Sunday, March 13, 2011

Queen of IKE-RA: Madame Sunday chooses a countertop.

Good thing it's been slow around the design blogosphere (wait, did the new Lonny come out?  I couldn't tell...) so I can just talk incessantly about the process of designing my kitchen.  First we talked about contractors and then budgets and then cabinet selection and now the next big purchase is countertops!!

I've been shamelessly stealing collecting those cute little samples from showrooms and stores for years now - it's a sickness really.  Must be leftover from my ID days of making design boards...  I have a bag full of them and at least five little squares of Blizzard White just because they're so damn adorable!  But despite the giant bag of goodies I now have, my options are few.  Well, they are when you're poor like me...  I'm not even going to discuss marble - I live in the gaytto remember?  Concrete is also cool - and great for a odd-angled kitchen like mine to avoid a plethora of seams - but I actually laughed out loud when I heard how much it was going to be.  Next down the list is granite.  I know HGTV creams her panties over granite countertops but I think they're too busy:

Pretty I guess, but that looks like stone vomit to me. here
and over the top and make me *eyeroll.* I know there are probably attractive options out there but this:

is what I think of when I think of granite.  Maybe that's your style but that kitchen is my nightmare.  

When you're poor but want granite you look at Corian:  

Corian's new metallic collection here
I don't really have a problem with Corian other than it looks like plastic with cataracts and I don't understand the price.  In general I don't like materials that try to LOOK like other materials even though that's what Corian was made for - to imitate natural stone.  So if I'm buying a manufactured product please - for the love of gawd - manufacture stuff that granite or marble or soapstone CAN'T look like.  The solid colors ARE your selling feature for me and I don't understand how they are more expensive than your granite imitations.  [MS sidebar: I'm not really looking for someone to tell me a reason why that's true - although feel free to in the comments - but from the perspective of an average customer like me this feels really stupid.] And oddly enough, the colors of Corian (I know there are other brands but I'm using Corian like "Kleenex" here) that I liked were actually more expensive than similar engineered quartz options.  Expensive AND geriatric finishes?  Um...  I think that's a business model doomed to failure Corian.

Speaking of quartz, it's what I really was jonesing for:

Caesarstone.  Sigh... 
It's stone-y, comes in Madame-friendly colors and is cheaper than Corian?  Done.  Oh wait, it's still almost $3000 for my kitchen??!  That's like 75% of my entire kitchen budget!  See you in my dirty dreams, quartz.

Now maybe at this point maybe you're all thinking about all the obvious inherent benefits to each product that might sway me like this one is more green and this one doesn't scratch but these differences are so negligible that it's pretty much a wash.  They're all between roughly $40 and $80 a square foot and are durable products.  "But you can totally set a boiling hot pan on this surface with no problems!!!"  Omigawd that is awesome because I can't count how many times I have wished I could set a dangerous dish on any surface in my house only to be foiled by the laws of physics and common sense!  If being able to set a hot pan on your counter is a selling point you might also be the type person who wishes they could leave their kids in hot cars all day because it's just so darn convenient.  Buy a fucking trivet.  And some birth control.

The majority of customers buy products - any product - based on color and price.  That includes me.  Wait - I'm not for sale (but if I was my bargain rates and delicate angel skin would be a no brainer!) I meant color and price are MY #1 concern too.

So that leaves me with laminate.  According to all my "research" a low end kitchen remodel (which is what I am doing) just includes updated laminate counters.   

Formica's "marble" courtesy of Cupboards
Ok fine.   I ain't boughie.   I can do laminate.  But again, I don't want laminate that tries to look like non-laminate.  You can't find that at Home Depot - you have to go to the kitchen showrooms where they have the full line.  I also dislike the edge options for laminate - IKEA has figured out a nice simple square edge but somehow all I can get is a sad melting rounded edge...??!!  We can engineer wine to fit in a box and put people in outer space and we can't figure out how to make a laminate edge that doesn't look like a dirty asscrack?!  Get ON this scientists!

