Finally: Before & After; "Small" Budget c. 1826 City Row Home

KevinMPOctober 21, 2012

Many of you will have seen the pictures of the progress along the way, and I wanted to thank everyone for their much needed assistance. I began this remodel just over one month ago, hoping to stick to a $6K budget. I came close, but over, at $8.5K, but I also added a lot more than I had planned.

Here's my house in Philadelphia. Like the title says, it's old, which always presents some problems, combined with the fact that it's a registered historic property. That doesn't really affect what you do inside, but you have to keep them in character to keep the value up.

And I just redid the bathroom (a much more expensive and lengthy remodel but well worth the hassle (very few showers for 3.5 weeks)), so with this I am finished (for now). As you can see, a major difference (and $26.5K).

Now, back to the kitchen. Here was the before:

And here's the after, starting with pictures of the adjoining dining room (or what could be used as a living room (I use my second floor for the living room and the third floor for the bedrooms)):

And the kitchen itself:

From outside:

So, what did I use:

Cabinets: I kept my old Aristokraft boxes and painted them with MAB Lux Low Lustre paint matched to the new wall unit color (Aristokraft's "antique" paint on maple). The wall unit is Aristokraft Landen maple with antique paint. It only comes in this overlay, which I had to get in order to replace the doors on my existing cabinetry (which was inexpensive, by the way, at $900 for 14 door/drawer fronts pre-finished ready to mount). The wall unit cabinets with the pantry pullouts, dovetail/plywood construction, soft-close hinges, crown moulding and trim were $3.3K. You have to get really close to notice that the paint that I had matched doesn't fully match, but it's extremely close. The MAB Lux Low Lustre was the only finish that seemed right.

Granite: the same as I had before: 3 cm polished black absolute with a backsplash (I didn't want the backsplash, but I didn't want to rip it out and risk damage to the slab).

Backsplash tile: 4" x 4" honed calacatta gold, which I was able to get on clearance from a local wholesaler. You have to buy through a distributor, but the wholesaler advertises on its website ( That was $700 for 45 square feet, but I have two boxes left over--I had to buy it all.

Wall unit counter: It was supposed to be polished black absolute with a matching bullnose backsplash, but I couldn't find a slab that was as dark black as what I have; everything seemed charcoal. So I found a remnant of calacatta gold that was polished and had two scratches in it, and I asked them if they could hone it and get the scratches out. When they said yes, and gave it to me for the same price they were going to charge me for the black absolute plus $95 to hone it ($825 in total), it was a no brainer because it would match the backsplash.

Microwave/Hood: I ditched the LG breadbox style microwave I had in favor of a more minimalist, pro-style hood. I got the Nutone that's about $400 at HD, which is the same as the Broan that's the same style. Stealing ideas from this forum, I went with the small footprint Whirlpool microwave, and hid it in one of my pantry cabinets. So far so good.

Range: I ditched my Frigidaire professional range because I wanted an electric oven, and I hated the control panel on the back (plus I didn't think the buttons worked that well, or that the oven was very reliable temperature-wise). I sold it to my neighbor for $500, and bought a flawless floor model Dacor duel fuel range DR30D for $2.9K (installed) after the $300 rebate and with a free 3-year extended warranty (both part of Dacor's promotion right now). So far, so good. Part of the benefit to this is that the burners are positioned further from the sides, which is important because I have to have my refrigerator where it is.

Hardware: I ended up (after some assistance here) going with Restoration Hardware Asbury pulls (3") in oil rubbed bronze (they were $6 a piece, normally much more). RH's oil rubbed bronze is more realistic looking and matches my Baldwin hardware throughout the downstairs (almost a dark brown, near black). I used Martha Stewart knobs from Lowes, which were on clearance for $1.50 a piece.

Under cabinet lighting: I didn't have any before, and now I do. There are six halogen lights: 2 for the wall unit with their own switch, and 4 on the other side with their own switch. Plus I have the two 50-watt halogens with the hood.

