On being … choosy?

A woman I used to work with had an unusual approach to ordering at a restaurant. When we’d be given the menu, I’d look down and begin to mull over the choices. When I’d look up, she was always ready and we’d resume the conversation until the server came to take our order. At that point, she’d quickly glance down at the menu and then tell the server what she wanted. I, on the other hand, tended to debate between a few of the items, never making the final decision till the server looked at me. 

Once, after ordering, I mentioned to her that I was impressed she always seemed to have something different and yet she never hesitated when it came time to order. She looked at me puzzled and said, “Oh, I just always order the first thing on the menu – it’s easier.” Well, I would never – could never – do that! To me, part of the pleasure of eating out is perusing the menu and thinking about the different items and then choosing.

In many respects, having choice is a luxury. We’ve come a long way from the Model T days when the only colour available was black. But honestly, sometimes I find that too much choice is… well… too much! This idea’s been on my mind lately as I plan a kitchen reno.

Going into this, I knew I’d have decisions to make. But I consoled myself figuring it would be fairly straightforward since, at the end of the day, it’ll still be a small galley kitchen. The threshold decisions revolved around the type and colour of cupboards, the countertop, and the backsplash. Early on I decided I’d go with the current trend of using the same material for the counter and backsplash. This appeals to me for two reasons. First, I like the idea of a solid piece f material for the backsplash because I think it’d be easier to clean – no grout lines. But equally important – to be honest – is it’s one less thing to choose! 

I’ve always loved marble and so my plan was for a marble countertop and backsplash with white cupboards on top and a contrasting colour on the bottom. Once I started looking, I learned that marble isn’t ideal in kitchens and so most folks use quartz that’s designed to resemble marble. That seemed ok, until I started looking at quartz. Up close I didn’t think it looked too real. So, it was back to the drawing board and I started looking at natural stone instead.

Olympia Tile+Stone is one of North America’s biggest tile and stone distributors. Their 3500 square foot showroom isn’t too far from me and I’ve always been curious about it. But, after combing through countless quartz patterns at three showrooms, the prospect of wandering through Olympia’s showroom was too daunting. 

Instead, I went to a stone place recommended by the countertop fabricator I planned on using. After a couple hours looking through aisles of magnificent stone slabs, I managed to narrow it down to about a half-dozen. A week later I returned with a friend to get her opinion. I ended up buying a piece of quartzite that – as one of my sisters would say – spoke to me. But, because what I chose has creamy undertones (not white/grey), I had to re-think the cupboard colours. 

Because I’m having coloured cupboards, the sky’s the limit in terms of choice. All the cabinetmaker needs is a swatch of paint and he’ll match it. I still figured I’d use some kind of white on top and a contrasting bottom. Fortunately, he gave me samples of the three most popular whites and one of them goes well with the countertop. But, I was torn between a few different colours for the bottom cupboards. So, I decided to paint some panels of my current cupboards to see how different shades look in the natural light. I tried four colours before I chose one.  

Choosing flooring was another matter. I wanted to replace the current tile, which is neutral but it has a bit of texture I find really traps dirt. Complicating the choice is the fact that the tile covers the front hall and a small bathroom off the hall, in addition to the kitchen. Again, taking a pass on Olympia’s huge warehouse, I decided I’d start at a few independent flooring stores friends recommended. One of them had a very limited selection and I didn’t find anything I liked. The other had a decent selection and they encouraged me to take a couple tiles home to compare them. That was a great idea, as I was able to see how they’d work in the hall and bathroom, as well as with the cupboard colours. The next day I made my choice and returned the samples.  

Having made the main choices, last week I went to sign off on the final cabinet colour and details. Or so I thought. Turns out I have to choose hardware for the drawers and doors. OMG. The cabinetmaker recommended a particular brand that he said is widely available. He even suggested I might find better prices at big box stores that get volume discounts he can’t get. I went home thinking it’d be straightforward. Well, on the manufacturer’s website I searched for “transitional style” pulls (as opposed to traditional style, for example) and there are over 700! Can you say overwhelming?   

While it’s nice to live in an era where there are choices for all sorts of things, I don’t mind admitting I sometimes find too much choice stifling. Of course, there are coping mechanisms. For me, purposely not going to places with too many choices usually works. For my former work colleague, simply choosing the first item on the menu worked. What about you? Are you the more choices, the better type – or do you have some default strategy you use when having to choose things? 

© 2021 Ingrid Sapona


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