As-Is, You Win Again.

So two days before we left on our big exciting trip to Sweden and Finland, I took a little impromptu trip to IKEA. At the time I probably could have told you why, but now all I remember is picking up a few things from the market place before I turned my back on my cart for about 2 minutes in the plants section. When I came back, the cart was gone.

If you’ve ever been to IKEA, you know what a fucking travesty this is. Moment of silence, please.

So I circled around the plants and candles about 30 times before deciding that the cart was gone for good, went back to the beginning of the marketplace and sped my ass through the whole thing, having no recollection of what I had picked up the first time around except for a few replacement wine glasses and a tea towel. I knew I was forgetting a few things,* but at that point there was only so much more suffering a person could reasonably be expected to endure, so I headed for the check-out line.

*a vegetable peeler, a corkscrew, and a set of measuring cups.

And then it stopped me, like it always does. The As-Is Section. I cannot resist its seductive siren call of already-cheap items rendered even cheaper by little details like being completely fucking shattered to pieces. Though my personal history with the As-Is section is essentially one of dashed dreams, heartbreak, and disappointment—by which I mean that I once paid $10 for a tabletop that ended up being much too large and on the curb—I cannot skip it. I am drawn to it, like a moth to flame. Like sorority girls to blow. Like Max to his Taylor Swift “channel” or whatever on “rdio” or whatever. It’s like my body spontaneously begins to reject all its organs if I try to leave the building without going in.

Casually looking around for nothing in particular, I noticed a cabinet frame that was the exact size I was planning to put in my kitchen. Oh, and look! Another one! Two cabinet frames, 38% off, totaling $24 in savings.

Irresistible. I could get like 300 buckets of Swedish meatballs with my savings. I could pour them all in a bathtub and swim around in them.

So I swiftly picked up the two cabinet frames and bought them.

At this point I basically wanted to die because I had to load two enormous cabinets in a very small car on a hot day and then I had to go back into IKEA (round 3, for those keeping track) to buy all the hinges and doors and shelves and suspension rail that go with these stupid frames. If you’ve ever bought cabinets at IKEA, this means going to the kitchen section, waiting for an employee, listing all said parts to said employee who enters them on a computer and prints you a list, which then you have to take to checkout, wait in line, pay for, then bring the list to another counter where they give you a number and take your information and you wait and wait and wait for your number to pop up on a screen while you go buy a dozen cinnamon rolls and slowly eat each one, sobbing tears of anguish into the sticky box.

We’ve all been there.

A couple hints: 1) you actually can pay for your kitchen stuff right on the spot when you order it from the original employee. That means they’ll start processing your order in the warehouse before you even get to checkout, meaning it’s usually ready by the time you get there or shortly thereafter. 2) if you’re waiting for a long time for your number to pop up, go get food. By the time you return, your stuff will be ready. (100% effectiveness rate over the course of 1 experience)

But my kitchen, it needed new cabinets. So I did all of these miserable things.

For a long, long time I really wanted to try to salvage the existing upper cabinets, but here were all the problems with that plan:

1. They were horrible cabinets. The shelves didn’t adjust, which made them really spatially inefficient. Added to that, the big cabinet on the right had a big facer (the vertical piece of wood between the two doors) that really limited the amount of stuff we could easily take in and out of that cabinet. A year of frustration and I wanted to send it through a wood chipper.

2. I hate that diagonal corner cabinet. Cabinets with diagonal walls just end up super disorganized and everything in them is annoyingly inaccessible and hard to see. HATE.

3. Keeping them would have meant painting the frames and doors, or doing something with the doors (like on my old vanity?), or just replacing the doors so they match all the other new cabinets, after which I’d still be left with frames I was far less than enthusiastic about. Doing any of this would have been super time and labor intensive for a product that would still essentially suck.

4. The new cabinets that I installed on the other side of the room are 39″ tall, while the existing ones on this side are only 30″. That means that even if I painted the frames or refaced the doors, the old cabinets would still be small and still wouldn’t take better advantage of the almost 9′ ceiling height in our apartment.

I know it seems a little crazy town to rip out cabinets in a rental unit, even for me, but at this point, having already added 6 new cabinets to the kitchen and re-facing another, I now feel like it’s way more important for everything to be consistent and match than it is to preserve any of the “original” kitchen that was installed (badly) circa 1994.

