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Aside from our kitchen cabinet color (we both quickly agreed on white for uppers and lowers), there was one other big decision that would help the rest of the aesthetics fall into place – countertops!

We know that almost all of the finishes in the kitchen will be neutral (think: black + white), and for such a large investment in our home, we’re leaning classic overall. We’ve often said, isn’t it funny how this house is now the one making decisions for us? This hundred-year-old beast of a home speaks softly, but we’re listening – and putting a little twist on it where we can.

With that said, we 100% agreed that our kitchen renovation will get the upgrade to stone countertops that’ll last for the long haul, but we’ll need to remain mindful of budget at the same time. Because we’re not working with a one-stop-shop design center, our process will be a bit more organic – and because we’ve never shopped for countertops before, we had a lot of questions! In a nutshell, our process has looked / will look like this:

  • Choose our favorite stone(s), note the variety, and ask for samples if offered.
  • Find a trusted fabricator, and let him/her know what we’ve chosen. He/she will provide us with a job estimate based on the different stones.
  • Based on the job estimate, what we’re able to afford and what might be worth the splurge, these figures should help us to narrow down our #1 choice. At that point, we’ll be free to go back to the warehouse and choose our slab.
  • Once our lower cabinets are in place (fingers crossed, this will be happening by February) and we have our sink and faucet picked out, the fabricator will measure, cut and install our countertops!

We spent all day Saturday driving around to a handful of recommended granite supply warehouses, all without too many preconceived notions of what we may or may not want. An open mind, if you will. The options were different with every stop, and we instantly found ourselves waffling between cool black countertops or shades of white, which, of course, couldn’t be more opposite! At our first stop, we were handed a clipboard to track our favorites, which would then be used by our fabricator for pricing.


We fell hard and fast for all of the marble, but not only is it out of the question due to cost, but we don’t want anything that feels too precious.


Below, we found a granite option that kind-of-sort-of had a mix of white and gray veining to mimic marble (again, I say, kinda-sorta), but up close, there were so many varied flecks of color. We were a little underwhelmed to start, and I’ll admit that a couple hours into our hunt, I began to feel defeated, as there wasn’t one stone variation that we loved …


… That is, until we made our way to Marble & Granite Supply, a place that continually popped up in our online searches for nearby warehouses, and you guys! It’s awesome! The front half is a well displayed showroom, the staff was incredibly friendly, and the selection boasted variations that we hadn’t seen at any of the places prior – including quartzite, which was hard to track down.


By the time we left, we narrowed down 3 choices that we did love! I’ll order this from least-love to most-love, but it’s also in order by lowest to highest price point, too. We have:

ONE. Himalaya White (granite): This was one of the cleanest white granite slabs we came across. There is slight veining throughout, which we liked.


TWO. Black Orion (granite): We didn’t think we’d leave wishing for a black countertop, but my goodness, this was a beauty! It’s a step up from an absolute black, and you can see that there is a subtle hint of veining running throughout. It’s just as gorgeous honed as it is polished. (Decisions, decisions!)


THREE. Brazilian Calacata (quartzite): This slab was stunning! This is a lot higher on the pricing scale than granite, but much, much lower than marble – not to mention, crazy durable.


And so, we find ourselves waffling. Black? White? We’ve been spending more time than usual on Pinterest (Scott especially!), and some days, we say, yes, absolutely. Black! Other days? Oh, well, come to think of it, we should definitely go white. And then… No, black. For sure. There’s number crunching on the daily around here, and our countertop decision will allow us to spend – or not spend – in other areas.

We’ve been pinning away for inspiration (see here), and we’ll continue to stare and sigh and wish and dream until the new year. A decision will be made soon enough, but I can’t remember the last time we were so excited about a renovation project (perhaps the week of DRYWALL?), but we are losing it, you guys. In the very best possible way.

