Designing (for someone else!)


Designing for yourself…that’s pretty easy.  But designing for someone else…it can be pretty challenging!  There’s pressure: what are they going to like?  What are their tastes and wants and desires?  It may or may not be the same as yours.

I have a friend who called last week with a frantic message, “Please!  I need your help!!!”  Here whole kitchen remodel is on hold till she picks her granite and she is frozen with fear.  Fear that she is going to make the wrong decision.

Here is her current plan:

  1. Cabinets. Keep the cabinets a similar color to what they have now, just sand down their current glossy finish, re-stain and finish with a satin coating.  OK.  One decision down.
  2. Move the hardware!  For some reason, the knobs were placed not in the corner of the cabinet, not in the center of the cabinet, but about 6″ up from the corner of the cabinet.  So bizarre.  The woodworker is going to close up the holes and move the knobs to the corner. Yay!
  3. Change the hardware.  She loves the ease of pulling out a drawer that has a bin pull. So, she is changing the drawer hardware to a classic rounded 3″ bin-pull and simple round knobs for the doors.  Color: black.
  4. Floors are staying the same: maple.  All the houses built in Portland Oregon in the 1990’s put in maple. (Well…not all!  But…a LOT!) I too, have maple.  I didn’t like it when we first moved in–everyone was doing dark hardwoods at the time when we bought our house 9 years ago and I LOVED THEM!  But I’ve learned to like the lightness maple floors adds to a home especially during our dark winter months.  And after cutie patootie Nate Berkus put maple floors in his Manhattan Penthouse, it changed my whole perspective. 🙂
  5. Update the backsplash to a classic white, beveled subway tile, and thinking gray grout.
  6. Countertops. Updating the 4×4 tile countertops to solid granite.  This is where she froze!  And I know why!

Have you ever gone shopping at a granite and marble shop?  It’s SO AMAZING!  When we redid our master bathroom, I went CRAZY at all the beautiful granite slabs to choose from!  There’s so much movement and natural beauty in each and every slab.  It is so overwhelming. It takes your breath away.  The problem is, you may LOVE IT and be inspired by it on the showroom floor but you have to look at it EVERY. DAY. OF. YOUR. LIFE.  You have to live with it as you pour coffee into your mug every morning and under your cutting mat each evening when you prep dinner and when you have everything cleaned off of the counter (rare for me, for sure but…you know…like when you are having guests over 😉 !).  You have to live with this decision and love it so much that you are willing to sacrifice a pretty hefty investment to get it into your house.  I totally understand the SOS call I received last week.  I get it.  And I totally want to help!


(Nate’s kitchen, courtesy of House & Home)

So…what to do.

I know her plan and we are going to sit down and compare some side-by-side inspiration photos of kitchen photos I have collected and those that I found that have the similar game plan as outlined above.  We are going to look at each of those decisions and see if in the inspirations, we like them!  Or…if we see something else in other inspiration photos that we like better.

One thing is for certain, each of these inspiration photos are gorgeous homes!  So I don’t think we can go wrong using any of the design elements as the final decision pieces for this project.

The big question is: how does the inspiration photo make you FEEL?!!!!

Because every room makes you feel something, whether you think so or not.  Happy?  Sad? Uncomfortable?  Relaxed?  Each design element brought together to create a space all wrapped up in one room will make you feel one way or another.

Now because my girlfriend’s biggest fear was the counter tops, I am starting with those and we can finalize the rest of the design elements once we make that decision.  Because truly, other than the cabinet color, the counters are the biggest decision and can impact the room the greatest.

The original plan was a black with gray marbling granite.  So, I pulled up some kitchens that have here similar cabinets to her kitchen that were paired with dark counter tops.


These have all of her kitchen “wish list” elements (wood cabinets, dark counters, white subway backsplash).  I will look at these with her and ask, “Is this what you want your kitchen to look like?”  “Do any of these speak to you?”  (that sounds a little corny but…it’s true!  Little whispers are coming out from the photos saying “yes!” or “no!” or “hmmm…”  Personally, I get a lot of “hmmms” in my head all the time :)! )

I pulled up other kitchens that have wood cabinets with different counter tops.


These inspiration kitchens also have her “wish list” elements (wood cabinets, white subway tiles, even her drawer pulls) but they have light counter tops.  Most have what looks like Carrera Marble (which there are granite or quartz options that are similar to CM with much more versatility for a kitchen) and one (bottom left, by our lovely Chip and Jo) is a medium gray in color, probably a concrete counter top.  I know Jo loves a concrete counter top.  They are beautiful and add a fun, industrial feel to a kitchen but really hard to keep up.

So, what kitchen speaks to you? Dark or Light?  Let us know!

What makes you FEEL GOOD?!  So good that you want to pull out your cutting mat and start prepping dinner or just pour yourself a nice cup of coffee and say hello to a friend or a good book while nestled on those padded counter stools!

It’s a tough one!  But I hope to share with you what she finally chooses once the project is complete!

xo, Melissa

6 thoughts on “Designing (for someone else!)

  1. Oh boy, so many big decisions to be made with this sort of redesign! I would definitely be frozen having to make a decision on a new countertop as well. I love the way you highlight how a space makes you feel – it’s so important!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Eva! It is such a difficult decision. We had a really good meeting this morning, followed by a hug and a thank you! I think she’s finalized her choices! Hope to show results on the blog when the project is completed!!! Have a good one!


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