30 November 2010

Help a design student out

Evan Morikawa is a student at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in Needham, MA. He loves design, building things, and finding interesting new ways to solve old problems. He has a kitchen gadget he's putting into production and he asked me to tell him what I thought of it.

Frankly Evan I'm flattered but who cares what I think? If it helps, I think it's an elegant piece of functional sculpture. I'm far more interested in helping you get your idea in front of an audience. I believe very strongly in giving good ideas a leg up and Evan, yours is a good idea.

What do you guys think? Is it an elegant piece of sculpture? Is this something you can see using yourself or giving as a gift? What words of encouragement and advice do you have for a new product designer who's offering up his first design?

Evan's producing these prototypes through the end of the week and you can order them through his website. He's selling them for $45 a piece and you can contact him directly with questions through his site.

29 November 2010

A quiet counterpoint to the TSA

I found these while I was taking a Thanksgiving break and I thought they were clever.

The text of the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution is printed in metallic ink and will show up on the TSA's body scan images. You can find them here.

Thinking about the TSA's latest power grab and that Palin woman's assertions that those of us with a D in our political affiliations somehow hate the Constitution reminded me just how much I admire the Constitution of the United States. Here's the text of the Fourth Amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Sarah, if you're reading this you probably ought to read the whole thing some time. Here's the Constitution and here's The Bill of Rights.

As irritating as the TSA's security theater can be, the idea of someone seeing my bits in a scanner doesn't bother me very much. I'm far more concerned about the general climate of paranoia that allows all manner of Constitutional abuse to go unchallenged. That same climate of paranoia is what allows failed politicians who libel their fellow citizens to write best selling books and it allows a minority political party to use metaphors of war to describe their disagreements with The President.

The United States is in serious trouble and that trouble can't be chased away by bureaucratic muscle-flexing or by pitting citizens against one another in the search for a scapegoat.

Now, who'll be the first one to volunteer to wear these undies through an airport?

Thanksgiving re-runs: My last post on faucets

This is a series on faucet finishes I wrote and ran originally in February 2009. I'll be back tomorrow with fresh stuff!

Fixtures, fixtures everywhere but what does it mean and what should I pick? Well, what it means is that there are a bunch of manufacturers who make a bunch of finishes and the one you should pick is the one you like. Many thanks to Kohler for all of their help with this series. They make a high quality product at a price point that's a value proposition. A Kohler faucet is not a faucet you'll be replacing any time soon. They are as sound mechanically as they are beautiful too.

So here are a couple of fun facts I got from my pal Sarah the product manager at Kohler. 

Brushed nickel is the number one selling finish for kitchen faucets.

Chrome is number one on baths.

A new finish has a ten year run rate. By that I mean that when Kohler introduces a new finish, they expect it to remain in production for ten years. Though exceptions to that ten year rule abound. Chrome and nickel have been consistent best-sellers since the 1930s and oil rubbed bronze has been in production for the last 15.

As an aside form me, expect oil rubbed bronze and its kin to be the next ones forced into retirement.

What's making a strong come back are warm gold tones. And that's designer speak for brass. You heard it here first kids, inside of five years all the cool kids will be sporting brass faucets and cabinet hardware. Again. Ugh. I never liked it much the last time around, but who am I to buck a trend? So here's a run down of some of Kohler's cool fixtures and finishes.

Never use harsh abrasives or lime-dissolving chemicals to clean a new faucet of any kind. On a faucet with a living finish, the heavy duty cleaning stuff will remove your hard won patina. On consumer-grade faucets, a thorough clean with the big guns will damage the clear top coat and end up reducing the life of the finish. Remember, a soft cloth and a mild detergent are your plumbing fixtures' best friends.

