We’re Back On! (A Group Remodeling Project: Part 7)

Alrighty, folks; it’s been a little while since we’ve discussed this, so for those of you who’d like a refresher, feel free to check out the first 6 installments our Group Remodeling Project:

In short, we were TOTALLY UNDERWAY for our kitchen remodel in April/May before we fell rather dramatically apart and basically are just now, 4 months later, getting our crap together enough to dive back in.

We ARE, however, diving ALL the way back in, as we’re wont to do, and so we’ll commence torturing Greg together again STAT.

To date, we’ve agreed the old, crappy stove we start with the ice pick has to go, along with the orange counters. We’ve agreed I cannot be trusted to make ANY kitchen decisions without you (reference: orange counters). We’ve decided we’ll put subway tile up the walls in the kitchen area. We’ve met Betty, our new old stove and the Hero of this Tale, and we’ve decided to put her against the wall between the fridge and the sink where she’ll shine without blocking the window.


We left you hanging when it came to the range hood, but we’d previously agreed either a stainless hood against a tiled wall…


…or a hood mounted under a cabinet…


…would be fine, so Greg and I left the decision up to the expense.

The contractors tell us the former option (stainless steel hood against tiled wall) is cheapest, so SOLD.


Are you ready??

CONSTRUCTION HAS BEGUN, and Betty’s new home is being prepared.


Please note, for those of you not yet convinced of my inability to decorate in any way that resembles a grown-up with, say, taste, that mint green wall you see with the cabinets removed is, in fact, the original wall color I picked on purpose… wait for it… to go with the orange counters. DO YOU SEE WHY I NEED YOU?

Yes. Yes, I need you to the moon.

Which brings me to the latest.

We, um, have started construction without all our decisions made. Like counters. NO IDEA WHAT TO DO ABOUT COUNTERS. And Not Knowing will hold up construction since they can’t tile ’til the counters are in place. But the construction guys were ready to roll, and I’ve been procrastinating the heck out of this project, so I told them to go ahead and start, and I’d try to catch up.

That’s what I said.

Go ahead and start, and I’ll try to catch up. After all, if we don’t start by doing something, we might end up doing nothing, and I CAN’T START MY STOVE WITH AN ICE PICK FOREVER.

Guys, this is totally like life. Because Oh My WORD, friends; oh my word. Sometimes we just have to START ANYWAY, you know? Even without knowing the end goal. And even if we’re fully aware others will outpace us. Sometimes we have to just GO AHEAD and say all the Hail Marys and hope we can catch up. Amen? AMEN.

Which is why today’s subject is Belated Counters. Specifically, what type of material to use and what color.

Here are the factors for type of countertop material:

  1. We can’t take care of stuff. <– We can’t. We’re terrible at maintaining things and treating them gently, so if there’s a type of counter top has to be handled carefully or must be babied, polished, sealed, oiled or sanded, it’s out, friends. It will die a horrible, terrible death at my house, and no one wants that.
  2. Due to #1, we’ve ruled out granite, soapstone, wood and tile.
  3. Confession: I’ve loved our orange countertops. All except the color. They’re laminate countertops, and they are so easy to clean and maintain! They don’t stain. You can’t break them by sitting on them. They’re easy to wash with soap and water. And we never have to polish, seal or oil them.
  4. So we’re considering laminate again… I hear laminate’s gotten better. Prettier? Less plasticky? With lovely edges now? So I want to seriously consider laminate unless you all are, like, NO WAY, BETH; WE ARE HERE TO SAVE YOU FROM YOURSELF. Check out these pics at Decor Chick, though, before you yell at me, K? I think you’ll see what I mean.
  5. …or maybe stainless steel? Now, I’m not actually sure we can afford these, but I like the idea in theory — countertops that can take what a lab dishes out can surely take what my kids dish, right? Plus they don’t stain. I have heard I won’t like all the fingerprints on them before the years it takes to develop a nice patina, and my friend, Emily, who’s weighed in, says they’re too cold for the space. Emily is good people with a pretty house, so I tend to believe her. Added to the possible high cost (we did rule out whether the steel shop in town was willing to make them — they’re not 🙁 ), and I’m not certain this is high enough on the list but wanted to throw it out there.

