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Colour in Tiles

How to Coordinate New Tile with Old Tile

By 11/25/2012January 28th, 201722 Comments

I recently wrote a post giving my advice for matching old tile to new tile and yesterday I arrived at a consultation where my client was facing this exact dilemma.

Their tenants had just moved out and the hardwood flooring in the master bath was connected to a steam shower where they had clearly allowed their two children to splash around on the floor of the shower which obviously got into the flooring causing the wood to warp and stain. Badly.

This room connected to the linoleum here in the hallway leading to the kitchen. The same linoleum on the kitchen floor connected to the terra cotta coloured tile in the connecting sunroom/great room (below).

My client was going to rent out the house again and did not want to spend the money to replace the old tile in the sunroom so that it could all be the same although that was my first recommendation.

The second best option was to find a tile that worked with the pink beige marble countertop in the master bathroom, the countertop in the kitchen and the terra cotta tile in the connecting sunroom. Since all the tile would connect, it would be much worse to introduce two more tiles, but as I stood there surveying all the tiles under consideration I wondered if it was truly possible to find one that would be right for all three spaces.

I was impressed at the number of tiles my client had collected in preparation for our meeting.

“I like this 12″ x 24″ gray tile the best” he said (above).

“Of course you do”, I said, “It’s totally trendy and current, but not only is it a different size from the existing tile, it’s shiny, contemporary and will make your 50’s painted cabinets, and the existing 13″ x 13″ rustic tile scream ‘New tile, old kitchen, new tile and old tile’.

This is a common mistake that many people make when strictly replacing tile in an old bathroom (and kitchen of course). If you install 12″ x 24” tile into an 80’s bathroom it will also give you a ‘new tile, old bathroom’ look. Why? Because tile that size was not mainstream back in the 80’s (did it even exist? I don’t think so) which is why it looks so bad in an old interior.

The trick to coordinating new finishes with old is you want to make it all look like it was all installed around the same era if you want to avoid the look of NEW combined with OLD, yesterday and today in the same interior. If you hated your old bathroom before you changed the tile and you choose something new and trendy that you like, you’ll really hate it when it’s installed.

Out of all the tiles my client had collected, this one was the clear winner, for these reasons:

1. It was 13″ x 13″, the exact same size as the old tile.

2. It had the same rustic feel.

3. It was relatively solid looking.

4. It did not look like we had tried to match the existing tile and failed.

5. Best of all, it clearly coordinated with everything else in the house which I thought was a  total miracle!

Here’s the tile in the bathroom with the existing countertop. Not perfect but it works:

Here it is in the kitchen with the existing green/black and gold flecked countertop:

Then I used my large samples to choose a new white for the cabinets.

I recently consulted with a client who had installed new tile in her small kitchen one year ago. Now she was painting the cabinets and replacing her countertops with stone and she hated her newly installed tile but had not considered replacing it again until I asked how much it had cost? $600 to take out the old tile and replace with the new. I recommended she start fresh and have the kitchen she loved instead of building the entire palette around tile she had installed in a big emergency without considering the impact of all the rest of the colour choices one year later.

When you are choosing finishes for a new house or a new renovation, you can select new and trendy and everything you love (maybe).

When choosing finishes to coordinate with existing, dated elements, choose carefully and consider all the patterns, colours, neutral undertones and the finish (dull or shiny) to make sure you are not making a relatively permanent mistake.

Tile is so hard to find even when you are choosing from scratch, let alone trying to coordinate with existing colours and undertones so if you have tile that clashes in your house, that’s the reason why!

Which tile would you rip out ASAP if you could?

Related posts:

When Should you Rip out Brand New Tile?

When can you Combine Patterned Tile or Stone?

One More Reason why You Should Skip Accent Tiles Altogether

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me.

Download my eBook, How to Choose Paint Colours: It’s All in the Undertones to learn how to get colour to do what you want.

To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!

If you would like to learn to how choose the right colours for your home or for your clients, become a True Colour Expert.

