Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Tale of Two Bathrooms

Hello Chickens!  

Popping in today with a quick house update.  The next few weeks are going to be somewhat quiet here on the blog, as my next novel, Happily Ever After Forty, is due on August 1, so I am going to be hunkered down getting that finished.  I may pop in briefly to say hello, but know that the summer hiatus will be well-spent.

In the meantime, I wanted to update you quickly on the new bathrooms that have been completed!  While our primary construction focus was on the second floor, the second floor bathroom and first floor bathroom are stacked right on top of each other, which, from a systems standpoint, meant that we had to treat them as one big bathroom project.  

The different floors of the house have different personalities.  The first floor is very formal, traditional, special occasion kind of spaces.  The second floor is day to day, uber functional, more casual spaces.  

As you can imagine, Charming Suitor and I, while enormously aesthetically compatible, do have some places where we diverge in our style.  He has always leaned in an Arts and Crafts simple elegant function direction, while I have always been a little more Art Nouveau with swirls and pretty stuff putting the fun in functionality.  Or as CS will say, I am A LOT more decorative than he is.  So when we were presented with the need to design two complete bathrooms at once, we decided to divide and conquer.

CS took the second floor bathroom, since that is the one we will use the most, and he was inspired by one of his favorite artists, Robert Ryman.  Ryman is famous for his white paintings, which, while completely white, have depth and texture and stuff that actually makes them interesting.  I swear!  The second floor bathroom is almost a bridge between the two guest rooms, which are colorful and visually dense, and the kitchen, which also has a lot going on.  So CS thought that a clean, white bathroom would be a nice breath, a bit of respite for the senses.  Taking his cue from Ryman, and wanting to keep a space that at least nodded to the history of the building, we went to meet with our tile guru Rachel at Fine Line Tile and gave her the brief.  She immediately knew what we were going for, and pulled a bunch of tiles that would fit our budget, and be the right thing for the space.  We embraced clean white porcelain tilework in pieces that would be period appropriate.  The floor is hexagonal penny tiles, which is actually what we found when we pulled up the linoleum, but not in good enough condition to save.  The walls are wainscoted in subtly beveled subway tile for texture and depth, with porcelain baseboard and chair rail, all very affordable choices from Sonoma Tile Company's Pure line.  We painted in Sherwin-Williams Superwhite.  For fixtures we went directly to Kohler, choosing a toilet and pedestal sink from their traditional looking Tresham line, and polished nickel faucets and sink fixtures, as well as shower set.  As we did in the basement bathroom, we added an old railway shelf for some interesting wall storage.

A local glass place called GlassWorks did beautiful frameless shower surrounds, and our geniuses at StoneMasters and Cosentino provided the smartest Silestone shower threshold and surround shelf, as well as a very key corner piece on the exterior of the shower, since beveled tiles need something flat to end into, so we needed a piece to cover the outside corner.  We also extended the surround shelf four inches into the shower so that we didn't need to add any nooks or hardware to deal with shampoo and soap etc.

The view from the door

Kohler Tresham toilet and old railway shelf, you can see the cool corner piece on the outside of the shower

Tresham sink with mirror and sconces from Restoration Hardware


Deep interior shelf keeps things clean on the inside while still providing storage

The original window with leaded glass sidelights and bottom of window converted to mirror

CS was very pleased with the choices, and I love the clean simplicity of the room.  It really does have a soothing effect to go into such a lovely white space, and with the addition of an old rug, it is surprisingly warm feeling.  I was worried it would come off cold and surgical, but it really turned out beautifully!

Of course, then it was my turn, and as you can imagine, I went in something of a different direction.  
The first floor bathroom will eventually be entered through the library, which will serve as something of an anteroom between the formal dining room and the bathroom, just that added layer of privacy.  I hate houses where they have bathrooms or powder rooms that open right into a dining room, it seems very gross to me!  The old bathroom didn't quite do that, the door was in the hallway and opened essentially just North of the dining room, not ideal but not awful.  But when we do the new dining room, it is doubling in size and then the hallway goes away and the bathroom door would indeed have opened right into the middle of our dinner parties, which is gauche and I was not having it!  So we moved the doorway into the library, CS's former mancave and dressing room, so that everyone's privacy will be protected.  

