Tuesday, January 22, 2013

mi madre saves the day.

This past October, my mama made all sorts of magical things possible.

First, I celebrated my thirty-second birthday. I think it's pretty clear how my mom was involved in orchestrating that event, but truly...she's freaking awesome, and the older I get, the more I appreciate her.

Carvel ice cream cake from friends. #homerdonutnoises

Second, there was the teeny tiny realization that I had neglected to plan a backsplash for the kitchen, and my mother ultimately saved me from Volcanic Meltdown Mode.

Yep. Just completely forgot about the backsplash. (Blame my advancing age?) When we were finishing up with the counters, it hit me that we'd have to do SOMETHING with the wall behind the range and between the counters and cabinets. I wasn't about to re-use our foxy backsplash of yore...

...and I'd chosen to get the countertops cut straight across, instead of including a backsplash, both for aesthetic and monetary reasons. That left an unappealing, raw expanse of drywall above the counters that would no doubt be a bitch to patch and paint.

Although, let's be real: At this point, anything I needed to finish for the kitchen was kind of a bitch. It was my first time doing any kind of major house updating, and, eight months in, fatigue was taking over. But I'd heard that installing a backsplash was one of the easier DIY jobs to do, so even though bile rose in my throat every time I imagined wet saws and grout, I went ahead and chose a tile. Needing some inspiration (see: forgot to plan a backsplash), I decided to go straight to the source: The Tile Shop.

Initially, I saw myself going for a colorful tile, maybe one that would accent the blue walls.

I loved the blues and greens, and the colors probably would've gone great in the kitchen, but this tile was a little too bathroom-y for my taste. In fact, all the bright blue tiles I saw screamed "RESTROOM" to my eyes. (Not literally. Although that's probably the wave of the future...talking tiles.) I started looking at subway tiles instead, and surprised myself by being drawn to the white ones.

Usually I'm a sucker for COLOR COLOR OBNOXIOUS COLOR, but when I brought home a sheet of white subway tiles and posed them atop the counters, it just felt right. OMG, a decision made easily - either a sign of refining my taste or reno fatigue. Who cares? Either way, the decision was made.

That is, until I returned to the store to purchase all the tile and installation materials...and someone sexy caught my eye.


White hex ceramic tile. Yeah, it surprised me, too, but everything about it was perfect - there were some subtle gray undertones for added interest, it was glossy and clean-looking, and it was an unexpected choice in terms of shape. I do love the sleekness and order of subway tile, but it's a trend that - like all trends - will come and go. Hex felt more unique, more me, and at $5.99/square foot, totally affordable. (I also got 10% off, thanks to Young House Love's perma-sponsor-discount...woo!) I snatched up 38 square feet, along with some Whisper Grey grout.

Buuut about that installation. I just couldn't do it. I had absolutely zero desire to tackle another new-to-me DIY project. In every project, I think it's good to step back and ask, "Is this worth it?" "It" could be anything - time, energy, money, scale, permanence, whatever. For the backsplash - and the kitchen in general - DIY'ing had been half the fun. (Okay, "fun" is a strong term.) (And so is "half.") Now that they're done, I absolutely love looking at various aspects of the kitchen, from the cabinets to the flooring to the lights, and knowing that I'm intimately familiar with everything it took for them to look like they do. And there's no way I could have afforded to pay someone else to complete the projects we completed on our own. So yes, DIY is usually great.

But it was October, yo. It'd been eight months since we started our little kitchen update. It was cold outside. I'd learned a great many new skills. I was already intimately familiar with every aspect of the kitchen reno - sometimes overly familiar. Didn't need to know about Ground Zero of Spiderville or mouse poop hiding on top of my dishwasher, thx. Overall, let's face it: My enthusiasm had dwindled to nil.

I was on the phone with my mom one night, telling my tale of (first-world, middle-class) woe. She had one simple inquiry: "Why don't you just hire someone to do it?" I told her it would totally break our budget, which technically already had been broken by the counters. She asked if we had the money available to pay someone to do the install. Officially, yes; just not in the kitchen budget, which had become set in stone in my mind. Being the fabulous mom that she is, she understood my need to stick to the budget (hell, it's probably HER genetic weakness passed on to me), and - hold on to your butts - she offered to pay for the install for my birthday and Christmas presents.


Within a week, I had an appointment for a highly-recommended handyman to take care of business. And at the end of Day One, I returned home to this beautiful sight:

Actually, truth be told, I was unnerved by the way the tile looked after Day One. It was busy and seemed jarring, adjacent to the counters or cabinets. I have absolutely no experience with backsplash installation, so I underestimated what a huge impact grouting would have. Thankfully, when I got home on Day Two, not only was the job done, but it was done well. And it looked freakin' fabulous.

A reminder of the Backsplash Before:

And After. AHHHH! I die. I die! 

Of course, this last picture highlights some of our final tasks to be accomplished - specifically, rewiring the outlets on either side of the sink to be GFCI outlets, and installing a light over the sink (for the first time since December of 2009) and two ceiling light fixtures. Also, um, I still needed to patch the ceiling over the sink, paint the caulk between the cabinets and counters, add some storage solutions, design a desk/frame wall, and put some endcaps on the backsplash (wtf? No one warned me about those).

But, oh, that hex tile...and the fact that I DIDN'T HAVE TO INSTALL IT (thank you, thank you, thank you, Mom!)...it was like a balm on my soul. No, seriously - staring at the kitchen and imagining the Befores and Afters, stroking the smooth hex tile, using the "spray" and "stop" functions on the pretty faucet....Look, I know it's only a kitchen reno, but I was (am) ridiculously proud of it. Nothing like admiring a job well done.

And - spoiler alert - the day did finally come when it was officially done. The blog is just taking a while to catch up. Mostly because I can't stop staring at the kitchen. :)

1 comment:

  1. wow, lovely! Beautiful colors--and it's always nice when you come across a project that's fun and easy to do, with great results.
    subway tile



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