Recessed lighting: replaced my 80's can lights with LED lights. They are awesome, and I would highly recommend them ($40 a piece).

Wall Paint: went from Benjamin Moore Webster Green to Benjamin Moore Aura Bath/Spa (a mildew/mold-resistant, scrubbable, matte finish paint for bathrooms and kitchens) in Mt. Saint Anne (the same color I used in my bathroom). I wanted something to compliment the dining room, which is Pratt & Lambert Wythe House Gray (really a slate blue) in their Velvet finish with Benjamin Moore antique white trim and a pale blue ceiling paint.

Ceiling Paint: Benjamin Moore Aura Bath/Spa in White Dove

Trim Paint: the same paint I used to match the new cabinets: MAB Lux Low Lustre color-matched. (I didn't mention this above, but my contractor replaced all of the window/door/baseboard trim while he was here, too.)

Rugs: Safavieh Cambridge collection--handknotted wool rugs with a mustard color and a blue color that perfectly (and I mean perfectly) matches the Mt. Saint Anne. I only stumbled across these because I was looking for a 6' or 7' runner, which is hard to find. I bought the runner on Amazon and the round rug on Overstock. Total price $200.

I think that's it. Enjoy and thank you again for your help. I'm happy to answer any questions.

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Spectacular! Love how the new "blends" with your home, yet still looks fresh and updated!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 12:50PM
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Amazing! What a beautiful job on both the kitchen and bathroom. Congratulations!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 1:16PM
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May I come visit? PUHLEEEZE!!!!! I want to touch everything. That is the most beautiful transformation. Congratulations on a job well done!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 1:23PM
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You have done a wonderful job! And even the cats approve! Calm, colorful, and comfortable. Appropriate without being deadly, IYKWIM.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 1:37PM
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Thank-you for the tour. Love the bathroom! and the beatiful kitchen overhaul with your new pantry/bakecentre wall is a great use of space. The gorgeous cat seems to like it as well.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 1:46PM
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Just gorgeous! Congratulations!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 1:59PM
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I'd seen your bathroom before, and your kitchen, but it is so nice to see it in context. I grew up in the burbs and lived in Center City for a few years out of graduate school, so it's always fun to see Philadelphia! It's so darn cute, it looks like Elfreth's alley. Your backyard space is so charming!

I love everything you've done. Like I said about your kitchen, it's au courant without feeling like the umpteenth time we've seen it ... it has its own unique charms.

Enjoy living in it; we all enjoy seeing it!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 2:07PM
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Looks gorgeous, money well spent! Hope I was the one to help u with that nifty microwave. it works great by the way, no problems because of the small size at all. Good luck!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 3:17PM
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Just wonderful, Kevin, I have really enjoyed following the rooms' transfomations!


    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 3:21PM
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Mick Mick

Very nice! I love all of your choices.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 3:24PM
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Thanks for sharing your home with us. Great job, looks really nice. Hope you enjoy for many years to come.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 3:54PM
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OMG. I've scrolled through the pictures very slowly, twice now. The job you've done is outstanding. Beautiful work. You must be over the moon with all the cabinet space you've added -- so much function you've gleaned from that space, really great work on many fronts.

I love the bathroom, too. And really the whole house -- the finishes, trim, even the furniture. You've got a beautiful space.

Congratulations, and thanks so much for sharing it with us.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 4:04PM
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Amazing, what a difference the cabinet paint color made. And LOVE your wall unit counter - the marble adds just the right touch!

Great job!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 4:48PM
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Wow! What a great historic home. Great idea to put in the two tall cabinets with countertop in the center. So much better. Enjoy!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 4:59PM
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Just gorgeous! Congratulations!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 5:03PM
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I love your entire house. You did a beautiful job!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 5:48PM
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Love all you've done! Thank you for the DR/entry shots, too. Your front window draperies are quite lovely.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 6:05PM
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You deserve all the praise you're getting and lots, lots more. So here's mine to add to the heap. This is a really terrific job you have done, Kevin! By all means, be proud and strut your stuff 'cause we're all lovin' it. And, thanks so much for the story of your project. It's a very helpful, informative post for a superb old row house.

