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Larkspur Project: Kitchen Before and After

Builder grade...but NOT basic

Larkspur Kitchen After(1).jpg

I know I know this kitchen and house are long gone by now but I mean I had no time. And now I have time. So here we go.....I wanted to share with you guys a little about this kitchen because I love it so much.

The reason I took on this house was because it was a lower priced home compared to my previous projects. I was really looking forward to designing something bold but on a really tight budget. The budget and space constraints got me all excited.

Check out the before in all of it's stock cabinet glory.

LarkspurProject Builder Grade before Kitchen

I know the cabinets look like the downside in this kitchen (as well as some other things), but actually I was quite pleased that these cabinets were already here. In fact, it was a deciding factor to purchase this home. If you saw my Insta stories or highlights about designing this kitchen, you saw me discuss several options on how to handle this kitchen. Here were my options:

  1. Remove all of the cabinets and start fresh with new white shaker cabinets

  2. Buy all new unfinished cabinets and paint them

  3. Work with the cabinets that were already here and fill in with more cabinets from Home Depot

And this my friend is why I like to do my own floor plans and order my own cabinets. Had I taken this dilemma to a contractor or kitchen store, I would've 1. spent hours torturing some poor unfortunate soul asking them to tell me ALL of the versions OR 2. would've been pressured into buying the white shaker bc $$$. So, can you tell which version of the above 3 options I chose?

Number 3!

Here's why:

Buying all new cabinets (Scenario 1) for this kitchen would've cost me somewhere around $2500-$3000. This is PEANUTS when talking kitchen reno. I mean seriously this kitchen is small and that is not a very large sum of money if we are talking renovating the whole damn thing with brand new cabinets. BUT, I could do better.

I knew I wanted to make this kitchen bold since it was a small house and because I'm me. I love me a nice white kitchen, but I also knew I'd been there done that a million times. Don't get me wrong, I will do white kitchens again and have. I just wanted something BIG. Different. I wanted to paint the cabinets. So, I thought if I was going to just paint them, why not buy new unfinished cabinets. They are the most inexpensive cabinets alive and in-stock at Home Depot. To buy all new unfinished cabinets would cost me only $1500! Don't forget the cost to paint them, obviously. But still that would be less than all new white shakers.

The final idea was to keep what was here and fill in with the "finished oak" in-stock cabinets from HD. The tricky, misleading part was that the "finished oak" cabinets were more expensive PER CABINET than the unfinished. However, once I accounted for the cabinets I already had, to fill in with the rest came to around $900. DONE DEAL. 

***I could not fill in with unfinished cabinets, even though I was going to paint them because the cabinet door design was not the same.***

The only way this would work was if the original cabinets were in good condition and that I could work with them to form the new layout. Because of course I changed it. Here is the original floor plan. The fridge there on the left, no dishwasher and the range on the right wall. The wall opposite the sink was empty, presumably for an eat-in-kitchen space.

Builder grade cabinet kitchen before
Kitchen Layout Before

Even though this house was small, there was a room when you walked in that was not being used as anything useful so I decided to turn it into a dining room to free up this blank wall to help this kitchen double in size. Here is the new layout.

Magic Plan Layout Larkspur Project

So, you can see I relocated the range to where the fridge was so it could have cabinets and counters on either side. I added a dishwasher and also moved the fridge to the opposite wall. I  flanked it with a pantry cabinet for balance, as well as some other cabinets and a space for the microwave. I also added a butcher block island after the fact which is not shown on this plan. The red box represents where a counter would span over an empty space. In this area I'd have enough room for 2 stools, so there was some seating in here after all. The counter space doubled in the new arrangement.

I use Magic Plan to make my floor plans. It's easy and gets the job done. In my plans I label the cabinets so the installers (and I) know what goes where and what was staying. I left out filler pieces which is why you can see gaps in some areas. I get lazy on my own projects. I do this same kind of plan for client designs. See more about client consults and eDesign here. 

"I don't normally put microwaves in houses, but this one was just so cute and I wanted to stage around it."

