What’s the Most Difficult Renovation Project You’ve Done?

Readers: We recently asked this question to a few folks and thought you would enjoy the answers.  We certainly did!


“My husband and I decided to try to install tile in our bathroom with a diagonal installation. We quickly learned that it’s not as easy as it looks! We needed tools we didn’t have, we had no idea where to start for a proper layout and grouting is a messy process!”


“Subway tiles.  I never thought about all of the calculations involved in figuring out how to make the floor tile line up properly with the wall tile so it looked like the picture that inspired us.”


“I think any kind of project in an old house is tough.  Once I found 5 different layers of wallpaper underneath the current layer.  The patterns were fun to see, though.  I could tell which decade each one was from.”


“My first time painting a room, I thought I would only need a small amount of paint.  I never thought about a little color difference until I saw it on my wall!”


“Adding cabinet hardware seemed like an easy afternoon project, but after drilling one hole in the wrong spot, we realized that it would have been less expensive to hire someone than the cost and time it took to find a replacement cabinet door that didn’t look out of place with the exisiting doors.”


“About five years ago we bought a refrigerator without measuring first.  We learned a good lesson that day!”


What about you?  Do you have any stories to share?  

Decorating a Galley Kitchen

If your home is on the smaller side, chances are you have a galley kitchen. Galley kitchens are made up of a single run of counter and cabinets, often with the appliances in the same row. There is no working triangle, or much room to do things like add an island or a peninsula to expand the counter space. There are several tricks you can use, however, to make the galley kitchen seem larger and more spacious than it actually is.

Angle Your Flooring

Galley kitchens are usually very long and narrow, so make yours seem wider than it is by installing your flooring on a diagonal. Diagonal floors draw the eye out to the corners of the room, which makes the space appear to be bigger than it really is. If you choose to use tile, consider choosing the largest size that you can comfortably fit; the fewer grout lines will make the space seem larger than it is.

Brighten Your Backsplash

Make your galley kitchen lighten right up by using a reflective tile on your backsplash. Glass or very highly polished glazed tiles all reflect light, which helps to brighten the room and make it appear bigger than it is. Because you won’t have a lot of space for a backsplash or a focal point, keep the area simple by using a single tile pattern.  Accents and borders can seem like a good idea to give a small space some personality, but can often be more distracting than helpful.

Roll in an Island

If counter space is at a premium, invest in a roll away island that you can slip in a closet in another room when not in use. Make sure it’s at the same height as the rest of your counters, and pull it out for baking, parties, and other times when a little extra countertop comes in handy.

Non-Tile Backsplashes

Many people think of backsplashes as a series of tiles, often decorative, filing the area between the counter and the upper cabinets. This doesn’t have to be the case, however. If your kitchen isn’t ideally suited to tile, or you just want something a little more unusual installed there, consider these other options for a backsplash instead.


If you have a Cottage style home, consider using some beadboard on your backsplash instead of tiles. Beadboard is typically used as wainscoting; when it’s made up of a series of slats of wood installed together with a chair rail molding and a baseboard. Minus the moldings, however, it can also be used to add some texture and interest to your kitchen. Just make sure you don’t paint it the same color as your cabinets, or pair it with cabinets that also have beadboard doors.

Tin Ceiling Wallpaper

One of the latest things to come out in wallpaper is the tin ceiling-look. This embossed paper is made of repeating patterns that resemble the old tin ceiling patterns. It can be painted in any color from white to metallic copper, and it can also be installed anywhere – not just the ceiling. Painted in a metallic color, this makes a great, inexpensive alternative for backsplashes, particularly in rentals and other properties where you may not want something as permanent as tile installed.

Sheet Metal

For contemporary homes, why not install some sheet metal? Brushed stainless steel, aluminum, or copper can all be found in sheets that can be cut and trimmed to the size of your backsplash. This adds some color, depth, and personality to the kitchen, particularly as metal reflects light, brightening up the entire space.

