Subway tile: Trend or Classic

Do you think subway tile is too trendy? I hear this a lot. It’s not a particularly difficult question to answer, but I always feel like I want to expand on the answer a little.

I’ve said it before and it bears repeating, just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s not a classic. There are styles that are acceptable long after their popularity fades. They transcend the contemporaneous constraints that typically define trendiness. Chanel suits. Louis Vuitton handbags. Chippendale chairs. And yes, subway tile.

NYC Subway Ceiling

The reason I say this is that 3″ x 6″ white tile arranged in a running bond or straight bond pattern has been used for almost as long as subways have been around. They’ve been used in kitchens of the industrial type for nearly as long. So, needless to say, classic white subway tiles give a space a specific feeling. Vintage. Rustic. Industrial.

Subway style tiles in a commercial setting

That being said, white subway tile used in a residential kitchen can be used in many different interior styles. However, with the rise in popularity of subway tile, many variations on the classic have started showing up. There are glass versions. Elongated versions. Colorful versions. Each iteration taking the classic subway a little further away from classic.

Glass subway tile in a smoky tan

I’ve had clients worry that their backsplash selection will go out of style. Thereby leaving them with an outdated kitchen and feeling like they wasted money. The thing you have to keep in mind about a backsplash is that you can easily change it down the road. A beautiful backsplash is like a beautiful piece of jewelry, it can really add a lot of style, but it can always be changed!

As for not wasting your money, tile backsplash is a style investment, and like any other investment, the money can be big or small. A simple white ceramic tile backsplash can be as little as $2.00/square foot. Glass tile can be quite a bit more expensive with designer brands costing upwards of $100/square foot. An average kitchen has about 15-30 square feet of backsplash, so it’s easy to see how material costs can quickly add up. However, compared to counter surfaces and cabinets, the backsplash is going to be a smaller investment. Either way, you can switch out a tile backsplash if you want to freshen the look of your kitchen.

Transitional bathroom backsplash with mixed material mosaic and 4×4 white ceramic in a straight lay pattern photo credit: Hannah Glogower

My advice for making your selection: Let your style be your guide. If the style of your kitchen is classic and traditional, you will probably want to stick with more traditional shapes and applications – subway, 4″ square, ceramic, natural stone, neutral colors. However, if your aiming for a transitional, retro, or eclectic look, bring on the color and shape! You can really experiment with mixed surfaces, glass, metals, and handmade tiles! Ultra-contemporary or minimal? You might consider using the counter surface for your backsplash.

Contemporary kitchen with marble counters and backsplash

The Verdict: To make a long story short, subway tile is a classic! Subway tile may come in and out of popularity, but it’s a classic look that can work in many kitchen styles. However, if you feel like being brave, shake things up a little and get creative! You can always update your backsplash later!

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Trend or Classic: Mixed Cabinet Colors

One of the top questions when I work with clients on kitchen remodels: Is mixing cabinet colors too trendy?

It’s such a great look, that’s why you’ve seen it everywhere for the past 7 or 8 years. Most frequently, you’ve probably seen it in a transitional-farmhouse style. Usually, it’s a gray and white kitchen. However, the look has also been popular in other color combinations and in contemporary style kitchens as well. Popular combinations of this trend are the top-bottom combo, where the bottom cabinets are one color and the upper cabinets are another color. The accent furniture combination, where a china display or accent area area is a different color than the rest of the kitchen. The other combination, and probably the most popular, is the island-as-furniture combination. Images of these looks are below with photo credits hyperlinked.

The top-bottom combination: This kitchen has dark gray base cabinets and white lower cabinets. The darker color on the bottom helps ground the cabinets.

 

 

The “Accent Piece” Look: This kitchen divides the two-tone look by using white for the majority of the kitchen and gray for the plate racks and espresso station.

 

Island-as-furniture option: This island is stained a deep walnut color and looks like a piece of furniture compared to the cream colored kitchen.

 

Of these three looks the island-as-furniture look probably has the most staying power. Historically speaking, the island got its humble and practical start as a work table in 19th century Victorian kitchens. Thus, an island that is a different color and looks like a separate piece of furniture is nod to history.

My verdict on mixing cabinet colors: Classic, but it depends on how you do it!

Because I believe in creating timeless spaces, I think of “trendy” as something that looks outdated fairly quickly. Just because something is popular doesn’t always make it trendy. A lot of things can make a kitchen look dated: color scheme, counter surfaces, backsplashes. However, a true classic is something that speaks to the past in a timeless way. Kitchen islands with a furniture look are classic because they have they do just that.

