If recycling bins could talk, ours would have a lot to say about what we've been up to the last week. Gone are the usual magazines that indicate a restful night curled up in the family room chair with Mel and Lulu. Gone are the empty bottles of wine, that would indicate fun-filled evenings with friends, relaxing over a nice glass or two of wine. Instead, this week, our city recycling materials consist of broken down cardboard packaging from our new IKEA cabinets and butcher block counters. There's also not one, not two, but three empty pizza boxes and sadly, a not so empty one inside our refrigerator. 

This is all due to the "quick little kitchen upgrades" that resulted from my purchase of a rug, on clearance, several months ago. 

The new rug turned into new bamboo blinds...

...which then meant we had to repaint the kitchen and sun porch...

...which then led to my great idea of how nice the room would look with new relatively inexpensive counter tops and tile backsplash. We also came up with the idea to move our white hutch into the sun porch and build, with the addition of two new cabinets, a "wine bar" area in our kitchen, that will give us infinitely more counter space and storage, and make our wine fridge finally feel at home.

So with these plans in mind, we've been working like dogs for the last week, trying to assemble and install our car load of materials from last weekend's shopping excursion. 

While we don't have any dramatic "afters" just yet, it's not for lack of trying. The last few days' storms have made outdoor woodworking a real challenge, and an additional hurdle has been a nasty cold that I've been fighting for six days and counting. But we pressed on, anxious to see and share the results. And maybe it also has something to do with a pregnant house guest arriving in a mere three days, which means all fumes, dust, and disarray need to be a distant memory by the time her flight lands. Good grief. There's nothing like a little pressure to get things moving over here, just like it did when we were working on our guest bedroom project. 

In light of the fact that we haven't had running water on our first floor for the last two days, due to the fact that we had to remove the kitchen sink in order to demo the counters, it's been interesting around these parts. Hence the superflous number of pizza boxes in the recycling bin, and take out containers in the trash. We also had to empty the majority of the kitchen cabinets to properly level the existing cabinets. I'll let your imagination get to work on the extent of chaos over here. 

So we thought it might be fun to take you on a tour of some of the highlights of the last few days. If you follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, you may have seen a couple of these behind the scenes photos. Here we go:

Let's start with Miss Lulu. Our little manatee put on a good show that she was so sleepy, and promised to have a low key weekend and let us work on the kitchen without incident.

Instead she was actually carefully planning her attack, and waited until we were fully consumed with the counters and then somehow managed to get into Mel's food, which we had "safely" stored on the existing counters. I caught her red handed pawed, after she had managed to knock about half of his food on the floor where she could gobble it up.  

With the drama of sibling food stealing behind us, we powered ahead with the demolition aspect of the project. Alex used all of his might to wrestle the giant cast iron monster sink from its previous resting place, exposing the grossness that had existed beneath the rim. One thing is for sure, we're definitely going to be using caulk around the rim of the sink when we re-install it.

You know what, I need to correct something I said earlier. I said "we've been working like dogs..." but I'm going to call B.S. on this. I'm not sure who came up with "working like dogs," but they've got it wrong. Alex was removing the sink and wanted a drop cloth to rest it on, so I laid it out for him. Within 15 seconds of the drop cloth being on the ground, this is what we were looking at.

Working like dogs, humph! If we were working like dogs really work, we'd be looking for random soft places to lay on all the time. Perhaps this saying applies to dogs of ye olde land, but not to today's dogs, or at least our dog, that's for sure. 

After removing the three...yes, just three, random screws that held the old counter in place, we lugged it into the alley behind our house. It was a bit of a shock to see it leaned against the back wall and realize that this was all of the counter space we've had to work with for nine years! No wonder we are always bumping into each other. The new counter area will make such a huge difference for us, that's for sure. So if anyone is looking for a hunter green Formica laminate counter top that's been spray painted with a stone texture about nine and a half years ago and is now showing its age through rotting around the sink, it's all yours. But you better hurry, I have a feeling this bad boy will get snapped up in no time!

