Category Archives: kitchen

Last major kitchen project – started!

It was about time for us to start the last project left in the kitchen – the tile backsplash!  We’ve had the boxes of tile stacked in the corner of our dining room for, oh, I don’t know 4 months or so.  Just sittin’ there.  Waiting.  Collecting dust.  Just longing to be on display behind the range.

With all the holidays, G’s birthday, and scheduled visitors out of the way, we figured it was time to start that project which would undoubtably make our kitchen a dissaster.  We were realistic about the mess because it was not like we had a week off in order to complete the project – we knew it would be a done a few hours at a time after G was asleep/on the weekends/when we had a few minutes here and there.  By accepting the mess and being able to leave all the tools/supplies out on the counter, it would be easy to pick up and work on a section and then put it down to be continued later.  Ideal? No. But do-able with work and a toddler? Yes.

We also knew this project would take a little extra time because unlike 99% of people who take on a tile job and purchase that tile already assembled on one foot by one foot sheets where each tile is already perfectly spaced and the project moves 1 square foot at a time; we decided to mix two colors of the ornate tile we purchased and had to remove each tile from the pre-spaced backer and place each individual tile one by one on the wall!  Oh, and the two colors of tile are not the exact same size making it a spectacular effort to keep them well spaced, level, and plum! Handmade tiles, we love you, but you’re a real B—- to install!

Here’s a sneak peak from when the first few rows went up (you’ll have to wait for the rest!):

tile 2

Optimistic we can get all the tiles up by the end of the weekend (maybe even grouted??) and then share with you all.

Happy Friday!



February 21, 2014 · 10:34 am

Room by Room: Dining Room + Kitchen

I think it’s safe to say that the kitchen (if you would even call it a kitchen- it was literally stripped bare with nothing but plumbing stubs and electric lines hanging from the ceiling) and the dining room were both the worst and most promising rooms in the house.  We love to cook, have large families, and after living in a 12 foot wide rowhouse, we have been dreaming of a huge island with lots of work surface that opened up onto a beautiful, large, chunky wood dining room table.  Since we had been ‘casually’ looking at real estate in some of our favorite neighborhoods, we had been finding that the kitchen spaces in most of these homes really wasn’t large.  Even those that were open to the dining rooms were not huge and it seemed that one space always suffered, either the kitchen was made larger (and in many cases, awkward due to strange renovation decisions) and therefore the dining room was shrunk, or the dining room was large and they would try and open it up to a small galley kitchen.

We started to resign ourselves to the idea that in order to get into one of the neighborhoods we were considering, we’d likely have to compromise in this ‘kitchen-dining room dream’, especially in our price-range.  And then we walked in to this house and saw this:


Dining Room – Hungry?

Now, you’re thinking, Holy WTF, get me out of there, this is not a kitchen, WTH is with these reds walls and hobbit hole doorway? (or something to that effect)  We stood there, smiles on our face, excitedly saying – HOLY SH#T – this is it!  No joke.  If she had any reservations about our ability to see past a foreclosure/damaged/vacant building’s first impression, I’m pretty sure our excitement about this kitchen and dining room space cleared that up for our Realtor!  (shout out to you Magan Drane – Baltimore’s premiere realtor!)  She was also probably a little worried that we were crazy (truly crazy) because after walking into a formal foyer, seeing a fireplace in the living room, and then seeing the size of the kitchen and dining room, I’m not sure she had ever seen two people more excited about a pile of broken bricks and plaster.

It always gets worse before it gets better, right? This was one of the most exciting days for us!

First things first, Naomi and I immediately turned to each other and said, ‘this wall- gone – and here, the biggest island you’ve ever seen!’  And that was exactly what we did…and it is glorious!  There was nothing in the spaces so they were quite literally blank canvases to work with.  We loved all the natural light in the dining room and, well, that’s about it.  What we found most challenging was the door to the backyard.  It was very awkwardly placed too close to the corner to be able to fit standard cabinets along the adjacent wall and also added an additional circulation path through the kitchen that would be used all the time coming in and out.  We had a similar condition in our rowhouse where the door to the backyard was in the corner of the kitchen and it was convenient to go in and out from, but always seemed to bring dirt into the kitchen, the tight space made it awkward to go in and out with the dog, and just generally interrupted the flow of people cooking having to go through.

