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Ask Maria: Help! I Don’t Want the Same Kitchen as Everyone Else!!

By 01/31/2014January 30th, 201985 Comments

Recently, I received this question from one of my lovely readers: 

“I’m trying to come up with a color of floor tile that matches a kitchen with Volga blue granite counter tops, white cabinets, very light grey walls, and stainless steel appliances.  

I don’t want wood floors in the kitchen or anything that looks like wood.  I think too many people have that look and it’s worn out.

 I know that a white floor would look really pretty but I don’t want to have to scrub the grout every week.  So I wanted to know if you thought that a neutral cream or beige travertine tile would match.” Amy

I chose this question to answer because black (Volga blue granite has a lot of black among the blue) is a very popular countertop choice. However, if you choose not to install wood flooring, your options are limited.

Here’s my response to Amy’s great question:

“Dear Amy — if you install a ‘neutral’ cream or travertine floor tile, your kitchen will look like the one in the picture below (minus the cherry cabinets). Wood is the ONLY flooring option to coordinate with Volga blue counters if you don’t want something looks like this. If you are committed to a kitchen floor that’s tile rather than wood, the tile needs to have some black in it and I can’t even imagine what that would look like.”


I know Amy is talking about blue countertops but see how much black is in this granite (above)?

Choosing a floor that in no way relates to the countertop is bad. Especially a travertine tile, which in actual fact, will always have some pink-beige in it just like you can see here in the above picture.

Now picture these cabinets painted white and you have three unrelated colour combinations that do not coordinate with each other— pink-beige travertine floor tile, blue/black granite countertops and white cabinets.

I am not even going to mention the “creative” backsplash tile with green undertones that you can also see here. Can you just repeat the mantra SUBWAY TILE after me one more time, haha.

My consultation with Cindy yesterday is another example of this same issue. Cindy and I were choosing colours for her new home and fortunately she had made the choice to have wood floors installed in her kitchen (hooray!) so it made choosing the right colours easy.

She included some pictures of the kitchen finishes the developer decided to feature in the show house. You can see that the floor tile actually does relate somewhat to the black countertop:

However, the question is, do you love it? Or can you see why I wrote this post about porcelain tile and how it’s mostly botchy and bad and dates almost as quickly as accent tile does?

Can you also see how the floor tile is greener than the pink tumbled marble backsplash? Wouldn’t you be SLIGHTLY upset if this was your brand new kitchen?


Red and Beige kitchen


I do think the show home decorator did the best job she could to take the attention away from the mis-matched undertones and onto something designery and pretty. None of the decorating is my taste but it does help distract from all the bad tile.

The best tile floors for a black countertop would be something like this (below):

Best Tile Floors
Kitchen from Cashmere Mafia

It repeats the white of the cabinets and the black of the countertops and gives you a classic look and feel. That’s always the direction you want to go in my opinion.

“I don’t want the same kitchen as everyone else!” is such a common statement that I want to address that next:

The kitchen with the red wallpaper in the above show home is certainly not like everyone else’s but do you love it?  Choosing red for the walls at least solved the problem of choosing one neutral that could work with the floors but then will not work with the backsplash or vice versa.

If you go out of your way to make sure your kitchen or bathroom doesn’t look like all the ones you see on Houzz and Pinterest, you will surely end up with something unique, but with finishes that clash.

The reason the “different” kitchen you’re planning is not the same as everyone else, is because it’s not pretty enough to be pinned over and over.


Classic White Kitchen

Take my advice and choose a pretty, basically white kitchen, install hardwood floors if you can and I promise you, your kitchen will, in your neighbourhood, not look the same as everyone else’s.

Because most everyone else has the kitchen we’ve just talked about.

If you have a question for an Ask Maria post, email me here.

Related posts:

Will my White Kitchen be Boring?

What Everyone Should Know about Porcelain Tile

The Best Tile Floor for your White Kitchen

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in the  door, become a client. On-line or In-person.

Download my eBookHow to Choose Paint Colours – It’s All in the Undertones to get my complete step-by-step system on how to get colour to do what you want and to make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!

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10 pins


  • Cathy says:


  • I love your posts that answer a reader’s question. I agree, white kitchen with wood floors. I do like the Cashmere Mafia kitchen, but I think I would get tired of the floor tile fairly quickly.

  • Kelly says:

    Although, hardwood floors look wonderful in a kitchen when first installed, they do not hold up well. I would never have hardwood floors in my kitchen again. First, they start wearing more than other parts of your house. (I had a very hardwood installed – harder than most oak.) If you have an open concept, who wants to refinish 1,500 square ft. of hardwood just for the kitchen? Also, the potential for water damage. I had to rip out my hardwoods in my kitchen due to an icemaker leak. (I was not that disappointed since the floor was already showing more wear than the rest of the house.) Luckily, I choose to put in tile or I would have been redoing 1,500 square ft. for the second time when my dishwasher leaked.

    • Angela Taylor says:

      I totally agree with you Kelly. I recently sold my house with wood flooring in the kitchen and even though I didn’t experience any water leakage, the potential is still there.
      I’m going with a black and white kitchen this time around and having a black and white high-end ’tile look’ instead of actual tile as it is lower maintenance.

