A kitchen transformation, 8 of 8: lighting and finishes

April Dykman | Improvement Center Columnist | March 2, 2015

In 1904, the new New York subway system was unveiled, with platforms covered in white, rectangular tile, which came to be known as "subway tile."

Soon the tile came out of the subway underground and into our homes. And in 2013, it went into mine.

White subway tile is a great choice in the kitchen because it looks crisp, and it's easy to clean. This is probably why you see the stuff in so many restaurants.

So while I was still off painting the bedrooms, my husband learned how to tile. Then we grouted with a dark grey grout, which took 5 or 6 hours. We finished at 1:30 a.m., three hours past my bedtime.

Tip: Because we used white subway tile as a backsplash, we chose a dark-colored grout, which won't show stains, like splashes of tomato sauce

Subway tile backsplash

The plaster of Venice

The tile was done, but we still had more wall space to finish.

Dad had the great idea to incorporate more of the barn wood, using it as wainscoting. Done. I love barn wood as much as I love subway tile.

Then, for the rest of the wall space, we applied Vella Venetian plaster in a color that I call "fresh cream," both because it looks like cream and because it sounds better than its actual name, V4. Vella Venetian plaster is a polished plaster, an updated form of a traditional Italian plaster. You apply two coats using a trowel, then buff a waxy finish over it.

Plaster of Venice

It's hard to tell in the photos, but there's a texture there. Dad favors it because he says it makes the room feel warm, unlike cement plaster, which has a cold feel.

Going with the grain

For the ceiling, we decided to use wood planks, painting them with a whitewash to let the grain and knots show through. I soon discovered that no on the Internet seems to agree on how to make a whitewash. Some say mix one part paint to one part water, some say one to two. Or three or four.

wood plank ceiling installation

So I did a test swatch and decided on one part paint to two parts water. I spent a few evenings painting the boards, and up and onto the ceiling they went.

Light it up, up, up

Once the ceiling was done, we needed some lights.

We knew we wanted two pendant lights over the island. The only problem was that every light I liked turned out to be $200+. (Restoration Hardware, why are you such a tease?!)

So when I saw the "Warehouse Shade Pendant" by NUVO Lighting, I immediately ordered two. At $42 each, they had the industrial feel we wanted. Plus, Edison light bulbs. Enough said.

Over the kitchen sink is the "Cage Pendant Light" by The Home Decorators, an impulse buy at Home Depot.

This is the end?

Renovated kitchen

And with that, the kitchen was done. So far we've hosted Sunday dinners, I've baked pies, and we've had family members gathered around every square inch of the island, eating pasta and drinking wine.

We can't think of a single thing we'd change. But I do think that our empty corner needs an antique corner cupboard.

The search begins…


kitchen transformation part 1, planning and budgeting

kitchen transformation part 2, demolition

kitchen transformation part 3, cabinets

kitchen transformation part 4, appliances

kitchen transformation part 5, countertops

kitchen transformation part 6, the island

kitchen transformation, part 7, tiling

About the Author

April Dykman is a writer who specializes in real estate, personal finance, and entrepreneurship. Her work has been featured on MSNBC, Fox Business, Forbes MoneyBuilder, Inc. Magazine, and Yahoo! Finance.