Lighten Up!

If accessories are like jewelry, and backsplashes are necklaces, then lighting fixtures are the earrings. In general a good lighting plan can make a big difference in your space.
Aside from the more pragmatic purposes, like reading, cooking, getting ready, lighting itself can be used to highlight features in a space. Beyond providing light, lighting fixtures, such as pendants and chandeliers, can enhance the design of a space by continuing the theme or extending the design concept. A great example of this is the use of the “Sputnik” chandelier in a mid-century themed space or the use of agricultural-style industrial lighting in a “farmhouse Chic” themed space.
The metals and glass in lighting fixtures always add some sparkle and help reflect light.
Heracleum Endless LED Linear Suspension by Bertjan Pot for Mooi Retailer:Lumens


Lighting can be pricey, but compared to other accessories, like framed art and backsplashes, they are very affordable. Great lighting gives you a lot of bang for your buck.
What ways are you using lighting in your space? Can you think of a space that a simple lighting changeout could get you some “style mileage”?
Willamette Chandelier by Rejuvenation

Making a (back)Splash!

This week I had lunch with my friend Tracey Gulli. Lunches with her are a mix between a mom support group, a design workshop, and a gossip session rolled into one. She has worked in the tile industry for years, so she’s a wealth of knowledge on tile. She also is the boss at designing tile applications. I’d been planning to do a tile blog and while I didn’t plan on interviewing her at lunch when I tole her about my planned post a quasi-interview commenced. So, I decided to incorporate her thoughts and our discussion into the blog. Without further ado… Making a (back)Splash!

Julie: So what is your approach to designing a backsplash?

Tracey: Well, you know backsplashes are like jewelry. They can really pull a kitchen or bathroom together, but they can also be overkill. Especially when they’re the last finish selected in the kitchen. Which is often the case with [backsplashes]. They’re an afterthought. The tile can compete with the other elements in the kitchen. Especially in really big kitchens with a lot of specialty cabinets and decorative appliances.

Bathroom Backsplash

Me: Yeah, especially when the counter surface has a lot of movement or a strong pattern.

Tracey: Right. In cases like that, you really want a backsplash that just blend in and is a workhorse. People will spend $1500-2000 on high end, decorative tiles that just make cleaning more difficult.

Beautiful kitchen backsplash with glass mosaic. Hides splashes and stains well.

Me: Right, uneven surfaces behind the sink and range can be really hard to clean. Particularly when the colors are very light or very uneven.

Tracey: Like with stacked stone backsplashes. Sometimes I think people meet with the builder and just want to et everything selected and see something like stacked stone, which is popular and looks nice, but it doesn’t perform well. Especially when you plan to cook a lot. Sometimes you just need something that is in the background and is a workhorse.

Modern kitchen with a marble backsplash. This one is a “workhorse”. Understated and serving a purpose, yet easy to wipe down.

Me: Yeah, I think of red sauce caught all in the little crevices. I think if you want a great backsplash, you almost have to design to it, rather than the other way around. If a client really wants a gorgeous backsplash, if that’s their priority, then I am starting the design with it because the client wants to invest there.

Tracey: Or, I always tell people to live in the space for a little bit. Figure out what’s going to work for you. If you keep a ton of stuff on your counter, you probably shouldn’t have a design that runs along the bottom or through the middle of the tile. Also, electrical outlets can be an issue. Since code requires an outlet every 4 feet in a kitchen, they can interfere with the lines and any decorative design that goes through the middle of the tile.

Me: Right, kitchen backsplash design can get dicey that way.

Tracey: The good thing is you’re not limited to the positioning of the outlet. So it can be turned horizontally, moved closer to the counter or even higher, closer to the cabinets to keep the tile design continuous. I always tell people, if your working with a builder, leave the backsplash alone until you’ve lived in the space a while. Figure out how much stuff you keep on the counter or how much you’re going to cook, know your space before you make the investment.

Me: Speaking of investment… Backsplashes can be pricey.

Tracey: Compared to counter surfaces and cabinets, they aren’t as expensive and add a lot of personality to the space, even when they’re simple. The tile can be a cheap as $1.25/square foot. Cheap, white field tile can be turned on an angle or made into a pattern and look like a million bucks. I did this for my sister. [shows me the image of a tub surround] The least expensive off-white field tile and a glass mosaic from Home Cheap-oh.

Tracey’s shower surround with the “Home Cheap-oh” tiles. Such a simple design and practical materials, but a really great look.

Me: Wow! That looks amazing!

Tracey: It can be a big investment, but it doesn’t have to be. Keep in mind that installation is going to cost at least as much as the tile. Mosaics and small pieces can be hard to position correctly and are time intensive for installers. Glass tiles have to be applied using a certain method or you’ll see trowel marks.