      • Rose says:

        I agree. If you USE your kitchen, hardwood floors do not hold up. I had a hardwood floor and I was happy to leave it behind when we sold the house. Do you really want to have to be that careful when you are cooking and cleaning up, let alone nagging your family all the time about water on the floor?

        • Lisa says:

          I agree. I can’t imagine hardwood in the kithchen. We rarely use our living room which is the room to the right of the door. However, my daughter walks in there with wet feet after taking her dogs out to take off their leash. Ugh….she doesn’t live here it is just when she visits only and I can see it wearing over the years.. I have black and white solid vinyl tiles. Center hall colonial. It is in the foyer into the kitchen down the hall way to the laundry room. I wouldn’t have anything else in the kitchen. It’s 24 years old and still in good shape. Every few years we have a professional come in clean and seal it. The only problem we ever had is one cleaner used the wrong pads and it left scratch markets. Fixed when redone with the right pads. Love hardwood have it living room and dining room but never in a kitchen.

          • K says:

            I have had hardwood in the kitchen for 3 years and I love it. Easy to clean – no grout lines to scrub. We are a no shoes house, which might help keep the floors from wearing very fast, and pads under all furniture feet. Water sits on the floor occasionally, but no damage yet. Just clean it up within a reasonable amount of time. I have even had water sit for a couple of hours with no damage. Also juice, spaghetti sauce, milk, etc. I have 3 small kids, and we definitely don’t baby the floors. We have no ice maker, however, partially because of the fear of leaks, but mostly because it takes up too much space in the freezer!

      • ISabel says:

        I have wood look tile and I love love love it ! Best of both worlds imo

  • Nicole says:

    When reading the title to your post, I was expecting you to go in a completely different direction. I’ve also had the same thought about having white cabinets, dark countertop, etc. and feeling like it would look like everyone else’s. But, then, you added that very last sentence, ‘Because most everyone else, has the kitchen we’ve just talked about.’

    And it’s SO true!

    I have to admit I was getting a little disappointed that you were sticking with white cabinets, hardwood floors, etc, but your final sentence put it all into perspective, especially since I’m part of that ‘everyone else’ right now. So, when I DO get my white cabinets and such, I won’t feel as bad about following the ‘trend’.

    Thanks for new perspective! 🙂

  • Susan@Susan Silverman Designs says:

    I do love the look of hardwood floors in a kitchen, however I’ve also seen the problems. One of my clients just had to have half of her floors ripped out and replaced because of a faucet leak, not to mention another one with a dishwasher leak. I always make sure that I tell my clients about the pros and cons of having hardwood in the kitchen. (more cons than pros). In my own situation, I would never put hardwood because it is a very well used kitchen. There are beautiful porcelain tiles on the market today that that are neither blotchy nor busy and that is definitely the way I will go.

    • Beth says:

      Ditto on the porcelain tiles that are *not* the three B’s: blotchy, bad and busy. : ) Ten years ago? No. But starting what – about six years ago (?) there was an explosion of amazing porcelain tile, and that continues today. But it’s not in your big box home store.

      • debby says:

        I live in South Florida. We have a problem with floor choices due to being at sea level. You have to put engineered wood on concrete because solid wood will warp. That being said, we still had issues with moisture damaging the flooring and dogs that damaged the finish. I’ve had solid wood in my historic homes (with crawl space) and there is no comparison to the engineered. Laminate flooring is very subject to swelling with moisture too. Our water heater ruptured and we had to rip up the wood floors. Knowing that I would NEVER put engineered wood back down living here, I went on the hunt for a tile I could live with. This was a big task for a tile hater like myself. I grew up in NE and am a wood floor lover. I finally settled on 36″ plank porcelain wood look tile. It came from a specialty store and was double the price of engineered wood. Everyone that sees it thinks it is beautiful. Nothing compares to wood floors, but if you live in a region of the country that is not conducive to having them, this is a good replacement.

  • Kathy says:

    Maria, thank you for continuing to defend the white kitchen because simply, you are right.

    Don’t love or even like the show home kitchen. Don’t care for the wallpaper, floors, cabinets (dingy off white) or backsplash. Looks dated to me, even though it’s new.

    Love the last photo with the sunflowers, because it’s clean and bright and cheerful, but feel the walls could use some color (but that’s where we each get to add our own personalities to the white kitchen). I’ve also heard that dark wood floors show dust, so would probably go lighter, but again, my personality added.

    For me, the white kitchen allows me to accessorize with my colors–sunflowers and blues grace my kitchen with yellow-green walls (thereby bringing the outdoors in).

    However, I have inherited dark wood cabinets (that we intend to paint–thanks Maria for convincing my husband that painting them white is ok). Our backsplash is pinky beige tile (ugly!) and the countertops are granite that has black, green, white, and has kind of shiny butterfly wings in it. Nothing relates to it, so we are going to have to change it (plus it’s cracked in several places). We bought the house knowing we would change it, but have to live with it until we can (one step at a time). I don’t like waste, so will reuse what we can of the granite for an upstairs bathroom counter, and painting our cabinets keeps them out of the landfill too.

