Week 07 – Accommodation

Big week. Lots of changes. Flooring, cabinets, and tile mostly in. Fingers crossed for a few key deliveries to come in on time during the next week so that we can finish on time. Still targeting Substantial Completion at the end of the month.

I. The Kitchen

It’s getting hard to keep track of what’s happened week to week, but I’m pretty sure on Monday, they laid a base coat of paint in the kitchen to get the final wall color behind the cabinets before putting them up. We decided on Benjamin Moore Pernod 316 in the Regal Select Pearl finish, and it hasn’t disappointed.

The Forbo Marmoleum Modular tile flooring went down on Tuesday because the cabinets were being delivered on Wednesday. That was a crazy three-ring circus … thank god our contractor used to be a mover in his former life or else we would have had to ship the fridge cabinet back to Seattle! The moving crew were pretty good … they moved quickly and were pretty careful, but it felt like sheer luck that nothing was damaged.

May 12: a few shots of the kitchen with paint and flooring. We were originally thinking of wood floors, but with all the maple veneer and plywood in the millwork, it seemed a bit much. Once the yellow from the linoleum drying process fades, we’ll have a nice neutral grey floor.

With the cabinets delivered, Charles and Craig went straight to work setting the toe kicks, mounting the base cabinets, and hanging the uppers. Kerf provided continuous aluminum French cleats, and Charles had the foresight to install continuous plywood blocking. So aside from a few mis-measures and dealing with some pretty heavy pieces (up to 130 pounds), the installation went pretty smoothly and quickly. The build quality on these cabinets is killer. Should last decades.

May 13-15: cabinets in various states of disarray and installation

If there’s one thing I learned from this process, it’s that you can’t over-measure the job, especially in a 100-year-old house. If I hadn’t had the foresight to leave some dimensional tolerance – or “slack” – we would have been SOL and unable to install some of the cabinets. I had assumed that the door trim (on the fridge / sink wall) is plumb. Far from it. This meant that we needed to install a reveal joint between the uppers and the fridge cabinet, which actually looks better than the original design … much better transition of forms / volumes.

May 17: Everything up, just waiting for appliances and the countertops.

On Friday, a technician from TWD Surfaces came to measure for the Corian countertops. It was pretty cool to see him use a laser to derive a template that would fit to the old walls, which are fairly out of plane.

Laminate colors: tangerine, space, pear, and white



“Flue cubby” to cover the old flue from the days of wood-burning stoves.

Millwork details: integrated LED lighting, exposed lamination plywood, thoughtful joinery, Mid-Century Modern ethos … all hallmarks  of Kerf Design

Finished the weekend trying to choose paint color for all the trim. So many shades of white to choose from.


II. The Bathroom

On any job, there’s gonna be glitches, and sometimes there’s screw-ups. The bathroom this week was plagued with them. The previous week, I had noticed that the curb into the shower was about ½” too wide: the 6″ limestone cap I had special-ordered wasn’t going to overlap the tile below base. Charles said, “no problem,” and promptly took off a layer of cement board from the fascia.

A week ago Friday, Albert the tile guy had installed the limestone cap, and it looked gorgeous. Until I realized that it was now ½” too high. You have to watch these things like a hawk. What would have been a perfectly acceptable detail – a 4″ stone base wrapping continuously around the room and under the stone cap of the curb – was going to be a minor disaster. We’d all forgotten about detail where the Heath Ceramics tile in the shower passes over the top of the curb and into the room, leaving an unsightly ½” mortar joint between the Heath and the limestone base. Not good.

On Monday I spent the night dreaming about limestone and woke up resigned to calling Ann Sacks for a special order of 4½” limestone base, or hoping that I had enough stone to rip new pieces. In talking it over with Charles on Tuesday morning, we came up with two options:

  • Raise the floor by ½”.
  • Go with the 4½” base.

Neither seemed like a great idea … adding more material to the floor would work against the radiant heat, making it take longer to heat the floor. Going with a 4½” base was a risky proposition. I probably had enough raw material, but breaking just one piece of stone would mean a two-week delay to the project. Charles got to the solution before I could: just bite the bullet, rip up the 6″ limestone cap, and take down the raw construction so that the finish height will be 4″. Which is what Albert spent the next hour doing, happily.

May 11-13: tiling progresses

May 14: shower curb now corrected, all the mosaic tile now up, and green Heath tile starting to go

By the end of the week, all the tile was installed except for the wall base and, of course, the grout.

This is Albert at work in the bathroom. He’s a master of his trade, laying tile since he was fourteen. I learned an incredible amount just watching him work. I worry that we will see fewer and fewer tradespeople who take as much pride in their work as he does. We were lucky to have him on the job.

Albert and I had a moment of panic on Friday when we realized that the first box of Heath Ceramics tile he laid, which determined where the Schluter Jolly trim was set, were smaller than most of the rest of the tile by at least ⅛”. But he made it work.

Heath Ceramics Dimensional oval tiles in New Seafoam.

Having a guy like Albert lay tile is a must if you’re considering small mosaic tile. He knows how to cheat the grout lines to get the joints to align with windows and niches and other kinds of tile. If you look carefully, you’ll see the tighter joints and some odd misalignments … hard to avoid with the small stuff. But when it’s all grouted in white, the imperfections will disappear, and we’ll be left with pure tone-on-tone texture.

The detail for lining the window and the shower niches was a fun exercise. The original plan was to turn the mosaic tile into these openings on all four sides. Charles warned me early on that Albert would object to having this many grout lines on the sills … they would be hard to clean, and he’s totally right. So I bought a bunch of Ann Sacks Savoy Paperwhite field tile to line the openings. I also ordered matching box liners that I thought could turn the corner to transition from the mosaic to the field tile. Turns out that the box liners only have glaze on the face, with a goopy edge on the sides. Unusable, and I’m probably going to return them … except that they are really cool pieces of ceramic. Thinking about hanging on to them for a future project.

But the field tiles – at least half of them – had pretty decent glaze on the edge that almost matched the full glaze no the face. The other half were showing the beige clay through a thin coat of glaze … again, unusable. But I didn’t have enough of the good tiles to line all the openings, so another “emergency” order with Tamara Candage at Ann Sacks. She asked the team in Portland OR to hand-pick 20 tiles with at least one edge having reasonable glaze coverage. And they delivered. Can’t wait to see the grout installed. The dark joint lines will disappear, and the wall will be pure texture.

Soap and shampoo niches in the shower, and various ceramic tile details.


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