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Easy Upgrade?

One of the reasons we fell in love with our home was the kitchen. We were instantly wooed by the granite countertops, cabinet space, and for once in our Chicago-lives, room to cook. But since moving in, we’ve painted the walls Behr’s Honeydew, which probably doesn’t offer too much cohesion with the rest of the pad. And most recently, you may remember that we pumped it up a notch or two with a lovely light fixture, but that’s where the kitchen evolution stopped.

We’ve discussed tiling a subway style backsplash (white, crisp, and clean), installing under cabinet lighting, and simply adding some knobs to the contractor-bare cabinetry. But with a seemingly growing list of “to dos”, we’ve actually found ourselves with deer-in-headlights syndrome as we consider the possibilities. Here’s how you know our kitchen now:

So we had a thought; a quick fix of sorts. Playing off of the black and white geometric pattern in our drum shade, the hubs suggested a chalkboard backsplash (for fun and drama) and ultra white walls (for light and bright). The white would be seen above the cabinets and trailing down to the left of the photo, stopping where the chalkboard began. Now that’s something I can be on board with. I whipped up a just-for-kicks Photoshop representation to get an idea of how that might look:

We want to know what you think. Is the black paint too dark? Is chalk too messy where we prep our food? Or, perhaps, is it just fun enough to work?

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  • Amanda10.13.10 - 7:53 AM

    I personally think it’s too dark, and too messy. Subway tiles would look nice, but I also have a thing for Subway tiles. ;)ReplyCancel

  • Susan @ Jubilee Furniture10.13.10 - 7:55 AM

    First off, let me admit that I am not the most creative person (I voted “no” to you painting that cool camera – which now that I mention it – did you ever paint?). My knee jerk reaction is I don’t love the chalkboard backsplash – but I don’t hate it either! I just imagine it would actually be a little awkward to write on and what exactly would the point be? Since I have to take my grocery list with me to the store – I would have to recopy anything I wrote on the chalkboard again on a pad on paper (but then remember I’m OLD – almost 52!)…

    I think I wrote this in my whether-or-not-to-paint-the-camera response – if anyone can do it and make it look fabulous it’s you and Scott!ReplyCancel

    • Kim10.13.10 - 9:44 AM

      Thank you for the feedback so far!

      Susan, I did not paint the camera yet, due to the overwhelming “NO” response. I’d still love to, and I was a bit shocked that so many people disagreed. My mom actually agrees with me, which made me feel better, but I just can’t seem to make up my mind now. Hmm.ReplyCancel

  • Jen@letsmakeitours10.13.10 - 8:09 AM

    I think it is kind of a cool idea! If you want to avoid the mess, just use chalkboard pens instead of traditional chalk! We are about to paint a huge chalkboard wall in our kitchen/dining area and I plan on only buying the pens to avoid all the dust.ReplyCancel

  • Lauren at Trim NYC10.13.10 - 8:20 AM

    DO IT! I love subway tile, but I also love, love, love chalkboard paint. You can always tile later, but I think it’s really fun to have a chalkboard wall, especially in the kitchen. I painted one in my last apartment and my current place. I also think the black gives it some sophistication and looks quite crisp with your dark counter tops.ReplyCancel

  • Kat10.13.10 - 9:07 AM

    I think it might be a bit too dark and I second what Susan said about being a little too awkward to actually write anything on and then clean afterwards. I do like the idea of maybe painting it a different color than the rest of the room to give the appearance of some sort of backsplash without the expense of actual tile. Maybe stripes? Dunno..i’m not any kind of expert on design so I think whatever you end up doing with it will look great.ReplyCancel

  • Jane @ The Borrowed Abode10.13.10 - 9:42 AM

    I think it’s an awesome idea, love the look in the mock-up. I do like the black and white because you have a lot of color everywhere else. I do agree that it could be awkward to write on the walls, but if you only write a few things, like cute messages, it would be fun!

