HOUSE: New Mexico #3

It’s time for the kitchen to get some countertops!

kitchen before countertop installation

Once Manuel finished the new cabinets and I built the storage cubbies, it was finally time to get the new kitchen countertops underway! Since it’s really not possible to do accurately when cabinetry isn’t in place, we had to wait until those steps were done to have an installer come and take measurements. We’d decided long before to go with LG HI-MACS (an acrylic solid surface; similar to Corian) for the countertops, and in Santa Fe, the only dealers are Lowe’s and Home Depot. We got quotes (for materials, fabrication, and installation) from both based on my own measurements, and Lowe’s came out significantly lower. They were also able to immediately confirm that our color of choice, Nordic White, was available, so we went ahead and placed the order right away. They told us to expect a call from a contracted installer to set up an appointment.

November 2019

I’m not sure how this kind of thing usually plays out in other parts of the country, but in New Mexico, you really can’t expect things to happen right away, even if you’re told to expect as much. Anyway, that said, about a week later, a contractor did indeed call me to set up an appointment. He was based in Albuquerque (about an hour from Santa Fe), and his next available appointment for Santa Fe was a week later. So…two weeks after we ordered the countertops, a very nice countertop guy came to take measurements, and then told me it would be another two weeks before they were ready for installation.

Kitchen renovation mini-moodboard

The countertop guy took the sink with him, since generally they handle that part of the installation if it’s an undermount. Thankfully, I ordered the sink—a 23″ stainless steel Kraus Standart—well in advance, so it was there and ready. I also insisted that he check the specs for the Kraus Oletto pull-down faucet to make absolutely sure he positioned the cutout for the sink far enough forward to account for the windowsill and proper movement of the faucet handle. I did not want to wind up waiting a month for an incorrectly cut countertop, so I asked a whole lot of questions and double checked all of his notes before he left.

Let me be totally clear: I’m not mentioning the wait times to seem like a countertop martyr or anything like that. I just want to share what the reality of the installation process was, because I think stuff like home shows and blog “reveals” has lead us to believe that it all just happens right away when you’re ready for it to happen, and that’s not how it works. Despite all of the renovation projects I’ve been involved with in the past, this was the first time I’d dealt with countertop installation (the Newburgh kitchen had all-in-one freestanding units with integrated stainless steel countertops), and I honestly wasn’t expecting it to be a whole month from the date of order to the date of installation—especially for a stock item. I’m sure part of that is because it’s New Mexico and there aren’t a lot of dealers or installers here, but still—it’s something to be aware of no matter where you live. It might take a while.

December 2019

By early December, I’d been washing dishes (and doing everything else that involves running water—washing vegetables, draining pasta, keeping my hands clean, etc.) in the bathtub—not to mention doing all of my food prep on a piece of plywood—for about two and a half months. Yes, there are worse things. But there are also better things, like having a sink in your kitchen. I was over it.

LG HI-MACS kitchen countertop installation

Until the moment this first section of countertop slid into place, part of me was absolutely convinced that something was going to go terribly wrong with the installation. Like…either it wouldn’t fit at all because the walls of the house are out of square, or the sink would’ve been in the wrong spot, or they would have given us some kind of ornate edging option instead of the simple eased edge we’d requested. Or it would be the wrong color. Or something. But it was perfect. Everything had been measured correctly, all of our requests had been followed, and I was RELIEVED.

LG HI-MACS kitchen countertop installation

There’s a lot going on here! The countertop arrived in three pieces (the two parts that make up the main L-shape, and the smaller piece for the new cabinet to the right of the stove), and two of them needed to be joined. They generally try to put the seam in an inconspicuous location, but because Nordic White is a solid color with no pattern or embedded flecks/swirls, they didn’t have to worry much about hiding it. Some sort of chemical was applied that “melted” (not with heat, but with something that smelled bad) the two sections together. Surface clamps held the pieces in place while stuff cured, and then the entire countertop got sanded and buffed. Unless I’m REALLY looking for it, I can’t see the seam at all. It’s virtually undetectable.

LG HI-MACS kitchen countertop installation

LG HI-MACS kitchen countertop installation

LOOK!!! COUNTERTOPS!!!!!!!!!! (!!!!!!!!!!!!) They’re so, so beautiful. Understated, honed in appearance, soft, smooth, clean (but not “clinical”), fresh, and absolutely exactly what this kitchen needed. It’s now been five months since they were installed, and I still can’t stop petting them. I might need to do a dedicated countertop post in the future so I can cover more ground (like how they need to be cared for, and what to expect if you decide to go the acrylic route), but for now, I can’t stress enough how happy I am with this material. I also feel like the color choice—Nordic White—is just right for this house. I didn’t want to go too warm because the ceiling and vigas are a very orangey-wood, and I knew that color would reflect off of the countertops to a degree, but I also didn’t want to wind up with a white that was blindingly bright.

