Next project: Nautical Nursery

Well it’s been a while since I posted. Our house projects have slowed down over the past couple months because we were working on a new project: a baby! I’m due in January, which is just about 11 weeks from now, which means it’s finally time to get cracking on the nursery.

We found out it was a boy back in September, so we decided to use the room we had already painted blue for the nursery and work from there. The wall color is Nocturnal Sea by Behr, but it felt too “blue” and less navy despite being dark. I knew immediately after we were done painting it that I would want to do something different, but had no motivation to repaint it. What we’re planning to do is add tall white wainscoting to the bottom of the walls, and leave the blue at the top. I think with the mostly white walls, the blue won’t feel so overwhelming. This is what it looked like before we started:




The first step was replacing the old blinds with new plantation shutters. Not only do they look nautical, but they don’t have any cords to strangle a small child.


I also picked up a great red, white and blue madras quilt, crib skirt and curtain set at Pottery Barn when it was 60% off at the end of the summer season. The wall color actually matched it pretty well and I think we’ll just leave it as is.


So over the next few weeks, we’ll be adding the wainscoting and molding, bringing in the furniture (Bonavita’s Peyton Lifestyle Crib and 5 drawer dresser, a glider/ottoman, and a couple Ikea book shelves) and getting everything set up for baby’s arrival in January! Stay tuned!


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Kitchen Complete!

Well, it’s been a full four weeks since this project took off, but we are finally done! (Actually, I’m still missing one drawer pull, but I’m not counting that.) Our kitchen has been gutted and turned around into a clean, bright, white space. We had some minor setbacks, but all in all, we finished on time.

The final piece of the puzzle was the tiling and the mounting of the shelf brackets, which we did on our own. The tile started out fine, but we quickly realized we under estimated how much time it would take. We ended up having to rent the tile saw for two days and rushed it back to Home Depot at 7:45pm last Sunday night, minutes before the store closed.

We also had many debates regarding the open shelves and just how we were going to get them to stay on the wall with such heavy objects on them. Some google-ing and another trip to our lovely neighborhood Home Depot later (we really should buy stock in HD), we experimented with three brackets for the bottom shelf. It looked a little “over engineered” so we went with two brackets a piece for the top two shelves. We used wall mounting screws that hold at least 50 pounds a piece, cumulatively. At minimum the shelves should hold 300 pounds, so we figured that would be enough! The screws that came with the brackets (bought through Signature Hardware) stripped almost immediatly. Two of the screw heads just fell off entirely, so another late Sunday night trip to Home Depot later, we had new, stronger screws and we were back in action. We also pre-drilled the holes in the shelf, which seemed to help a lot. In the end, the kitchen came out exactly as I had hoped and looked a million times better than it did when we bought the house almost 2 years ago.

It was a real test for our D-I-Y skills and patience. Not having a functional kitchen and the endless parade of contractors and mountains of dust were harder to deal with than I expected. Tiling took up an entire weekend, sunrise to sunset. But we learned a lot and will put that to good use on the next project. We’re just not planning that next project anytime soon!

Kitchen Before (July 2011)


Kitchen After (March 2013)


Kitchen Before (July 2011)


Kitchen After (March 2013)



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Kitchen Reno: After Week Two

Week two started off with lots of promise. After a full week of construction, on Wednesday morning the cabinet installers were at my door. Within a half hour our designer called to tell me that the contractors had installed the new soffit at the wrong height… a full six inches too low. After a scramble of phone calls, the contractor was back on site to apologize and create a plan.

Soffit at the wrong height

Soffit at the correct height 

While this whole process was a lot more stressful and frustrating than I’m about to describe, the good news is that we didn’t lose any time. On Thursday morning, the contractor was back on site to rip out, reframe and wallboard the new (higher) soffit. The dry-wallers were on site later in the afternoon, and after some tense moments of unpreparedness on their part, they finished dry-walling by 6pm.

Fortunately, the cabinet installers could be rescheduled for Friday and Saturday to make up lost time. Friday showed a lot of progress. The countertop installer also came by to take his final measurements for the countertops. Saturday was also great, until I noticed a couple things that were off. One was the tip out tray under the sink which I had specifically asked about several times. The designer had not noted it on her design and the installers were not aware of it. Easy fix, they told me.

Another was a drawer pull that was clearly off centered. When measured, we noticed it was an inch off to the right. Totally unacceptable. But with one email to the designer to complain, the problems were addressed and should be solved tomorrow when the installers come back to finish up the work. Can’t say I’ve been happy with these issues, but they have handled them well and are taking care of everything. The cabinets that are done so far look really great.

We have just about one week left until we’re back in business. The cabinet installers will finish tomorrow, then the countertops come on Friday, and the contractor comes back to finish his work and re-hook up everything on Monday. We definitely can not wait for this to be over. Being without a kitchen has been a lot harder than we originally thought. If I never eat another microwavable dish again, it will be too soon!


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Kitchen Reno: After Week One

It was a very slow first week with minor action happening each day. I couldn’t help but think that if the construction crew was more organized they could have done their whole part of the project in a day and a half. We’re now on day 10 without a kitchen and the pace of this project is frustrating. I’ve eaten enough microwavable food to last me a lifetime.

But today we’re moving on to cabinet installation. Last week the kitchen was demolished, the soffits were raised, new recessed lighting was put in and electrical outlets were adjusted.