Me: And it’s so easy to take it off the wall and switch it out later.  So, any pet peeves? Mine is the little 4″ counter surface backsplash with a random mosaic stacked on top. It really shortens the are between the cabinets and counter surface and a lot of times it’s too busy.

Backsplash with the 4″ counter surface backsplash below the tile. This is a very busy look and the horizontal lines are very strong. The height of the backsplash is also visibly reduced from 18″ to 14″ inches.

Tracey: Oh my gosh that the worst! I hate that. People think its cheaper, but it’s not. Really its about the same price. A lot of builder don’t want to do tile from the top of the counter because they have to cut the counter so that it’s flush with the wall.

Me: And tile is cheaper that counter surface anyway. Counters can be upwards of $75/sf.

We rambled on about tile a little longer and some projects that we’re working on. But those are the most salient points:

  1. Plan ahead OR live in the space a while. If you know you want a beautiful backsplash, own it and make it your centerpiece.  Or, live in your home and then figure out what you need and want from a backsplash.
  2. You don’t have to spend a ton of money for tile, but you can. If you’re very budget conscious, you can create a great design with white field tile by using pattern instead of color.
  3. Don’t have your counter dealer or your builder install the 4″ counter backsplash. It breaks up the line of the tile and shortens the area between your cabinets and counter surface.
  4. If you select a counter surface that is busy, let your tile rest in the background or use the counter surface on the walls. If you want a beautiful, colorful, highly patterned backsplash, select a counter surface that is more homogenous in its coloration, like solid surface, recycled lass, or quartz.

Hope you all enjoyed this installation. Let me know if you like the interview. I’m thinking of doing a few more of these with some of my designer friends. If you want a fantastic backsplash and need a designer to help you, Tracey “the tile guru” Gulli is the master! Contact me or leave a comment and I’ll put you in touch!


Too Much Free Lunch to Digest? 

I’ll admit it. My last post was really long. So I’m going to break this one down a little bit, to make it easier to digest.
Coincidentally, I want to talk about remodeling the place where you eat: the kitchen! Kitchen remodels come in all shapes and sizes. Even when you’re not planning on doing much, you can still spend a lot of money.
I recently worked with a client who wanted to add a simple island. They were the DIY-type that just wanted some “intial ides”. I ended up making a few purchases for them, but because they live in another city, they made some of the big purchases themselves.
But an island… That seems pretty innocuous, right? Adding an island can be tricky and pricey. Two of the most expensive items in a kitchen remodel are part of an island- cabinets and counter surface. In some cases, residential building codes may require you to have an electrical outlet in the island. If you have a slab foundation you’ll have to pull up your flooring and dig a trench. And if your floor is tiled or glued wood, forget it. You’ll be replacing the flooring too. There’s very little chance you’ll be able to salvage and reuse it. You will be adding thousands in materials and labor costs.
As it turned out, they didn’t need to add electrical outlets on the island, so that helped the budget tremendously.
The full project cost around $3100. Here’s the breakdown:
Cabinets: – $1106.20
Cup style drawer pulls: $20
Counter surface: $1000 (includes labor and clients bought on their own)
Cabinet installation labor: $100
Chairs: $184.32
Lighting:  $235.47 (2 pendants)
Electrical: $150.00
Design services: $225.00 (concept board, renderings, project coordination)
Designer cost plus: $119.60
I also specified fabric for cushions and window treatments and paint, which you will see on the board. These will be added at a later time.
Kitchen Island Concept Board
The island turned out really nice. It’s a nice sized island at 48″ x 48″. The clients have a wood tile throughout the common areas of their house that has a slight red undertone, so we selected a counter surface that would pick up the ruddy brown tones. This client wanted to add seating and food prep space in the kitchen, but wasn’t quite ready to a full kitchen remodel. This meant planning ahead and coordinating with the existing finishes.
Cambria “Tenby Cream” Counter surface

The client likes the “farmhouse modern” style made popular by a certain “fixer-upper” couple and plans to use that style when she completes the final remodel. We selected a simple white shaker cabinet door and oil rubbed bronze finishes. The counter surface was a neutral quartz with a “low movement” pattern. It has some reddish brown color variation to tie in the color of the floor. The “low movement” pattern was selected so that we will be able to easily find a coordinating pattern when the full remodel is completed.

Completed Kitchen Island

A small project like this can have a big impact on the functionality and beauty of a kitchen. The $3100 price tag might seem steep, but when you breakdown the various costs and skills needed to pull it together, you can see how the costs can add up. At a “big box” store a project like this would have been at least $500-750 more because of increased pricing on the cabinets and lighting.

Next week I’m going to talk about tile backsplashes. A beautiful, creative backsplash is like jewelry for your kitchen. For the materials and labor, they can range in price from a little as $25/square foot to over $100/square foot, but they can also be a great way to update and personalizing the look of your kitchen without spending a fortune.