Let’s take a break from my ankle this week (ha! ha!) and talk about our latest home improvement project, the one that literally made me sick from all the sanding and threw my back out in hauling the largest dresser upstairs, but was oh-so-worth-it when the finished products were back in place.

It all started with the old chair in our room, which was at least 50 years old with the stuffing coming out one arm. I’d safety-pinned the arm material back together and strategically placed a throw over the arm to cover the gash, but that didn’t stop the old, pilled stuffing from going everywhere whenever one of the kids even looked at the chair.

Whenever I came upstairs to read at night, my throat swelled up and the drainage kicked in, and our new family ENT (a requirement when you live in the allergy capital of the universe) suggested dust mites might be a problem. So the chair went to the curb, and Derek and I began separately researching new gray bedroom chairs and came up with identical chairs from two different stores (his in person, mine online). It was meant to be.


Then I got onto a curtain kick. Why do we cover up this gorgeous view with blinds? We basically live in a tree house and can only see through the slats. It took me a long time to decide what color curtains to get, but I’m really happy with these wine-colored beauties that have a subtle damask pattern. Derek’s also really happy with them because they are incredible at blocking light and sound. We can hardly hear the 3 a.m. neighborhood dog calls any more, and even in summer not a speck of light filters through in the morning. It’s so dark that if we forget the bathroom nightlight, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, to see by.


After the curtains, the next obvious step was to get our dressers and nightstands into the scene with a new paint job and hardware. I wanted them to match the cabinets in the bathroom area.


Confession: I hate beige. Hate it. Beige is the color of all the apartments we lived in prior to buying our first home. Beige is a landlord’s color: neutral and easily paintable. Beige is the color of tract houses and developer houses and houses where people move a lot. Beige does not express any kind of a personality or permanency.

Which is why, when our “gray squirrel” upstairs carpeting turned out to be, well, beige, I had to resign myself to having a certain amount of it in the house. But not on the walls. Not on the walls.


You’d think I’d feel the same way about gray, which is beige’s cool counterpart, but I don’t.  I’ve always loved silver jewelry and gray as my “neutral” color, and I’m so glad it’s “in” right now and hope it never goes “out.” To me, gray is all the things one needs in a place where one is supposed to be getting beauty rest: cool, serene, and calming. It begs to be paired with cool colors, my preference. It’s manly enough that I can get away with a few touches of pink and wine colors without making my husband feel like it’s my space and not our space.


So that’s our bedroom redo! My next mini-project is to get Sophia a single set of light- and sound-blocking curtains for her window since the rest of us all have them now. With her mountain view, she has no business looking through blind slats, either.

Then I hope to tackle the Big Project: kitchen counters. We’ve been wanting to do this since we moved in, because the counter area that the kids sit at every morning to eat breakfast doesn’t have a bar shelf, so their knees knock against the cabinets. This is especially true now for Kate, who has shot up to 5′ 7″ and is all legs like her dad.

The previous owners actually replaced their hunter green countertops with a black-gray laminate, and it’s not a terrible look and is pretty new. But I did the Home Depot estimator and to replace that one slab with a new slab with an extra 12 inches of bar space would cost $1,200. For double that we could do the whole thing in granite, and in our neighborhood this is a good investment in terms of home value, so we’re leaning in that direction.

Except. I love the look of black-on-white in the kitchen and want to keep it. But black granite countertops have two major drawbacks: they suck the light out of the room, and they’re like glass and we have three kids with 15 sets of fingerprint options.

One place we looked at showed us a distressed leather look, which is basically a matte form of granite. We decided on that. We were ready to pull the trigger. Then the guy who was going to do the install got a big job and was gone for a month, and we all dropped the ball. The granite store’s inventory changes constantly, requiring us to go back and pick new kinds out. I can’t take the emotional investment of doing this again when I’m still unsure about doing it in the first place.

Then our friends introduced us to quartz, and the paradox of choice really kicked in and I’m now immobile and unable to make a decision.

My criteria is

  • Gray or black color
  • No driving us crazy with fingerprints
  • Must add value to the house and have longevity in terms of classic style
  • Can’t suck all the light out of the room, which takes us back to a reflective surface and the fingerprint issue
  • Must be within budget
  • Need to figure out complementary backsplash material with the same criteria of value and longevity

In any case, I’ve figured out that when I continue to stall on making a decision, it’s because I’m not ready. Normally I’m an instantaneous decision-maker, fully prepared to move ahead and live with the consequences. The fact that this countertop decision is stretching over three years says that we haven’t landed on quite the right solution yet.

If I were spending piles of money, I’d reconfigure the entire kitchen by taking that breakfast bar piece out, turning it sideways into an island, and adding cabinetry to the breakfast area on every available wall. Then I’d get my grandmother’s rose glasses and china out of storage (they used to have a prominent place in our built-in cabinet in the dining room of the old house, but we have no such space in the new house). I’d give the cabinets a fresh coat of paint (shoot, if I’m spending piles of money, I will replace the cabinets, even knowing that 5 seconds afterwards they will be chipped by an unnamed child), install marble on the island and granite everywhere else, trade our electric stove in for gas, get rid of the microwave, get a super fancy Kohler faucet, and boom. New kitchen. According to the 2015 Cost vs. Value Remodeling Report, this will set us back around $20-40K. So, no.

But it’s clear why I can’t pull the trigger on countertops, right?