Tag Archives: kitchen remodel

Soapstone Love

The best part of a remodel is, of course, picking out the finishes. We knew we wanted to focus on white oak for the cabinets, which would blend in beautifully with the lightened pine floors. But it took us a few go arounds to finally land on the material for the counters. We wanted to keep the kitchen rustic, with a modern touch. We liked the look of concrete, but felt like it was maybe a bit too hard. We wanted a natural stone rather than synthetic. We wanted something with a bit of movement in it’s finish, nothing too sleek. And we wanted the color palette to remain neutral.

We were introduced to the idea of soapstone, a natural metamorphic rock, that contains talc and magnesium. There are harvests of gray, gray-green and black colored stone, with beautiful lines of talc running through the slabs. We discovered that soapstone is an ancient stone that has been used in science labs for centuries due to it’s durability and it’s ability to withstand bacteria from raw foods and can handle great variances in temperature. AND the best part, it’s virtually maintenance free. Soap and water…that’s it!

I researched the few local distributors of soapstone, and found one in Ventura that grabbed my attention. Stone West has loads of different slabs and lot’s of the stone. And they also explained that you can either finish the stone with an oil, which makes it darker and sleeker, and hides grease stains, OR you can leave the stone at it’s natural finish.  I decided to take a drive up the coast and check out their stock. Here are some samples…you’ll notice that they range in color from lighter gray, to green-y gray and even black:
We ended up choosing a slab of Barroca soapstone, which comes from Brazil. Here’s our slab in the raw: 

And just a few weeks later, it was delivered to us, cut and honed, with a flat corner edge. Here are some pics of the install:  

And here is the final product. We love them so so much! If you are looking for a rustic alternative to concrete, granite or marble – check out some soapstone! 

Check out more info on our remodel…!



Refinishing Floors: Not Glamorous But High Impact.

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About half way through demoing our living room and kitchen, our contractor mentioned that our floors were going to need some serious work…there were repairs to some of the planks and we needed to lace in new planks to fill areas previously covered by cabinets. That led us to address some serious concerns about the yellowed-out finish of the floors – how would that look with our new white oak cabinets? And…while we were at it, the ceiling beams needed to be sandblasted to bring out their natural color.

Welcome to Project Creep.

I should be honest here. The project manager in me was 100% against these ideas. We hadn’t budgeted or prepared for this costly and messy plan. I knew this would probably double the timeframe of the remodel and I was not happy about the last minute clearing of 3/4 of our furniture into the garage.

Thankfully, my husband, who naturally explores ideas with great creativity and freedom,  gently pushed me to see the importance of tackling the floors and the beams. He explained that in the end these would be the finishing touches that would pull our whole vision together. And that even though we didn’t plan for it, now was the perfect time to do it – we were already living like we were back in a dorm room…so let’s just go for it!

Our first step was to find more pieces of our existing wood floors – a Southern Yellow Pine. We were able to track down the company, Authentic Reclaimed Flooring, where the original planks came from. We needed about 200 sq. feet, which they were able to send out to us the next day.

