Whenever I reach out to a designer for a potential home tour or a new contributor I’ve never met I get a little star-struck. As I am writing the first DM or email, I can feel the adrenaline and slight nausea taking over. It’s completely comical but I mean, who wants to be cool and collected all the time?? I guess not me. Ha! So when I first caught a glimpse of artist, Katie Sarokhanian’s DIY ORC kitchen, I DMed her immediately asking if she would consider letting us show off her insanely brilliant kitchen (y’all just look at that first photo!). And you can bet I was holding my breath as I hit send because this kitchen is what imagination, a love of design, and some real DIY confidence can produce. So basically magic.
Katie will give you the whole story about this kitchen but ultimately what was originally supposed to be a non-DIY kitchen reno, was flipped on its head because the pandemic hit. So instead of letting herself get defeated, she did it on her own at night while her kids were asleep. I only dream of that kind of productivity! Ok, enough from me, here is Katie answering my 100 questions about her totally special kitchen…
Did you have any specific inspirations for these two spaces?
My inspiration comes from my love of the old world European design, like an English countryside manor, but ironically fused with a funky sculpture from the 1980s. A tension lies there, but a happy one for me.
Are you a “plan everything out before” kind of designer or “play as you go”?
I’m a play as I go designer, and a play as I go person. I’m terrible at making life plans, and, likewise, it feels unnatural to make design plans. For me, creating a room and a home is more like an ebb and flow of “eureka moments” and “let’s-just-try-it-out failures” that organically, eventually, (and perhaps melodramatically), grow into a comprehensive design.
Did you always plan on a pink and mustard color palette?
Not at all! I had lived with some cabinets and pink lower walls in the kitchen for a few months, and I knew I loved the color in there. So I just continued the pink. The mustard yellow ceiling was a completely last-minute decision (actually it was the last thing I did in the kitchen!), and I decided on yellow after sitting and staring brooding, and thinking that the room needed some pizazz. I used my artist acrylic paints, to mix a yellow that I liked on pieces of paper, and then brought the paper to the store to have color matched.
Umm GENIUS! And talk about a hot tip.
As an artist is it crucial to have your space be inspiring to you or do you look at it more as an expression of your artistic self?
I think that the answer is both! Though, I am not sure that the decor of my home is completely an expression of myself. At least I hope it’s not! Perhaps as a whole it might tell you a bit about me, but I prefer to include a lot of things in my home that are an expression of another person or of another time. For instance, choosing art by an artist unlike myself, old furniture made in a time I never lived, artifacts of past decades that I only have read about or seen in movies. The culmination of which inspires me; it all together instills a sense of wonder. What was that artist thinking when they painted that? Sculpted that? Designed that? And who bought this antique chest, and what did they put in it? What was the artist thinking when she weaved the colorful story into this antique Persian rug all those years ago?
More importantly, I want this symphony of human creativity (to make an overly grand description of the decor in my house), to instill a sense of wonder in my children. The house that makes the background of their young lives becomes the fabric of their happy, golden-hued childhood memories. It shapes the way they think, and the way that they view the world, and perhaps shapes what beauty they will pursue in their life. I can still remember what my wallpaper looked like in my childhood bedroom, the furniture, and the sound of the creaks in the floorboard, even after all these years. A home becomes a part of you, no matter what.
More than anything, I want my children’s home to give them that– to make them wonder about the deeper things of this world, and to marvel at the beautiful things of this world. I firmly believe that interior design is an art, and what could make people wonder about the world more than being surrounded by beautiful art? For instance, consider the tile on the wall of the kitchen, with the different marbles and onyx and the contrasting arch. I want my kids to look at that and to wonder what marble it is, to wonder where it comes from, to ask why it has lines and different colors and striations. I tell them that marble is beautiful because it has suffered. It is beautiful because it endured periods of intense pressure and periods of peace, it was made from ordinary limestone that suffered through intense pressure and fire. I explain how there are small impurities in the calcite of limestone, that, though they are impurities, metamorphose into beautiful colors, but only after undergoing intense pressure while growing under the earth. So, when my children eat breakfast and stare at that marble wall their weird mom made, I want them to remember that there is beauty in suffering, and I want them to remember that their whole lives. So–yes, I firmly hope and believe the design of a home can be inspiring!
What was the intention behind your wonderful scallop details? Was it to add some extra whimsy, are scallops a motif in your home elsewhere, or do you just like them and wanted to add them into the design?
