Ask Maria: Help! The Previous Homeowner Installed Granite to Sell

This homeowner reached out to me with photos of two bathrooms in her own house.

Who can see what’s wrong here?

It’s the old “granite to sell” trick and some would say it worked but the new granite makes the floor and cabinets look especially dated.

Ask Maria: Help! The Previous Homeowner Installed Granite to Sell | Maria Killam

How can you tell that the granite is the new addition? That 4″ kick along the back might mislead you into thinking the counters are older but the real giveaway is that they have a creamy undertone while the floors are white.

Done properly, a white and cream bathroom can be stunning, but this wasn’t considered an upgrade.

More likely is that the previous homeowners just followed their realtors advice and installed granite to make the listing more attractive. If you’ve been around here long enough, you’ll know how popular this advice is and how often it can go wrong.

My solution here: Paint the cabinets cream to tie in with the granite and replace the white tile with bluestone hex tile.

Ask Maria: Help! The Previous Homeowner Installed Granite to Sell | Maria Killam

Why hex tile?

To my eye, this tile feels like it belongs in a bathroom. It’s small in scale and classic.

Ask Maria: Help! The Previous Homeowner Installed Granite to Sell | Maria Killam

Here’s another bathroom with bluestone hex tile. Pretty.

Ask Maria: Help! The Previous Homeowner Installed Granite to Sell | Maria Killam

{via pinterest}

Classic little entry. Tile that looks like this could stay forever!

Ask Maria: Help! The Previous Homeowner Installed Granite to Sell | Maria Killam

Unless you have a modern bathroom (for which you would choose a much larger tile, the above six options are your cheat sheet for classic and timeless. Sorry, but no, your house is not the exception.

Any and every other tile is a victim of trends and just as with wood stained kitchens, I can walk into any bathroom with any other tile, and I will know immediately within a five year time bracket, when it was installed.

It takes seeing thousands and thousands of homes to come to this next conclusion and since I’ve done just that, you’ll just have to trust me when I say, most tile is just blotchy and bad.

Fortunately for the bathroom in the first picture, it’s new owners knew who to call to fix the problems of the “granite to sell”.

If you need to choose whites or creams for an upcoming project, save your house from ending up on the wrong side of this blog by reading my eBook, White is Complicated – A Decorators Guide to Choosing the Right White eBook.

Which floor is your favourite?

Related posts:

What Everyone Should Know about Porcelain Tile

When Should you Rip out Brand New Tile?

How to Coordinate New Tile with Old Tile

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  1. My favorite is the first one with the black diamonds. But I love the one with the beautiful black boarder. In one of our current bathrooms we have icky pink, even 1/2 way up the wall. Wow, so dated now. New owners can update that space.

  2. I like the basketweave (lower left corner) the best — especially for the floor of a shower. These floor tiles are small for a reason; using smaller tiles with the resulting greater surface area of grout joints makes it less slippery. Don’t use large tiles on the bathroom floor regardless of the age or style of the home, unless maximizing safety isn’t a concern.

    As usual I agree with Maria that using classic tile is vastly preferable to trendy. You keep saying that Maria — your insistence has struck a chord with me and I’m sure others!

  3. Your keen eye coupled with all that experience is, as always, a godsend.

    Your terrific advice on tile is probably the single biggest cost-savings advice out there. 🙂

    Yes, tile gets dated faster than ANYTHING. The only old tile that meets our criteria is the stuff the Romans did. And THEY were using small tiles. 🙂

    So, there is always this ‘pull’, this tension, between trendy and classic. The hard surfaces should always be classic, and if you want to twirdle around with furnishings and wall coverings, you have the freedom to do so.

    Trendy in tile is just asking for trouble, and a lot of snickering and eyebrow-raising from the peanut gallery. (Even if you are loaded and can install new tile every 5 years, do you want to live in that construction zone while the work is being done?)

    Interestingly, although not a fan of gold fixtures in the bathroom, the softer gold in the bathroom above is a nice pop. Or maybe it was just the lighting. 🙂

    The blue hex tile is terrific, any idea on the source?

  4. Great solution Maria! But now what? The devil’s in the implementation details. In our house the tile extends under the vanity. So does this homeowner take out the cabinetry and replace all tile? Or, does she just replace the tile up to the cabinetry (and deal with mismatched tile in the future when she decides to replace the vanity)? Assuming it’s the former, I’d update the cabinetry as well, if budget permits.