  • Sadie - December 19, 2014 - 6:34 AM

    My husband and I just moved from a house with granite counters similar to #1 and #3 to our house now, which is exactly like #2. We have white cabinets, slate floors, marble backsplash-and the black counters looks gorgeous, but you can see every single little crumb, speck of dust, piece of tiny white pittie hair…literally EVERYTHING stands out. If I could go back and do things over it would opt for something more forgiving like your first of third options! Good luck, whatever you pick will look gorgeous :)ReplyCancel

    • Susan - January 1, 2015 - 9:51 AM

      Exactly what I was going to comment! Black was beautiful but drove me nuts trying to keep clean. I always said I want to see when my counters are dirty because I want them spic-and-span, but black seemed to show the microscopic stuff you can never be rid of. And old homes seem to have the microscopic stuff more than newer ones, it has seemed, anyway…I don’t know! But loved my glossy counters similar to #3. I’ve also lived with concrete counters that had a texture and matte finish. Those counters showed no dirt–hated that! It was the total opposite of black; I had to really look to see spills or drops!ReplyCancel

  • Christiane - December 19, 2014 - 8:07 AM

    I can’t offer any experiences because I always had wood countertops, but I love the look of #1. It’s beautiful.ReplyCancel

  • Cait - December 19, 2014 - 8:27 AM

    Oh, I love the 2nd option! And I totally understand the “White! No, definitely black. Wait, what were we thinking? White!” lean of conversation. We’re planning to reface our cabinets and maybe change out the counters and backsplash next year, and I was sort of leaning towards a dark color for a while, but I worry it will make our small kitchen feel even smaller. Also, we have two white dogs, so as Sadie points out, that may not be the best option in our case. Boo. Maybe if we found a dark color with quite a bit of veining and variation?

    As far as light options, I think I’m leaning towards #1.ReplyCancel

  • Kristine - December 19, 2014 - 8:29 AM

    Is it possible for your designer to mock up a rendering of those samples in your kitchen so you can “see” what it all looks like together?

    I like #1. The subtle veining does it for me.

    Good luck with your decision!ReplyCancel

  • CC - December 19, 2014 - 8:32 AM

    I have black granite countertops that look very similar to your option #2. The great thing about black countertops is also the worst. It hides everything! My countertops always LOOK clean but they don’t always feel clean. Even though I wipe them down every night, it is really easy to miss a spot (or two) and discover dried up gunk later.

    If I had been able to pick our countertops, I would have gone with a lighter color.

    One thing that has helped though is under cabinet lighting. My hubby installed some and it is great! Not only does it make our countertops sparkle, it helps me find the hidden gunk!ReplyCancel

  • Brynn - December 19, 2014 - 8:51 AM

    I love a black countertop! Polished black hides everything, but be warned: honed black hides nothing! Seriously, you’ll see every greasy fingerprint. Might I suggest a middle-ground? Did you see any dark slabs that had been leathered? It takes the shine off, but leaves a subtle, soft texture to the stone’s surface. It can be done to any slab and gives a beautiful, vintage look. Sort of like soapstone, in my opinion.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - December 19, 2014 - 9:10 AM

      We did see a lot of the leathered finishes, but to be honest, we weren’t crazy about them – Mostly due to texture. We’ll have to research a honed top a little more before we make a final decision. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Lucas - December 19, 2014 - 8:56 AM

    A resounding #3! I’ve used it before and it’s got such a depth and warmth to it! Have you decided on a fabricator? I am a huge fan of Contempo Marble and Granite. Gil is my go-to guy. MGSI is the best. It’s so great to get an idea of what you like before going and picking out the whole slab.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - December 19, 2014 - 9:07 AM

      We haven’t nailed one down yet, but we have a good idea of who we’re leaning towards based on customer service. We may have to reach out to Contempo based on your high recommendation!ReplyCancel

  • Arli - December 19, 2014 - 8:59 AM

    I have black quartz countertops and HATE THEM! While they look beautiful with my white cabinets and are very durable, they are a complete nightmare because they never look clean. Ever. The slightest speck of dust shows on them. It is so bad that I wish I had my old, white Formica countertops back. Please don’t make the same mistake I made. Choices 1and 3 are beautiful.ReplyCancel

  • Laura @ Rather Square - December 19, 2014 - 9:03 AM

    Can I just say that I love the NAMES of these stones? The Himalaya White, I could see in a yeti’s kitchen. And Black Orion would be perfect for an astronaut. ;) But seriously, I agree with some of the previous commenters about choosing something more forgiving like #1 or #3. We’ve got pure white laminate (yuck) countertops right now and they show every stain and crumb. We’ve been thinking about black soapstone to replace them, but again – dust, crumbs, food would be very visible. I think we’ll end up with a dark gray (we’re planning on white cabinets too) whenever we actually replace them. I’m very curious to see what you pick! (any of them would look really nice…)ReplyCancel

  • Rachel - December 19, 2014 - 9:04 AM

    OMG this would be SO hard. Black would be very striking but I think I’d prefer white for the long term. I think the white quartzite is my absolute favorite! Good luck with the decision!!ReplyCancel

