My dears. I’ve been a bad blogger. I promise, promise, a thousand times promise I will not become one of those blogs where every other post is an apology for not posting enough. I swear. I pinky swear. I’m going to start stockpiling posts about every interesting thing I can think of so I’ve always got something for you lovely folks to read.

With that being said…today’s is a good one. I know you all love a nice long before & after (as do I). This one was completed in traditional Kate Moore Half-Baked Whirlwind Fashion™, but it was an idea for a long time. My parents built their house in 1995 (I think? Maybe ’96? Help, Mom) and equipped it with the most stylish accoutrements of the time, such as blue Formica countertops.

(Please forgive the date-stamps on this post. I was too busy hacking away at the kitchen to take photos, so my mom did it, and her camera is set up to date everything.)

There was nothing wrong with them function-wise–they endured the last 15 years with nary a scratch or chip–but color-and-pattern-wise, they left something to be desired. My mom wanted granite, but you know the story–expensive, really expensive, the economy blah blah, financial priorities. Not something the folks wanted to plunk down a bunch of cash on just now. Can’t say that I blame them.

My mom was flipping through St. Louis Magazine when she ran across an ad for this:

Giani Granite Paint, which happens to be a St. Louis-based company (hence the magazine mention) is a kit that promises to make your counters look like granite with a lot less money and some elbow grease. Having a local source for the paint kit (Reineke’s in St. Louis) and free elbow grease (artsy, interior-dec-obsessed daughters) she thought she’d give it a try. After all, if she didn’t try it, she’d be replacing the counters anyway. Why not give it a whirl?

(This would be a good time for me to mention that we were in no way compensated for using or writing about this product; we paid for it, and I find the notion that any company would pay me for my rambling charmingly hilarious.)

After reading a crap-ton of Amazon reviews and various other opinions, we took the plunge and bought the kit (in Chocolate Brown). Actually, we bought two, but probably could’ve squeezed through with one–we just wanted to be thorough. On Amazon I think the kit is around $85; we found it for $65 locally, so it’s worth shopping around (but it’s also a local product in STL). On the advice of an Amazon reviewer, we also bought a thing of superfine brown glitter (by Martha Stewart in Brownstone) and a pack of gold leaf flakes, to approximate the mineral deposits found in natural granite.

The first step in the process was to watch the DVD (which, while helpful, made Jimmy cringe–he works in film and hates it when companies take a DIY attitude to instructional videos, which was definitely the case here). The next step was to tape everything off (you can see the lovely green Frog Tape above) and prime that sucka.

That’s me in the background in my extremely flattering blue summer-camp staff shirt, and my dear sister in the front wearing an unsettlingly similar expression. Priming with this stuff is basically just painting. It doesn’t matter if you have lap lines or anything, because it’s going to be covered by 3+ layers of other colors. Just slap it on there. And don’t drip it on your mom’s new cork floors.

At this point I thought it looked pretty awesome, and also my feet were tired. So I suggested just keeping it and rolling with the emo look. My mother was less than enthusiastic, so we left it alone for about 8 hours and then on to step two.

The Giani people give you a honking huge sea sponge, which I recommend you chop up into randomly sized pieces. I used three chunks: a big one, about a third of the size of the original sponge; a medium one, maybe an eighth of the size of the original; and a teeny wedge-shaped one which I used to fill in any weird holes. I also used a small, stiff-bristled paintbrush to dab in the crease between the counter and backsplash, which I found was difficult with the sponge as it tended to smear. The trick is to ONLY dab–never twist, drag or smear the sponge. Real granite is splotchy, it doesn’t have streaks in it.

The first coat looks admittedly funky:

I just kept the pattern as random as I could, working with the big sponge across maybe a 3-foot area, then going back in with progressively smaller sponges, and finally blotching along the crease. It’s really hard to explain; they provide a piece of black posterboard for you to practice on, and I cannot stress enough how important it is to try it first. It really isn’t hard, you just have to see what technique works best for you.

Then I did the second coat, which was white, and the third, which was a sort of golden brown. Would it be helpful for me to have a picture between the second and third coat? Undoubtedly. Do I? No, because my dad decided to be all dramatic and have a gigantic kidney stone, so my mom whisked him off to the hospital and stayed put for the rest of the weekend. Oy vey. But here it is after the third color of paint, waiting for the finishing steps:

You can see it looks a lot more brown with the other two colors added in. The flash makes it look a lot whiter in this area than it actually was. You might notice little bright flecks throughout it; those are gold leaf flakes, which I scattered across the counter after painting each 3-foot section, while the paint was still a little wet. The easiest way to manage these is to pour them onto a paper plate, then use your fingernails to pull them apart into smaller pieces. You will have gold flakes everywhere. Sorry. It’s worth it. A word of caution: do NOT turn on a fan or have any sort of breeze coming through! The flakes weigh next to nothing, and they go flying at the slightest provocation.

After leaving it alone overnight, it was time to topcoat. This is definitely the trickiest step, because you have to do it so fast. The upside, though, is that it’s done very quickly. First I mixed in about two tablespoons of glitter (I might actually use a little more if I were to do it again–it’s very subtle, which is good, but maybe just a little too subtle). Using a little roller (and a foam brush to cut in along the wall), I put on a layer of topcoat. They go into more detail about this on the DVD, but basically you have to keep a wet edge at all times or you’ll get lap lines. I whizzed through the whole counter in about 20 minutes, because it starts to set up extremely fast so that it doesn’t catch lint/dust/etc. After letting it dry for a little while, I did a second coat, being very careful to get down at eye level and check for spots I missed the first time around (tip: do not miss spots the first time around).

Did you notice that copper tile hanging out in the above photo? Here it is again:

Yeah…so. Surely you remember the saga of the plastic drawers, where a tiny cover-up project erupted into three days of painting, tiling and rearranging? Well, while we were doing this my mom was talking about the backsplash she hoped to install one day, and since I was already around in work clothes…you can guess where it went from there. (To Lowe’s, to buy a bunch of faux-copper vinyl tiles.) Here’s that process happening (which was very, very simple):

Essentially, you just have these vinyl tiles, which you can cut with an Xacto or sharp scissors, and mount to the wall with very strong double-stick tape. They make copper film you can wrap around your outlet covers to make them blend in (unfortunately, the sheets were too small to cover these huge ones). You just line the tiles up and stick ’em…it’s a lot like the vinyl floor tiles from our bathroom renovation.

Are you ready for the glorious reveal?

I was pretty happy with the result, and my mom was thrilled. I can honestly say it doesn’t photograph half as well as it looks in real life; even up close, it’s super convincing. The gold flakes catch the light and look like mineral deposits, and the glitter, while subtle enough to not look like the leftovers of a craft project, adds a pretty depth to the topcoat. The faux-copper tile is great, too; it bounces the light from the under-cabinet system back at the counters and makes them really gleam.

All in all, I’d say the paint is definitely a good option if you can’t stand your countertops but can’t afford to replace them. Between the kits, our add-ons, and the backsplash, the total cost came out to right around $220 and 14-ish hours of labor, which is a great deal for a really new-looking kitchen. Everyone who’s seen my mom’s “new” counters has thought they were actually new, which delights her to no end. Since it’s only been two months, I can’t speak for the long-term durability, but it seems very tough and I have no reason to think it’ll break down anytime soon.

So, what do you think, dear readers? Would you consider painting your counters? Or does the very idea of tackling that kind of project leave you shaky and stammering?