    • I guess if they are doing a budget do-over, they could just make sure that they allot enough tile to go all the way under the vanity, and if they, or a future owner, changes the vanity down the road, the saved tile can be used to finish the floor. Also, save a box or label of the grout, so the brand and colour can match as much as possible. If it’s a dark grout it will be less noticeable. We had to do this in a powder room. It meant pulling up the cut tiles that had edged the old vanity base, and then continuing the tile back to the wall. Thank goodness the previous owner had left extra tiles in a closet.

  5. I replaced the old (yellowish almond-y) laminate in my kitchen a few years ago with new laminate that is white with lots of gray speckling. It looks terrific (because I also had the oak cabinets painted white and the tile backsplash recoated in shiny white) but the salesperson who did the ordering for me told me immediately that I “would never get my asking price when I went to sell my house if I didn’t go for granite.”

    I guess we’ll see, but my own view is that whoever buys my house can install their own busy, bossy granite. In the meantime, my kitchen looks fresh and new, absence of granite notwithstanding.

    • A client from Santa Barbara told me when she sold the condo to buy her house we were working on, her condo sold for $100,000 more than another with the same floor plan. The only difference was she’d installed granite counters, hardwood flooring and recessed lighting.

      After hearing that which seemed so unbelievable because that certainly didn’t cost $100,000, I checked with Realtors and appraisers and they both said yes, that does give a higher appraisal. So as long as you pick something not too ugly, the small investment in the granite can help you get more money for your home, at least around here.

      • I wonder if this advise applies to Quartz counter tops? We will start our kitchen remodel this week and have selected a gorgeous Logos Blue Ceasarstone quartz. (Color is not blue at all but a chocolate). I am so over the qranite kitchen!

        • I think it does from my discussions with Realtors. I’m installing quartz in my kitchen two days from today. Did in mom’s kitchen in 2007. Thousands in between!

  6. Great post Maria! I recently redid two bathrooms in my house. In one I used a Carrera hex tile and in the other, a white porcelain hex with a few black hex flowers. I agree that small hex tiles look classic and timeless!

  7. Great article, I’m looking at houses now and this is very timely. This would be a great solution if the owners loved the granite that had been installed. I’ve never been a fan of granite and haven’t been liking most of what I’ve been seeing so my plan is to just replace the granite.

  8. I replaced then countertop in my master bath with granite and it didn’t match everything in the bathroom, but it wasn’t my intent to leave it like that. I was doing one thing at a time, and moving style forward. However, I then decided to sell, and had to decide what to do with the half-designed bathroom. I restained the built in cabinet from honey oak to espresso, replaced all the pulls to match the fixtures, and left the travertine tile alone. The tile was a peach undertone but with the separation by the espresso cabinet, the creamy granite didn’t clash so obviously. And now, if the new homeowner doesn’t like the tile, that’s all they have to replace rather than the whole bathroom. So I’d say “Thanks” to that seller for doing part of the bathroom renovation instead of saying it was stupid of them to put in the granite–provided I liked the granite they picked, and in this case, I do. I would paint the cabinet white, but first I’d get replacement doors–I hate the style that is shown there now. But sometimes you just can’t do it all at once, so you do what you can.

  9. Bluestone hex tile is a genius solution. And I bet it doesn’t show dirt so the bathroom will at least look clean even if it isn’t.

  10. Perfectly explains why my master bath is still ‘ok’. Chose a white hex tile, like it 30 years later.

    Ha, ha, this is my starter home. Planned to move in 5 years to something better befitting my magnificence. No, still here decades later !!! Magnificence? Never materialized.

    Better, from a home I disliked, I now love/adore and am proud to have clients in million+ homes come to lunch in the Conservatory.

    So glad, I knew in my 20’s, to get heart of pine floor and flat ceilings. Along with telling the builder to turn a main interior wall into French doors.

    You did make me laugh this morning dear Maria, explaining why my bathroom works after decades….

    Garden & Be Well, XO T

  11. I used the middle left tile on the floor of my main bathroom based on your advice from a few years ago to stick with classic and timeless tile. I still love it. I look at all the dark blotchy, dated looking tiles in most bathrooms and sorry to say shudder at how bad they look. I think bathrooms should look fresh and clean! White or cream is best!

  12. Hi Maria, As always you are spot on and able to clarify exactly how to choose classic design. I learn so much from you and all the wonderful comments your readers leave.

