Construction: Choosing Colors

Too many choices!

On May 20, 2014, I began blogging about the construction of my new home in Malaga, WA. You can read all of these posts — and see the time-lapse movies that go with many them — by clicking the new home construction tag.

I’ve been choosing colors for my new home since early December, when I ordered my appliances. That was an easy choice: brushed stainless. I had stainless in my old home and I liked its clean look, despite the fingerprints that always seemed to appear as if by magic on the refrigerator. I think it looks modern and timeless at the same time.

The next color choices weren’t so easy, mostly because there are so many choices I could make.

Kitchen Cabinets

Cabinet Door
The cabinet style and color I ordered.

The kitchen cabinets were the next thing I ordered. I went with Kraftmaid ordered through Home Depot. They had a special offer going on that saved me about $1,000 on some good quality cabinets. Not only would I get soft-closing doors and drawers — a real step up from what I had in my last home — but the lower cabinets would include slide out drawers, making it easy to access items such as pots and pans.

Style and color were the tough parts. I knew I wanted a light color and I knew I wanted a more rustic look. So I went with something called Honey Spice on a Hickory wood. The style was simple, with a beveled panel in the doors. Easier to clean. Although my old home had an attractive southwestern trim on all the cabinets, they were a bitch to keep clean, with dust and grime accumulating in every single crack.

Kitchen Countertops

Ubatuba granite
I’m really looking forward to having granite countertops. This color looks amazing with my cabinets.

Countertops needed to be ordered next. I knew I wanted a dark color and I knew I wanted a surface that didn’t need a lot of care and maintenance. My old house had tile, which was attractive and durable but it was a royal pain to keep the grout clean, required regular sealing (which I only did once in the 15 years I lived there), and was impossible to use as a surface for rolling out dough.

I went with granite. Again, Home Depot was having a special and I scheduled my purchase to coincide with the dates of that deal. Granite comes in multiple price levels and I saw absolutely nothing wrong with the lowest level, so I saved a bunch of money. The color I chose is called Ubatuba. It’s basically black with gold and greenish gray speckles. It looks amazing with the cabinets.

Wall Colors

This week, I needed to come up with my paint selections. The contractor I hired to do the insulation and drywall is also texturing the walls and painting for me. He’ll likely get started with that sometime next week. Right now, they’re still taping.

Color Samples
Although the painter will be using Sherman Williams paint and not the Behr paint shown here, he’ll match the colors from the chip I got at Home Depot. For a great online color tool, visit Behr’s Color Smart page. It’s a great way to see how colors work together and help you come up with eye-pleasing combinations.

My old house started out Navajo white through and through. It was mind-bogglingly dull, especially when paired with the off-white carpet and mellow peach colored tile. The first five or so years I lived there, I began repainting various rooms to add color. A friend helped. We used colors thinned out with glaze and applied with sponges or brushes. Some rooms came out great; others didn’t.

This time, I wanted to start with something other than white while keeping the color relatively bright. My new home has vaulted ceilings in every room, starting at about 10 feet high and going as high as 20 feet in the great room and my bedroom. Even the bathroom ceiling rises to at least 15 feet. There are lots of windows so the place is very bright. I like that. There’s nothing I hate more than living in a dark, closed-in space.

I toyed with the idea of using actual colors — green for the great room, rose for the bathroom, and possibly blue for the bedroom. I even bought paint samples to paint onto sheetrock pieces and hold in each room. But when I presented my samples to my friends at a get together the other night, the one they all liked best was the one I’d chosen first and then discarded: a color called Rye Bread. Even the painter liked it best — and he saw the painted out samples. When I put it with my cabinet and countertop sample, I agreed that it looked great.

But the real selling point was when a friend said that it would look great with red. The focal point of my living room area is a red leather sofa. I was sold.


The last color decision is flooring and I’m still working on that.

Brown Floor

Dark Gray Floor
Two options currently in the running for the floor in my home: inexpensive TrafficMASTER “Handscraped Saratoga Hickory” and more costly Bruce “Mineral Wood”.

I’d like wood look floors and will likely go with a textured wood laminate for durability and cost effectiveness. The snap-together planks are easy enough to install that I can do it myself. Everyone I know who has installed a floor like this loves it.

As for color, my biggest worry is having a wood floor that clashes in color with my wood cabinets. This is a serious concern. At first, I wanted a light colored floor, but have since been considering darker colors — even black or near black. My friends agree that my rooms are big and bright enough to support a dark colored floor. One friend said she loved the idea of black but warned me that it shows dirt. I have a Roomba I plan to run daily, so dirt isn’t really a worry for me. What I need are some samples I can hold next to my cabinet sample. I see yet another round of floor store visits in my future.