    I don’t want the same kitchen as everyone else has either and “Maria’s kitchen” allows me to personalize in a way that the first picture wouldn’t allow due to very taste specific details that I would have marry into my choices. White kitchens allow me the freedom to do what I want, not what the counter or tile force me into….

    Wow, guess this means after reading Maria’s blog for so long, I have come to completely agree with you! 🙂

    (We had a refrigerator leak on our hardwoods at our last home, and yes it was difficult to repair them, but I don’t care for most tile, so here they will stay).

    • JulieC says:

      Kathy, on the granite re-use: taking it out of the kitchen will likely cause it to break apart, and even though you may still have a large enough piece to do the bath, well, then you will be stuck with those colors bossing around your bathroom! Better to put it in a utility room or as a garage shelf, if you feel you must save it, or donate it (if they will even take it) to the Habitat for Humanity Re-store, IMO.

      • Kathy says:

        Julie, Thank you, those are good ideas! Guess I didn’t think about it breaking when we took it out and since it already is breaking in narrow areas around the sink, it most likely is fragile. I was just thinking even though I didn’t like it, it would be better than the hideous brick and pink colored tiles that are currently the bathroom’s counter top. (shudder, I can’t understand how someone could have picked it on purpose)…but you are right, then I have to work with those colors in there…

  • Calliope says:

    So true, what you always say about kitchens and baths Maria.
    Dear Amy follow her suggestions and do the simpliest all-white kitchen. It is SO versatile you could have a brand new kitchen every season if you wished.
    I have a great laminate quality floor in the kitchen I mop it every other Saturday and I spot clean with vinegar and that’s it. I vacuum every day though (7 year old boy and 36 year old man live here also 🙂

  • Maria, Your last sentence just nails it! Here is a link to my white kitchen that I couldn’t do hardwood in, but I did huge white tiles (thanks Maria for convincing me). As far as grout goes, grout will ALWAYS get dirty no matter the color of the tile. If you have ugly tile no one will notice your grout!!!! So use a gray grout with white tile and don’t worry about it. You will want to keep it clean, believe me, you will be so happy about it!

    I had found Maria online 4 years ago and used her for my home remodel, and have since taken her workshop and started my own interior design and color consulting business. I love being a TCE it is well worth it!!!!

    • JulieC says:

      Hi Jennifer—I’m envious—Kailua! I lived on the Big Island for six years and continue to be seriously homesick. Anyway, I’m curious about your kitchen wall color and what the tile is—is the tile solid white color or…? Thanks.

      • The tile is white marble but it actually has some variation with some grayish and some more beige-ish. The house is currently BM Natural Linen although I wanted a gray, but my husband wouldn’t hear of it. The island is Stonington Gray to relate to the carrara marble countertop. There is very little actual paint in the kitchen (above the cabinets it is actually just a bright ceiling white but has shadows). Thanks for your compliments!

        • JulieC says:

          Thanks for replying. I’ve got a similar palette in my finishes and am using Ballet White as my paint; it is just now going up but there are no cabinets or counters yet, so I’m not yet sure how it will all come together. Your pictures help me see the possibilities.

  • Maria,
    Such fantastic advice! My personal opinion of the showhome is ‘what’ (insert whine like the McDonald’s commercial). Love, love your last comment, “…your kitchen will, in your neighbourhood, not look the same as everyone else’s.” So, so true!

  • Leigh says:

    I decided to go with wood flooring in the kitchen for the simple reason that should my refrigerator leak, it will leak right into my dining room on the other side of the wall. Water will find the lowest point, which I suspect also involves my family room. I talked myself into wood in the kitchen due to the fact that in my home, any leak will make its way into another room that I wouldn’t consider any other flooring than wood. I don’t think having tile in my kitchen will save me since I’ll still be replacing the other rooms should there be a leak. In other words, I’m playing the odds.

  • Karen Savage says:

    I suspect that not all hardwood floors are being finished the same. I designed and built my white kitchen with hardwood floors almost 15 years ago. Not only does it still look timeless, the floors still look great after an 80 lb lab, dishwasher leak and washing machine leak (installed the wood into my laundry room as well). Our floor was not prefinished. We finished it ourselves with four coats of polyu…
    Here’s a pic if interest…

  • SK says:

    Ha! Love this comment!
    “The reason the ‘different’ kitchen you’re planning is ‘not the same as everyone else’, is because it’s not pretty enough to be pinned over and over.”

  • I’m fascinated by the idea that people don’t want a kitchen like everyone else’s kitchen. It’s so fun how you showed that it’s a misguided goal, Maria.

    And it reminds me of brides who go way way out of their way to make a wedding not like everyone else’s and then the wedding is totally annoying.

    I think there’s something to be said for just being who we are. And maybe who we are is more similar to other people than we want to admit, but we will probably always be more effective being true to ourselves than trying too hard to be different and special.


