We had a whole week off from all commitments except our cabin reservations at Tims Ford Lake. That was just two nights, though, because the rest of the time, we had excitedly committed to finishing our kitchen, bathroom #2, and laundry room. Once we got back from our tiny vacation, though, things did not go as planned.
Trials, Tribulations, and Tile
The first problem was that we had ordered the kitchen backsplash tile back in August before we knew we were ripping out the kitchen. At the time, we were going to use our existing cabinets, paint them, and turn the uppers into open shelves. The only thing we were planning to buy was the tile backsplash. I chose an interesting off-white midcentury tile with rough edges that mimicked those long, skinny (and often white) midcentury bricks. It was expensive but more interesting than any of the trendy options I saw, and since my old kitchen had no specific style anyway (especially without the upper cabinet doors), I was really free to pick whatever I enjoyed looking at.
Fast-forward a few months: I realized I had tile that could possibly be wrong for our new kitchen, and then found out it was discontinued at The Tile Shop and wasn’t returnable. Since it was expensive, I hoped it could maybe work anyway, but I’d have to try and tape it to the walls to make sure.
Fast-forward again to May: I forgot to check and see if it worked, and thought I decided it definitely worked. Dave prepared the walls behind and started installing the tile. The first few pieces looked much better than the ripped-apart drywall that had been the backsplash for the previous six months.
But once they started stacking up, I started seeing what I had liked about it originally: awesome midcentury retro! Which was a total mismatch with my raised-panel cabinet doors that had come from ReStore! I studied it to see if there was any way around telling Dave that our time, work, and money were lost and to quit while he was ahead. Then I realized that nothing good has ever come from trying to like something just because it’s inconvenient to stop. That has always resulted in lots more time and money wasted.
Here’s how it went
Can you see what I mean? The tiles are neat, but they say one thing, and the marble countertop and traditional cabinet door style say another. And not only is a mismatch jarring, but it can also become boring to look at when the layers don’t build upon each other to make each element even better.
This kitchen is actually a mix of traditional (marble counters and raised-panel doors) and rustic (pine plank floors, rough cedar planks on the island, weathered metal island countertop, and vintage store fixtures instead of cabinets on one wall). That’s enough of a mix to make the traditional not too stuffy and also to be on-trend without being as easily dated. But throw in midcentury modern, and you have a big disaster.
Pull expensive tiles off the wall. Wipe them off and save them for a future project, and find a replacement immediately that looks so good that we don’t have to spend a lot of time feeling bad about what just happened. The other requirements (other than quick) were that it was something I would really enjoy looking at, not too trendy, and not expensive.
The first place we “shopped” was our boxes of tile in the garage that we had found at ReStore and had planned to use somehow in our master bath. We had two boxes of marble subway tiles, many sheets of marble basketweave mosaic tiles, and several large squares of soapstone. The basketweave looked too trendy and bathroom-esque, so we went with the marble subway tiles. We laid a few against the wall in the kitchen and loved them immediately.
The ones we had were the leftovers from someone else, who seemed to have given away the darkest gray, most orange-y, and whitest, as well as the chipped tiles to ReStore (which I think are Calcutta marble, which has pure white and deep colors in the veining). We also had a box of someone else’s leftovers, which were all about the same medium-gray Carrara marble. This added up to half of the square footage we needed. We also had five 16″ marble square tiles we could cut and also a bunch of round edge pieces we’d found at ReStore. To fill in, we picked up some more at The Tile Shop and tried to sort through our piles of different-looking marble to lay out a nice pattern.
It took an hour to cut the large tiles down to size, and since the subway tiles now came from four different sources (two different kinds from ReStore, one kind from The Tile Shop, one kind made from cutting down 16″ squares), they weren’t all exactly the same size. But here’s how it started looking:
Since cool colors are popular right now and not warm ones, we got to use the warm ones that someone didn’t want. You can see how they wouldn’t fit in if you wanted it to be just cool gray and white.
Why I liked The Mix
But for us, I like the mix for a couple of reasons. For one, trends change, and I still want to like my backsplash when people start liking warmer colors again and two: we have soft matte brass knobs on the upper cabinets (you can see them in the picture above but may not be able to tell what they are).
These tie in well with the warm colors in the marble. Also, I get tired of seeing the same thing all the time in kitchens, and while I really like the current trends right now, I don’t want to have the exact same thing.
We also needed to choose if the little bump-out above the stove that Dave built as a shelf for oils would have a different tile in it. I tend not to like the idea of a square of accent tile above the stove because it’s really just a major decoration that you can’t change (and the possibility of future change without major expense is important to me).
But one thing I have loved lately is the arabesque tile. It was popular in the ’60s but has come back in neutrals, and I love the shape. So here’s our idea for behind the stove:
This is the tile sample from the tile store and is lying on its side, so it’ll fit. We will have it oriented vertically. It has brownish “distressed” edges that tie into the browns in the marble, and the rest is gray, which ties in as well. I enjoy looking at this tile and am planning to take the risk on datedness because I love it have been wanting to use it for a long time! One thing I am cautious in doing is putting marble tile next to ceramic (which I am doing above), but since the ceramic arabesque tiles are so thick and different from typical ceramic tiles, I think it works just fine.
That’s as far as we are for now on the kitchen, and we were able to make some more progress in the laundry room and kid bathroom. Here’s a preview of the laundry room:
More about that later!