Social Networking Navigation

Entries in kitchen (60)


Quartz vs Concrete


Quick questions for the Interior Design Guru if you have a sec:
Would you cover kitchen tile countertops with concrete?
Why or why not?





Hi Lolly,


Let me start by telling you the pros and cons of both surfaces.  Neither quartz nor concrete have visible seams.  Quartz is more forgiving with hot pans and does not need to be sealed.


Concrete, on the other hand is more flexible with shapes, inlays, edge and color options.  Concrete needs to be sealed regularly, but when it is, it, along with quartz is stain resistant.  (Tobi Gairley- quartz)

Personally, I like, have used and would continue to suggest both surfaces.  

I like using  quartz when I want a light color and a clean look. It is far more stain resistant than other light surfaces like certain types of marble.  (This is for a kitchen- I feel comfortable with the stain resistance of marble for bathroom use).  The marble above, for example, is gorgeous, but I am way too practical to put that on a kichen counter.  If I wanted that clean modern look, I would probably go with quartz, even though it lacks the natural movement and beauty of marble.  I would worry that my client would hate me after the red sauce or red wine spilled and curse words associated with my name would be flying around the kitchen.  If they insisted on it, I would make them sign all kinds of waivers.  ;-) 



I like using concrete when I am looking for a more distressed “used” feel, or a more “industrial” feel.  I would pair concrete counters with a distressed hardwood floor, or a chiseled edge travertine, or a brick floor.   


Quartz is a surface I would use if I didn’t want the counter to be noticed.  If I had a busy backsplash, and other points of interest in the room, and wanted the counters to blend in and not stand out, I like using quartz.  (If the home is very modern, and I am looking for a bright unnatural color, like blue, this doesn’t apply- but for most homes- this would be my thought process.)  I would pair quartz with a clean straight edge floor.


I would consider concrete to be more casual and quartz to be more formal.  If low maintenance is of highest concern for my client, I would go with quartz.  If my client were looking for a lower cost, I would go with concrete.  (It is not always lower- but I could probably make it lower by making it very simple.)


I hope that was helpful.  They both come in very different looks.  It is a decision I would make in conjunction with selecting the backsplash, cabinets and floors.  Go select the backsplash first.  It might make this decision for you, by clearly coordinating with one surface better than the other. 


Kim's Kitchen Re-Model

My sister Kim is re-doing her kitchen.  She is doing a semi-remodel of her kitchen.  She kept the cabinets, which were wood, and painted them white. She is bringing blue into the room with her cobalt glass collection and also painting her island blue. 


Her home was built in the 1800's and I wanted to make it blend in with the original portions of the home as much as possible.  I went with a simple white supbway tile and wood counters. The tile started going in today.


I just love the wood counters.  I suggest them to clients so frequently, and yet they are selected so infrequently.  They add so much charm to the space, and keep it from looking too "modern", like some more shiny surfaces could do.  I love to see wood counters when there isn't other wood in the room.  No wood floors, the cabinets are painted...  it's just asking for them.  The age of the home in this case made it a particularly good candidate.  Today Kim asked me what to do with the area above her refrigerator.  It currently looks like this: 


I have a few pieces of advice for Kim:

1.  Add a crown moulding to the top of the cabinets. All of the cabinets need a larger crown. 

2.  Add lights in the space over the microwave as well as over the refrigerator.  I'd have them on the same switch as the under cabinet lighting. 

3.  Add a false back to the area over the refrigerator.  It is too deep.  Have your family put a time capsule back there- how exciting for the next remodel in 40 years.  ;-) 

4.  Keep the cobalt going.  I like to see consistency in over-the-cabinet, or in this case, within the cabinet decor.  It adds continuity, keeps the space from feeling disjointed.  You don't need a lot, even two or three larger pieces, and you would be done.  Notice the area over the refrigerator in the photo below.  Two larger items, appropriately sized, works great.  Start with the same kind of scale.  If you want to add to your cobalt glass collection and add more smaller pieces, that would be great- but start with two or three larger pieces that fill the area nicely. 

5.  Add a few more bits of blue, but don't over-do it.  A graphic rug from Garnet Hill, (it comes in a 2 x 3- get two and put one in front of the stove, one the sink)

and a new Kitchen Aid would be perfect.

If you have some open wall space somewhere in the room, I would do a blue and white plate collage.  Even a small wall could hold a vertical row of plates hung on it. 



I'll post more of Kim's kitchen as it comes.  Her stove goes in tomorrow!


Kassey's Kitchen

Hi Christine,

I love your blog! You have great taste and I love your no-nonsense advice. Whenever I'm waiting to pick up my kids at school or their activities and I see on my phone that you've posted, it makes my day that much more fun.

