... all cool greys, mochas, & rich espresso.
I grabbed a paint swatch on the way out — you know, "just in case".
I really adore greys right now.... and when I got home I discovered that the darker color on the swatch is the same color as my living room (Perfect Greige).
I was forced to ask myself... how have I been living almost a decade with warm yellow-green and cool greige side by side?!
It's not right. And it begged to be reconciled.
I brought the tile sample home and showed it to my darling teens... who leapt right into my dreamscape with me & we fantasized our way through supper with visions of a kitchen anything but booger green.
Yes - if our intentions were pure, and if the planets aligned and... and
.... and maybe if we danced with wild abandon under the full moon-
Then maybe, just maybe the kitchen gods would smile upon us and grant us this one small wish.
I started looking for ideas on Pinterest (that most sacred of websurfing spaces imho) and reading how-to manuals. I wanted that tile backsplash... but there was a fair amount of math/measuring, involved.
Precision. Room for error. And a wet-saw. Yikes.
I texted my bestie a pic of the tile and said simply, "Look what I found. Maybe someday..."
She shared it with her (did I mention wonderful?) hubby & responded quickly, "We can make this happen.
J will do it. He has all of the tools from our renovation and said he'd be happy to."
What? First of all, "Happy to"? Secondly, who is lucky enough in the world to have friends like this? And third, how do you ask anyone to donate that kind of time and labor? It was too much... I couldn't think it.
But oh.... Oh how nice it would be.
We sat with maybe for several weeks. We did have a high school graduation for The Boy to get through, which was not only time-consuming, and an emotional land-mine for me and The Girl, but the budget was tight.
Painted on cheap yoga pants t-h-i-n & tight.
Said tile sample remained perched against the wall upon the countertops. (With which it happened to coordinate nicely, by the way. Dare I say, made me not loathe them).
Monday after graduation my sweet B says to me, "We should just start. Start with painting the walls. At least get rid of the green."
Me: "Yes... but the grey with the honey-oak?!! Ugh... That is not going to look good."
B: "Maybe not — but it is better with the counter. Oh, and I think we should do it before The Boy moves out... so he lives with it for a while. So it will still feel like home when he comes back from college."
Well, - that one. Oy.
She got to me, as only she can.
We bought paint that afternoon.
We selected the middle paint chip (Adley Grey) for the kitchen, and marked the lightest chip (Ghost Pines) for the adjacent sunroom and bathroom, which were sunshine yellow and brick red respectively. (Maybe I was color-blind? Wanted my home to feel like a box of Crayolas?? I don't know.... It was 2007. I had young children and was volunteering at a pre-school. Don't judge.)
It would be a lot of work to get all of the rooms painted, but yes, finally — at least the walls would flow.
It was a start.
See the green? What did I tell you. Oh.. And that yellow is in there too - off to the right blinding the $&*% out of you. You get the idea.
We set to work....
Please excuse the dishes. And the green. Pretty much everything about this photo...
Here we are down the narrow "hall" from the kitchen to the garage entrance. Red bathroom is to the left.
The Adley Grey is being trimmed in. Excuse the grainy photo - I did a lot of my painting at night.
We painted and painted and painted. I didn't document well at the time.... I was busy painting, you see.
Then A & J came down for a Sunday and J kindly, out of the goodness of his own heart...
installed my tile backsplash.
Oh sweet heaven.
The grey walls & tile backsplash. It is late at night in this photo and the grout is not done as the tiles had to set for a couple days, but what a difference!
He did a remarkable job. He doesn't do tile-work professionally, though he could.
To make this gift of kindness even sweeter - they installed under-cabinet lighting for me.
There is not a window in this part of the kitchen, so task lighting is priceless.
I cried. I'm always taken aback, overwhelmed... completely blown-away by the sheer kindness of some people.
And these people were mine. *heart-sigh*
The Girl and I did the grout work ourselves a couple days later. That was not what we might consider a fun or easy job - but something we could handle. (Projects like this always give me a true appreciation for the gifts and talents of others.)
And my little B... she is something else. Equal parts cheerleader and workhorse. When this girl puts her mind to something, she will not be disuaded.
We also baked banana bread. Yummy.
The pictures are not great I realize. I had no idea at the time I was going to blog the experience. I used to blog a lot, but writing for me got lost somewhere along the way. Another story for another day.
So there we were. Loving our taupey- grey walls. Loving our new backsplash. Even the counters looked better. Salvagable!
Enjoying my morning coffee while gazing at my lovely new tile felt downright decadent. It really is the little things (ok - not necessarily little...) but I'm a simple girl & this backsplash made me furiously happy. *sigh*
All was well.
Except the oak cabinets. Darn them. Dripping their folksy charm all over my sexy kitchen tiles.
I was so over them.
Mind you - I am no fool (generally). I understand they are good, solid, wood cabinets and that is no small thing *(Mother's voice in head)*.
Problem was... No matter how solid, they did not fit here anymore. Everything has its day, and these had outworn their welcome.
I, however, did not have the budget to replace them. For now.
Could I paint them??
I began poking around on Pinterest again - that blissful domain for sinners & saints alike.
I began asking questions.