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  • teresa says:

    I love all the tile in my house, but wish I could replace the broken and cracked ones. When people build houses they should leave extras for such a case. (I think they should also let you know what colour and paints they used as well.) However, my house is 100 yrs old, so I’m not sure the paint thing would have worked out! I hope you post pictures of the finished result. CTD

  • calliope says:

    Pretty much every tile in my NEW house that I chose has to go *sigh*
    I esp HATE the beige tile floor in the kitchen because it stains like crazy.
    Also the brown tile floor in the WC (what was I thinking???)
    And the solid light blue tile floor that was chosen in great hurry (BIG mistake) in the otherwise beautiful blue-beige mosaik master bath.
    IF i could do it again, I would have continued the laminate flooring that I LOVE in the kitchen and bathrooms and would have used tiles only as backsplashes.
    I live in Greece and tiles are EVERYWHERE because they are so versatile, cold and easy to care for (think sand and 9 months of summer and you get the picture) but I actually prefer the warmth and feeling of hardwoods. Being so expensive and hard to care for I went with the best laminate I could find and never regreted

  • Debbiecz says:

    We have two rooms that have thick, sagely green carpet. I like the carpet but there are times (as I contemplate new furniture, drapes) that I wish it was more neutral. But it hides everything that two kids, two dogs and two cats can dish out! P.S. recently we had a small pantry closet added in our laundry room. We thought we had he paint color still in the can on the shelf but it was miss marked. By that time the old drywall was thrown out, hard to computer match a color that’s on the wall. Now I paint a BIG sample a la Maria before any paint goes on the wall. Thank you Maria!

  • Tricia says:

    The first tile I would replace is the white 8×8 in my bathroom. Solid white tile in a bathroom shows every speck of dirt, hair, or water spot. The only way to keep it looking fresh is to back out of the bathroom mopping as you go.

  • Susan@Susan Silverman Designs says:

    That is a dilemma that every decorator dreads. I’ve had something like that happen to me but with trying to pick paint colours for a home that was going to be sold. Every solid surface from tiles to carpets to counter tops to cabinets in the kitchen, hallways, bathrooms, upstairs landing etc. not only had a different undertone but was so different, you wonder how any builders’ “so-called” design studio could have allowed people to chose that. I actually sweated from parts of my body that I didn’t know could sweat. In the end because it was going to be too costly to “fix”, we decided to just concentrate on the main level and leave the upstairs alone. Probably the right choice…..let the new people worry (or not) about it. Maria, you handled your tile issue well. Although I haven’t had a tile issue yet, you have taught me something valuable to know.

  • SandyCGC says:

    Ah, Maria, the “serendipties” are back. I’ve just been extremely blessed to be able to buy a home back in Sun City West from which I moved last year – never expected to do so but it happened. It’s a medium oldy for the area (built in 1986) so not even the pinky-beige cabinets everywhere but (to me actually worse), oak everywhere. “Master” bathroom (ha ha) has that old vanity area off the bedroom thing and the guest bathroom countertop has that stupid long finger extension from the sink area to over the back of the toilet. My post to you about how you’re beautiful “dated” bathroom inspired me went somewhere into the air instead of to you. Today, the great post on matching tile. There is “new” tile in my house with old carpet, and, although the tile seems to look good with the oak cabinets (eventually to be painted white or very light), in some pics it seems to have a pinky undertone. I know I want to replace the old carpet with tile in the open-area dining room off the foyer where I’m going to have my office and in the hallway across the foyer. Have asked my realtor to try to get the name of the tile and where they got it (there were three pieces left in the garage but don’t know if they’re marked in any way). The most exciting thing for me, Maria, is that I can finally actually plan for that long-desired long-distance consult with you (pretty cash poor right now, however), and it will be so much more fun to read all the comments forward since I’m now reading with “homeowner” eyes. Look forward to your next post and busy reviewing all the ones I’ve collected since 2009. This is very exciting!

  • Paula Van Hoogen says:

    Yikes Maria, you handled a difficult dilemma with such aplomb! This is where all of your years of undertone study and just Great Common Sense comes to the fore. You should keep this post for future classes. THIS is a prime example that we can all learn from.
    Question: Which surfaces are the new tile being applied too? That bathroom AND the hallway (I hope!)??? I too would like to see the finished product.
    Also is the new cabinet color “Ivory White”?