  • Kim - December 19, 2014 - 9:11 AM

    You all are just as split as we are! A classic black and white kitchen feels so right for this house, but we love the look of #1 and #3 too.ReplyCancel

  • Alanna - December 19, 2014 - 9:18 AM

    I picked out a remnant for an island a few months ago. I started out looking for white (something like a white marble ideally) and ended up with black pearl granite. It doesn’t have the really obvious speckling that most granite has, which I like, but it still has a little variety of color and looks deep and beautiful.ReplyCancel

  • Joelle - December 19, 2014 - 9:27 AM

    We had black in our last house, and what a pain. the countertops always looked dirty…we would clean them/wipe them down and then a few minutes later you’d see the dust and more “debris.” I absolutely hated them. it does make you realize how much you need to wipe them down, but it got a little ridiculous and the kitchen always felt kind of dirty. now we have a granite with grays and tans, and while it’s not what i would have picked out for my house i really love them. they hide everything, they GO with everything…the kitchen always looks clean. so my vote (since you asked, ha!), is 1 or 3. you will thank yourself.ReplyCancel

  • jaimie - December 19, 2014 - 9:36 AM

    That quartzite, oooh.ReplyCancel

  • Monica - December 19, 2014 - 9:51 AM

    Just going by your Pinterest board, you’re pinning a lot more scenes of cabinet/counter contrast (black on white, white on black, white on grey, wood on black or white) than you are examples of a single color scheme. I think that means that if you’re set on white cabinets you should go for black counters – especially since you have the physical space, so you don’t necessarily need to keep everything the same color to open up the room.ReplyCancel

  • Justynn @ Creative Life Antics - December 19, 2014 - 9:51 AM

    White! Take it from a lady who bought a house with someone else’s decision and HATES that my counters hide everything and always feels dirty.

    I’d rather see whats on them so it can get cleaned up asap!


  • Kim - December 19, 2014 - 9:54 AM

    It’s so interesting that half of the arguments against black counters is that it shows everything, whereas the other half says it hides everything! Hmm. All good things to consider. Thank you, everyone!ReplyCancel

    • Caroline - December 19, 2014 - 11:31 AM

      I noticed the split arguments about black countertops as well but actually both sides are true! I had black countertops in our last home and they showed every bit of dust and crumbs but then hid any kind of sticky, goopy stuff. So I’d wipe down the counters getting rid of the crumbs and think the counters were clean but then I’d run my hand across the counters and feel that there was something still caked on them. It was a pain and never felt clean even if I could get it to look clean. Plus the counters would show water streak marks from wiping them down. As a result, I swore I’d never do black countertops (even though the black/white contrast is dreamy). I love both #1 and #3 but especially #3. Good luck!ReplyCancel

      • Caroline - December 19, 2014 - 1:00 PM

        Although I’ll add that if you decide that the black counters would make the kitchen of your dreams come true then the dirt issues are totally manageable. You just have to be more observant and thorough with your cleaning. So if every time you walk in to your kitchen you smile because you have the black counters you wanted then it would be worth it. I guess you just have to decide if your heart is set on it :)ReplyCancel

        • Kim - December 19, 2014 - 1:07 PM

          Thank you, Caroline :)ReplyCancel

          • Katherine - December 19, 2014 - 1:10 PM

            It’s kind of a true statement that the black shows everything but yet hides things too. In our house, with black granite, my biggest complaint is it showing EVERYTHING. I have noticed that I will miss some spots when cleaning due to the dark color, but if you are a clean person and wipe down your counters after cooking, then I don’t think the hiding complaint is that big of an issue. The showing everything is much more of an issue. Just my two cents!ReplyCancel

  • Janet - December 19, 2014 - 9:55 AM

    I agree with others who say that dark countertops show everything. They always look dusty. We just replaced ours and got the granite from MGSI and had Euro Marble do the fabricating. They did a great job. I highly recommend them.ReplyCancel

  • Brandi - December 19, 2014 - 10:17 AM

    #3!!! It’s gorgeous. I think they are all beautiful, but #3 is my favorite. I think a white/light countertop is easier to incorporate with other style preferences, whether it yours, or the next owner of that house. Plus it just always looks cool, crip and clean. The grey veining throughout it is just yummy. Good luck!ReplyCancel

  • Teddy - December 19, 2014 - 10:42 AM

    I would definitely advise against black counter tops. They are gorgeous, but a paiiiiiin in the butt to keep clean. They show every single smudge and food crumb. I have to clean mine at least once a day with granite cleaner just so they don’t look crazy dirty. My vote is #3!ReplyCancel

  • Lori - December 19, 2014 - 10:54 AM

    That quartzite is absolutely stunning! Count me as another vote against the black. I can see why the look would appeal, but I agree with everyone who says that keeping them clean, especially with dog hair floating around, is going to be a PITA.ReplyCancel

  • Caroline Bedard - December 19, 2014 - 11:28 AM

    Black countertops do show crumbs, dust, etc. And hide things, especially in shadowed areas.

    While I love the classic look, I would never select black countertops. First, because the massive expanse of black will absorb the light in the room. On a gray day will you need to turn on more lights in your kitchen? I don’t want to turn on under cabinet lighting every time I am working at the counter. Does the room get good daylight, or is it a rather dark space? BTW, under cabinet lighting is tricky with a highly polished counter, be sure you won’t be seeing a detailed reflection of the lights and housings on the counter.

    Second, and this is about form following function, it is harder to work on a dark surface than on a light one. My drafting board is covered in white because it is easier to see my work.ReplyCancel

  • Aly - December 19, 2014 - 12:24 PM

    Someone else mentioned this as well, but from looking at your pinterest board it seems like you need to go black or at least more grey. Each of your kitchen inspirations show contrast between the lower cabinet & the counter. Somehow it also reads like your “gut” is telling you black.ReplyCancel

  • Kelly - December 19, 2014 - 12:27 PM

    Love all your options! We also had our hearts set on marble and ended up choosing both white and black options to go with white cabinets. In the end I was determined to get the look of marble without the upkeep- we ended up with White Macauba quartzite and I can’t say enough good things about it. It was on the pricier side but still less than marble and we don’t ever have to worry about it getting ruined. Happy planning!ReplyCancel

  • Erin@Suburban Bitches - December 19, 2014 - 12:49 PM

    We have black soapstone counters and LOVE them! Super easy to maintain and the black color isn’t super harsh- almost a really dark grey but look black when oiled. We are getting ready to get rid of our granite because I find it so hard to keep clean. Always streaked after cleaning. Prefer the soapstone so much better than granite!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - December 19, 2014 - 1:07 PM

      We considered soapstone… might need to take another look!ReplyCancel

  • Katherine - December 19, 2014 - 1:06 PM

    When we bought our house the kitchen had black granite countertops. I thought they were so pretty, but after two years of living with them, I would never recommend black to anyone. They show every spec of anything! Also water spots show terribly. They look so pretty when they are freshly wiped down, but that lasts about 5 minutes. My suggestion would be to go with anything other than black. Happy decision making!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah - December 19, 2014 - 1:12 PM

    I know you said you’re set on white uppers and lowers, but could you do black lowers with one of the white counter options and white uppers? Then you’d get the contrast others have mentioned you seem to prefer without dealing with the potential black counter issues others mention.

    (I’ve been thinking of re-doing my kitchen forever, but I’m all about the grey counters!)ReplyCancel

    • Kim - December 19, 2014 - 1:18 PM

      We do love the “tuxedo” look, but for the long haul, we’re leaning super classic. We also bought all white appliances (including a dishwasher!) that we want to just blend, blend, blend!ReplyCancel

  • kkoira - December 19, 2014 - 1:27 PM

    My favorite is #1 from the photos. I’ve never liked dark countertops, though. I feel like they are something that is going to look very dated in 10 years.ReplyCancel

  • Lesley - December 19, 2014 - 2:37 PM

    I’ve just had Caesarstone-Frosty Carina put in my kitchen-the first stone benchtops I’ve had, and it it looks fabulous. I also have white upper and lower cupboards and drawers.

    Personally, I’d go with a lighter colour. Black shows every bit of dust and crumb. It also sucks the light out of a room and even though your kitchen is large, it can make it feel a little closed in
    I also like the lighter colour because you can add any other colour accent you like and it won’t look out of place.
    I’m really enjoying watching your progress on the houseReplyCancel

  • Julie - December 19, 2014 - 3:04 PM

    When we did our kitchen renovation 10 years ago,we went with the black. Big regret, you can see everything. Since our kitchen lets in alot of natural light, the reflection picks up every spec of dust. If anyone just touches it and leaves a smear, you can see it. i’m constantly wiping it. We’re thinking of redoing it soon and going for something like #3. Good luck!!! Can’t wait for the outcome.ReplyCancel

  • Jessica - December 19, 2014 - 4:27 PM

    My kitchen was redone with green-black granite before we moved in (thanks, house flipper!). I love it – but the counters are a disaster. We have very large windows throughout the kitchen, which is open to the living room, and our counters never, ever ever look clean. Even immediately after I clean them. Its infuriating and my husband and I have agreed we’ll never have black counters again.ReplyCancel

  • Monika - December 19, 2014 - 5:45 PM

    They are all beautiful. A word of caution on the blacks…they show water spots badly. I learned this the hard way. :( Whites hide water spots by comparison. Good luck with the final decision. I just know the kitchen will look spectacular! :)ReplyCancel

  • Vanessa - December 19, 2014 - 5:58 PM

    Did you consider Carrara marble? I know that price points can vary widely across the US, but when we built our house in Colorado (over the last 2 years), our honed Carrara marble countertops were about the same price as Absolute Black granite and the marble-look Corian (I think it’s called Rain Cloud). Our marble was WAY cheaper than quartz countertops, particularly the marble look-alike countertops, would have been. Now there are definitely much pricier marbles (Calacatta Gold, I’m looking at you!), but for us honed Carrara was really reasonable compared to the other choices we were considering. And we LOVE them, etching and all. No staining (we sealed), they hide stuff well, and they feel great to work on. Good luck!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - December 19, 2014 - 8:08 PM

      Whoa, Carrara marble is waaaaay more expensive than quartz, and quartz is pricier than granite. If marble was the most affordable, there would be no waffling – it’d be a done deal!ReplyCancel

  • Maria - December 19, 2014 - 9:54 PM

    We have white macaubus quartzite in our kitchen. We’ve had it for 1.5 years. It’s awesome. No chips, stains, etching, etc and we get a million compliments on it.
    Everyone thinks it’s marble. It was more expensive than granite, quartz and marble here in the DC area, but it was worth it. It hides crumbs and water marks and overall always looks great. We have white cabinets, white subway, and stainless appliances.ReplyCancel

  • Rachel @ My Two Pitties - December 20, 2014 - 2:41 AM

    Ahh…tough decisions! This post made me remember to send you pictures of our kitchen remodel so I’ll shoot those over now. :)ReplyCancel

  • Theresa - December 20, 2014 - 12:41 PM

    Ten years ago, we picked absolute black with light wood cabinets. Looked great for 9 years. The cabinets had yellowed so we painted them white. It looks even better. Do the counters get dusty? Sure, but so does everything else in the house. I wash my counters with a soapy sponge and dry them with a dish towel. Or windex. (bad homeowner I know) The only thing that really shows are handprints from the two boys. And seriously, my kitchen looks updated and fresh while everyone else’s feel dark and heavy. For a little dust, I wouldn’t change that black for anything else. (and that includes marble)ReplyCancel

    • Kim - December 20, 2014 - 5:21 PM

      A black countertop lover – thank you for chiming in!ReplyCancel

  • spiffi - December 20, 2014 - 4:56 PM

    Gahhh! This is why everytime I look at my kitchen countertops (horrific grey tile -WHY previous homeowner, WHY????) and my cabinets that need refinishing – and then think of having to pick colors and materials – I just…run away and do something else :)

    I’m actually not a fan of the white kitchen trend – I guess I’m old fashioned, but I like *wood* cabinets. However, in my case it’s the flooring in my kitchen that is going to drive my color choices – I have gorgeous mexican tile in my kitchen (THANK YOU previous homeowner) and anything I do to the kitchen will need to complement my floors.

    The amazing floor tile just makes me shake my head even MORE at the horrific grey tile on the countertop – I can’t tell if they ran out of money/inspiration or maybe they overbought tile (it’s the same tile as in the master bathroom shower) and had to use it up? It just…makes no sense :DReplyCancel

    • Kim - December 20, 2014 - 5:24 PM

      Oh man, your floor sounds gorgeous! Yeah, it’s fun but stressful all at once when it comes to decision time!ReplyCancel

  • Sally - December 20, 2014 - 8:22 PM

    I can’t say anything against black as I have only had white(ish) counter tops. But I can say that I LOVE the white ones! Easy to keep clean and a streamlined, classic look. If marble is what you really want (though cost prohibitive and high maintenance), I’d go with one of the two lighter choices. And since one of THOSE is a lot cheaper than the other, I’d go with that one so you can splurge elsewhere. In the pictures, there’s a subtle difference between 1 and 3 but the overall effect will be the same, so my vote goes to #1. Have you thought about using black tapware to add some of the contrast you are drawn to?ReplyCancel

    • Kim - December 23, 2014 - 8:29 AM

      We have considered a black faucet – or anything that’s not stainless or chrome, but we’re just so on the fence. Great suggestion!ReplyCancel

  • Jb - December 20, 2014 - 10:34 PM

    Hi Kim! I never comment but felt the need to add to this one. The places we have rented since 2009 have both had black honed granite, something I was sure I loved and would want to put in my own kitchen someday. Fast forward 6 years and I have done a total 180. Not sure if white granite is any better, but the black has been a nightmare to clean and dust, especially if you are a bit of a countertop neat freak. I have actually recently resorted to windex (don’t tell my landlord) but it is the only thing I have found that doesn’t streak when cleaning. Otherwise, everything shows (and I know I am not the first person to say it, but it is true) and if you have a sunny space, which it seems like you do (or will!), the dust is amazing. Having never gotten to the “build my dream kitchen” stage, I wonder if it is possible to get small slab samples of those you are thinking of to “try” at home before taking the plunge? Good luck!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - December 21, 2014 - 12:07 PM

      Thank you! We did get samples and are running some tests – especially on cleaning products and/or etching. We’re still leaning towards dark (our condo had almost black granite counters), but still not 100%.

      Thanks everyone!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah - December 21, 2014 - 1:59 PM

    Personally, I would not do black. It will show everything, hand prints, smudges, water spots etc. My mom regrets her black granite tops.ReplyCancel

  • Katie - December 22, 2014 - 7:30 AM

    It is so interesting to me that marble is so much more expensive in your area – in St. Louis it was the same price as the low end granite! We looked at similar options as you when we did our kitchen a few years ago, and ended up with quartzite. I have no regrets, and miss that kitchen so much now that we’ve moved! If it helps, here are a few pictures of the slabs:

    and installed…

    I do think that even the “light gray” colored stones will have a lot of contrast once installed in a white kitchen. What are you thinking for your backsplash material?ReplyCancel

    • Kim - December 22, 2014 - 8:41 AM

      That kitchen looks great! Love the slab you chose. It’s so much harder than we thought it would be. For our backsplash, we’ll be tiling, but first we just need to decide on a counter to start choosing other finishes… Did you paint your cabinets? If so, what white did you use? I know it will look different in every space, but we’re all ears :)ReplyCancel

      • katie - December 23, 2014 - 8:16 AM

        We did paint our cabinets – they are from ikea and we ended up buying a discontinued door style (wood finish) for something silly like 70% off, so we decided we’d be ok with putting in some extra painting effort to save money. i believe the color we used was eider white from sw – we used a cool white, mostly because that is what looked best with the counters. we also had “ikea white” cabinet boxes, so we didn’t want anything that was too far off from that white color. good luck!ReplyCancel

  • Amanda - December 22, 2014 - 10:19 AM

    Well, my dream kitchen would have dark brown cabinets with counter top choice #1 lol, so I share the love that you have for contrast (based on your Pinterest board anyway). If all of the previous comments have made you nervous about the black, maybe look into a dark gray?

    However… are the smudges/water marks with black countertops really that serious? I think we sometimes forget that real houses aren’t always going to look “polished” like a magazine – and that’s ok. Real people have hands and make smudges, and real people need water. If you love the look of black countertops and the possibility of dealing with some of maintenance “issues” doesn’t stress you out, go for it.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - December 22, 2014 - 11:28 AM

      Well said, Amanda. Love it.ReplyCancel

  • Julia at Home on 129 Acres - December 22, 2014 - 10:57 AM

    The comments on this post are great. I love marble for its look and was considering honed black granite as a lower maintenance alternative. Reading everyone’s experiences and opinions has been very illuminating. I’ll be coming back to this post when it’s time for our kitchen redo.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - December 22, 2014 - 11:30 AM

      They are, aren’t they? We’ve since picked up more samples and we’re testing cleaning products, lemon juice and other things on them. I love that you guys give input on your own experiences, and now we need to decide on what matters to us and our gut. Loving the feedback!ReplyCancel

  • Katie - December 22, 2014 - 3:33 PM

    As an owner of a black granite kitchen counter top, I’d strongly suggest that you choose white! Every time we wipe our countertop with anything other than polish, it is terribly streaky.ReplyCancel