I also knew that I loved the wainscot detail on the walls of the white bathroom, but that tile was not going to be the right choice for a more formal space.  We toyed with the idea of marble slabs, but while period appropriate, that would have been egregiously expensive. But the other period appropriate choice was wood.  Now, I have to point out that while this is a full bathroom, so there is a shower in it, it will only be used as such during such times as we have a 100% full house with everyone needing to shower at once.  Something that might occur once or twice a year.  If this were going to be a full-time bathroom, I would be very reluctant to do wood wainscoting, since the moisture would be a big issue.  If you love the look of wood, but need to be able to shower in your bathroom daily, look into some of the naturally water-resistant woods, like Ipe.  They will be more expensive up front, but will save you from warping and cracking issues down the road.  Lucky for us, we could go with white oak, which is the predominant wood in all of our original millwork.  Our amazing contractors were able to design a pattern for the paneling that pulled details from the original woodwork, and once it was stained to match, you would never know it wasn't original to the building!

The paneling on the walls immediately sent me in a rich, saturated color direction.  I had fallen in love with a marble called Verde Luna, sort of a mid-tone green with ivory veining and little bits of sparkle, and knew that I wanted to do the shower interior in those tiles.  The only company that I found that works with Verde Luna is New Ravenna, and one of the other products they produce with it is a fantastic, and shockingly period appropriate floor tile called Euclid, which merges it with creamy New Horizon marble and dark brown (near-black) St. Laurent in a cubist design.  Rachel at Fine Line suggested we go with a large scale brick pattern in the shower to the wainscot height, using 6x12 tiles, and then a pencil tile of cararra marble to have a break, with herringbone 3x6 tiles above.  

We had an antique dresser that we knew we wanted to repurpose as a vanity, and I had fallen in mad love with an art nouveau cast bronze sink from Kohler called Lilies Lore.  Again, the intricate carved detail of the sink would not be great if you had people brushing teeth and shaving over it on a daily basis, but for a formal bathroom that will mostly host party guests four to six times a year?  Totally worth it!

Cosentino found us a Silestone quartz product that was a near perfect match to the St. Laurent in the floor tile, so we could use that as vanity counter and the shower surround pieces, and Kohler stepped up with great fixtures in oiled bronze, and a toilet in an ideal shade of medium gray.  

Yes, a gray toilet.  Because in a room of such deep richness, with no other white anywhere, a white toilet would stick out like a sore thumb.  We didn't want to go black, after all, we were shooting for more1890s not 1990s, but gray turned out to be the perfect color.

Our darling general contractor Patrick gifted us an antique mirror he had in his garage, we found yet another railway shelf, this one in wood and cast iron, and the same sconces from Restoration Hardware that we had used in all the other bathrooms, these in oiled bronze finish.  The final touches were a deep rick peacock teal blue in high gloss on the walls, Sherwin-Williams Ocean, and mounted three antique wood paper maché forms from France to serve as art.

It is about as opposite a bathroom style-wise as CS's Ryman inspired bathroom upstairs, but it works beautifully, and even CS has fallen in love with it.  

The view from the door

Yep, a gray toilet.

Verde Luna tiles from New Ravenna inside the shower

Same interior shelf detail as upstairs, in a different rich Silestone

Original windows with new sconces

Railway shelf and wood moonface antique paper maché forms from France

The floors. 

Kohler's Lilies Lore sink.  Shut the front door!  I love this thing.
So, there you go, a full tour of two very different bathrooms!  I adore them both, frankly, and cannot choose a favorite.  And even though there were some times on the first floor bathroom that I thought I might have lost my mind and was going to create a bathroom that looked like fruit salad, I think we are both glad that we took the design risks that we did.  It is an inviting space, with great details, and I think if we had backed off anywhere for "safer" choices, the room would not have come together completely.

