Smoothing it out

After completing our tile backsplash project, there was one more project in the kitchen that Nick and I wanted to tackle: our hardwood floors.

I’m not sure if the previous owners ran out of time or money, but it appeared they never sanded and finished the beautiful real wood floors they installed after completing the kitchen addition. It sounds like a minor complaint, but it made vacuuming and scrubbing the kitchen floors a pain.

Another frustration that I had was that our dining room chairs didn’t slide nicely across the floor; if I was sitting down, I’d sometimes have to stand up to pull my chair out from under the table if the chair legs got caught on the uneven floor boards. Anyone who has ever been stuck under a table and unable to slide back knows what I’m talking about!

Below is a photo I took one morning when sunlight was streaming into the kitchen; look at those uneven boards!


Like our tile backsplash project, we hired this one out…to the same company that did the tile work, just a different crew!

A few days after the backsplash was completed (to allow time for the grout and sealant to dry), we did some heavy lifting and emptied the kitchen of the remaining furniture and appliances.


We are lucky to have a wet bar with a sink, mini refrigerator and dishwasher on our home’s lower level, so we set up a mini kitchen downstairs for a few days, and the rest ended up in our dining room (our formal dining room table finally got some use – ha!).


The crew did a great job sealing off the kitchen from the adjoining dining and living rooms, there was very little dust after the sanding, and they even papered over our new tile backsplash to ensure it was protected during the work.

Since the space is so small the crew was able to sand, stain and seal the entire kitchen floor in one day. Since they used a water-based polyurethane, we were able to walk on the floors after 12 hours, but we waited two days to let it fully cure.

As a reminder, here is what the floors looked like before…


And the same area after is below – what a difference! Nick and I were really happy with how the floors turned out, since you can still see a lot of the color variation between boards (we were hoping that wouldn’t be sanded away).


The floor crew had to remove our quarter round trim to sand the floor; it didn’t come off cleanly, so they had to reinstall unpainted trim after the work was done. Once the floors were dry, Nick tackled the job of priming and repainting the trim around the entire room. While he looks pretty comfortable laying there on the floor, the painting took a long time and and was a real pain in the neck (and shoulder :)).


Since we had the kitchen emptied, we decided to repaint the room as well, from the original beige to light grey – a much more modern neutral. We painted the room the same color as the adjoining dining room, Toasted White from Martha Stewart.

The color change is subtle, but I’m much more fond of the new cool grey shade than the previous warmer beige.

Here’s a shot of the eat-in kitchen table before…


and the after…


And a before picture of the other side of the room…

galleybackAnd the after…

SideBafter Nick and I are so pleased with how the kitchen projects turned out. The tile backsplash adds more pattern and texture to the room and the paint color change makes the room feel lighter and brighter.

Vacuuming and mopping the floors is also much easier, and we no longer have to be worried about water or spills absorbing into the cracks.

All-in-all, I’d call this project a win!


Making a splash (tiling the kitchen)

Our galley kitchen was built as an addition to the house right before Nick and I bought it. We have a large dining room next to our kitchen (remember when we added board and batten), but we eat most of our meals at the small eat-in-kitchen table.


Our kitchen is cozy – about 200 square feet – but has lots of windows and feels light and airy despite its small size. Since the space was built new, everything in it was too; having new cabinets, counter tops and appliances means we haven’t had to do much to it, other than make it our own.

For awhile now, Nick and I have been wanting to add some personality and character to this room, since it felt rather boxy and boring, and we figured a tile backslash was an easy upgrade.

*I took these photos the night before the project began, and we’d already pushed the stove away from the wall…it’s not usually floating in the middle of our kitchen 🙂


Earlier this year I blogged about hiring an electrician to help with a few electrical projects around the house (the majority of our home is wired in old cloth covered wiring, which isn’t grounded and can be tricky connecting to modern wiring). At the time, I mentioned that the electrician finished the wiring behind a blank plate in our kitchen, which we had upgraded into a USB outlet for our iPad (aka our modern recipe box) since we have six other plugs on the wall.

I didn’t mention it at the time, but the electrician also disabled the wiring of a phone jack, so we could cover the the box with tile (we haven’t had a landline for a decade and it was just cluttering up the wall!).


With that prep work done, we turned our attention to tile selection. Because our kitchen is small and already has dark marble counter tops, we decided to go with a lighter, brighter color tile. After visiting several tile stores, we narrowed our choices down to two: white and an off-white bone. We eventually settled on white; and while that sounds very boring, it’s bright and clean and reflects light well and that really helps make small rooms feel larger. Plus, decorating trends and color preferences frequently change, but white never goes out of style!

The majority of tile sold in stores is a standard  3 x 6 inches. Given the petite size of our kitchen, we chose a slightly smaller and more contemporary 2  x  4 in. ceramic subway tile.

After choosing the tile color, we turned our attention to the grout. Nick and I were concerned that white tiles with matching white grout would be a real contrast to our dark granite counter tops.

white-subway-tile-decorating-22Pinterest provided lots of inspiration, and Nick and I agreed be both wanted the grout to stand out more with a contrasting grout color.  We contemplated a much darker grout, which is a style I love and is very popular right now, but it’s a very modern look and it felt too bold in our historic home.


We eventually settled on a light neutral grey grout. The grey color highlights the pattern and layout of the white tile, but its not overly contrasting and offers a more traditional look that blends in well with the rest of our home.


We considered attempting this project by ourselves, but the perfectionist in both of us won out and we decided to hire it out to a professional. We bought all of the supplies ourselves and only paid a few hundred dollars for the work, which was finished in two days. It was completely worth it (especially since all of our cabinets have under-mount lighting and any flaws would have been very noticeable).

*Our tile installer was unsure about using the grey grout and caulk, and I honestly questioned our decision for a hot second, but we trusted our instincts and went with the plan. When the job was finished, the tiler was surprised by how much he liked it, which made us very happy!




It was Nick’s idea to take the tiles all the way up the wall to the ceiling around the main kitchen window, and it turned out to be one of my favorite features of the project.


I’m very happy with how the white tile backsplash ties in with the sink and think its a good contrast to the darker counters. Overall we are very pleased with the results.

I’ll be back soon with a few more updates we made to the kitchen before sharing the final room reveal.