One Room Challenge: Shell Kitchen
Design // Images: Erin Kestenbaum
With six weeks to tackle the One Room Challenge, designer and photographer Erin Kestenbaum knew our 2x8 Tile in Shell would perfectly complement her Connecticut home's historical roots. Check out today's blog to see more!
First can you tell me a bit about yourself and what you do? Where are you based?
I'm based in coastal Connecticut, and have been sharing the renovation of my 1940s Colonial home on my blog and Instagram for the past three years. My husband and I are super hands-on with the renovations, tackling almost everything ourselves, and are striving to make all our renovations look high-end and professional. We do our renovations during our nights and weekends, where I both work in marketing and shoot interior photography.
How did you hear about Fireclay Tile? What did you enjoy about the experience?
I heard about Fireclay from a friend who recently renovated her bathroom using Fireclay tile. I love the experience of looking at all the samples and imagining so many different directions our kitchen could take by using all the different tile options. I loved discovering all the different ways in which Fireclay tile can vary beyond just color, including the crazing and color variation between tiles of the same type.
Tile Shown: 2x8 in Shell
Why do you love tile?
I love that tile can completely change a space and brings a different texture into a room. I also love that selecting a non-trendy tile, like Fireclay tile, can last for decades within a home, without losing its freshness.
Can you tell me about your kitchen? Is there any story behind it and the project that you want to share? What did you change?
Upon touring our house for the first time, we immediately saw the potential in the space if we opened it up to the living room, but then spent the next few years trying to decide on the perfect layout that would support a kitchen that would function effectively. The original kitchen was brown all-over, and felt incongruous with the rest of our home aesthetically.
Here's the kitchen before:
We wanted our new kitchen to be airy, light and bright. To achieve that, we expanded the opening between our kitchen and dining room into a big cased opening, pushed back one of the other walls to allow us to sink a fridge and pantry, which effectively allowed us the width in the kitchen to add a long island.
Here's the kitchen after:
For better day-to-day functionality, our island features a tabletop with seating for four, for comfortable daily meals. We also added a window where we previously had a pantry to bring more light into the space. We ran hardwoods into the kitchen, refinished all our floors, and added new cabinetry, appliances, lighting and of course, Fireclay Tile.
Can you tell me a bit about the One Room Challenge? What does it entail and how did you get involved? What made you choose to feature your kitchen?
Twice a year, twenty designers are invited to transform a space over the course of six weeks. You document your progress on your blog every Wednesday during the challenge. Guests are invited to participate too, sharing their progress on Thursdays. It's a very supportive event, that has pushed me to complete many rooms in our home over the years.
Here's their master bedroom from a previous year's challenge:
I chose the kitchen this time around because the timing aligned well with the structural work we had just completed on our main floor to support the new kitchen footprint, and we wanted to push ourselves to complete the kitchen as quickly as possible, as we had already been without a kitchen for nearly two months before the start of the One Room Challenge.
What type of look or aesthetic were you going for?
I wanted the kitchen to feel bright and airy, but still grounded in the era of the home. We wanted the kitchen to feel like a warm spot within the home that featured both traditional and modern design, for a fresh balance.
How did you come up with your color scheme and design?
My husband loves colour and out of the gate nixed all neutral cabinetry colours, so while on a trip to London, I kept getting drawn to the blue-greens on a lot of the doors I saw. When I returned home, I ordered some cabinetry samples and fell in love with a blue-green-gray colour.
The colour scheme stemmed for the cabinetry, where I wanted to use a bright carrara marble on the counters, and then warm that up with a warm white tile. For the design, I opted for inset cabinetry and a glossy black range, opting to panel almost all the other appliances to keep the focus on the cabinetry, range, and tile.
Why did you choose 2x8 tiles in Shell? Were there any other contenders?
I love that Shell has a lot of tonal variation, the crazing that reminds me of old houses with original tile, and a soft, warmth in colour.
Tile Shown: 2x8 in Shell
It was the perfect tile to warm up our kitchen. I love the 2x8 size because it feels historical, and helps to elongate the space but doesn't overwhelm the space.
We also looked at Gardenia and Olympic Brick, which were also gorgeous options. We ruled out the brick because the added thickness would have come too close to matching the depth of our window casing.
How did the installation process go? Did you face any challenges? Did you work with a tile installer or contractor?
Having tiled several bathrooms in our home already, we installed the tile ourselves with little issue. The two biggest challenges was deciding where to lay the first two rows in order to avoid slivers of tile while tiling up around two large windows, and the second challenge was making lots of cuts around said windows and outlets. Otherwise, it was one of our easiest installs.
How was designing for your own home? Lessons learned?
Designing for my own home wasn't too challenging, as I gave myself the time (years, really), to figure out exactly how I wanted our kitchen to function and feel, which is the most challenging part. Once we nailed down the cabinetry, everything else came together fairly naturally.
There were a few decisions I tried to talk myself out of taking, like spending extra on a paneled built-in fridge, that I'm so happy I went through with, because they allow your focus to land on the beautiful elements of the kitchen: the cabinetry, the countertops, the tile, the range, etc. and not to spend much time on the items that are naturally less beautiful, like a fridge or dishwasher.
What are your 3 best design tips?
1 - Don't just follow what's on trend or what everyone else is doing, make decisions that you truly love and they will stand the test of time.
2 - A space doesn't need to be 100% completed, leave some blank spaces so that when you find a great piece of art, or ceramic, or something else that really resonates with you, that there's room to add those layers over time.
3 - Every room needs a little black, contrast is key and will keep your eye moving around a space.
What Fireclay products are you dying to use in future projects?
I have my eye on some gorgeous Venetian Green or Boundary Waters in a 2x8 size for the adjacent bathroom that we unexpectedly need to gut in this kitchen renovation (old house problems!)
Inspired by this kitchen? Order color samples online now. Need some help? Simply call, chat or fill out our Design Assistance Formand one of our talented Design Consultants will get back to you shortly.