  13. Maria
    The sinks look like bright white in the picture. With cream cabinets and the white floors gone, should they replace the sinks to off white? Presuming the tub and toilet are not that bright white either. Thanks.

  14. We used small white hex tile on the floors in our bathroom redo about 10 years ago, with little gray “flowers” like in the blue tiled entry, and the bathroom still gets the “wow” reaction. Probably will for decades to come because it’s so pretty. I might paint the cabinet at some point, but nothing else will need changing. I love bathrooms with all the other classic tile choices, and the bluestone hex is fabulous. Thanks for another great “Ask Maria” post!

  15. Maria, I’m curious after reading this post – you mention the difficulty of using white and cream… does your “White is Complicated” eBook address using white and cream together?

  16. I love hex tile, especially the diamond pattern, the black border and the basketweave, but I don’t feel they are the best choice for every home in every home in the country. Here in Arizona in my open floorplan home, I could get away with it in the guest bathroom but it would wave a flag and call attention to itself every time you walked past the room. And it would be out in the master as I have the dated vanity sink through a 6′ wide opening off the bedroom with the same carpet as the bedroom and tile in the toilet/shower room. My plan for dumping the tile/carpet/tile mess throughout the rest of the open floor plan for a single flooring throughout pretty much demands that the bedroom and vanity area be the same. I’ve seen other similar homes where owners have tiled across the bath/sink/closet area and kept carpet in the bedroom and I don’t like it. Even worse are the tile pathways created across the corner of the bedroom from the vanity area to the hallway. I totally agree with Maria that other tile is extremely difficult to get right, mostly way too busy, or else the midcentury modern look in a non-MCM home or the museum floor look just waiting for the art to be hung. And since real wood floors are not an option for my home (wrong subfloor), I’m pretty sure I’m going with Maria’s “freedom” advice and go with wood-look porcelain tile as CentsationalGirl did. Meanwhile, I think the hex tile will look great in the reader’s bathroom and I’ll continue to enjoy looking at pix where it’s been used.

    • SandyC, it sounds like you and I have the same bathroom, and I’ve been pondering this flooring dilemma for years as I dream of renovating this room. The transition between the bedroom and the large French doors leading into the vanity area is a real problem if we’re trying to tile the bathroom but leave carpet in the bedroom. Thanks for your idea about the wood-look porcelain tile – I’ll have to noodle on that for a while. Maria, care to lend your genius to this issue? 🙂

  17. True. The bathroom isn’t fabulous but most things in life aren’t. Some accessories and a smart-looking area rug could do wonders. In that stark picture it’s easy to hyper-focus on what’s wrong. Wouldn’t painting the cabs a color help, since tile is expensive and paint isn’t? But I do like the bluestone hex idea for down the road.

  18. I understand painting the cabinets cream color to harmonize with the cream in the granite, but bluestone, by its very name, seems to connote blue and coolness. Unless the granite also has a blue-ish color in it would it be appropriate to use a stone hex that is more towards the warm side of the spectrum?

  19. I love the classic subway tile, but never thought of putting it on the floor – rather a back splash or wall in a bathroom. Did you intend for this to be a choi
    ce for a floor?

  20. Even if you paint the cabinets they will still date the bathroom – they are obviously really good cabinets and most of fronts are flat. What I did with a similar cabinet – take the four door and glue a very thin piece of wood to top and then paint – gives you flat fronted cabs which look new – make sure you have a woodworker carefully finish edges to match rest of cabs.

  21. I like your proposal – cream cabinets and bluestone tile. I think it’ll look very pretty, without being too pretty, if you know what I mean. But I’m sad that you don’t like porcelain tile! I installed some translucent-ish green and gray 4-inch in my guest bathroom and powder room, floor and half walls in both, respectively, and 20 years later I still like it.

    But don’t get me started on the matte gray/brown larger tiles our architect convinced me to do in the master bath:(.

  22. Hi Maria– This is a great article and very timely. I have read your articles faithfully for years and remodeled my kitchen which was 20 years old from orange/yellow honey oak to white cabinets and a dark wood island with dark wood floors. Through that process, I found out that I really like the more modern classic style than my traditional decor of the past. I have been updating my house gradually by painting all of the oak including my staircase. My next update is the master bathroom and based on your article, I am trying to decide whether my white tile is too dated or is not considering my styl or maybe it is basic enough to retain. While it not necessarily show stopping, it is white. The tile is from the 90’s when this house was built. It is shiny while with some subtle grey/tan casting throughout. Should I tear it out or keep it? I know you mentioned trying to keep it timeless. I have finally convinced my husband to not go with the trendy glass tiles. ( I am not selling my house in a few years.) I will send you a pic of the kitchen and the bath floor tiles and shower tiles under separate cover. If you have time, your kind advice would be tremendous.