  • Melanie says:

    Fantastic post, thanks. And there are so many ways to personalise your kitchen. Have you seen all the different kitchen accessories you can buy?

  • InfoDiva says:

    The key to having a wood floor in the kitchen is proper maintenance. Forget the vinegar-and-water nonsense and use a cleaner meant for hardwood floors. Every five years or so, when you go on vacation, have the floor guys come in and “screen” the floor (a very, very superficial sanding) and apply another coat of poly. It’s a two-hour job, if that.

    I raised a family and we weren’t easy on the kitchen floor at all, but it still looks great almost 18 years later. Still timeless and classic, too.

    • Laura says:

      Just wondering, have you ever used a steamer for hardwood? I am considering it…

      • InfoDiva says:

        No. Not a great idea to force hot steam into a wood finish. Why would you need to, anyway? You’re not dealing with Industrial-strength messes on a kitchen floor unless you ignore it for weeks at a time. Regular, gentle cleaning is the goal.

  • bfish says:

    I too like Maria’s final comment — a bit blunt perhaps, but very on-point! I never get tired of posts on here about kitchens, because Maria’s advice bears repeating.

    Our kitchen needs remodeling — badly! — and I would love wood floors, but don’t think it can happen. The rest of the downstairs is original 85 year old white oak (hard to match) and underneath the old linoleum, masonite and plywood I believe there’s a fir or heart pine floor which would be lovely (and consistent with also-original upstairs flooring). Getting to it, however, will be a monumental task, with potential for scant reward at the end (likely water damage/rot in kitchen sink/dishwasher area). Any suggestions for flooring material that’s compatible with the age of our home? I plan to be going with the “boring” white cabinets and subway tile, and countertops other than granite.

    Thanks —

    • Karen says:

      Look at Torly’s cork floors. I LOVE mine.

    • Laura says:

      We, too, have 80 year old white oak in our house. A previous owner put down laminate sheeting over the wood floor in the kitchen… GLUEING it down. Our floor guy said we couldn’t save the original floor in the kitchen. So, he bought new wood. We refinished the entire floor of the house and we, too, were concerned about matching the color of the kitchen floors with the rest of the house -because the kitchen wood was new. But he did a fine job. The only difference, and it’s VERY VERY slight, is that the color of the kitchen floor is a tad lighter than the older floor of the rest of the house. BUT JUST BARELY. In fact, had my floor guy not pointed it out to me, I never would have noticed. Even knowing it’s lighter, now, I have to look to see it.

      That’s my 2cc.

    • Kay says:

      You might consider using a European hard oil finish on a new white oak floor and having the connecting wood refinished as well. My kitchen was opened up to the living room and, after consulting with Maria and choosing wood for the kitchen, that’s what I had done with our 50-year old red oak floor. No one can tell tell the difference between new and old, even though the finishing was done several months apart. Rubio Monocoat is the product, and it is truly fabulous. The oil forms a molecular bond with the wood, creating a matte finish that can be easily touched up with a fresh coat of oil. The company sells the appropriate products for maintenance. My cleaning lady raves about the ease of care.

  • vicki says:

    I just don’t think you can go wrong with hardwood floors and white cabinets! My counter tops are corian with a true white background with a very faint design/ color and I love the true whiteness of the countertop. That is why I chose it. All white kitchens ROCK. They are clean looking, fresh and light. I never tire of mine. I got the shaker design which is so simple. Next time I would go with the upper cabinets going all the way to the ceiling because there is no reason not to, is there? I love simple functional spaces and the white gives me that.

  • Beth says:

    “porcelain tile is mostly blotchy and bad”

    Maria, you’ve made that statement before, and it’s puzzled me and made me wonder if tile selection is vastly different in different locations.

    I would have made the same statment ten years ago. But there’s been an explosion of non-blotchy, non-bad porcelain tile in the last 5-6 years, at least in my neck of the woods.

    • Maria Killam says:

      HI Beth,
      I say it because floors like this still continue to get installed today. I want people to look past the ugly to the pretty tile which they still don’t seem to do.
      Bottom line, I’d like to save the world from tile that looks like the kitchen in this post!
      Pick the pretty tile is definitely the lesson here and thanks for reminding everyone that it’s out there. Maria

      • Beth says:

        And you’re right – if you go to big box home stores, blotchy & bad is still what you see. Even the best tile showrooms still carry it. But as many times as I’ve shopped with clients at my go-to tile showrooms, or sent them there alone, we’ve never glanced at it and my fave showroom designers never suggest it – even for commercial.

  • Maria you are so right! I can’t tell you how many people I can’t convince to do white cabinets and a wood floor! I also tell them to read your numerous blog posts about white cabinets,wood floors and subway tiles. I have personally had wood floors for 12 years now in my house and kitchen and it still is a great look! It has survived two teenagers a Labrador and two cats! Yes the floor in the kitchen is getting some “wear” but where I have put down some sisal small rugs in front of the sink and cooktop it is totally in great shape! There are some new wood looking products on the market and it is actually porcelain tile. They are from Italy. However it is actually more expensive than wood! Be careful because there are some not so good looking less expensive tile wood looks out there.
    Thank you for all your great color info. When people don’t believe me I keep sending them to your blog!