If you’re ready to create a timeless classic look in your kitchen or bath, you can schedule your Design Style Consultation here.

 

Kitchen Cabinets: Reface or Replace?

If you are in the market for a kitchen remodel, you may be wondering what to do with your kitchen cabinets. There are so many options out there: you can completely replace your kitchen cabinets, re-face them, or re-surface them. What do those terms mean? What is the difference between each? How much do they cost?

Knowing which is the best option for your kitchen is the tricky part.

When I work with clients this is a common predicament. Mostly, clients are trying to mind their budget, but often they are genuinely confused about how to move forward. To clear up the confusion these are the three things I usually bring to table.


#1 Cabinet Anatomy

I like to start with a little bit of education. Starting with the structures that make up a cabinet is usually a good first step. The first myth I usually dispel is that cabinets are rarely made entirely of solid wood. The second myth is that you don’t want them to be made of solid wood! Lets take a look at the drawing below:

Anatomy of a Cabinet

 

The image on the left is the “box”. Think of the box as the skeleton or bones of your cabinets. Cabinet boxes are typically made of plywood, particle board, or MDF. This is a good thing! These composite wood materials withstand minor moisture changes better than solid wood, which will keep the box from warping. This is even more important in places with high humidity. The inside of the box is wrapped in a veneer or thin covering. Depending on the quality of the cabinet, that veneer can be a laminate or plastic veneer or it can be made of wood. Veneers also vary in thickness based on the quality of the cabinets. They can be a thin “sticker” type veneer or a several millimeters thick.

The image in the middle is the “face” of the cabinet. Cabinet faces are made of veneers. If you have wood cabinets, then your veneers will be made of the same wood and stained or painted to match. The veneers are the really important part of a re-facing job. I say that because the veneers that are part of your original cabinets were applied in a factory. The conditions in the factory are quite different than the conditions in your kitchen. Factories have a lot of environmental and quality control processes in place that ensure that the cabinets are free from defects. So, if you are thinking of refacing your cabinets, you have to consider that the veneers on the face of your cabinet may not adhere as well or may degrade more quickly over time because it wasn’t applied in a less controlled environment.

The image on the right illustrates the doors and the drawer. These are the most expensive parts of a cabinet. When refacing a cabinet, the doors will not be the doors fit to your cabinet in the factory. This may mean that the doors won’t fit as well or may not hang as well as the factory fit cabinets. Again, there are a lot of quality control measures in place in a factory that will not be in place when a local cabinet company comes into your home to do a re-face.


#2 What are your goals?

To really decide if you should re-face or replace your kitchen cabinets, ask yourself these questions:

Do I simply want to freshen up the look of my kitchen and make it look updated?

Are my cabinets giving me the storage I need?

Do I love the layout of my kitchen? Or do I need a more functional layout?

Do I want to move a wall to “open up the space”?

Contemporary Kitchen

If you find that you want or need a more open and functional kitchen or if you plan to move or remove any structure, you may be facing a major remodel. In that case replacing cabinets will be your best, and possibly only, option. However, if you are just looking for a shorter term cosmetic update, re-facing your kitchen cabinets might be the right option for you.


#3 The “B” Word: Budget

Obviously, budget plays a big role in what you can do with your cabinets and kitchen. If you have a small budget of $15,000 or less, unless you have a very small kitchen  you may not have the budget for a complete kitchen remodel. For a small kitchen you may also find that a major remodel isn’t even an option. You may want to focus on improving the cosmetics of the kitchen from the start. Re-facing cabinets costs around $90-125/linear foot of cabinets and new semi-custom cabinets start around $125/linear foot and go upwards of $300/linear foot depending on the finish, door style, and cabinet type. If you want painted or glazed wood cabinets with roll-out trays and deep drawers, you’re going to pay a premium price.

 

…And don’t forget to multiply that linear foot number by 2 if you want wall cabinets. So if you have 20 linear feet of wall space that you want to fill with base and wall cabinets, that include a pantry with roll out trays, deep drawers, a beautiful range hood, and a few wall cabinets with glass doors, you can expect to spend $12,000 to $20,000 on cabinets alone at most retailers.

Now, that you’ve picked your jaw up off the floor, it’s time to start planning your kitchen remodel and budget! Make sure to check out my post on counter surfaces here and you can grab a great guide for sampling paint here.

Or if you’re still struggling with your ideal style or planning your next project you can schedule your Design Plan Consultation here.