Orlando Soria's labor of love makes a beautiful blue debut. Tasked with renovating his parents' kitchen, the designer opted for a Crater Lake geometric backsplash and rich peacock island as a nod to his mother's favorite color. Read all about it below!
First, can you tell me a bit about yourself and what you do?
I'm an interior designer. Kind of. These days I'm doing mostly content (writing, on-camera appearances, social media, etc) but I still work with clients, usually just one at a time, to make their homes a beautiful reflection of their personalities. When people come into a client's home, I want them to think "Wow this house is so YOU." So I do my best to make sure that elements of their history, style, and identity are scattered throughout the house.
Tile Shown: Hexite in Crater Lake
Now, onto your parents home! Was this project a remodel or renovation? Is there a story behind this project you'd like to share?
It's quite a long story actually, starting with the house I grew up in. I grew up in a pretty humble house in Yosemite National Park. We LOVED living there, it's the most beautiful place on earth. But the one downside to the cute house I grew up in was its tiny kitchen, it always drove my mom crazy. So when my parents retired and moved to Sonoma County, they looked around for a house that had the space they needed to host family get togethers and a kitchen that was bigger than their old one. However, they were moving into a pretty expensive area and it was kind of slim pickings in terms of homes that met all their needs. So they ended up buying a big, bright house that, for unknown reasons, had an irritatingly small and unattractive kitchen.
Here's the kitchen before:
They moved in 2012, and I've been itching to renovate their kitchen since. So getting this project completed has been a dream come true. Finally after my whole life of my mom complaining about cooking in a microscopic kitchen I was able to design a large kitchen where (GASP!) multiple people can cook and clean at the same time. It's been a huge game changer for family gatherings.
Another look at the kitchen before:
How was it designing your parent's space vs. your own or other clients?
I wanted to make sure I was making both my parents happy, which can be challenging because they have totally different styles. My mom is more contemporary, modern while my dad is more traditional. Added to this was their house, which is kind of a schizophrenic style. It's a 70s modern house that was flipped to look more Spanish/traditional in 2012 before they bought it. So I was trying to meet both their needs while also doing something which made sense with their house, which was a tall order. My parents were pretty easy clients. We definitely clashed over a few decisions but ultimately they tried to give me the autonomy to make decisions and in exchange I tried my best to do something that was truly their style and made sense for them. So I'd find options and present them to them and let them make the final selection. Which is how we came to choose the beautiful Hexite tiles from Fireclay!
Orlando and his parents in their new kitchen:
How involved were they in the design process?
Very! They were living at the house and so they were always the first people to see things going in. Every choice that went into that space was ultimately passed by them first. On some things they were more involved (tile color, cabinet style, choosing bar stools) and on other stuff they didn't have as much an opinion on they just told me to do whatever I wanted.
What overall aesthetic were you going for in the home?
It's a bit hard to define, but I think the general vibe I'm going for is Transitional Traditional. The house has too many contemporary lines to go in a strictly traditional direction. My mother has very playful, fresh style. But my dad love older homes and more traditional design, so I wanted it to feel like a combination of the two. I also wanted it to be warm and inviting, so incorporating different finishes and materials was important.
Let's talk more about the kitchen. What were the goals for the space?
Space and storage, first and foremost. I wanted it to feel big in there and for there to be cabinet space for everything. Previously, my mom had figured out a very complicated, Tetris-style way of putting her countless kitchen gadgets away. So I wanted there to be a ton of cabinets where everything could be stored.
I also wanted there to be a good deal of prep space so that multiple people could cook in there at the same time, as well as a good deal of clearance so if there was more than one person in there they wouldn't feel crammed.
On to the tile: what made you choose the Hexite pattern? Were there any other contenders?
I love that the Hexite pattern feels really modern yet its shape is so fundamental that there's nothing super edgy about it. So it felt like the kind of tile that could be in the kitchen for years without looking dated or too "2018."
I also love that depending on how you look at it you might see triangles or hexagons. And the proportion was perfect for the kitchen, adding pattern and movement without making it look too busy. We seriously looked at the scallop pattern as well, but ultimately decided we wanted to do something a little more geometric for the kitchen.
How about the color Crater Lake?
My mom loves blue, so we knew we wanted a hue of blue. But we also wanted to do a contrasting color on the island, so it needed to be something that worked with that. Crater Lake ended up being the perfect color because it was so faint it contrasted nicely with the peacock blue of the island while still being a beautiful color in its own right. That finish is so luminous. While it is a beautiful color, it shimmers and brings so much depth to the room.
Here's a closer look at the peacock island and in case you're wondering (we were) the paint color is Olympus by Benjamin Moore:
Can you tell me about the trim you decided to use to finish the tile, as well as the window?
I'm not a huge fan of metal Schluter in more traditional kitchens, so we selected a beautiful edge piece for the the upper border of the tile. I love the structure it adds, giving the tile a sense of definition. I ended up adding a wood trim piece at the top because I wanted a stronger look and also wanted to protect the upper edge from chipping or being a place that was difficult to clean.
Orlando and his parents chose a 1x6 Flatliner Trim to cleanly finish their Hexite install:
We did a very simple 3/4" simple border around the window, which we liked so much that we plan on doing it throughout the house now.
How did the installation process go? Did you face any challenges?
We have a wonderful tile installer and the installation was a breeze because he really knew what he was doing. I had a very specific idea of how I wanted the tile installed (I wanted there to be three perfect rows stacked on top of each other without the tile being cut or compromising the triangle pattern) so I had to make sure to draw diagrams, take photos, provide measurements, and explain over and over what I wanted to make sure it turned out that way. But the installation was perfect and we LOVE how it turned out.
Lastly, you've worked with our tile a few times now, any tips you've learned about working with handmade tile you'd like to share?
The thing that makes Fireclay special, in addition to the fact that its made by talented artisans in a sustainable way BY HAND, is that each piece is unique. This means that the glaze, size, etc varies from tile to tile.
This can freak out an installer who has only ever worked with molded, mass produced tile because spacing is more challenging when there is slight variation in size. This seems like a big deal but as soon as you grout you can't tell, and even the slight differences in grout line, etc make the tile look more custom and beautiful.
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