The UpSkill Project (+ A Video)

The UpSkill Project (+ A Video) - roomfortuesday.comBack in March, I posted about The UpSkill Project (see that post here). Five local Salt Lake City residents were selected by Lowe’s and I got to assist with one project! I lucked out when I discovered I was paired with a big tiling project- something I definitely feel confident doing, and as a bonus- the homeowner, Katie, is a talented architect. I didn’t assist with the design because Katie already had a beautiful layout planned… but I did get my hands dirty tiling and grouting. Click through for a fun before, after, a quick video, and a peek into the process of tiling a backsplash and island. 

I’ll start by sharing a before image, although The UpSkill Project is less about a gorgeous “before & after” but rather what you learn in between those phases. I love that the premise empowers homeowners to tackle projects themselves. That’s exactly what Emmett and I do in regards to our own renovations, so it was fun to pass on the know-how and confidence. Alright, here’s what Katie’s kitchen looked like before the team and I invaded her house:

The UpSkill Project (+ A Video) - roomfortuesday.comAs you might expect, it wasn’t bad at all! Being an architect, Katie has a great eye for design and her minimalistic, clean, white kitchen was no exception. It just lacked some pizazz and personality. Katie was inspired by a coffee shop to add a graphic pattern to her backsplash and island using hex tile and a gradient effect… but she had never tiled before. That’s where we come in! I arrived at Katie’s house on Day 1 and the team was already set up and ready to teach.

The UpSkill Project (+ A Video) - roomfortuesday.comFirst, we installed backer board to the island, which allowed an even and secure surface for tile installation. Katie was such a great sport with a willing attitude and she picked up on it right away.

The UpSkill Project (+ A Video) - roomfortuesday.comBefore we started installing the tile, Katie showed me her pattern and explained how she created the mosaic. In the photo below, you can see what the mosaic tile looks like out of the box (the one closest to my shoes). She picked it apart and hot glued the pattern she envisioned over the course of a month!! Talk about time consuming- it sounds like there was plenty of simultaneous TV binging that helped her survive the tedious hot glue process.

The UpSkill Project (+ A Video) - roomfortuesday.comWe meticulously moved the mosaic sheets into the kitchen and started the fun part- tile cutting and installation.

The UpSkill Project (+ A Video) -

The UpSkill Project (+ A Video) - roomfortuesday.comAgain, Katie picked up on this part of the process very quickly. Adding tile to an island is a great way to make a kitchen look more custom and add depth / interest to your space. It’s also functional… if you have bar stools at an island, it’s a much more durable surface and is easier to clean.

The UpSkill Project (+ A Video) - roomfortuesday.comKatie’s cute dog, June, became my new BFF during the duration of the project and she is much better behaved than my dogs. Ha! She did a lot of lounging while we worked and kept us entertained.

The UpSkill Project (+ A Video) - roomfortuesday.comAfter the island was tiled, we moved onto the backsplash. I recommended Katie take the tile all the way to the ceiling, instead of cabinet height. I chat more about taking tile to the ceiling in this post, but it’s a great way to elongate your ceilings and make a kitchen or bath look high end. She took my advice and the end result looks amazing, if I do say so myself.

The UpSkill Project (+ A Video) - roomfortuesday.comOnce the tile was set, we came back the next day, prepped, and grouted everything. Katie selected a black grout for a high contrast look. We used black grout on our bathroom floor tile and it’s beautiful… although the post grouting cleaning process is a bit more difficult due to the dark pigment (in my opinion). I think Katie would attest to that.

The UpSkill Project (+ A Video) -

The UpSkill Project (+ A Video) - roomfortuesday.comOnce the grout was cleaned, sealed, and caulked, I ventured back to Katie’s house for a final interview and images. Before you jump to the after images, check out this fun video of the entire process, as well as an interview with the homeowner.

Here’s what the kitchen currently looks like with the newly installed tile…

The UpSkill Project (+ A Video) - roomfortuesday.comSuch a big difference, right? It’s amazing what tile will do for a space. The kitchen has so much character now and looks anything but boring.

The UpSkill Project (+ A Video) -

The UpSkill Project (+ A Video) - roomfortuesday.comSmall hex tile is a timeless, classic shape and I love that Katie found a way to make it feel really modern. I probably never would have thought to create a pattern like this!

The UpSkill Project (+ A Video) - roomfortuesday.comWhat do you guys think? Are you into Katie’s high contrast, graphic kitchen, and the fun patterned island? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the design! It’s obvious she very carefully planned the layout. Even the hex tiles on the corner edge match the ones on the adjacent side- everything perfectly aligns.