This is the Antique in  faucet in Brushed Nickel

This is the Purist in Polished Chrome

This is the Clairette in Stainless

This is the Devonshire in Brazen Bronze

This is the Devonshire in Oil Rubbed Bronze

This is the Finial in Vibrant French Gold

This is Memoirs in Polished Chrome

This is Pinstripe in Polished Nickel

So your options are seemingly endless, but know that a quality faucet will last forever. So remember that when you're considering your finish options. Forever. Hmm.

So thanks to my pals at Kohler for all the good information. I now know more about faucet manufacturing and finishes than I ever thought existed. If you ever have a question about this stuff, just shoot me an e-mail. I'm sure I'll be able to answer it.

28 November 2010

Thanksgiving re-runs: The Peoples' faucetry

This is the fourth in a series of posts on faucet finishes I'm running during my Thanksgiving break. I wrote this series originally in February '09.

So if the higher end of the market uses ancient foundry methods to make objets d'art doing double duty as bath and kitchen fixtures, what's available to the rest of us? You know, the same us who bristle at the thought of an $1800 lavatory faucet.

Well, that's where our pals at Kohler come in with their modern and efficient production methods. Metal casting and finishing have come a long way since the Babylonians figured out how to cast bronze thousands of years ago. When plumbing fixtures are mass-produced now, they are cast in a variety of base metals (usually alloys of brass), then they're plated and finally, they're clear coated to resist corrosion and to make the finish last a lifetime.

All manufacturers have their own, secret alloys and formulas; but the production methods used by all of them are essentially the same. Individual components are cast in a base metal alloy and then polished and cleaned. Then the components are plated with a finish and covered with a clear top coat.

Plating takes two forms these days, and the first method is electroplating. Electroplating was invented in the early 1800s and was in wide-scale use by the middle part of the same century. Electroplating uses electricity to deposit a thin layer of metal on another metal. It's a pretty simple operation now, but figuring it out in the first place represented a huge leap forward.

An electroplating chamber is essentially an electric circuit. An anode is made from the finish metal, in the diagram above that metal is nickel (Ag). The anode's connected to the positive pole of a battery. The target for the electroplating (in the example above, a spoon) becomes the cathode and gets connected to the negative pole of a battery. The anode and the cathode are submerged in a bath of conductive solution and the electricity gets turned on. The electricity flows through the solution to complete the circuit. As the electricity leaves the anode, it takes nickel molecules with it. When the electricity lands on the cathode, it leaves the nickel molecules behind. Ta-dah! We have an electroplated spoon.

There's a second finishing method called physical vapor deposition (PVD). Physical vapor deposition is a marvel of physics and chemistry but I'll spare you another description of a process here. Suffice it to say that in PVD, the conductive solution is replaced with a gas and the whole process takes place in a vacuum. PVD allows a manufacturer more control over the finished product and by adjusting the mixture of gasses in the vacuum chamber, a manufacturer can achieve a number of effects that aren't possible with electroplating.

I bring this up because if you're in the market for a new faucet or two, you will come across the acronym PVD. PVD is never defined and that kind of officious acronym use drives me nuts. So now I know what it means and you do too.

Once the plating's done the fixture gets its final color and finish. If the final finish is something like oil-rubbed bronze, then there's a multi-step powder coating process that follows the plating. If a final finish is something like brushed nickel, then the plated fixture has a texture applied to it. The actual finishes always sit on top of a base of plated metal.

After all that, the fixture gets a clear coat that's usually cured with heat. It's kind of like a clear glaze on pottery, though the temperatures are nearly so high as that. This clear top coat is what allows Kohler to offer a lifetime warranty on their finishes. Oil-rubbed bronze will look like oil-rubbed bronze forever, brass finishes will never tarnish and nickel will never get any more dull than it was the day it was installed.

So when you look at this vibrant brass finish from Kohler, you're not really looking at a brass fixture. If you could see it in microscopic cross section, here's what you'd see.

These same electroplating and PVD methods get used on all mass-market finishes from brushed nickel to stainless steel, from polished brass to chrome. This is not a bad thing. Plated and sealed fixtures last longer and look better longer than their solid-metal counterparts. So remember that you're talking about finish colors, not finish compositions when you leave the high end of the market behind.

