Thursday, January 29, 2015

Corners and Counters

Click the picture to enlarge it.
At first glance, it doesn't look like much has happened since last week, but it has.
First of all, the fridge now has running water and, luckily for us, a small part of the water line broke while it was being moved. Ordinarily that would be bad news, but in this case, it turned out that the joint was calcified. Once it was replaced (an inexpensive repair), our water pressure was better than ever.

Yay! I love the water in the door of the fridge -- it comes out filtered and cold, just the way I like it.

There will be a cover panel on the right side of the base unit.

To the right of the fridge, you'll see that the coffee cabinet now has a new microwave. The old part of the kitchen still has a vent hood/microwave combination, but I really hate it. Getting at the pots on the back burner, let alone serving from those pots, has always been a pain. Plus, the microwave was unusually noisy.

The new one, at $99, was the same price as the very first microwave we ever bought (pre-1987), but has lots more features ("EZ-on" and automatic defrost are the two we use most), is prettier, and quieter. It's also just about the smallest one I could find, but still holds a dinner plate. We hope to be able to sell our old microwave to recoup some of this cost.

The problem now is that neither Emily nor I can comfortably reach the shelf above the microwave. The solution to that is twofold:

  1. Most of the coffee fixings and a few mugs (along with the toaster, the smoothie machine, and my milk steamer) are in the bottom drawer of that cabinet.
  2. Stephen is going to build a shallow set of shelves to handle mugs, sugar bowls and other tiny things. 
One thing you can't really see in that picture is a light bulb plugged into a socket right under the microwave shelf. It is only there to demonstrate how the under-cabinet lighting will work: Steve has connected that one socket to a light switch. (All the under-cabinet lights will be on the same switch.)

You may have wondered why we were missing a drawer in last week's picture. It's a long story, involving a jammed piece and two trips to IKEA -- they repaired the piece quickly at no cost (other than my time).

We are just about ready to move onto Phase Two, when we started having second thoughts about our approach to the blind corner.

Blind Corner Unit from Lee Valley
We had purchased this fancy blind corner unit from Lee Valley, but as we looked more closely at it, we realized that it really didn't use the space very efficiently. I'm not sure whether European cabinets are smaller or what, but this unit used only 17 inches of the available 22 inches in the cabinet. 

The end result was that most of our pots and pans would not fit in that unit. Bummer. It looked so cool.

So then we considered putting in a 360-degree corner unit like this one, which fits in a 36-inch base. 

At the Lee Valley store in Ottawa
We were sold on this idea (and Steve was even going to modify the structure so it would have three shelves), but then we got home and I realized that cutting the corner at an angle like that would mean that I couldn't reach the upper cabinets. Being short kind of sucks sometimes. 

Then we had a thought: we love drawers. They are incredibly efficient and easy to get at. 

Our love for drawers is part of why Stephen customized the pantry to have two deep drawers on the bottom, as you can see in this crappy picture. 

In fact, in the original renovation, we had put two 24-inch-wide drawer bases perpendicular to each other and just abandoned that blind corner.

See all the drawers?
And we loved it. I never missed that space.

So that's what we're planning to do in the opposite corner of the kitchen, roughly: give up the blind corner and put in more drawers rather than pullouts or lazy susans or odd bits and pieces. 

This decision will actually save us quite a bit of money: we won't need the special Lee Valley unit or the IKEA cabinet that would have housed it. 

I'm still anxious about how (and where) everything will fit when the dust settles, but I'm trying not to panic. 

(This is me not panicking.)

Meanwhile, now that Phase One is mostly finished, I've started thinking about countertop options. One of the things I hated most about the original kitchen was the dark granite counters.

Whoever named this needs a colour test.
There are several things I liked about this countertop:
  • It looks quite sophisticated.
  • It hides dirt and spills like you would not believe!
  • I've put hot pots and casseroles on it with no ill effects (although I've been told I shouldn't do that).
  • No stains or fading.
  • No visible scratches. (I'm not sure I would be able to tell.)
But we've seen a few other options we like:
Giallo ornamental granite
This is also a granite, so would likely have the same maintenance features, though it would not hide quite so many spills. We would have to select a slab carefully, to be sure it had the reddish tones of the cabinets.

The next two samples are both Silestone, a manufactured product that is mostly quartz.

I love the flecks of blue in the Blue Sahara, but would I grow tired of it?  

The Kona Beige is much more neutral, with a relatively fine grain. It would work and would allow a great number of backsplash options, but it doesn't really excite me.

The final sample is a recycled surface by Eco.

The earth-toned bits of recycled glass in the resin/quartz mixture are quite pretty and reflective. But I'm not sure how resilient the resin-based surface would be. I'm imagining burns or scorch marks. And the website notes that there can be fading in places where there is bright sunlight.

Here are the four options, side by side. Which would you choose?

(I should note that we will need to compare each of these samples to our flooring, and also select a coordinating backsplash before we made a decision.)


  1. Do your options work equally well with the floor tiles? Or does one work best?

    1. That's what I keep forgetting to check out. The floor tiles are slightly grey-white, so it could make the counter look bad if we choose the wrong colour.

  2. There is just so much to say...Love the kitchen, (similar to the one I had my brother Mark build me), yes the blind corners take a lot of thought (I'll have to take photos to show you my solution). My friend says the lazy suzy gets jammed everything something falls over/off the shelves. I bought a laminate which is an imitation granite so I could see if I liked living with the dark counters. I would go slightly lighter, mid tone, if I ordered granite. Therefore, I like your # 3 choice best but could do the others as well. A friend used her granite as the back splash as well. You might want to decide the counters in conjunction with the back splash. Looks great so far.

    1. Definitely send me pictures of your corner solution.

      I agree: counters, backsplash, and floor need to be decided together. I keep forgetting to take a spare floor tile to the stores with me.

  3. I really like the one with the blue too... but I think it might be something that you grow tired of soon and want a change. More neutral is probably a better choice. I really like the Kona Beige.
    We have the pull out drawers in our pantry and I love them!! so easy to use and it's surprising how much you can fit.

    1. I'm someone who likes to redecorate on a rather too-frequent basis (if you ask my husband), so I think I'll lean towards neutral with any of the more permanent features like tile or counter top. Bye-bye blue. :(


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