Renovating in Paris

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In this episode, I answer a question about redoing a kitchen in an apartment. 

If you have questions for me, make sure to submit them here. I’m currently on maternity leave but will be popping in once a month to batch answer your questions. 


This episode, we discuss…

[00:57] Redoing an apartment kitchen (Eleanor) 


Hello Betsy, I have been listening to your podcast since the beginning of the year and I am loving it. I love how relatable you are and your straight-forward answers to listeners’ design dilemmas.

My boyfriend and I are having our 40 square meter apartment (that’s 430 square feet) completely redone so there are lots of decisions to make. My style I believe is “uplifting bohemian”: I want a rather traditional look, with lots of texture and plants and some flea market-type finds.

My current dilemma is the kitchen. The apartment is located under the eaves on the last floor, the ceiling is lower than normal and there are exposed beams everywhere which I will have sanded so that their go back to a raw, lighter shade of wood.

I have picked sand-colored hexagonal tiles for the floor (so that they’re reminiscent of the original tomettes that I decided to do away with because they made the space dark.) (picture 1)

For the kitchen, I initially wanted white-white shaker cabinets with a really dark wood countertop (inspiration picture 2), and mother-of-pearlish chevron tile for the backsplash (picture 3).

But we are having a roof window installed in the kitchen area. It won’t be right above the cabinets, but I have read that white cabinets tend to go yellow if they are exposed to direct sunlight, and now I am afraid to go with the white-white, and I don’t think off-white would look as good with the very dark wood countertops.

I have seen a video where they had off-white cabinets and grey stone countertops (picture 4), and I like that look too, but it seems to me the mother-of-pearlish tiles won’t look good with that, and it also feels like it’s veering more traditional and less bohemian.

At last I am enclosing a picture of my place before the remodel, just for fun 🙂 (picture 5) I am not planning on doing something as colorful this time, but it will still be me living here 🙂

Thank you so very much for your help, I hope you have a wonderful maternity leave.



With the first picture, you’ve sent me a picture of the tile which looks like this sort of hexagonal beige modall tile. You sent me a picture of the shaker style cabinets with the dark wood like butcher block style countertop and you’ve sent me the mother of pearl backsplash, which is an off white. You want to be careful if you’re using two off whites just like if you’re using two pure whites so they don’t compete with each other or clash. I would want a sample of each to make sure. 

Let’s look at your next set of pictures. You’ve got this set that has the off white cabinets with the gray countertop, which I think looks very nice and contemporary. Then the third picture has a lot of character. You can see the beams. I’m just transported to France and I can see the old flooring, the hexagonal tile, things like that.

The thing that’s troubling me Eleonore is that I feel like the thing that’s missing is the true sense of your style. You mentioned that it’s uplifting bohemian. You also mentioned that you want traditional elements. I think you’re a little confused about your two word phrase. What does uplifting mean to you in terms of visual aesthetics? Does it mean bright colors? Does it mean airy? Does it mean light and ethereal? 

I’m not understanding what either of these words mean to you because then you transition to bohemian and say flea market finds are totally vibing but then you’re saying traditional now do you just mean being open to finding older style things, which I think would definitely feel bohemian. What I’m not seeing is how any of this translates to the renovation selections you’ve picked.

Do I think a shaker style front cabinet is a good idea? Yes. It’s very innocuous and can go lots of different ways. Do white cabinets yellow in the sun? They can, especially if they’re painted. If they are white cabinets that came from the store and they were white that might be okay for a longer amount of time. If you had them painted, then they will yellow very quickly. That being said, I think with this boho/traditional vibe, stark white isn’t the best fit, I think off white actually embraces both of those styles a little bit better. 

If you are changing the beams so that they’re a light wood color, sanding away the dark stain, that I’m not completely understanding why you’re doing a dark stained wood countertop, I would be much more inclined to do something gray or something that’s less dark especially because you’ve said that the ceilings are lower here that you don’t get a lot of natural light, which is the reason you’re doing the skylight so I really would shy away from such darkness. 

Additionally, I have an area of my kitchen on the island that has a butcher block top and I just hate it because my husband leaves his sodas there and it condensates. My kids wash their hands and water gets all over and they don’t wipe it up. I just worry so much about the staining and scarring that comes with a butcher block versus a natural or manmade stone, which I think would be a much better option. 

Now let’s talk about the hexagonal tiles. I love that you’re going back and thinking about what was there before and how can I replace it with something that keeps the spirit but again, I feel like you’re really losing opportunities to embrace the two words style that you’ve come up with. 

If you are going to sell in the next 5-7 years, maybe you want something more neutral because boho is kind of loud. Boho is a really in your face kind of style for the most part that not everyone is going to get behind so you might want to do something more neutral for your innovation, and then pop it with a bold backsplash or some fun accessories for the kitchen. If this is going to be your space for a long time, I don’t think that these tiles are giving me any sort of vibe, not traditional nor boho. I could see if maybe they were in a fun color or if they had a little bit of patterning if it was faded patterning, how that would really embrace the boho, but I’m not getting any sort of style word from this particular selection. 

Now let’s go to the chevron mother of pearl backsplash. Again, maybe the mother of pearl texture takes me somewhere traditional, but the chevron is quite contemporary. I think if I was going to go for something boho or traditional, I might do something with more of a curving style pattern than this harsh linear pattern. I could also see doing very traditional material like a subway tile, but maybe doing it in a crackle glaze in French blue. 

I just feel like you are not channeling your renovation selections through your two word phrase because maybe you’re not fully clear on that two word phrase. I would go back there and make sure I’m very clear. Instead of getting inspiration pictures that just feature one or two elements of the look you’re going for, I would try and find the kitchen that encapsulates everything that you’re looking for. 

Maybe create your two word phrase from there, because I’m feeling like you’re less married to the two word phrase, and more married to the elements that you’ve selected but how do they come together in a way that feels uniquely you? 

Bcause it’s a renovation, I think it’s well worth your time to go back to the drawing board before you lock some of these things in. Aren’t you glad you talked to me before you made these changes and can’t go back in time? I’m glad that you did. 








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