So with less than 48 hours left before we were getting on a series of international flights, I hauled all of this crap home and set to work bringing all of it up five flights of stairs and taking out all the contents of our cabinets.

Totally no pressure. Totally wouldn’t be terrible if something went wrong and I hit weird snags and I left town for three weeks without kitchen cabinets. That would have been fun to explain to the petsitter.

Taking down the first cabinet ended up being way, WAY more difficult than I imagined it could be. Even after removing like 25 screws from the top and the bottom of the frame and about 7 screwed into the cabinet next door, it still took a fair amount of persuasion just to get it away from the wall where it’s been stuck for 15-20 years.

As with most things in my apartment that I’ve uncovered for the first time, the space between the back of the cabinet and the wall had become a veritable cockroach mass grave. There’s really nothing very interesting to say about a bunch of dead cockroaches, I just thought it was notable. We do not have a roach problem anymore, but all the clues point to an insane infestation at some point.

With all the cabinets down, the kitchen already felt so, so much bigger and brighter and all of a sudden everything seemed possible. As you can tell by this chaotic picture.

The green tape line marks 8 feet from the floor and demarcates the height of the other cabinets across the room. Taking the time to tape something like that is so very unlike me, I’m not even sure why I did it.

Now, IKEA cabinets basically hang off of a metal rail, which has to be secured to the wall really well so that everything doesn’t come crashing down. Especially in buildings like mine, where a few renovations over the course of 120+ years have made stud placement fairly unreliable, I like to supplement with intense anchors, and these toggle anchors are my favorite. Each one is supposed to hold 90 pounds in drywall and I find them really easy to work with. There seems to be a lot of confusion about how these work so I figured I’d explain here.

1. This is what your anchor will look like when the two plastic pieces are lined up.

2. To start, move the plastic pieces out of alignment so that the metal piece at the end is vertical.

3. The anchors will say on the package what size hole you need to drill in the drywall, I think these were 1/2″. After drilling the hole insert the metal end of the anchor all the way through the drywall until you feel it come out the other side.

4. Pull the two plastic pieces back into alignment, pulling the metal piece against the back of the drywall. With the plastic pieces aligned, you should no longer be able to pull the metal piece out of the wall. Then push the plastic “T” piece down towards the drywall firmly. When that piece has reached the wall, make sure it is as tight as it goes without pulling too hard on the plastic ends or pushing too hard—the plastic can tear away from the metal, leaving you anchor-less and loveless.

5. Once the T piece is all tight, bend the two plastic legs back and forth a couple of times until they snap.

6. Look! A fancy hole you can put the bolt into, where it will screw into that metal piece waiting for it inside the wall.

So fast. So easy. The suspension rail hangs a bit below the top of the cabinets (which was supposed to be the bottom of the green tape line), but unfortunately I had to drop it another inch or so because at EXACTLY 8′ up the wall, there was a thick metal beam that was not on the other side of the room. Instead of trying to drill into that, I just lowered the cabinets an inch (you can’t tell that there’s a discrepancy between cabinet heights on opposite side of the room) so that I could drill into wood studs and drywall.

And here they are, in all their glory! As you can see, I am a stupid idiot and didn’t buy enough hinges for the last door.

I love the new cabinets from a function perspective—they really do hold almost everything that fit in the older, much bulkier cabinets (save for that big wok on top and a couple things we brought to Salvation Army), but are obviously much easier on the eyes. Also, the old cabinets were hung with about 22″ of backsplash height, so by replacing the cabinets I was able to bring them down to the standard 18″, which helps make grabbing stuff on the first three shelves easier for a vertically-challenged person such as myself.

I know this result is not the best looking thing ever, but just wait! It will be. I have several more large important things to do that will make everything look awesome and not just like I threw up a couple IKEA cabinets and left things looking unfinished and horrible.

I promise.

I think.

One of those big important things is that I’d like to extend the backsplash along the rest of the wall, since I think it’s fucking weird that it ends just *before* the stove (which is where you’d actually want a backsplash, right?). I thought getting 4.25″ x 4.25″ white tile would be the easiest, cheapest thing in the entire world, but after a trip to both Home Depot and Lowes, it’s proving to be super challenging to find a tile that even passably matches the originals. They’re way creamier and just a totally different white—like, cannot-exist-on-the-same-wall-different.

I need a hero. Where do I go? What do I do? I suppose I need to go to a real tile shop or something, but I’m worried that MY WHOLE PLAN will be derailed, meaning my WHOLE LIFE will be derailed, meaning I am WORTHLESS.