Although I was planning to put the same floor in every room, “floating” floors like this are not compatible with my freestanding bathtub. That means I either have to put vinyl or tile in my bathroom. I’m not happy about that. Not only does it change the overall look I’m hoping to have in my home, but I don’t like the look of vinyl and hate working with tile. Unfortunately, that’s the room I need to do first — I have to get all my plumbing finished before I get my kitchen appliances installed — so I need to make up my mind quickly.

Any suggestions for me?

Coming Together Quickly!

Although the actual construction of my home began in May 2014 and there were a few delays along the way, things are coming together quickly now. The insulation, drywall, and painting are a major step forward. It’s hard to believe that just two weeks ago I was looking at the same old framing I’d been looking at for months. Today, I’m looking at sheetrocked walls and, within two weeks, I’ll be looking at finished walls.

I’m already thinking about my first dinner party upstairs in my fully enclosed and heated space.

16 thoughts on “Construction: Choosing Colors

  1. Maria, you as such an inspiration! You’ve made so much progress since I last check in. Bravo! I noticed you picked out granite countertops. The color looks very close to what I have in my resort condo. My experience in having dark granite countertops has not been one of low maintenance at all. Just the opposite for me. Cooking and coffee splatters tend to get lost in the pattern of the granite so often it’s frustrating. I use granite cleaning products from Bed, Bath and Beyond, settling primarily on the Weiman brand. The upside is that I keep tidier, cleaner counters. :-)

    • I’m often fanatical about keeping my countertops looking clean. Years ago, my wasband was partners in a condo in South Carolina that had white laminate countertops. (What were they thinking?) I once spend a few weeks living there and went absolutely nuts trying to keep the countertop clean. It showed every drip, crumb, and spill. The pattern of this countertop should hide the tiny problems that have me wiping countertops down all day long and the smooth surface — vs. the tile and grout of my old countertops — should make them easy to clean. And the dark color looks great with the light wood finish of the cabinets. I’ll definitely look into granite cleaning products and try Weiman. Thanks for the tip.

  2. We decided on lighter coloured worktops for our kitchen since others had told us that a dark colour, especially black, showed smears even after cleaning. We were warned it was a nightmare to keep black looking clean.

    With regard to vinyl, we used what is called quality luxury vinyl. It is photographic images printed on to textured vinyl tiles and it is almost impossible to tell that it is vinyl without getting down on your hands and knees. The manufacturer we have used is Karndean and they sell in the USA also.

    They have a very nice range of wood effect floors which are installed as strips of vinyl just as if they were planks of wood.

    • I looked at a lot of flooring the other day and I agree that vinyl has come a long way since I was a landlord putting it into my rental units. I think what I’m going to do is set tile on the far end of the bathroom where the tub will be and do the wood laminate on the rest of the floor.

      I sure hope you and Barb are wrong about the dark granite! Will report back about this in about six months, once I’ve had a chance to live with it.

    • Don’t think I haven’t thought about it. It’s compatible with the wood floors I’m looking at. But at this point I just want to get the job done, so I’m not going to get fancy.

  3. I thought of granite but went with Corian. Love it. Easy to clean, never streaks. Only downside to my medium color: have to run my hand over the counter to feel spots that I can’t see. Can be sanded if ever scratched. Love it.
    How about the largest size tile in your bathroom with NO space between the tiles. I used tile on an outside patio but did have to make it look more finished with concrete in the tiny seams between tiles. Never looks dirty because there is no grout, Easy to wash off. I like your colors, go for it. I too need to get away from off white walls. Have painted the master bedroom in two shades of a soft green, works well. One wall in a guest room, a blued red, I would never use that paint again, shows horrible spots wherever it is touched! I like your brown flooring with your lighter cabinets.

    • Thanks for the input, Sharon! I thought of Corian but the granite was more affordable. They were having some kind of special sale. I have a Corian cutting board in my RV that I really like; I’ll likely use it in my new kitchen when I move.

      When I do the tile in the bathroom, I’m going to put them as close as I possibly can to minimize grout. I detest tile work, but if I only put it under the tub, the area to tile is only about 3 x 6.

      I had a lot of color in my old house — back when I was enthusiastic about decorating. Not going to go quite that crazy here. The tall walls would be a pain to repaint so I’ll likely stick with however I get them painted now.

    • Wise choice. My walls are tall too and I’m glad they are a neutral color. Haven’t tired of the color in 21 years. Much easier to add color in furniture and accessories that can change more frequently.

