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):







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!





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!


Christmas Decor

I’m only a month late, but I’ll try to catch you up on everything we’ve been up to. First we had a spectacular Christmas. We hosted a wine party for friends early in the month and then Mr. S&P’s mom came for a Christmas visit. Between both events, we wanted the house to look extra nice this holiday and we put a little extra effort into the decorations. With the addition of our new pup, Berti, in early October, our little Arizona house was feeling very full and festive this year.

I added evergreen branches to a pot along with red cyclamen. These were scraps cut off from Christmas trees as they were packaged up to go home. Usually you can ask the guy running the lot if you can take them and they’re free!



Earlier in the year we painted the front door jet black with a high shine lacquer. The wreath looked great hanging on it.
IMG_1636 IMG_1639

I got this idea from a Pottery Barn catalog. I hung wreaths in the middle of the big dining room windows with shiny gold ribbon.



Everyone in our neighborhood replaces their garage lights with red and green bulbs for the holiday. We liked the idea, but we make sure they’re on the right nautical sides  for port and starboard (red, right, return!)





Greeting cards are one of my favorite holiday traditionals. I love seeing everyone’s kids and pets on their cards. It can be tricky to display them, but I came up with this trick: hang a piece of ribbon straight down a section of wall. Staple the cards to the ribbon as they are delivered. You have a great display of all the cards and it’s easy to toss when Christmas is over!



My aunt baked these hermits and sent them in the mail with a note saying she read that hermits travel well. They do! We enjoyed them all week long and it was a nice treat to have baked good from family.


Kitchen Decisions

This past weekend Mr.S&P and I checked out some countertop and backsplash tile options at Daltile in Phoenix. We were looking for a white or light colored granite and some subway tiles to match. While at first I was set on white backsplash tiles, I’ve also seen a couple of pretty grey options that I think would look amazing.

This page from the West Elm catalog is my kitchen inspiration right now.


Our counters will be light, but I love the white cabinets with the warm iridescent grey backsplash tiles. We’re adding open shelving like this next to the stove to make cookbooks, mugs, dishes and other “displayable” items readily available.

While I’m still going to check out a few more granite and tile places, here are some options we’ve narrowed it down to:

#1 Choice – Delicatus White. Love all the movement.



Choice # 2 – Bianco Romano



Choice #3 – Carrara or Calcutta Gold Marble. I love the all white look, but I’ve heard marble, even seal 10x, wears hard in the kitchen. The White Carrara would match our current kitchen island.

ImageIn our old condo we had Kashmir White Granite and I loved it, but we’re going to try something new this time around.


But now for the backsplash tile…. I’m still searching for something like the tile in the West Elm catalog, but we also found some other great options ranging from a plain white subway tile to light grey and warm grey to a white gloss subway tile with a beveled edge. We’re leaning towards the beveled edge just because it would be different and really add some structure to the kitchen.


Hopefully I’ll find some more options to play around with, but right now the Delicatus Granite with the Beveled White Subway tiles is in the lead!

Feeling blue… house paint, that is!

We recently acquired an extra bed from some friends who were moving, so we decided to take one of the extra rooms upstairs and turn it into a second (yes, we have multiple) guest room. I’m not planning to go overboard with this room, just make it functional in the off chance we have multiple guests at one time.

Since we’ve painted pretty much every color in this house except a true blue, I figured it would be a good color for this new room. I started with some light and medium blues, but quickly gravitated towards a darker tone. They say that painting a room darker actually makes it look larger. Who would have guessed? These were the candidates:


The colors don’t really show up true in this photo, but we decided on the darkest: Nocturnal Sea. It’s a really rich navy that I think will work well no matter what the room ends up being in the long run.

Resources: Behr Paints: French Country, Americana, Neptune Blue and Nocturnal Sea.

While we were testing out the blues for the guest room, it inspired us to paint the outside of the front door. While I’m sure the HOA wouldn’t approve any of these colors (they only like tan), we’re going with it anyways. If they send us a note, we can always paint over it (with tan).


I used the samples for the bedroom paint on an old piece of moulding and then coated them with a gloss spray lacquer so it has a super high sheen. I’ll get a high gloss paint for the door and then do an extra coat of gloss. The only new color in this bunch is Rain Storm, a greenish peacock blue and the one I’m leaning towards.

Living Room can now be lived in

It’s been a busy spring and summer, so I haven’t posted as often as I should. Mr. S&P and I spent the month of July in Massachusetts soaking up the sun and sand as well as picking up design ideas. But before we left, we put some final touches on our living room, one of the last rooms to be decorated. While we’re still looking for some wall art and small decorative items, all the big stuff is now in place.

We started by painting the backside of the front door a teal color to match the dining room rug. I still don’t know if it will stay this color forever, but for now it’s adding some life to the room. 


The rest of the room plays off our grey neutral color scheme with dashes of teal and coral. We ordered a roll arm sofa, which has a bit more sophistication for this formal living room. The coffee table is a leather tufted ottoman, which is topped with a tray we found at Cottage Furnishings in Laguna Beach, CA. 

I also grabbed a couple great cube ottomans which can serve as extra seats or tables for company from Homegoods. 




Sofa: Carlisle Roll Arm in Dark Heather Grey Velvet, Pottery Barn

Chairs: Lorraine Chair in Sand, Restoration Hardware

Rug: Color-Bound Chenille Jute Herringbone Rug in Cream, Pottery Barn

Ottoman Coffee Table: Bently Bonded Leather Square Coffee Table,

Ottoman Cubes: Homegoods

Whitewashed Tray: Cottage Furnishings

Side Tables: Tanner Nesting Tables, Pottery Barn

Lamp: Cole Task Floor Lamp in Bronze Finish, Pottery Barn

Curtains: Pavillion Stripe Silk Taffeta Draperies in Slate, Restoration Hardware

Entry Hall Mirror: Large Trumeau Mirror, Restoration Hardware

Wall Colors: Almond Wisp, Behr and Slate, Restoration Hardware.

Door Color: Arrowroot, Martha Stewart Paints