Skip to main content
Advice for DesignersAdvice for HomeownersBathroomsBeigeColour in TilesColour lessonGray

Ask Maria: Which Countertop Should I Choose (What Were They Thinking??)

By 01/25/2015February 21st, 201939 Comments

“Here is my kitchen that was built in 2006. I wish I stumbled across your blog years ago because the thing I dislike about the kitchen the most is the busy tile! And is this tile the dreaded pinky-beige?

And my knotty alder cabinets have yellowed considerably over the years. So I’m pretty sure we have a major undertone problem here (and throughout my entire house most likely) We have been having sink/granite issues and therefore have to get a new sink and countertop. I plan to do cream subway tile thanks to you. What would you do for the new countertop? Thank you for your help!”

Ask Maria: Which Countertop should I Choose (What were they Thinking??)

This is a great question that I’m sure will help a lot of readers!

First, your tile does look like it has pink-beige in it, along with some peach and cream thrown in as well. In all fairness, almost 10 years later, all patterned tile looks dated which is why I try and steer my dear readers away from it whenever possible!

Really, the only answer here is a solid creamy laminate countertop. Remember the rule of having only one pattern in fixed elements — you’ve already got that in your floor.

Since this tile floor will probably be changed by the next owner (whenever that day comes), I would not replace the granite with stone countertops because then the next renovation becomes even more painful.

Take a sample of your floor tile to the store and place countertop samples down one after another, right on top of the tile until you find the one that looks the best. There might only be one or two that will work, so don’t stop looking until you find the one that works best.

And, of course, as you mentioned, install a cream subway tile backsplash. Make sure you eliminate the 4″ kick when you install your new countertop.

I would show a photo of what a stained kitchen with solid cream countertops looks like, but I cannot find one. Not one without SOMETHING else busy and CREATIVE going on.

Ask Maria: Which Countertop should I Choose (What were they Thinking??)

{via pinterest}

If changing your tile is an option or you’re starting from scratch, here’s a tile (above) you could live with. It’s not so solid that it screams contemporary and also not blotchy like so much tile out there.

Notice the pink-beige countertops. Can you see the neutral undertone here really should have been green rather than pink? However, at least the pink-beige countertop is easier to live with because the kitchen is white (well technically, cream). But if you were to throw in a wood-stained cabinet, there would be just too much going on.

Here’s the next question:

“Last year my husband and I purchased a single family home after many years of living in a townhouse.  We love living in our house and our neighbourhood but ….the list of projects that need to be done is a long one.  It unfortunately includes removing many of the renovations that were done to it by the last owners. 

One of the more serious mistakes they made was in their very unfortunate choice of granite for both the kitchen and the ensuite bathroom (not sure if the photo shows this clearly but the granite looks a bit like Rhodonite with a purple cast).   They apparently ‘fell in love ‘with this granite even though it in no way relates to the tiles they also chose for these rooms (I wouldn’t have picked those tiles either but …). 

For budget reasons removing the floor tiles or completely renovating these spaces isn’t an option at this point so ….we are thinking the only viable option for dramatic improvement is countertop replacement.   We are pale quartz countertop and simple subway tile people so these rooms are a bit of hell for us. I realize that exact recommendations based on photos likely isn’t possible but any guidance you can provide would be greatly appreciated. 

Cabinet white is BM Oxford White, wall colour in kitchen is BM Ranchwood and bathroom is Edgecomb Grey.”

Ask Maria: Which Countertop should I Choose (What were they Thinking??)


Ask Maria: Which Countertop should I Choose (What were they Thinking??)

Your dilemma is not an easy fix. First of all, the Oxford White cabinets are just too white to begin with, since all the other hard finishes are earthy and earthy finishes generally belong with creams, rather than blue- or true or most off-whites. To choose the correct white, my White is Complicated — A Decorator’s Guide to Choosing the Right White will give you a good short list of whites to consider.

It looks like both of your floors have a green-beige/green-gray undertone, so I would choose a solid countertop in laminate or stone to coordinate.

Ask Maria: Which Countertop should I Choose (What were they Thinking??)

Here you can see that the Caesarstone 2020 countertop in the first image relates to the floor in your kitchen and ensuite bathroom.

Obviously, you’ll need to take any countertop samples you’re considering home with you and look at them in your light. Plunk them down on the floor and if they look like they should be married, you’ve found the right one!

Then your subway tile backsplash should be cream since the floor in your kitchen is the boss of everything.

I would probably change the countertops first and then paint the cabinets later if it’s not in your budget to do it all at once. For me, having finishes that relate would be an emergency!

If you’re reading this and you don’t see what I’m talking about with the neutral undertones, you’ll want to own my first eBook, How to Choose Paint Colours — It’s All in the Undertones.

Happy Monday everyone! Hope this post was helpful! xoxo Maria

PS. Register today for my Specify Colour with Confidence™ course, and you’ll never come close to making these kinds of mistakes again!