  • Katie - December 22, 2014 - 8:59 PM

    Hello! First time to comment on your blog, but I could not hold back my opinion on this one. White countertops for sure! They are classic, versatile, and will not look outdated down the line. Also, if you can splurge for that gorgeous quartzite, you will be rewarded–the granite off gassing will wear holes in the front of all of your t-shirts where your lean against the counter. This is true! It happened (and continues to happen) to me. And I read it on the Internet.ReplyCancel

    • Theresa - December 30, 2014 - 4:09 PM

      Katie, I have granite, know lots of people with granite and have never heard of it off gassing and ruining clothes. But if you read it on the internet….ReplyCancel

  • Julia@Cukoo4Design - December 23, 2014 - 6:42 AM

    It’s kinda nerve wracking to pick out countertops :) I’m glad I picked the sparkly white quartz for us though. A sludge but well worth it because it’s so durable. Can’t wait to see what you will pick and I know it will be amazing.
    Merry Christmas!ReplyCancel

  • LaDonna - December 30, 2014 - 8:57 PM

    Picking out granite was both very exciting and very stressful for me. Hope you choose one you will love.

  • Kyla @HouseOfHipsters - January 2, 2015 - 4:16 PM

    I think I would just pet every single piece of stone. I’d go white, but that is solely based on the fact that I would use it as an Instagram background for EVERYTHING. Probably not the smartest of decisions. Can’t wait to see what you choose! Good luck!ReplyCancel

  • Erin - January 6, 2015 - 10:57 PM

    As someone with honed Absolute Black granite in her kitchen, don’t do it! Black granite is great, but honed is a NIGHTMARE. It never looks clean.ReplyCancel

  • Meg - January 8, 2015 - 7:10 AM

    Hi Kim! What a debate! I also agree with the readers that black is hard to keep clean but that’s neither here nor there. I’m sure you don’t need another option, but one of my good interior designer friends just installed a Carrera Marble look-alike quartz (its new to the market) that she said looks drop dead gorgeous and was a ringer for actual marble! I’m happy to ask her for the info if you’d like (although sounds like you’re leaning dark…)! Good luck!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 8, 2015 - 8:02 AM

      Thanks, Meg! Actually, we may be leaning white/gray again… Oh boy! Would love to know though. Was it ceasarstone? I’ve seen some of their quartz counters that mimic marble, but a little out of budget.ReplyCancel

  • carrie c - January 14, 2015 - 1:52 PM

    Hi-I wanted to weigh in with our experience as a “food for thought.” We did a full house reno a few years ago which included new granite in both our baths and our kitchen. In the baths we went light and in the kitchen we went with black. After experiencing both, we wont do light countertops again, ever. Maybe we are more messy then the average bears but oil based things can stain light granite. Now on this note-melted butter can also stain black granite-but its much harder to notice. We really live in our spaces and dont treat them too preciously, which might seem obvious from my notes on stains, but I would think about how spills and such can effect the lighter color granite. Now we have a baby and I cant even imagine the havoc he will bring to our dark countertops, mine as well if we had light. Cant wait to see what you pick-I know it will be lovely!!ReplyCancel



I’m officially in the painting-home-stretch, and all of your time-sensitive portraits are now patiently in waiting under your trees! This year, the holiday season has felt… different. It’s been a little less panicked, a little more jolly, and all of the Vargos are feeling more festive than usual. Perhaps it’s because this is our first Christmas in this home with baseboards? Yes, that must be it. (Ha!)

Although The Pet Shop is winding down for the year, if you’re still searching for the perfect gift for the pet people in your lives, I’m here with a friendly reminder that we’re also in the home stretch for holiday shipping! Our gift certificates are a fun and interactive way for the giftee to take part in the creative process while also supporting our non-profit animal rescue partners – and wouldn’t you know, this is absolutely your chance to win the award for Best Gift Giver 2014. (Or treat yourself to a 2015 pre-order, and find yourself first in line after the holiday haze. And while we’re at it, let’s save puppies!)

Bonus: All orders placed through Friday, December 19th will receive a free upgrade to Priority USPS Shipping.*

To ensure a timely December 24th delivery, order today!

*Gift certificate orders placed by Friday, December 19th within the United States should make the holiday cut according to USPS Priority Mail Guidelines. Orders placed after Friday, December 19th cannot be guaranteed for delivery by Tuesday, December 24th but will still be happily received + shipped as usual. Thank you all for another incredible year of support!



