The Tile That Became Her Soul Mate: Denisse’s Dream Kitchen Remodel

A Kitchen Remodel Story by Denisse Hudock, AIA, StoryBuilt

 By Clay Imports

The idea of our kitchen remodel was born the day we put an offer on the house. It was summer of 2013, and I was five months pregnant with our first.

The Home

We were moving from our 800 sf condo in Central Austin to an established older neighborhood in South Austin. We chose this 1991 builder house in spite of the yellow paint in the kitchen and the forest green in the foyer. It had seashell vanity sinks out of Marmoleum, and this creamy-pink tile throughout, some of which we haven’t gotten around to replacing. But it had decent lighting and high ceilings -an important requirement when your husband is 6’-6”. All around, plenty of room to grow into the little family we had just started.

Before remodel of Denisses Kitchen
Before the remodel

Kitchen Design decisions, decisions, decisions

Fast-forward to January 2019. We are on kitchen design version 4.0 because when you have six years to stew on a design, the idea you started with will almost certainly change. We thought we wouldn’t be in this house for more than two years, and four years in we decided that as long as we are in Austin, this was going to be our home. That opened up a spectrum of possibilities for me. I was no longer thinking of a quick upgrade to resell. I was now thinking of the kitchen I would live in and cook in for probably the next 15 years. And ladies and gents, if you know me you know I like to cook… it’s my happy place and my therapy. All of a sudden it became personal.

Taking on a DIY Kitchen Remodel

So here we are, an architect and a construction manager mapping out how to live through a kitchen remodel. Which involved transferring a return air shaft, demoing a chase, switching appliance locations, ducting the kitchen exhaust to the exterior, and gutting and replacing all the mill work and finishes.

Before remodel of Denisses Kitchen

We hosted our daughter’s 5th birthday party at home on Super Bowl weekend. And the very next weekend we rolled up our sleeves and pulled up the Pergo flooring in the kitchen, only to find an older layer of vinyl flooring underneath. Older homes are always a box of chocolates!

Since we planned on doing most of the work ourselves, every weekend was spent chipping away at a new task. It was always a dance between getting work done and having some family time with the kids on the weekend.

DIY  Kitchen Remodel
DIY Kitchen Remodel

The Timeline

  • Spring was dedicated to the big framing moves and electrical.
  • In May we started to tear away the tattered 90s oak cabinets. Because we moved the range location, I had to cook on the grill for about three weeks until Rob was able to rewire the 220v outlet.
  • In late summer, when we finally took down the sink, we had to wash dishes in a tub in the backyard for another three weeks until countertops were fabricated and installed. The very next evening Rob installed the new kitchen faucet and a garbage disposal. I did a happy dance that night, after six years I had a disposal!
  • In late September, the last of our mill work was installed, and by then we couldn’t believe this was the same space.
DIY  Kitchen Remodel
The transformation was dramatic. It was down to tile, trim, and paint, and I was struggling over one particular selection

Her Kitchen is her castle

You see, I created this alcove behind the range with a rod overhead to hang my precious pans. It reminded me of old-world kitchens, and I was smitten. But the tile selection for that alcove, the focal point of the entire kitchen, had to be just right. It had to be me. I wanted something different, yet timeless. I wanted it to say something about who cooks and lives here, and ultimately I wanted it to mean something to me. After all, I was going to stare at that tile hours upon hours for who knows how many years. I wanted to make sure every morning when I’d walk in the kitchen, it made me smile.

Catalonia Midnight Clay Tiles in Kitchen by Clay Imports
First selection…spoiler alert: it's not the final one!

Hunting down the Perfect Tile

Early on I had my eyes on Clay Imports’ Catalonia design and even through the summer I put my finish board together, content with the results. Then I hesitated. My gut kept tugging at me and I wanted something unique and much more bespoken. So I searched and searched through different manufacturers and product lines, in person and on the web… Until the crumb trail led me to Katie Deedy’s Grow House Grow and her Jardin de Luna tile design. It was a modern take on an indigenous Mexican Otomi pattern. I felt the butterflies… It was whimsical and fun, but classy and clean. It was Mexican without being traditional talavera.

Jardin de Luna design by Grow House Grow and Clay Imports
Otomi Tile design by Grow House Grow and Clay Imports

From Vision to Reality

I ordered samples directly from her, and loved the design, but the cement tile was quite thick and heavy for our vertical application. Also, cement tile is very porous, and I was concerned with all the cooking and splattering happening against it. It took me a couple of weeks to connect the dots and reach out to Clay Imports who I still wanted to work with. To my absolute delight they reached out to Katie and were able to fabricate the design I was now obsessing over in a glazed non-porous clay tile - at no extra cost! My mind was blown, my heart overjoyed.

Our samples came in just before Thanksgiving, and looked perfect. Boom! We placed the order that day. The full order came in mid-January and Rob was able to install it just before our daughter's 6th birthday party. It took us a year, but our kitchen did a 180!

DIY Kitchen Remodel
Kitchen Remodel Backsplash Otomi Collection by Grow House Grow with Clay Imports
Persistence paying off!

The Favorite Place

A year later, we still have a few things left: some trim here and there, but mainly the new flooring throughout. Social distancing and the upside down reality that has come with it have put the finishing touches and any new projects on hold. But with all the time I am now spending at home, cooking three meals a day, working remotely from the kitchen island, I am incredibly grateful that we pushed so hard last year to update our kitchen. It is my favorite place in the house and unequivocally, every time I look up at those bunnies and deer intertwined with the beautiful floral patterns, I smile. I am home.

Kitchen Backsplash Otomi Collection Grow House Grow Clay Imports
Gone are the yellow walls. Hello bright and airy dream kitchen!


What do you think of Denisse's new kitchen? You can get in touch with Story Built visiting their web site. And remember, if you have any questions or require more information, don't hesitate to reach out to us at or chat with us here.