Monday, December 27, 2010

Ask DC Rowhouse: kitchen backsplash

About two to three times a week I receive e-mail inquiring about the renovations we have done, products we have used, advice on their projects, or anything else that might pop up. I've decided to start posting them,  a la "Ask DC Rowhouse". If you want to write in, feel free to contact me as always at

Here's an e-mail that came in today from Andy, asking about the tile backsplash we used:

Hi, my partner and I are planning a renovation of our kitchen and our internet research has led us to your blog (isn't the internet a wonderful thing?).  We have noted that the trend in kitchen design is to have the tile backsplash go all the way down to the granite countertop these days - eliminating that little flipped up part of the countertop in the back.  My question to you is this:  have you found that the grout line along the bottom of the backsplash - where it meets the countertop - is staying clean and white?  (Especially behind the cooktop?)  As the "cleaner" in our relationship, I have to deal with spaghetti sauce spills and splashes - and would be the one doing any re-sealing of the countertop necessary.  I fear that the grout along the back of the countertop/bottom of backsplash would get discolored over time.  Do you have any words of advice on this concern - did you have it when you made your design decisions, do you have it now, etc.

Thank you so much for your counsel - and your inspirational blog!  We just finished an exterior renovation and landscaping on our "twin" here in Philly, so it is always nice to read about what is happening with others.


Thanks for reading the blog! I too had those same concerns when designing the kitchen. Which is one of the reasons I choose to use a darker gray grout with out bright white subway tile. The previous owners had installed a tile counter with white grout and the wine/tomato/water stains were so annoying to scrub out. I can say we don't have any problems with the area of grout that meets the for one exception. The area behind the faucet can get a little grimy, as water splashes back there as we do the dishes. It's a hard reach with a sponge. But, it's an easy fix with some scrub and a toothbrush. Since we have a slide-in gas range, there have been no problems with the grout line behind the cook top. If anything, I would be more concerned with splatters higher on the backsplash.

If you choose to use the same method of running the tile down the counter, I would recommend properly sealing the grout in the tile. There are several products out there if you are doing the tile work yourself, or you can talk to your tile installer about it.

Good luck with your kitchen renovation!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

When the man comes around. . .

We have a beautiful black cat in our alley. During the summer I'll see him darting back and forth in the shadows of night or sitting at the far end of the alley keeping watch over the neighborhood. Occasionally, during the winter months mostly, he'll wander up to our deck and hunker down outside our door staring in with pleading eyes. It seems, he has returned.

Last week, Dan and I were eating dinner at Ted's Bulletin when I blurted out, "I have a confession." Dan sat up and stared me straight in the eyes. Since I have been working from home that day I think he assumed I was about to say, "oh, I bought a new couch by accident" or something. Instead I confessed to feeding the alley cat. While I expected a rant about how you don't feed cats you aren't prepared to take into your home, Dan simply shrugged and went back to devouring his catfish (which was an ironic meal for this conversation).

It was about 15 degrees that day and when I looked up from my laptop, there he was. One small bowl of cat food couldn't hurt, right?

Last night, he returned. As I was lighting a fire in the living room, Dan called over, "that cat's back." I casually opened the back door as it scampered away to drop a bowl of food on the mat. Cautiously, the cat crept back and settled into eating every scrap. Then, it didn't leave. So, I named it Johnny (after Johnny Cash, "The Man in Black").

After a few minutes Dan called back to me, "Are you gonna go out and give it some pats or what? I mean, that's the least you can do."

"Oh, no," I replied. I kept insisting the cat was feral and sprinted from me the moment I came close. But, to prove my point I opened the back door and slowly stepped out. The cat moved a few feet back, stared at me for a while, then bounded over with delight. Shoot. It rubbed against my hands with all its might, flopping and purring and pawing at me with ferver. It started to melt both our hearts.

I came back inside and Dan and I started to talk about what to do. Take it in for the night? What if he already has a home and is an outside cat? Did we have a private space for it? What if it freaked out? By the time we had gone over all these question Johnny was gone. But, I'm sure he'll return soon.

What have we gotten ourselves into?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Latest Obsession

I don't know how I found her, and frankly, I don't care. I love her. Elise Morris.

I would love that first painting hanging over a deep blue velvet pin-tucked couch.  Someday. . .

Friday, December 17, 2010

That time of year. . .

If my christmas list was based on things solely for the house, this is what would be on it: 

This amazing step stool for the kitchen. Not only would it make a great place to rest a plan atop, but it's fold out step stool would be great to reach up to the high shelves in the kitchen.

I'd love these wine storage  units for above the console in the dining room.

Tools. . .and more tools.

Cashmere throws . . .doesn't need an explaination there.

For our fourth anniversary, Dan and I went to the tasting room at Restaurant Eve, and my pre-dinner cocktail (a gin and tonic, because these guys make - yes make - thier own tonic!) came in this lovely glass.
I'd love for this pillow to make it's home on my bed.

We don't have a toaster oven. I never really thought I'd want one, but then the time came when I thought, "yes, I'd actually like to make miniature souffles..."

Monday, December 13, 2010

Winter White

Since I grew up in New Hampshire, I know what a real winter is.  Listening to the radio each morning from my bed wishing and hoping classes would be canceled.  Walking outside to have tears frozen to your face in a matter of seconds. Walking to school in six feet of snow . . . ok, maybe not that part.

The District last year had a taste, and this year looks like it's going to be another snow-filled season.  Living here has given me a relaxed sense of winter urgency. I've been lax about finishing projects before the cold snap sets in, and this year is no different. But, unlike past years, this winter has come early for this time of year.

This morning I woke to Dan whispering, "it's snowing" in my ear as I wearily opened my eyes.  Peering out the window I saw snow dusted cars lining the streets while snow flakes salted the windy skies.  While I enjoyed drinking fresh pressed coffee watching the flakes fall, there is sadness knowing the end of working outdoors in the fall air is here.

It's time for evening fires, full-bodied red wine, and hopefully returning to finishing projects remaining in the house.

Another year almost gone by.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Witching Hour

For some reason I've been waking up in the middle of the night a lot lately. After laying in bed with eyes wide open for a while, I finally sneak out of bed and downstairs to watch TV. During those late night (or early morning) hours the main thing on TV is infomercials. This morning I saw this:

Usually they are selling exercise equipment at 3am...but now it's tools! Seriously, when they showed you can wall mount it, I almost called. Then I remembered I don't have a garage. They almost got me. Almost.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Injuries Obtained

  • Sprained Toe/Foot: 1
  • Blood Blisters: 2
  • Splinters under fingernail: 1
  • Bird Shit on me: 1
  • Eye Injuries: 3
  • Burns: 0
  • Falls off ladder: 0 (this is because we don't have a ladder yet)
  • Headaches: too many to itemize
  • Broken Bones: 0
  • Bandages Needed: 5
  • Electric Shocks: 2
  • Stiches: 0
  • Bruises: way too many