Skip to main content

Recently, I received this very generous email from one of my lovely readers (no names will be used here), who said I was welcome to share her story:

I have made literally every mistake in the remodeling book! I really do not like to complain, I dislike myself for being negative this way…but my mind cannot stop working on the design problems because it just hurts my eyes to look at something jarring.

How did I create something so ugly after spending so much money?

We spent tens of thousands on a kitchen remodel, using a kitchen design firm.  The collaboration did not work well.  In hindsight I see that every time I was on the right track, the kitchen designer discouraged me, every time I was on the wrong track, she encouraged me.  And she was basically just selling and designing cabinets…I should have realized she wasn’t really motivated to make sure the whole thing came off including all the surfaces and fixtures, and that it related to the rest of my house. 

Anyway, long story short, I ended up with a kitchen that totally depresses me. The cabinet color doesn’t show in the photo but it’s sort of a deep cherry finish…reads burgundy in bright sun…hate it.  I liked my old kitchen better. My old kitchen was white of course.  Thermofoil over MDF cabinets and tile with high maintenance grout, but white.

The kitchen remodel lady talked me into changing to a wood tone “why would you want it to look exactly the same?”, was her reasoning. I was practically suicidal for a year after the remodel. I know that sounds so stupid and shallow, but I am sensitive to my environment, and it was So Much Money for us. Just devastated me.  It has been two years since the remodel.  I discovered your blog one  month after the remodel. Why couldn’t I have discovered it before I started! Argh! I am trying to figure out what to do one of these days to make it better. Maybe paint the cabinets a shade of warm white.  

One of the most awful things about it is the clashing granite counter and travertine floor.  I had no idea when I chose them, I could not see the problem until after they were installed.  

The cabinets read with a reddish undertone, maybe more rust than burgundy, as I said earlier. The backsplash tile is ivory, with deeper ivory grout, which was chosen because of the granite.  Dumb, because I have white trim, white vinyl windows, white tile in my bathrooms, and white vinyl plantation shutters in the adjacent living room.  So now I have the visual confusion of white versus ivory.

Regarding the kitchen designer: the last time she was on site was during cabinet installation and before the granite went in.  She did call after installation was complete.  She asked how I liked it.  I was sort of beyond words at that point, I mean, the day the granite went in, I went to bed, went under my covers, and sobbed for a full day. Literally.  

It had only been about a week at that point, when she called, from the granite install. I managed to say to her, well, the granite is a little weird for me.  She said, how? I said well, too much pattern, too much color, too much everything.  Panic was evident in my voice. This was before I found your website and I wasn’t really sure what was wrong, so I couldn’t really articulate.  She said: I’m sorry you don’t like your granite.  I was just so overwhelmed at that point I didn’t even want to talk to anyone about it, so I said, oh, I am just a perfectionist, blah blah, and tried to end the phone call quickly.  Then I cried again, of course.

In her defense, she had suggested black granite (with some slight peachy veining in it, it looked like to me) to go with the wood cabinets she had nudged me toward.  And I said no to the black granite, I did not like it. The whole thing was just getting so confusing for me at that point, I knew the direction wasn’t right for me, but there were all these choices and deadlines. I felt so unreasonable, and like such a troublemaker.  

When I said no to the black granite, she didn’t really help me with any guiding principles to choose another color. Her assistant just said choose something that picks up the cabinet color. So my husband and I went to the granite yard an hour and a half away, on our own, and all the slabs looked so weird to me.  We chose something, then we went to the tile store on our own, to choose the floors, and the designer there let us down in not telling us this combination would not work.

The whole process just didn’t work. I was inexperienced about working with designers.  I should have hired an interior designer, I guess. I asked the kitchen design firm up front if part of the deal was that they would help me choose the surfaces.  They said yes, so I took that as a yes…but when we got past the cabinet part of the design process, there was really little help forthcoming.

When I nixed the black granite, she didn’t really work with me to figure out what would be pretty for me. For the floor and backsplash, she simply recommended a tile store, and expected me to go choose on my own.  I was surprised that I would have to lug samples to the kitchen design place at a time the designer was available (rarely) if I wanted her help.  So it was a miscommunication about the level of service provided.

There was a fee charged for design service, after all, so I thought I was going to get full service.  Whatever amount that fee was (I am remembering in the several hundreds, maybe 800, but don’t quote me) I wouldn’t have known how to compare that to level of expected service, this was all new to me. And I was starting to question her taste level.  The dark cabinets with the black counter seemed vaguely nineties to me.  And in a sunny room? I knew it was going wrong, but had no idea what to do.  I felt like there was no one to turn to who knew what they were doing by the end of the process.

What a nightmare.  So, anyway, enough of this. We’re healthy and have a roof over our heads!

If you know me and my blog, you’ll know that pink beige and yellows of any shade do NOT go together. Pink beige just ends up looking dirty beside yellows and yellow beige. The above image is a perfect example of this.

She asked if painting the cabinets would help but I said “If this was my kitchen and I had to choose between changing either the floor or the countertop vs. painting the cabinets white, I would change the countertop (less disruptive) because the cabinets are installed directly on top of the new tile.

Since I am obsessed with white kitchens, I would personally choose cream solid, quartz countertop and then paint the cabinets off-white (immediately even if I had to do it myself) or just wait until I could afford to get it professionally re-done.

Option 2: If I didn’t have the budget to immediately replace the countertops with stone, I would replace the countertops with laminate in the right colour ASAP and then personally get out a paintbrush and paint the cabinets myself.