LG HI-MACS kitchen countertop installation

LG HI-MACS kitchen countertop installation

With the beautiful satiny-white countertops installed (and the hole for the faucet drilled in the correct spot—PHEW), it was immediately time to get some plumbing happening. AK called the plumber, and he was there the next day. That never happens! But it happened. Yes, I probably could have installed the faucet myself, but since we also needed a whole new trap and supply lines, it just made sense to have a pro do it. A couple of hours later…

RUNNING WATER! INDOORS! IN THE KITCHEN! IN A SINK! FROM A FAUCET! WATER!!!!!!!!! Friends, I cannot tell you how happy I was in this moment. Those splatters inside the sink? THOSE ARE MY TEARS OF JOY. You have never seen someone so excited to wash the dinner dishes. My goodness. It took me a couple of weeks to fully break the habit of walking to the bathroom every time I needed to wash an apple.

You know what’s coming next, right? Yup. Backsplash tile!! In the mean time, if you need to get caught up on the kitchen renovation so far…

Kitchen recap:
It’s time to meet the kitchen!
Kitchen planning!
Kitchen cabinets: Prep + painting.
Painting and stenciling the kitchen floor.
Kitchen countertop demolition.
Painting the kitchen’s steel casement window.
Let’s add some cabinets!
Building cabinet cubbies for extra storage.

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  • Reply Emma April 27, 2020 at 12:29 pm

    Really beautiful countertops…this is the exact style I like as well. I think I would pet them too if I had them! I used to enjoy touching the various countertop options at IKEA (remember touching things? remember going to IKEA? remember going places? lol).

    I also extremely relate to the “until the job is done, I will worry that something will go wrong” philosophy. We had to have our roof replaced due to storm damage and missing shingles earlier this year, and until the job was done and they were paid out with the home insurance proceeds, I was constantly worried we’d hit a snag along the way!

    • Anna Dorfman April 27, 2020 at 6:24 pm

      I haven’t been to IKEA in soooooooooo long!! There isn’t one in New Mexico, and I never seem to be able to fit in a visit when I’m in New York with my family. I feel like I need to add that to my list of “things to do when the pandemic is over.”

    • virginia April 28, 2020 at 8:12 am

      There’s an IKEA in Tempe (when it reopens), and it’s a beautiful drive through the mountains from Santa Fe –

    • Anna Dorfman April 28, 2020 at 9:00 am

      I can’t do an 8-hour drive to IKEA, no matter how much I love it! The one in Denver is a little bit closer to Santa Fe—about 6 hours. I think it’s actually faster to fly to New York…then I can go with my mother, which is a win/win. 😉

    • laura v. April 28, 2020 at 2:55 pm

      OH MY GOD, we went through Lowe’s for our kitchen remodel and it has been a nightmare. We also had to do our dishes in the tub for a month so I feel your pain so hard and your joy at being able to wash dishes normally. It has taken so long and every step of the way has been terrible. They even installed the cabinets incorrectly so they started coming off the wall as soon as we finished putting everything away in them. It’s been 3 months, and it’s still not completely done. Yours look amazing, though! so glad it worked out for you!!

    • Anna Dorfman April 28, 2020 at 2:57 pm

      Ugh, that’s awful!! I guess it really just comes down to the reliability of the contractor(s) they’re working with in your area, but they obviously shouldn’t continue working with people who aren’t doing a quality job. Has Lowe’s been responsive during the process? Have they offered to send a different contractor?

  • Reply Chelsea April 27, 2020 at 12:58 pm

    Looks great! I love the countertops and would love to hear more on another post like you mentioned, about taking care of them and that kind of thing. I live in Albuquerque and totally understand things being slower in New Mexico. It’s the Land of Manana (tomorrow), has anyone mentioned that to you? Makes me laugh!

    • Anna Dorfman April 27, 2020 at 6:26 pm

      I think it might be a combination of this being the Land of Mañana and me being from New York, honestly—I’m so used to things not happening because someone flaked and just didn’t show up, not because things just move slooooowly in other parts of the world! Things do get done eventually, though, and everyone seems less stressed about all of it. I’m trying!!

  • Reply Scott April 27, 2020 at 12:58 pm

    Okay, I should be working!
    The new counter looks wonderful, so clean and understated.
    Thank you for showing us your process!
    I worked with Lowes (Phoenix) last November on Formica (I am weird, but its beautiful 🙂 )and it took about one month as well. Lowes had the best pricing overall, even better than independent shops, which I was not expecting. Everything was great, Entire staff and crews professional and courteous, very pleased. Plus they stand behind everything too, which is a nice benefit.
    Cannot wait for your tiling. Maybe it will force me to do my backsplash one day.
    Again, thanks for all your hard work and time for all of us out here, much appreciated! Ciao

    • Anna Dorfman April 27, 2020 at 6:28 pm

      I love Formica!! I was ogling all of the options at Lowe’s, but the price was too far out of our budget to really consider it. The color options are amazing. (And yeah, it was very reassuring to have the work and product guaranteed by Lowe’s. And it’s great that they contract with local companies.)

    • Bonnie April 28, 2020 at 10:34 am

      I wanted to install a simple Formica top for a built-in desk and was FLOORED at how much it was going to be! Still wish I had it though, with an exposed plywood edge. Droool…..
      I look forward to a follow up post about HI-MACS. Looking at kitchen counters, I’ll want something seriously low maintenance and stain resistant. Have you cooked with red chile yet? That stuff stains eveything, like, immediately.

    • Anna Dorfman April 28, 2020 at 10:50 am

      I don’t do any New Mexican cooking at home, because if Santa Fe has anything going for it in the restaurant department, it’s great New Mexican food. (You mean red chile sauce, right? Not dried red chilis?) I DO do a lot of Indian cooking, though, and have gotten plenty of turmeric (which also stains everything instantly) on the countertops, and a tiny spritz of bleach-based cleanser (like Clorox Clean-Up or Soft Scrub) takes care of it easily.

  • Reply Karen M April 27, 2020 at 1:00 pm

    I laughed a little too hard at the “this is how it is in New Mexico” bit. So, so true. Our backyard is taking a LIFETIME to finish.

    Your countertops look lovely and fit the house so well. Have you been pleased with the faucet? Excited to see the tile reveal!

    • Anna Dorfman April 27, 2020 at 6:29 pm

      The faucet is GREAT. It was on the lower-end price-wise as far as kitchen faucets go, so I’m hoping that the finish and the pull-out operation hold up over time. So far, so good—it’s a pleasure to have an integrated sprayer.

  • Reply Priscilla Lynch April 27, 2020 at 1:08 pm

    It looks so good. I’m so happy that you kept the old cabinets (the sink vents are my favorite part)and the countertop is perfect.

    • Anna Dorfman April 27, 2020 at 6:30 pm

      The cabinets are a little wonky and the doors don’t close perfectly, but I feel like that’s all part of the charm. They feel right in this house—I think if we’d ripped out everything, it would have been hard to get the right kind of character back.

    • Miriam April 27, 2020 at 10:33 pm

      Your kitchen is beautiful and I’m so happy you’re blogging again. Can I ask how much space there is between your stove top and the cabinet above? I’m thinking of switching my stove and fridge—putting the stove under the high fridge cabinet so I can get a fridge that is more of a modern size. Right now there’s nothing over my stove. I’ve lived in my house for 30 years and this just occurred to me after seeing your stove!

    • Anna Dorfman April 27, 2020 at 10:43 pm

      Miriam, there’s 26” of clearance. That’s standard for an old house, but NOT modern building codes. Pretty sure modern code is 30”.

  • Reply Kim B April 27, 2020 at 1:30 pm

    Awesome. I was so worried that the guy was going to disappear with your sink, do the cuts all wrong, etc . .. so glad you got exactly what you wanted — and it looks great!!

    Can’t wait to see the backsplash!

    • Anna Dorfman April 27, 2020 at 6:31 pm

      Hahaha!! I didn’t think he’d rip me off, I just worry a lot about stuff not being perfectly centered or me not conveying what I want clearly enough. He did a great job, though!

  • Reply Lesley April 27, 2020 at 1:46 pm

    I sooooo relate to your construction issues in NM! We also have an LG countertop from Lowe’s. The guy came to measure, laser beams and fancy equipment. Weeks later we were ready for delivery and install! Except he measured wrong and it all had to go back ;( New measurements-second time, same thing- it wasn’t measured correctly. At the install they had to make an extra seam. ;( They also dripped the chemicals they use to fill the seams all over my brand new cabinets in 3 places, when I asked about it during the install “that’s just water, wipe it off”…lies! I actually have one of their handprints on the side of my cabinet next to my sink. It makes me crazy every day. This is one story of MANY. I love NM but wow can it be stressful to get anything done! Your kitchen looks amazing!!