27 November 2010

Thanksgiving re-runs: Patinas on a budget

This the third in a series on faucet finishes I'm running over my Thanksgiving break. I wrote them originally in February '09.

So for the last couple of days I've been talking about living finishes and patinas and how they fit into the world of plumbing fixtures. To review; copper, bronze and brass as reactive metals --they change color and texture as they react to their environment. That change is called a patina. A patina is what corrosion's called when it's desirable. Think about it. The patina silver develops is called tarnish and it's a badge of shame. Copper does the same thing and people call it verdigris and prize it. Interesting.

Now, in addition to those naturally-occurring color and texture changes, the word patina is also used to describe virtually any color applied to metal. Although that word tends to be reserved for colors that mimic a naturally-occurring patina. Make sense?

So, if this is what bronze ingots look like,

And this is true brushed bronze that would end up being used on a $1900 lavatory faucet,

(Plinth, by Paul Martin Wolff)

what are you supposed to do when you have a budget?

Enter our friends at Kohler.

This is a $300 lavatory faucet, the Fairfax single control, and it's being shown here in Kohler's finish, brushed bronze.

Now, when Kohler refers to one of their fixtures as having a brushed bronze finish, they are talking about its color. When Rocky Mountain Hardware talks about brushed bronze, they're talking as much about the composition of the faucet as they are the color of it.

True bronze made by somebody like Rocky Mountain is a labor-intensive process and bronze is a notoriously finicky metal. Not only that, Rocky mountain is a bronze foundry and they make their bronze fixtures and hardware using sand casting and the lost wax method. Surely you remember the lost wax method from grade school social studies. That's right, Rocky Mountain does things the way the ancient Babylonians did and they charge accordingly. I'm not knocking Rocky Mountain for a second here either, seeing the fruits of their labor makes me weak in the knees. It's really beautiful stuff and it's intended to be a once in a lifetime purchase.

But love it though I do, I can't afford to throw thousands of dollars around on lavatory faucets and that's where our friends at Kohler come in again.

Kohler doesn't make that brushed bronze Fairfield single lever lavatory using methods handed down from the ancient Babylonians. But what they do make is beautiful enough.

Large scale plumbing manufacturers cast a faucet from a base metal; usually brass, zinc or a combination of the two. The base metal faucet is polished and then electroplated. Once it's electroplated they then apply a patina and then finally, they seal the color with a clear top coat. As soon as that fixture leaves Kohler's production floor it's locked in time. It will not continue to change. It won't evolve into another color. In fact, it's guaranteed not to change for life.

So if this is Rocky Mountain Hardware's deck-mounted faucet with an applied rust patina,

here's Kohler's answer to that patina, oil-rubbed bronze. Again, what they're describing is the color.

The two faucets pictured up there are separated by production methods, a slight variance in color and about 1500 dollars. The real bronze fixture will continue to change over time and the bronze-colored fixture is guaranteed never to change. Confused? Don't be. Let the price tags be your guide. If a lavatory faucet costs over a thousand dollars, chances are good that it's made from copper, bronze or brass and will have a living finish. If faucet costs under $500, it will not have a living finish and it will look factory fresh for life.

So Monday I'll delve into the exciting world of nickel, chrome and steel. I'm already giddy with anticipation.

26 November 2010

Thanksgiving re-runs: No really, what's a living finish?

This is the second post in a series that started yesterday. I wrote them originally in February '09.

OK, so yesterday I ran through three basic, reactive metals that come into play when it comes to faucets: copper, bronze and brass. When it's the actual metal we're talking about, manufacturers use terms like "living finish" and "organic finish" to indicate that their fixtures will continue to age and change with time. I'll get into nickel, chrome and stainless (the non-reactives) later, for now I want to stick with copper, brass and bronze.

