Quite a number of people have mentioned how overwhelmed they feel at the very idea of making all the material selections for an entire house. I get that. We all have limited decision making capacity, right? Or good decision making capacity anyway.
I do not feel overwhelmed by designing the whole house. I could design a full house each week. The only thing that makes it painful is I don’t have limitless funds. Don’t get me wrong, I was totally overwhelmed the first time I went through the design center. By the time we got to faucets, I palpably felt that my reservoir of good decision making was all dried up for the day. So I took pictures of everything–everything–twice or five times so I could go home and think about it.
Anxious to see what I’m going for?! Me too. Today let’s talk the big guns: wood floors and countertops. Most of the flooring is acacia. Acacia is as hard or slightly harder than cherry, so it will stand up better to kids (and clumsy pan-droppers, yeah, that’d be me) than maple or oak. I even considered the strand-woven bamboo that is nigh indestructible so I could really drop pans on it, but it just wasn’t as pretty.
The other advantage of acacia is the color variation. The cleaning people and I did a lot to keep my townhouse looking nice, but half the reason my last house always looked clean is that I strategically chose materials that look the best, the longest between cleanings. The secret is the age old art of camouflage: a mid-tone base color and plenty of random variation. A material with a spectrum of light and dark bits hides a multitude of sins.
After I had selected the acacia, one of the people who worked at the model with acacia floors said when she was in charge of cleaning the floors, she could never tell whether they needed it or not. She would have to get down on her hands and knees and look for the glare of the sun to see if they were dusty. MUSIC to my ears.
Look at this acacia. You could hide a dead body on that floor and no one would ever find it. Jimmy Hoffa is lying dead on an acacia floor right now invisible to the naked eye. In fact, there is a whole canister of Nesquik dumped on it right now. You just can’t see it.
Also, I am personally fond of acacia. It’s exotic enough that it looks fantastic with the Bali furniture, in my mind, anyway.
And finally, I wanted something unique that made a statement. Something kind of daring and cool, because I still see myself that way despite every evidence to the contrary.
The linoleum floors in my rental hide nothing. Every speck of food, every chocolate milk droplet, every mote of dust shows on them. Why? Too light and, despite a bit of beige and grey, not enough variation. Not enough random darker parts. Okay, this may be an exaggerated example, but you get the picture.
The worst surface for never looking clean, however, is the white solid surface of our bathroom vanities. Yikes! A single hair on the top makes it look filthy. Consequently, it always looks filthy, save for that 90 seconds after I wash it and before anyone uses it. They say the dirtiest car is a white car, don’t they?
This is why I am adamantly opposed to single colored quartz as a kitchen countertop. You make one peanut butter sandwich on that thing, and it’s a crumby disaster. I’m afraid lovely carrara marble and the quartz equivalent (or wannabe, if you prefer) is pretty much out of the running for me. White quartz should come with a label “for staging and photography only”. It would basically be like putting my linoleum on the kitchen countertops, i.e. a constant frustration.
Which perfectly describes our laminate countertop in the rental. First, it is too dark. Anything too dark shows water marks, so that even when you do wash it, it looks marked. Second, the dark color hides only the darkest of things, such that dust and breadcrumbs and 85% of stuff in a kitchen which is lighter than our countertop calls out with a bullhorn, “I’m dirty!” Third, though it has small speckling in it, all the variation is within a pretty small shade range. Fourth, the pattern isn’t random enough.
This black quartz has got to be even more finicky. It’s like a mirror begging for a thousand greasy little fingerprints.
My light countertops (Colonial Cream) mottled with flecks of orange, brown, red and black in the townhouse were masters of disguise. They would look fabulous, then you put your hand down and realize they’re covered in crumbs, and “What’s this? Oh, that’s not a granite speck, it’s a chocolate chip. Yum.”
The Bianco Antico granite I put in the masterbath was if possible, even wilier. Unlike the kitchen, I didn’t clean it every day. Eventually the white sink would need cleaning, so I would wipe the countertops and be amazed and appalled that the sponge looked like the lint trap from the dryer because the countertops even under that gunk had looked like a million bucks. Hair, dust, makeup, it all disappeared into the glittering mist of BiancoAntico. Magic.
So for my master bath and the boys bathroom, I went with Santa Cecilia Light. It is similar to the granite I had in my last kitchen–so I can eat chocolate chips in the bathroom and no one will ever know. (Plus, Santa Cecilia is the patron saint of musicians, which seems relevant.)
It might look something like this, except the master bath vanity is espresso.
For Fluffy’s bathroom and the downstairs bathroom, I went with the grey option, New Caledonia. Strictly speaking, I don’t like the beige in it, but a little beige is the very essence of camouflage. Midtone, check. Light and dark random variation, check. At least a couple of hues, check.
So you’re thinking, “Heather, you’re telling me your entire approach to designing your house is about weasling out of cleaning it?” Correct. “That’s gross.” I know. “You disgust me.” Got it.
Well, no. I will continue to clean my house. I’m just saying, I would rather turn down something that looks absolutely stunningly fabulous in the design center–but only in the design center, to choose instead something that will look great in an actual home that I live in and cook in and feed three monsters in. Hence, the granite drama.
From the first time I had a serious meeting with my builder, I asked about sourcing a light granite other than the ones they had available. I was told multiple times they would work with me. I was sent to their supplier’s supplier to comb through giant warehouses full of granite slabs to find something I wanted. Here are the types of granites I chose for the kitchen which will have a combination of white and espresso cabinetry.
Much like my Bianco Antico masterbath, right?
This might be my favorite. It didn’t have as many sparklies in it as the others, but it does have just the right amount of movement and variation as well as a combination of warm and cool tones.
This is quartzite (less porous than marble, more porous than granite). I shouldn’t have included it because it violates my rules by not having enough dark variation, but it was just so darn glittery and sparkly, I could not resist. If I were designing someone else’s house or just creating a kitchen to photograph for houzz.com and pinterest, I would choose this because I am absolutely certifiably insane over its gorgeousness. But I’m designing a house for a family of five which will include two teenage boys. Let’s get real.
This one is so cool close up. It has both silver and gold in it, so that the polished nickel accents in the kitchen would look amazing. And as soon as gold tones come fully back into vogue, I could update the hardware and it would look 100% intentionally coordinated.
This Tropicalia was a bit of a stretch because the grey is too green-grey, but again, it was just so sparkly. It drew me into its sparkles like a moth to a flame.
Despite that leg work, the good folks at Classic are trying to convince me to use quartz because their contractors can spill on it during construction and it won’t stain. Here are their light quartz contenders.
Do I need to say anything, or are my sentiments on these quartz options perfectly plain before I speak?
Sure, I like the idea that no amount of grape juice will ever mar their Corian-esque facades, and I also want to make sure my home is on-trend (quartz has the most momentum of any countertop surface right now), but I am a looong way from talked out of my granite kitchen dreams.
The ability to customize and get “Your Home, Your Way” was one of the major reasons we chose Classic Homes above other builders, so we are trusting they will make it happen. The president has actually been very lovely through negotiating this issue, but I won’t sleep peacefully until we get a final green light on something I’m comfortable with. Stay tuned. Update: Permission granted to use light granite. I will be picking it out soon. I bet on the right horse.