Finding Your Perfect Slab

There are few things in our new house that I am more excited about than our countertops. From the very inception of our new home, the vision was driven by picture perfect kitchens on pinterest which centered, of course, around a show-stopping countertop.

I was originally disappointed by our builder’s selection of countertops but decided on classic carrara marble. Yes, I know that they can be fussy. And so, to balance that out, we decided to use a more durable dark granite around the cooktop because we know it will be impossible to keep that area clean. Again, our builder had a small selection and so we settled on something called Impala Black for our kitchen surround.

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Interior Design by blackmana – App Review

Have you ever wanted to make an EXACT, to scale, blueprint of your future house so that you can plan out furniture placement, decor, and paint colors? I have! Which is why I started looking for iPad apps that would help me do this very thing.

Interior Design by blackmana is $8.99 in the App Store. This is by no means trivial. I normally only download free apps, and I will only actually purchase apps if I happen to have an iTunes gift card. I just so happened to have such a gift card. Even so, I think this is well worth it if making a replica of your home is important to you. This app has close to no in-app purchases and everything from furniture to textures to materials are included.

Let’s talk about the different features of the app. There are three different views.

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Marble Paradise

Countertops are perhaps one of the most important things to me and my kitchen. Our house features a huge 60 sq ft island in the middle of the open plan kitchen and therefore it will be the centerpiece of our primary living space. My first visit to the design center produced mixed results in terms of countertops. The only option that they had that I was in any way happy with was carrara marble. But all I was given was a little 6”x8” swatch that really tells you nothing about a slab of natural stone. Leaving the design center with little confidence on the countertop options, I knew I would have to take things into my own hands.

After some internet searching I found a countertop fabricator in the Houston area that had a showroom and also happened to carry Blanco sinks. So I was able to accomplish two things at once. American Countertop Fabricators were extremely helpful and taught us a lot about what really goes into a kitchen countertop. One thing we learned, most edges, bullnose, beveled, waterfall, were free. This was something that our builder plans to charge us for. Haha, not anymore!

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Choosing Kitchen Appliances, With No Help from the Internet

I have discovered that the internet is the worst place for Appliance reviews. Did you know that according to the internet, every dishwasher is “without hesitation, the worst dishwasher you will ever buy”? There are no good ones. None whatsoever. And if anyone ever tells you it’s a good one, they are being paid off by the manufacturer. It’s completely ridiculous.

So I really have no choice but to go with features and looks and roll the dice. My house builder is partnered with electrolux, so I am limited in that way. But I can pick any electrolux/frigidaire appliances that I want. This is what I have decided to go with:

Dishwasher: Electrolux 24” Built-In Dishwasher with IQ Controls (E124ID50QS)

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I chose this dishwasher over the Frigidaire (FPID2497RF) for a few reasons. First, because of the third rack. I am in love with the idea of a third rack because where do you put all of the wooden spoons, spatulas, etc? Usually they end up crowding my glass space on the top row, but with a third rack, this becomes a problem of the past.

Second, true stainless steel. Frigidaire has a “feature” called smudge-proof stainless steel. The problem is that this is not the same color as actual stainless steel. So unless you plan on your entire kitchen being Frigidaire, your appliances won’t match. If you’re the type of person that reads that last sentence and thinks I’m crazy, then maybe you won’t care. Even as I write it, I find myself sounding a little crazy, but what I can I say. I’m a little obsessive about my future kitchen.

Now, according to the actual review on Reviewed.com, this dishwasher won dishwasher of the year in 2014. According to the comments on reviewed.com, this dishwasher is the worst on the planet. But then again, according to all comments online, every dishwasher is the worst on the planet. So just like every other first time appliance buyer out there, I am completely confused so I’m going to make a blind guess. Thanks a lot internet.

Double Wall Ovens: Electrolux 30” Electric Double Wall Oven with IQ-Touch Controls (EI30EW45PS)

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I chose this dishwasher again over the Frigidaire (FGET3065PF), a much cheaper version of essentially the same thing. But there were a few features that won me over about the Electrolux:

1.) Easy glide oven racks. So with very little effort, you can glide the racks in and out. Sounds like a small thing, but with double ovens, the top oven is usually at a pretty awkward angle when you are trying to put things in or out. Or when you are trying to put a tester toothpick in a cake. If you bake a lot, this is a must have feature in my opinion.

