, , , ,

A couple of months ago one of the sales people where we get building materials was helping me figure out how to complete my kitchen cabinets and counters for under $2000. The cabinets I had under control. The counters were a disaster waiting to happen. He showed me an odd cache of cut granite that was left from building a hotel somewhere. The pieces are 12 inches deep and 3 feet wide and were cut to accommodate the bathrooms and check in counters. Some of the edges are raw, some are beveled and some have an overhang edge. Some of it is chipped and some perfect. All of it is a great buy. Sort of.

At first I thought I had hit the mother lode. I could have granite counter tops if I just learned how to grind and polish a granite edge and divided my life by 12ths.  When I found the mother lode, we were getting ready to do the plumbing for the kitchen so I squeezed my life into 3 foot sections. I worked out an entire kitchen based on 12 inch by 36 inch intervals. I only had to make one cut on the granite, we had one 18″ cabinet that has no kin so it just could not come in a 3 foot section. I planned to put something on it that appeared to be chic when in fact it was because I cannot cut 1 inch thick granite.

Unfortunately, the world is not in 3 foot sections it is in 39 1/8 inch sections. Give or take. The pieces must have been on the “not quite perfect” pile and that would be true, they are not quite perfect. The granite really is so think it is impossible for me to cut. I checked with a couple of folks and learned that it costs upwards of $100 an hour for a professional and as the joke goes about any skilled trade, “the first hour is just setting up.”

Not to be deterred, I doggedly trailed my granite. My contractor took me seriously and went to look at the granite. He stayed a long time contemplating options. He came away shaking his head.

The sales person showed me matching 12 x 12 granite tiles that were like regular tiles. We can cut those. The next idea was to make a tile counter using the granite tiles. I wanted the hotel left overs. They are gorgeous. For the island I thought I could come up with some sort of skirt tail affair so we could use the ones with the lip that were for check-in counters all gussied up with a 12″ tile in the middle while no one was looking. Problem with that is the difference in thickness. The edge of the counter 1 inch for most of it and some for 3/8th an inch would look rather strange.

And, of course, after altering my counters to 3 foot sections nothing worked. We thought about giving in and going with the cheap off the shelf pre-cut laminate counter top. We considered a “custom” cheap counter top, we talked about biting the bullet and getting good counter tops. I even considered doing packed concrete after seeing some You Tube videos.

But I wanted my granite. I am fond of the clean and orderly look of granite but it is not the end of the world to me. What I wanted was granite’s ability to make a kitchen look composed.  We have nice appliances but the painted cabinets are not fancy. The granite would pull things together and make the cabinets look a little swishier.

Last week our contractor took time off so we had the majority of the week and all of the weekend to get our work done. We busily painted molding and finished cabinets. We cleaned floors and we bought drawer hardware. And we contemplated counter tops. Unwilling to give in even when our contractor said we needed to, I got my spouse to sneak in o the house samples of two of the key sizes, 23 7/8 x 12 inches and 39 1/8 x 12 inches. I put them on my newly painted cabinets and yearned. After walking around them for a couple of days it struck me we could make a mosaic. We could place the large pieces and then make patterns filling in the spaces with the regular tile granite.

Well meet. Everyone agreed this would not only work, it could be really cool. The tile guy who has been doing the showers got into the fun with us and had all sorts of creative DIY ideas of how we could make the 1 inch slabs work with the 3/8th inch tiles. We laughed, all of us, about the harebrained schemes of our lives and how the simplest things were sometimes the most frustrating. Hopefully, that won’t be the way these counter tops turn out. I have spent several days trying to figure out the best patterns using what we have. It won’t be symmetrical or have some Celtic charm. The best we can hope for is conceptual similarity from counter top section to counter top section.

kitchen under construction showing counters covered by brown craft paper with tile designs hand drawn on paper. Room is messy with scraps of paper and tile templates. Ladder shows in back

Somehow it did not seem as chaotic as this looks!

I have laid great pieces of paper over the counters that don’t have tops to work out my patterns. For templates, I lugged around my two sample stones as well as other sections made from the cardboard box that contained the breaker box panel. I made other sections out of the Styrofoam sheets that packaged up my sink. I cut sections from scrap wood. I used the bits of tile that were trimmed off from our bathtub surround. l worked out my pattern. We now have paper counter tops with drawn in granite.

It is counter intuitive that the world in three foot sections would actually be in 39 1/8 inch sections. Sometimes though, what is counter intuitive can be the right answer. Tomorrow we are taking our great pieces of paper to the building store. brown craft paper taped together with blue painters tape and hand drawen stone pattern and besse clips holding down the paper shown from aboveWe will lay out on the paper the patterns that will make our new granite counter tops. Like life, my counter top will be full of funny seams and slightly odd patterns reminding us that the left over bits of our lives are not useless, they are a mosaic.