What I didn’t know, was to make sure that the delivery included a pallet jack delivery all the way into our house. Instead, the driver pulled the pallets off the truck and dropped them in the driveway, leaving them for us to deal with. Rookie move. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, these gardening shears did not cut the metal ties… floors2Bobby to the rescue…tin snips…that’s how you cut metal ties… floors3 floors4 floors5While Bobby brought in the lumber, I secured some help to pack up the kitchen items. Those would be the same kitchen items that I had previously moved into the dining room. My great initial strategy to avoid packing everything up, turned into double the work. I only cussed once. Or twice.  floors14Next, time to move all of the furniture to the garage…thankful for friends…floors15And now, let the fun begin…
Our contractor, Craig, outlined the needed repairs with Francisco – perhaps the most diligent and hard working flooring specialist around. First step was to fill in all of the open sub-flooring areas, then replace any damaged planks with new: floors6 floors7 floors8This was the last we saw of our floors before we packed up our pups and hightailed it right on out of town. It’s ok, let the sand fly, we’ll be here for the next month (at my in-laws house!):floors13We received some photo updates along the way…new planks laced in to the old:floors16Bringing in new planks right up to the new cabinets:floors17Next Francisco began the refinishing, by first sanding off all of the old varnish:floors9After he sanded the floors a few times, he had to break for the ceiling sandblasting. We don’t have any pictures of the sandblast process, but basically, just picture sand being blasted at full speed and power, at the ceiling. No big deal.
Anyway, once that was all done, Francisco returned to add 2 coats of Bona’s Nordic Tone to create a whitewashed effect and to keep the floors from yellowing: floors18He finished with another two coats of polyurethane for some protection:
floors10 floors11And now…this is the part of the story, where I look up at the beautiful rustic beams, and I look down at the gorgeous whitewashed pine floors, and I acknowledge that my husband is a genius…I can’t even explain how much I love the results.
And yes, it was all worth it! floors12See the full progress on our house remodel here.



Impatience Is A Virtue

impatience1I am not a patient person. It is perhaps the worst of my fatal flaws. Often times I make decisions simply because I want a decision to be made, not because I have taken time to think through the possible options.
I think my impatience stems from a serious hate of waiting. Waiting is the worst. The worst.  I remember having the biggest baddest tantrum of all time out in front of the public library when I was about 6 years old….because the library was not open…yet. I think my mom wanted to leave to take me to the movie theatre and was offering to bring me back to the library after the movie…but I was inconsolable. I had my heart set on going to the library and nothing else would do. My poor mom.

Somehow, I married the most patient man I’ve ever met. Bobby sails through life, without placing any pressure on people or situations. Through our various renovations, he is always a picture of calm…so whenever we get the inevitable, “it won’t be here for another week” notice, I look to him to set the tone in response and I try my best to copy his demeanor.

Now…without going so far as to brag about my ultimate character downfall, I have to say, there are times when my severe impatience works for me. It’s true, impatience can actually be a virtue – at least according to Jim Stone, PhD and Psychology Today. The good doctor says that impatience is “triggered under certain circumstances, which motivates specific kinds of decisive action.” That’s a good thing-right!? He also finds that impatience can motivate us to switch our goals, and can benefit us if we see that a project is going nowhere or is stuck, and we accept it, move on and start working on something else.

I found myself in this very circumstance earlier this year, when our outdoor landscape project was at an indefinite standstill.  Once we had decided to remove the infamous hedge, we hired an architect and ended up broadening the scope of the project to an entirely new patio, a garage-to-studio conversion, a new garage, new driveway and the landscape. The project was now stuck in the city’s plan check and neighborhood review, and I was beginning to lose my mind in all of the minutia and snail’s pace.  Bobby would hear me mumbling to myself on more than one or nine occasions: “All I freaking wanted was to get rid of that stupid hedge.”

I was at the end of my patience rope, and I marched out to the living room to declare to Bobby that we had to move on. I assured him that I would continue pushing our outside project down the line with the city, but that I was going to start a full kitchen remodel immediately. Within the week, we had a bid from our contractor and thus began our new project.

And 5 months later, here we are…DEMO days! impatience2 impatience3impatience5impatience6impatience7impatience8impatience9impatience10impatience11impatience12More to come on the planning and design. Stay tuned!
For more on this house remodel, check out:
Why Demo A Perfectly Good Kitchen
The Hedge



Stop and Smell the Rosemary

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Bobby and I have been through a couple of remodels together. And with each one, we’ve hit that proverbial wall. The disruption of our routine and upheaval of our space slowly weighs down on our psyche until one day, we just can’t take it anymore.
We’ve had to learn the art of staying present in the process and taking note of the simple joys of each day. For us, it’s become an extension of the practice of gratitude…being cognitively thankful for the things that otherwise would pass us right by in the course of the day. This helps us to stay calm, centered and focused in the midst of our little chaotic world.