I saw a scalloped, metal, vintage range hood in a fabulous designer’s kitchen on Instagram (@astridreifer). I scoured the internet and the flea markets for a long time looking for a similar one to use in my kitchen, but I never found one. So, thus, the scallop trim idea was born.
I know you are an incredible artist but for the scallop border did you freehand paint them or use a stencil?
First, for one side of the trim, I tried to use a compass, tracing with a pencil then going back with an angled paintbrush, and it worked well! But it was terribly monotonous and boring. So, I free-handed the rest. It turns out I liked the look of it being almost perfect, better than looking perfect. (Or perhaps I’m just making an excuse for my laziness.)
Were you able to do basically whatever you personally wanted or were there choices that the family chimed in on?
In a moment of creative rage against a kitchen I did not love, I splatter-painted the kitchen floors red about 6 months prior (and when my husband was out of town!). I absolutely loved the red floors. My husband did not. Our compromise was that I got to remodel the kitchen myself if I returned the floors to walnut-stained hardwood. Or, as my husband called it, “normal kitchen floors that normal people have’.
It looks like you DIYed everything! Is that true or did you hire out for anything?
I hired out the fabrication and installation of the quartz countertops. That was all! The rest was me, after the kids went to bed. (And my husband helped too!)
I am in total awe.
What is the story behind your floors? I know that in your dining room you did that awesome splatter paint design. Did the kitchen have that same flooring? What was the replacement process like?
I know I already touched on this, as I explained the marital compromise on the kitchen over the choice of flooring but if I knew how grueling the restoration of the wood floors was going to be, I might not have agreed to do it! I still get horrid flashbacks whenever I hear the sound of a drum sander… The whole process involved scraping the paint, renting a commercial floor sander to finish, and spending way too many hours trying to strip the stubborn bits of paint remaining under the toe kicks. Then staining, and sealing.
So you seemed to have kept all of your original appliances. Did you vinyl wrap all of them?
The fridge is painted (I did that a few years ago using self-etching primer, matte black paint, and a brass towel rack.) On the oven, I used vinyl cling, in matte black, and a brass grab bar.
How did you install the brass handles to your appliances?
Both times, I just made sure to search for a replacement handle that had the same hole-to-hole measurement as the original appliance handle. For the oven, it was super simple and easy. On the fridge, the bottom freezer handle, although the right hole-to-hole measurement, would keep getting loose because it would be pulled up and out, and the upward motion was not designed for a towel rack. So I just used a bit of epoxy and added two small matching brass screws, and screwed them right into the fridge door. It has been over two years and still solidly attached!
I read on your blog that you had to replace/add some cabinetry. Was it hard to find the matching cabinet fronts to our original cabinetry so you decided to really make them different with the shapes? Or did you always want to add the shapes to some for the cabinetry?
I took out the upper cabinets over both sinks and removed the soffit that went all the way around the kitchen. The cabinets over the oven I mostly kept, but they needed new doors, and new cabinets to replace the space left when I removed the soffit. I don’t know why I added the shapes, it just seemed a bit boring with the slab doors. I always loved the mid-century brutalist dressers and credenzas, and that’s what I was thinking of when adding the shapes. I tried a lot of different renditions before deciding on the circles and arches. This house was also built in the 1980s, and I wanted to give a nod to that.
What tool did you use to cut out all of those amazing shapes (on the cabinets and scalloped hood trim?)
My eyes are so wonderfully overwhelmed with each incredible detail but your marble walls are just, well I don’t have the words to describe my love for them. In terms of the process, how did you go about breaking up the pieces and installing them onto your wall?
I installed the tile as you would normally, with mortar and grout. But I made the tile by breaking square tiles apart with a rubber mallet (several at a time), grinding the sharpest parts with an angle grinder if necessary, and adding them piece by piece. Not at all methodically. It was adding one shape here, then one shape way on the other side, then waiting until the right piece broke in just the right way to fit it where it belonged. It took a long time, and made a big mess, but it was so much fun. It felt a lot more like an art installation than a home improvement DIY.
What was the grouting process like and what kind of grout did you use?
I used large format tile mapei grout with the pink marble in a sand color, and used white mortar with the other marble (the same that I used to glue the tiles to the wall.) I did that because there were some larger gaps between the tiles that regular grout may have not done well with because the white mortar looks more natural to me than the colorants added to grout, and I because had to sand down the whole wall after installation (because of the irregular shape and thickness of the tiles), then seal it all together afterward so I knew the mortar would be sealed.