I'm hoping you can help with my kitchen. We've wanted to update it since we moved in about three years ago but it wasn't until my faucet starting really leaking on me that I've gotten the sign-off from my husband to make some changes. Getting a light spray when I do dishes and the frequent changing of the  towels and drip bowl beneath the sink has finally started to drive me crazy!! Obviously, our plumbing skills are lacking.


I'd like to replace my countertops and probably refinish the cabinets, either darker or white. I'd also like to do something different than my current tile-from-the floor backsplash. Ugh. I do like the brick hearth in my kitchen and I like the color of the brick but I don't know how  to coordinate that brick with backsplash, counters and cabinet color. Help! I'm not much into modern style. I kind of prefer an old world or country kind of feel. Any advice you could send would be wonderful.


Kasey from Austin

Hi Kassey, 

I am glad that you want to keep the brick.  I find brick in kitchens very charming.  On your cabinets should you go light or dark?  I could imagine a light grayish off-white.  I think it would be great. 



I also can imagine a middle gray color as well. 

My first instinct was to go black on your cabinets, maybe with a light distressing.   I liked the idea of black, until I started thinking about counter colors, and backsplash colors.  I think the material that would look the best on your backsplash is a black or dark gray slate.  Not a lot of variation in color- a solid black would look terrific with the brick. Also note that you do not need the slate tile everywhere. Above your cooktop- yes, of course.  I think it would be cool to even put a slab of slate in that spot, and use it as a chalk board.  Then you can use beadboard in all of your other areas that currently has the ceramic tile.  Your counters?  I think a concrete counter, about the color of the mortar in the brick would be great.  With all of those darker backsplash and counter colors- I would keep the cabinets lighter. 

Go black or chrome in your new faucet  (right away!  ;-)  and also your hardware.  Here is a materials and finishes board for your made-over kitchen:


And just to spend a little more of your money- I added some new hardwood floors to your materials and finishes board...  Thanks for the kind words!




Lacey's Kitchen


Hello Christine,

                I ran across your website and I couldn’t be happier!  I am hoping you can help me please please please!!!  My husband and I bought a 1938 home.  We have updated every room and we are working on the kitchen now.  We have redone the cabinets in black. We painted our countertops grey and we have backsplash underneath the cabinets black, white, and grey with white grout. Our appliances are white. The only problem is the walls. There is a chair rail and it is just a disaster as you can tell by the picture. I have tried several different colors and cannot make up my mind so please disregard the décor and the mess. We are trying to get it all together.  Any help is greatly appreciated!!!!



Hi Lacey,

This is too easy.  I can do this blog post in 3 minutes.  REMOVE THE CHAIR RAIL!  Wow- that was so easy.  Can you see how much smaller the chair rail is than the door trim?  It's too darn small.  If you wanted to put in a larger one- we could talk.  ;-)  The next thing I want you to be careful of is making your 1938 home too modern.  Embrace the age of your home.  Don't try to make it look 70 years newer.   I can only see a glimpse of it in the pictures, but the backsplash is making me wonder if you need to pull it back a bit to 1938.  Be true to your architecture.  You have black white and gray, don't try to overdo it too much with red.  I have some strong feelings about red walls- you can read about them here. 

Add some more traditional elements.- Start with a runner or rug- like this striped rug from Wayfair.


Add Roman shades in your windows.  Here is a great fabric from Beautiful Fabric:

I would cover your walls in a wallpaper, like the one below from York:


Sometimes I walk into a home and I can see - oh, there's the original moulding, there's something added later, etc.  Your trim work should all go together, like a good addition to the exterior of your home.  Ideally, you would not be able to tell the new from the original.   New trim can be added, of course, but effort should be made to make it look original to the home.  (Not if you have ugly 1985 tract home trim- I'm talking to a girl whose home was built in 1938...)  For the rest of you - with newer homes- If you are replacing your baseboards, because they are small, etc., that probably means that you should also be replacing the rest of your door trim, window trim etc.  Frequently, if you do not, not only would you have issues with scale, but also style and width issues where your new baseboard meets your old door trim, etc.

 BTW, you painted your counters?  I'm not even going to go there.


Thanks for writing in,


P.S. When I said to embrace the age of your home, that doesn't go for everyone either. (Hello 1980's) I also want to note that there is a difference between parts of your home that are appendages of the architecture, like your kitchen cabinetry, trim work, etc, and your loose furniture.  Those are two totally different items.  I have a friend, who I hope doesn't read this post, who had a charming brick cape cod built in the early 1900's- and inside was a light maple contemporary Home Depot kitchen, with black and white tiles.  When you have a fabulous traditional home, embrace it!   If you want a modern home, go buy one. 