We really wanted to open the house up to the yard more and that’s when it hit us – we could close the existing door in the kitchen, thereby giving us COMPLETE functional space with additional cabinets and counters and open up one of the existing pairs of windows in the dining room and put in some beautiful french door out to the yard!  Two birds, one stone and all sorts of opportunities!

Ok, ok, too many words!  Here’s what you’re really here to see, the photos!



Yes – that is a 3.5 foot by 8 foot island and we love every inch of it!









The kitchen is still not finished and honestly, I could probably write 100 posts talking about the kitchen and the design ideas/decisions that went into it (and maybe I will!) but I figured if we waited for it to be done-done, we’d never share it.  Our new kitchen includes every feature that we wanted in our ideal, ‘forever home’ kitchen AND we did it on a budget!  Here’s the quick run down:

Dining room:

New windows/french door (even though we really did LOVE the high, square set of windows) (Marvin)

Removed the separating wall

Refinished wood floors

Removed all the traditional moldings, repaired all the plaster work

New table (Pottery Barn) and chairs (Overstock and Joss&Main)

Area rug (RugsUSA)


Cabinets (Wolf – solid wood, satin white) and hardware (oil rubbed bronze finish)

Counters (Caesarstone Quartz – London Grey)

Recessed lights (LOTS of them :-)) and 3 new pendants (West Elm) with Edison Bulbs

New windows (Marvin)

Appliances/ disposal/ wine fridge

Open shelves and Range hood (Ikea)

Refinished original floors! (These were a beautiful surprise – we didn’t think they would clean up this nicely)

Partial backsplash – Carbonized bamboo flooring (surplus from our flooring project in our old rowhouse – Yeah free!)

Re-used the bar height chairs from our old dining set at the island

You can see here that we did lose a little bit of space for the new HVAC duct lines that we put in. We had the contractor set them as close to the far wall as possible so they were out of the way. We also had them run the main trunk line as close to the ceiling next to the archway into the living room as possible. This way you can’t see it when you come in the house (from the foyer or living room). We really wanted the house to still feel like it has some of the charm of the 1930’s when it was built, but wanted the modern conveniences – Central air and an open kitchen – so we hid them as best we could.


And, yes, our house is always this clean and yes, these were taken as we began decorating for the holidays so please enjoy the festive touches 🙂

The backsplash is not yet complete but these are the tiles we purchased for the remaining portion of the backsplash by the range:

It might be hard to tell in the photo, but the tiles are blue-grey (the crackled finish is more grey, the solid finish is more blue).  We’re planning on alternating each of the tiles vertically to give some dimension to the wall rather than using just one of the tiles on the entire wall.  Haven’t decided on a grout color yet- debating between white and grey. We also still have to paint the base of the island.  Originally we were going to paint it white to blend in with the rest of the cabinetry, but after settling in, we’re leaning more towards something a little more bold like the dark grey wall with the french doors.

I guess you’ll just have to stay tuned to see what we decide!  More to come.

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December 22, 2013 · 2:44 am

…where the lists get made and the photos get displayed!

One of the very small projects we took on at our Port St. home was creating a message center.  It started out of necessity to find a creative way to hide the circuit panel box and electric meter which were oh-so-prominent in the kitchen by the back door.

Very old and blurry picture of the chalkboard cabinet we built to cover the electric meter and breaker box in our old home.

In writing this post we realized that we didn’t have any good photos of our message center on Port St. This was an iPhone picture of Anthony writing a message to the new owner of our house on our last day there, the day before we settled.

It definitely got lots of use!

