The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Updated Kitchen - Photos

pmccool's picture

Updated Kitchen - Photos

What follows is a case study of "Its beautiful!  Let's change it!"

When we moved into our present house in August 2007, one of the things that we especially liked about it was the large, open kitchen with lots of cabinet space and room to maneuver.  No more tripping over each other, as in the cramped kitchen of the previous house; no more trying to find a place to set something down that wasn't already occupied by something else.  It was pretty typical of houses that were built in this area in the mid-1990's; lots of honey-oak cabinetry, formica counter tops, ceramic tile backsplashes, etc. 

We have, over the years, been collecting ideas of things we would like to have in our kitchen.  There was the "If money was no object" list and there was the "Get real!" list.  One of the things that we fell in love with a few years ago was soapstone for counter tops.  I don't recall where or how we first became aware of it, but I do remember that after seeing it used (and still usable) in a Shaker village built in the mid-1800s we figured that durability wasn't going to be a problem.  I'll spare you the rationalization / sales pitch as to why we chose it over other options.  Let's just say we like it.  In looking at the somewhat worn Formica counter tops that were in the house, we decided that this might just be the time and place to take the plunge. 

Once the decision about counter tops was made, several other things followed in rapid progression.  For instance, to take out the existing countertops, the existing backsplash had to be removed.  Besides, white ceramic tile wouldn't have complement the new soapstone counters.  To get all of the backsplash out, the existing microwave oven had to be pulled.  Said microwave not only functioned poorly, it's vent fan recirculated cooking odors back into the house instead of venting outdoors.  Oh, and the dinged up, surface-mounted porcelain sink?  That had to go.  While they're messing with the plumbing anyway, let's get a new disposal, too.  To quote the King of Siam: "Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera."

So, by choosing new counter tops, we got:

- new counter tops (natch)

- new backsplash

- new microwave, vented outdoors

- new undermount sink

- new faucet

- new disposal

- new switches and outlets (to coordinate with new backsplash)

- new pulls for the drawers and cabinets

- new under-cabinet lights

Talk about unforeseen consequences!

The steam-injection oven remains on the "If money were no object" list.  We decided that we could live with the existing white refrigerator, even though all of the other appliances are black.

Here is how things looked at the outset:


Another "before" view:

More before

The first thing to go was the backsplash and counter tops.  Not having a place to set things down for a couple of weeks was an adjustment we never quite got used to:

Tear out

The day after the wrecking crew tore out the backsplash and counters, another individual came to take the final measurements and make the templates that the stone fabricator would need to cut the raw slabs into the finished pieces for the counter tops.

A crew came back to install the wiring for the puck lights underneath the upper cabinets while the stone fabricator was doing his thing.  Under-cabinet lighting wasn't something that had been on either list but after seeing how much darker the slate tiles were going to be, compared to the previous white ceramic tiles, we decided that it would be a good thing to have. 

And then came the day that the new counters arrived:

They're here!

The installer in the above picture is finishing a seam between two sections of counter top.  Note that he has already installed the under-mount sink.

The final step for installing the counter tops was the application of a coat of mineral oil.  When soapstone is oiled, it darkens dramatically.  Since the stone isn't porous, I'm not sure exactly why it works.  The closest approximation I can think of is the difference between dry pavement and wet pavement, particularly when driving at night, in the sense that the oil fills in microscopic irregularities on the stone's surface in much the same way that rain fills in the irregularities of the pavement's surface, making it look much darker.  Or maybe I'm the one that's all wet.  Anyway, oiling is not required.  It does nothing for the stone, other than change its appearance.  My wife thinks that she will probably not oil our counters with any frequency, if at all.  She prefers the "dry" look.  Here's a picture that shows part of the stone oiled and part of it dry:

Oiled vs. dry stone

Over the next couple of days, the slate tile backsplash was installed, grouted and sealed.  You can also see two of the puck lights under the upper cabinets, along with the new faucet at the sink and the new pulls on the cabinets and drawers in this shot:

Slate backsplash

And a couple of more shots showing the finished work:



Additional photos, if you are interested, are located at  The before and after order is scrambled; Photobucket seems to adhere to the LIFO approach for inventorying multiple uploads.  If any of you know how to reshuffle the order of the photos in a Photobucket album, please tell me how.

We had dithered about whether or not we should refinish the cabinets, eventually defaulting to a wait and see approach.  Now that everything is in, we are content to keep them as they are.

We are very satisfied with how things have turned out, even though some of the et ceteras drove the price up higher than my informal initial estimate.  We expect to be using, and liking, this kitchen for a long, long time.

Bottom line?  "It's beautiful!  Don't change a thing!"


AnnieT's picture

I know that envy is not an attractive thing, but oh, how I envy you those lovely counters, acres and acres of them! I think you did a great job with the choices you made, and it always costs more than expected. Thank you for sharing, A.

pmccool's picture


Funny you should mention counter space.  That, and cabinet capacity, were usually the Number 1 and Number 2 gripes my wife had about the kitchen in the previous house.  You should have seen her eyes light up the first time that we looked at this place. 

Thanks for your comments.


holds99's picture


Congratulations on your beautiful new kitchen.  Great funtional design and the countertops and floor are outstanding.  Now you have no excuse for not turning out splendid breads, cakes, etc. :-)  Luxuriate!

Howard - St. Augustine, FL

pmccool's picture


You mean that I have to bring my baking skills up to par with the appearance of the kitchen?  I'm in deep trouble!

The floors were part of a different project.  We had them refinished prior to our move-in so that we didn't have to live with that mess.  The new water-based finishes are every bit as durable as the urethane finishes and they cure faster without all of the stinkiness.

We gave everything a good workout this weekend.  I made four different breads and my wife prepared dinner for friends on Saturday.  We only bumped into each other if we wanted to, not because we couldn't avoid it.  My hat is off to the individual who drew up the floorplan for the house.  As you noted, it is a very functional design.


swtgran's picture

Your new mixer is definitely going to move into some nice digs.  Terry

pmccool's picture


Is it a Father's Day gift?  You're so sweet!  And I scarcely know you! 

What are you getting for me?  A DLX?  A Bosch?  You may have noticed the KA peeking around the corner of the refrigerator.  I don't know how it will feel about a new sibling.  Guess we'll just have to work that out a day at a time, huh?

Thank you!


Janedo's picture

OK, I'll just say WOW!!! I envy those great big American kitchen. If you saw the size of my itsy bitsy kitchen you wouldn't believe it.

Great taste. You'll have a wonderful time creating in that environment.


pmccool's picture

We are enjoying the elbow room that we have with this kitchen.

Kitchen design seems to be such a hit-or-miss thing with so many home builders.  I have been frequently surprised to walk into otherwise lovely homes and find kitchens that would seem cramped if compared to a ship's galley.  Or, layouts that waste much of the space that is available. 

Of course, a good cook can do well even in very close quarters (witness most restaurant kitchens).  You, for instance, consistently turn out beautiful breads (which would suggest that you are also producing other, equally delightful things) in your "itsy bitsy" kitchen.  And that with lots of "help" from little "helpers". 

There is a certain irony at work here.  We are finally able to afford the kind of kitchen that we enjoy but there are only the two of us to cook for.  Our girls are grown and gone.  So, what are a couple of foodies to do?  Learn to cook small, I suppose.  And have friends over frequently.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Enjoy your kitchen!  Oil brings out the depth of the stone in the surface, just like with wood.  "Dry" stone looks so flat to me, somehow.   I just love the wonderful patterns in stone and yours are fantastic!  Very effective.  Thanks for sharing.

Mini O

pmccool's picture

Thank you, Mini.  We are enjoying it thoroughly.

One of the reasons my wife doesn't intend to oil the counters very often, if at all, is because it also intensifies the green tint in this particular stone.  If, as is common in many other varieties of soapstone, it went to black when oiled, she might well want to keep them oiled frequently.  I suspect that we might do an occasional oiling, if only for variety's sake.  The two slabs we selected have a lot more green in them than had been apparent under the warehouse lighting, which was a bit of a surprise when the finished counter tops were carried into the kitchen.  By the same token, they also have a much more pronounced patterning than we had expected, so the two things sort of balance out.  Like you, we think it looks wonderful.


swtgran's picture

Hummm! didn't see the KA mixer.  Just seems like the logical thing for a bread maker to upgrade, with a new kitchen like that one.  Terry

Barbara Krauss's picture
Barbara Krauss

Hi Paul,

If you're all done with the "before" kitchen, can I have it??

pmccool's picture

and is no longer available.  And you should have seen what UPS was charging for shipping!   ;-)


sagharbormo's picture

Envy is much too mild of word. I feel shame, but from looking and yr old kitchen, let alone the new one, I now understand why my spouse doesn't want any visitors. Our entire counter space is a 3' x 4' table top, the tops of the dryer and washing machine & the sink when it is emply

I keep reminding spouse #1 that the finest French restaurant in NY for many years was La Lutece, Andre Soltner's restaurant Mimi Shereton give 4 stars. It was at the forefront of putting NY on a gastronomical  journey that is now hard to imagine from what level in that time. His kitchen was smaller than 5' x 9' & 3 people worked in it, not including the dishwasher.

