Kitchen Q & As

By Kate Riley February 24, 2010

Grazie, merci, mahalo, danke, gracias, thank you thank you thank you for all your kind comments yesterday.  Kitchens are one of those spaces where there is so much you can do with so many different materials !  For us, we wanted something light and bright and inviting with plenty of space for cooking and entertaining.  This guided much of our choices.  Some queries came up via email or in the comments, so here’s a few answers.   

What are your countertops made of?  (Charlotte ) What type of marble do you have ?  (Samantha)   Tell me about your countertops  (Sue). 

The countertops are a combination of marble and cherry wood.  Yes, it’s true, I chose the two most high maintenance countertops.  Everyone tried to talk me out of it, but I held my ground and I have no regrets.  I ripped this image out of a magazine many years ago and stapled it to my forehead.

cp cabinetry

I didn’t care if wood countertops were as impractical as high heels in a marathon.  I had to have them.

What are the pros of wood countertops ?  Wood adds warmth.  Wood is beautiful.  Wood balances out all the white.  Cons ?  Wood is high maintenance.  You cannot leave water on it for long periods of time.  You can never place anything hot on it.   To some, that’s insane.  A countertop in a kitchen that you can’t put anything hot on?  It is a little crazy.  Wood must also be treated with care and conditioned regularly.  But we’ve gotten used to its higher maintenance without any screaming, yelling, or “real wives” drama.  Hot stuff just goes on the range or the marble, it’s simple. 

Obviously wood is soft and in a high traffic area, dents naturally occur.  You can get upset, or chalk it up to adding to the rustic quality of your countertops.  Life happens.  Dinks happen.  I bite my lip, and try not to sweat it.

wood dinks

Just kidding.  The culprit will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. 

No I’m kidding again.  It’s just a surface and life happens. 

method wood The wood tops on the island and peninsula are cherry.  Because cherry runs red, I had them treated with an ebony glaze to make them look more like walnut.  In the first year, I conditioned them with beeswax and orange oil wood preserver every two months.  Now I only do it whenever I remember. 

I scrub the wood counters with a soft sponge, wipe them down, then spray them with this pleasantly scented non-toxic almond cleaner by Method, available at Tar-jay. 

If you want countertops you can totally beat to death without any damage, I do not recommend that you choose marble or wood. 


chipped marble The marble is not like carrera marble with gray veining.  This is crema pacific marble with brown veining, a little closer to granite with its tighter swirls, but still marble.  At the slab yard, it was cheaper than most granites so in that fact alone I was sold.   Plus I just loved the warmth of the taupe and cream colors.

Marble is softer than granite, and prone to chipping.  You’ve simply got to accept that.  Despite the wear and tear, I still love it because of its European feel.   

I’ve spilled everything on these honed marble countertops, from red wine to tomato sauce.  We sealed them really well once they were installed several years ago and haven’t had to seal them since.  Everything wipes right off.  

There are so many choices in modern countertops, which makes it very difficult to choose, so I encourage everyone contemplating new countertops to really do your research.  Ask a lot of questions.  It’s a huge commitment, so go with the best product you can possibly afford.  But these days, even laminate products look really good.  We used a modern laminate in our guest kitchenette and I love the look and ease of maintenance with modern laminate products. 


Q: Is that a mistreatment above the window ?  (Amanda) 


A:  Why yes it is my friend.  It’s put together with staples, brackets, and fabric glue, kind of like the Spanx and double sided tape on a red carpet celebrity’s deep plunging gown.  Don’t look underneath – it’s what shows that counts.  Sssh, don’t tell.  I’ll try to post a tutorial soon if I can tear myself away from the Olympics.  


Q:  Where are your cabinets and hardware from ?  (Lily)

kemper cabinets with pizza

They are semi-custom cabinets made by Kemper, ordered through a local dealer.  The color is ‘Toasted Almond’ but they are truly off-white.  Custom cabinets were too expensive, so I went with semi-custom, then special ordered the details, like the wood legs around the range, the acanthus details above the fridge, and the corbels supporting the mantle. 

