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Slate grey

kitchen - May 14

Sometimes you don’t have a lot of time, or money. So you wait and you plan.

I had high hopes of re-finishing the kitchen floorboards soon. I even photoshopped it in when I brought in that cabinet. Yeah, that was cute when I thought it’d only take a weekend and like, $300 tops to get a classy ebony floor.


I peeked under the vinyl and masonite in one corner… and my hopes were instantly dashed. Those are boards, yes, but they’re a subfloor, not proper floorboards. You could drive a truck through those gaps.

kitchen then and now

And that’s just one section of the kitchen floor. This house has been extended and reconfigured in the past; above is our best guess of what part of the floorplan used to look like, based on the old thresholds and boundaries we’ve discovered, and its footprint now. (Sidenote: In those days, toilets were often installed ‘outside’ the main house, while the rest of the bathroom was indoors.)

I had another look in the crawl space underneath the kitchen, and thanks to those previous renovations, there are three different sets of boards covering the kitchen and laundry:

  1. Proper floorboards in laundry that match the rest of the house.
  2. Rough subflooring boards under old veranda.
  3. Newer, rough-sawn, subflooring boards under extension. (They run perpendicular to the others!)

So. If we plan to get rid of the vinyl floor, which we will, we’ll have to install new flooring on top. I’m pretty excited about laying down a shiny new floor, even as I can see the estimated time and cost multiplying sevenfold. It’s worth waiting in order to do it properly.

(Jamie Bush & Co, via One Kind Design)

I could definitely live in this. I mean, if I were in California with bags of money lying around. That slate tile is beautiful and I love how it extends indoors and out.

So yeah, I figure that tile is the simplest and best option for our kitchen floor. It’s a wet area, and we already want to tile the laundry since we’re going to reno it into a full bathroom/laundry later on. So now I’m also thinking about the future laundry reno in detail, since we’ll knock out walls before starting on the floors. How do people choose fixtures and finishes for an entire home all at once?? Does my head in.

In brief — I may not be tiling anytime soon, but I’m doing my research. After all, visual diaries are important to the design process, and I like keeping mine.


1. Klopf Architecture  //  2.
(ETA: Thanks for the shoutout, guys.)

The first photo above is of a beautifully remodeled Californian Eichler. The second one is a from a house listing out in the Melbourne burbs. Thanks to blogs like Modernist Australia and Grass-trees and Butterfly Chairs I’ve seen some suburban gems. Our house isn’t in this league at all (read: mid-century modest), nor do I have any intention of trying to turn our house into something it’s not, but I still find these inspiring!

Australian homes from this period often also feature slate. I’ve mentioned that Jamie’s old man lives out in the bush, and that kitchen has the same materials that his does — the flat blackwood-veneer doors, laminate counters, slate tiles. I don’t love the laminate counters, but I love the rest. (Assuming that is slate tile and not vinyl flooring.)

Modern updates on these houses, like in the Eichler reno, go for greyer, less peachy-blue tile. I can get on board with that. It still nods to the era of the house, but doesn’t feel overly dated.

black slate

Now that I have a feel for what I’m after, it’s time to check out the options. Maybe we’ll get proper slate, maybe we’ll go for a slate-look ceramic, I don’t know. I don’t want it to look too rustic, and durability in wet areas could be an issue. Either way it’s going to be a major upgrade on the vinyl flooring.

I’ve never tiled, so I also have plenty of questions on that front! Does the floor have to be perfectly level? (The kitchen has a faint, gentle slope.) What substrate should we use under tile? (Looks like we’ll rip up the existing masonite.) Do we have to remove all the cabinetry?? (Please god no.) This is all jumping the gun, of course, but the more preparation and research I can throw at Jamie, the more willing he’ll be to dig in. Let’s do this.

3 thoughts on “Slate grey”

  1. The floor doesn’t have to be entirely level, but if it has major bumps and such you will probably want to try to even it out as much as possible-we used some of the self-leveling concrete in some spaces that were super uneven due to an old fireplace mantle that we took out. Some non-major slopes and such you can level out throughout the rest of the process (putting more mortar under tiles in certain spots, etc)…

    As far as the underlayments, we used a layer of luon and then a layer of the hardibacker cement boards. It obviously depends on the tiles you end up choosing, so we just asked the staff where we got our tile and then googled a lot to confirm what they said once we decided on the material.

    We didn’t take out the cabinetry because we didn’t plan on changing the layout of the kitchen anytime soon. If you think you’ll end up doing a whole re-model and changing the layout of rooms, then maybe I would just in case (or at least buy extra tile so that if you need extras down the road, you have the option to do so without running in to any discontinuation problems.

    The #1 thing I’d say for tiling is REALLY REALLY REALLY take the time to measure where you want to start. Measure it like 12 bajillion times, and mark out everything so that you know exactly where your cuts will be around the edges of the room. 🙂 It’s best to take a ton of time doing it before you get started than starting and then finding out somewhere in the room you will have a huge awkward cut..

    Sorry for talking so much 🙂

    1. That essay was AWESOME, thanks so much! I really appreciate it. 🙂

      (Your renovated kitchen looks great btw, nice choice on the tile. I also love that you left your old laminate countertop, we’re working with our big blue countertops as well!)

      1. Aw, thank you!! The aqua was NOT my favorite at first but once we got a few modern touches and lightened the cabinets a bit I actually like them quite a bit. They may bite the dust eventually (I really like soapstone) but we are at the point where we need a break to let our bank account (and sanity) replenish a bit. 🙂

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