One thing I wanted to show you all is a photo of a previous owner of our home. We found this photo a while ago but uncovered it again while unloading all of the kitchen drawers. The photo is of a man named Thor (yes, real name) that owned our home in the 1980s. He took the photo while standing in our master bathroom while looking in the mirror. Given the onslaught of these types of photos courtesy of cell phone cameras and Facebook/Twitter posts, this Thor character was obviously well ahead of his time. And his fashion sense, obviously timeless...as in, popped collar timeless. I wouldn't be shocked to see him walking around on the street today in the same clothes and haircut, just 30 years older.

Ok, back to the actual project. Alex, in true Alex methodical fashion, sketched out the various dimensions we would need for the new counters. He took just about everything into account to make the next several steps of the install as easy as possible. Sadly, there was no way in the sketch to account for the shoddy workmanship of our lower cabinets and just how out of level they were, but at least it was a pretty decent sketch, complemented nicely by my cute crocodile paper.

"Out of level you say?" Why yes, I do. As it turned out, not a single cabinet in the entire kitchen was level or even the same rough height. So we worked into the night on Saturday leveling the bases and building additional supports to get the cabinets in good enough shape to support the new counters and look decent while doing it. It wasn't easy, and it wasn't pretty, but it needed to be done.

During the leveling process, Alex put this photo of Mel up on Instagram, and I just love it! I think I love it more that he was snoozing away while Alex was sawing, sanding, running up and down the stairs, and making about as much noise as one can. Mel's definitely the soundest sleeper of the four of us.

While dealing with the constant onslaught of weather that was keeping us from working on the counter tops outside, we took a brief trip to Lowes to scope out the tile situation. We put this up on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to get everyone's opinion for our back splash. Of the three options we've ruled out the small running bond, but we purchased two boxes of 3" x 6" subway tile to do either traditional running bond or herringbone. The jury's still out on this one, so we'd love if it you weigh in on your favorite.

When the weather was cooperating, we were spending lots of time outside and making a sawdust mess while working with the counters. Having to trim, cut, route, adjust, shim, level, and whatever else to these counters definitely means a more difficult approach. I think it will be worth it in the end, but oh boy, the effort.

After working at least 12 and more like 14-16 hour days over the weekend, we are getting to the point where we can see the finish line...with binoculars. There's still a lot left to do, but we're going to keep plugging away. Alex and I have been working into the wee hours of the night and have even taken to setting up lighting out back that lets us get eaten alive by mosquitoes work just a little bit later.

So, what do you think? Is this "quick little update" worth our efforts? I know you haven't been able to see much, and we don't mean to be total teases, but there just isn't much to show so far. We're going to have a bunch of good posts from this effort, and I know Alex is going to put together a pretty comprehensive post for anyone looking to use butcher block, and more specifically, IKEA butcher block, in their kitchen.

Oh, and I almost forgot to re-iterate the most important thing here. What back splash should be go with? The more trendy and interesting herringbone approach (since this is technically a "temporary" solution for the next couple years until we do our major kitchen renovation), or the more traditional and timeless running bond subway tile? We'd love to hear your thoughts.