Now I only ask this because I know our readers are going to want to know how do you keep the marble clean, mainly behind the stove. Is it pretty low maintenance?
I hope so! I jest, but yes, it’s all sealed and easy to wipe down. Someone once sent me a photo from Pompeii, Italy, of a centuries-old room with this kind of marble installation. Needless to say, my backsplash will probably last a good while. I had previously laid marble tile in the same manner on a floor in my bathroom, and it’s very durable and easy to clean, even with my rambunctious children, dog, and cat.
What made you want to do your natural wood accent nook?
I’ve always drooled over a deVol kitchen (their New York showroom) that had a shelf and rod set up like this, so I tried to recreate my version of it. My instinct was to paint it all, but I think the natural wood adds a more masculine look in contrast to more feminine-feeling pink and brass. Not to mention it is an incredibly useful set-up for my busy kitchen.
I’m also pretty obsessed with your plaster pendant and may need to make one of my own. For a medium level DIYer would you say it’s pretty doable? Any tips?
For sure doable! I had no idea what I was doing and just went with it using the materials I had on hand. Since then, I’ve played with other plaster sculptures, and if I did it again I would use a product called Plaster Cloth, which would be way easier, faster, and less messy.
Is the awesome swan faucet (?) vintage? It’s SO cool!
No, I bought new! Found on Amazon actually, and it is great quality. It is a normal faucet, and we had to make some changes to make it work for our water filter line, but it was worth it.
Were there any ideas you had to shift or compromise due to the quarantine?
This was originally going to be a complete gut-job on the kitchen. But since COVID happened, we couldn’t make a remodel happen. So it was either push it back a couple of years or do it myself. It took a bit longer to get building the materials, since I ordered it all online–even the lumber– but a lot of what I used I had on hand or could order delivered.
What was the biggest challenge/undertaking of the kitchen?
Definitely the wood floors! I would rather spend a year doing nothing but installing marble tile on the floors piece by tiny piece, than sand and restore wood floors again.
Do you have a favorite part?
The marble is what I’m most proud of, but the shelves and brass kitchen rod wall has been the most life-changing. It organizes everything I need to prep every snack and meal, and looks beautiful too.
I know you used so much vintage but if possible would you be able to share any of the resources you used. Paint colors, stain color, hardware, lighting, etc? Also the wood shelves and brass hook and rod storage:)
The wood wall can all be found on my blog post here with linked sources (scroll to the end of the post.) Otherwise…
The Pink paint is Rosewater by Behr
Pendants are West Elm
Marble tile is from Floor and Decor
Sinks are black granite from Amazon
Campaign Hardware is from Home Depot
Is there anything you would want to change down the road?
Eventually, I want to replace the old appliances if they ever break, but until they do I’m satisfied with the way they look. I need to fix some paint and drywall work now that it’s all said and done and I notice the imperfections… but otherwise, it turned out to be my dream kitchen that I never actually dreamed of!
What would you say the over budget came out to for this?
It’s hard to say, since a lot of the materials I already had (most of the lumber, even about half of the marble tile I had leftover.)
But with materials I did buy, (stock pantry cabinet box, tile, wood, renting the floor sander, paint and stain and installation materials, lumbar, sinks and new faucets) it cost me about $1800, plus the cost of the countertops and installation, which was $1900.
Lastly, I am in utter awe that you not only completed this insanely beautiful and creative kitchen while under quarantine in eight weeks but ALSO while needing to be a parent. I live alone and after nearly three years only have half of my apartment done. Any tips?
Oh easy! I just ignored my children for a couple of months. (I’m joking!)
People ask me all the time, and I honestly don’t know the answer, I just do it! I don’t watch TV hardly ever, and I cut out showering and sleeping, and that helped a lot. But in all seriousness, when life gets more challenging (and it definitely was more challenging once the kids had to be kept home from school and learn online via me and we couldn’t hire childcare, inter alia,) I think it is in those times when creativity is needed the most. Working on the kitchen gave me the much needed creative outlet that allowed me to get through the first couple months of the pandemic– in fact, I don’t think I could have done it all without the kitchen remodel. “The kitchen that Coronavirus built!”, or something like that.
Jess Again! All I have to say is that obviously Katie is an artistic superhuman. I can’t thank her enough for letting us make everyone’s Monday better by featuring her kitchen. And I don’t know you, but all I can think about is where can I put a marble mosaic in my apartment?? Happy Monday everyone.
Love you, mean it.