These moments usually involve our two dogs, partly because we are those people who have our dogs with us at all times (if possible), and partly because they are hysterical and make us laugh every day. Since they were puppies, these two have launched themselves into plants, flowers and hedges…with their favorite being rosemary bushes. They’ve spent countless mornings teasing and taunting each other in the middle of patches of the fragrant herb, only to then carry the rejuvenating aroma straight into the house.
This happens to be one of my most favorite moments in a day. A great and simple joy.
Rosemary1 Rosemary2 Rosemary3 Rosemary4 Lyle-RosemaryHere’s to us all finding our own rosemary moments!!



Why Demo A Perfectly Good Kitchen?

Kitchen-before-3For those of you following along, you’ll remember that whole story about the hedge. I’m going to come back to that in future posts, but today, I’m jumping ahead about 9 months and bringing us into the present.
We are in the middle of a kitchen – living room remodel. When we began the project, we interviewed a number of contractors and their various trades, and we would consistently get confused stares when they walked into our house.

‘You’re planning to demo this kitchen???  Why would you do that??’

Check out our kitchen and living room before pics and you may be asking yourself the same questions…Island-Before

Kitchen-Before-2Living-BeforeLiving-Room-BeforeI have to admit, this caused us to stop in our tracks and question our plans and motives. What exactly were we chasing? Was this a ridiculous waste of money? Were we trying to keep up with some imaginary family out there who seemingly had everything we always wanted?

We took time to sort through these questions which helped us to narrow down our goals and set a design direction that would prove to be key to the whole process.

First, we realized that our desire was to create a space that reflected ‘us’. While researching styles and finishes, we found that we could easily end up with the same exact kitchen…just a slightly updated version of it. Don’t get me wrong, along with you, I love a beautiful set of shaker cabinets, coupled with a marble countertop…but I’ve always had the desire to be slightly different than prevailing trends. So we got really excited when we freed ourselves up to fight for whimsical and unique finishes, complemented with modern, clean lines and honest textures and surfaces.

Second, we identified some major design and functionality issues that needed correction, the biggest of which was in the open floor plan. The kitchen overall and the spaces between counters were actually too wide, leaving a lot of open, unusable floor space, and creating a very inefficient work triangle. And the living room, though nice-sized was slightly too small…it was a little bit too big for what it was and a little bit too small for something more. We decided to rearrange the kitchen layout while also taking some space from it and adding it to the living room.
The next major issue was that cabinets lined every single wall in the kitchen and living room.  We didn’t have any wall space. Not a single wall. That may not seem like a big deal, but that means we would have to subscribe to the cabinets being our only sense of creativity or personality f.o.r.e.v.e.r. …No chance of changing things up with a new piece of art or interesting found objects.  The minute we began talking about removing the cabinets, I felt like I could breathe easier…it was like I could see the whole space becoming lighter. The cabinets, along with the hedge…goners!
And the last thing to be addressed were our double doors leading down and out to the patio. Patio-Steps-beforeI’m not sure how to describe the doors and the steps they led out to, other than to say that they were ill-conceived. One designer looked us right in the eye and declared that the whole step-door situation was ‘disturbing‘.  At first I was sort of offended, but then I understood…there was something about the layout that made the whole patio uninviting. We’ve had many dinner parties with the double doors wide open, but our guests remained inside each and every time. It was as if the steps held some sort of imaginary barrier keeping people locked away from the scary outdoors.  So, we decided to make a wider opening to the patio…and to raise the entire patio about 2-1/2 feet to meet the raised foundation level of the house – so eventually, it will be a true indoor-outdoor space…and now we’re talking a whole second stage to our project…and that’s a whole other story….I hope you join me for all of the fun and somewhat daunting tidbits!