Now that the weather is cold and wet, Scott and I were determined to give our entryway a solution to stash drippy shoes and hide extra dog supplies within reach of the front door (such as towels and scarves). We wanted things to stay simple and tidy, and most importantly, we wanted to spend as little as possible. Enter Skar, take 2!

You might remember our Ikea-hacked Skar from its past life in my studio of yore, and while it worked well in that space, we wanted to beef it up a bit for the entry. (And to be quite honest, Scott wasn’t feeling my lion head pulls, and I was up for a change!) Our entry has remained mostly bare, so we quite literally shopped from a few still-unpacked belongings and set up the same small rug from our condo‘s foyer, re-hung our favorite mantra and gave Skar another mini makeover:


This unit is no longer sold at Ikea, but the BISSA is pretty comparable! In our case, we wanted the Skar to hold up over time, so we made a few more enhancements to the guts of the furniture, too. Because it’s made almost entirely from particleboard, we bought $5 of doormat-esque material from Home Depot (which equated to about 1 yard), cut it down to size for the lower two bins, and used small Velcro tabs to keep it in place.

skar-entry-update-04 skar-entry-update-05

For the top bin, Scott used leftover strips of plywood to create a ledge for stashing our keys, lip balm and less-than-attractive items. You know we had to give it a teeny burst of color – all in good fun!


Here, you can see that creating this ledge helps to raise the bottom by an extra six inches or so, which has made it much easier to reach in and grab what we need:


We both agreed that the same brassy Schoolhouse pulls from my pink Varde would look great in our entry, but sadly, they were no longer available! I found a pretty good replacement in these Siro pulls, and although these aren’t actually brass, well, you could’ve fooled us:

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We toyed with the idea of adding a few more small art pieces alongside the above print (remember that old entry wall that kept growing and growing?), but it’s so much harder for us to put up art – or make decisions in general, really – in this home! We’re absolutely over thinking everything, yes, but this entryway feels too good being open and bright, and so while I tried to keep tradition by displaying a renovation photo in every room – entry included – it wasn’t working. Instead, Scott suggested we hang our archway snapshot above our living room light switch. He was right!

skar-entry-update-11 RENOVATION-07

Amidst the kitchen brainstorming (another update coming soon!), it feels nice to make two small and easy updates, and we are loving these renovation photos to remind us of how far we’ve come. Back then, a shoe bin would’ve made us laugh, and now? Well, hooray for shoe bins!

  • Karen @ year of serendipity - December 16, 2014 - 7:10 AM

    Great organization! But I’m really dieing over the reno photo- so adorable!!ReplyCancel

  • Colleen - December 16, 2014 - 8:51 AM

    Aw that reno picture is so adorable!!!ReplyCancel

  • Amanda - December 16, 2014 - 10:13 AM

    I agree with everyone else that the reno photo stole the show today – too cute! I’ve been over thinking everything in my house also. I held off on making a lot of purchases for our home for nearly 2 years while we took time to pay off debt and decide whether we wanted to stay where we were long term or move to another part of town, but I gained a new appreciation for empty walls and open space. I still love art, but I find myself being more strategic about where I put it/how much… Same thing with furniture also. Not necessarily a bad thing though, right?ReplyCancel

    • Kim - December 16, 2014 - 10:44 AM

      Definitely not a bad thing! We keep telling ourselves that we’re on a mission to make more mindful decisions this time around. It can feel frustrating at times, but it’s also sort of freeing to NOT buy if it’s not necessary.ReplyCancel

  • Jill - December 16, 2014 - 3:54 PM

    Soooo welcoming!ReplyCancel

  • Trude - December 16, 2014 - 5:15 PM

    Love it! I’ve been eyeing something like this for the entry too, because we don’t have much space but its so helpful to have a dedicated spot.ReplyCancel

  • Monika - December 18, 2014 - 1:11 PM

    Ah yes, plaster walls…design hell (or purgatory depending on your perspective) for art lovers. I know exactly what you mean. Hanging stuff ain’t easy with plaster but you seem to always pull it off well. Nice job (again…as usual) ;)ReplyCancel

  • Annie - January 22, 2015 - 11:05 AM

    Love the reno! Can you please tell me what color your walls (the grey), trim (the white), and door (the blue) are? Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 22, 2015 - 11:17 AM

      Thanks, Annie! The walls are Behr’s Sterling (at 75%), trim is Behr Ultra Pure White and the doors are Farrow & Ball’s Hague Blue, color matched to Sherwin Williams.ReplyCancel