Now, these living finishes are pretty much the exclusive province of the higher end of the market. For a lot of people, the changeable nature of brass, copper and bronze is a selling point. And that changeable nature comes at a premium.

Here's a $1500 kitchen faucet from Herbeau. It has a living finish of weathered copper and weathered brass.

And here's a $1900 tub faucet in weathered brass, also from Herbeau.

These fixtures are truly made from brass and copper and then they have a patina applied to them in the factory. These patinas are pigments and chemicals that react with the base metal to speed up the aging process. These patinas allow the base metals to look like they're already aged upon arrival. On a living finish, the metal is left unsealed. That is, without a clear top coat to prevent corrosion. Without that clear topcoat, these faucets will also continue to age and their colors will continue to evolve as the base metal reacts with the environment. No two of these faucets will age at the same rate or go through the same color phases. Their continued evolution is completely dependant on the environment where they're placed. Hence the term living finish.

It's important to remember that the world of plumbing fixtures doesn't use the conventions of science to categorize these finishes. Fixture manufacturers across the market use these metallurgical terms to describe a fixture's appearance, and not necessarily its composition. However, when there's a desirable base metal involved, that fact is made amply clear.

Here's a deck-mounted faucet from Rocky Mountain Hardware. It's made from bronze and has had a rust patina applied to it. Rust is iron oxide, a common reddish pigment. So this faucet is made from bronze with a reddish brown patina applied to it. With time it will continue to to turn more brown. It also has a suggested retail price of $1900.

Here's a wall-mounted faucet, also from Rocky Mountain Hardware. This faucet has been cast in bronze and has a medium patina applied to it. It carries a suggested retail price of $1600 and it's mind bendingly beautiful. Bronze has a warmth to it that no other metal comes near. Bronze has been a desirable metal for thousands of years for a very good reason --it's beautiful, strong and lasts forever.

This medium finish also looks suspiciously like something that started showing up in the consumer market around ten years ago, oil-rubbed bronze.

Now oil-rubbed bronze is where my conversation with the Kohler finish developer comes in. Since these living finishes and desirable base metals are the province of the high end of the market, how does this stuff trickle down to the consumer end? Well, come back tomorrow when I tackle the inter-market grudge match between true bronze and  the oil-rubbed bronze gang.

25 November 2010

Thanksgiving re-runs: So what the devil's a living finish anyway?

I'm taking a few days off to celebrate Thanksgiving and in lieu of writing a post a day over the holiday, I'm going to run a series on faucet finishes I wrote in February '09. Happy Thanksgiving one and all!

I had a similarly phrased question from a reader the other day and it's sent me on a quest to find out. As luck would have it, I'd already set up an interview with a finish developer from Kohler prior to being asked that living finish question, so I asked the source directly and I learned a thing or two.

That Kohler conversation gave me a ton of information to write about by the way, so look for a series on plumbing fixture finishes over the course of the next week or so. But in the meantime, here's a little something I learned about metals and patinas.

This is copper.

This is what happens to copper when it's exposed to the elements. Copper reacts to acids and alkalis in the environment to form a variety of chlorides, sulphides and carbonates known collectively as verdigris. That's French for green gray. Verdigris is composed of  copper carbonate or copper chloride primarily and those chemicals make up the green patina most people associate with copper. 

Copper is a highly reactive metal that's almost never used in its pure form. Generally, copper's combined with another metal to make it stronger and a little less reactive. When copper's combined with tin the result is bronze. These are bronze ingots.

When copper's combined with zinc the result is brass. And here's what raw brass looks like.

Due to their copper content, both metals retain a lot of the reactivity inherent in copper, though it's a bit less pronounced.

So here's what happens when bronze is left to its own devices. It turns a warm brown with yellow tones. These are the doors to the Pantheon in Rome and they're about 1800 years old. They're also the color of dark chocolate.

Brass on the other hand goes golden brown with a slight greenish tone to it.