I send you all off into your summer with many hopes for good weather and great barbecues and fun times with friends and family.  If you don't hear from me until after August 1, know that I am still thinking of you, and as soon as the new book is finished, I will be back with updates on the rest of the renovations!

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Monday, May 16, 2016

Kitchen Reveal!

Hello Chickens!

Goodness we are having a time trying to get Spring to really get Sprung over here.  But the weather foibles are not dampening the mood over at the Chateau, because I am delighted to report that the kitchen is finally 100% finished!  Which seems appropriate because it coincided with the release of my new book, WEDDING GIRL, which so far, people seem to be enjoying...  if you haven't picked up your copy yet, I hope you will, it is the perfect thing to get you into your summer reading!

Now on to the yummies!  Today I have some great pics to share with you of the new kitchen.  Credit for all photos to the most excellent Mike Kaskel, architectural photographer extraordinaire.

Ready to see????

This is the view facing South, of the U shaped main cooking section.  On the back wall are the BlueStar Rangetop, hood and gas oven with and the La Cornue Flamberge rotisserie.  On the peninsula the Gaggenau induction cooktop and steamer.  Under the window, the Blanco sink and faucet.  And of course, the glorious Poggenpohl cabinetry throughout.

A different view of the U, capturing some of the steel beam details...we love how these original beams are fitting into the contemporary design!

A pretty good view from the back porch door of the whole space, you can see the baking area across the way, and you can really see the Cosentino/StoneMasters counters in all their glory, plus a peek at the custom Larchwood Canada butcher block.

Standing in front of the rangetop looking across at the baking section with the BlueStar electric wall oven and the Gaggenau warming drawer underneath.

Getting a look from the end of the island, you can see the integrated Miele dishwasher to the left of the sink.

The baking nook!  Another hidden Miele dishwasher to the left of the sink, and the Marvel wine cooler to the right.  The TV is hidden behind the artwork!

Standing behind the dining table and looking out, you can get a look at the Marvel fridge and freezer.

Final look at the main cooking wall, highlights the backsplash, a single pane of back-painted easy to keep clean and a really slick look!

Poggenpohl drawers can hold up to 200 pounds of stuff!  And I'm in love with these plate and bowl organizers, the racks lift right out of the drawers for easy use on buffets or for setting the table.  Genius!
This is what a happy Polymath looks like!

That is the little photo tour of the day...I hope you like seeing the finished product as much as I am enjoying cooking in it!  There will be many more details to come, but when I saw these pictures, I couldn't resist sharing them with everyone who has been following along on the journey!

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Sunday, May 1, 2016

A Little Love Letter...

Hello, Chickens!

I know you are all waiting on house updates, and I promise there is so much coming down the pike your heads will spin... but today I want to talk about the most important thing I've ever done to my house.

I moved this guy into it.

Charming Suitor and me at his niece's high school graduation party 2010
Now you all know how I feel about this house, but let me tell you, after 20 years of living in it, it never looked so good or felt more like home than when my Charming Suitor moved in.  And let me be clear, this was a big deal.  At the time, I was still renting.  CS owned a lovely arts and crafts bungalow in a beautiful and coveted neighborhood.  He loved his house.  Lucky for me, he loved me more.  Or as he will tell you, "I knew that you and that house were a package deal.".

Five years ago today, this happened.

I can tell you that it has felt like five minutes and five lifetimes in all of the best possible ways.  Not only do I love this amazing man more every day, but I LIKE him more every day, and that is the coolest thing ever.

In the past five years we bought our Chateau and sold his bungalow, and completed two and a half years of renovations.  We have had travel adventures galore, both domestic and abroad, and special family memories and visits with friends.  We have cooked a lot together, for each other and for loved ones.  We've gained a brother, a niece and two nephews.  We became dance school dropouts.  We've seen great art and great theater and heard great music, and also the opposite.  Our families have become family to each other seamlessly and effortlessly.  We've eaten a lot of great food and have drunk a lot of great wine.

We have purchased an inordinate amount of kitchen appliances.