The UpSkill Project (+ A Video) -

The UpSkill Project (+ A Video) - roomfortuesday.comHow do you feel about the white hex backsplash traveling all the way to the ceiling? Are you team white or black grout? Although I’m really into the high contrast, I think in my own home I probably would’ve went white- because I’m not that bold. Kudos to Katie for perfectly pulling it off! I’ll leave you with one more image.

The UpSkill Project (+ A Video) - roomfortuesday.comI feel really lucky to have been apart of The UpSkill Project. I love that I was able to give back to locals who embody the same DIY attitude and want to learn how they can take matters into their own hands and improve their homes. It’s such a rewarding feeling to finish a project and know that YOU are the one who made it all happen. Memories are always made, money is saved, and at this point in time- I can’t imagine doing it any other way.

Speaking of kitchens and renovating… my own kitchen reveal is happening tomorrow! Promise you’ll come back for that?

*This post is sponsored by Lowe’s. All content, ideas, and words are my own. Thank you for supporting our favorite home improvement retailer. 

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  1. Wow! I definitely applaud her creativity, precision and attention to detail. The tile looks great! I always prefer light grout with white tile; I can’t pinpoint why that particular high contrast look doesn’t appeal to me. See you (and you kitchen!!!) tomorrow.

    1. I think it turned out beautiful! Excited to share my own kitchen tomorrow :) xo

  2. Thanks for sharing this — the tile looks great! I have to tell you that I saw your post about the Upskill project a few months ago, and checked the site thinking there was no way Lowe’s would be coming to my city. It turned out Grand Rapids was part of the very next session that would be opening for the contest! I entered a video, was selected and am preparing to install a new bathroom vanity/ sinks/ faucets in our master bathroom in in July. Thank you for publicizing this event — I would never have known about it in time without having read it on your blog!

    1. I am SO excited to hear that, Sarah!! Best news ever- I’m pumped for you. You’ll have a great time with Mikey and the team… they’re a lot of fun and know their stuff. Can’t wait to hear how it goes. xox

  3. I love the pattern on the island; it was well worth the time and effort. I like both low and high contrast, but the darker grout may be more practical in a kitchen even with a tile sealer.

    1. I agree, Amanda! The black grout is definitely super practical and it works so well in this space. Thanks for checking it out!! xox

  4. I am really loving the island and the dark grout. It’s so bold and a real statement piece. I’m not so sure about the dark grout with the white tile, though. I generally love that look, but it looks a bit busy for my taste.

    1. Same! The island is SO cool! I think the dark grout throughout the space was a good cohesive decision. It totally fits Katie’s aesthetic. Thanks for weighing in, Heather! xox

  5. Sarah, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! You made even an awkward girl like me look okay on camera ;) But seriously, thanks for all you expertise during the whole process. We truly appreciated it! I’m already loving how easy the tile is to clean, and our whole living room/kitchen feels so much more complete now.

    Oh, and here’s the amazing tile floor that inspired our island tile:

    THANKS LOWE’S!!! <3

    1. Hahah!! You look fantastic on camera and I was happy to help! Thanks for allowing us to invade your house. Anything for June ;) xox

  6. Ellen Darter says:

    I love everything about this new look. The island is an art piece- so unique and beautiful, and something that makes this home entirely yours! It’s inspiring to see a bold statement that works so beautifully. The the black grout adds lovely contrast to all the white in the space, and looks so great with the other black accents. Well done, everyone!!!

    1. Katie’s vision turned out beautifully! I love the high contrast look in her home, and the island is my favorite part of all. The black and white pattern is gorgeous and classic- yet modern.

  7. Create/Enjoy (@SuzannahStanley) says:

    It looks awesome!! It does make sense to have tile in front of the bar stools and it really adds to that clean, simple kitchen! I am also probably team white grout in this case but it does look very cool and bold. I love her bar stools, adding the warmth of the wood, too!

    1. I know! My thoughts exactly… the barstool / island combo works so much better now. I also agree about the dark grout in this space- it just seems to fit. xox

  8. Cesia Rivera says:

    Wow! Gorgeous island pattern, I seriously cannot stop looking at it. I like that she took your advice to go all the way to the ceiling but I’m not sure if black grout would’ve been my choice. Anyway, everything turned out so good!

    1. Isn’t it beautiful?! I love the way it looks tiled all the way to the ceiling. It definitely makes the ceiling height appear taller. xox