One thing we learned from that project is that we LOVED it.  We decided that no matter where we ended up next, we needed a space just like it, and bigger if possible.  So when we embarked on the design of the entire kitchen, the message center was an actual item that we thought about and placed in the overall design.  Yup, we like to be THAT organized and we’re completely OK with it!  When laying out the floorplan, we wanted the center in a convenient spot, but a little hidden so that notes and clutter didn’t smack you in the face as you walked in.  The back wall of the entrance way from the foyer was perfect because it was out of sight as you walked in and because we were building out the pantry units, it would also be out of view from the dining room.  The spot was chosen!

first floor proposed copy


We found that we really used the chalkboard for making grocery lists and found that we would like a little more cork board area to pin up coupons, invitations, photos, etc.  So as we debated back and forth on which parts should be chalk and which should be cork and do we split the large wall in half vertically or horizontally; ultimately, we decided to keep it simple.  If we made the large back wall all one material, we could then carry the line of the upper cabinet down on the side of the pantry and use the other material there.  Did you follow that?  Need a visual?  Ok, first we put up some trim (that we had extra in the basement) to fill the gap between the top cabinet and the wall.  Then we put a vertical piece that aligned with the edge of the upper cabinet down to the countertop.


The large wall got the cork and the side wall got taped for chalkboard paint:

Do all the alignments make some sense now with this photo?  Our contractor thought we were crazy for wanting this cabinet mounted so high, but it all made sense in our head!

Then came the fun part:



Really love Frog Tape for projects like this that need clean, crisp lines!

Two quick coats later and we had the beginnings of our message center.  But what would be put up?  We started with the collection of items that have been living on the counter since we moved them from our old home.  One big addition was the framed color swatch calendar that N gave me for Father’s Day (which she had commissioned by her sister- thanks Raq!)







The microwave cabinet now feels more balanced with the ‘command center’ in place! (don’t mind the clutter on the counter – in an attempt to get artwork and photos up around the house, we have nails, screws, a hammer, and screwdriver ready at a moment’s notice)

This whole project took about an hour to complete but now that it’s finished, the kitchen, as a whole, is feeling much more pulled together.  It’s great to finally be able to keep the grocery list in a central spot instead of on scraps of paper here and there.  It’s also great to be able to put up some of the photos and stuff that we get from friends and family.  It has gotten us even more excited to get the backsplash up.  Our white kitchen is VERY white right now and the idea we have for the backsplash will really help warm it up.  More to come on that (and hopefully soon!).  And because this message area has grown in size, Naomi thought it more appropriate to call it the ‘Cataldo Command Center’ (after reading another blog that referred to their similar area as the ‘command center’).  Yes, she was very excited about the new name.  I just smiled and nodded.


August 1, 2013 · 1:27 pm

Creating the heart of the home.

Ok, ok, before I begin, yes, we have been a little slow in progress updates (ok- have not updated anything in weeks!) but we’ve just been overwhelmed with the renovations, packing, moving, and all while working full time and taking care of G.  So, yes, you can put us in a little timeout if you’d like but we’re going to try really hard to get everyone up to speed!

So let’s start with the kitchen!  I think last we left you it looked something like this:

photo 2(2)

The original side door was closed up, the drywall was installed, and the wiring was roughed in.  Delicious, right?  The weeks following this photo were a whirlwind of activity. The drywall was taped, mudded, and sanded…


just in time for the cabinets to be delivered:


Now, a little disclaimer, the floors were actually refinished right before the cabinets were delivered and installed but you already got a sneak peak of those so we’ll continue on with the kitchen update.


The cabinet installers immediately got to work installing them.  We went with Wolf Classic Cabinets with a simple shaker style finished in white.  We debated back and forth on the finish- white or stained wood.  The room is large and with the large double window over the sink, the side window, and the wall taken down between it and the dining room, the room gets a lot of light and is bright so we thought it could handle darker cabinets.  But in the end, we wanted a change from our old home (which has dark cabinets) and something that would be timeless, so white it was.  After seeing the dark stain on the floor, we were even more sure of our decision for the white cabinets because the contrast was so great!