    And if your dream is to still eventually tile it in (which would rock), then why not have fun with some chalkboard paint in the mean time?ReplyCancel

  • Mary Ann10.13.10 - 10:25 AM

    I think it would be very fun. I don’t think the black would be too dark either because you’d have whatever chalk drawings and messages on it, plus the warm color of the cabinets and the bright white elsewhere. Can’t wait to see what you decide!ReplyCancel

  • reb10.13.10 - 10:54 AM

    DO IT!! It just looks so so good in the mock-up. If it ends up being too dark you could always maybe try lightening the paint up?ReplyCancel

  • RocketGirl10.13.10 - 10:57 AM

    I think the grocery list would be fine there–we write our list in dry erase on the side of the refrigerator, and transcribing the list isn’t a big deal (plus we don’t ever have to look for the list!). I think it’s a little dark (would green work?).

    I also think that under-the-cabinet lighting would go a long way in brightening the darkness–maybe add a little light under there to see how it looks? We have lighting under a lot of our shelves, and it’s a small task–just a little mini-fluorescent and some screws. And it’s totally worth it because it expands the room quite a bit.ReplyCancel

  • Kim10.13.10 - 11:13 AM

    RocketGirl, you’re so right about the under cabinet lighting. With that dark paint, a row of small lights would make such a huge difference. Maybe that’s something worth looking in to sooner than tiling a backsplash!ReplyCancel

  • Amanda10.13.10 - 11:19 AM

    Glad you answered the camera question- I’ve been wondering :-)

    I like the chalkboard paint. It will be a fun thing to have in the meantime before you tile. It may be a little awkward to write on, but I can totally see one of you drawing something really awesome that would stay there for a long time.

    The second thing I would do is the under cabinet lighting. It would really brighten up the chalkboard paint and highlight that quirky part of your kitchen.

    THEN tile (if you feel like it). HahaReplyCancel

  • Chris10.13.10 - 12:02 PM

    Scott and Kim – I feel like I can chime in here given that Angela and I have a chalkboard wall in our place. While I do love the look and the idea of having a wall to write on, it is a pain in the ass to deal with. It’s SUPER messy, it’s hard to clean (although, I’m actually starting to embrace that; the not-perfectly whiped surface is kinda cool), and as much fun as it is to say that you’ll use it, you probably won’t.

    Our original idea was to use it as more of an always-evolving art installation piece, so maybe if you just used it for fun notes and lists, you might get more use out of it. Erasing the entire wall and doing something large and new (like we occassionaly do) can turn into an all-Saturday project. Just my two cents. I have extra paint if you want to try a small area as a test subject : )


    • Kim10.13.10 - 1:55 PM

      Chris, do you know what brand of paint you and Angela used? The brand we use here at the studio is very easy to clean and I do agree with you – I’m kind of loving the smudgey, wiped look we get after the kids doodle. Thanks for your input! All those points are things we need to consider.ReplyCancel

  • Katie10.13.10 - 12:04 PM

    I loooove the look of the chalkboard paint! I think it’s very striking, and I love any sort of chalkboard in the kitchen. I don’t think it’s too dark at all – on the contrary, I think it lends a cleanness to the whole space which opens it up. I say go for it! If it doesn’t work out, you can always tile over.ReplyCancel

  • Ashley10.13.10 - 12:52 PM

    I’m gonna go ahead and vote for black tile instead of chalkboard paint. Chalk/chalkboard in general makes my skin crawl :) I do like the white paint above the cabinets tho!ReplyCancel

  • jodi10.13.10 - 2:50 PM

    oooh! love the mock-up. and you could always do that magnetic chalkboard paint, so you could use little magnets to hang up shopping lists and recipes as needed.ReplyCancel

  • Kate@TwentySixToLife10.13.10 - 3:21 PM

    Hm, I love the idea of this but I’m not sure that it’s really practical either. Actually writing on it might be pretty awkward. I think it’s a little dark too, but you can have the paint tinted a different color if you want. The idea of using magnetic paint is great too!ReplyCancel

  • Kalli10.13.10 - 3:45 PM

    In the mockup the white paint doesn’t do that much for me. Maybe you could continue the aqua paint from the adjacent wall above the cabinets. Underneath I agree with Kim that after you’ve smudged some chalk into it and it gets that less than perfect, more charcoal than flat black look, it might be cool.

