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‘A Happy Wife is a Happy Life.’

How many times have you heard that expression? Let’s be really clear about something, when it comes to creating a home, wives are usually the ones who are the most upset or annoyed about the out-dated or unattractive areas.

I know this because 95% of the time, it’s the wife who has hired me. Or the husband has bought my time as a gift because they are tired of buying furniture that isn’t right or paying for renovations and installing finishes that end up being too busy or the wrong colour because this is what happens: the complaining still doesn’t end AND now you’re out the money.

My clients Maureen and Bob had been following my blog in Switzerland and were moving back to the Westcoast last year.

They contacted me to help them discuss their kitchen as well as colours and finishes for their entire house. Bob had built the oak kitchen cabinets himself 20 years ago and they had rented their house when they lived out of the country.

This renovation was based on compromise. Maureen got her white kitchen while Bob kept the oak moldings and millwork.

In advance of our consultation they had sourced tile and even had a selection of area rugs delivered to the house. I spent an entire day with them last September to finalize all their decisions and here is the beautiful result and the personal email from Bob:

Hi Maria,

Maureen and I have really enjoyed looking at the pictures of your remodel.  Your kitchen really looks great and it is so nice to read about the compromises that must be made when remodeling.  It has been just over a year since you came down to help us with our colors and to offer design advice.  I must admit that it was a difficult time for me because I came to the realization that the home that I had looked forward to returning to every year that we lived in Switzerland, had become very dated in our absence.  Sometimes what is in your mind is not an accurate picture of what exists.  Taking my cabinets to the dump was a painful experience but necessary!  After 41 years of marriage I have come to trust Maureen’s judgment and she certainly was right about the need to do more than just counters and floors.  Once I got on board for change, things just moved on.  
In the end we put in a completely new kitchen with quartz counters (the island took 6 men to carry in), two new tile showers upstairs, tile shower downstairs, custom fireplace surround, new deck railing, extensive low voltage lighting throughout the house and of course the new paint colors that you recommended.  We kept my cabinets in the bathrooms and in the dining room but had new shaker doors made and tried to tone down the orange of the oak.  I suppose they may be painted some day but a person needs to take this change thing slowly.  
Some day I should sit down and write an article describing the change process to help men understand that what was great 20 years ago may not be a selling point today.  All of our men friends ask “Why didn’t you keep those great cabinets you made?” and all of our women friends say “These new cabinets make this room seem so much cleaner and larger!” It is all a matter of perspective but I prefer our new kitchen over the old.
We love our newly remodeled home and living close to the water.  Working with you from the start was the best thing we could have done.  I don’t know if I told you that your advice to bargain with the carpet dealer saved more than your fee.  We also shopped the upstairs carpeting vendor on that same advice and saved 1/3 the price there for the same goods.  I am attaching a couple of pictures but they really don’t do the job justice.  (and yes, I know that those stupid window frames in the kitchen look orange….grrr)
Bob and (Maureen)
The Zen of Home Renovating

Kitchen before

Kitchen after

Removing the uppers between the two windows made a huge difference. The countertops are Grey Expo from Silestone and the wall colour is BM 1558 Fieldstone, Cabinet Colour, OC-23 Classic Gray.

Before Living Room

Fireplace Surround – After Walls HC-92 Wheeling Neutral

We had a conversation about painting out the wood trim to coordinate with the white kitchen but that’s where Bob drew the line, haha.  In the end, the simple and clean lines of the casings work well this west coast contemporary home.

Also when you renovate to sell vs. renovating for your forever house you can make decisions based more on what you love, not what is currently trendy.

A question I often ask my clients before I offer advice is, ‘How long do you plan to live in this house?’

Master Bath Before

Master Bath After

Silver Travertine with HC-83 Grant Beige.

Master bath vanity

Powder Room Before


OC-28 Collingwood

Love the neutral accent tile that has been repeated above the vanity, on the floor and creatively installed in the shower surround. For more images on accent tile done right, see my ‘Tile I Like‘ Pinterest boards.

Upstairs bathroom


Notice the pork chop was removed from the new vanity.

 Shower surround – after

This house now has a wonderful Zen like feel with the balance of warm and cool colours combined with the clean and neutral colour palette.

Thank you Bob & Maureen for hiring me to help you create a home you love!

Related posts:

Selecting your Kitchen and Bath Backsplash: Accent Tile or Not?

The Best Reason to Paint Old Furniture (or Old Cabinets)

Is Hiring a Designer a Luxury or a Necessity?

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  • Hi Maria,
    I am popping on to say that I saw your comment in my latest Better Homes and Garden magazine. Congratulations.


  • teresa says:

    I can’t get over how beautiful the Master Bath looks with the travertine tile and oak cabinets. I wouldn’t have thought that was possible, but the end result is Zen, warm and very California. CTD

  • Nicole says:

    Lovely transformation – well done!