Nothing is easier, more comfortable, or more fun than us.  Just ask us.  We're cute as flipping bunnies.

One of the best gifts my CS gives me everyday is his support of my work.  He is so proud of me, my biggest cheerleader, my personal PR department.  And more importantly, he is enormously respectful...of my process, of my schedule, of the endless quirks that go along with being married to any full time artist.  And he never thinks of it as not a "real" job.  Being with him, having him in my life has made me a better writer.

So on this, the five year anniversary of our I Do's, it seemed only appropriate to take this brief moment to do two things.

First, and foremost, to publicly acknowledge the extraordinary man I was lucky enough to marry five years ago today and to thank him for still being my Charming Suitor.  For being as demonstrative and romantic today as he was when we were courting.  For being my rock, and letting me be his.  I am without doubt the most blessed woman there is, and I am truly grateful everyday.

Secondly, since he would literally be annoyed if I didn't...

On May 3, my newest book WEDDING GIRL will be released.

What is more appropriate to promote on my wedding anniversary?  I'm really proud of it, and I think you will love it, so I hope you will pre-order it.

But I also want to mention that if you have never had a chance to read my book OFF THE MENU, it is a love letter to my Charming Suitor, and was inspired by our real life romance.  Essentially, I took about 80% of our courtship, including some of our actual email correspondance, and plunked it into a fictional story.  So if you want to take a trip down memory lane with me and CS, it might be a good time to revisit this one.

Think of it as an anniversary present to us!

A very happy May Day to one and all...and a very happy anniversary to my Charming Suitor.  I can't wait to see what the next five years bring!

Yours in Good Taste, (and madly in love)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

It Spins Me Right Round


Remember how I'm always telling you to make your lists of your need to haves, nice to haves, and would be like a little miracle to haves?  Well I'm here to report that miracles do happen.

You might also remember that I was fortunate enough to have an odometer birthday right when we were finalizing appliance selection, and Charming Suitor gifted me with my miracle item.

The La Cornue Flamberge Rotisserie was our major splurge for this kitchen.  A completely extraneous luxury, and would have been the first thing to get cut if we had needed to make cuts.  But boy am I glad we did it.

Our Cosentino and Stone Masters team clad the tower in the same Dekton as the countertops, to make sure that nothing flammable was in the way.  Our amazing contractors converted our old vintage freestanding butcher block to a fabulous rolling one with the help of some industrial casters, and an antique brass towel bar that poor CS had to strip 100 years of paint off of.  Install was a breeze, and we decided that for our first dinner in the new kitchen, we would make a chicken.


We decided for our first meal in the new kitchen, we would make a chicken.

Dancing chicken!

It comes with this porcelain tray to catch the can also cook veggies and things in it.
Oh my.

People?  I did not do anything special to make this chicken.  I did not brine or dry brine or make a rub or baste it.  I took it out of the fridge, tied the legs and wings down so they wouldn't burn, sprayed it with a bit of grapeseed oil and sprinkled with salt.  An hour later, this thing was done, skin fully rendered and crispy, meat so juicy that the breast meat was the same moistness as the dark meat.  It was one of the best chickens we have ever eaten, and the perfect way to christen the kitchen.

Since then we have done several more chickens and one leg of lamb.  Everything comes out perfectly, and it is the easiest thing in the world to use.  We had friends over for dinner on a weeknight, and it made our lives so easy, just pulled two chickens out and set them up right before they arrived, and by the time we had finished our cocktails and nibbles, they were done.  Our pals agreed it was one of the best chickens they had ever had.

One knob turns on the flame and adjusts the temp, the other turns the spits.  The front shifts out for larger items, so next on the agenda is a prime rib.  It can hold up to 12 pounds of meat at one time.  The spits and tray can all go into the dishwasher.  And since the wicks are made of ceramic fibers, they never need to be replaced!  As long as we keep it clean, this thing should be making us chickens and other delicious dinners for the rest of our lives.