La Petite Ferme's kitchen down in the Village was even smaller & the place was packed nightly. Spouse #1 says that might be inspiring if she could leave the cooking to Soltner. It does look nice. What was the cost of your palace kitchen redo?

pmccool's picture

aren't necessarily related, sagharbormo.  And I certainly don't have the skills to challenge either La Lutece or La Petite Ferme. 

We do, however, tend to have the kitchen as the focal point of much of our entertaining and we frequently putz around in it simply for our own enjoyment.  Given the choice and the means, I prefer a large kitchen like this one to some of the smaller ones that we have lived with over the years.

We had the opportunity to stop by and look at the house again last week (I am presently on a project assignment in South Africa).  We decided that we still like it a lot and will be happy to move back into it when we return home from this assignment.  I'm glad that you like it, too.

The cost at that time and place was in the $15k range.  The single biggest cost item was the soapstone countertops.  Dunno what the cost might be today, especially in other areas.


breadinquito's picture

in english: wow, great, holly molly (?), My envy at all. Happy baking from Quito

pmccool's picture

I wonder if the phrase you were searching for is "Good golly, Miss Molly!"?  You make your point eloquently, in any case.  We do like working in that kitchen!


breadinquito's picture

yes, with such a change you would gather all the conditions (lot of room, appropiate surface of the tops)  to start home made chocolate making...think about it! Cheers from Quito...

rhomp2002's picture

Your island has more counter space that I have - and you have depth as well.  I have to use a board to get enough space to roll out a pie dough.


I love the stove, the sink and the counters.   Your cabinets seem to work better here than in the original design and I like the hardware on them as well.  Really well done there.

Gene New's picture
Gene New


You have a beautiful kitchen and some great ideas but may I ask how big is your kitchen as it looks quite large.

I live in the middle of England where it often seems more like middle earth or Hobiton as our homes are tiny and my current 60's kitchen is a minute  7ft by 8ft at most.

However we are currently planning an extension what will give me a new 11ft by 13ft kitchen and turn my existing kitchen into a utilities room as the rooms will be side by side.  Hubby is thinking of making the units himself and like you we are planning on using wood (light Oak) units with dark grey worktops (a material called Corian) rather than stone. 

 I love your corner sink idea but I wonder if my new kitchen would be far too small for anything like that so can you please provide more details .

pmccool's picture

Hello Gene,

Thank you for your compliment.  If you look at the last two photos, the wall to the left is 12' and the far wall with the stove is 13'6".

The base cabinets are 24" deep and the wall-mounted cabinets are 12" deep; very typical for U.S. manufacturers.  The sink is 29" across.  The windows are 38" wide at the inner face of their casings.  They are a casement style window. The island base is 24"x60", having three cupboard doors and three drawers on one side; the slab on top is 34"x63".

I hope this helps you with your planning.


grind's picture

Lovely!!  Never heard of soapstone countertops, but man, there're beautiful looking.  I hate our countertops but I know once we embark on that journey to change them, there will be "add ons" and "subtractions".  In particular, there's a wall I'd like removed ... Trouble.

pmccool's picture

If you google "soapstone countertops", you'll get a huge number of vendor and contractor sites featuring galleries of the raw stone and finished projects.  The color range is pretty limited, mostly grays and blacks with the occasional greenish tint, like ours.  You may have to look around to find someone who sells it in your area.  Guys that push a lot of granite may try to scare you with stories about how easy it is to scratch soapstone.  Don't believe them.  After nearly 5 years of use, ours has only a few scratches and I can rub those out with some fine sandpaper.  Try doing that with granite after it is scratched!  (And granite does get scratched, too.)  There are varying grades of soapstone and some of it is soft enough to scratch with your fingernail; most of that goes into statuary, though.  The stuff used for architectural purposes is typically harder and less prone to scratching.  

What's fun, and funny, is to watch how people touch soapstone.  It's almost as if they were caressing it.  I do, too; there's something surprisingly sensual about soapstone, even though it is stone.

Here are my likes: cost was equivalent to granite, we haven't yet found anything that will stain it, little to no maintenance, not affected by screaming-hot pans being set on it, defrosts frozen foods quickly (who knew?!), durable, not etched by acidic foods/beverages, cleans easily, non-porous.  And yes, it feels good to the hand.

I'll list my dislikes just as soon as I think of one.

Best of luck with your remodel, especially if you are making structural changes.  All of ours were cosmetic, so we didn't have to do any structural or major electrical/plumbing changes.


grind's picture

Funny I did mention your soapstone counters to my wife and the "easily scratched" notion came up.  Nice to know that one can easily rub out a few scratches with some fine sandpaper!  One thing I hate is when a work counter is too precious to use and I have to tip toe around it ...