I was met with a fairly unanimous:
"REALLY? Yourself??! Ohhh......."
"NOOOOOOO. OMG - you do not want to do that!"
"It is SOOO much work!"
"They NEVER turn out."
"You will ruin perfectly good cabinets." *(Mother's voice in head)*.
B: "Let's paint them anyway."
A & J: (Supportive to a fault): "Do it. It will turn out. I'll help you pick out paint. All you need is time & patience."
*(my "faith & trust & pixie dust" crew)*
I mean truly though...what was the worst that could happen? They wouldn't turn out. I'd hate them.
Thing is - I already hated them.
I had nothing to lose. (Except solid wood cabinetry that would cost a fortune to replace. But AGAIN...
It was time to paint the cabinets.
We looked for paint and direction at Lowe's but the paint chips were all just slightly warm, or too light. I knew exactly what I was looking for.... Something dark & substantial. Deep. Emotional - moody even. Delicious.
We found just the right swatch at Sherwin-Williams.
Black Fox. It was gloriously perfect. Not really black at all - but a nice, deep, rich espresso brown.
After asking the (rather young... too young to really know paint. Or home value. Or how desperately things can go wrong...) IF this was in fact possible, and what the entire process would entail...
I left with this:
Sherwin-Williams All Surface Enamel in satin finish
I did choose the satin finish because I wanted a deeper, richer look.
As I was told by the very knowledgeable toddler behind the counter - this is the paint that could do it. It was new and of exceptional quality, drying to a heavy-duty, high traffic resistant finish. Better yet, with this paint, the cabinets would require very little if any sanding.
Really? (I'm a skeptic by nature)
Absolutely, he assured. Maybe just sand a little - to get the 'sheen' off of the faces & doors.
Okay Kid. Sold.
*Please don't be wrong.
Also picked up these handy fellas:
Painter's Pyramids. I ordered them from Lowe's, because I needed 108 of the little buggers.
They were well worth the investment. These little power houses allow you paint both sides of a cabinet door in 1 day, saving precious time when dry time between coats is 24 hours. I painted the inside of each door, flipped them & set on 4 pyramids (one pyramid near each corner) then painted the outside face.
As you can probably see, this is on the floor of my garage. I would not recommend this unless you have a the back and knees of a pre-teen baseball catcher. Which I do not.
If I were to do this again, I would get large tables (like the kind used in church basements, for garage/tag sales, or ... school lunches). That gets everything at least waist high and would have saved me the hunchback of Notre Dame stature I adopted for a week. Also worth mentioning - have a system for numbering your cabinet doors as you remove them (something that won't get painted over...), so you know which door goes where, and all of your hinges and hardware will still line up nicely. Makes reassembling your kitchen go much more smoothly.
As previously mentioned, dry-time between coats was recommended 24+ hours. I put 2 coats of enamel paint on each cabinet door, and painted the cabinet facing while I waited between coats.
Painting & waiting is the game.
I know... I am crazy lazy. No - I did not empty my cabinets before painting the cabinet facing. Yes - they are a disaster. One project at a time please. And save your judgement for my other much more colorful stories. Trust me - it will be worth the wait.
The backside of my island is particle-board (groan). Unable to sand - I just painted & hoped. I think I'd prime the particle-board next time, but it has held up extremely well, even with all the kicking and fussing that happens to them with 2 kids and 2 dogs.
I also picked up a clear coat protector (I want to be able to wipe my cabinets and not leave watermarks. I was told it wouldn't be a problem with the enamel, but having some experience with regrets -I wanted nothing more than to avoid adding to that list).
A one quart can covered the entire kitchen.
*wait another 24hours.*
When the clear-coat was dry, I replaced the cabinet doors.
I also picked up this tiny bottle of bliss...
Valspar Antiquing Glaze
This was recommended during our paint inquiry at Lowe's to give painted cabinets a little more "depth" and "definition".
Well, turns out the good folks at Lowe's do know their stuff.
Easy-peasy to apply, it sinks into any little crevices, brush-strokes, and woodgrain. Simply rub it on with a cotton cloth and wipe away the extra. Everything in life should give the satisfaction and pay-off this little bottle of magic offered. *May the chemists & creators experience nothing but the life of pure joy & abundance they so rightfully deserve. I am not exaggerating here.
Needless to say - this became my favorite little product. The difference was subtle, but it took the paint from a flat uniform "painted' look, to a rich, baked-on, Baby I was born this way appearance.
Brought out the "Fox" in my Black Fox paint. *wink*
Last, but not least was hardware. Again my little B was up to the task & helped me select a minimalist stainless-steel. Perfect.
A little sweat and maybe a few tears (it was nearly 100 degrees that week)...
And my kitchen is a dreamy overhaul on a simple girl's budget - $60 in paint, the cost of tile sheets, & grout.
I still can't believe the difference a coat of paint can make.
Special thank you to A & J for the tile backsplash & under-cabinet lighting. Ever grateful.
Now, about those bathrooms...
Home is where your Story Begins.
Sharing the Love
Olive & Cocoa
Food & Wine
Women's Health Mag
Conde Nast Traveler
Cedar Ridge Winery & Distillery