Brushed nickel hardware from Tarjay – for real. 

Please excuse the cheese pizza. It was lunchtime.  Irrelevant fact:  I’ve never met anything cheesy I didn’t like. 


Q:  What’s the story with the appliances, and how did you panel your fridge ?  (Ken)

cg refrigerator in kitchenMy dad retired from General Electric, but before he did, he snagged us these fabulous appliances at a huge discount. 

Everything is from GE – the range, the second oven, the convection microwave, the icemaker, the dishwasher and the mini wine fridge hidden in the island. 

Thanks Pop – love you.  And not just for the screamin’ deal on the appliances.  Okay, maybe just a little more for that.  :-)

I ordered the panels on the fridge from my cabinet dealer.  The pulls on the fridge are from Top Knobs. 



Faucets are Rohl and Price Pfister.  Sinks are Kohler.   Dishes are never ending.


The backsplash tile is standard 6 x 8 Daltile off the Home Depot shelf.  Accent tiles and backsplash by Pratt & Larson.

citrus in urns


Q:  I must know wherever did you find that huge bay window ?  (Cindy)

A.  Jeld Wen.  Love it.  Or as my friend Sarah would say, luuuurrve it.  :-)  Worth every penny.   kitchen garden window

Q:  I’m wanting to paint my kitchen cabinets.  Can you share what steps you took to refinish that island ?  (Allison)

painted island

A:  Well, it was several steps including sanding, priming and painting and waiting for it to dry in between.  I did manage to take some video footage that I hope to show you next, however this requires me to have a clue how to get the video off the camera onto my computer, edit it and upload it.  And I’m totally clueless.  

I’m so completely lame at those kinds of technical things with video.   I’ll try my hardest to figure it out  – pinky swear !!!

I’m also a little nervous cause I’ve realized I’m a complete and utter dork on video.  I might chicken out.  So until then, wish me a lot of luck and a little gumption with the video. 

And go team USA ! 


  1. Your kitchen is beautiful with lots of counter space. I love all of the details. Your choices are very classic & timeless. I have designed very elaborate kitchens in upscale custom homes using semi-custom cabinetry. Having an excellent cabinet installer makes all the difference in the world.
    Wonderful post.

  2. Kate, it really is beautiful.

    And I’m so glad to hear you say that you went with the two highest-maintenance countertops. Those aren’t dings and chips–that’s patina. People pay big money for patina; you’ve just got the DIY version. To tell the truth, I love the fact that surfaces get a little worn. Who would want a kitchen that looked as if it weren’t lived in?

    And Jeld-Wen windows rock, don’t they?

  3. Ok this is a real question so don’t make fun of me!! But I had a thought yesterday after falling in love with your kitchen and then pitifully looking at mine…do you think…??…it would be totally ridiculous…to plywood over an old, icky, inset fridge? Maybe add some moulding, er something??I’m thinking it could have potential…

  4. When you painted the island did you use a brush or a paint gun? Thank you for all the inspiration!

  5. LOVE your kitchen!!!!!!!! I have a little something for you over on my blog, check it out :)

  6. Thanks for answering my question. :) I was happy to see some more shots this morning…I just love all the counter space you have. It must be nice when you’re getting ready for parties. I was also (not so secretly) pleased to see that I’m not the only one who constantly plays dishwasher girl. :)

  7. Your kitchen looks fabulous! So bright and clean! I am in the process of painting my kitchen cabinets, you can read about it on my blog. I am all prepped and ready for primer. It is a huge job, but I think it will be worth every minute of the hard work.

    I too cannot figure out how to get my video from my camera onto my computer. So I need help as well!! HA! If you figure it out let me know!!

  8. Your kitchen is gorg! I have wood countertops on the permieter and granite on the island. i constantly get the “arent they hard to maintain? dont they stain? but they are so easy to keep! I have a few dents and scratches but its fine… its wood! there are grains, and knots and thats how its supposed to look. did you poly coat your wood? i love the sheen. ours are ikea and we just used some tung oil and it seems impervious to water and stains so far. i love the warmth they impart to the kitchen.

