Design Decisions

There are good things about working with local workmen, such as not having to pay shipping and handling costs, and knowing where to find them if you have an issue or a question (and if they don’t answer the phone, you can pay them a personal visit!). But there are some extremely annoying things about a local relationship also. Greg calls it “working on “Ellijay time”, but I have a much more colorful way of describing schedules promised, but not kept.

On Monday, we received the bad news that our upper cabinets won’t be installed until sometime at the end of next week. Now, mind you, they were promised the week after the lowers were installed. Mike also offered to install the pulls on the cabinets, but it looks like Greg will be doing that this weekend. Some of the cabinets are difficult to operate without something to grab onto. The space for the built-in trash can has no door, so Bear was having a great time rustling through garbage for after-meal snacks. The trash can was thus moved to a corner cabinet that may, someday, house a turntable for pots and pans… It really bothers me that the only way we find out that the schedule has “moved out” is if we pick up the phone and call.

I now realize that it is not the actual construction that causes such angst during a remodel. No, the stress is caused by delays you have no control over, and not understanding why things aren’t happening as promised. In contrast to the kitchen, the dining room was a breeze. Tony is the consummate professional; we knew what the timeline for the project was. He met it, and actually brought the project in a little under budget! Mike, the kitchen man, is more of a “tell ya watcha wanna hear and then disappear” kind of guy. He produces a beautiful product; I just fear I may not live long enough to see my finished kitchen. Trust me…there is no guarantee about a cabinet installation next week, either! (You have seen pictures of the absolute chaos we are living with. Producing a meal means that everybody must participate in a scavenger hunt to locate cooking ingredients, pots and pans, and even groceries that were purchased yesterday! Yes, every nerve in my body is just a-jangling!)

Now onto design decisions that were made for the new dining room and kitchen spaces. The most important floor plan change we made was the elimination of the bar that separated the kitchen and the old dining room space. After buying those oriental-looking, butt-numbing wooden saddle stools, I realized that I don’t like eating at a bar! Then there was the problem of the constant “clutter” that made it very difficult to find a clearing large enough to set a coffee cup down. You know the saying “nature abhors a vacuum”?  Well in our house, nature abhors any large, flat, clean surface. That space must immediately be filled with piles of unfiled mail, miscellaneous dog treats, unplanted garden seeds, and just plain stuff!  (And the biggest offender was me.) So the bar had to be eliminated from the overall design, and now that it is gone, the kitchen looks enormous.


The flooring for the dining room, which is also installed in the kitchen and eat-in area, is Bellawood’s Brazilian Koa. It was the closest wooden flooring we could find that matches the existing pine hardwoods that run through the rest of the house. The original plan was to replace all of the flooring on the main floor, but the cost was too prohibitive. So, the new floor and old floor will transition on the other side of the knee wall, by the garage entry door. The interesting thing about the Brazilian Koa is that it acquires a “suntan”, and darkens as much as 4 shades from the sunlight. The flooring in the dining room certainly did get a tan, as you can see from the picture below. The new section that Greg installed last weekend is markedly lighter than the flooring that was installed in July. Since the interior of the house is still sunlight-starved, hopefully the new floor won’t darken that much, and be more compatible with the coloring of the old pine hardwoods.

brazilizn koa floor


The wood trim and ceiling in the dining room are clear-coated white pine. The trim in the rest of the house is a mid-range orange-y maple color.   I really wanted something lighter and brighter in the dining room, so we went with a no-stain finish. In the kitchen, the trim will remain the original color, since there is a lot of it; the ceiling and wooden beams are the darker shade, as well. The new kitchen cabinets are a satin clear-coat finished pine.  (A pic of the cabinet hardware is also below.) This choice ties the dining room and kitchen together, since the dining room trim is very visible from the kitchen. The flooring provides a nice transition between the lighter and darker woods.