 

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81 Comments

  1. “Look! A fancy hole you can put the bolt into, where it will screw into that metal piece waiting for it inside the wall. So fast. So easy.”

    Oh. Really.

    This is all just kind of making me wish we’d documented the whole experience (including the two hours spent rifling through the screw drawers in my basement, the trip to Home Depot AND my complete emotional breakdown over the state of my kitchen) of hanging those cabinets in my closet. You know, for contrast.

    Drywall has its advantages, I’ll say that much…

    • Haha, that was the HEIGHT of anchor-drama-ridiculousness. Don’t even remind me.

      But the E-Z anchors made everything ok! I’m pretty smart about anchors.**

      **please don’t sue me if they fall. That wall was whackadoo.

      (only the kitchen and bath in our apartment are drywall, (and a section of wall in the living room where there used to be a door), and while they don’t look as nice, they definitely making hanging things much easier.)

  2. July’s blog post frequency delights me to no end.

    Good luck with your tile hero. S/he can’t appear soon enough.

  3. Ridiculous improvement! RE: Tiles for the splash back. Have you considered just finding a similar tile in dimension, then cover them all and disguise the colour difference with your own choice of tile paint?

    • Oh, the dimension is totally standard and easy. I hadn’t really seriously considered painting all the tile—I just can’t imagine that a finished product would look as good or be as durable as the glazed ceramic finish. I’ve seen some painted tile in the past but it always just looks…painted? Maybe I need to do some more research.

  4. here I am, a tired mama, in six-thirty in the morning(local time in greece) and after having fed my little baby for the second time, what should I do? bed was my initial thought (I’m really sleep-deprived since his birth) but my crazy,design addicted and possibly stalking side of my brain made me open my notebook and check your site (once more since yesterday evening) to see if there are any goodies for me (is it ok to consider that everything you post it’s for my pleasure?)!!! Boom! a new post started loading before my eyes!!! Quickly I made a cup of coffee and dove into your world of domestic adventures and fun and wit and fun(I said that, right?). I love your blog, fullstop! I’m glad you ‘re around and make my day brighter! need to go now, baby’s hungry again!

  5. If you can’t find tile to match, you can always paint the wall and put some open shelving on that btch. Or install a bar and hang spatulas from it. Or hang a piece of art!

    • I have a shelving plan too, don’t worry your pretty self.

      The tile is really both an aesthetic and functional thing, though. I’m tired of grease-spattered drywall behind the stove that’s impossible to clean! Also, it just looks kind of super weird and stupid the way it just cuts off in the middle of the backsplash. I’d prefer slightly mis-matched tile to that, but I guess I just feel like it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a match.

  6. Oh, I agree with Anna… horrible job that you made it look easy :p
    For the backsplash I would suggest black tiles, toughened glass, or even thick cork board that you can have cut to size. It is not splash proof either but at least you can hang pots and utensils. I am sure tho anything you’ll do I will like :)

    • Yeah, white 4×4 wouldn’t necessarily be my first choice (classic subway would be preferable and also really inexpensive and suitably neutral for a rental), but I really just want to work with what’s there and not go COMPLETELY psycho on this kitchen. Any other tile option would basically entail demo-ing out the existing tile, which is just a whole can of worms I’m not willing to open. (I did chip off a few tiles just to see how hard it would be, and it was a disaster…the drywall basically crumbled and fell apart, it was not pretty)

  7. if you cannot find matching tile, and decide that replacing all of it is too crazy even for you, you could remove a part of the EXISTING tile (maybe the one below the newly installed cabinets) and put them above the stove?
    !!
    i am so proud of myself right now. but maybe the idea is totally stupid. is it?

    btw, as a renter, i admire your investing in that apartment that even isn’t yours. but, i see a logic, different kind of logic. you probably feel more at home there than me in this shitty rented apartment of mine..

    • No, it’s not stupid! I’ve though about doing something like that. The problem is that removing the tile is just a crazy big messy horrible job that seems really overboard, even for me. I didn’t note it in the post, but I thought I was going to have to remove the top row of tiles so that the cabinets would sit flush on the wall, but once I started it was a horrible disaster so I stopped and just chiseled the bottom of the cabinets a little bit to compensate, if that makes sense. Also, when you remove tile it’s hard to reuse them because the thinset is still stuck to the back, so they would jut out more than the existing tiles, which wouldn’t look great either. Boo-hoo.