So, Question #1 is countertop type. Can I go ahead with laminate? Or must I consider other options?

Next, we have to discuss color. I do like high contrast looks like our dark wood floor with our white cabinets, but I’m wondering if the counter should also be a contrast to the cabinets (dark brown? dark grey?) or if it should blend in with the cabinets (lighter gray, maybe?). I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING, FRIENDS. HELP ME.

On the one hand, I’m a short, round woman, and I’ve always been told not to break things up too much — do not wear a skirt of one color and a top of a totally different color, Beth; it chops you up! — but on the other hand, I’ve never actually heeded that advice, BECAUSE IT’S CRAP, and I’ll defend to the death my kitchen’s right to wear whatever she darn well pleases.

Glad we had this chat.

Nevertheless, my kitchen can’t change her counters as frequently as I change my skirt, so I want to do well by her.

Like, take a look at this photo is from HGTV’s Fixer Upper


The color scheme and farmhouse industrial feel above closely match the vibe in our kitchen, from the darker wood floors and the reclaimed wood table top to the subway tile walls and white cabinets. Their counters have that light/medium gray thing going on, which makes me think we’d be on the right track with something similar. Yay or nay??

So Question #2 is countertop color. Light grey? Dark grey? Something else entirely??

In conclusion, help a girl out. You’re my only hope.





P.S. In other news, I do not have to murder Greg, after all! Which is, frankly, hours of planning and premeditation wasted. However, because it DID turn out to be a handsaw he let the 9-year-old use and NOT the power saw AND because he didn’t let that child purchase or build a forge for melting metal and also inevitably his own flesh, now Greg thinks I owe him cake.

ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
  1. Laminate is the countertop choice for real people. Go light or dark gray laminate.

  2. Make sure whatever you pick has enough of a pattern (random or otherwise) that crumbs won’t show. We have a “speckly” quartz countertop in the kitchen, and you can barely see crumbs unless you get down to eye level with the countertop. That’s a major win in my book.

  3. Quartz. The End.

  4. I.Love.My.Quartz countertops. 0 maintenance. However for a more industrial feel i’ve always been interested in concrete, you can stain it any color you want so it doesn’t have to feel cold.

    Undermount sink! YES!

    If you go with a quartz, get something with some movement. That way you won’t see every little crumb (or in my case dried toothpaste on the counter in the bathroom).

  5. We chose a laminate which looks like polished concrete. It looks awesome.

  6. I love my laminates, and light grey will be gorgeous! Of course dark grey wouldn’t b bad either… Light grey will show less dust .

  7. Quartz is easiest to care for and durable, I vote light to medium gray. What happened to the antique hood option? So exciting!!

  8. Beth,
    Okay, I just have to weigh in. We are in the middle of a very big, messy, never-to-be-finished kitchen remodel ourselves, and I chose Carrara marble, with a honed surface. I. Love. It. So. Much. !! I know that there are *supposedly* lots of negatives with it, but I’ve been living with it (and we use things very hard, too, and are terrible with maintenance) and I still love it. It’s cool and smooth and beautiful and easy to clean, and if I drop a glass of red wine and it stains a little, I really don’t give a hoot. So I’d check it out if I were you. I’d also go with the contrast. It’s cheaper than quartz, MUCH cheaper, and I don’t know where it fits in with the laminate price: it’s probably more, but not a lot more than a really good laminate (which you obviously deserve, the better quality stuff). Check out my blog post about our remodel (I built the kitchen around a vintage stove, too! = no regrets!). Hang in there!