  9. PLEASE..fill me in
    what type floors do you have (are they oak? do they have a stain on them?) and color of the kitchen is what??? im DESPERATE on a remodel starting next week!

  10. oh my goodness! i just saw the next post and it is BM camo- i JUST picked this color for a huge dining/kitchen/nook area for our old home!
    ok. still dying to know the floors.

  11. oh my goodness! i just saw the next post and it is BM camo- i JUST picked this color for a huge dining/kitchen/nook area for our old home!
    ok. still dying to know the floors.

  12. Spanks for you windows and the dishes are never ending. If the pretty pictures weren’t enough to pull me in, your awesome comments would!! LOL

  13. Kate, you read my mind! I have been debating back and forth on what we will replace our corian countertops with~my choice…honed marble counters! Love them! I do love the white marble with the grey veining, but I don’t love the high gloss. I am a little more rustic in my taste on stone. My husband and I went to a stone yard and looked at some slabs and I always fell in love with all the honed ones. I know it takes a lot of sealing, but it would be worth it. I don’t mind the chips or dents…it’s all character. The one reason I love distressed furniture…with 5 kids and 4 being boys, I don’t have to worry! lol My husband is currently building me a farm house table island. We went and picked out a beautiful mahagony wood for the top. I told him I don’t want it to look perfect, the more rustic and old looking the better! Great choices you made in your selcetions for your kitchen…love them! Oh, the mistreatment…I am getting ready to do one over my kitchen sink, which is so not like me because I sew everything. I think it will be just as good. ;)

    Another great post!


  14. The hubby and I scored tickets as gifts from his uncle and we were at the CZE/LAT hockey game last night(mens). It was amazing and my first hockey game ever! Anyway, enough o the Olympics!

    I also had a dream where I went to your house and met you and I said, “WAIT, THIS LOOKS LIKE KATE RILEY’S KITCHEN1?” and it was just bonkers. I asked if dream you was indeed you and you said, “oh gosh, yes”

    Then I, and the rest of your guests, continued to laugh and have cocktails.

  15. Rooting for you and the video. Thank you for sharing your kitchen with us. We have very different decor taste, but that is still a space I could be very happy in. I have a deep admiration for you in being able to visualize your dream space and not stopping until you had it.

  16. Hi Kate:

    I love your kitchen as well. We have tons of cherry, but opted for the granite .However I LOVE marble and put carera italian marble in my bathroom with ebony glazed maple cabinets…lots of glitz with crystals, you get the idea.

    I LOVE it but my marble isn’t looking too great anymore. Do you have ANY tips on how to keep the marble looking fresh? I will try anything at this point.

    thanks a bunch! :-)

  17. Your kitchen is to die for and almost exactly the choices I would make. My husband is going to make me wood plank counter tops. I know it’s not the most hard wearing surface, but I have bullet-proof laminate at the moment and I hate it. I’ll take wood with it’s dings and water rings any day of the week. I’m fortunate to have lots of cabinetry and a great space…it just needs to be “de-stocked.” Everything looks off-the-shelf from Lowes, which does not say french country farmhouse kitchen to me. It also doesn’t match the 1940’s portion of our home.

    All of this gab to say that I love it! Great choices and thanks for sharing.

  18. Thanks for answering all the questions. We want granite, but it is so expensive. We’ve talked about wood…and I wondered how hard it would be to maintain.

  19. Stunning – I love every square inch!

    As for your lovely cherry counters, have you thought of adding glass to protect the surface?


  20. Love your kitchen! The style choices you made a similar to a lot of mine :). I fell in love with marble but just couldn’t afford it. Instead, I “settled” for cherry – chosen because they were by far the most inexpensive option. Cherry butcher block purchased through lumbar liquidators & I hired a carpenter to install them. A year later, I would choose them again regardless of price. They’ve got some dings and cuts but look gorgeous, warm up the room beautifully and are little trouble at all. I also just wipe with a sponge for cleaning. I use a beeswax polish every now & then when I want my kitchen shiny and yummy smelling.

  21. Could you please tell me what color you painted cabinets? I believe you said Toasted Almond…which brand is that in? Also did you match your trim to your cabinets? And lastly what is the wall color? Redoing kitchen right now and in color purgatory! ;-)

    Thanks so much. LOVE IT! :-)

  22. I love your kitchen cabinets. Can I ask, what made you paint/repaint the island? Was it origionally the same color as the rest of your cabinets?

    Also, as Talysa the another commenter asked, can you tell us the color that you painted the island? Does it match your existing cabinets? And finally is this a “white white” or a cream off white?

    Thank you so much, love the blog.

  23. I have absolutely fallen in love with your site and am doing my best to remember every tip you’ve mentioned!

    I’m a graphic designer and can share some helpful tips for uploading your video tutorials (can you tell I’m really hoping that you do so!) I work off a Mac so these instructions will be specifically for that:

    Most current video cameras have a usb plug that can synch directly to your computer. There may be a setting for you to choose from on your computer and video camera to allow your computer to read the video from the camera.

    If you’ve got the latest Macbook pro or desktop, you should have software already installed on it such as iMovie, iDVD and iPhoto. These programs are super easy to use.

    There are plenty of tutorials online in how to save and upload videos to a website/blog. You can either choose to save the video you created on your desktop or, upload it to youtube (grab a youtube converter – you can google for one) and in your blog code, add it there.

    It may take some practice but it’s super easy…that’s if you’ve got a Mac.
    If you don’t, then this comment is simply useless. But I do hope you figure out how to add video tutorials. And don’t worry if you don’t like your voice, you can always remove the audio from the original video and then re-record your voice going over the steps to match the pace of your footage.


  24. Hi Kate! Love your website – I hope you can answer my quick question: what brand of sealer did you use for your marble countertop? Any help would be greatly appreciated, thanks!

  25. Hi Kate,
    I’m getting up the nerve to paint my kitchen cabinets. I understand you bought your cabinets already painted – in a Toasted Almond color. Does that color match a Benjamin Moore color? Does your island in Camoflauge match it? Thank you so much, love the blog – very inspiring!

  26. I live in a log cabin. My kitchen cabinets are soft pine, a lovely aged honey color. I am thinking of painting them …white? I have little to no taste as far as decorating goes. Can I paint the cabinets and still keep the wondow trim pine, or do I have to paint all the woodwork in the kitchen?

  27. I cannot WAIT to get wood counters; we had them in our last house and I want them again. Too bad there are other things that need to be paid for first!

    When people mention the drawbacks of wood counters and say that you can’t put hot pots on them, I’m kind of baffled…I never need to put hot pots on the counter…so it’s not an issue for me. Maybe I’m just weird, LOL?!

  28. Hi Kate! Thank you so much for the inspiration. I have learned so much from your blog. I’ve decided to paint my kitchen cabinets and I’d like to use your kitchen island makeover tutorial with your Toasted Almond color of cabinets. I headed over to the Kemper dealer in my area to get a sample of the Toasted Almond color to have matched. They won’t give me a sample unless I buy their cabinets, which I understand. Between the unnatural light and being THAT crazy lady with 20 paint samples in the store, I’d rather not try to match it myself. Could you please tell me what color matches your cabinets the closest?

    • Hey Shanda, great question! The two closest color matches for my cabinetry are “Floral White” by Benjamin Moore and “Ivory Dust” by Valspar – hope this helps!


  29. Hi, Kate, I’m trying to find the tutorial for your “mistreatment” above your kitchen window, but haven’t had any luck finding it. Just need to know how you cut the fabric. Is it just a rectangle? I think I can figure out what to do with the back if I just know how you cut the main piece of fabric. Thanks so much for all you do. You are such an inspiration!

    • Hi Betty, I bought the barstools at Pier One a few years ago, not sure they still have them but that’s where I found them!

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