And the bonus part?  Now that we have the magical Marvel fridge, there is actually room in the freezer for a stock pot scrap bag, so I've been saving all the carcasses of our lovely chickens and bits and bits of veggies so that I can make a big batch of store in the freezer!  You wouldn't think this would make me so excited, but it is the little things.

I'll keep you posted as we try more different foods in it.  I can't tell you how tempted I am to make a S'more...

More updates soon!

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A Chill is in the Air


So I figured the best way to handle the kitchen reno reveals, is to just remind you of the previous posts and then update you on how the choices are working out so far!

So today, we can revisit refrigeration!  Remember the fridge post?  Well all three of the Marvel fridges are installed and loaded and ready for a full report.  And the report?  Is awesome!

First, the big boy...

We decided to inset the fridge between the food pantry and the kitchen library, so that it would not stick out into the room, much as you might do if you were installing it within your cabinetry.  We trimmed out the space with woodwork that matches the original woodwork from the house, so that it would integrate well.  And we chose the glass door on the fridge so that it would break up the look, and not create a wall of stainless steel.

Here is the fridge side, opened.  And yes, that awesome blue light is standard, and I just love it!  Ditto the stainless steel interior, which is both easy to clean and looks terrific.  You'll notice that there are four deep drawers at the bottom, we have designated one of these for vegetables, one for deli meats and other easy lunch items, one for raw meats, and one for fruit.  The rest of the space is just open shelving, so I invested heavily in plastic trays and bins and organizers so that we could corral the rest of our stuff.  We bought this fridge because it is very deep, so it holds a great deal, and is amazing for large entertaining platters and such, but it does require some forethought on the organization side, especially when you have a small condiment hoarding problem as we do.  I have a tray for Asian ingredients, one for other condiments, one for salad dressings, one for pickles, one for jams and jellies.  We've got the whole top shelf for beverages, the second one down for dairy, and we keep the bottom shelf fairly open for leftovers or other prepped items.  I have to say, it has been a really amazing shift from our old small fridge to this one...everything has a place, and I don't have to completely pull everything out of a shelf to add or remove an item.  Glorious!

If you thought the fridge was changing our life?  Then the freezer is the Amen corner.  Remember our other freezer?

Hello, gorgeous....

can you hear angels singing?
Because this door isn't glass, it gets these five great door bins.  Four mesh drawers, and four perforated adjustable shelves make sure that air flow is keeping everything at the right temperature.  More plastic bins and trays help again with organization, but I finally have room for all my baking supplies that can spoil or go rancid if left at room temp, frozen meats and vegetables, plenty of room for ice and everything easily accessible.  I fairly well mist up everytime I open the door.  Nothing hard and frozen has fallen on my toes since it arrived!

This model comes with an ice maker, but we removed it.  We don't use ice in our everyday drinks, just for cocktails, and for those we like inch square clear ice cubes that we buy in bags.  And we all know what happens if you don't use up your ice on a regular basis, it picks up off flavors and leaves little floaters in your drinks.  It would have been difficult and expensive to get plumbing to this area of the room, and we decided that we would rather have the extra room in the freezer and continue to purchase our ice as we need it, but most of you would probably choose to keep it in and use it.  Luckily, there is plenty of room for ice bags!

You might remember that we also were installing an undercounter wine fridge.  This means that Charming Suitor can keep it stocked with the stuff that is perfect for everyday drinking, and the bottles that I can feel free to open when my girlfriends come over without worrying that I'm accidentally opening something really expensive!

I love the sleek look of this thing!  The glass door again serves to break up the look of solid cabinetry, and echoes the look of the big fridge.

The drawers are super sturdy and edged in real wood, each one holds 9 bottles, so there are 54 bottles stored in here!  It is dual zone, so you can keep your whites and bubbles slightly cooler than your reds. We are keeping the top drawer for vermouth and Lillet and port, and anything we need for cocktails so that they no longer take up room in the big fridge.