  • I couldn’t agree more, Maria!
    Travertine is no substitution for wood. The amount of figure may be the same but wood looks “warm” and tile just can’t. Also, No one needs worry about grout these days. The stuff used now is nothing like the grout we grew up with!
    It’s not possible to tire of the timeless pattern you recommended. That’s what makes a classic a classic…
    I find the “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” Volga to be EXTREMELY bossy and the floor must have enough personality to balance it out so your suggestion is perfect. Volga also feels modern to me so she could go in that direction with a more graphic tile pattern like this kitchen from Newman & Wolen.
    She is also going to have to acknowledge the blue somehow – maybe bright navy on stools or something?
    Would love to see what she does in the end and if she listened!

  • Tamara says:

    Maria, what do you think about the porcelain tiles that look like wood planks? I also love hardwood throughout, but have had problems with wood floors and water in the kitchen before.

    • Beth says:

      I’m not Maria : ) but I’ve had residential and commercial clients use them, and I have them in our enclosed outdoor entryway. I love them. They’re wider planked now, too. Both in a showroom and my entryway, when people are told they are tile, without fail they bend down and feel them or scratch them! Hint: grout lines should be minuscule, virtually unnoticeable, so you need a good tile guy,
      Not a kitchen, but here’s one look. Uber-contemporary but you get the feel:

  • Amy B says:


    I love my white kitchen…I loved it when I bought the house and I love it now, 12 years later. It has had green walls, sage walls and now light blue walls. Rugs have come and gone and so have a red toaster oven, a blue blender, and a display of baskets above said cabinets. Now I have a bright funky area rug (Savannah from Ballard Design) with the blue and green cheetah spots and I could have NEVER done that with any other combination.

    My hardwood floors were honey oak but are a darker walnut.

    I have a sand-colored Corian countertop and for a while I wanted busy granite, tile backsplash, etc. I actually have a very different kitchen than everybody else because they all got rid of their white cabinets 8 years ago and have black/tan granite with taupe tumbled tile, etc. etc.

    If I could change anything I would get an apron sink. That really is not a big nor expensive change. I grow to love the things that make my house unique…new is always easy and available.

  • Ann Marie says:

    I installed Q Provenza porcelain tile which looks exactly like wood. It is absolutely stunning and so easy to care for. Check their website.

    • Tamara says:

      Thanks Ann. Marie, that’s what I had in mind. Do you mind me asking which color you have? I’d love to see pics!

  • Sandy says:

    Maria, I love how you teach us with examples ! With regard to the model home, I love the classic style of the cabinets but I don’t love the kitchen as a whole. I can see that the black counter tops seems to be too harsh or they contrast some how. You are definitely right about the floor tiles. The botchyness does not seem to coordinate well with the other elements to produce a classy kitchen. I also cannot see how hardwood floors can help with the exception that it removes the botchyness. When will your course be held in the east this year ? I would like to try and make it.

  • Helene says:

    How right you are Maria! I think this was you best post to date. So many good points. In my new house I installed a 3/4″ solid white oak wood floor, 6″ planks and used a Monocoat wood stain in the castle brown color. It’s gorgeous! I would encourage everyone to look into Monocoat before choosing another brand.

  • Maggie S says:

    I would never have tile in a kitchen –it is very hard on knees and your back. A friend had it and had to take it out because of back pain (she did do a LOT of cooking).
    I have had wood floors for 15 years and love them. If I couldn’t have wood I’d have marmoleum floor covering. A non-profit I volunteer at has a marmoleum floor in the kitchen and it is very comfortable.

  • That’s like saying, “I don’t want my kitchen to look like the beautiful ones in the design magazines.” But they’d instead rather have their kitchen look like everyone else’s on their street (which is NOT a good thing). In the photo with the tile that relates to the black countertop, it looks as though there are wads of black HAIR on the floor. If people would just photograph their rooms and look at them objectively, they would see a lot of things they aren’t aware of when they are living in the space every day!

    • Karen Hanretty says:

      Yes! Check out the horrible decorating choices people make by looking at homes for sale on Zillow or Movoto. “Everyone” doesn’t have a gorgeous kitchen. In fact, almost no one you know in real life does.

  • Mary says:

    Two thoughts – You could always paint the hardwood floor in a unique and interesting pattern that might tie in with the blue, gray and even black. Also, there is a new ceramic tile product on the market that has the look of wood planks. I haven’t actually seen it but have written about it for a client.

  • Laura says:

    In defense of hardwood floors in the kitchen…

    We put down wood floors (not engineered or laminate) and we went with the expensive wood.. adding 2 (or maybe it was 4?) coats of Poly. We did the tight flush groves (not the ‘v’ space) to keep food from getting caught in the grooves. We also hired a professional to do it for us.

    The result: our dishwasher has overflowed a whopping FIVE times (lake sized spills!) in less than a year and our 1 year old boy spills his drink at least once a day on it. (Not to mention all of the food throwing at meal times.) We haven’t had a single problem with our kitchen floor. We clean up the spills and move on. No problems at all.

