If I had a dollar for EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON that told me that I was certifiably insane for the amount of work I was putting into my rental apartment, I could quickly move out of it and into a penthouse that looks over the Pacific Ocean, while sipping mojitos and staring at the pool boy below in his red speedo. But – as reality has it, I am still single, elbows deep in DIY and decor projects in my current apartment, and I could not be happier (unless, say, that poolboy came over to help me with my projects – I digress).
Finding a good apartment in Los Angeles is about as hard as finding a parking spot on a Saturday evening in downtown LA, if you do find one you jump on it as soon as possible and stop at nothing to get it. Good real estate in LA is always out there, but it comes and goes in a matter of hours. So is the case with my current apartment. I actually signed the lease on this place before the old tenant had even moved out. My point being, before I even moved in I knew that there were going to be some big projects to tackle, but that did not stop me from knowing that my 1920’s Spanish style apartment had some major potential. CUT TO . . . the awful kitchen floors.
Although most of the finishes and fixtures in the apartment are original, the kitchen floors somewhere down the line had been replaced with some LOVELY plaid inspired linoleum flooring. Before I had moved in I asked the landlord if it would be possible for him to replace the floors with a simple black and white check pattern that would more closely evoke the original style, while still keeping it a bit modern. He said, “Yes, we can replace the floors.” I walk in on move in day and this is what I see:
Replaced yes, but not quite exactly what I was going for (even though this totally may be some peoples vibe). I did a bit of research and concluded that there were some awesome peel and stick options out there that I could DIY myself. I had plans of grandeur when I first started pinning inspiration and wanted to originally go with a fun and graphic pattern, or something that would really serve as a statement.
I quickly realized that 1.) my landlord would kill me if I put in floors that looked like Kelly Wearstler had just moved in, and 2.) sometimes less is more. Especially in a small galley style kitchen like mine. So, I scaled it back and decided that just a simple black and white check would update the space, but still give me the modern yet timeless quality that I was needing.
So here’s what you will need:
Vinyl Tiles: I ended up going with these guys. They have a great look in person, are not too glossy, but also not too flat, and are INSANELY affordable at $14 a box. You will need to calculate the size of your room and then you can order tile based on that. I ended up using a little under 4 full boxes.
Straight Edge: You will use this to cut and keep your lines straight.
Cutting Surface: I am sure there are better alternatives, but I just used a cutting board that I had at home.
Utility Knife: Make sure you have a sharp one, as you will want to just make one pass when cutting through the tiles.
Pen: This is used for marking up the tiles when you need to make any cuts.
STEP 1: Every house is going to be a little bit different, but you will want to start by removing the door threshold, which is the piece that covers up the gap between the two floors. I was able to pry up mine with a flat head screwdriver and a hammer, but yours may be screwed or glued down.
STEP 2: This is the fun part. If you are doing a simple black and white check like I did there are really only two options – starting with black, or starting with white (but, if you go with color or patterned tiles then there is a lot more creative freedom, or you could get your stripe on like Orlando did in his old kitchen). I laid out both options on the floor, took some photos, and ended up deciding to go with white as my center tile. In my mind it felt like it would be lighter in the space, although in hindsight I am sure it would have looked VERY similar either way. Another thing that I completely failed to consider (which my friend brought up immediately after I had tiled the whole kitchen) was that your center tile is going to get the most foot traffic as you walk down the center of the kitchen. And that going with black as your center tile may have been a better option so it wouldn’t get so dirty. You win some, and you lose some, but I am still happy with the way it looks, so it doesn’t bother me at all. And so far it has stayed very clean.
STEP 3: Luckily my existing floors had a pattern with a line that went all the way down the center of the kitchen (thanks landlord). So, it was very easy for me to use this as a grid and keep my tiles straight all the way down the kitchen. The instructions on the box mention laying down a chalk line, or even drawing a line on the floor to keep things straight. But, I was lazy, it was 3am, and I figured my already existing line was good enough. Quick tip: Do not lay your tiles corner to corner. In other words lay down your first tile, then lay down the two other tiles which butt up against its flat sides. Then you can lay your next tile, which will then butt up to the corner of your first tile. This will help keep things straight as you move along. The whole process should move very quickly – so pour yourself a
glass bottle of wine, turn on some Frank Sinatra, and enjoy it.
STEP 4: This is the trickiest and hardest part. For the tiles that line up just with a flat edge I measured the length that the tile needed to be, and cut it down to that exact length. However, for the tiles that need to have multiple edges or curves, making a template with thin paper is very helpful. Then you can then just trace your edge onto the tile and cut. I made QUITE a few mistakes doing this, but the tiles are very easy to cut and I ordered a few extras for this very reason.
There you have it. All in all I would say it is a fairly easy project, and provides such a big difference for only $50 bucks and a couple of hours of your time. There is still a lot to do in the kitchen, but I am loving where it is headed so far.
I love the way the floors open up the space. I learned as a wee young lad, whilst watching HGTV religiously during middle school, that in a small space laying floors on the diagonal, as well as increasing the size of the tile can work wonders in making the space feel larger. I also replaced all the knobs in the kitchen with these brass beauties which I am completely obsessed with. I have some big plans to make the cabinets look less like garbage, and more like functioning, non-embarrasing storage units, which also includes making sure all the knobs are at the same height. It still baffles me that somewhere down the line someone decided to drill the holes for all three of those cabinet doors at different heights.
The table and chairs are making me so happy, and I love how the modern white shape of the table works with the more retro styled brass and black chairs. Then that stunner of a chandelier from Schoolhouse Electric is a piece of art in itself.
Speaking of art, I have some BIG plans for art in this room. 30+ pieces in fact, floor to ceiling – wall to wall. Am I crazy? Probably . . . but I am into it so, it’s happening. And how can you say no when you have some insanely talented artist friends who are willing to fill your walls with beautiful things? Make sure to come back for the full kitchen reveal once I finish it all up and a massive vinyl tile flooring roundup that we have in the works.