These naturally occurring patinas are what's meant by a living finish. These patinas take time to develop and really, they never stop developing. After all, they're an ongoing chemical reaction.

When it comes to faucets; copper, bronze and brass are never left in their natural states to be allowed to age into their natural patinas on their own. It can get confusing because most manufactured faucets and fixtures have a patina applied to them. Let's back up for a sec though.

If you remember your basic chemistry, an alloy is the mixture of two or more metals. Alloys like brass and bronze aren't categorized scientifically, and there aren't any standard recipes for these metals. On top of that, copper never shows up in its pure state --it too is usually an alloy that's made mostly of copper. Add to that that the natural process of oxidation is called a patina, but so is virtually any color applied to a base metal. Argh.

I'll dig into this a little further tomorrow, but for now just remember that a living finish is a finish that will age and change color with time. On purpose.

24 November 2010

Thanksgiving break time

As every good blogger knows, web traffic plummets on holidays. On major holidays it falls precipitously. So I'm joining the exodus and am going into re-runs until Monday. So I want to wish everybody out there a great Thanksgiving. To everybody outside of the US, happy week of 22 through 26 November.

But back to everybody in the US for a sec.

Rather than joining in on the March to Armageddon on Friday, why not try something a little more civilized and a little more meaningful? Why not spend some quality time talking to someone or some ones you love? Why not stay home and make something with your family or friends? Why not buy nothing?

A holiday tea guide

Back in October, I wrote an article about being a tea drinker and I shared the find of my Chicago tea source, Jim Shreiber of Shui Tea. Since that article appeared Jim and I have struck up a lively correspondence and I've been buying and enjoying more if his teas.

Jim's brainchild is Shui Tea, a tea company with a commitment to tea that's only surpassed by its commitment to its customers. His teas are as amusingly well-named as they are well-blended.

With the holidays upon us (how did that happen?), our pals at Shui Tea have rolled out a special holiday collection of teas.

For an all-purpose, all-holiday, all-inclusive evening brew; the collection starts with More Cookies.

From the website:
Black Tea with Pistachio, Almond, Pink Peppercorn, Cumin, Coriander and truffle flavoring. You’ve been waiting all year for something this rich, sweet and nutty.

Deeply inhale the scent before you sip.  It smells as though you've been making all morning.  Enjoy as the balance of sweet and savory fill every Holiday craving. Grab more cookies, you need an excuse to make one more pot of tea.

If you don't know, Hanukkah starts on Wednesday of next week and L'Chayim is the perfect blend to imbibe after lighting the Menorah.

Delcious enough to drink for eight crazy nights, here is a blend of Apples and Cinnamon, mixed with hibiscus, and finished with elderberries and currants. The kids will trade up their gelt for a sip of this enticing brew. A perfect pair with latkes.
Christmas is in a bit more than a month and just in time for it, Shui Tea rolled out Cinnamerry Christmas.

Baby, it’s cold outside. But all the way home you’ll be warm with this blend of Apple and Cinnamon. Elderberries and currants add creamy flavor for when Jack Frost is nipping at your toes. Finished with glad tidings of Hibiscus, whether you made it on the Naughty or Nice list this year, you will love this delicious fruit and spice blend.
And finally we come to Festivus. Despite the lack of a single, agreed-upon date or dates, there's a tea for Festivus.

Orange rooibos with a hint of dark chocolate. Sick of commercialism? There is another way. Started many holidays ago because a battle waged over a doll. The doll was destroyed, but a new way was forged. A Festivus, for the Rest-of-Us. Celebrate Festivus with the traditional Airing of Grievances: let others know the ways they have disappointed you in the past year. Follow with challenging the head of the house to Feats of Strength at dinner.

There's plenty more where these came from on Shui Tea's website. Give it a peruse.

If you're looking for the perfect gift for the tea drinker in your life, or even better, if you're looking to become a tea drinker, I know a guy in Chicago who can make that happen.