Comments 26


8/27/2012 at 12:19 PM
I already voted on twitter, but I'm voting again! Herringbone all the way! Since it's only a "temporary" solution, the trendy factor isn't something to worry about. Plus, with white cabinets and a wood counter, it will add a nice touch of detail/interest!
Our thoughts exactly. I would hesitate to do something trendy that was a long term solution and/or done in a more expensive material, but our 27 cents per tile and short time frame may just make it the winner. ;-)
8/27/2012 at 12:34 PM
Traditional. Are you surprised???
No, not surprised. Running bond is classic and never goes out of style! (Which is why we have it in our bathroom.) :-)
8/27/2012 at 12:50 PM
I vote herringbone! It won't be able to go out of fashion since it is just temporary. And I agree with Lindsay, it will add some nice visual interest.
Thanks, Andrea. We're definitely leaning that way too, but I'm not looking forward to all the tile saw cuts in our future. :-)
8/27/2012 at 1:02 PM
Now is the time to test out herringbone. If you don't love it, no biggie as in your big kitchen reno you can go back to something traditional. However, you're not going to want to experiment with the real reno job so if you don't try herringbone now, you might never give it a chance!
The running bond would be *so*much*easier* to install, but when have we ever gone the easy route? ;-) It might be time to go a little crazy and step outside our ultra traditional style!
8/27/2012 at 1:06 PM
As much as I love the look of the herringbone, that would take A LOT of tile cutting. I personally would go for the running bond merely for sanity's sake. We're actually getting ready to use those exact same 3x6 tiles and do a running bond for our shower surround.
What if we've already gone insane from this project? Would your vote change? ;-)

I know the running bond would be much, much easier too. I have a sense that if we go herringbone, there will be at least a moment or two when we curse our decision.
Tiffany Miller
8/27/2012 at 1:34 PM
I think you guys will go with the more challenging project...and I think that's what I would do and might nect month :) I am currently trying to decide on upper cabinets or no upper cabinets...I am torn cause my kitchen is so small (in a rambler on King Street). I CAN'T wait for recycling to come Wed. morning and take some more of our project scraps...I am slowly getting a backyard again!!! BTW, Whole Foods has buy one get one free pizza tomorrow ;)Hopefully we will get a cold snap soon because those mosquitos are brutal this month!
Thanks for the tips on the Whole Foods pizza deal. I hope we'll be back in business tomorrow, but it's good to have this on standby just in case!

I vote you do a combination of both in your kitchen. The shelves will help the room feel more open, but having concealed storage is still nice to hide the not so nice looking items. :-)
8/27/2012 at 1:52 PM
I vote herringbone...especially since you are planning a reno down the road so that if if gets old you'll be making the change. I love that look!
Thanks, Nikki. That's what we're currently thinking as well. :-)
Jill PP
8/27/2012 at 2:08 PM
hmmm... If it were me I'd go with the traditional because of the much, much easier installation, and I really like that look. But the herringbone is so cool too. I don't think you'll go wrong either way - can't wait to see where you guys end up :)
Thanks, Jill! We're excited to tackle this project, regardless of the pattern. :-)
8/27/2012 at 2:16 PM
I'd go with the running tile. Mainly because it is quicker. Also running tile should have less wasted pieces from cutting than the herringbone.
Both good points! Thanks, Kim.
8/27/2012 at 2:48 PM
I vote on the ever classic traditional running bond. I just LOVE the look of subway tiles :-) Good luck with all of this renovation!
Thanks for your vote, Jen!
8/27/2012 at 5:59 PM
I like herringbone in general; in fact, I think it is classic too, not trendy. However, in the small space you're filling with the fairly large tiles, I'm not sure that the zig-zag design is going to have that much impact. Sorry to be contrary, but I think herringbone would look better on a larger wall, if using 3 x 6 tiles, or, in your backsplash space executed with smaller rectangular tiles.
Good point, thank you! If we decide to go with the herringbone, we should probably photoshop it first just to ensure the pattern is impactful and deliberate. Thanks! :-)
Dave S
8/28/2012 at 9:42 AM
I'd suggest going with running bond. Herringbone is very visually noisy in a smaller space and the pattern doesn't have a lot of space to under cabinets.
Very true, thanks Dave. We might have to play around with photoshop to get a feel for how both of the patterns will look, before we make the leap. :-)
Threadbndr (Karla)
8/28/2012 at 9:57 AM
I vote for running bond. Classic for a reason.

But then, I'm eyeing the bathroom floor and hex tiles. You know I'm all about the traditional.
I think we have similar taste. You'll be seeing marble hex and running bond subway in our master bathroom for sure!
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