Stone Slab

If you have a beautiful, wild, or dramatic stone countertop, while not see if there is enough slab left over to extend all the way to the cabinets above as a backsplash? It’s not uncommon to see 4-inch backsplashes made from matching stone, but some homeowners take it a step further to make a beautiful and unusual statement on their backsplashes with full coverage instead.

What’s the Most Neutral Hardwood Floor Option for My Home?

Hardwood flooring comes in a wide range of different colors, textures, and grains. These beautiful boards complement a wide number of different house styles, and with the many different species of wood on the market, there is a hardwood out there for every taste. If you want a neutral backdrop for a floor that will complement many different colors and décor styles, consider maple. This domestic hardwood is one of the more décor friendly options, fitting in with many different homes.

Maple Color and Grain

Maple has one of the more neutral colors and grains of any domestic hardwood. Unlike oak which shades either cool or warm toned, maple is a fairly creamy neutral throughout the floor. The grain is close and unobtrusive, wirth shading just slightly darker in places – no wild color variations like hickory or definite movements toward pink or red like red oak or cherry.

Maple goes well with a variety of different colors in the home. Because it’s so light, it doesn’t contrast or make a statement against equally light colors. Shades of blue, green, yellow, tan, chocolate, cream, and white all work beautifully with maple, giving you many color options.

And while it is on the warmer side with no gray or blue undertones, as long as the colors are light enough it pairs beautifully with a cool palette for wall and throw rug color. The key is to not get too dark with the accent colors in the room, which would contrast with the floor a little too much.

Maple Durability

In addition to being one of the more neutral hardwoods on the market, it’s also one of the more durable domestic hardwoods. This means that you can run it throughout your home including in your kitchen, foyer, and hallways without worrying about scratches, scuffs, or darkening in color. This makes maple a nice choice for homes with families and pets; it pairs well with everything but doesn’t mind so much if you use it hard for years.

Consider Maple

Maple is one of the more popular domestic hardwood floors for good reason. If you’re looking for neutral, durable flooring for your home, give maple a try.

All about Cork Floor Tiles

Floor tile comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors, as well as a wide range of different materials, including cork. Cork is quickly growing in popularity as a floor tile due to its resiliency, natural sourcing, and the variety of different ways it can be installed.

Cork tile has been used regularly in homes since the 1950s. Today’s tile looks a little different, however, than the ones that were installed back then. Originally, cork tile was coated in vinyl for quick cleaning and tinted in bright colors with a resilient base.

Today’s cork tile has a natural surface. The natural oils inside the cork render the tile impervious to water, as well as making it naturally anti-microbial and a great product for flooring.

Cork is also a green building material. It’s made from the bark of the cork tree that is stripped and left to age for a year before being compressed into the tile you see on the market. Because only the outermost layers of the bark are removed, this is a renewable resource and a good choice for homeowners that want a natural as well as an easy to maintain and resilient floor.

Most cork tile sold today has a click-lock installation and are installed on a floating floor. This means that it doesn’t adhere to the subfloor or material below them, but instead lock together at the edge. This makes them an easy installation for DIY homeowners, as well as a good choice for encapsulating flooring that contains asbestos.

Homeowners that spend a lot of time on their feet and are looking for a softer feel but with the convenience and beauty of tile also enjoy cork. The floors have a naturally springy feel when walked on, but they don’t dent or bend when heavy furnishings are placed on top of them. They’re also fairly easy to clean and maintain.

Like all natural tile, cork will vary in color from piece to piece and from lot to lot. For some, this is a desirable characteristic, although some homeowners may find it frustrating that their floor is made up of many different shades and colors. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to keep some leftover tile on hand in case of repairs; it can be difficult to find a match otherwise.

Color Challenge: How to decorate with island flair – Rainbow drift-wood inspiration

Water inspires art in every form, not the least of which is interior décor. Visit any place near a beach and you’re sure to encounter myriad colors and textures in home decorating. Driftwood, washed ashore, offers plenty of ideas due to the natural coloration process that occurs from exposure to the elements. The colors are usually subtle and light – bleached by the sun, then tinted by the environment.