385 pins


  • Lucy Haines says:

    Maria, I have really enjoyed all of the questions and answers that you give. When there is a specific problem with pictures to relate to, it makes it easier to see the solution! This has been a very helpful post. Thank you for doing this.

  • Mary says:

    Maria, can you elaborate on the phrase… Here’s a tile you could live with, not so solid that it screams contemporary and also not blotchy like so much tile out there….you recommended on this post a cream subway backsplash. Is that going to be contemporary looking? For a traditional style home, should we be lookng for a backsplash tile described above-not blotchy, not solid? Is it different tile recommended if it is backsplash vs floor? I know all this takes into account one pattern per room and often that will be the granite…thank you!

  • Cherie says:

    Hi Marie, I’m not sure I understand the answer to the first question. What type of countertop are you suggesting, since you say not to replace granite with stone? Laminate?

  • Mary-Illinois says:

    Hi Maria,
    Thanks for posting these questions. These kind of examples show us what you have been teaching us.
    But it brings up another question…what is the correct scenario for selecting a backsplash tile that matches the wall color? I seem to remember you talking about that awhile ago.

  • Nancy says:

    Do you recommend white or cream tile with no pattern for bathrooms as well, particularly for the shower and backsplash?

  • Diane says:

    Is it ever possible to paint a tile backsplash in a kitchen to give it a new look?

  • Mary says:

    What about the balance between light and dark? Between countertops, cabinets, and floor tile?

  • sandyc says:

    Another great, helpful post in several ways, Maria. With regard to your statement “Here’s a tile you could live with, not so solid that it screams contemporary and also not blotchy like so much tile out there”, when I went in search of new tile for my house, I met a wonderful non-salesman type fellow at one of the better flooring stores in our area who walked around the store with me, listened to what I said I wanted and noticed what I said I liked and didn’t in their set-ups and then explained that what I needed was a V1 or V2 tile and what I didn’t like were the V3 and V4 tiles (all tiles should be marked); V referring to variation in tile color and/or pattern (one group of V4 tile laid out in about at 16-tile pattern looked like totally unrelated). I’ve since abandoned the tile project but this info was very helpful to me in choosing tile that would have worked. Picking the right color is paramount, of course, but I learned that no matter how lovely that piece of tile looked on the shelf or matched my sample, if it were a V3 or V4, I had to keep walking.

  • Susan Telfer says:

    Hi Maria,
    Regarding the first kitchen, it reminds me of my kitchen you helped me with a couple of years ago here:
    I know this is not a model kitchen, but it does have knotty alder cabinets and a similar floor tile. Cream backsplash tiles and lighter granite.

  • Carole Qureshi says:

    Your ebook on color has enabled me to figure out why the colors in my Palm Springs condo are all wrong. The fixed elements and paint are a combo of pink, green and yellow beige undertones. A fresh clean bunch of pink and yellow tulips might look great but not so much green beige paint with yellow/pink beige maple cabinets and pink beige concrete fireplace and pillars. Help!

  • Jill says:

    Thank you Maria! As owner of the first kitchen I highly value your input. I have already picked out the new countertop and am finding cream subway tiles that will match the cream in the countertop (And will work with a local designer to make sure the cream subway tile has the correct undertone). Next I plan to get estimates to have the existing knotty alder cabinets painted cream to relate to the new countertop and subway tiles. I have read that they can seal up the knots for a smoother less rustic finish. Which is what I am preferring these days. Quick question, should the cream painted cabinets be lighter/darker or equal in color to the cream subway tile?I will have to send an after picture!

  • Betsy OShea says:

    Hi Maria, I don’t understand why the undertone of the counter in your photo should’ve been green vs pink. It seems to go very well w the pink UT in the floor tile. Also, I would paint the knotty alder cabinets cream. All those knots are so busy and dated looking. It reminds me of the 1950s knotty pine cabinets I grew up with. My mother painted them blue eventually.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Betsy, do you mean the Pinterest picture? Yes the countertop does not clash with the floor but in my opinion, they should relate. There isn’t enough pink in the floor tile for that countertop to be the perfect option.

  • Why is laminate her only choice? There are some great solid Quartzite options from all of the major brands.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Because it’s painful to take out, and that floor would be the first thing I would remove if I bought the house. Of course quartz is an option, but it’s like wearing a Chanel Suit with $29 shoes. Do it ONLY if this is your forever house and the tile will STAY and you want stone. Maria

      • Jill says:

        I want to remove the floor. It is driving me crazy! But it is underneath the cabinets. I have looked into new flooring and it looks like they might be able to do some type of floating wood floor over the existing tile, but then would have to build up a sub floor for the rest of the main level so that there would be all one flooring nice and level. Big project. I thought 10 years ago picking out a tile for the kitchen was benign. It is not benign, it is like cancer! Tough to kill and remove. Anyone know a better idea on how to get the floor out?