Like the new window? It’s the ‘garbage bag collection’ from cheap windows dot com. Kidding, of course!


Level, measure, and confirm 85 times and in the end, we still had to switch out two cabinets so that the appliances fit properly and the room was balanced.  We also found that they delivered and installed the wrong cabinets for the island during one of our visits to the house to check in.  Not news the contractor wanted to hear since he couldn’t return the cabinets since they had been ‘installed’, but we stuck to our guns because the island was such an important feature for us.  We had specific needs for pot, pan, and drawer storage and the standard cabinets (which you can see above) were not going to do.

The kitchen install was supposed to be 3 days- quick and easy.  Right.  In the end, it was a over a week and after than, we still waiting for a back ordered cabinet.  Delays, delays, delays… all part of the reno game, as we learned!

Progress shot with the wrong island cabinets, but you can get an idea of the layout coming to life!

After the cabinets were installed and the island cabinets placed, we met with the contractor and his crew to finalize the island placement.  In order to make the island a bit more substantial in the room, we designed a very simple 1/2 wall on the far side of the cabinets and on the dining room side, a small set of built-in shelves.  The shelves would be a really convenient spot for all our cookbooks and by bookending the cabinets with ‘walls’ it would really ground the middle of the room.


You can see here where the countertop will overhang to create the breakfast bar area.

The kitchen sat like this for quite some time before the countertop fabricator was able to come out to measure, place the order for the Quartz, and then install it.  Another process which we were told would be, “very quick, not longer than a week.”  Right, 3 weeks later we were finally getting part of our counters installed.  Probably best left for another post on why only some of the counters were being delivered and why we felt like we were taking over as the General Contractor and at the same time being blamed for every delay that had happened.  It was very stressful, especially since at that point, we were just two weeks from moving in.

So, you’re not going to get a complete before and after just yet, we still have a section of quartz missing and need to completely unpack everything, but these should hold you over a little bit :-).



Originally thinking we’d go with granite, but in conversations, we kept coming back to quartz products for their durability and style.  In the end, we went with Caesarstone London Grey.  Full disclosure, Naomi actually had a Caesarstone rep. come to her office to show them their new product line.  She saw a sample of this new product and LOVED it.  I mean, could-not-stop-talking-about-it.  She showed me a tiny 3inch x 3inch sample and gushed over how beautiful it was.  We tried looking up images of it online and showrooms, but there were no real images (or good ones) because the product was new and no showrooms had it installed in their mock-ups.  So, with a leap of faith we ordered it, sight unseen basically, for Anthony.  The day it was being installed, we took a trip up to the house to check it out.  Naomi later revealed how nervous she was for me to see it installed- what if I hated it!

These images do it no justice but this stone is BEAUTIFUL.  It’s a light grey that has the appearance of a slight, tight veined marble.  Really don’t know how else to describe it.  So beautiful and really, we could not be more happy with our choice.

We have lots of recessed lights in the new space.  At first, we thought we went a little overboard, but they are small 4 inch can lights which are a little more discreet and now that they are in, we think it’s actually the perfect amount of light.  The other thing we LOVE are the pendant we chose.  They are the ‘Glass Jar Pendants’ from West Elm:

We went with the grey glass. Two of the elongated cylinders over the island and one of the rounded glass jars over the sink.

A little pricey per light, but they are really on display in the kitchen, so we splurged on them (with a coupon too!).  Don’t mind the regular light bulbs in the kitchen photo above.  We were just desperate to get some light in there before moving in.  We’ve since replaced them with large Edison bulbs!  There are lots of little things we can’t wait to show off about the kitchen and still need to figure out what we’d like to do with the backsplash- all in good time.

We really want to give you a great before and after, so stay tuned for those.  Full kitchen shots to come!

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May 23, 2013 · 2:55 pm