Rainbows also make a beautiful reference for adding color to your home. However, a literal utilization of the colors would be too bright – unless you are decorating a preschool! So, how does one incorporate a plethora of hues in a space inspired by the sea? By incorporating all the colors of the rainbow as if they were painted with watercolor then set under the sun for a few days. This photo of multi-colored driftwood provides a lovely example of how the tints should look when used this way. Of course, this photo has been altered to exaggerate the idea, but that’s why it is perfect for our purposes of design guidance.

The key to success is to imagine the colors shown in the sample squares as if they were a color wash instead of pure saturation. It is also wise to rely a little more heavily on the taupe and green to fill the room. Taupe is the perfect neutral in this case, and because green is so closely associated with nature, it too works well as a base color for the room. Either of these would be excellent choices for flooring, cabinetry, and furniture. A great mid-range hue is the yellow. After taupe and green, layer the yellow into the room. The soft tone helps balance the bolder colors, and it works well when used for textiles such as throw pillows. You can take greater liberties with the way you wish to incorporate the blue, pink, and purple. This is also the way to convey your specific decorating personality, or set the feel of the room. Pinks bring to mind femininity and will add the element of “pretty” to the room. Purple is a bit more serious and intense, and can also give the room warmth and energy. Blues tend to feel light, cool and refreshing – great tones for a sense of peace and relaxation. Although you might choose just one of these to be your preferred pop color, don’t forget to include the other two in some smaller way. For this color scheme to work, it must be truly rainbow inspired! Tell us, what’s your favorite color of the rainbow?   

What Is the Difference between Wall Tile and Floor Tile?

When it’s time to go shopping for the tile you will install in your home, you may encounter the terms floor tile and wall tile referring to various selections. You may also find that there is some ambiguity; floor tile can be installed on the walls, for example, and often has bullnose trim and other pieces to facilitate this. The different between the two tiles is often in how they are made, as well as how they will hold up over time in the two applications.

Wall Tile

Tiles labeled for wall use cannot be used on the floor except in very rare cases as accents in low to no-traffic areas like a fireplace hearth. They may be certified for use on countertops as well, although not always.

Ceramic tiles produced for wall use are often known as monocontura. This means that they have been fired once. The tiles are usually made of wet clay that has dried and been glazed before being fired. This makes the tile hard, but brittle and unlikely to withstand the pressure that floor tiles need to handle.

Tiles that have been given a very high-gloss glaze are at risk of the finish crazing, or cracking regardless of where they are installed. These cracks in the glaze could make the tiles susceptible to stains and chips if used underfoot. These high-gloss glazes are also very slippery when wet, which is why most floor-rated tiles have a matte finish.

Floor Tile

There are many different materials that could be used for floor tile, stone, porcelain, ceramic, or metal. Tile is often rated for its hardness and durability on a scale of 1 – 5. A tile with a rating of 2 or 3 should be used only in low-traffic, residential settings such as a bathroom floor. Tiles with a rating of 4 or 5 can be installed in high traffic or commercial settings because they are so dense and durable they will not crack, chip, or scratch even under heavy use. Any tile with a rating of 1 is reserved solely for wall use, and should not be installed on the floor.

Metallic Glazed Porcelain Tile

Looking for a modern or industrial look for your home or office? Consider metal-glazed porcelain tile. This super-modern floor tile is nearly indestructible, with a patina and shine that grows more beautiful with age.

Porcelain Floors

Porcelain floors tiles are made out of compressed clay dust that has been fired to very high temperatures. This makes them unlikely to scratch, chip, or crack so they are perfect for high traffic areas in the home or office. They can also come in sizes up to 24 or even 36 inches, making them ideal for modern homes where fewer grout lines are desired.

Metallic glazed porcelain floors have been glazed with metals such as copper and nickel to give them a sheen and industrial appearance. The advantages of using these tiles over an actual metal floor include:

  • Lower expense in purchase and installation
  • Lower maintenance
  • No scratching, denting, rusting or staining
  • Non-skid underfoot
  • Weathered, slightly worn appearance that doesn’t change beyond a slight deepening of color over the years, giving the floor an authentic look right from day one

Metallic Glazed Porcelain Colors and Styles

Metallic glazed porcelain tile comes in a selection of different metal colors and finishes, as well as a few sizes. Copper, bright nickel, and aged nickel, as well as a rust tone are all available. Some tiles have accent pieces that include faux rivets. Various architectural pieces are also available for wall installations.