Take your bows and enjoy!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 6:08PM
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Spectacular -Love that you kept the original cabinets - I just visited our childhood home - and realized the original cabs were still there - I didn't recognize as they were "maple" when I was a kid and now they are white.
Love your color choices - now - what do with the extra tiles...
You make the city of brotherly love proud!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 6:08PM
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Great Job Kevin. That marble slab is a dream with that dark edge along the length. It is a wonderful look. So happy to see the summary of your products too.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 8:29PM
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Your home is gorgeous. I love what you did both in the bathroom and kitchen. I love your vanity in the bath, I am off to the bathroom forum to see if you posted details on the remodel there.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 9:21PM
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Great job! I love it. I am particularly fond of the backsplash.

What part of Philly are you in?

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 9:32PM
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Beautiful! And I noticed that your cat did an outstanding job "supervising" the remodel!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 11:47PM
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Thanks everyone. I'm traveling for work but will catch up on your comments/questions tomorrow afternoon.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 1:03AM
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LOVE the changes you made, especially the storage wall. I think it was a blessing that you couldn't find the black and have that spectacular marble instead!! It helps the area seem more light and spacious.

It's amazing to me how the different marble and different tile shape makes such a difference in the backsplash. Nice find on the range! Enjoy!

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 2:03AM
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I too had to go through the pics twice. There is so much beautiful detail that I am sure you spent a lot of time in your choices, and in MHO they paid off beautifully. Let me know your schedule - I want to sneak it to relax in that fabulous tub and I promise to bring treats for baby.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 2:50AM
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Very nice.

Where did you get your ceiling light?

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 10:08AM
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Love it all! Enjoy :-)

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 10:32AM
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It's really great. I love that it is so in keeping with the style of your home but feels completely current at the same time. So did you install all new cabinets or just reface the existing cabinets?

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 10:34AM
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Love it! As a Philly native, you're work makes me want to move back!

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 11:03AM
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A truly lovely home. Your kitchen was great before, and I can't believe what you accomplished for less than $9K. It looks wonderful. I love the new color scheme. Congratulations!

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 2:11PM
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Just lovely!

The bathroom is such a transformation and the kitchen is just as stunning.

I love all the rugs in your photos...I could use your help finding some for our home.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 3:15PM
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Rugs (if you're talking about the persians) I always get from The Dump (it's more of an east coast and Texas phenomenon, but they have insane deals. You should expect to pay $900-1100 for the ones that I bought, but that's still a good deal. The rugs in the kitchen, like I mentioned, were from online.

The ceiling light is from Ikea, believe it or not. And I think it cost all of $16.

I didn't re-face the cabinets, if I understand that term correctly. The cabinets I had were all wood boxes with full extension, dovetail, soft-close drawers that were painted white from the factory. I kept the boxes and just repainted them after going to Sherwin Williams to match the paint from the factory sample. The doors were thermofoil, which I detested. I just ordered replacement doors in solid maple in the antique painted finish. The wall unit was all new. The only remnant is that the original cabinets have white interiors because they were originally white, and the new cabinets have wood-tone finish because they are cream colored.

I know $8.5K is a lot of money, and it looks like I got a lot for that, but really all you have to do is have access to good deals. Maybe it's easier in a large metropolitan area like Philadelphia, but if you can find wholesalers for marble in your area and can buy direct from them (as I did with the calacatta gold in my bathroom) or through a distributor (as I did with the calacatta gold used for my new kitchen backsplash), you can save a huge amount of money. I paid $13 per square foot for the 9" x 18" honed calacatta gold tile used in my bathroom and $15 per square foot for the 4" x 4" honed calacatta gold tile used for the backsplash--those prices are 50-55% less than what it should cost, and I was able to see what I was getting before ordering it (which is a big difference from ordering online sight unseen). The same goes for the appliances--shop local; you'd be surprised what kind of deals you can get. As to the marble slab, that was just a lucky find, and it somehow matched the tile I used (it's slightly off, but I don't care). Last, inexpensive labor that comes highly recommended. But the key to that is finding a contractor that allows you to buy your own finish materials so that you don't get charged the ridiculous 20-30% markup.