Now for the real kicker.  The cheese fridge!  I know, I know, the very idea of a cheese fridge is beyond luxurious.  But we love our cheeses!  Can't be helped.  And perfect cheese storage is both warmer and more humid than your regular fridge.  For most people, we recommend you simply buy cheeses as you need them, and eat them within a week or so.  I also highly recommend you remove them from the fridge about 2 hours before you want to serve them, for optimal texture and flavor.  For us, with the amount of entertaining we do, and the fact that we nearly always do a cheese course with our dinners, we thought it would be a really fun indulgence to have a special storage set up just for that purpose in the kitchen library, so we got the small 15" wine fridge.

Now, a wine fridge is the optimal temperature for long term cheese storage, but not the right humidity.  To fix that required a little MacGuyvering.

First, I bought a little travel humidifier.

This takes regular bottles of water, and is a fairly small scale.  The AC power cord is thin enough that you can snake it through the door of the wine fridge without affecting it's ability to close properly.  I refill the bottle about once a week to keep things the proper level of humidity.  We also had to alter the bottom three drawers by removing essentially one sixth of the back of those drawers so that they would slide around the humidifier, which is very small, but a bit tall.  Our contractors did this with a small hacksaw, and we lost very little capacity, without losing any functionality of the drawers themselves.  We then lined the drawers in black plastic mesh, the kind they use in bars to protect glasses, easy to cut to fit and make sure none of our precious little packages fall thru the openings.

Cheese and sausage are great friends, and they like the same sort of storage!

Hello yummies!

All three of our fridge choices are absolutely working the way we wanted them to, and making life so much more delicious.  I continue to recommend Marvel products wholeheartedly, and hope you will check them out when you are doing your own kitchens, they are not the most famous name, but I really believe they are the best!

Stay tuned, much more to come :)

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A Tale of Two Countertops


Hope that Spring is springing where you are, Chicago is experiencing days of 70 degrees with a chance of snow, and I wish that weren't true.  The weather here is like watching time lapse video of the seasons.  Its a bit unsettling, but we are taking the good with the weird and pressing onward.

Today it is time to share some exciting news...the countertops are IN!  They are glorious, they are everything we ever wanted and then some.  They are perfect.  But it was a long haul and required the support of many extraordinary people along the way.

You know how I have been waxing poetical about our countertop folks, the amazing designers at Cosentino and the artisan fabricators at Stone Masters?  I'm about to take that up several notches, because in the land of renovations, the only thing you can count on is that stuff is going to go wrong.  Sometimes EPICALLY wrong.  (See Moat post here.)  And when the shit hits the proverbial fan, this is where you really find out whether your partners are the real deal.  Any idiot can take credit when stuff goes perfectly.  "Here is this thing that I recommended you purchase from me, and I have delivered it and installed it and it works the way it was supposed to, without any're welcome."

But I don't care about those guys.  What I care about?  Are the people who take as much pride and concern in customer service as they do in the products they sell.  Whose level of commitment and care is as strong if not stronger at the back end as it is on the front.  THOSE are the people you want to do business with.

If you missed the original countertop post, you can catch up HERE.

Our kitchen counters were, to say the least, complex.  We were asking a lot of them.

As you may remember, the kitchen is divided into two sections:

There is the L shaped section on the left, which has a cutout for a sink.  And then the U shaped section on the right, which has cutouts for the sink, induction cooktop, and steamer, and also needs to create the breakfast bar and slides INTO the window wells to become the sills for the windows for a truly seamless look and ease of cleaning and function.  Not to mention that the scale of it is pretty large, so you are looking at long runs of counter.  Plus all of the edges are beveled, which is to say that they have to apply a 2 inch section of the material around the edge so that it looks like the counters are 2 inches thick.  (You don't want your counters to actually be 2 inches thick, the weight would make your cabinets collapse.)  Then you add in the backsplashes, and the fact that the material we chose has a veining pattern that needs to be matched up both on the backsplashes and the edging...I believe it is probably one of the hardest countertop projects anyone could have designed.

One of the reasons we have been working with Stone Masters is that they are expert at this kind of complicated detailed work.  And they are the only ones who have been working with Dekton, the material we chose.  Dekton is a pretty amazing product, but it is brand new, and so very few fabricators have been working with it, and we, unbeknownst to us, were about to push it to its limits.