The only cabinet that didn't make the cut from the original kitchen was the sink cabinet. To be able to fit the range and dishwasher AND sink on this wall, I had to opt for a much smaller sink cabinet. And don't you know they don't make a 24" sink base cabinet. So, I bought a regular 24" base, had my contractor take the drawer part off and affix the drawer front to the cabinet. Problem solved. The sink I bought is extra deep to make up for not having the width of a 30-36" sink. It feels huge.

Larkspur Kitchen After Island and Light.jpg

So, let's talk about the design itself. I know the black on top is unexpected and that is EXACTLY WHAT I WAS GOING FOR. How else was I going to make a bold statement with builder grade cabinets!? I actually thought I initially wanted to do black on bottom and white on top, but I've done that. In fact while I was designing this kitchen I got some photo updates from a client that I did exactly that design. I had forgotten. I needed to switch it up. So I did just that. Only problem was I was freaking out because I had never really seen it done. I went for it anyway thanks to some encouragement from a friend to "SHUT UP AND DO IT." Fine.

I had to really commit from the very beginning. I couldn't hem and haw about it. I thought I could always repaint if I didn't like it. Only thing was that this kitchen was tiny and I didn't want stainless appliances breaking up the color palette. So, I had to choose my appliances and go for it. I chose the white appliances so all of the bottom cabinets and apps could work together to pull it off. To further this commitment, I chose coordinating cabinet hardware. I couldn't find matching white knobs and pulls I liked so I spray painted some white.

TIP: When choosing hardware, think about what you want to see. It's not enough to just choose the one finish you have decided to go with in the space. For instance I could've gone with stainless, all black or even brass (the light is brass). NOPE. I didn't want to see any hardware so I made it blend. If you're designing your kitchen, and let's say you want to do black faucet and black lighting, don't think for a second you have to do black hardware on your cabinetry. Do you want to see black lines or dots all over the place? Maybe you do. But if you don't, then give yourself permission not to match.

Larkspur Kitchen Black Wall.jpg
Larkspur Whole Kitchen After.jpg

To break up all of the black and white, and to keep within a tight budget, I chose a butcher block counter and used some leftover butcher to make shelves above the sink. These were necessary. Sometimes it's not about the color (or lack there of) you are putting on the wall, it's about what you want to STAND OFF of it. I wanted that black cabinet and wall so I could have the items styled on shelves and the counter stand out.

Speaking of the wall, let's discuss no backsplash. BECAUSE BUDGET. So little. But also, I wanted something different. It's not enough to just be different for different's sake, though. It also has to stand up to splashes. The cabinets had to as well. Throw another wrench in the system in the fact that I wanted it to be matte finish. Can you imagine a big ole shine coming off of that wall? So, I headed to HD and asked them which paint I should use and they told me Glidden Diamond Flat Enamel. It was meant to be scrubbable which sounded perfect for this application. Through the construction process the paint got dust all over it and needed a scrubbing. I did. It worked. No paint was removed in the scrubbing of this wall.

Matte Flat Black kitchen cabinet and painted black backsplash

The final piece of the puzzle were the floors. I didn't want to demo the tile throughout the entire house so I chose to try this vinyl product from HD that lays right over the top of tile!

Vinyl planks laid over tile
Black upper cabinets and white appliances with vinyl plank flooring over tile, butcher block counters

I'm so pleased without how this budget kitchen turned out. We all want to break the bank when renovating a kitchen. Sometimes it is "necessary" or even exciting to start all over from scratch. In this case, I was happy to not only be able to salvage what was there but also transform it into something bold and different AF. Below is the BEFORE AND AFTER! 

IMG_0102.JPG

If you're curious about where to find the items in this kitchen, check the links below. *There are affiliate links included.*

The process I went through with this kitchen from thinking through all of my options to finding budget friendly finishes and creating a bold design is exactly what I do every single time for my flipping and homeowner clients. Clearly the design will always be different for each house and current/future occupants, but the process is the same. I always start with a consultation where we hash out the options until we come to a final conclusion, just like I did on deciding the cabinet situation here. If you're interested in learning more about design consults, click below.


SHOP THIS THIS ROOM

 

ACCESSORIES: 

Artificial Cactus: Target

Marble Cheese Board (Similar): Target

APPLIANCES

Dishwasher: Home Depot

Hood: Signature Hardware

Microwave: Home Depot

Range: Home Depot

Refrigerator: Home Depot

FLOORING: 

Home Depot: Home Depot

FURNISHINGS:

Stools: Amazon

HARWARE:

Pulls: Home Depot

LIGHTING:

Ceiling Light: Amazon

PAINT:

Color: Behr Black Boudoir

Paint: Glidden Diamond Flat Enamel at Home Depot

PLUMBING:

Sink Faucet: Amazon

Sink: Amazon

Sink Garbage Disposal Adaptor: Amazon

To shop my other designs, head to the "SHOP" section in the navigation bar and choose "SHOP THIS ROOM."

10 Ways To Use Subway Tile That Aren't Boring AF

I still love subway tile. Sue me. I know there are people out there that are so over it but I'm not one of them. It's neutral. It's inexpensive. It's timeless. What's not to love? I know it is all the rage to use cement tile, mosaic tiles and colored tiles and I'm down with that, too. But, there comes a time and place that you might want to use subway, whether it's to tone down a room a bit to balance out busy tile or you might simply like to have that classic subway look. Maybe you want to use subway tile for its nice price tag. That doesn't mean it has to be boring. Let's look at some bathrooms to see how subway can save the day.

Click any of the photos shown below to see more about that room.

1. Disappearing Act

Why not start this subway tile list with why I use it so I can't see it! Yeah it's like that. This might seem boring but actually it's PERFECT in helping the other tile STAND OUT. For instance, in the bathroom below, you can see the arabesque tile on the accent wall. You may not even be able to tell that the shower faucet wall has subway tile. THAT IS THE ENTIRE POINT. I wanted the back wall of this tiny bathroom to stand out. Had I used that arabesque tile in the whole shower, it would have been quite overwhelming. Now, your eye goes straight to the back of the room making it feel larger, while the subway tile sits back and keeps that wall from getting in the way. To make sure the subway pattern didn't compete with the focus tile, I used white grout so it would all fade away. This is also a good with cement tile and busy mosaics.

2. Go Vertical

Subway tile doesn't have to be laid in the classic brick pattern. I've tried every pattern known to man in my renovations. Here is one where I did a vertical subway pattern with a 4" x 10" subway tile. The larger tile and the vertical spin makes this bathroom just a little different. 

3. Vertical In A Brick Pattern 

Want a modern spin but like the traditional look of subway tile? Turn it vertical and do a brick pattern on its long ends. For some reason vertical just feels modern. Pair it with a modern shower head and curtain. 

Pro Tip: When describing how you want your tile laid to contractor, be sure to draw it out on paper or on the wall! As you can see with this example and the one before it that we can call them both "vertical brick" but they are two different patterns! Don't assume they can read your mind.

4. Herringbone VERSION ONE

In the next kitchen we wanted to have a fun pattern but not get too crazy. There is a bold accent wall in the adjoining dining area, so we needed to stay a little low key. We chose to lay the subway tile in a herringbone pattern. To be sure the pattern stood out, we used a darker charcoal grout.

5. Herringbone VERSION TWO

While this isn't your classic white subway tile, here is another herringbone pattern example that could be done with subway tile.

Pro Tip: Again be sure you draw out how you want the herringbone pattern to go. I don't even know what this is called but I showed up to the house and this is how it had been installed. What I really wanted was a W pattern but I didn't draw it out. I thought W was enough words. It was not. I still like this way, too though! So, you can now see there is a third herringbone pattern which would be where it looks like W's or M's.

6. Modern Stack

Go ultra modern with this vertically stacked version. To make sure any subway tile pattern stands out, use a darker grout color.

7. Stick With The Classic 

Sometimes you just want that regular ole brick subway pattern! The master bath in this home got a wow-ing shiplap shower, so I felt like I needed to tone it down a little here as well as stick to a tight budget. So, instead of blowing my budget, I decided to stick with the classic but punch up the wow factor somewhere else. THE CEILING. The fun doesn't have to be all tile related. If on a tight budget, find your focal point outside of tile.

8. Go Casual

Using a more unusual subway tile can help add texture to your room. This tile from Floor & Decor adds texture to the walls without being too busy and taking away from the fun wallpaper accent. The tile has a wavy, wonky edge to it that gives it a more boho-relaxed vibe.