      And yeah, I know the renter thing is cray but I’m planning to stay here a longggg time, and if I’m going to do anything to the kitchen, I want it to be something I really like and maximizes the functionality of the space. It’s probably not real likely to be a “dream kitchen,” but having a place where we can cook without it being a massive headache is really important (and, I’ve justified, saves money over time since we ordered tons of takeout and delivery before we started working on the kitchen because cooking in it was so hellish. every improvement I make is like another incentive to cook!). If moving to another rental or buying were even visible options on the horizon, I definitely don’t think I’d be investing this much in a place I didn’t own. But that’s New York! Common-folk don’t really plan to buy here, ever.

  8. Wow better already.
    You could buy tiles with the same texture, size and thickness, tile what ever surface you want and then paint it all in the same colour. In my eyes that would be the easiest solution. No breaking or wrecking stuff involved.
    Have a wonderful day!!!

  9. How does all of this work in a rental? Do you have to put the old cabinets back?

    • Not a chance. I’m basically renovating their entire kitchen and making it way nicer than it was before, and I highly doubt they’ll have a problem with that (the old tenants of an apartment downstairs actually did the same thing, so this isn’t totally unprecedented in my building…).

      We did, however, secretly and clandestinely put the old cabinets down in the basement, just in case the landlords want to reuse them in another unit or in another one of their buildings.

      • You should get sweat equity my friend! You don’t get what you don’t ask for & you prob have a good chance considering your landlord DID pay for your paint (if I recall correctly; not that I stalk you like a salivating design hungry hyena or anything). Good Luck! X

      • Yeah, he stopped paying for paint when I bought more than a couple cans of Benjamin Moore. Nevermind that I was doing all the labor for free on a job that legally should have been done before I moved in!

        My landlord is not that kind of guy. And that’s OK, as long as they leave me alone!

  10. As-is section at IKEA is irresistible. These cabinets look great and I can’t wait until you are done. Dead roaches behind cabinets is something I don’t ever want to think about. Only now I am thinking about it, dammit.

    Retrorenovation.com has several resources for finding older replacement tiles. Check that site, or just email Pam. She is the nicest.

  11. You’re my hero! Doing this all in a rental, you are crazy- but good crazy! Such a small change makes such a huge difference. Can’t wait to see how you finish it off.

  12. You could paint the new and old tile so they match. We did it with high gloss high quality paint and love it. It is much more scrubbable than our dingy old tiles.

  13. Just to be the bad guy here – ripping out and replacing tile isn’t all that hard ;) Messy and a lot of work, yes. But not hard work! Just sayin’.

    • I know it’s not thatttttt bad, but I just really, really don’t want to do it. There’s nothing wrong with the old tile, and replacing all of it adds a bunch of time and cost and materials to a project that was supposed to be pretty simple and easy. And once I get into tearing down tiles, we’re probably also talking about replacing a big section of drywall, having tons of dust and waste to deal with…I just don’t know if I have the time or energy to deal with that.

      • No, I hear you… but I’m still willing to bet on you caving in and doing it anyway :P

        Or you could embrace current square white tiles being different, find as many different-different ones as you can, and do an ombre backsplash -_- (Not a serious suggestion. If you absolutely can’t find matching tile you really should do something completely and obviously different, rather than trying for the fake kinda-sorta look.)

  14. I have a diagonal cabinet in my kitchen. My solution was to put everything on those Rubbermaid turntables; the opening at the front was wide enough that I could have three. Problem solved. Only works, though, if the things in the cabinets are small enough to fit on the turntable, things like spices hot sauces and medications and measuring cups and such.

    While I didn’t really mind your old cabinets (I so old that they looked fairly new to me), I totally agree that your new ones look way better.

    !!! Brainstorm !!!

    Hang your wok above the stove as a quasi-backsplash! Instant seasoning!

    ::ducks and runs away::

  15. Thanks for sharing your highly interesting insights into diving in and through IKEA. While many things sound very similar, there seem to be some cultural differences to shopping in Ikea in Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
    1. The kitchen cabinets are having a totally different system to attach them to the wall. Metall angles with holes are attached to the side pieces in the upper corners; than you use angled screws to hang the cabinets on and then you tighten the screws against the metal angles.
    2. Having to wait in the kitchen section is similar here, you even need to make an appointment if you want to plan an entire kitchen, but you can’t pay there. *Interesting* The warehouse starts to process once you pay at the checkout. As the warehouse is usually in a different building by the time you get there, your stuff is ready. If waiting time gets too long, you are offered drinks and snacks.