2.) Blue interior. Yes this is irrational. I am aware of this. But the way I explain this irrational desire is that what I really wanted was the KitchenAid True Convection Double Oven (KODE507ESS) and it is also blue inside. These two ovens actually have a lot of similarities in features so I guess I’m trying to fool myself into thinking that I got my first choice.

(Kitchen aid pictured below, pretty close right?)

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3.) Built in Temperature Probe. I’ve never used a meat thermometer before. I usually just follow the recipe and hope that whatever I am making doesn’t come out undercooked. Usually a fine approach for beef, possibly disastrous for poultry. So the built in temperature probe in the electrolux is my new must-have that I have never actually had.

Cooktop: Electrolux Icon 36” Gas Slide-In Cooktop

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Let me start by how I decided on what kind of Cooktop I wanted. I grew up using Gas. I suffered through Electric in college and in multiple apartments. I am ready to go back to Gas. For me, it is easier to control, easier to use, and much prettier. Also if you trust the judgement of chefs around the world, gas is the way to go. I also new that I wanted 36” or bigger. I recently had a glimpse of a 27” cooktop in a brand new kitchen and it looked like a toy. Aside of the aesthetics, I also cook a lot. I cook multiple things on the stove at the same time. So more space is better for me. The last requirement was professional style knobs on the front. Again, this is superficial, it was more about my vision for my kitchen. Those requirements led me to this particular cooktop which is the only one that electrolux/frigidaire has with those key features.

This is not a review of these appliances, as I have not bought them yet. This is a pre-view. You could read this and say “no! no! don’t choose those!”, but it’s too late. You are on the internet and I wouldn’t believe what you say anyway. It is decided.

Time for the Showroom

Does anybody remember Expo? Home Depot’s high-end kitchen and bath showrooms? How about the Great Indoors? What ever happened to those? After a recent google search, I discovered that in 2009, Home Depot closed 34 of their Expo stores, including the one in the Houston area. And the Great Indoors that I remember visiting as a child is also a thing of the past.

I did not let this deter me from finding the experience that I was looking for. After some research, I found a few showrooms in the area. None as epic or grand as the Expo, but my needs were minimal. All I wanted was to sit in an oversized bathtub that was in a row of other oversized bathtubs, or at least have the option to. So I found a few candidates and ended up choosing Ferguson. All the online browsing and Pinteresting in the world is not the same as seeing and feeling something in person.

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Upon entering the showroom I was ecstatic that this place was not letting me down. There were plenty of bathtubs, sinks, plumbing fixtures, and enough rain showerheads to last a lifetime. I was in heaven. They even had the Numi – the super smart and fancy Japanese style toilet by Kohler ( I would recommend watching this video. How do they make a toilet seem so elegant?).

The other side of seeing things for yourself is that you might discover that some things that you wanted just won’t work. For example, I had to see it to believe that my master bathroom floorplan was not conducive to a free standing bathtub. My husband already knew this and already warned me, but I wouldn’t accept it until I visited the showroom. Sad but true. But again, this was a necessary step in my home-building process.

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The highlight of my visit was the sighting of the Jenn-Air Obsidian in the wild (pictured here). Isn’t it BEAUTIFUL. After seeing it in a magazine from 2013, I thought it was only a thing of legend. But I finally got to see it in person and it was every bit as exquisite as I thought it would be. If you haven’t heard of Obsidian, it is the first fridge that has a black interior. With a dual evaporator system, this ten thousand dollar fridge is both functional and gorgeous.

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Perhaps secondary to the Obsidian was the GE Profile Series 30 in French Door Oven. In the flesh. Inspired by restaurant ovens, these doors are connected and swing open and closed together, making it easy to maneuver with one hand and also making food easily reachable with hopefully fewer forearm burns. Setting you back about $4000, this dream is slightly more attainable.

I’m also in the search for pendant lights, and though I did not find any that my husband and I could agree on, my trip was definitely worth it. Next showroom I am going to try is Morrison, stay tuned!