9. Go Formal

On the flip side of the casual tile, choose to go more traditional with a beveled tile. A bevel tile adds texture to your wall and an air of classic formality. I choose to let the bevel do the talking, not the grout. Keep the grout white to enhance that 3D effect.

10. Random AF

You could just throw them up there and they land where they land. That said this was not random. Ok it is but it isn't. My tile installer spent much much time laying these out on the floor so we had just the right look. I used this ombre pattern to represent the nearby mountains here in Phoenix. I used different colors to achieve an ombre look, but you can use just plain ole white tiles if you like. You could use a bunch of different colors. Break all the rules. It's your shower, dude

I know this is not an exhaustive list so I will be working diligently to tile more bathrooms and kitchens so I can post about them. :) Get with me if you need help designing yours! Maybe you'll make the next list!

 
 

Before & After: Client Abstract Gets A New Kitchen

Gray Kitchen with Subway Herringbone Tile and Quartz counter tops

Client Abstract had been living with her blah oak laden kitchen for years. Not only were her oak cabinets a seriously depressing shade of....oak, the brown floors and the beige walls were just not helping matters. She tried everything she could to give it some life by infusing some decor and a bit of her own bold artwork. Wasn't working. Nothing could overcome the beige!

Beautifying it was only have the battle. You can see in the photos that the room is quite large, but the layout of the old kitchen was ridic. The sliding glass doors are placed right in the middle of the room separating the kitchen and dining area. Now the kitchen is all squished into one side making the center of the room useless. The appliances are all sitting on top of each other, meanwhile there is a dance floor size space going unused. Unless you're dancing of course.

Oak Cabinet Kitchen Beige with Dance Floor

I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that this one was a tricky floor plan to overcome. It was a big room, but very long and not very wide if you're going to try to squeeze an island in. Also, the length of the room was becoming an issue because we needed to include a way to allow the dogs to get out to that section of the yard. The doggie access point was right in the middle of where we wanted the new kitchen.

Moving on to the other side of the space was the dining area. Client Abstract wanted to put in a new slider to the pool deck here. We'd need to move the one in the middle of the room to make way for the new kitchen, so this was a good plan. But, space was already an issue. It was getting pretty tight as it was.

Dining Room Before with Red wall

I ask a ton of questions during design consultations. Through this questioning I want to know what people want, but I also try to discover what it is they REALLY want. Many of my clients hire me because they have so many ideas and need help making sense of and weeding through them all. It's my job to take those ideas, try to implement many of them but also make sure that the overall goal (what they REALLY want) is achieved. Client Abstract, for instance, wanted a bar area in the dining room. After some debate, we realized it was a fun idea, but in reality it would probably just collect dust and be in the way. Not only that, all of those bottles would really take away from the new uncluttered vibe we were going for which is what she REALLY wanted. So, instead of a bar we made sure there was a dedicated area in the kitchen cabinets for the booze, as well as a wine fridge to take care of the important stuff.

So, back in the kitchen I set to work trying to come up with a game plan for these cabinets. We originally thought a peninsula coming off the wall where the original sliding doors were was the best option since the room wasn't very wide. Only problem was that it eliminated the doggie door. There was just no way to fit the sink, the range, a peninsula and room for seating on the wall and still allow for the doggie door. We also didn't want to move the sink because we didn't want to move the plumbing or do new flooring. To move the plumbing, we would have had to jackhammer up the floor since houses here in Arizona are generally on a slab. No basement ceiling to run plumbing through. The flooring was in good shape and replacing the entire first floor would be a huge expense.* Long story short, a peninsula wouldn't work.

An island would work but could only be 2 feet deep to allow enough room to move around it. Also, we'd have to axe that arch that looked important but was just really in the way.  Client Abstract didn't mind losing the arch, but didn't like the idea of looking at the kitchen and seeing the side of an island. Hmmmm....then I discovered the answer. An angled island. It was weird, but good weird. AND it worked.