    The “as-is” section – here it is called “treasure trove” – is my addiction too – that’s how several doors for Billy shelves and kitchen cabinets entered this house while hardly being used. And yes, I just experienced the craziness to have to do the whole trip through their store again to get the matching hinges ……

    Did you know that visiting IKEA on a Saturday morning is the best test for marriage. If you make it through it without getting into a serious argument, nothing can prevent you from happiness. ;-)))

    Regarding the backsplash. Have you considered going with a totally different material like this one: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/00206261/ to really devide the two areas? If you want them to blend, you could put the Fastbo behind the stove and also above the existing tiles and use them for magnets *wavetoMax* If the measure doesn’t fit, maybe your hardwarestore (Home Depot?) carries something similar like a stainless steel plate. I am curious to see what you are coming up with. ;-))

  16. Since you were just in Aalto-land, I’m trying to consider how he would have solved this. Acknowledge the break, the change in materials. Don’t try to match or disguise. Maybe you just need a change in materials there, and/or a change in scale. Maybe larger or smaller tiles in a great color? Maybe a pattern? Maybe a strip of a third material (wood? glass? something rough?) to bridge the old tile to the new backsplash. Maybe a slight change in depth? Thicker? Think about his fantastic handrails and wrapped columns. Have fun where things come together. I enjoy your blog! Good luck!

  17. Love the change in the kitchen. I check your blog everyday in hopes of new posts. I am an addict.

  18. i love how you aren’t overreacting at all in the final sentences of your post. all that you have done thus far is rockin’ and I believe in your abilities. I don’t know how to find 15-20 year old 4×4 tiles, but they have to be out there. and the universe will lead them to you. I believe.

  19. I like Bill’s suggestion of putting something entirely different behind the stove, with an interesting transition from the tile to the new whatever. I think it could be really original, plus would solve many of your issues of matching tile. As someone who underwent the kitchen renovation from hell (took over a year, was without water in the kitchen for months, required new wiring when the old (probably 1930s) cabinets were removed to find about four wires twisted together to span the area behind the sink and lower cabinets), I admire your energy and ability to do so much of the work yourself and create basically something out of nothing. As someone who is nearly 3x as old as you are, I have to say it’s young people like you (smart, talented, adventurous) that give me hope for the future.

  20. You’ve gone this far, you might as well tear out all the tiles and put up whatever you want. Go, Daniel! Go, Daniel! Go! Go! GO.

  21. For the backsplash behind the stove, I think I just saw someone solve this with stainless steel sheets. I think it’s one of the kitchens in the Apartment Therapy small kitchen contest (going on now). I thought it was a clever, attractive and easy-to-keep-clean solution. Certainly an easy solution for the predicament you’ve created for yourself. The nice thing about stainless steel is that it’s so neutral and goes with just about anything!!

  22. how close are the tiles from lowes/home depot in color? could you put something else between the old/new tile to help break it up? a change in material might be all you need to not notice that the white colors do not exactly match. i’m thinking thin metal or wood shelf. maybe only a few inches deep… perfect for spices?

    if you did all of this before going on vacation, i really have no excuse as to why it is taking me months to get enough motivation to finish the last small piece of our kitchen project. i think it’s going to take me longer to install the cabinet kickplates than it did to completely gut and renovate the rest of the kitchen.

  23. How about instead of tiling – which is horrible, messy, horrible job that never works out no matter how easy they make it seem in those stupid DIY shows I’m addicted to – print out a huge poster or art work or just get a wallpaper, paste it on there and cover it with plexiglass screwed into the wall. You’ll get a unique backsplash and art in one.

    • I really like Naomi’s suggestion!

      My stove (it’s a really old Etna) has a metal plate attached to it that functions as a backsplash. Can something like that be attached to the stove that you and Max have?

  24. I remember seeing a video clip of an This Old House episode where the tile expert said to find a matching tile you have to look at the back of the tile to figure out who the manufacturer may be. The tiles sometimes had distinctive marks/patterns to narrow down the search. http://www.tileheritage.org/ might be able to help point you to a manufacturer? p.s. This how-to video shows how to remove a tile http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/video/0,,1629572,00.html Good luck!