    • Excellent point. I’m going to do it not only with the red sofa, but with area rugs and photos/artwork on the walls. No window coverings, though. I want the windows to be clearly visible throughout the place.

  4. As others have noted there are better vinyl flooring options than what you may have experience with in the past. I’d suggest looking at both classic Linoleum and Marmoleum sheet products too.

    I’d caution you about tile under your freestanding tub, especially if you didn’t size the joists to be stiffer (flex less) that what was strictly required for strength. A flexible floor structure, the weight of a filled tub, and point loads fro the tub’s feet is a reliable recipe for cracked or loose tiles.

    I’ve also been unhappy with wood floors in kitchens. If you can glue joints in your choice of laminate flooring it might be ok. Avoid pre-finished wood with beveled seems at all costs, it’s impossible to clean and easily damaged by liquids. I think you’d be happier with sheet flooring in the long run and there are plenty of attractive options.

    • Funny you should say all this now…I just got back from another look at flooring and the problem with beveled edges was pointed out to me for the same reasons.

      While I understand all your points, I still want to avoid sheet flooring. I looked at some today and while the general look has certainly come a long way, I don’t like the thinness. I think even a thick laminate floor made of snap-together boards would feel more solid under my feet.

      As for the tub, although it’s freestanding, it doesn’t have feet. And the floor joists are made of 2x10s 16 inches on center, so the floor is very sturdy. The tub only holds 55 gallons of water — it’s long and narrow — and I can’t even fill it that much because of how much I’d displace when I climb in. I think I’ll be okay. I hope so, anyway!

  5. Have you seen the vinyl planks that look like wood? Could be a good option for your bathroom. Almost all the landlords I know use this in wet and living areas with carpet in the bedrooms.

    • I have seen them but I’ve been shying away from them. But maybe I need to take another look. I really don’t like vinyl flooring, but many people have assured me that vinyl has come along way since my landlord days. It would be nice to do the entire bathroom with the same flooring and it would be extra nice not to have to work with tile, which I hate laying.

  6. I’ll second recommending the upscale “plank” vinyl for both bathrooms and kitchens. There are several products which come in strips that look just like the planks you use for a wood laminate floor, but are made of thick, textured vinyl instead. I’d also recommend that you use a quality subfloor and get it professionally installed, since the glue-up is critical and experience counts on this product. I had it in the kitchen and dining room of a house I used to own and it was great. Waterproof (not just resistant), good looking (just like wood planks), almost zero maintenance, and incredibly durable. It was installed directly to a heated concrete slab, so it was comfortable for bare feet as well. They also have a similar product that looks almost exactly like slate tile, but I haven’t used it personally. Either way, it’s way better looking than the acres of old beige/green/gold fleur-de-lis patterned rolled vinyl that seemed to be everywhere back in the ’70’s and ’80’s.

    As far as countertops go, Home Despot and the other big-box stores typically offer a quartz based countertop material called Silestone which I’ve used before with very good results. It comes in slabs just like natural stone, but it’s actually a resin-based composite, something like 95% crushed stone with 5% resin holding it together. Like the natural stones they offer different grades at different prices, and also like natural stone slabs it needs to be professionally cut and installed, it’s not a home-handyman job. Unlike granite, it’s almost impossible to stain or discolor Silestone, even with coffee or tea or cooking oil that’s spilled on the surface. The color goes all the way through, so even in the worst case scenario (spilled your ink pot) you just abrade the top layer a bit and re-polish and it’s pretty much like new. We’ve used their “rosa grey” color with very good results and it’s in the cheaper option range as well. Looks almost exactly like grey granite flecked with black and rosy spots, very natural and very neutral. Also hides spilled crumbs and coffee grounds almost alarmingly well, you just about can’t tell the countertop is dirty unless you feel it. Silestone is also available in some pretty wild colors, with or without shiny recycled-glass ‘sparkles’, if you’re feeling adventurous.

    • I think you and the others may have convinced me on the plank vinyl for the bathroom. It seems like a cost-effective solution to the floating floor/freestanding tub incompatibility issue. And I REALLY hate working with tile. (Bad enough I have to do one wall of the shower stall.) I’ll look into it next week. The room is only 6 x 14 so I don’t need much of it. Hope to be able to install it all in a day.

      As for the countertop, it’s already bought. I got granite and I really like it. They’ll do the install for me. I did look at something called Paperstone, but it was costly for my application and I couldn’t find a local installer. I might get some remnant pieces for my shop countertops.

What do you think?