When my client, Bev, told me that her kitchen was turquoise, I thought, “cool.” I thought “fun.” I thought she was referring to her wall color or her countertop or her backsplash. She was — and more. Her cabinets, appliances and kitchen table were also turquoise. And now, as the original owner of this 1950s ranch-style house, Bev was ready to update.

Not all kitchen improvements require full demolition and remodeling. There are many factors to consider such as function, storage, size, aesthetics and resale value. What’s currently working, what’s not, and how does it all fit with the budget.

In our case, the original cabinets were in excellent shape so we’d keep and repaint them. We’d also retrofit the interiors of a few of cabinets with pullout shelves and other user-friendly accessories. Since we were keeping the cabinets, it was lucky that the layout of the kitchen flowed well — so, the floor and walls would not be disturbed. Basically, we were looking for a new color scheme and updated aesthetics.

I was excited to keep the now-vintage appliances and had envisioned a cream and turquoise kitchen with coral-orange accents. But unfortunately, one of the ovens and one of the refrigerators had failed and replacements parts were nowhere to be found on the entire planet. We weighed the idea of buying replicas of vintage appliances but the colors were limited and the cost prohibitive. This eventually led us to all new, stainless steel appliances from Viking (because they are made in the U.S.A.), and a less colorful palette.

I came to learn that my coral-orange accents would never have been approved anyway. Bev’s eye rested best with calm, light, monochromatic color schemes, especially those without pattern or contrast. I also learned that she wanted an easy-maintenance kitchen.

Given these parameters, when it came time to show her countertop options, I knew granite would have too much movement. Natural stone, stainless steel, poured concrete, and butcher block all required care, and tile would include high-maintenance grout. My designer’s mind had to at least scan these options, but I was already sure that quartz would be the best choice. It comes in many quiet patterns and colors, is scratch- and stain-resistant, and is virtually does not need maintenance.

Bev chose a creamy-color quartz from Surface Masters on Soscol that had just enough pattern to add interest and dimension. We then used the quartz to find paint in the same color family.

So far, we were hitting all the calm, light and monochromatic notes. Next up was the backsplash. I always favor covering the full 18 inches of wall between the upper and lower cabinets. And, I rarely favor covering it with the same material as the countertop.

Even though there are thousands of tile options today, and many of them would have worked in this kitchen, I kept reminding myself that Bev wanted a soothing ambiance. She had been consistent throughout this process. Every time I had shown her something with a little pattern or contrast, she gave it the thumbs down. So, thinking that I knew her pretty well, I showed her various cream-color subway tiles. The plan would be simple, refreshing, classic — and calm.

But just when I thought I knew something, I didn’t. Even though Bev liked the tile I left for her to ponder, a big surprise awaited me when I returned to pick them up.

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Which one had she chosen? A sample she had picked up in the meantime. A mosaic of honey onyx, cream limestone and varying tones of marble. Not only were the stones different colors but also different sizes.

Who was this lady, and what had she done with my client? Bev had decided that her kitchen could use a dose of texture and personality, and a decorative backsplash was the way to go.

The final topic on our list was the kitchen table. The existing one was actually a peninsula of turquoise Formica attached to a base cabinet on one end and supported with a chrome leg on the other end.

Since its size and location were perfect, we just replaced it with something similar. My inspiration came from her white oak floors. I had my woodworker make a rift-sawn, white oak table with a wood support. Because of the way rift-sawn oak is cut, it has a very quiet, tight, linear pattern as opposed to the large grain and rings we see on flat or plain sawn oak. The table and floor, and even the honey onyx, coordinated well and also brought a warm earthiness to the all-cream kitchen.

If we had been able to save the appliances, this kitchen makeover would have been less involved and easier on the budget. The new countertop, tile and color scheme alone would have been enough to significantly transformed the space. But since the appliances were old enough to collect Social Security, their replacements eventually added to the original plan. Yet still, this kitchen sets an example of how a cosmetic update can bring as much satisfaction to a homeowner as a full remodel.

More ‘before and after’ photos can be viewed at www.plcinteriors.com.

Patti L Cowger is a credentialed, award-winning Napa-based interior designer and owner of PLC Interiors. For more information about her design services, visit her website at plcinteriors.com call (707) 322-6522; or email plcinteriors@sbcglobal.net

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