23 November 2010

Root planing and curettage

Today's the day that my unfortunately middle-aged gums get their first exposure to something called root planing and curettage. My dentist likes to pretty it up by calling it a deep cleaning, but I like to call things what they are. Root planing reminds me of a planing a door and the two things aren't too dissimilar.

However, when you plane a door there's lots of room to maneuver and the door doesn't feel a thing. No so with my mouth.

As I understand it; my dentist will shove a flashlight, a modified jack hammer, a bunch of hand tools and a suction device deep under the gum line of my molars and will scrape their roots until they're back to a more youthful, smooth and silky state.

In addition to costing far, far more money than I like to spend on my teeth, it will save me the heartache of tooth loss and dentures. The best part? It's a four-phase procedure and I have three more to look forward to after today. And how's your Tuesday shaping up?

22 November 2010

What well-dressed lighting will be wearing this season

These are real products.

Would you? Could you?

Yet another nightmare brought to you by Trendir.

Jeld-Wen has a new idea for a pantry door

Every new construction project I get involved with anymore involves the inclusion of a walk-in pantry. I swear, walk-in pantries are the new trophy car. Time and again though the question comes up about what do to with the door on the new walk-in pantry.

Jeld-Wen has been making windows and doors for the last 50 years. Now Jeld-Wen has a new pantry door that just might work in a number of these walk in pantries.

They've managed to come up with a design that whispers pantry. It's a type treatment that looks fantastic and upon further inspection consists of a number of home spun recipes. The recipes range from apple pie to espresso biscotti and it's a clever design.

Jeld-Wen's new pantry door is available in nine species of wood, so it will match the millwork used in any home. If you'd like more information about Jeld-Wen's doors and windows, check out their website here.

21 November 2010

Autumn re-runs: Reader questions --Thorny dilemmas on stony subjects

I love it when people write to me with questions. Really. Back in the old days, it happened so infrequently that I made a blog post out of nearly every one. I don't have the room for that any more but I do reserve the right to make a post out of any question I can answer that makes me look clever of funny. Preferably both. My personal responses are always a lot kinder than what ends up in the blog, I promise. Also, I will always disguise the identity of a someone who asks me something. Here are some from last year. This post ran originally on 4 October 2009.

Help! We're getting our new granite on Monday hopefully and I'm sure they will tell us how to clean??....but was wondering how you clean your granite. I sure don't want to damage it.

Thanks in advance.
Hey, thanks for your question and congrats on your new addition. Granite is exceptionally easy to live with, despite the nonsense you may see and hear about it. You don't need any special cleaners for it, really. The easiest way to keep it looking good is to clean it with soap and water, rinse it and then dry it. You don't need to scrub it, treat it, buy special cleaners or give it any kind of kid glove treatment. Your fabricator will sell you on an annual resealing package and that's fine if it will give you peace of mind. However, in ten years of dealing with granite counters, I have never once seen anyone stain it or wear down the seal that's already on it when it's installed. The only way you can damage that counter is if you do it on purpose with a hammer. I'm sure there are anecdotes out there about so-and-so's neighbor's cousin's sister-in-law reading something on the internet about some nightmare stained granite incident, but I've never come across one first hand.

Help! My hairdresser told me yesterday about veneer granite transforming her daughter's kitchen... do you know anything about it? cost? installation?

Those granite and composite veneer overlay counters are generally supplied by an outfit called Granite Transformations. Granite Transformations is an international franchise that employs some of the most heavy-handed and shrill sales tactics I've ever come across. That alone makes me wonder about them. Even if the finished product didn't look cheesy (and this finished product looks cheesy), I question anybody whose marketing message consists of slamming their competitors rather than extolling their own benefits. Their latest tactic seems to be touting their "green" credentials. I may be alone in this, but to me that's another red flag. In a world where polyethylene grocery bags and Mylar juice boxes are somehow green, I'd say that's a meaningless descriptor. Proceed with caution. My advice? Go to a reputable counter fabricator that sells a number of materials and see what they can do with your budget.