  9. We got the Corian type counter tops and I kind of love them! We had yellow laminate before (not my choice) and it was awful. The Corian type (ours is the HiMacs brand) is one solid piece, no seams and it has a molded back splash because the reason “we” remodeled our kitchen was water damage and I didn’t want to even think about water going down behind the sink!
    My mom just did hers with laminate and it’s awful. Do be very sure if you choose it you get a good installer so you don’t end up with extra seams and high spots.
    The only thing with the Corian type is that you can’t set anything hot on it, but I kind of think that’s the same with laminate. And I love mine with the little flecks in it that literally hide any crumbs on it! 😉
    Second question, I would go with at least some contrast and my preference would be light brown since your floors are wood. By mostly go get a bunch of sample pieces and see what looks good in your kitchen with your lighting because I guarantee the one you pick in store will look awful at home.

  10. We have laminate counters from the Formica 180fx line (blue storm). I love them, and we have gotten lots of compliments on them.

  11. We did a mini kitchen renovation and went through countertop stages. We started with cheap butcherblock from ikea that we would install and seal ourselves but realized how much work it would be to maintain them without damaging them. Ok, so laminate wasn’t too much more expensive so maybe we will do that! Or hey, solid surface is only a little bit more expensive than that and more durable. We didn’t really like the look of granite, so that was out, but what we reallllly wanted (and had lived with in our last kitchen) was Quartz. So beautiful, so durable, so easy. And not just the entry-level Quartz, but the pretty white Quartz with flecks of sparkle in it. So we sucked it up, realized it was a long-term investment for our big family and got what we wanted. I am SO GLAD we did this! Had we gone one of the other routes (especially the butcher block) we probably would have had to redo it a few years down the road and now we are good for the foreseeable future. Plus every time I go into my kitchen I fight the urge to hug my countertops.

  12. Quartz for the win! We love ours

  13. I just remodeled my entire house after a fire. I thought a lot about countertops. I had granite before but didn’t want to seal the counters or have to take care of them. I went with Quartz (different colors) everywhere. I LOVE it!

    It’s the very easiest to take care of and you can’t hurt it! You can put hot pans tight down on it! No staining! No sealing! It comes in soooo many colors. I have a medium gray on my perimeter where I have white cabinets, I have a white with some grays on my island (that one looks like marble but again, no maintenanance). Some of the brands to check out are Silestone, Caesarstone and Cambria.

  14. No stainless steel, you can see ALL the greasy finger prints ALL the time. I think laminate is a great, durable material, I had pure white laminate counters from 1979 in my old house and they always cleaned right up and survived 37 yeas of pretty non-existent care. Pure white is not good because it shows every little crumb, and too dark is not good because it doesn’t show anything and then you set food down in the massive coffee spill that you didn’t notice. I think light gray would be good, maybe with some subtle light green flecks to set off the dials on Betty. Really, whatever color is going to make Betty look her best and shine as the star of the kitchen that she is.

  15. Have you considered Corian? Look it up

    1. Yes! Last year we moved into a house with corian counters and I love them. They are indestructible.

  16. We have had laminate for 16 years and it has held up well. The bullnose edge is great as it wraps around the front edge and makes it possible to wipe off the spills that end up there. We have something that was made to look like granite that has a lot of specks all over and a grey background…this is great for allowing coffee grounds that spill to blend in! My mom has granite and while it is beautiful, it is not that way without concerted effort! Cost-wise, it hard to beat laminate even if you have custom order it! Way to get started-true life lesson there! 🙂

  17. Not to get off track, but since you’re talking about counters, I need to talk about sinks. Have you seen the thing where you can put the sink edge under the counter edge? Like, so you can just sweep crumbs off the counter & into the sink without getting caught on the edge? Like this http://www.thekitchn.com/the-6-things-you-need-to-know-about-undermount-kitchen-sinks-166059
    It says it’s a bad match for laminate, which is sad. But it’s too amazing to not mention, at least.