And I live in Center City Philadelphia in an area called Washington Square West.

Thanks, everyone.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 8:12PM
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I loved it before..and now it is breathtaking. Your ability to find deals is only superseded by your sense of style and design. Great job ! c

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 8:25PM
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Oh wow, another Philadelphian here. I love our city. Your place is phenomenal. I especially love the calacatta gold. I may have to walk up and down those blocks until I spot your place. I love it all but the Romney sign in the kitchen drawer. ;)

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 8:29PM
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Hi Kevin,
Every so often I look on GW to rekindle the TKO passion I felt when I was renovating my home 4 years ago. I'm so glad I did today because I enjoyed looking at your photos of your charming home and your furry companions:) Thanks for sharing, you did a great job!! Enjoy your beautiful home!

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 10:51PM
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Kevin. Wow great job, love it all. Your finished bathroom is a dream and now so is your kitchen. Like that you went with the lighter weight drawer pulls.
That honed marble slab is gorgeous!! Goes well with your beautiful black granite and now that you see it aren't you happy you couldn't find more of the black?
Got some Qs for you if you don't mind...

Do you know if that marble etchs or stains as easly as some of the others and is it less likely to do so honed?

What color grout did you end up using for the backsplash?

Your bathroom is one of my favorites. About the wainscotting... What is it made of? Do you build up the profile with different layers of the material or are the panels one piece?

Back to your kitchen...Was your original one you redid previously or there when you moved in? Just curious because that black granite and original backsplash was also very nice.

Appreciate that you shared tips on how you saved $, beyond you obviously great DYI skills of course!

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 2:58PM
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Marble is marble. Whiter marbler is rumored to be harder and denser than other marbles, but it still has the same chemical properties that cause the etching. By honing the marble, etching is less visible, as are scratches, but it will still etch and scratch and chip. As to stains, I applied a lifetime sealer (not really lifetime; more like 15-20 years). Sealers do not help with etching.

I used TEC Pearl unsanded grout for the backsplash in the kitchen.

The wainscoting in the bathroom was built by my contractor over the drywall. So, the center is drywall, and then there's 1x4 or 1x6 or something around the sides and an ogee/cove type moulding applied to that and mitered on the inside.

As to the kitchen, the original kitchen was put in by the previous owners before I bought the house, and I didn't really have any say because materials already had been ordered. I put in the backsplash after I moved in, but it was just too gray to go with the off white cabinets.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 11:21PM
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Kevin, I love all the changes you made! I love your new bathroom so much! I love the new solid maple doors and that shade of white is very nice. I love the marble counters added. I love the new range with the range hood. I love the overall beautiful look and changes for such a great price! The new hardware also is very nice. Your kitty cat is adorable. Thanks for sharing.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 12:55AM
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You have a lovely home, Kevin! I have been following your posts and your kitchen is lovely! It is just great that you shared all of these pics. Love the kitty too!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 10:54AM
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Thanks for the additional info Kevin. Have any more reno projects on the drawing board?

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 2:04PM
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No more renos planned (for now). The bow window in my kitchen could stand to be replaced, but it's so damn expensive, and I like it as it is. It's just old and incredibly inefficient. But it'll never rot because I have an overhang in the back.

Thanks everyone.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 5:37PM
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You nailed it! Great job in both the bathroom and the kitchen. Finding that lovely marble slab was made in heaven- and made that space light and interesting. Enjoy the fruits of your labors...and all those luscious Persian rugs!

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 6:31PM
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Finally opened this thread. It looks great. I also think it was a good thing you wound up with the marble on the counter and I hope you have no doubts about that wall being worth every penny and then some. Love the bay window too.

