A kitchen is born

Wednesday, August 2, 2023   (updated November 14)

Comments: 25   (latest 19 hours later)

Tagged: art, kitchen, mosaic, diane duane

Time for another post about my home!

This blog is hosted at zarfhome.com. "Zarfhome" is my virtual Internet home but it's also literally my house. You might even have seen my library a couple of years ago.

The house is great but the kitchen was vintage. Formica, particle board, and stick-on linoleum.

A bare kitchen with laminate counters, cheap cabinets, and bad stick-on tile flooring. Nice woodwork on the window though. The kitchen as of May. You don't even want to know what the stove looked like.

I finally saved up enough to do something about that. The remodel started mid-May and now it's done. The final inspection was this morning; they've towed away the site portajohn.

Left-hand view of a kitchen with new appliances, hardwood floor, and custom blue-and-green tile backsplash. Center view of the kitchen. Right-hand view of the kitchen. The kitchen as of August. The under-cabinet lights are on to highlight the tile.

Now, the main reason for this post is to say Look at my awesome new kitchen. Look at it! But since your attention has already been drawn to that tile mosaic backsplash, I'll go into a bit more detail.

Yes, I designed the mosaic. It was fun! You can do stuff like that if you're willing to pay someone to assemble it.

What is it? Well, it's an abstract swoopy pattern. Or maybe it's gas flames. Or maybe...

Speaking of Diane Duane’s “Door Into” series… My kitchen remodel has reached the point of installing my custom tile backsplash. I’m not saying that the design is an invocation of the blue Fire. But if you asked me point-blank, I wouldn’t deny it very hard either. Even an atheist can try to make Goddess feel welcome in their kitchen. That’s just common courtesy. -- @zarfeblong, July 21

I had the mosaic done by Susan Jablon Mosaics. I recommend them wholeheartedly -- except that as I write this, they're not taking orders due to supply chain faffery. If you are suddenly struck by the desire for a mosaic, check their web site status.

The design process took a lot of tinkering. I started in Inkscape, using lots of gradients:

A pattern of blue stripes on a blue-green gradient.

I then rendered this as a PNG file at the desired size (one pixel per real-world inch).

Now comes the clever bit. I went on the tile site and selected a set of tile colors that I wanted to use. I downloaded the sample photos of those tiles, worked out the average RGB value of each one, and created a color palette file (in GnuIMP) which included all those colors. Then I just loaded the PNG file and dithered it to that palette!

Okay, there was more to it than that. I dithered the foreground and background separately. I added some iridescent tiles to the pattern for extra texture. I tweaked a bunch of the pixels by hand. And the grout color! Did you know grout comes in different colors? It matters.

Then I learned that Jablon didn't have the tile colors I'd chosen in stock. (Supply chain faffery.) So I had to pick a new set of colors from a different manufacturer's line, download more sample photos, and re-dither. Moral: save all your intermediate files.

The mosaic ships on 12x12" mesh sheets. The installer just has to mount and grout them. To make life easier for everybody, I drew all the sheets out on a grid:

A pixelized segment of the mosaic sliced in 12x12 blocks. Part of the master diagram. The reddish tiles represent iridescent black, really. The grey areas are behind the cabinets so no tile at all.

I even used the sample photos to fake up what the sheets should look like at full size. Grout is "Platinum 115".

One 12x12 sheet of the mosaic. Sheet 20-A from the design spec

Photo of the real mosaic. The same section as it came out in real life.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • There were a lot of Python scripts involved. There always are.

  • Yes, the cabinets are still empty. This is a shiny new kitchen, not yet a working kitchen. I told you, final inspection was just this morning. The first batch of muffins is still to come.

  • Yes, I'm still job-hunting. I saved up enough for the remodel before I got laid off. I didn't see any reason to put the work on hold. That old kitchen had to go.

  • If you're comparing the new photos to the old photo, realize that the new stove is where the sink used to be. The new sink is in front of the old window. Yes, they had to reconstruct the windowframe. Yes, they saved the original trim and used it for a new window.

  • Yes, a lot of unsightly white outlet and switch covers intrude on the mosaic. Building codes insist on them. I am going to dig up some model paint and paint the covers to blend in.

  • The beast on the refrigerator magnet is Deinotherium giganteum, art by Mark P. Witton.

  • You want another photo? Course you do.

Right-hand view of a kitchen with new appliances, hardwood floor, and custom blue-and-green tile backsplash. The kitchen in natural light.

EDIT-ADD, November:

Here's what it looks like now that I'm using it as an actual kitchen!

Right-hand view of the same kitchen with stuff on the counters and the cabinets. The kitchen as a functional kitchen.

Yes, there's stuff on the counters in front of the wonderful tile backsplash. That's okay. I still walk into the kitchen and think "Man, this tile looks great."

Notice the matching light switch covers! I didn't wind up using model paint, though. Tried it; didn't like the result. Instead, I found a place on the Internet that prints out custom plates.

I hung up a little curtain valance thing, too. I never thought I'd become a person who would say "This window needs a valance," but there it is.

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