Design Quickie: Sometimes a Little Gorgeous Granite Goes a Long Way

This is one of five hand-carved, solid teak tables that belong to one of my clients.  She purchased them in Indonesia from a man who carved each table by hand at the side of the road, using only pieces of broken glass as tools.  Over the years since she bought these tables, my client's style has shifted to a much more contemporary aesthetic.  She felt that the tables weren't really working with the look she wanted for her home, but she was emotionally attached to them and couldn't bear to part with them, either.
The largest round table was used in the foyer, and two smaller round end tables and two of these ornately scalloped end tables were in the adjacent formal living room.  All five tables had the same jade-colored marble stone tops with ogee edges.

I found this beautiful slab of "Metallic" granite from Brazil when I was at the granite importer's warehouse selecting my own kitchen countertops, and I knew immediately that it would be perfect for my client's tables.  My lousy upside-down iPhone snapshot of the slab doesn't do it justice at all.  It's a deep black, with dramatic but consistent movement throughout the slab, accented with taupe and mushroom areas and plenty of sparkling mica flecks scattered throughout the stone.  It's going to look amazing with my client's new living room color scheme of ivory and taupe neutrals accented with black and crimson.  In addition to changing the stone from green marble to black granite, I also requested a straight, eased edge rather than the more "traditional" look of the ogee edge on the original stone table tops.  Here's the foyer table with its new Metallic granite top:
Isn't that gorgeous?  We also altered the shape of those elaborately scalloped oblong end tables.  We simplified the shape for a more contemporary feel, but we still needed something other than a plain oval or rectangle in order for the tops to fit the shape of these table bases:
Here's one of the smaller round end tables:
It would have been easy to go out and find brand-new, contemporary tables for this client from a furniture store.  However, I love the authenticity of a home filled with cherished possessions that have deep meaning to the people who live in them.  The sleek new Metallic stone tops are just the update these tables needed to transition to the clients' current style.  I can't wait to see them with the new furnishings and draperies when this project is complete!

Nitpicking: Because Design is In the Details

Somewhere in my computer, there is a much better picture of this island backsplash in which you can see that this backsplash on the left was cut about 1/8" shorter than the adjacent backsplash on the right.  Those who know me will understand that, once I discovered this, I was driven to distraction by it.  It looked like a dark line between the backsplash and the raised bar countertop, and it stared me in the face and mocked me while I made my morning lattes.  If I could find the picture I was looking for, perhaps you would understand why this was so unacceptable to me.  Perhaps not -- but sweating the details is what I do for a living, and I spent too much money on the new countertops to be disappointed every time I look at that seam.

Bernie remembers that, during installation of the countertops, an adjustment was made to lower the island countertop slightly for the sink installation, and he thinks they may have already cut the left backsplash when the counter was sitting higher because the backsplash on the right was cut second and it fits perfectly.  In the end, however, too short is too short.  Tile Collection sent a repair technician out to change the caulk from translucent to white in hopes that the gap would be less noticeable, but no dice.  I asked for that backsplash to be replaced with a new one cut from the leftover pieces of my granite slab, and Tile Collection obliged.

The tricky thing about this is that initially, backsplashes are cut from adjacent parts of the stone so that the movement or pattern in the stone flows as uninterrupted as possible from one piece to the next.  Since the countertops adjacent to the backsplash were already installed in my home, the fabricator wouldn't have them in his shop as a reference when cutting the new piece.

My solution: Crayons to the Rescue!
I have a roll of heavy white butcher's paper in my sewing room that I use for making patterns, and I used it to make templates of my countertops indicating where the major veining patterns were located.  While I was doing this, my husband was looking at me like I was a wild-eyed crazy woman. 

I took pictures too, naturally, and those were invaluable for showing which colors I needed to have in various places.  I took my pictures to the granite fabrication shop along with my paper patterns, which I laid out right on the leftover piece of granite and found a place where the veining lined up even better than on the original backsplash.
Isn't that fabulous?  SO much prettier than before.  Scroll up and look at the original backsplash again.  I wasn't wild about the Big Black Blob on the original piece, and this one matches perfectly with all the beautiful golds and greens in exactly the right places.  I should tell you that in order to get this perfect piece of backsplash, they had to cut my little strip of stone right in the center of the remnant at about a 45 degree angle, which pretty much ruined a large remnant that they could have sold to another customer for a sink vanity or table top -- and to their credit, no one batted an eye.  I love these guys!  Everyone has great customer service before you sign the deal and stroke the check.  It's really important to me to know that my workrooms and suppliers are willing to go the extra mile for me at the end of the job, making adjustments and corrections until everyone is satisfied with the installation.  I highly recommend Tile Collection to anyone in the Charlotte, North Carolina area for stone countertops or tile work.