The bath is also gorgeous. I think you've done a nice job of balancing new and fresh with maintaining that older character. I love it.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 11:33PM
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Everything is fabulous! Your home has such great character. The kitchen and bath are just perfect.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 10:24AM
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For those of you who were keeping up with this all, I was supposed to have a warming drawer in the wall unit. But when it came time to install it, I didn't like how it looked. Basically, I thought it stuck out too far, even if I replaced the stainless steel front with the maple drawer front--like an inch.

So my contractor and I came up with a new idea: install it opposite the wall unit through the backside of the blind corner cabinet that abuts the peninsula. If I were to do this, I would also take the opportunity to put a cabinet door underneath it so that I could access the blind cabinet from the other side, and I would also buy false door fronts for the remainder of the backside of the peninsula to finish it all off.

What do you think?

This is what the warming drawer looks like. (Excuse the water spots from my raincoat, which is hanging on the coatrack above it.) It's a brand new Thermador 24" that I got on ebay for a steal (I offered a $200 bid) because it's about 5 years old and was leftover in a warehouse).

    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 9:58PM
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Hi Kevin,
We're about to start our kitchen Reno in center city and I just wanted to see if you could recommend local vendors. We have our contractor, but anywhere toy liked for counters, tikes, appliances, etc. thanks!

    Bookmark   January 5, 2013 at 11:33PM
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I really went all over. I went to All Marble & Granite across the bridge on Admiral Wilson Blvd for my kitchen and bathroom counters. I got the bathroom tile from a wholesaler in Jamesburg, NJ and the kitchen marble tile from a wholesaler in Cinnaminson, NJ. I bought my hood at Home Depot (same price as other places and they usually stock one (it looks more professional than it is). I bought the stove at Jenkintown Electric, the microwave at Lowes, and the rest of the appliances at Gerhard's. You may want to try getting your cabinets through BuildPro on Washington Ave. They had the best prices by far and it included delivery. Good luck.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2013 at 12:42AM
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So fantastic! I love those row houses ... so nice to see yours getting the TLC it deserves.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2013 at 2:06AM
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Wow you have a beautiful home, and did a great job without breaking the bank.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2013 at 9:25AM
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Thanks Kevin...we're getting caesarstone so I'm trying to find the best place for that but I want to check out that granite place as well. Ill probably do gerdardts too as they'll price match. Beautiful home!

    Bookmark   January 6, 2013 at 2:02PM
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Kevin -
Just wanted to let you know I went to All Marble and Granite today. The guy there (jeff) was fantastic. I'm getting raven caesarstone for my kitchen and need less than one slab. I'd have to buy the whole slab but his price was literally about 40% less than what Colonial was charging and he really knew what he was talking about. Thanks for the recommendation.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 9:32PM
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Wow, Kevin, your home is beautiful!!! Wondering if your house Is a trinity? Whatever, it's gorgeous.

I met you in the bathroom forum. BTW, I live in central Jersey. I've called around to lots of stores and no one seems to have the.models of tubs I'm interested in. I did see the Edenton today however, so no need to post a close-up. But thank you anyone for the thought.. It is a nice tub.

I was surprised how slippery the Edenton bottom is even with the texture (and I was looking for no texture at all!). I'm concerned since I need a tub/shower combo - but I really want a comfortable tub as part of that combo. Now I'm wondering if a bath mat will stick to the textured surface of the Edenton when I shower or will the texture prevent it from adhering to the bottom of the tub? Any insights, anyone?.

You mentioned somewhere that if you had to do over, you'd choose the Hydrosystems Lacey. Can't seem to find one of those on display. Is the bottom of the Lacey textured like the Edenton or is it a smooth bottom?

Where in Philly did you see the Lacey and other tubs you were considering? Thanks so much!

Guess I should post 2nd part of this in Bathroom forum- maybe tomorrow.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 1:20AM
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Absolutely beautiful. I love the row houses. You definitely kept the character of the house with your kitchen and other rooms. Everything blends in so well.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 4:10PM
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