    Thanks so much!

  23. Speaking of tile, what do you think of the new wood look plank tile? The floors look truly realistic on some of the blogs I’ve seen where people have installed them. I’m so tired of my 20 year old, very faded honey oak (now very orange-y) wood floors! I’d love to have it all replaced with these. What tones do you think would be the most classic? I live in a colonial style home and all the other finishes I’ve chosen are classic and timeless. Want my floors to look the same…….

  24. I did kitchen/dining/utility rooms that all run together with wood look tile Laura. It looks fabulous. At least to me. My cabinets are white, of course, with white subway tile for the backsplash. Looks aww mazing 🙂 Very realistic look if you get thin enough grout lines. And of course darker grout than your tile. Wish I could post a pic here.

    • Would love to see it! What brand, color did you choose? There are getting to be so many choices but I want one that is classic and realistic. I have a white kitchen too. I would like to cover the same areas that you did, plus our adjoining family room. With kids and dogs, it seems the only best way to go. I either spend the money to have this floor refinished or redo with tile. We have radiant floor heating so I don’t have to worry about it feeling cold.

  25. Any comments on tiles that are actually beach pebbles on mesh back… so it looks like a beachy floor?? a friend has those IN her shower ,,, i would like it in the shower AND for the floors in both bathrooms ( which will join onto hardwood).
    anyone have experience with these?

    • I think that’s a really fun idea for a beachy bathroom for sure, as long as it suits the look and feel of the rest of your house. Maria

  26. Fun quiz Maria. My first floor bathroom has white ceramic 6″ square tile done on an angle. When do you suppose it was installed?

  27. Very informative! Thank you Maria. Though proposing engineered hardwood flooring throughout the main spaces in my home, am leaving the existing Powder Room one and just cleaning up its grout lines. It is off-white and textured in a circular mosaic pattern using larger square tiles that give the illusion of small tile fractions. With its low gloss it also accommodates easy maintenance. I’m guessing it is probably about thirty years old but IMO it is definitely a classic and if I could find similar I would be using it in the other three bathrooms. That said, I feel that Maria again is right on with her advice. ☺ -Brenda-

  28. This is a very timely post for me.
    I love the entryway tile best. I currently have white hex tiles that are probably original to the house. They are kind of a dirty white though. The comment Bfish made about more grout being less slippery is a very good point. I think I’ll just swap the white hex out for black. I can already see my husband rolling his eyes.

  29. Hi Maria. Thanks for the great ideas! Do you have any sources for dark (not black) hexagon floor tiles? I haven’t found any that are reasonably priced. Also, I’ve seen lots of oversized hex tiles. Do you consider these trendy?

    Thanks!
    Janet

  30. Maria,
    Love your blog with the color and decorating advice. I want to understand your comment in this blog of “That 4″ kick along the back might mislead you into thinking the counters are older…” I understand that if you are using tile above the countertop, then the 4″ kick should not used. In the picture at the top, it appears that there is only drywall above the 4″ kick. What should be used in this case (drywall above the countertop) in lieu of the 4″ kick to protect against water damage? Do you mean that the wall above the countertop needs to be tiled? Thanks for all of your decorating advice.

  31. Maria,
    I am now about to redo my master bath, we’ll be putting the house up for sale within a year. I already redid one guest bath in carrara hex tiles and subway on the walls and one with the tiny white porcelain hex tiles with a few black flower patterns and white subway tiles on the wall. For the master, I adore that bluestone hex tile. Do you think that’s a safe choice, or is a carrara hex better? I’m planning white subway tiles on the walls and a (hopefully antique) claw foot tub. In our price range and part of the country, I think people expect the master bathroom floor to be stone tile rather than porcelain. Please help!

  32. I love the basket-weave tile. I installed this in my remodeled 1920s cottage. A big improvement over the linoleum and it looks timeless!

  33. Hello Maria
    We would like to put in 2″hextagon white tile for flooring in our small ensuite and small main bathroom. The tile supplier is suggesting 6″ as it is more current. We are replacing the countertop with a white quartz (maybe nougat!) as well. Is 6″ too large for a small 15 year old bathroom or just as good option?