Most tiles are available in 24×24, 12×24, and 36×36-inches. Some are available in smaller sizes such as 16×16 or 18×18. Many also have bullnose tiles, or can be finished with a metal trim edge to complete the installation.


Because porcelain tile is non-porous, it doesn’t have to be sealed and does not require special cleaners. The metal glaze, however, is often sensitive to acids, so a non-acidic cleaner is recommended to help maintain the look, color, and style.

Consider Metallic

Each tile has its own particular color and sheen, giving these floors incredible depth and interest. If you have a modern or contemporary home and are looking for a floor to match, consider looking into metallic glazed porcelain as your answer.

What’s the Most Neutral Hardwood Floor Choice for My Home?

Hardwood flooring has a beauty and appeal that works well with a number of different decors. If you’re planning on putting down hardwood for resale, or you just want a hardwood that will blend into the background of the rest of your interior design, complementing it rather than competing, consider installing sugar maple.

Maple is one of the most popular materials for domestic hardwood floors, along with red oak. And while red oak has a very definite pinkish, red undertone to it that warms up a room, maple is far more neutral. It has a very small, consistent grain without a lot of color variation from board to board. This makes it a good choice for background flooring. Whether you intend to cover it with throw rugs or you want a floor that will let you switch colors up frequently in the rest of the room, maple is an excellent choice.

Maple is also a good choice for homeowners that want a fairly durable hardwood, as well. Maple is one of the harder domestic hardwoods with a Janka score of about 1450 – much harder than pine, red or white oak, the other more commonly used domestic hardwood flooring.

This means that your maple floor is likely to hold up well and last for years to come, so no matter how many times you plan on changing the rest of your home’s décor, the floor will continue to look just as good as the day it was installed.

Finally, sugar maple is a light colored hardwood that doesn’t darken appreciably with sunlight or humidity. Some other hardwoods may start out a lighter or more neutral tone, but over time they begin to darken and their colors begin to deepen. This can be problematic if you pick paint colors and furnishing to match the original color; they may not match once the floor has been down for a few years.

If you want a low maintenance, neutral hardwood that has an almost universal appeal, consider installing maple in your home.

Updating a Brick Fireplace Surround

Brick fireplace surrounds lend a certain amount of charm and a very specific style to their surroundings. If this style and look isn’t in keeping with the rest of your interior design though, it can seem like a glaring mistake in the room. After all, the fireplace is the heart of every room, and if it doesn’t match your surroundings, it can throw the entire design off. Thankfully, there are ways you can update the your fireplace without the expense or mess needed to remove those bricks.

Paint Them

Sometimes the biggest problem with a brick surround isn’t the bricks themselves; it’s their color. Bricks are usually fairly dark, which can make the entire room seem dark as well. By giving the bricks a white wash, you can brighten up the entire space. You don’t have to paint the bricks a solid color, either; you can dry brush them to lighten them up while keeping their texture, or you can paint over them all at once. Either way, paint can completely transform the look of the surround, while keeping the texture and appearance of the bricks.

Tile Over

You can tile right on top of bricks to create any style, color, or look of fireplace surround you want. The key is to smooth out the texture of the bricks with a skim coat of thinset mortar first. Once it dries, just install the tiles as you would on any other surface. From decorative mosaics to Craftsman tiles, you can create any kind of appearance you want this way to match the rest of the room.

Put Up a New Mantel

If you like the bricks, but they aren’t working with the rest of the room try minimizing them a bit with a new mantel. Choose something large and chunky in a style and color that match the rest of your surroundings and install it over the bricks. This will make the bricks a little less noticeable, while still keeping some of their charm.

Create a Focal Point

The fireplace is often the focal point of any room. If yours is looking out of place, give the bricks an update using one of these methods to help make it the focus you really want in the room.