        • mairi says:

          I’m pretty sure that tile installers have special chisels that can split off tile for removal so that the underneath ones remain put. If it is solid porcelain that may be trickier but certainly ceramic is forgiving. That would save a lot of unnecessary cost.

        • sam12587 says:

          It’s hard to do. If you can find a skilled handyman they will know how as they usually do small odd jobs like that. Maybe post on Nextdoor & see if a handyman in your neighborhood group pings you?
          You’d want to use an angle grinder with a diamond blade to cut the tiles against the base of the cabinets. Diamond blade won’t want to cut the wood of the toe kick so it;s a bit more forgiving of a unpracticed hand. that blade might also be able to cut the grout, worth a try.
          Once you’ve made the desired cuts, then you attack the tile to remove it. It won’t want to come up unless it was installed poorly. Can start with a using a pry bar like a chisel with a hammer at the edges. Usually the fastest & best route is to smash it with a hammer & pick up/shop vac the pieces. You’ll have a grout line along the base of the cabinets. if you don’t grout it then dirt will get in the crack.
          I’ve done this type of thing twice for friends. Honestly, it’d be easier to remove the counter top a few days before the new one is set to arrive & just unscrew the cabinets from the wall to do the whole floor or at least to remove the tiles that go partially under & leave the old tiles in the perimeter that is completely under the cabinets. You’ll have a better floor in the long run.

  • Susan H says:

    First… thank you for sharing all of your knowledge on this blog. You have helped me so many times stay on track and keep it simple and classic! I have a dilemma and this post is perfect timing. While my kitchen is not my dream it is what I have… stained oak cabinets (med brown), black appliances (have to stay), black island with 2″ Carrera marble top. Time to replace the counters and I’m leaning toward Black Absolute granite. My problem is the backsplash… I don’t want the 4″ kick and love the classic look of subway tile but the color is what stops me in my tracks. The trim work throughout the house is white. I feel that the stark contrast of the black counter tops to the white backsplash tile with the oak cabinets will be to much. Am I thinking wrong?

    • Susan H says:

      Also… the floors are oak in a similar shade to the cabinets.

    • Maria Killam says:

      You might be able to get away with a white backsplash because your island is white. Your options are slim really since your appliances are not white as well. Maria

  • Carrie says:

    Hi Maria,

    This is slightly off-topic, but I would absolutely love to know your thoughts on the undertones of the new white IKEA Sektion kitchen offerings. How do they compare to the previous whites? I hope to be renovating my kitchen within a year or two and will be using their cabinets in one of the white door styles. We definitely have some complicated undertones to consider in our open floorplan farm cottage.

    Thank you for sharing your expertise as you do here–I have learned SO much over the years!

    • Maria Killam says:

      I have not seen it in person yet so when I do, I’ll add it to my list of things to blog about! thanks for your comment! Maria

  • Melanie says:

    Isn’t the counter top in the second picture wood? (you can see at the edge of it the joins). I think the photo just makes it look pinky-beige. I could be wrong though.

  • Deborah Dahlstrom says:

    We just moved from Wisconsin to Arkansas and are building a new house. I have searched unsuccessfully for a back splash that will work with the quartz countertops that the builder uses. When I saw the picture on your site, I fell in love with it and know it will work beautifully. I especially like the random pattern. Would you share what it is and where I could get it. I would appreciate any help

  • Alicia says:

    First off, I love you for sharing your knowledge about colour, you are amazing! Ok, so you say earthy tones need to be paired with a cream rather than white but I have a dilemma. I have 90s builders grade bathrooms with cream cultured marble counters (solid color), oak cabinets and standard white toilet, white bathtub and white tile shower. My husband refuses to replace the counter top until we do a complete bathroom remodel in a few years so I have to find a way to make the bathrooms look cohesive. I can paint the bathroom walls and cabinets any color I want and install grout-able vinyl tile for now. I have found vinyl tile that looks like the tile in the bathroom above with too-white cabinets and un-related floor. I don’t love that tile but it is almost an exact match for the cream counter. But then I feel like it might clash with the remaining white hard fixtures. Is there any way I could make it all look cohesive?

    • Maria Killam says:

      Your white fixtures will relate and then your countertop and floor will be the same cream. Nothing wrong with that. Maria

  • Ginger says:

    I feel compelled to suggest another option for countertops. Cultured marble. It’s cheap for a solid surface and if you get white with white veining, well it just looks solid white. You don’t get any of that weird striping or undertones. I chose it for my bathrooms 10 years ago. I was tired of making choices and thought I was taking the easy way out. Well thank goodness. All this time later they still look great and work with any paint I choose. No regret.

  • Lisa says:

    I wonder if the floors could be painted a black-and-white/cream checkerboard? That and a subway tile backsplash would update the room a lot. To me, there’s no point trying to match the flooring because the flooring is the “ugly” in the room.

Leave a Reply