  • Monique says:

    Beautiful home. My favorite room is the kitchen and I love the wood trim.

  • Wow. Wow. Wow. Gorgeous changes. What a great letter to share, Maria. You continue to be an inspiration 🙂

  • Kristine says:

    This post is a great example of how we, as designers, must compromise with our clients and fulfill their desires for a lovely home. While not always what the designer would pick if starting from scratch, a successful outcome such as this is the wonderful result. Great job, Maria!

  • Laura says:

    So gorgeous! I love the kitchen and master bath – and the wood trim looks perfect the way it is. I love that you didn’t change it, and it just shows what a difference the right colors can make.

  • Kelly says:

    Beautiful! Another great design from Maria Killam!

  • SandyCGC says:

    Absolutely love that kitchen. It’s not so much a “walk in and go WOW!” kitchen as it is a “walk in and go Aaaaaaaaah! with a big smile on your face” kitchen. Maureen and Bob must feel that way every time they enter the room and I’d love to be invited for a morning cup of coffee. This goes in my books as one of my favorite kitchens. Great job doing what you promise when we consult you, Maria!

  • Fran Worrall says:

    The transformation is amazing. Great job, Maria!

  • BillP says:

    It is interesting to see the use of Classic Gray on the cabinets. What a perfect choice for the surroundings. I think I’d paint the mantle and bookcases the same!

  • Lorilyn says:

    Just last night I was laying in bed with my husband when he asked why I needed to buy a different rug for the nursery.

    Him: “The old one matched fine, it was mostly blue and the walls were blue”
    Me: “Yeah, but my accent color is chartruese, and that doesn’t match the maroon and gold the rug also had in it”
    HIm: “No one would even notice that”
    Me: “I notice it, and that’s reason enough to change it”

  • Vanessa Rider says:

    I especially enjoyed this post. I am working with someone who wants to keep their orangey oak trim in the home, and am a little stumped at colors to put with it. This post is a great example in making the oak look cohesive with the new colors rather than screaming “dated”. Very inspiring reno.

  • What a beautiful remodel. E-NOR-mous improvement all the way around.

  • Linda says:

    Maria, I love everything you did and the way it turned out! Beautiful remodeling job all around! Thanks so much for including the names of the paint colors and some of the other products!

  • Maria =
    Thanks so much for sharing in pictures the value of hiring a design professional. The best investment is one in an expert like you.
    A star in your crown lady! And happy clients to boot. Thanks for sharing…so happy for your success on this one.

  • Paula Van Hoogen says:

    Dear Maria, What an encouraging letter!! That one alone would make my month…bet it made yours! Especially since the HUSBAND took the time to write! That was too cute when he said: “a person needs to take this change thing slowly”. Everything is beautifully and thoughtfully chosen. Did you think of the black edges on the master vanity? (That’s an interesting detail,but the vanity is one thing I hope he decides some day to paint). The mirror in the up stairs bath is fabulous! Love the new powder room mirror too.And the gray tile work! Kitchen–Sandy’s right—ahhh!
    The horizontal travertine is genius! THAT alone carries the whole room. I so wish I could bring you here to finish my whole house—then put it on the market and build a new one. God willing. A wealth of photos…thanks.
    Masterful work from a master!

  • Kareen says:

    I love this post and might show it to Andy. He trusts your opinion so much. If I say we should paint the powder room orange, he will almost certainly say no – but if I wait for you to suggest it – then maybe we will get what I want in the end.. 🙂 He has started calling the colours you chose for our place and Rahel’s place “Maria colours” – as in “they are Maria colours – of course they look good.” 🙂

  • Susan W. - MS says:

    Oh my!!! That travertine in the master bath is so beautiful. And the installation was amazing. I don’t know the specifics of it but that is enough to sell me on that house. Wow. I don’t think I can get that out of my head!


  • What a beautiful transformation! Particularly love the upgrade of the kitchen and feel the wood trim and hardwood flooring adds to the overall aesthetics. Thanks for sharing Bob. -Brenda-

  • Angela Kintner says:

    Love the kitchen transformation. I’m curious what your opinion is on painting a white-ish kitchen that is or is not different from the white trim. My trim is Swiss Coffee by Behr which is almost identical to BM simply white OC -117. I painted a large swatch of the trim paint and hung it on the oak cabinets – it looks very very white. What are your thoughts on matching or not matching and what color would be good? thank you very much!

    • Maria Killam says:

      Your white should either be the same as the trim or different enough so it doesn’t look like you tried to match it and failed. Maria

  • elaine devita says:

    maria, if i have carrara subway tiles and white cabinets what can I use as a counter- i do like to keep things white/light.

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