Long Skinny Island Floor Plan with Angle

In real life the island is not angled this much. We set the cabinets exactly where we wanted them to allow enough clearance all the way around. The red lines in the floor plan indicate countertop placement. We were able to angle the island because the counter on the range wall ends while the island continues. Normally you wouldn't have the island jut out longer than the cabinets on the opposite wall, but then again Client Abstract and I are not normal. The angle helps the longer island feel balanced in the room. We put 2' deep cabinets in the straight section of the island so it could house an trash bin cabinet and plenty of storage. The angled section we made 1' deep with an overhang to allow for seating. Here's the new and improved kitchen.

Angled long skinny island with gray cabinets
Gray Kitchen Cabinets with White Quartz Countertops, Sputnik chandelier and wire pendants

You may have noticed in the floor plan the area opposite the island that had a counter overhang. Also seen in the photo above where there is a counter but no cabinets below. Say hello to the doggie door!

Doggie door built into cabinetry

This is one of my favorite parts! I felt like a mad kitchen scientist when I came across this idea. Putting the doggie door "in" the cabinetry allowed the counter to extend under the new window replacing the slider. We wanted the width of the new window to match the existing window over the sink. The doggie door closes and locks if Client Abstract is away. If she or a new owner are no longer in need of a doggie door, they can frame in and drywall the area inside and slide a stool or a rolling cart under the counter. Shelves could even be made to fit the space.

On the other side of the room is where I put my client to work. Don't worry, she was game. We needed something on that far wall as an accent to break up all of the white paint and her husband wasn't feeling the whole wallpaper thing. I found in her Pinterest boards a piece of abstract art that looked like giant black brush strokes. I knew she could pull this off after seeing some of her work around the house. It would be perfect! Nice and bold, but yet would not detract from the monochromatic uncluttered feel of the room. She did a great job!

Abstract Black Brush Strokes Accent wall
Gray Kitchen with Abstract Art Accent Wall

My client was also gifted this great mirror that kept with the theme of uncluttered-ness, but also was useful in reflecting the light from the new patio sliding door, as well as a view of the pool. 

I'm very happy with how it turned out, not only in aesthetic but in how it worked for my client's needs.

Before and After: Oak to Gray Cabinet kitchen
Before and After: Dining room with abstract black and white accent wall
Gray Kitchen Cabinets, White Quartz, Herringbone Backsplash

Even though there are twice as many cabinets and added seating now, the new kitchen feels much more open and airy. I can only imagine the sort of buffet she could serve on that huge 12' island! She could even take the booze she was going to have in her bar and set up a mixing station with plenty of space left over. I see many parties in her future.

Want your very own kitchen design? We offer consultations, room design (in Phoenix) and e-design services! Learn more



*Side note: we did have to run electric in a small trench to the island but got lucky! The tiles popped up and we were able to replace them no problem. 

Flipper Tricks: How to Finish Off Tile Edges

When you're in the renovation biz, you'll come across all sorts of problems you never even considered. What you think is a simple project, installing a backsplash or tiling a shower wall, creates other problems you must then solve.  GRRRR!

One of those issues that has turned up for me countless times is how to finish off a tiled edge. One might assume with bullnose tile. Of course! But that's not always an option or maybe not even preferred. Sometimes, matching bullnose tile is not available at the store. And, let's assume that we don't have cabinets to finish off the top either. Even if we do, there is often that inevitable area that juts out just passed the cabinetry that needs to be dealt with. What then?

You have several options.

Custom Bullnose

Yes. You can have bullnose made. Here in Cincinnati (they have other locations), I head to American Bullnose. I bring my tile with some to spare, they chop them up, round them out and hand them back ready to go. Of course, not all tiles can be transformed into bullnose tile. Such as in the case of the beveled tile, the texture would create a problem and cannot be bullnosed. Below is a shower created with custom bullnose tiles, placed on the outer wall edge, as well as surrounding the tub. 

 

Schluter Edge Strips

One popular option is to use Schluter metal strips  to make a straight finishing edge to your tile. These can be used anywhere tile is laid: showers, floors, backsplashes. These are nice because they come in an assortment of finishes and shapes. An example of this can be seen below at the top and side of the backsplash. Nickel was chosen to coordinate with the other nickel fixtures in the room. They now have white which blends nicely with subway tiles like those shown.