Cosentino sent the slabs over to Stone Masters and they got to work.  We set an install date, and hired a scissor lift to get the countertops up to the second floor.  Little did we know that we set the date for a day that would be 4 degrees with -12  wind chill factor.  The guys loaded the truck.  They arrived onsite.  The L shaped piece and the small pieces for the island and the little niche between the gas cooktop and the oven tower came up and were installed easy peasy.  Then they brought up the big boy, the piece that covers the back wall, creates the windowsills and makes the corner up to the gas cooktop.  They rested it in place and brought up the peninsula piece.  As they were sliding the peninsula into place, the worst.  POP.  A crack.  Then a louder POP, and the other slab cracked.

So sad :(

You cannot imagine the devastation.  I felt helpless, looking at these terrific guys who had taken such care to make the perfect counters, so many man hours, just destroyed.  And of course, sad for us, because the day was supposed to be joyous, almost anyone will tell you that the kitchen renovation doesn't really start to feel like a kitchen till the counters go in, it is a magical moment, and now, after all that anticipation, we were going to have to start all over.

I did the only thing I could think to do, ran out to go get some pizzas, so that I could feed the guys and we could all regroup.  And here?  Right here?  Is where the amazing happened.

By the time I got home with pizza and pop for everyone, the kitchen was bustling.  The owner of Stone Masters and his right hand man were there, along with their best fabricators.  The general manager of Cosentino was there with his team.  Everyone had dropped everything to come to the house to see what had happened and to brainstorm together how to fix it.

You guys?  I cried.  Not because my beautiful countertops were ruined and the kitchen project stalled.  But because the moment things went sideways, everyone came rushing in to figure it out.  No one laid blame or cast aspersions.  No one got angry or snarky or poked fingers.  They just all came together in an extraordinary show of professionalism to support each other and find a way to make things happen.   Cosentino put a rush on to get new slabs over to Stone Masters.  Stone Masters started calling the Dekton guys in Spain where it is manufactured to talk to their experts about what might have happened.  They all treated it like a teachable moment, and wanted to learn as much as possible from what had happened, while still figuring out how to get us countertops ASAP.  It was one of the most amazing things I had ever witnessed.

Those are the people you want in your corner.  The ones who step up when stuff doesn't go as planned to create a fix.

And then?  It got even more incredible.

Within a week?  Two representatives from Cosentino headquarters from SPAIN were in my kitchen to look at what had happened, and to visit with Stone Masters to advise on the project.  What the WHAT?  Our project was so unique and the cracking was so surprising, that they felt the need to really come see what was going on.  It made me happy to know that everyone was so invested.  We knew when we agreed to use a really cutting edge brand new product for this project that it was a risk, and they had assured us that it was a risk worth taking, and now that the risk had turned out to be an issue, everyone was really on top of learning what they could learn.

Here is what the team figured out.  If possible?  Do not take a high tension product with a lot of cutouts and inside corners and complicated edges out of a 65 degree shop into a van and then exposed into 4 degree cold and then into a 70 degree kitchen.  It don't like it.  POP.

We all decided to go for it with the Dekton one more time.  As a backup plan, we still had the pure white Silestone that had been in our original plan before Dekton came on the scene, and Cosentino said they would send enough slabs of that material to Stone Masters when they sent the new Dekton so that if things went wrong again, they could immediately change gears and not lose any more time.

Cosentino had the new Dekton slabs (specifically from a different production batch, just in case) and the backup plan Silestone slabs to Stone Masters in record time.  Stone Masters worked practically round the clock to remake the two counters that had cracked.  We all watched the calendar and the weather.  And then, a gift.  A rare 60 degree day was going to hit Chicago.  They set the shop temp for 65 degrees.  We set the house temp to 65 degrees.  We rented the lift again.  The Cosentino team and the Stone Masters team all came over on install day, there were literally eight people here in addition to the install team.  They loaded up the counters and brought them in.  My blood pressure was through the roof, I could barely watch.  But Stone Masters were cool as cucumbers.  The counters were set into place. Leveled.  An invisible seam connected the two.  The sinks were mounted and faucets installed. The cooktops were set into place.  We all sat and watched the artists at work.