The same day that the backsplash was replaced, they also installed my red laundry room sink with its little granite counter.  Bernie and the installers were joking around that my sink is so big, all I'm left with is a granite sink frame instead of a countertop.  Whatever.
This little countertop was also cut from the remnants of the CD Volcano slab we chose for our kitchen.  After I butchered one of the two remnants for my Backsplash of Dreams, this was the only piece left that was big enough for the laundry counter and splashes.  It would have been nice if there was a smattering of the red and green in this piece, but the red ties in with the leftover kitchen fabric that will eventually be used for a little valance on the window in this toom to tie everything together and cheer up my laundry room.  The red enameled cast iron sink was special-ordered from Kohler, and it's the exact shade of red in my fabric (Monado in Havana colorway from Vervain).

The faucet is going to be the Venetian Bronze Delta faucet that I bought for my kitchen about a year ago, but the plumbing isn't connected yet.  Also, there is a nasty fluorescent tube light fixture in the laundry room that is going to have to go.  It casts a horrible sickly light and makes my colors look gross.

Hood Classic Globe from Rejuvenation Hardware
I really like the new Hood pendant with caged glass from Rejuvenation Hardware, so I think I might get that one for the laundry room.  It's based on industrial styles that were common from 1910-1920, and the wire cage served the useful purpose of containing broken glass if the globe should shatter.  It comes in 12", 14", or 18" diameter and uses a single 300 watt bulb.  I just think it would add a nice splash of personality and character, complement the dark bronze and opal glass fixtures in the kitchen beyond, yet it's a simpler, more functional style that's better suited to a workspace like a laundry room. 

-- Ooh, wouldn't it be fun to rip out the perfectly serviceable tile floor in the laundry room, and replace it with vintage-style 2" hexagonal mosaic tile like this?

Merola Tile Old World Hex with Dot from Home Depot

I'm not even going to suggest that to Bernie; I can't risk a mutiny.  Still, IF I was going to do it...  I like the way this particular background tile ties into my granite, but not so much the black dots.  The dots would need to be a more subtle contrast for me, maybe more of a golden/rust/brownish color on the same spectrum as the golds in the drapery fabric and the tones of the cabinetry.  So it would probably have to be custom-ordered instead of conveniently purchased from the local Home Depot. 

At some point, you just have to say that enough is enough and call it "done."  For now...  ;-)

Justin WHO? In Which Lars Accidentally Gets a Celebrity Haircut

  Up until early this week, this is what Lars's hair looked like -- on a good day, freshly showered, with no food, candy, or mysterious sticky substances creating squirrel's nest snarls in the back.  He insisted that he liked it long, that he didn't need a haircut, that he refused to have a haircut...  But we were scheduled to have a family portrait taken for our church directory on Wednesday, so I exercised my Maternal Veto Power and took both of my scraggly little hooligans to the hair salon for some neatening up on Tuesday evening.

 I love how the boys look so serious in their little red capes, and how Bernie and my hairdresser, Song, are cutting up in the background. 

Lars-of-Ours with His New 'Do
I decided it was time to clean up Lars's look a bit, especially since he wasn't taking an active role in styling or even BRUSHING the back of his hair.  He wanted to keep the hair long in the front, so he could sweep it out of his eyes.  I compromised and said he could keep it long in the front if we could shorten up the back.  So this is the haircut we ended up with.  Lars was happy, Dad was happy, but most importantly, MOM was happy, so everyone else got to keep on being happy!

Canadian Pop Star Justin Bieber
Unfortunately, when Lars went to school on Wednesday with his new haircut, the kids on the bus started teasing him mercilessly for looking like someone called Justin Bieber.  Apparently he is some kind of teeny-bopper heartthrob pop music celebrity that I had never heard of, and I certainly did not deliberately get Lars's hair cut to look like this kid.  Lars got mad and upset about the teasing, which of course only encouraged more teasing...  Can you believe one of the ringleaders of the taunting is a kid who impersonates Michael Jackson every day at recess?  At least Justin Bieber's look is current, and he doesn't seem to be a child molester or in denial about his racial identity or gender or anything...  It's so hard to keep out of these things, but we advised Lars to "just ignore them and they'll eventually stop when they can't get a rise out of you anymore."  If that doesn't work, we'll have to rent Monty Python & the Holy Grail again and practice up on our French Taunting skills.  ;-)

What do you think?  Does Lars look like Justin Bieber?  I see a slight resemblance, but I think Lars is way cuter and has a much better haircut.  I think that Justin kid looks like his wig is on backwards.

Of Tuxedos, Bells and Drill Presses: Le week-end Chez Nous!

This is what the weekend is all about at our house.  Yesterday Lars learned to use a drill press to make holes in the cabinet doors for the hinges:
Afterwards, Bernie stained and glazed the doors and drawer front and installed them in the butler's pantry, which looks much better now. 

Bernie still needs to glaze the back of the kitchen island and all of the light rail molding, and then top coat everything before the finishing work will be complete.  As with most do-it-yourself remodels, this is taking a lot longer than it would have if we hired someone to come in and do everything at once.  Instead, there's an hour of free time one day to work on the cabinets, but then a few hectic days go by when there's no time for home improvement projects at all.  I'm just delighted that my lattes no longer taste toxic, and that now my little cabinet is mostly finished and the plumbing is no longer on display.

Meanwhile, my little Anders has been begging me for a tuxedo for about six months now.  I have no idea who or what may have planted this obsessive formal wear seed in his mind, but he hasn't forgotten about it and I finally caved in.  If he can have a Yoda costume, a Batman costume, and a Buzz Lightyear costume, then why not a tuxedo?  Look how proud and happy he is!  Awww!  :-)

I am not completely insane, however, so I found him a polyester tuxedo on Amazon.com that is just a few steps above a Halloween costume on the quality scale.  I figure he can wear it for Piano Festival in a couple of weeks, and then he can wear it to his piano recital in May as well.  If he grows out of it after that, I will have gotten my money's worth from just those two wearings.  There are only so many occasions for a seven-year-old to wear a tux, you know?  For what I paid for this ensemble, it's fine.  The pants fit a little snug at the waist, and the vest and coat are way too big, but Bernie is going to take him to the inexpensive alterations shop he uses to fix that for him.  Why am I not doing the alterations myself on my amazing Bernina sewbaby, you may ask?  Because I wouldn't know where to begin to alter a tailored jacket, for one thing, and for another, I'm still really busy with work and I don't see any free time for sewing opening up for at least another couple of months.

Oh, yes; the bells -- Lars and Anders played in the youth bell choir at church this morning, and now they are at a Kids in Christ youth group Valentine activity with the amazing Ms. Glenda.  I have been doing laundry, but still need to get a grocery list together and prune my crape myrtles now that my husband set up my ladder and wheelbarrow for me.  When the boys get back from church I'll be listening to piano practice and supervising some math homework that Anders needs to turn in tomorrow, and later this evening I'll put the finishing touches on a dining room drapery design that I'm scheduled to present to clients on Monday afternoon.  Once the kids are in bed and their stories have been read, I'll probably wonder where the weekend went again, but really, we've been busy and accomplished a lot.

Next week I have several business meetings, Valentine's Day, the installation of my laundry room granite and *RED* laundry sink, and the long-awaited, should-have-been-done-ages-ago installation of my shutters to look forward to.  Anders' class is going on a field trip to the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra this week (I wonder if I should let him bring the conductor's baton my dad gave him for Christmas?) and we have an appointment to have a family portrait taken for the church directory on Wednesday evening after the boys finish choir practice.  I wonder if I can squeeze them in for haircuts before the photographer appointment?  There are only so many hours in each day.

Have a happy Valentine's Day, everyone.  Have a great week!

Signs of Spring!

Look what I spied in the garden today!  Little clusters of early daffodils have begun to poke up through the pine needles and dead leaves of winter, confirming Punxsutawney Phil's prediction that Spring is on the way.  Thanks, Phil!
Punxsutawney Phil, February 2, 2011
I have buds popping open on one of my maple trees as well:
The sky was such a pretty blue today, too.

Anyway, these irrefutable signs of impending Spring are reminders that it's time to pay attention to gardening again.  Never mind that it's still freezing cold outside, and I've got a practically perpetual fire burning in the fireplace.  At some point this weekend I need to:

1. Prune my crape myrtles -- not behead them like some overzealous husbands who are no longer permitted to go anywhere near these trees with the pruning shears, mind you -- I just need to trim off last year's blooms because the crape myrtle blooms on new growth.

2. My gardenia bushes are a sickly yellow-green instead of a deep, rich green, which means they need some acid-rich Holly Tone fertilizer to combat the clay so-called soil.

3. My lilac.  Oh, my lilac -- will this be the year it finally blooms?  I can't just stand by helplessly yet another year as it struggles and fails.  I begged my husband to move it to a sunnier location, but he refused.  I can't even get a shovel into the earth, so it's not like I can move this tree by myself, either.  I need to go talk to the guy at the nursery and see if he thinks the lilac might respond to the temptations of well-rotted cow manure compost.  If not, perhaps my husband might respond to some well-placed cow manure...



Happy Super Stash Sunday! I Win, As Usual!

This year marked a big step in my journey towards becoming a sports fan!  Instead of hiding out in my office, taking advantage of the Big Football Distraction on TV so I could shop my heart out online, I brought my nifty iPad into the living room and did my fabric shopping in the same room as the Superbowl, right under my husband's nose.  He was too busy whooping and hollering at the television to notice.  I even glanced up at the screen during the commercials.  I know what color outfits the teams were wearing, and I'm pretty sure the half-time show was supposed to be a joke but no one got it.  I'm like, THIS close to becoming a professional sportscaster, don't you think?

Meanwhile, I have ordered lots of goodies to energize my quilting fabric stash.  Nevermind that I don't have enough room for all of the fabric I already own, or that I don't have enough time to make all the quilts that take shape in my mind.  Eventually, there will be time to quilt again, and my stash will be ready to inspire me!

I was shopping at eQuilter, one of my favorite online quilt shops, and these are some of the goodies that found their way into my shopping cart:










 I love batiks.  They can be stiff and difficult to hand quilt, but I'm planning to hone up on my machine quilting skills anyway.  Also, several of them are hand dyed so they will need to be prewashed and tested for color fastness.

Then there were a few other fabrics I couldn't live without because they were just so darned cute:

I'm not usually a big floral person when it comes to my quilt fabrics, but this one was just really interesting.  Are they blooms, fruit, or both?
It's la Tour Eiffel!  And it's RED!  That's all you need to know.
Don't ask what I'm going to do with this one.  It just reminded me of the best kind of children's book illustrations; very Jan Brett with the bright colors and rich textile details.  I'll use it for something eventually.

This is just a smattering of what I bought last night.  I can't post everything because my husband reads my blog, and he gets alarmed -- he doesn't realize that I only got a half-yard piece of each of these, and he also doesn't realize that quilting fabric is WAY less expensive than the designer drapery fabrics I use in my work.

Also, it's possible that Bernie may still be mad at me for ruining the end of the Superbowl for him.  I didn't realize that he had recorded the game and was watching it about 20 minutes behind, so when the New York Times news alert "Green Bay Packers Win World Series" popped up on my iPad, I read it out loud, thinking the game must be over and it must be replays or something on the screen.  Oops... 

Meet the Hood that Could Suck a Small Child Out of the House

Ah, yes, there it is, looking so innocuous in its partially cut-away shipping box.  This is the Viking range hood that required replacing the 7" diameter ductwork with 10" diameter.  It looks a lot like the stainless steel GE Monogram range hood that was there before, but I decided to replace the hood for two very important reasons. 

Number One: The old range hood had a big 8" scratch across the front of it that was there when we moved in.  Ding-a-ling (Bernie's loving pet name for the previous homeowner who was apparently not as "handy" as he fancied himself to be) probably scratched the hood when he installed it himself.  Bernie knows Ding-a-ling installed the previous range hood himself because he used the wrong kind of screws that weren't threaded all the way, so instead of it taking a few minutes to remove the old hood, Bernie had to fight with it for about an hour.  We already knew from the gas company that Ding-a-ling ran the gas line to the GE cooktop he put in all by himself, too, without getting it inspected.  The stove was leaking gas when we moved in and so little gas was actually getting to the burners that it took 40 minutes to bring a pot of water to a boil.  I am so grateful to the nice man from Piedmont Natural Gas for saving our house from blowing up!  We replaced the cooktop, refrigerator and wall ovens when the local Home Depot Exp closed and we were able to purchase brand-new Viking appliances out of one of their kitchen displays at a huge discount.  Anyway, I digress: Reason number one for replacing the range hood was that the scratch on the front of the old hood got under my skin and bothered me.

Bernie getting ready to install the new range hood
Reason Two: The old range hood sounded like a 747 was about to take off in my kitchen.  It was so loud that I couldn't have a conversation with someone standing three feet away from me if the hood was turned on.  What good is it to have an open floorplan so everyone can hang out with the cook if no one can have a conversation while you're cooking?  The new range hood has a 900 CFM in-line ventilation kit -- the 900 CFM part means "Uff da, that's a powerful fan!" and the in-line part means that the motor that sucks all of this air out of the kitchen is going to be nowhere near the kitchen.  Instead, the motor is at the other end of the ductwork, in the crawl space under my house, right before it vents through the exterior wall.  That alone should cut down on the noise significantly.  However, the motor for this fan is going to be a lot more powerful that the previous one, and the vaulted ceilings in my kitchen tend to amplify sound.  I have a low tolerance for appliance noises anyway; even the noise from the fan in our bathroom makes me irritable (we'll address that one of these days when we get back to the Master Bathroom project).  All of the appliances I've selected after taking sound ratings into consideration (the Miele laundry machines, Bosch dish washer, even the new Insinkerator garbage disposal) have been significantly quieter than their predecessors, and worth every penny to me for the peace and calm they bestow upon my home.  With two little blond hooligans running around howling most of the time, we need all the peace and calm we can get.  So when I found out that Viking sells a Vibration Silencer Kit for our hood model that will further reduce the noise by 50%, I had to have it. 
Here's Bernie right after he installed the range hood in the kitchen and connected the power.  He says it was a lot easier to install than he expected.  At this point, he hasn't yet installed the in-line ventilation kit (the motor that will suck small children out through the 10" duct) because he's waiting for the Vibration Silencer kit that hasn't been delivered yet.

...But the hood is connected to the power, so the lights work.  Hallelujah!  I missed having light over the stove!  I'm enjoying the undercabinet lights, too -- we put them on a dimmer switch and they are dimmed in this picture.

Today the Vibration Silencer came; it's that thing that looks like a giant Pringles can.  Bernie seems to find something funny about this contraption.  Oh, and sorry for the vampire eyes -- for some reason the Red Eye Correction tool only wanted to let me fix ONE of Bernie's eyeballs, and I decided that one blue eye and one red one is way creepier than two red eyeballs. 

I don't know when Bernie will get a chance to finish the installation of the ventilation system.  We've been having an Espresso Crisis of Epic Proportions -- ever since my commercial grinder and espresso machine were relocated to their new home in the butler's pantry, with a special sink and all new plumbing added just to accommodate and pamper said espresso machine -- the lattes have had a strong, intensely unpleasant plasticky chemical taste.  I have run the water, I have cleaned and backflushed the machine, and I have investigated online.  Bernie used the same pex pipes that are everywhere else in our home, yes he used the kind for potable water with the NSF endorsement, and no he didn't buy the cheapest stuff he could find, but apparently this gross taste is not harmful to my health (snort!) and will dissipate over time.  So now I have gone to all this trouble and expense only to go from sublime lattes made in my kitchen, to rotten lousy poisonous lattes made in the butler's pantry.  I am so desperate, I could almost -- almost -- drink the coffee at the gas station!

Anyway, Bernie changed out the rubber-lined flexible braided steel hose that runs from my water filter directly to my espresso machine, reasoning that if the chemical taste was originating in the pex tubing it would be removed by the filter before it got to my machine.  We're flushing out the boiler tank on the espresso machine right now and tomorrow morning we'll see if there's any improvement.  Wish me luck!
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