I found some decent color choices but when I priced it out it was over $1000 for my space.  Are you fucking kidding me??!  For a product that I don't even really like that much??  Nick - you guys remember Nick from Cupboards right? - assured me I was getting hosed but as I stood in front of sign at Home Depot it said $15-$30 a square foot installed really WAS the price.

What's a Madame to do??!  Go to IKEA and dream of course!!

Lo and behold what I found at IKE-RA (that's pronounced like 'She-Ra' because I'm now the Princess of Kitchen Power.  Or 'Shakira' but with a lingonberry twang because these hips don't lie.):

Numerar, I love you.
Their 1.5 " thick beech, birch or oak slabs come in multiple sizes - I can get 97" of solid wood for $169.  That's positively indecent.  I almost passed out.  For a little over $500 I could have a real wood counter.  No shit.  But I kept it a secret because speaking about it out loud must mean it wouldn't actually be true.  Besides, I'm really lazy so am I really the kind of girl that should be getting a countertop that requires oiling and maintenance?  Would people that know me laugh if I mentioned I might be getting butcher block counters?

Fuse Interiors via Design + You
Of course I couldn't hide forever.  Nick asked about countertops one day - I had to come clean about my desires.  Revealing it felt like I was admitting to a really weird fetish like I had a secret desire to suck the toes of a clown while having donkey sex on the set of The Price Is Right.  There was a really long and awkward five second pause wherein I broke out into a flop sweat and developed acid reflux before he declared "That's brilliant."  Oh thank gawd.  *buttcheeks unclenched*  Validation.  

I think that's originally from an IKEA hack forum but... via Design + You
Seriously.  That is stunning.  Laminate counters everywhere just shit their pants.

But my fears weren't completely assuaged - it's soooo cheap....  is it really made of sawdust and Ektorp offal while held together with the ball paste of a jungle construction worker?  So Nick and I decided to call the Queen of all IKE-RAkitchens - Becky Shankle (@ecomod) of Eco-Modernism.  
Becky's specialty is fabulosity and IKE-RA kitchen things so we had a tweep collabo and conference call while I was in the middle of an Office Depot drinking some sweet tea.  Fortunately she's also from the South so I could feel free to be as twangy as I wanted to be.  (Is that a country song?  It should be.)  After a few minutes of "hey y'alls" and "how's your mommanems?" she assured us that it was a good product and I shouldn't be worried.  I was totally professional though and only said one cuss word.  I think...  Fortunately I had already scared everyone away within a 20 foot radius of the pen section I was browsing in.  Kitchen Tawlk brings out the best in people.  So thank you for your help, Becky!  My buttcheeks were further unclenched!

via somewhere on Convoy that you'll never find again...

via Apartment Therapy
Apparently you're required to have open shelves with a butcher block counter but I ain't doin' that because I hate dusting.  I do think they are great to warm up a space and I'm squeeing twofold for them.  I'll post later about the installation and sealing method I've chosen because I'm still researching that.  Feel free to add your own thoughts and experiences in the comments to help keep my buttcheeks from clenching due to the anxiety of figuring out that part.

Right now I'm just hoping they're in stock when I go to Hotlanta to pick them up this weekend.  I don't know how I'm going to fit all that wood in my trunk...


  1. Classic as always... Can't wait to see the project come together!

    Ektorp... I just wanted to type that. Also, cinnamon rolls.


    couldn't hold it in.

    that's such a great idea. i have a feeling when this is all said and done i'm going to move into your kitchen. i'll only require a mini-yurt in the corner and a small water ration.

  3. Nick - Ektorp is one of my favorite words of all time. After 'cinnamon rolls' of course.

    Hollie - just so happens I left juuuust enough room for a mini yurt (or mini mini barn) in the corner of the former hellmouth! BYO pizza rolls though...