    • Anna Dorfman April 27, 2020 at 6:32 pm

      Oh no!! Did you tell Lowe’s?? They should have taken care of all of that and fixed what was done wrong! I hope they’re not still working with that contractor. I’m so sorry that happened. 🙁

  • Reply Abby April 27, 2020 at 1:48 pm

    I love that faucet – I installed a similar looking Kohler one in our last house. They’re so practical and easy to deal with; mine had a tiny problem with the handle-bolt (the hole was in the back of the water turn-on switchy thing which was annoying to get to with a hex wrench) started to consistently wiggle free after about six months, but I put some threadlocker on it finally and that stopped the problem.

    • Anna Dorfman April 27, 2020 at 6:33 pm

      The plumber made sure to show me how to tighten that little nut if it starts to get loosey-goosey. Good to know about the threadlocker trick in case it ever decides to go rogue!

  • Reply Jess E April 27, 2020 at 2:13 pm

    Please do share about acrylic countertops! I have a very 70s looking kitchen with gorgeous yellow-patterned sheet linoleum that I am trying to maintain the retro vibe in but I need to replace the countertops. Wondering if something simple like what you got is the ticket!

    • Anna Dorfman April 27, 2020 at 6:35 pm

      Jess, have you seen the solid color options from LG and Corian? I think the types with the embedded flecks and stuff would probably be too contemporary in a 70s kitchen, but they have some GREAT bright colors like yellow and orange. If they offered an avocado green, I think I’d have had a hard time not wanting to go in that direction. 😉

    • Jess E May 14, 2020 at 8:56 am

      Oh my goodness, thanks for the tip! I am drooling over Corian Seagrass as we speak. Now to convince my bf…

  • Reply Claudia April 27, 2020 at 4:40 pm

    The new counters look amazing! And, yes, I’d love a separate post on how you look after them.

    I cannot wait to see what you do about a backsplash!

    • Anna Dorfman April 27, 2020 at 6:35 pm

      I’ll do a dedicated acrylic countertop post after all of the big kitchen posts are done!

  • Reply Geninne April 27, 2020 at 5:08 pm

    I totally remember your absolute elation when that part of your kitchen re-do was done! 🙂 it’s such a wonderful counter and sink! Can’t wait to be at the stage where I’m picking stuff for our new adobe!

    • Anna Dorfman April 27, 2020 at 6:36 pm

      I am SO GLAD it’s done!! Now I can lift my moratorium on buying cute mugs and bowls. 😀

    • Kim B April 28, 2020 at 1:00 am

      This is CRUCIAL

  • Reply steph n April 27, 2020 at 6:10 pm

    Haha, tears of joy! That would be me too. Also, thank you for introducing me to GENINNE on instagram. I am in love with her art, home, and collections 🙂

    • Anna Dorfman April 27, 2020 at 6:37 pm

      Isn’t Geninne THE BEST? It’s pretty great to have a friend who’s so amazingly talented. 🙂

  • Reply Sarah April 27, 2020 at 7:35 pm

    I just realized that you don’t have a dishwasher and now I’m thinking about having to handwash everything in a tub for months. Eek. Now that I’m literally eating every meal at home and cooking more, I’m SO sick of just washing the pots, pans & knives. I’m not sure I could go without a dishwasher any longer.

    But all of that is somewhat off topic. I love the lovely, clean look of your counters! It works so nicely with the bold painted tile and your pretty cabinets. Can’t wait to see the backsplash!

    • Anna Dorfman April 27, 2020 at 9:07 pm

      I actually really like handwashing dishes and don’t want a dishwasher, but washing dishes in the bathtub just straight up sucks!!

  • Reply Laura May 5, 2020 at 7:43 pm

    Can I ask where you got that great paper towel holder??

  • Reply Cara September 6, 2020 at 12:49 pm

    How are the counters holding up so far? Seriously considering the same for our kitchen! Yours looks great!

    • Anna Dorfman September 6, 2020 at 12:52 pm

      They look great! Materials like Corian and Hi-Macs are pretty indestructible unless you do something dumb like put a hot pot on it. Any surface wear can be buffed out if necessary.

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