The paint color of the dining was originally going to be the Inviting Ivory that is found on the living room walls and cabinets. However, that color turned out to be identical to the color of the pine trim. Monotone is not my style, so we used the Hawthorne color in the new space, and the result makes me HAPPY! (Come to think of it, most of my dining rooms in the last 20 years have been in that color family. It is a great color choice for dining areas, because it supposedly encourages lively conversation. We have never been known for providing dull dining experiences, so there must be some truth to that!) To further the transition between spaces, we continued the Hawthorne color into the kitchen.


I decided to go with soapstone counters. In the past, I have used Corian (stains easily), and Silestone (edges chip easily). The kitchen island (built by Greg…it is so beautiful!), that is visible in the pictures of the old kitchen, sports a granite top. (NOTE: This the first piece of granite I have ever used.) As a food prep surface, I like it a lot. However, a lot of granite is distinctly patterned, to the point of overwhelming my senses. Also, I find that if you are going to use tile with granite, it is quite difficult to arrive at a combination that works well together, unless you stick with very neutral tile and grout choices. Bottom line for me: I love tile color much more than I like granite patterning!

Soapstone is primarily black, with areas that contain light white or gray veining. It’s not maintenance-free, since it requires a rubdown, on a monthly basis, with mineral oil, in order to preserve the black color (otherwise, it turns gray.) It is not an absorbent material, so there is no problem with bacteria from food preparation. The local man who is providing the counters said he had never had a request for soapstone, but is now doing 2 jobs with it…ours being one of them. Will let you know how we like them.

Regarding the kitchen island that Greg built: when the bar was still in the kitchen, it was almost too large. With the bar gone, it is way too small! So hopefully, we can find a buyer for it, and Greg will build another one that is twice as long as the original. With the old floor removed, he was able to add an electrical outlet in the floor under the island’s location, making it a lot more functional than the original model. The new island will be painted black, have a spice rack on one of the short sides, and sport a granite top.


Greg and I had a difficult time coming to an agreement on what the backsplash should look like. (Yes, he DOES have input into design decisions, [I don’t want him to hate anything in the house], but I make the final determination of which of multiple possibilities we will use.) He wanted it to look stunning, so I picked out stunning (a small ivory tile with a woven look, punctuated with tiny black squares). His response was underwhelming. He wanted rustic stunning. So we moseyed over to the tumbled marble-looking tile. We found some tiles, mounted on 12” mesh backing, that contained a beautiful selection of yellows, ivories, coral shades, as well as some black veining. We both liked the look (the tiles are not entirely smooth, so they have the rustic quality Greg wanted). The dissent came with the shape of the tiles. Greg wanted really rustic, so his choice was a brick pattern.  Not my cup of tea.  I preferred the 2” square tiles that contained more color variation. We ultimately went with my choice, primarily because a substantial portion of the area to be tiled is only 12” high, and the brick tiles were too large for the space.


Let’s face it…the youth factor is no longer on my side, and while I had a very serviceable gas oven/stove, it was nothing to be excited about. So, I figured that if I was ever going to acquire a semi-professional range in this lifetime, it was now or never. I started doing some research, and was amazed (appalled?) at how expensive the Wolf, Thermador, and Viking models were. Not only that, they take up an enormous amount of space!  My desire for a sparkly cooking toy was tempered with an even greater reluctance to give up precious counter space, as well as an understanding that a $10,000+ unit was not in the budget.

I really wanted double ovens in a 36” cooking space. The model that seemed to fit the bill was an Italian stove, manufactured by Verona. It had the look and features that I wanted. I could even get it in a quirky color (bisque)!  After reading all of the reviews from people that purchased this brand, I was more confused than ever.  So, I took the plunge and ordered it, anyway, along with a multi-year warranty plan (just in case the bad reviews were correct :>).  It arrived on Saturday night, at around 8:00 pm (the delivery experience is a long story for another day).  Lots of boxes, no assembly instructions, that we could find (until after it was all assembled, naturally), but Greg figured out how to put it together; the propane guys came out several days ago and hooked it up, and…Whew! We love it!