Help! I can't pick up a home or kitchen magazine without seeing white marble counters. Yet for our complete kitchen renovation, I've gotten total NO! gasps when I share we want marble on the island. Folks tell me Marble is for those who don't cook.

We want a sophisticated library look -the cabinets are mahogany with Jacobean stain, cabinets to the ceiling with white crown molding and we'd love white marble counters.

Do you have experience with white marble counters? The kitchen is 30x15 so the investment is great and I don't want to buy something that cannot withstand children, entertaining and years.
Have you never read my blog before? White marble counters (honed please) are my all-time favorite material, to hell with its detractors. Click on the word countertops in my glossary to the right and you'll be treated to 45 articles I've written on counters. About half of them are devoted to singing songs of praise to white marble. your kitchen sounds beautiful, send me a photo when it's done.

Marble is not high maintenance, but marble is also impossible to to keep looking pristine. If you have an obsessive personality, marble is not your material. Find a white quartzite instead. It will keep a glossy shine and repel damage almost as well as granite will. But if you like the idea of your life leaving a mark on things, then marble is for you. Trust me, white marble will scratch and stain and get more and more beautiful with each passing year. It's marble's nature and there's nothing you can do to counteract it completely.

Just about every horizontal surface in Southern Europe, indoors and out, is made from white marble. Most of it is hundreds of years old. It looks spectacular and is but one of the many ways that the people of Southern Europe get tied to their surroundings. Think about it. If five generations of your family lived in the same home and the matriarch of each generation chopped vegetables in the same spot on the same marble counter, each of those women left a physical mark on that counter. Every time you walked into that kitchen and looked at that counter, you would have an instant reminder of the women who proceeded you to that spot. Wow. Far from detracting from the beauty of the surface, that kind of history and character is the ultimate enhancement. Having white marble in your own home is an opportunity to capture some of that history and character for yourself and for your family.

You keep hearing an emphatic NO! because you haven't spoken with me. I say go for it!

Help! I’m sitting here crying because I’ve looked at so much granite that I want to give up. I’m trying to brighten my kitchen up so I put in Biscotti colored cabinets (already installed 3 weeks ago) to go with a new countertop and flooring (waiting for granite color before picking tile color). I have mainly white appliances. New range top is black and the top section of the dishwasher is black. Other than that it’s all white. My small appliances are black. (Toaster, coffee pot, can opener.) The wall color can be changed to whatever. My dining room table and chairs are light oak.

I’ve run the gamut from light to medium to dark granite and now I’m back to light. I’m ready to give up completely and put the old countertop back in which was wood block.

Hey, chin up. You're fortunate to have a life where you have choices. Having too many choices is a symptom of a life of plenty and certainly nothing to shed tears over. Too many choices can also be intimidating and overwhelming and it sounds like your stuck on overwhelmed. I have no idea what the color "Biscotti" is without knowing who the manufacturer was and I'm not even going to try to make a recommendation. What I do recommend strongly though is that you find the most reputable granite fabricator in your area and give them a call. Please note that this will not be in a big box store. Set an appointment and then take one of your cabinet doors over to the fabricator and look at granite slabs in their yard. You cannot pick a granite counter from small samples. Run away from anyone who tries to tell you otherwise.

I would never turn someone loose with all the options available, it's too much to process. Instead, I do pre-selections for my clients. I talk to them, find out where their interests are and then show them three options rather than 150. If they don't like any of the first set of three, then I show them a second set of three and sometimes a third set.

You need someone to do something similar to that for you in a granite yard. Talk to a salesperson before you go look at slabs. Tell him or her the primary colors you're interested in and then be honest about your budget. Let the salesperson guide you through their slab room. A reputable fabricator will have a good cross section of what's available, so pick something from what you see that day. Just breathe and know that based on your budget and the other colors you're using in your renovation, the right granite will end up picking you. So get out of the way and let it.