    A tiled backsplash can be pretty if you find tile with a neat shape/pattern for some character, and it would brighten the kitchen with a little shine from reflecting off your windows opposite. But you’d have to keep in mind all the labor and effort you’d have to expend if you want to get rid of it later. Paint is so much faster : )

    My artsy-crafty idea would be that you could “tile” the space under the cabinets with photos, filling up the space with (all black and white toned) photos of friends, family, yourselves or all places you’ve been, then cover and protect the photos with long panels of plexi screwed into the walls. If you did that I’d still recommend aqua paint above; the photos would sort of relate to the black and white fixture; and you would definitely need to do the under-cabinet lighting (probably continuous rather than spots.)ReplyCancel

  • Lucy W.10.13.10 - 3:45 PM

    If you paint 2 layers of the magnetic paint and let it dry then paint the chalkboard paint, it will have dual function of chalkboard/magnet surface.ReplyCancel

  • Cait @ Hernando House10.13.10 - 4:37 PM

    Personally I’d be a little too chicken to try the chalkboard paint, but then, if you hate it you can always change it (or tile over it) whereas if you end up not liking the tile it’d be a lot more work to undo. If you do go the tile route, I love the look of white subway tile and black grout, and that would kind of mimick your light.

    I think Ikea recently came out with fairly inexpensive LED under-cabinet lighting (right after my parents bought some from somewhere else, of course) instead of just the halogen options they had before. I REALLY want to use some in our kitchen soon.ReplyCancel

  • chrystie10.13.10 - 5:04 PM

    YES! Do it!! It’s going to look great! You seem to get enough light in that room to not have to worry about it being too dark.
    Yay, I love the idea!



  • Tony10.13.10 - 6:40 PM

    It may be a bit on the dark side. Green might work better. As an alternative, and if you’re worried about a chalky mess, you could go with Melamine sheets from home depot to make a dry-erase whiteboard.ReplyCancel

  • Lori10.14.10 - 12:22 PM

    I painted our coat closet doors with chalk paint, it is strikingly different because of the texture and tone of the black paint. It adds depth and texture, which is great for this area of your kitchen. Plus it is a fun element to one of the main gathering rooms in a home. Quick project done in an evening.ReplyCancel

    • Kim10.14.10 - 12:34 PM

      Lori, this is great advice! Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Mrslimestone10.14.10 - 6:38 PM

    I didn’t read all the comments above so someone has probably alread mentioned this but what about painting chalkboard paint above your cabinets? I think that would look a bit more modern than the white. You could write some fun little recipes or cute quotes about eating and just erase when you are sick of them.

    Anywho – just a thought.ReplyCancel

  • Umbrella Island10.14.10 - 8:58 PM

    Let’s not consider the fact that I love you kitchen’s looks now.
    I agree with others, I think it would become too dark and in the picture you photoshopped in my opinion there are too many wall colors: green, black and white, plus the brown of the cabinets.
    I think your idea of the chalkboard paint is brilliant and I love it. Maybe if you keep all the walls green and only the chalkboard part in black it could work. Or even have the chalkboard of some other color as already suggested so to light up the counter area.ReplyCancel

  • heather10.14.10 - 9:53 PM

    i vote don’t do it.ReplyCancel

  • Leslie10.15.10 - 1:28 PM

    I agree with Mrs. Limestone—go for chalkboard as a backsplash AND above the cabinets! It seems like you have a nice big window right there, and with some added under-cabinet lights, I don’t think it’ll be too dark. I personally want to paint my kitchen cabinets chalkboard, but we’re renting & will be moving in a few months, so it doesn’t seem worth it.ReplyCancel

  • Dana @ Bungalow'5610.18.10 - 11:01 AM

    Blackboard looks great, and it doesn’t have to be chalk messy. Starbuck’s uses chalk markers to get a nice clean chalk look that can still be wiped off. I can get them at Michael’s in Canada. I’ve been told the only draw back is they run out quickly. Looks like chalk but without the dust.

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