    1. Oh my gosh, so much this! I got an under mount too and it’s awesome! My mom did with her laminate and I’m afraid the laminate is going to be peeling around the sink within a couple years. Plus you can’t get the extra edge around the sink so it looks really weird.

  18. Fixer upper notwithstanding, no stainless steel or cement. Your home needs warmth and those just won’t give you that. I’d go medium gray and laminate with curved edges and careful joints should work. There are some great synthetic materials that don’t need sealing and have the look of granite without the PITA factor – joints are sealed so it looks like one huge piece. It holds up VERY well.

  19. We put laminate in our kitchen and I really like it. With our 6 kids it takes a beating but holds up beautifully.

    As for color I think the light gray could be great, I went a little darker but only to hide the things my kids spilled until we get them cleaned up.

  20. Ok so I totally thought the picture you put on facebook of the HGTV kitchen was YOURS and I was so jealous…..not that I don’t want you to have a beautiful kitchen, but well, I want it too, dang it! But since I suffer the same tragic decorating ability as you profess, I doubt my kitchen will ever be so pretty. And white. Long way to say that I think laminate is fine. It’s cheap, easy to clean, and actually looks pretty good these days.

    1. HA! Not mine. In the end, I hope my kitchen is pretty and very, very functional. It will never be a magazine photo, nor will the rest of my life, but that’s perfectly fine with me! 🙂

  21. I wondered what was happening with the kitchen saga… I re-vamped my kitchen last summer so I feel your decision dilemma
    I chose white cabinets, clear glass knobs, the flooring I chose ten years ago is blue tile with some taupe mottled in… So I wanted a greyish-taupe counter top. Before I talked/ bullied ? my hubby into granite counters, I chose a laminate called tundra taupe which was very nice grey and taupe granite looking-ish. I did get my granite And I love it! It’s called blue pearl which is mostly grey with little flashes of ,you guessed it, blue pearl and some taupe. I heard that darker shades of granite aren’t finicky with the sealing thing. I think your stove decision rocks and with the stainless hood, some grey in the counter will look great!
    BTW, still no decision here about the backsplash … Still hoping for the perfect greyish shade of glass subway tile at a bargain price.
    Hubby was hoping for better food to come from the new kitchen but, alas, no cooking fairy has appeared!

  22. Yes, you owe Greg cake. We’ll come help eat it.
    I think the cement would seem cold, like the stainless steel.
    I chose laminate for 2 of the 3 houses we’ve had built, and this house has only tile of various kinds. I don’t like the tile at all in the kitchen, except that it is like an enormous trivet and you can set hot things directly on it. The edges tend to chip and can be sharp. I really liked the laminate in our previous house, and the quality and choice of colors/patterns is much better now, including some designs that look remarkably like granite. I’d love to help you choose. By the way, our first house had “Aztec Gold”, which some insensitive people might have called “Orange”.

  23. I think quartz countertops would totally be the way to go. You can get them in practically any color and they are as close as you can get to maintenance-free and extremely durable. We have them several places in our house and I love them. There are many different brands of quartz countertops, with different prices. None of them are probably as inexpensive as laminate, but if resale value in the future is a consideration, quartz would be better for that. If price is the main consideration, then you can go with laminate.

    I’d probably go with something like medium gray for color. But with white cabinets, you could do almost anything color-wise.

  24. I’ve heard some people pour their own cement counter tops. There may be a post on this somewhere in the Young House Live archives. Also my friend has a dark black soapstone counter top. Does nothing to it, has four children all 5 years or younger and loves it…

    1. That’s Young House Love, not Live.

    2. I think the Brands did this (as in the family in Newberg)… ask them?

  25. The laminate in the pictures looks pretty. And it is cheap and easy (insert your own joke here). I will admit to having a current fascination with poured concrete, which can be dyed and or embedded with colored glass or precious gems and can be sealed so it won’t be porous and rough–but that’s just me. I think the med gray in the picture is nice.

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