Recently, I received this very generous email from one of my lovely readers (no names will be used here), who said I was welcome to share her story:
I have made literally every mistake in the remodeling book! I really do not like to complain, I dislike myself for being negative this way…but my mind cannot stop working on the design problems because it just hurts my eyes to look at something jarring.
How did I create something so ugly after spending so much money?
We spent tens of thousands on a kitchen remodel, using a kitchen design firm. The collaboration did not work well. In hindsight I see that every time I was on the right track, the kitchen designer discouraged me, every time I was on the wrong track, she encouraged me. And she was basically just selling and designing cabinets…I should have realized she wasn't really motivated to make sure the whole thing came off including all the surfaces and fixtures, and that it related to the rest of my house.
Anyway, long story short, I ended up with a kitchen that totally depresses me. The cabinet color doesn't show in the photo but it's sort of a deep cherry finish…reads burgundy in bright sun…hate it. I liked my old kitchen better. My old kitchen was white of course. Thermofoil over MDF cabinets and tile with high maintenance grout, but white.
The kitchen remodel lady talked me into changing to a wood tone "why would you want it to look exactly the same?", was her reasoning. I was practically suicidal for a year after the remodel. I know that sounds so stupid and shallow, but I am sensitive to my environment, and it was So Much Money for us. Just devastated me. It has been two years since the remodel. I discovered your blog one month after the remodel. Why couldn't I have discovered it before I started! Argh! I am trying to figure out what to do one of these days to make it better. Maybe paint the cabinets a shade of warm white.
One of the most awful things about it is the clashing granite counter and travertine floor. I had no idea when I chose them, I could not see the problem until after they were installed.
The cabinets read with a reddish undertone, maybe more rust than burgundy, as I said earlier. The backsplash tile is ivory, with deeper ivory grout, which was chosen because of the granite. Dumb, because I have white trim, white vinyl windows, white tile in my bathrooms, and white vinyl plantation shutters in the adjacent living room. So now I have the visual confusion of white versus ivory.
Regarding the kitchen designer: the last time she was on site was during cabinet installation and before the granite went in. She did call after installation was complete. She asked how I liked it. I was sort of beyond words at that point, I mean, the day the granite went in, I went to bed, went under my covers, and sobbed for a full day. Literally.
It had only been about a week at that point, when she called, from the granite install. I managed to say to her, well, the granite is a little weird for me. She said, how? I said well, too much pattern, too much color, too much everything. Panic was evident in my voice. This was before I found your website and I wasn't really sure what was wrong, so I couldn't really articulate. She said: I'm sorry you don't like your granite. I was just so overwhelmed at that point I didn't even want to talk to anyone about it, so I said, oh, I am just a perfectionist, blah blah, and tried to end the phone call quickly. Then I cried again, of course.
In her defense, she had suggested black granite (with some slight peachy veining in it, it looked like to me) to go with the wood cabinets she had nudged me toward. And I said no to the black granite, I did not like it. The whole thing was just getting so confusing for me at that point, I knew the direction wasn't right for me, but there were all these choices and deadlines. I felt so unreasonable, and like such a troublemaker.
When I said no to the black granite, she didn't really help me with any guiding principles to choose another color. Her assistant just said choose something that picks up the cabinet color. So my husband and I went to the granite yard an hour and a half away, on our own, and all the slabs looked so weird to me. We chose something, then we went to the tile store on our own, to choose the floors, and the designer there let us down in not telling us this combination would not work.
The whole process just didn't work. I was inexperienced about working with designers. I should have hired an interior designer, I guess. I asked the kitchen design firm up front if part of the deal was that they would help me choose the surfaces. They said yes, so I took that as a yes…but when we got past the cabinet part of the design process, there was really little help forthcoming.
When I nixed the black granite, she didn't really work with me to figure out what would be pretty for me. For the floor and backsplash, she simply recommended a tile store, and expected me to go choose on my own. I was surprised that I would have to lug samples to the kitchen design place at a time the designer was available (rarely) if I wanted her help. So it was a miscommunication about the level of service provided.
There was a fee charged for design service, after all, so I thought I was going to get full service. Whatever amount that fee was (I am remembering in the several hundreds, maybe 800, but don't quote me) I wouldn't have known how to compare that to level of expected service, this was all new to me. And I was starting to question her taste level. The dark cabinets with the black counter seemed vaguely nineties to me. And in a sunny room? I knew it was going wrong, but had no idea what to do. I felt like there was no one to turn to who knew what they were doing by the end of the process.
What a nightmare. So, anyway, enough of this. We're healthy and have a roof over our heads!
If you know me and my blog, you'll know that pink beige and yellows of any shade do NOT go together. Pink beige just ends up looking dirty beside yellows and yellow beige. The above image is a perfect example of this.
She asked if painting the cabinets would help but I said "If this was my kitchen and I had to choose between changing either the floor or the countertop vs. painting the cabinets white, I would change the countertop (less disruptive) because the cabinets are installed directly on top of the new tile.
Since I am obsessed with white kitchens, I would personally choose an off-white solid, quartz countertop and then paint the cabinets off-white (immediately even if I had to do it myself) or just wait until I could afford to get it professionally re-done.
Option 2: If I didn't have the budget to immediately replace the countertops with stone, I would replace the countertops with laminate in the right colour ASAP and then personally get out a paintbrush and paint the cabinets myself.
Way better than to walk into a kitchen you installed and get upset on a daily basis.
Option 3: would be to choose a coordinating granite to relate to the floors, something like this one (Baltic Brown). Let the record show I WOULD NEVER CHOOSE THIS GRANITE. But since this is an emergency (and some of you will really want to know), here's one pink beige granite that would at least coordinate with the existing pink beige travertine.
If the floor tile would be replaced, my personal choice would be to continue the hardwood flooring from the living room into the kitchen.
If it had to be tile, I would choose a yellow beige floor tile that relates to the granite, NOT too busy!! There's enough going on with the existing granite. This one I found isn't perfect but it's the general idea.
This homeowner clearly cares about her environment. Her kitchen is styled with white dishes in the glass cabinets and lovely touches on the countertops. Her slipped bar stools are pretty and coordinate with the kitchen.
There is NO GOOD REASON why she now has a kitchen that makes her CRINGE every time she walks in.
If you are a designer reading this, you clearly do not fall into the category of dumb designers and if you are a homeowner reading this post, here's the best and smartest, if-all-else-fails-and-you-don't-know-what-to-do, do this:
Find a picture you love on-line and then just COPY IT. There's no shame in it, truly.
That's it. Simple. Don't let anyone talk you out of your inspiration kitchen.
This kitchen perfectly demonstrates the post I just wrote: Danger: Free Advice will Sabotage your Expensive Renovation. And the sad part is, she also paid for this advice.
This is also the reason why I continually preach simple and clean when it comes to finishes. Why I have said time and time again, PATTERNS in hard finishes should RARELY, ALMOST NEVER be seen in the same room at the same time.
It's bad enough that the colours completely clash, but even if they did not, there would be a lot of busyness happening with the 'Look at me, look at me' granite.
In November one of the designers in my Specify Colour with Confidence Workshops told me she was doing my colour training because she had recently been hired by a developer to help homeowners select all their brand new finishes and colours for the homes they were buying.
The designer who did not help the homeowner find her finishes because she didn't know what she was doing and clearly did not want to be held responsible for the result.
Note to commenters, I've never said this before, however, this reader has been so brave and so generous in allowing us to learn from her mistake, please be kind with your comments. She has suffered enough!
If you are starting a renovation or new build and need a step-by-step plan to avoid these or similar kinds of mistakes, go here.