Caulked Edge

If you don't want to add another color or element to your kitchen, another option is to caulk the tile edge to finish it off. Have your installer fill in that corner between the tile and wall with caulk to match the grout. Matching grout caulk is available at most hardware stores next to or in the grout section. This will take some precision! Your installer must be very careful with the tile alignment in order to create a nice straight line. They must also be good at getting a smooth finish with the caulking. You don't want a bumpy caulk line, calling attention to the lack of precision instead of the beauty of the tile. However, if the caulk line strays a little onto the wall, touch it up with some wall paint and call it a day. 

Trim It Out

Finally, you could use a very thin wood trim piece such as quarter round or scribe molding. Paint it the same color as the tile so it doesn't stand out. With the extra thick cement tile used in this kitchen, we used some cabinet trim to finish off the sides of the backsplash. The color coordinated perfectly so we didn't need to paint it. 

It's silly to think that this kind of detail goes into kitchen or bathroom, but it does. Best to have these tricks in your arsenal so you are ready when the time comes! Go get 'em. 

Any ideas I missed? Any other issues you might be dealing with right now? Lay it on us in the comments!


 

 

Design Becomes Reality: Minty Vintage Kitchen

The frustrating thing about renovations, flipping houses and all thing construction is that it seems to take a frickin' frackin' backin' packin' ETERNITY to see the results. Usually just months, but still. The people want their AFTER pics!

Trust, so do I. Here you go...

Before and After Minty Vintage Kitchen Remodel Subway Tile Backsplash

Hooray! I like. So fresh and so clean (clean). Let's back up and see the entire process from beginning to end. Here's the before in big picture glory. 

Oak Cabinet Kitchen Before
Oak Cabinet Kitchen before renovation

Most landlords would leave this as-is in this price range. All of the appliances worked. Everything was in good condition. Maybe a coat of paint on the walls, a cleaning and call it a day. Not me. I just CAN'T.

Must. Make. Pretty.

But, on a budget.

There's a fine line between updating because an investment property and just renovating because I want it to be pretty. So, I started with an inspiration kitchen and took it from there. See the design board below. Thanks to A Lovely Lark for being making such an awesome kitchen to be inspired by!

 I wish I could have staged it with some funky vintage items , but I'm lucky I even got photos. This house was rented before we were even finished with it! 

A good problem to have....must not complain. Here is the real deal for your full sized viewing pleasure.

White kitchen with mint base cabinets and white appliances

This time my goal was to make a great tenant friendly, yet budget friendly space. These were my requirements:

  • Durable and can stand up to use and abuse over many years.
  • Can clean up easily.
  • Is a pretty space.
  • Is something to be proud to rent to others.
  • Is somewhere I would live. 

Many of these points are the OPPOSITE of most landlords. Durable and easy to clean are pretty standard, I think. I mean you'll get those people that don't care, they just want a body in there. For me, I want materials that will last. This is why I chose granite counters, a backsplash and to paint the cabinets white. These finishes are likely be in style for a while, are durable products and will clean up easily. The gray grout in the backsplash will stand up to staining over the years and the white cabinets can easily be painted over. 

I wanted the space to also be pretty and different than other rental homes. Such a #girlboss. Who wants to live in a builder grade snoozefest? If the tenant thinks it is special, they will take better care of it. They may also stick around longer instead of looking for greener pastures. Things will go wrong, furnaces will quit at 8pm on a cold winter's night. That's owning a home. That happens. But, not offering something that you can be proud of is not for me. I want to know that my home is a great place to live. I want to feel comfortable living there. If I do then it's likely my tenants will, too. 

Costs

This renovation was not expensive, as far as renos go. I mean in comparison to the full gut job renovations I usually do. Here are the costs to update this kitchen:

  • Labor: $1,200 --- Painting walls and cabinets + installing hardware/backsplash/faucet + fixing a plumbing issue + installing range hood/disposal + cleaning 
  • Appliances: $700 --- range + hood + disposal
  • Counter: $1,400 --- granite + single bowl stainless steel sink + installation
  • Other Materials: $300  knobs and pulls + faucet +  tile + grout + plumbing parts + etcetera....
  • Total  = $3,600 

Pretty good for the transformation, in my opinion. Not only does it look better, I feel confident it will stand the test of time for years to come. If mint flavored base cabinets are no longer as yummy as they seem right now, then we can easily switch to the avocado or burnt orange colors of tomorrow!