  • Paula Van Hoogen says:

    Ok, I looked again and looks like the kitchen too. They need to take off that SILLY piece of baseboard next to that kitchen cabinet in the photo showing into the family room!

  • Very impressive, Maria! What a bummer that the hardwoods were ruined. We have hardwood floors in our master and guest bath and haven’t had a problem … but we did put tile in the kids’ bathroom!!

  • Just wondering—why did you not choose a tile very similar to the terracotta? I know you’d never match it exactly, but they do still make tile in that vein. Just curious! I do think the one you selected transitions nicely.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Molly,
      Great question, because if the tile is not exactly the same it would look even worse because it would just look like you tried to match it and failed. Maria

  • Christina says:

    You are truly a genius! What a great tile pick. You had me on the edge of my seat – I couldn’t wait to see what you picked.
    It just so happens that I am re-tiling the master bathroom in a small rental that I own. I used that exact grey modern 12 x 24 tile you showed above! I was lucky that I was able to pick the tile that I loved best. It worked in my situation because the wall tiles are white and the countertops are white cultured marble – no competing patterns or colors. The vanity base is a traditional dark brown and does seem a little out of place – but nothing that a coat of grey paint won’t fix! Since it’s a rental, I probably won’t paint the vanity because of maintenance. I painted the walls a dark blue (SW Dockside Blue) and that seems to help the vanity coordinate a little better.
    And, as an aside I thought I’d mention that I followed your advise from a previous post about what to paint a rental. I painted the entire rental SW Agreeable Grey (BM Edgecomb Grey) and absolutely love it! Previously it had been a tan/beige so popular years ago. Now it’s modern! Thanks.

  • Michelle says:

    My friend has a similar problem in her 60’s ranch style home – Carpet that needs to come up in most of the house but the entryway & kitchen tile is staying. The tile is beige with pink undertones and she wants hardwood… any general recommendations? We are thinking a fairly dark wood or medium dark wood.

    • Maria Killam says:

      The fact that the tile has a pink undertone should have no bearing on what hardwood she chooses, she is moving forward with what she is choosing so I would definitely go with a medium brown tone. Maria

  • Sylvia says:

    The worst room in my apartment is definitely the bathroom. The walls around the bathtub are tiled in a horrible pinky beige, and each little square has a print of a brown flower on it. I’m sure it’s been that way since the 70’s. The whole thing is done in running bond, so half of the tiles along the sides of each section have the flowers cut in half. I suspect the landlord did that little project all by himself! To make matters worse, the floor tiles are a very loud orangy fake terracotta, with mustard yellow spotches. These are arranged in running bond (like subway tiles). I suppose the landlord thought they looked like “bricks”. If the place wasn’t a rental, I would tear the whole bathroom out. It’s so loud it gives me a headache! LOL

  • Barbara McCormick says:

    The tile in my kitchen is 15 yrs old as is all whitish/gray tile throughout the house. We are remodeling our kitchen, but will have to replace either all the tile or all new tile. Problem: kITCHEN FLOWS FROM THE DINING AREA TO THE DEN & we would like to not have to replace all that tile. Do you have any suggestions?

    • Maria Killam says:

      Something that isn’t tile. Cork perhaps? If you use tile, you’ll never match it and it will look like “new tile in the kitchen’ Old tile everywhere else”.
      Hope this helps,

  • Tracy O. says:

    What is the best way to choose new kitchen tile that will transition from real natural hardwood floors in surrounding rooms? I have natural red oak flooring throughout the house w/ a honey undertone, (not stained). Is it better to go with traditional tile or wood looking tile?

  • Martha M Rife says:

    Do you have any graduates in Austin, Texas??? Have my kitchen plans ready to go but am scared to death to pull the trigger! Existing authentic Saltillo floor, new soapstone countertop and cream cabinets and walls. Sounds easy (almost boring!), doesn’t it? Crackle versus non-crackle, 3 x 6 versus 3 x 12, chrome faucet versus “Artic” stainless (whatever that is!), brushed nickle vs bronze vs oil rubbed bronze hardware, lighting fixture finish(es)….God help me with the paint color! This is likely my last rodeo, and I really want to get it right! Warm, earthy, timeless…NOT trendy! Oh my!

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