Wallpaper Wednesday- Elizabeth's Kitchen



Hi Christine! It's Elizabeth N. from Ohio. I'm a longtime reader of your blog, and a huge fan. I am finally putting aside my shy apprehension and coming to you seeking help in my kitchen.

We recently renovated the space and bought new cabinets and appliances. While there are a couple of things I would have done differently, I'm generally quite pleased with it. But now I'm stumped on three final decisions: (1) pendant lighting over the island, (2) backsplash, and (3) window treatments. I could use your help.

I love to cook, and in all honesty, I thought I was renovating the kitchen to give me better cooking space and to help us stay organized with our after-school paperwork. However, now that we've spent so much $$, I'll admit that I want some wow factor there. I want a kitchen that is stunning. I want to love it every day. I want to turn heads at parties. I want to hear 4-letter words under the breaths of even the most stalwart non-swearers. You get what I'm saying? I don't want a stale room that lacks visual interest.

That brings us to the backsplash: I love simplicity and my husband loves drama. I like white subway tile with a heavy bevel and gray grout. My husband says, "Great but you have all this space behind the range. What are you going to put there? Oh please don't make this boring..." I had thought about a field of stainless behind the range (with a shelf), but I ditched that because I don't want to keep it *that* spotless. A tile shop owner suggested white subways with tiny glass multicolored subways in a line through the middle of the backsplash, going up and around the range area in a rectangular formation. I think that's nice, but I don't think it's the look I'm going for. I don't want it to be fussy-looking, or forced, or glitzy-weird. I can't stand "froof." Any thoughts on this or the other two areas of indecision? Can this marriage be saved?

Thank you, Christine!



Hi Elizabeth-

Are you the Elizabeth that comments and gets my sense of humor?  If you are- then I wanted to say- thanks for laughing at my jokes.  ;-) 

I will try to be especially thorough in my response as a thank you.  I with I had read your e-mail sooner- and I would have been both thorough and fast.  But it's too late for that....

We will start with your backsplash.  First of all- your kitchen is really lovely.  You are doing a fantastic job.  I like the idea of a subway tile backsplash.  It is uniquely timeless.  Beware of trendy in something as permanent as a backsplash.  

I also like your idea of a subway tile that has a deep bevel and gray grout.  Also look at tiles that are hand-made.  The imperfect nature to them is really great.  The photo below is a handmade tile, the photo above is a machine made tile.


I would have to agree with you and disagree with your husband. When I look at the kitchen above- I don't think it needs anything over the cooktop- and that cooktop is much larger than yours.  The rectangular designs above a cooktop are called picture frames.  Picture frames look better and are more appropriate with larger spaces.  It is one of those things that people will see in a magazine over a 48 inch cooktop and try to imitate above their 30 inch cooktop- and wonder why the effect is so entirely different.    But- let's say we want to humor him. 

1.  You could change the material from a white tile to a Carrara marble.  This gives the room more of a wow factor.

Now let's pretend he still wants a picture frame over the cooktop.  You can keep it classic by using all Carrara marble.  Use a Carrara marble ogee chair rail, or large pencil liner- and fill the center with a different shape- same material.


So- now for over-island pendants.  I would keep it traditional- and beautiful.  Something like this one from Ralph Lauren Home:  Less expensive versions of the same look would not be hard to find.


A different thought altogether would be to go with your white beveled tile like you imagined- and bring in some interest in wallpaper and window treatments.

Select a wallpaper that has both white and additional colors in it.  I really like this one from the Masters Collection - Ronald Redding. 



Add a Roman shade on your window in a different pattern- but also bringing in your color:


The fabric above is from Lee Jofa

Add a third pattern on your table- the runner below is from William Sonoma.


Now- in 10-15 years you can update and change the entire look of your kitchen if you'd like to by re-wallpapering and changing your window treatments.  You get an entirely fresh look- without busting out any tile. 

Option B- would be to go with the Carrara marble- with that I would keep it all a little more formal- with a fabric like the one above for your Roman shades-  (also Lee Jofa) and paint your walls a soft gray- or use a more monochromatic wallpaper like the newsprint paper below from York .  I would add a black edge to the fabric above to help it to pop.


Two more things:

1.  Layer your Roman shades with a woven roller shade in coordinating tones. 

2.  Add live plants.  Notice the live plants in the kitchen photos above.  They really do add a lot.  They give your room life.


Anyone have a preference to share with Elizabeth- white tile with colorful paper and fabrics, or Carrara marble with shades of black and gray?