With the soffits removed:



New recessed lighting goes in:



And after the new drywall was finished, textured and painted:


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Coming Soon to a Kitchen Near You

Next Monday is the start of the kitchen renovations. The process will take three weeks, and while I’m not looking forward to the construction, I am looking forward to the final product. Week One will include tearing out the old cabinets and countertops, raising the soffit, moving a couple of outlets and adding in three recessed lights which will hopefully brighten up some of the dark corners.

Week two includes the install of the new cabinets and final measurements of the countertop, and week three will include the countertop, sink, and faucet install, as well as finish up details. We chose a traditional cabinet style (in white) and pulls (center style in brushed nickel):IMG_1757




While the kitchen is essentially being gutted, the footprint will virtually stay the same. The biggest change will be the addition of drawers and an open shelf concept. These drawings from our designer show the final intended product:


Kitchen-2The refrigerator will be wrapped in a cabinet with a more accessible cabinet above it. The microwave will move off the countertop and into a cabinet of its own. And the height of the cabinets will increase by one foot. We’re hoping this change will open up the space and give us more functional cabinets and drawers.

The final piece (that we’re tackling on our own!) is the subway tile backsplash. We’ve done some DIY tiling before in our last house, and this is definitely a larger project, but I know we’ll be able to handle the challenge!

So here are the “before” pictures again. The first from when we closed on the house (7/2011), and the second from its current state a week before the renovation project starts (2/2013):






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Venatino Marble Countertops

The counters deserve their own post simply because they’re marble. I can’t tell you how many contractors, fabricators, designers, (family!), etc. have said “now, you know about marble, right?” when I’ve told them our countertop decision. Yes, I know about marble. But you should, too: Marble, while used for centuries in Italian (and I’m sure many other countries) kitchens, it is extremely porous and susceptible to staining and etching.

Choosing marble means you need to seal often and be aware that nothing should be left on our countertop for more than a couple of minutes. Things like tomato sauce, wine and grease will stain it. Lemon juice and vinegar will etch it. Mr. S&P and I are pretty “type A”, so  I have no problem playing countertop police at my own house parties. We’ll invest in a lot of dishtowels and coasters. To choose marble, you really have to want it. If you have no interest in crazy maintenance, simple choose a quartz, granite, laminate, etc.

I even did some experiments with sample pieces of marble to test out different substances to see how badly they stained and etched. I found that a properly sealed piece won’t let tomato sauce or wine penetrate too badly, and what stain was left softened over time. Etching is unavoidable and no sealer will prevent it, thus we’re going with a “honed” finish that will mask etching better than a polished finish.

Picking out the slab is, of course the best part of a project. We visited several showrooms around the Phoenix area to get ideas for materials and pricing. I found Arizona Tile to have a really wide variety of not only marble, but granite as well. We debated different varieties. Carrara is the most commonly found and is the least expensive (retail about $12/sq ft.) The Crate and Barrel French Bistro Kitchen Island we have is topped with a piece of Carrara. Here is an example of a Carrara slab:

Carrara Marble Slab

While that was always a potential option, we wanted something that was a bit more unique and interesting. I salivated over Calacutta Classico and Calacutta Gold, but at $45-$50 a square foot, it’s the Ferrari of marble and we just could not justify the cost for the type of house we own and the market in Phoenix. Maybe for the next house 😉


Then we discovered Statuary Vein, which had much more movement and depth than Carrara, but not the price tag of the Calacutta, running at approximately $35-$40 a square foot.

Statuary Vein Marble

We had looked at these materials last July, anticipating redoing the kitchen in February. When we returned to the slab showroom and looked at options again, we noticed they had slabs of Bianco Venatino that had a similar look as Statuary Vein, but were even less (approximately $21 a square foot retail). This was the Venatino batch they had in July, which looked very similar to Carrara:


Bianco Venatino Marble

This is the Venatino batch they had in January:


Venatino Marble

The batch they had this month looks far more like Statuary, so we decided this was the type we would go with. Above is the actual slab going in our kitchen. It has incredible veining, a ton of visual interest and I know it will look gorgeous in its satiny honed finish. We can’t wait to see this slab in place as our countertop!





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The Long Awaited Kitchen Renovation

When we moved into our house, I knew that one thing that needed to be changed was the kitchen. Because kitchens are complicated and expensive, we took the last year and a half to think about the functionality that we wanted and save up the cash. The main thing this builder grade kitchen lacks is drawers (and style… but mostly drawers). The cabinets are the most basic oak, 36 inch, door only, no hardware… in short, the bare bones of what a spec house will be built with. I will not be sad to see them go.

This is the kitchen on the day we closed on the house (7/2011):


Since then, we re-did the floors, adding ebony colored engineered hardwood, removed the awkward island, bought all new stainless steel appliances, replaced the lighting, painted the walls, installed new window treatments and added some furniture. This is how the kitchen looks going into the renovation:



Soon these crappy cabinets, countertop, sink and faucet will be replaced with brand new 42 inch white cabinets (with drawers and hardware), Venatino Marble countertops, a 10 inch deep Elkay sink, stainless faucet with pullout sprayer, and shiny white subway tile backsplash. We have some really interesting plans for the layout, including bringing the backsplash up to the top of the window and adding open shelves with iron brackets next to the stove to give it a French bistro look. Stay tuned!


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