  • Julie S says:

    Brilliant post, and your argument is well laid out plus has that final zinger! I’m going to have my husband read this. I want to do the white cabinets/black counters for our kitchen remodel, but he absolutely refuses to have hardwood floors as he has seen plumbing and water issues ruin them too often. I love the “hardwood” tiles out now and would love them in herringbone but he hates those too… I think we could compromise with something like that photo from Cashmere Mafia since I know he likes black and white checked floors.

  • Karen says:

    As I replied to Bfish above, consider cork floors. I was on my way to installing some splotchy porcelain tiles – replacing old vinyl tiles – in my new WHITE kitchen and a friend reminded me that I have some joint issues – hips and knees. So Torly’s cork went in – a kind of grey/taupe shade ( sandstone – not sure they make it any more) and it is amazing – forgiving – soft and warm – and in Canada this winter that means something. Like hardwood it hides the dirt (my former tiles were mainly white so wipe wipe wipe). I have dropped items on the floor that would have been goners with porcelain. It also blends well into the hardwood in the dining room and hallways.

  • Karen Hanretty says:

    I’ve had hardwood floors in two of my homes, and it’s the way to go. Both times, I’ve used indoor/outdoor area rug runners near the sink. So the time that I spilled spaghetti sauce, it ruined the rug instead of my floor. Or the time I dropped an egg, I just had to hose down the rug instead of scrub gooey whites from the crevices of the wood floor.

  • Jennifer says:

    Travertine is definitely pink beige. Before I started reading this blog, I had my yellow beige floor tile in my kitchen replaced with travertine in my kitchen. My kitchen cabinets were painted a nice creamy yellow beige. Once the traverine was installed, I couldn’t figure out what was off. I had no intention of painting my cabinets because they looked great. I took a piece of traverine down to the nice lady at Porter Paint and she recommended an olive green which relates to the travertine. Lesson learned–understand your undertones!!

  • Diane G. says:

    Do often, in trying to be different or do the unexpected, people make BIG mistakes.
    Trendy is one thing. It might look fine but you’ll grow tired of it. Wood floors and mostly white kitchens. You can’t go wrong!

  • Diane G. says:

    SO often!

  • Diane G. says:

    So often, in trying to be different or do the unexpected, people make BIG mistakes.
    Trendy is one thing. It might look fine but you’ll grow tired of it. Wood floors and mostly white kitchens. You can’t go wrong

  • mollie duvall says:

    What about using a medium to dark charcoal porcelain with very little color variation but a bit of texture and dark grout. Charcoal normally has a bit of blue in it which would pick up the blue in the granite and compliment but not match the countertop.

  • Katherine says:


    I Love white kitchens as well, but here in the Pacific NW many of the friends that I have helped design their spaces consider deep yellow-beige walls and a large rust and grey-blue stone fireplace “classic” and want to run this look through their kitchens. The houses are not lodges but are decorated lodge-style with no white or cream to be seen anywhere – very earthy. The trim throughout is usually stained wood that would look strange painted white. A white kitchen would not relate to the rest of the house at all, in my opinion. They usually choose or keep the cabinet color that matches the trim and throw some granite on the counters. I can usually talk them into a wood floor. The kitchens look dark and uninviting to me. What do you think? Seems to me that great lighting and replacing the wood cabinets so at least they are not outdated would be ok if they insist on stained wood. Would love to have your opinion, especially since you are also from this area of the country.

  • sandyc says:

    “Take my advice and choose a pretty, basically white kitchen, install hardwood floors IF YOU CAN and I promise you, …” Maria, that’s the most reassuring advice in a post full of great points. I too love white kitchens with hardwood floors, but that doesn’t mean I can or should go that way with my kitchen. White cabinets, absolutely, but hardwood floors – NOT. I live in desert Arizona and tile is the norm here. I’ve seen very few hardwood floors done at all (maybe one room) and none done well, I have three kitties who feed like feral cats and there’s no way I’m going to deal with that on dark floors, many of our home styles don’t lend themselves to the look of wood floors, and most important to me, I remember your post about choosing a timeless hardwood floor. That would be a much darker floor than the carpet (OK color) and tile (pinky beige) mix that I have now but it would look so wrong in my house. Of course, ha ha ha, it would only look so wrong on the first day. By the second day, with all the dust upon dust upon dust, it would be the same color as the carpet is now. My hope and joy is that there IS beautiful tile out there and I’ve found a fellow at a local company who has already taught me much about tile in just a couple of drop-by visits and is knowledgeable and willing to sit down with me, look at my floorplan, study my inspiration pics and help me choose a tile floor that will achieve the look I want in every room for my home. Just hope he doesn’t retire before I accumulate the wealth to do the deed. By the way, Maria, my all-time fav inspiration kitchen is that beautiful creamy white French kitchen you pinned on Pinterest with that gorgeous non-hardwood floors. I drool regularly over that one.

  • LeeAnn Cheeley says:

    I, too, am one of those Pacific Northwest people that does not have a shred of white in my house. After moving in & quickly wearing out the hardwood floors I replaced them with travertine (heated) which I love. I also have Volga Blue granite counters & just recently replaced all the wood cabinets in my kitchen with natural (yellow) bamboo, which I think looks great with the black granite (very contemporary, clean look). The travertine floor also looks good with the bamboo b/c mine has no pink undertones in it. I painted my walls turquoise, with an accent wall in purple! I love it & it certainly does not look like anyone else’s kitchen anywhere. I don’t care for any of the kitchens pictured here except the Cashmere one, but it doesn’t look practical for someone with a large family like I have. My 5 boys tend to destroy anything that is not rock or steel. Bamboo is exceptionally tough so I’ll let you know how it fares here!

  • Loribeth says:

    “The reason the ‘different’ kitchen you’re planning is ‘not the same as everyone else’, is because it’s not pretty enough to be pinned over and over.”

    Best line in a post about kitchens EVER!

    There are hardwood floors under the carpet and linoleum in my house. Our plan is to pull the carpet and linoleum up and have them refinished. I did that in my last house, and I loved the hardwood, especially in the kitchen.

    To those people who say they’re hard to keep up, think about gym floors… They take a LOT of abuse, including mud and water brought in from the outside, and they hold up great.

  • Cheryl M says:

    Use MOISTURE CURE on the hardwood floors (if you can find a flooring co. that will put it down). It is the best esp. for high traffic. (was used in the old mills that had wood flooring and also in bowling alleys). Only comes in Gloss and is beautiful. About tile, stone, etc, you have to ask how you want the room to feel when finished. Granite counter tops and stainless are “Cold”. Love the classic white wood cabinets. Key word being ” Classic”. Wood flooring will provide warmth whereas stone flooring, again, projects a cold, sleek feeling. There is some degree of maintenance to everything, even cement. As for the water line leak….that’s why we have insurance. Maria is right-on!

  • Lynn says:

    Funny how the more things change, the more they stay the same!! It is not happenstance that white has been the color of choice for kitchens for more than 100 years…among colors, it best represents cleanliness. Similarly, wood, cement and quarry tiles have been popular choices for kitchen floors over the past century and they still enjoy popularity.

    I love the universal appeal of white. It’s the perfect blank canvas for expressing your individual style through other elements of décor like furniture, wall art, soft accessories, etc. With a white backdrop, one can change color schemes on a whim!

  • debby says:

    I’ve been following Maria for several months now. I was already aligned with her belief in the white kitchen, white bathroom and hardwood floors before arriving here. Because of this, I invested in her color book, knowing I would be happy with her info. I was delighted and used it when choosing colors throughout my home.

    That being said, I mean no disrespect in disagreeing with putting white porcelain tile throughout an entire house. Why??? Because I made this exact choice in my first house that did not and could not have wood floors. I love white and have used lots of it in all my homes. I really do not like tile except in bathrooms and the kitchen backsplash (white, of course). Neither of these are new choices for me – they have been the staples in all my homes. So, I chose the white believing it would give a neutral floor with lots of versatility. Not true for me. I like a casual organic ‘Tom Scheerer’ feel to a home. I surely could not create this with the white tile. Instead my home looked sterile and cold. In fact, the neighbors nicknamed my home ‘The Beautiful Museum Home’. I could not warm it up and I hated it. I’m also not one for more than a few strong color choices as accents. I do mostly tone on tone with colored pillows, baskets, wood furniture, etc. I could never get a relaxed looking home with the white tile. I was recently faced with having to choose tile again and I went with a high end wood look porcelain tile. It doesn’t compare to real wood, but it sure gave me the look and feel of wood that I love and most of all my house has stayed warm and cozy. I used Maria’s system to choose the tile. I tried to find a tile that had more of a traditional wood tone in a lighter color. I couldn’t find it. I ended up with a tile that looks like limed oak. I realize the limed wood is a trend. The reason I chose it, is because I could put clean or dirty colors next to it and they ALL worked. Earlier, I stated that I live in South Florida – which presents big issues for real solid wood floors, engineered and laminate, unless you live in an old historic home (construction with raised floor). This is my experiment to see how I like it. We will be moving in a few years.

    ps I think the kitchen in the model home is unbelievably ugly….not just the tile (which is horrid).

  • Carol J says:

    I absolutely agree with you, Maria. I used your advice for my kitchen and No One in my area, probably no one in my State has a kitchen like mine. In fact, I have Volga Blue granite, white cupboards, and white subway tiles. I used my existing stove, which is white, but all the new appliances are stainless steel. For my flooring, wood was not practical. I live in a very humid area and my living room/kitchen (the whole first floor) is one room, coming right in from the front and from the usually muddy back garden, and I have no entry or lead in. When you come in the door, there you are. I chose Daltile Timber Glen in Thatch, with 8″x24″ planks. These tiles look like weathered wood and are gorgeous. They don’t clash with anything. My first choice of color, when looking on-line, was Heath…but when I went in-person to the Daltile store I changed my mind and chose Thatch. For the person who wants something a little different, maybe they should focus on the layout. Perhaps the island could be at an angle, or the sink could be placed in the corner, leaving the counter under the window open…for flowers! …or for the beautiful view. Maybe the floor tiles could be angled differently or laid out in an unexpected way. My floor tiles were laid out so the long edge of the planks went the long way across the floor, with the tiles staggered like wood planks. This floor choice was perfect for me and my layout/climate. I adore my kitchen. It was one of the best design choices I have ever ever ever made. Thanks to your website and my contractor who was willing to talk things out and work with me I have one of the most beautiful kitchens I have ever seen…and that in an 832 square foot townhouse where everyone else’s kitchens are cookie cutter blah (even the updated ones.)