Deep breath, here we go...

I made the Cosentino people take these pics, I couldn't watch...

Do you see that incredible matching of the veining on the edge?  So talented.

Ugh, my heart could not take this one.

There is the L counter, perfect from day one.

All getting settled into place.

Starting to work on seams.

Induction cooktop and steamer in place safely!

Sink mounted!

Gas rangetop installed...can't wait to use this baby!

Island, just waiting for the butcher block.

I had vodka in the freezer and Champagne in the fridge and the pizza place on speed dial, so we were set for either celebration or commiseration.

We popped the Champagne.

Today, I tell you that we could not be more delighted with our choice.  Yes, it was a long and frustrating process, mostly because we felt so terrible for the men who had worked so hard to make us perfect counters only to have them become garbage and have to start all over.  But everyone kept such good spirits about the whole thing.  Cosentino got new product without issue, and Stone Masters just kept assuring us that it was important to have this opportunity to find out the best way to work with a new product, and that it was, in the long run, a very good thing for everyone involved to have this kind of project as sort of a little Dekton master class.  They all made us feel special, like our kitchen was part of something bigger, and never once asked us to make design changes to make the fabrication less complicated or to immediately shift to the backup plan.  They all wanted the challenge, and I know that everyone is really proud of how it turned out.

We've been slowly beginning to use the new kitchen, it is still not 100% complete, but it is complete enough to play, and I have to say, for all the stress, these counters are incredible.  The matte finish is easy to clean, and is a dream for thing like kneading bread, practically no extra flour needed.  We can take things out of the oven and put them right onto the counters with no worry of scorching, so the endless search for trivets is over.  We have officially spilled red wine, coffee, and even dropped a cooked beet onto the surface, and not a stain to be seen.  Apparently, once you actually have them in place and installed is when the whole indestructible thing kicks in.  And the fact that they are freaking gorgeous doesn't exactly hurt my feelings.

As you can see, I am even more in love with both Cosentino and Stone Masters after this harrowing project.  If you are doing anything involving countertops, these are your guys.

Do I still recommend Dekton as a material?  Yes, absolutely, but with some caveats:

If you have super complicated counters, as we did, you might want to work with a different material.  We stretched this stuff to its limits, and saw the consequences.  We got very lucky, but it was literally 50/50 that the second install would go well.   So while I would absolutely suggest it for simpler designs, the first easy three pieces that came in were solid as rocks from the get go, I would hesitate if you have a lot of cutouts, or inside corners to deal with.

I would not recommend it if you are on a very tight timeline, since obviously, stuff can happen, so if you have a calendar without any cushion in it?  Might not be for you.  We were lucky that we had enough other stuff happening in the house that it didn't hold us up too badly, our guys just shifted gears and focused elsewhere, and we still had a full kitchen functioning downstairs to use.  But if you have scheduled a month for kitchen reno and are staying with your in-laws with your three kids while the kitchen is demolished?  Perhaps Silestone will be a safer choice, just in case.

I would also say that I would especially recommend it if you are not doing beveled edging, but just letting the edge of the material be the edge.  This is starting to be the trend in kitchen design, and I really like the look, the only reason we didn't shift to that after the first install was because the cabinets had been designed around the beveled edge, and there would have been no way to alter that.

If you are in the greater Chicagoland Area, I would not work with any fabricator other than Stone Masters, the guys who came from Spain said that they had never seen anyone else who could do with Dekton what our guys did, not anyone anywhere in the world.  If you are not in Chicago, be sure of a few things with your fabricators...make sure they do all the underside laminations with Dekton, and not quartz or other products and make sure that you arrange installation when you can really control temperature variations.

Stay tuned, the kitchen and other spaces are really coming together over here, and there are going to be some finished pics in this space very soon!

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath