Fall ’23 One Room Challenge | French Bistro Inspired Kitchen | Week Six


Welcome to Week Six of the Fall ’23 One Room Challenge! The French Bistro-Inspired Kitchen is really coming together now – we have CABINETS!! we have COUNTERTOPS!! and we have a BACKSPLASH!!

In case you’re new here, my name is Justine Dennen, and I’m the owner of Blue Leopard Interiors, a boutique residential interior design firm in Great Falls, VA. And if  you haven’t heard of the One Room Challenge, it’s an eight week online event which happens every spring and fall, where interior decorators and home bloggers, undertake redesigning or designing from scratch a room of their choosing, while sharing the progress along the way. It’s not a competition, as there is no winner, just a supportive group of like-minded design enthusiasts challenging themselves to complete a room in eight weeks. Huge thanks to Linda Weinstein, the creator and director of the One Room Challenge!

Last week the old cabinets we donated, and the new cabinets were installed! And although the new cabinets really started to make this new kitchen a reality, the progress we made THIS week is just as thrilling!


Deciding on a Backsplash


When I first started designing this kitchen, I was poring over dozens of kitchen images a day, and I couldn’t help but notice a big trend emerging. I’ll show you a few images here, so you can guess what it is…



Image via Carley Page Summers.



Image via Jean Stoffer Design



Source Unknown



Do you see the trend?? All of these kitchens above (and there are soooooo many more on my Kitchen Pinterest board!), have a tall, stone, backsplash with a little shelf – or ledge – along the top edge. I ADORE this look, and was originally planning to incorporate it into my design, as you can see below where the lead designer at Elite even added it to my drawings:




But as much as I loved this look, there is also something about tile in a kitchen that I love, and I also feel can really get the “French Bistro” look across. I thought about doing the backsplash ledge combo as above, but then adding a simple subway tile above it, similar to this kitchen:




Source via Style by Emily Henderson



I thought a lot about doing something similar to the above image, and even ordered lots of tile samples to try it out, but something kept nagging at me. Probably more than anything else in design, I love color, and I love pattern. And although we hear allllll the time that we should keep our hard finishes (Like flooring and tile) neutral so that “they don’t date as fast” and “they’re better for resale”, at the end of the day, it’s ME living in my home everyday, and I want my eyeballs to look at things that make me happy! And if color and pattern make me happy, I felt like I couldn’t have a completely neutral kitchen. Yes, of course I could add in color and pattern with decorative items, but for me, adding patterns ON TOP of other patterns, and more colors ON TOP of other colors it what really makes my heart sing! So I went back to some of my original inspiration images of French Bistros and Brasseries;



Image via The Hoxton, Paris



Image via Desire to Inspire




Image via Polux French Cafe by Baptiste Bohu Interiors




And the recurring design elements here? COLOR and PATTERN!!! But a lot of the pattern is coming from the gorgeous tile floors in both of these places. My kitchen has hardwood floors, so no tile floors for me. But then I had an idea… what if I take the patterned tile from the floor to the backsplash?!?!? Obviously NOT a new idea – hand-painted and patterned tile as kitchen backsplashes have been used for centuries. And it’s a design element I have loved forever. When I first met my husband, we were both 22, and he had convinced his parents to help him buy an old, rn-down building, (it was a carport, not even a house) in a beautiful, historic neighborhood of Tucson, Arizona. Taking inspiration from all of the lovely, old, Spanish Colonial homes in the area, he was using colorful Mexican tiles to finish an archway in this little cottage, and he brought me over to show me what he was working on. I’ve always said it was from that moment, I knew I wanted to marry him!! We even used an array of those hand-painted Mexican Talavera tiles as favors at our wedding, so you can see, my love runs deep 🙂



Hand-painted Mexican Talavera Tiles


I even thought about sourcing Talavera tiles for my backsplash, but decided that a home built in Y2K in Northern Virginia wasn’t the most authentic place for them. So I did a little online digging, and came across these tiles from Bedrosians:


Casablanca 5×5 Matte Ceramic Tiles




They aren’t hand-painted, but the design and colors were perfect, and NOT being hand-painted made them a much more affordable option. I ordered samples, and knew as soon as I saw them in person, they were perfect! the geometric design gives art-deco vibes, but the slight distressing along the edges gives them an earthy quality which I love. Once I made that decision, and placed the order, the next step was to choose the stone for my countertops.



Choosing Countertops



These days, there are so many options for countertops – theres marble, granite, quartz, quarzite, concrete, and the list goes on. I seriously considered using real marble, as that would be the most authentic choice for a French Bistro inspired kitchen, but again, this is just a suburban home built about 20 years ago, not an actual turn-of-the-last-century French Bistro, and since marble is the softest of all of the stones, stains easily, and requires maintenance, we decided it may not be the best option for us. So, I took my cabinet and tile samples with me to Granite Center. and quickly narrowed down our choices from many to a few based on the look I was going for, the colors of my cabinets and backsplash, and knowing that I either wanted quartz or granite. Quartz is man-made, a form of engineered stone made from ground-up particles of quartz bound together with resins. It is extremely durable, easy to maintain, and comes in hundreds of colors across many different brands. Granite, like marble, is a natural stone, but is much stronger, and doesn’t stain as easily as marble.



This Carrara marble is gorgeous, but the undertones were a little too cool with my cabinets, and of course, I knew that the maintenance of real marble was too much for me.




I loved the drama of this granite, but was worried that it would make the kitchen too dark




And then I found this quartz called London Sky – it has the perfect, off-white undertones and is durable and easy to care for!


What’s amazing about London Sky, is that it really looks like natural marble. It has a depth to it that I find missing in a lot of quartz products, and the subtle and irregular veining looks so natural. Although Granite Center didn’t have enough in stock for my counters, they were able to order two slabs for me, which arrived in less than a week.


Installing the Countertops


As soon as Granite Center received my slabs and had my approval, we scheduled the installation. I decided to go with an “eased” edge (basically just a straight, rectangular cut) on the perimeter counters, and a raised, mitered edge on the island. For the mitered island countertop, the carpenter had to build a sort of frame above the top of the cabinets for the stone to sit on, otherwise the top drawers wouldn’t have enough clearance to open since a mitered top is much deeper than a regular slab.




Here is the island with the frame added to accommodate the mitered countertop




The mitered top was huge and super heavy – it took 4 guys to set it in place!





The sink side of the countertops being installed




The range side of the countertops installed



The day these counters were installed was one of the most gratifying in this kitchen renovation so far – with countertops I could actually start using the kitchen again! Besides the fact that they look gorgeous too!


Installing the Backsplash


Once the countertops were in, my contractor could start installing the tile. He laid it out, and then it went amazingly fast. This was by the middle of the day he started:


As the tile went up, I knew I had made the right decision!




The tile was installed quickly and without any issues, other than that my contractor has to wait to piece in a few sections until after the crown moulding is installed.




How gorgeous is this sneak peek?!?! And don’t mind the blue tape on the cabinets – that’s just left there by my organizer so we know which cabinets and drawers contain what!



Whew! That’s a lot of progress to catch you up on, but there’s still so much more to do. Next up is refinishing the floors, which is a pretty major task, as it means all of our furniture needs to be moved out of the family room, Kitchen, breakfast nook, and dining room in order to clear the way for the floor sanders. We won’t have access to any of those rooms for several days, so just as I gain my kitchen back, I’m losing it again. I’m not looking forward to it, but we can’t have two-toned floors either!


Don’t forget to check out all of the updates from my fellow One Room Challenge Guest Participants in the meantime, by clicking here.


Cheers to Fab Interiors!






Here is my ORC progress

Week 1  ||  Week 2  ||  Week 3  ||  Week 4  ||  Week 5  ||  Week 6 ||  Week 7  ||  Week 8