Mid Century Modern for Today


Mid-Century Modern on a Budget - kitchen2Modern is Simple but Challenging.


Design Project Highlights:

  • Modern is not easy.
  • High quality products keep things looking timeless.
  • Kitchen Design Notes:
  • Bathroom Design notes:
  • Material List: Why does the color scheme and layout work well?

Product and Installation Challenges

  • Kitchen
  • Bath


  • A good GC from the Subcontractor’s Perspective
  • The GC and Subcontractor Relationship

Project Background:

I completed this project when I was working at Artistic Stone Kitchen and Bath as a subcontractor for Rich Mathers. This project was fun because it was unique and technically challenging. I love hard projects because it tested our craftsmanship. To top it off, the homeowners, Sonia and David, were a pleasure to work for because they were really unemotional throughout the process and they communicated their needs clearly.


  • Architect: Jonathan Perlman from Elevation Architects
  • General Contractor: Rich Mathers, RMC Construction
  • Photo: Carole Whitacre Photography
  • Stone and Tile Fabrication and Installation: Michael Mok, Artistic Stone Kitchen and Bath (My crew who installed for this project do not work at Artistic Stone anymore.)

Design: What did I like about this project?

  1. Modern looks simple. Simple is difficult because accuracy is required to create the symmetric look which is desired. If you are off by several inches or half an inch, it will be noticeable since our eyes and brains are tuned for symmetry.
  2. High quality finishes keep it looking timeless.
  3. Picking unique but neutral colors will allow you to have a timeless look. Make sure you pick what you like so it is something you absolutely love.Mid-Century Modern on a Budget - kitchen8

Kitchen Design Notes:

Colors: Overall colors are pastel neutral palette. The pop is from three hand-blown orange pendant lights above the island. The neutral pastel tone falls into the background of the white island. The white island becomes the primary focal point. The goal of this kitchen is to make it warm, open, and inviting to all guests.

Layout and Floorplan: The focal point is the long island, which makes for a chef’s kitchen with indoor/outdoor dining experience. The island is located by the slider doors, which allows it to be part of an indoor/outdoor experience. There is no corner cabinet in this kitchen layout.

Shapes: Different shapes, such as the asymmetric countertop island and the hexagons, make it interesting.

Countertop: The white countertops make the island look longer and the area feel more open. The countertop thickness variation of three and eight-inch edging makes the countertop shape the accent in the kitchen. It is unique and interesting.

Cabinet: The use of two tones keeps it interesting. The white cabinets really stand out to complement the countertop while drawing your eyes to the hexagon backsplash tiles.

Backsplash: The hex tiles give an interesting background to break up all the straight lines used in the kitchen.

Flooring: The darker linear pattern makes the long island look longer.

Appliances: Stainless steel is neutral.

Mid-Century Modern on a Budget - kitchen4

Bathroom Design Notes:

Accent Wall: The orange tile is the accent wall, which immediately draws people’s attention. The orange is a bright a warm color that makes us all feel good. The floor and the other walls are white and this allows for the orange to pop.

Floating Cabinet: White is a neutral color which doesn’t compete against the accent wall. The floating cabinets make the room look larger.

Floor and Other Wall Tiles: Off-white tiles also do not distract the eye when placed next to the orange accent wall and the floating cabinet.

Lighting: The bar light mirror, which reflects light from the window, provides ample natural and artificial lighting. The accent wall tiles are glossy, which reflect even more light.

Material List:

  • Windows and Slider Doors: Fleetwood
  • Countertops: Caesarstone Blizzard (white; Pure White color did not exist at the time of the project) and Cement (gray) in the Kitchen
  • Backsplash Tile: Heath Ceramics Outlet in Sausalito (This is a great way to save money instead of paying for the premium material.)
  • Appliances: Dacor Cooktop
  • Entry Tile: India Mist slate 12×12
  • Bathroom Wall Tile, Floor Tile, and Wall Tiles: 12×24 tiles outside (The orange wall tiles have a glassy finish. They came in 12x pieces.)
  • Floor Tiles in Bathroom: Atlas Concorde White 12×24 (The shower pan was created by cutting down the 12×24 tiles to 4×4.)
  • Cabinets: Custom built rift-sawn ash and walnut
  • Floors: Custom Hardwood


A good contractor, as defined by the subcontractor’s perspective, is the following.

  • Pays on time.
  • Provides enough information about the project and gives us clear direction on the installation and about the project.
  • Picks up the phone when subcontractors call.
  • Establishes timelines. The worst people for subcontractors to work with are people who have moving timelines and then need us to show up immediately to meet their schedule.

The GC and Subcontractor Relationship:

When things are not smooth, the team needs to figure out and work out a way to fix the problem. A good relationship between the subcontractor and the general contractor is one that functions as a team and not as advisories.

Product and Installation Challenges

Tip: Show your tile setting sub-contractor the type of material to be installed.

Mid-Century Modern on a Budget - guest bath

Accent Wall Tile: The orange tiles had some issues with the surface, which was made of glass. This meant many of the pieces were slightly chipped or damaged. We got it done, but what it meant was that we had to buy more pieces and discard pieces which were damaged. This is common with tiles made from delicate material. The tile setting work was not challenging. It is critical to examine the different products before installation.

Backsplash Tile: IMPORTANT. You have to hire really good tile setters to set handmade tiles because the material sizes and shapes are inconsistent. You tile setter has to be experienced and really good at math.

Bathroom Floor Tiles: The porcelain tiles were easy to work with because they were rectified, meaning the edges of the tiles were trimmed down to size so all the edges are straight 90-degree angles on all four sides. Unless you have a very skilled tile setter, I do not recommend having your tile setter manufacture smaller pieces. It is doable but only from high quality porcelain.

Cutting tiles down from larger tiles costs more because it adds more labor. If you must, only use natural stone or porcelain tiles. When one cuts down the tiles, the edges become unfinished. To finish them off, the tile setter will need to either sand the edges down with a file or a grinder to take the sharp edges off. Porcelain and natural stone tiles can be cut down smaller. Ceramic tiles and glass tiles will not work because the material will break.

Center Island Countertop: The main challenge is that this island was longer than the length of the Caesarstone that was manufactured. Caesarstone comes in a length of 120 inches by 52 inches. We joined the island where the cooktop is. The length of the island was close to 13 feet.









Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s