  • Maria, I so enjoyed your zingers! I’m totally in your camp. I’m looking at houses to move into, and 99% of them have horrendous kitchen and bathroom choices. I can’t afford to gut and remodel, so I’m having a hard time finding anything I think I could live with. My present house has all white tiles, and I love them.

  • KimM. says:

    I really enjoy seeing all your examples Maria. Thank you so much. Last year we updated our 1980s kitchen. Still has honey oak cabinets but new Cambria Quartz “Blackwood” countertops (
    and a small hexagon vinyl Tarkett flooring ( I’ve had both hardwood and tile in my kitchen before and I just wanted something easier/softer to stand on. I absolutely love my flooring now. Also did a new sink and faucet. Just doing these few things made me love this tired old kitchen!

  • Wendy says:

    The kitchen with red walls is pretty horrendous!! I sure wish more bloggers would “keep it real” and show the ugly along with the good.

    The most useful thing I repeat to clients is that kitchen elements have COLOR. If the cabinets are orange, the blue counters will be waaaay across the Color Wheel, and if you introduce something pink (floors or whatever), that’s another part of the color wheel. Around and around we go which ends up feeling nauseating : ) The simpler and whiter in a kitchen, the better. Toasters, towels, platters will be PLENTY to make it personalized. The beautiful kitchen in final pic uses yellow as the famous “pop” of color (sick of that phrase!) but it is very controlled. The beauty of it comes form it being controlled 🙂

  • Momlady says:

    Okay,here’s a question (not being a smarty pants ,I really want to know), why couldn’t you use some sort of marine finish on your flooring to protect the wood from drips, spills, and such? I mean, seriously, I don’t plan to submerge my kitchen so why wouldn’t that be a doable finish option?

    • mrsben says:

      @Momlady: Better late than never (3 years later) having worked with Marine Varnish myself I have found though durable as a protection against water most of it has a high gloss finish which in turn is apt to reveal blemishes (scuff marks etc.) not to mention it requires at least three to ten coats to be effective. -Brenda-

  • Kim in WI says:

    I couldn’t disagree with this more. I can only have a white kitchen because everything else is going to look bad because that’s not what is being pinned on Pinterest???? I cannot believe you actually said that. Yes, that IS going to be like everyone else’s kitchen (for those who follow trends). As for the rest of us with originality and who don’t want to follow these trends, I guess we all have boring kitchens!

    I know of THREE very talented designers who do not have white kitchens and they’re far more stunning than the trends I see on Pinterest.

    I guess Kelley Wearstler has no idea what she’s doing because all of her kitchens aren’t white.

    Wow. Just wow. I’m floored at how you just limited your entire client base.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Kim, You mentioned designers and that their kitchens were beautiful. No surprise there. However, I’m talking mostly to the person on the web who doesn’t know anything about design but assume that they need to buy everything they love and include it in their next kitchen renovation.I have spoken to literally thousands of homeowners who intensely dislike the kitchen they’ve inherited because it is all those things I’ve just mentioned, or who didn’t realize what they would get until it’s done. I consider it my job to save one kitchen at a time from needing to be ripped out by the next homeowner. Maria

  • Barbara says:

    About the wood floor issue…I have 3/4″ thick hardwood floors in my kitchen and throughout the house. They are oiled and get more lustrous and beautiful with time. Any scratch can be lightly sanded and reoiled, that’s it! I chose it because I have 2 big dogs that charge and slide around the house. It just gets damp mopped with water with some special oil in it, and it’s done. There is no polyurethane to worry about wear and tear and scratching, which means refinishing every 5 years. Also, when it comes to resale, my floor is very valuable, and actually the current stain could be resanded out and restained to the new owners specs. Often you might hear this type of oiled floor referred to as “hard wax” floor. I am very very happy with this floor.

  • Debbie says:

    I have spent countless hours looking for a kitchen backsplash to match my quartz counter tops, cream cabinets and hardwood floors I don’t like subway tile as they are boring, not a big fan of glass tile but you have me worried about tile with design behind stove Large kitchen 48′ range, NEW BUILD. Help

  • Heather says:

    Wonderful advice but I have a question. I know the ideal is white benchtop with white cabinets and hardwood floors, but what if white benchtops are not an option? Where I live I cannot get stone installed and I dont want laminate so my only option is oiled timber. What flooring should be used? The same colour hardwood? Lighter or darker? or a tile in say charcoal?

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