Cupboards and counters and tile, oh my!

When homeowners first begin a remodeling project, they often feel like Dorothy when she suddenly found herself in the Land of Oz.

At first, the idea of a new space is energizing and exciting. Everyone you talk with is clamoring for your business and you become obsessed with making selections. But gradually the prospect of remodeling can become scary and panic sets in.

Stop and take a deep breath because you aren’t in Oz. Take things one step at a time. Work with both a designer and contractor to keep your project moving in the right direction.

First things first

So where do you begin? In what order should you select cabinets, tile, and counters? Maybe you have an idea how much you want to invest and a desired time-frame.

To recommend  materials in the right price range, your designer and contractor need to know how much you plan to invest in the project. Be honest and you are less likely to be disappointed. Always buy the best quality you can afford.

Choose the cabinets first, then tile and counter material. Higher-quality cabinets offer more options for material, style, and finish.


In most kitchen remodels, the cabinets are the most costly component. For the best results, select cabinets and appliances of the same quality. Choose all appliances and be certain of their dimensions, including cutout measurements for any built-ins, before ordering cabinets.

If you want stone counter tops and luxury appliances, you need well-built cabinets to support them.

If you are replacing the floor, verify with your construction team and flooring dealer that the new material can bear the weight of cabinets and appliances. Certain types of flooring must be installed around these items, not under them.

Wolf Sub-Zero Kitchen
Photo credit: Sub-Zero Wolf

This kitchen features fine cabinetry and high-end appliances. Items that won’t cost a fortune to replace (or tear up the room) provide pops of color. Neutral browns, blacks, and whites used for the big-ticket items will stand the test of time.


It will prevent many headaches if you select your cabinet style and finish before choosing tile and counter material. Especially if you want white tile and white cabinets.

Photo credit: Wellborn Cabinet, Inc.

If you intend to use white for both tile and cabinets, please take the time to view the samples in all types of light and times of day, as we recommend when selecting paint in Choosing Paint Colors with Confidence.

In upscale bathrooms, fixtures and plumbing supplies are usually more expensive than cabinets, especially if you are installing anything other than a standard five-foot tub. Luxurious items, including tubs with whirlpool jets, LED lighting, and heater; steam and glass-enclosed showers with body jets and multiple heads; and high-end faucets, can easily exceed $10,000.

Hansgrohe luxury bath
Photo credit: Hansgrohe

A high-end modern bathroom, like the one shown in the photo above, requires a very large plumbing budget.

Putting it all together

When shopping for materials, be sure to bring all your samples. Arrange them on a contrasting or neural surface to ensure they complement each other. Request the largest samples you can get.

2015-07-31 15.55.20

If you do your homework and make informed decisions, you will be happier with the results. Because there really is no place like home.



Choosing Paint Colors with Confidence

Selecting paint colors can be a frustrating experience. Knowing the color you want and studying samples in the paint store is not enough to ensure you will be happy with your selection.

Before you spend time painting or hire a professional to do the job, it is a good idea to buy small cans of the colors you are considering and try them out. If you skip this step, the outcome could be an unpleasant surprise. There are multiple ways to do this:

  • Paint directly on interior walls or exterior siding
  • Paint on large poster board or wood scraps
  • Buy sheets of drywall, have them cut into large pieces, and paint on the drywall
  • For exteriors, buy birdhouses and paint them with all siding and trim colors

For the most reliable results, paint on the same surface you will ultimately use.

When testing interior colors, I like the drywall method. Be sure to use the same primer and number of coats that will be used on your walls. To keep it simple, test up to three colors at a time. Live with the samples for a few weeks.

Testing paint colors

You need to see your contenders in natural light, lamp light in both day and night, as well as indirect and indirect light. Be sure to move the boards around the room so you can see how lighting and reflections affect the color. The color of your furniture may change how the paint appears. Plants from outside are likely to add a greenish tinge to the paint.

For exterior jobs, I like the birdhouse method and painting on the siding. When we decided to change the color of our home from putty to a silvery gray, I painted a birdhouse to see if the new gray would go with our federal blue shutters:


After we were sure we liked the overall effect, I painted flowers on the birdhouse and left it outside. We get a nest and baby birds every year.

new porch and front door

The cherry stain on the front door and ceiling of the porch completes the traditional look of the house. Do you see how I used the birdhouse to test the new gray color with the blue of the shutters?

When decided to repaint last year, we wanted a darker color on the siding. I bought several small samples and painted large areas on three sides of my house and on the two walls of my screened porch.

If you have stone or brick on your house, be sure to test the paint in places where the two materials will meet. Colors that looks great on siding may look completely different near brick or stone.

Colors used on interior walls do not look the same when applied outside, so be sure to test in the location you plan to paint. I applied paint leftover from my bedroom hoping it would work outside. The green that appears soft and olive-toned indoors was yellowish green and harsh on exterior siding.


Over the course of a couple of weeks, I observed the colors in bright sunshine, cloudy weather and rain. It was spring and as the trees leafed out, the colors changed! We decided on a lovely shade of green. It stands up to the blue sky and bright green wrought iron dining set in the porch and surrounding foliage without turning blue or yellow.

The biggest change was painting our front door a tropical blue. It adds an unexpected punch of color to a traditional exterior.


I love how the blue of the door and green of the siding mimic the sky and the trees. The black shutters tie in nicely with the bits of charcoal in the brick and everything is in harmony. When colors clash you may not notice, but you might feel uneasy in your surroundings and not know why. When colors work, everything feels right.

For more ideas about testing colors, check out this blog post on Houzz:





Mother Nature is an Ornery Old Woman…

The more years I acquire, the less I think of Mother Nature as a benevolent force. Where I used to possess a strong back, eagle eyes, and boundless energy, now it’s necessary to make adjustments… limiting my time bent over unless I want to walk like a neanderthal… reading glasses… taking a break between tasks.

If your back is telling you it’s time to replace your oven, consider one that opens from the side or with French doors.

Bosch side-open wall ovendouble frdoor ovenbluestar french door range

So maybe she’s not all bad; in her efforts to preserve my health, Mother Nature has also made it difficult for me to eat white flour or too much sugar. So ciao, bello, to the Bobby Flay pizza dough recipe I’ve used faithfully for years and the banana bread recipe with two cups of white sugar. I began a search for recipes to replace the processed sugary treats with healthy replacements that taste decadent.

In the interest of time, I perused recipes on Pinterest rather than consulting my plentiful supply of cookbooks. The thing I have to keep reminding myself is that Pinterest is a visual site. Translation: just because it looks good, doesn’t mean it tastes good.

I found one delightful recipe that I’ve already made three times, and one epic fail, which I made twice. After today’s unsavory result, I tossed that recipe into the trash.

No-Bake Paleo Chocolate Avocado Pudding

If you read the ingredients on the boxes of processed foods, you might be shocked to find the first or second ingredient is sugar. Even items like bread and salad dressing contain sugar. And items made from flour contain bleached enriched flour, with all of the whole-grain goodness gone. Poof! Just like that. Processed food that is supposed to have a creamy emulsified consistency is often made that way with the addition of some type of gluten. If you want the recipe, just click the title.

The beauty of this recipe is its use of whole foods. The texture is amazing without one bit of gluten or added food starch. Mother Nature deserves props for this one.