  4. Birth control? Sure, mock those of us for whom that cow has already left the barn (note to my wife: it's just a figure of speech). Where am I supposed to leave the little, uhh, darlings if not in the car??

  5. David - what goes on between you, your wife's uterus and a cow is none of my biznass. Tell those kids to behave or else you won't leave the windows cracked this time.

  6. Yes! Yes! Yes! Um... I'm not orgasming...well not right now, anyway. But, YES!

    "Expensive AND geriatric finishes? Um... I think that's a business model doomed to failure Corian."

    There are times when I wonder..."Who still buys that?" It's like when I took clients to La-Z-Boy to help them with a sectional. They had recliners for graves (my slang for old people, as in they will be in the grave soon) with typical old people fabric on it. Like pink ones and blue ones with that 80s car upholstery.

    The sales lady tried to convince people still buy it. I of coursed figured that was somewhere only in the mid west where trends are trapped in a time warp of decades.

    Yet, I then had to figure that no company was going to manufacture multiples of grave recliners just to sit and look, er, pretty. So there is a market there, but it has to be small. Really small. *shudder*

  7. Clearly your goblin horde has either vacated the premises, or decided to play nice (surely they realized that messin' with MS could only result in their suffering).

    While I'm no woodworker, I hear Danish Oil every 4-6 months will keep your Numerär (what you can't get an umlaut out of your keyboard?!?) in excellent shape.


  8. Alycia - I have no problem if my posts lead to orgasming but at least wait for something really worthy!! But I frequently have decorgasms - no shame!

    It's a shame to hear about the La-Z-Boy recliner market. Maybe they should start making their chairs transition into coffins...

    Izzy - I'm a formidable opponent! Those goblins bettah recogniiize...

    Good to know about Danish Oil - I've been researching mineral and tung and Waterlox and all kinds of finishers and sealants!

  9. Love the way you write! :)

    There's only truth about oiling wooden countertops people, and that's the fact that you have to oil when it's needed. Not once a week, not once a month and not once a year.

    Spray water on your countertop to see if the wood soaks it up. If it does - sand it down, wipe off the dust and oil. Repeat if needed. If it doesn't, don't. :) Oh, and IKEAs cheap oil is actually just as good as a lot of MUCH more expensive products out there.

    (Oiling every 4 to 6 months doesn't sound like enough to me, but what do I know. The air is really dry where I'm from, so our countertops are thirsty)

  10. LOL!!! Srsly.

    I'm wondering if I should add buttcheek unclenching to my menu of services now.

    Also, you were in a Home Depot when we had that call?!

    *veaplan speaks the simple & wonderful truth about wood countertop maintenance.

  11. veaplan - Thanks so much and welcome to the Sauce! I'm furiously writing down all of your simple and wonderfully truthful advice!! I've heard of other people using products other than oil - just sealing it with polyurethane - to finish it but not sure if I want to do that...

    Becky - Srsly. Thanks for your help! Feel free to quote me "buttcheeks unclenched" on your upcoming brochures and website testimonial section. ; )

    I was in an Office Depot - what did I write?! Oopsy!!

  12. The Oopsy is mine. Dunno why I thought it said Home Depot. Freud?

  13. ModernSauce: I'm just happy I found you, this is a wonderful site :)

    You can seal it with lacquer, different kinds of polys or wax, but sealing it completely is impossible, so the wood will still dry up and possibly crack.. it just takes longer.

    I've sealed my oak dining table with lacquer, but that was already dried up and cracked. Oiling really is the best alternative on a surface that isn't fully dried up and takes as much abuse as a kitchen countertop.

  14. veaplan - how sweet of you! Thanks so much for all of your advice too! You sound like you know your stuff! Question then: I heard that since I have such large windows in my space that repeated exposure to sunlight might discolor the wood over long periods of time. Maybe a very very light stain would set a "color" and then I oil on top of that... Is that really crazy or really smart? ; )