    • Unfortunately the backs of the old tiles are covered in thinset, so it’s impossible to see any manufacturer mark.

      I did remove a few tiles…unfortunately it didn’t go quite as smoothly or easily as in the video!

  25. Not sure if you’re planning to do anything with the lowers, other than re-face them, but if you get into replacing them, or the countertops, I vote you put in a bigger sink – doing dishes in that sink would really impede my desire to cook, so that project should definitly help with your “it’s really a savings b/c we won’t eat as much take-out” plan.

    • I am planning to *revise* that area, but I think we’re keeping the sink, mostly because it’s OK enough and sinks are super pricey. I do wish it was deeper, but I think with a new faucet I’d be happy with it. Can’t have everything I want!

  26. Even though your not finished the kitchen you’ve made a VAST improvement with the new uppers, good job! I’m jumping on the ‘stainless steel backsplash behind the range’ bandwagon too. Ikea makes a stainless panel that you could install (I think it’s listed with the range appliances online). I know there are too many various shades of white and when put side by side there’s no way in hell they can work together, but will any of the tile you found look like the same material if they are separated by the stainless panel? You could add the ‘new but similar to existing tile’ over the base cabinets on the other side of the stove and look like you designed the break in materials. Make sense?

    For an alternative to the readily available stainless panel you could add back painted glass but it’s more money and not as easy to get unless you go even crazier and DIY it yourself.

    Phew, too many words.
    I’m done.

  27. I think this is a cool product but don’t have any place to use it in my home. You could possibly install this over your old tile and paint it white. It won’t be tile but it should be scrubbable and it’s interesting.

    http://www.lowes.com/pd_13964-46498-288_0_?Ntt=13964++&Ntk=i_products&productId=1015475

  28. Maybe you could add a pegboard behind the stove instead of tile? Should be easy cleanable as well and you could hang some spoons ect from it.

  29. A stainless steel backsplash would work with all the looks you have going on in the kitchen i think. Easy to clean too. I like the quilted but there are many options.
    http://www.homedepot.com/Kitchen-Backsplashes/h_d1/N-bcszZ5yc1v/h_d2/Navigation?langId=-1&storeId=10051&catalogId=10053&searchNav=true
    Just a start…

  30. I go by the design maxim that if you can’t hide it, celebrate it. Therefore I agree with all the comments about making the backsplash a different material/colour all together – any other way will look confused, jumbled, weird, half assed, take your pick.

    I also agree that painted tile always looks painted, and I would only do it as a temporary measure! With tile paint.

  31. Could you install a stainless steel backsplash over all the tile? And then extend it as needed?

    This is probably a terrible suggestion. The tile would still be lurking. But it might look great.

  32. Daniel – Check out Dal-Tile + American Olean (http://www.dal-tile.com/) they have lots of options when it comes to neutrals in 4×4 and they are super cost effective. I know they carry some of their products at Home Depot but you should go to a tile dealer or to their showroom as they will have the full range. If they don’t have a close match I would be surprised!

    • Yes! I’m looking into both of those, and also US Ceramics. In BK at least, I think Lowes carries American Olean and Home Depot carries US Ceramics, but only one shade of white each (but I think both have a range…). Now I just need a place that carries the range, or can order them!

      This is such a ridiculous headache. There are a lot of nice suggestions in this thread…but really, I just want tile. It all looks so rad in my head.

      • Generally, tile companies have two color families. I unfortunately suffer from a landlord who did not care to match warm white and pure white. Arctic White (or other icey/wintery names) are cooler whites and “white” usually means warm white to off white. In a recent renovation, (I work at a residential architecture/interior design firm) we added a backsplash behind a new counter in a laundry room and they’re separated by about 5 feet and you can’t really notice that they aren’t the same exact tile. I think if you switch it up at the range you can maintain that clean, white kitchen aesthetic.

  33. Agree with Bill. Don’t fight the tile, just put something either obviously contrasting, or obviously different but complementary. A plain glass sheet, maybe.

    Also, don’t quote me on this, but I think it’s possible for your landlord to raise your rent if you’ve made improvements to the apartment, so you might want to be low profile about it.

  34. My vote (That is if we’re voting. Are we voting?) is with covering the tile with another material, stainless steel would be fab.

    Another idea I saw that won’t work in my space is to cover the backsplash with old maps, then the plexiglass? So many options. Can’t wait to see what you do!

  35. When can you and Max come and visit in Santa Clara, CA? Is the Alameda Antique Fair calling you? The first sunday of every month? I would throw the ultimate Welcome Cocktail Party for you? Let me know, would love it. Anna is always welcome too. Sincerely, Your Friend in Cali

  36. Retro Renovation has a ton of posts about finding tile to match already installed vintage tile.

  37. Find some tile that matches in size; then paint all that shizz one color. My parents did this in a hall bathroom and really; you can’t tell. And-if you totally hate it-you can always take it all down and replace with something that you love. To me, trying to match the whites and being *slightly off* is much much worse than the painting option!!

    Oh, and I call that furniture-pick-up-line at IKEA with the automated “scoreboard” “The Bad Line”. hehehehe……

    Oh and the other rule is…never, ever ever go to IKEA on a weekend…no matter how badly you want to or how desperate you are for whatever…I’ve seen people nearly come to blows in there on a Saturday afternoon…

    And I think you and I are secretly related; cause I too have the As-Is gene!!!

    • Oh, please, I wouldn’t be caught dead in IKEA on a weekend! It’s my own personal version of hell.

      (especially in Brooklyn, OH THE SCREAMING CHILDREN.)

  38. Saw this forever ago on Rehab Addict (the only design show that I find somewhat acceptable to watch as a designer) but she was trying to match vintage tiles in a house she was redoing and she sourced her tiles from a place that sold actual vintage tiles that were removed from old homes. Not sure if this place will have the exact coloring but I would try:

    http://www.subwaytile.com/elements_field.html
    http://www.restorationtile.com/subway.html

    Have heard that Subway Tile’s are slightly more white and Restoration Tile’s are more creamy, but you could order a sample from each and see which works best. Hope you can find something that works. I really enjoy your witty commentary on your blog!

  39. I relate well with the tile obsession so good luck with the finding, but since you are already looking for tile, it won’t hurt to keep an eye for a possible mismatching tile of another color (maybe light blue or yellow?). Since the area to cover happens to be a square, a tile of the same size and same glaze just in another color might look good and do the job. The success will be in making the mismatch tile section to look as if it was on purpose and part of your brilliant resourceful design plan. And once you are done installing it, if you think it does not balances out well, you can still remove some old tiles behind the sink, or the side wall (4 or 6), and replace them with the new ones, forming another color-square-accent. Also, keep in mind that even if you find the exact same tile, the old tile might still look older and yellowish and slightly opaque.
    My best wishes for your kitchen wishes!

  40. Maybe someone already has left a comment about this above, I didn’t bother reading them all. But all I know about replacing broken tiles is that you need to check the backside of the tile to see what colour the ceramic is, otherwise you will never get the tiles to match exactly. For instance a red/orange ceramic will give the white glace a different colour tone than what a greyish ceramic would. I guess this would apply to your tile matching problem as well.

  41. Love the blog! Quick question (unrelated to this post) – do you ever worry about/take precautions against lead-based paint? I’m moving into a 1920s apartment with my boyfriend and, inspired by your blog, I’m eager to repaint the entire apartment a better shade of white. I’m a little freaked out by the bathroom because there is some peeling paint on the wall and chipping paint on the door and window molding… Was curious whether you think about the dangers of lead-based paint when you’re removing old paint?

    • I always tell people that I’m REALLY not the source for info about lead paint safety (there are much better resources online for that!), but my general sense is that lead paint really doesn’t present problems in and of itself, unless you decide to eat the flakey bits or inhale a ton of sanding dust or something. As far as I know, it’s totally safe to just chip off the peeling bits with a scraper or wire brush and just paint over it all (you might want to prime first if adhesion is an issue). If you’re REALLY worried, you can buy a cheap and easy lead paint test at any hardware store, but it seems like more trouble than it’s worth! I think the general rule of thumb is, when possible, leave it alone and just paint over it.

  42. Well done on the cabinet job! I might go with black tile in the same dimensions behind the stove.

  43. I live in Astoria and there are a few different tile places around me if you want to come check it out.

  44. I applaud your site (never has smart design and outright snark come together so well) and recent went through the same situation on tile colors as you while renovating our upstairs bathroom. While the wall tile all came from Homey D, I casually grabbed the shower shelves from Lowes. BIG mistake. I never realized how many shades of white there could be in tiles and how obvious it looks when installed (like the difference between blue and orange).

    As for your backsplash, have you considered something other than tile? While removal and replacement can get expensive and messy (not to mention putting your kitchen out of commission for a while) sheet aluminum or stainless steel is a far cheaper and easier alternative. Plus easier to clean if you decide to fire up that wok on a regular basis.

    • I guess something like that might be the back-up plan, but what can I say! I really want that stupid tile.

  45. I had this same issue with the 4 x 4 inch white tiles for my bathroom. I was updating it, but we also had to break into a shower wall to repair a leaky pipe. I found a pretty close match at http://www.bellatilenyc.com/ in the East Village. It was slightly off, but not too bad. I think the tile thickness was also a smidge different. Ultimately I decided to redo the whole wall to keep it from looking too different from the rest of the tile that covers the entire bathroom. It looked great… http://jilldanyelle.com/ev-apt#/fullscreen/2475926 …until a pipe burst in a different wall – post renovation… ah, New York. We had to replace a small batch of tiles there – no way was I ripping that whole wall out. The new tile doesn’t really stand out too much. Although they are slightly different, most people probably don’t notice right away.

    Also, if you do go whole hog, you could use backer board, which might make it easier. So, one, rip tile out. Two, cut and place backer board on wall – they can tell you how at the tile store (or http://ow.ly/cx31t ). Three, tile over backer board. We had to use it in the kitchen because my wall was concave. With bull nose tiles and a shelf on top, you cannot see any added depth. http://jilldanyelle.com/ev-apt#/fullscreen/2376734 I also used some tile from http://www.nemotile.com/ near Union Square.

    Good luck!

  46. I was just on the Ikea website and they brought back the ENJE blinds!!! Just thought I’d let you know so you can stop mourning for them daily – I totally stalk your blog. Here’s the link: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/40221288/ :)

  47. Daltile makes a simple 4×4 white tile. Just plain old regular builder white. :)
    http://www.daltile.com/

  48. I know you really just want tile, but be prepared for a long haul of tile shopping and matching, which could be really hard to do in Manhattan (I had to drive to five different NJ stores). Shopping for tile makes concrete look good.

  49. Oh, I understand about renting and ridiculous home improvements. I lived in an apartment I loved and wound up re-doing the kitchen and both bathrooms! When I bought a place and moved out my landlord offered to give me the penthouse–5,000 square feet–at a discount, as long as I stayed and continued to demo and reno. I declined. But you keep going… it’s home and if you have the bug, you can’t stop yourself. Plus, we all love reading about it.

  50. Just an idea for the tiling. Add 1/4 dry wall to the new section that you want to tile, thus bringing it flush to the existing tile. Then you can tile over the while section with your subway tile (home depot have a good basic cheap white one) then add a trim tile
    Piece along the the top edge covering the thickness and creating a lip. I did this in my bathroom and it looked great.
    Good luck I’ll keep my eyes peeled for a 4×4
    B

  51. so there is a gap from the cabinets to the tile… i haven’t read all million comments so forgive me if this idea was already given: You could attach a piece of plywood that ran the entire length… maybe it is marine plywood that is okay with water… maybe it is painted high gloss so it cleans up better… maybe chalkboard paint to hide indiscretions. and the gap where tile meets drywall is just furred out?

    j

  52. Just stumbled onto your blog via Cute Overload.com – congratulations on your new puppy! What a great story. I kept reading and saw this next post about your cabinets. What would look great with your new cabinets, if you were willing to start over, is white subway tile. I think it looks a little more modern than square tiles and would go great in your kitchen. Just a thought. I really enjoy your writing and plan on coming back!

  53. Did you try the tile shade in “Bone” from Home Depot? I live in a crazy old apartment where what I assume were once white tiles became so faded that the “bone” shade was a perfect match. I’m thinking that might be the same case here. If that was obvious & you already tried it, then maybe you could try baking the closest shade a bit in an oven until it becomes that off white color. Stupid suggestions? Maybe, but you still had to read them.

    • Haha! Actually, it’s not an issue of the tiles being too dark, in most cases they’re either too light or just a different shade…like the ones on my wall are a bit warmer and the ones at Home Depot and Lowes are slightly more grey…it’s a conundrum…so I’m ignoring it, haha.

  54. Daniel, my cousin pinned this today: peel and stick mosaic tiles! While I was checking them out for my rental bathroom, made me think of this blog post. Not too sure if they are wonderful or crap after reading the reviews. Now, I just need you to try them out. http://www.thesmarttiles.com/

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