Our existing refrigerator was a purchase of desperation, when we moved into the mountain house. I bought it based on availability and a picture on the internet.  Maybe you remember my comment that I have never found a refrigerator that I like, whether I see them in the store, or online.  They always look great in the store; when you get them home, there’s never room for the 10 varieties of salad dressing, or the 8 types of mustard, we have to keep in stock!  And don’t get me started on trying to clean them (i.e., the shelves that slide out like greased lightning, but refuse to go back in without the help of a crowbar???)

Anyway, with the new kitchen layout, the refrigerator will share a wall, (where the old glass-paneled cabinets were located; see pic below) with several floor-to-ceiling pantry units.

2014-08-30 10.03.36


Thus, it was necessary to have a refrigerator that is counter depth, in order to have a clean, uninterrupted line along that wall. So we ordered this French door number, sight unseen (except for an internet pic!)  It is a Samsung, our preferred appliance and TV manufacturer, so, hey, how bad can it be?


The last appliance to be replaced is the microwave. We basically swapped out a new over-the-stove model for the old decrepit one that was in the house when we moved in. I had a similar set-up in my Atlanta house, and it never bothered me, perhaps because my appliances there were divinely white.  In this house, the black & stainless steel Kenmore microwave seems to hang oppressively over the cook space, making me feel like there is barely room to stir the pot! It has great features and is perfectly functional.  I just don’t like it hanging mid-air over my stove!  So, I ordered a countertop model in black, also Kenmore, that will be housed in a corner cabinet that fills the space where the old pantry was.  The fan from the microwave is being replaced with a stainless steel hood vent.

By the way, the corner cabinet cabinet will also house cookbooks, along with serving as a coffee station.  If Santa will just bring a Delonghi single-serve coffeemaker, the kitchen will be complete!

NOTE: The appliances that are being replaced are not being discarded. They are moving into the downstairs kitchen.  It will be such a blessing to have a full kitchen at the ready when I am working in my studio…


My dear friend, Lee Ann, knows the nooks and crannies of my house better than I do. That’s because she cleans it!  We met when I responded to her housekeeping ad in the local Ellijay paper. By that time, I was barely ambulatory, so I needed help with the house.  Long story short, she’s family, and I love her dearly.

She’s very excited about all of the changes in the kitchen. I keep her in the loop on the design choices and purchases that have been made, because, after all, she’ll be keeping it all sparkly!  One day, she wondered out loud if I was going to keep the old sink and faucet, or replace them (she asked it so innocently, that for the life of me, I couldn’t tell if she was being sarcastic!)  Here’s why:


It was a tough decision, but in the end, I decided that out with the old and in with the new was the way to go with the sink. I ordered the Blanco single bowl black quartzite sink, with a Delta faucet complete with pull-out sprayer. I hope going from a faucet that has 2 knobs (ceramic, with “HOT” and “COLD” printed on them), to a single handle, sleek chrome number won’t be too traumatic…(Now, that, folks, is sarcasm!)


That is enough damage for one renovation.  I, for one, can’t wait to see it all installed, to see if the vision was captured.


Tomorrow is Saturday. I hope we can carve out some time to wander around downtown and take some pictures of local color, before the football games start. It’s “Scarecrow Invasion” time in Ellijay, through October 31st.  Every year I think that the straw men can’t be outdone by the previous year’s designs, but the business owners always find ways to outdo themselves, and this year is no exception.

So the next post will be about, with lots of pics, our lovely town, as it looks (IMHO), during the best time of the year. Hope everyone has a great weekend, and GO VOLS!


About vkroo

I am passionate about writing, as well as design/DIY/decorating. I decided to combine these skills in a blog, that describes the joys and challenges of transforming a shaggy, baggy elephant of a mountian house into a stunning home.
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1 Response to Design Decisions

  1. Eduardo Toseto says:


    I´m sure you will love your Italian semi-professional stove…..It will last for life time. I was in the same situation as you coming back home and ended buying the Italian brand Lofra….it is now almost 8 years old and it is perfect. The floor looks beautiful. Hope you have your cabinets on time, Eduardo


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