Striking Green Tiles Add Drama to This “Lifeless” Pre-War Kitchen

published Jun 24, 2024
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Sealed fireplace, guitar on mantle, lamp table, wood floors, dirty doors and paneling
Credit: Erin Little

Designer Christina Salway always wanted to modernize her eclectic townhouse in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood, which the previous family owned for over 80 years — but it was still important to her to honor the past. “The project was largely focused on returning the house to its original state,” Salway shared. And that’s exactly what she did.

Reimagining the rooms while remembering its history included the kitchen, too. “I really wanted the kitchen to feel true to the pre-war design of the house, so I looked to freestanding antique furniture to influence the style of the cabinets and island and ran the tile all the way up the wall — channeling a Victorian kitchen,” Salway explains. 

She had to do some major brainstorming when it came to transforming this particular space, referring to it as “quite an overhaul.” The room wasn’t actually a kitchen — it was being used as a bedroom (the appliances had all been removed), so they essentially had to build the room from scratch. 

Credit: Erin Little

Inspired by a freestanding pine hutch she owns, Salway worked with Express Millwork in the Bronx to create custom cabinetry. Next, Bertazzoni appliances were added to the room, and an antique double basin sink was moved from an upstairs room into the kitchen. A pantry was set up to house the food and extra appliances. 

But the star feature of the room is arguably Salway’s proudest DIY achievement: The striking green tiles. “Tiling the kitchen backsplash was a victory,” she admits. “We’d used this tile in another project and knew we loved the color and style. My husband jokes that during COVID-19 I went through my ‘green phase’ where I wanted everything to be green, and I guess I’ve never recovered.” 

If you’re wondering how Salway hung the tile, you’re in luck — because she shared the details with us. Here’s how she did it.

  1. Install Hardie Board (a strong fiber cement siding) to create a level surface on the wall, and set up a laser level to ensure the tiles are straight. 
  2. Salway used adhesive rather than thin-set (she describes this as “glue rather than mortar”) as it was going on a wall that wouldn’t be exposed to moisture. 
  3. Use a ridged trowel to apply the adhesive, press the tile into it, and keep adding the tiles one by one. 
  4. Salway hung them in the style of traditional zellige, so there’s no grout in between the tiles. 

Bonus tip: If you need to cut the tiles, Salway used a wet saw. She says a tile cutter would work, too. 

Credit: Erin Little

Although the kitchen is on the smaller side, the $25,000 renovation (the tiling project cost around $1,200) has made it a functional and gorgeous space. It’s hard to believe it wasn’t even a kitchen at first! 

“Between the lower cabinets, upper display shelves, and pot rack, all of our everyday kitchen tools and materials are right at our fingertips. And then, even though the island and the room are narrow, we all end up hanging out in there all the time anyway,” Salway says. “We’ll end up with a kitchen full of friends perched at the island while John cooks and I fill wine glasses, and it feels intimate and functional despite its small footprint.”

If you want to see more of Salway’s gorgeous home, you can! To see more of the space, visit the full home tour on Apartment Therapy

This post originally ran on The Kitchn. See it there: Before & After: Striking Green Tiles Add Drama to This “Lifeless” Pre-War Kitchen