Way better than to walk into a kitchen you installed and get upset on a daily basis.

If the floor tile would be replaced, I would continue the hardwood flooring from the living room into the kitchen.

This homeowner clearly cares about her environment. Her kitchen is styled with white dishes in the glass cabinets and lovely touches on the countertops. Her slipped bar stools are pretty and coordinate with the kitchen.

There is NO GOOD REASON why she now has a kitchen that makes her CRINGE every time she walks in.

If you are a designer reading this, you clearly do not fall into the category of dumb designers and if you are a homeowner reading this post, here’s the best and smartest, if-all-else-fails-and-you-don’t-know-what-to-do, do this:

Find a picture you love on-line and then just COPY IT. There’s no shame in it, truly.

That’s it. Simple. Don’t let anyone talk you out of your inspiration kitchen.

This kitchen perfectly demonstrates the post I just wrote: Danger: Free Advice will Sabotage your Expensive Renovation. And the sad part is, she also paid for this advice.

This is also the reason why I continually preach simple and clean when it comes to finishes. Why I have said time and time again, PATTERNS in hard finishes should RARELY, ALMOST NEVER be seen in the same room at the same time.

It’s bad enough that the colours completely clash, but even if they did not, there would be a lot of busyness happening with the ‘Look at me, look at me’ granite.

In November one of the designers in my Specify Colour with Confidence Workshops told me she was doing my colour training because she had recently been hired by a developer to help homeowners select all their brand new finishes and colours for the homes they were buying.

She freaked out, because confidence in specifying colour was where she knew she needed help, found my blog, downloaded my ebook, bought my colour boards and immediately registered for my workshop.


The designer who did not help the homeowner find her finishes because she didn’t know what she was doing and clearly did not want to be held responsible for the result.


Note to commenters, I’ve never said this before, however, this reader has been so brave and so generous in allowing us to learn from her mistake, please be kind with your comments. She has suffered enough!  

If you’d like your kitchen to fill you with joy when you walk in the room, see my Kitchen eDesign package here.

If you are starting a renovation or new build and need a step-by-step plan to avoid these or similar kinds of mistakes, go here.

Related posts:

What Everyone Should Know About Beige

When Should You Rip out Brand New Tile?

When Can you Combine Patterned Stone or Tile?

11 pins


  • MJ says:

    Ms. Killam, I am so glad you wrote that note in the end. As I read your article I felt nothing but empathy for that reader. I’m sure other readers like myself have gone through those moments in life with agents, etc., where they felt confused and cornered. Especially when it involves money. I know I would’ve cried, and I have cried, broken-heartedly over wrong decisions. I am a perfectionist and also aesthetically sensitive. I’ve been living in a home that I can’t afford to fix, and I have to keep counting my blessing, like she did.

    I so appreciate your blog and am learning so much from you. Thank you!

  • Carol Hunter says:

    I,too,had a complete kitchen redesign and am not 100% happy (mostly with what the designer talked me into). In your reader’s kitchen, I think changing the countertop and then accessorizing with a cheerful colour (e.g. lime green or similar, plus more white) would do the trick. I think the main “clash” is between the countertop and the floor. It’s not as terrible as the reader thinks,but I do understand her dsappointment and frustrationat being talked into something other than her initial choices. In my case, my entire kitchen is white except for the somewhat pinky beige tile and now I can see there are different undertones in the white. So…I’m still trying to figure out a wall colour (maybe better to just leave it white) and accessory colours. So far, for accessories, I’m liking a touch of black with a touch of the new emerald green…leaving everything else white. Thanks for your post Maria…goes to show that we should trust our gut instincts. To your reader…your kitchen isn’t nearly as “awful” as you perceive it to be..change the countertop, add more white, and a cheery accessory colour. Then post a new pic for us!! Best wishes!!

    • Debra says:

      I completely and totally relate to the homeowner belonging to that story. Not that this has happened, exactly to me, but in her feelings and responses and expectations. I have been in that position, where I paid for expert design advice, was totally upfront about not knowing exactly what I liked but knew very well what I didn’t like, and knew very well the feeling.ambiance I wanted. I had spent hours pouring over magazines…back in the days before internet, and more recently with internet for the second time around, andeven put together an inspiration book with photos of things I liked, from faucets, to floors, to sinks, and tile. Both times, I ended up with something I regret and made me cry for hours multiple times becasue it made me uncomfortable to be in the kitchen. Too busy, not the vibe I wanted, things were ok but not right and I sooo regretted spending the money to be so unhappy with it in the end. I only write this to say, it is easy for others to make light of the result and say it’s not bad and you’ll get used to it, but you truly have to validate that homeowners’ feelings and discomfort, rather than make her feel like she is just a perfectionist, or being picky. I am at a point where, we have a granite counter, my husband and I chose, and some backsplash tile that’s okay, not great…don’t like the way either was installed, and each and every time I wipe down the counters and polish them, I cringe…and it has been a few years. With a sort of modified U shaped counter, and then a separate section of counter, the granite movement goes one way on one side, then 90 degree turn with the next piece that touches each other…which just adds to the business of the granite and “bugs” me…I try to ignore it, hence only noticing when I polish it. Then, I would have preferred to have a tile backsplash all the way, instead the granite salesperson, and the independent designer told us we needed a granite backsplash with the tile backsplash continuing from that. That is another constant source of frustration for me. Again, not bad, just not great and not right for us. AND the granite sales person, sold my husband on a stainless steel sink, I wanted a white or cream sink. Nothing else in our kitchen is stainless steel, not one single appliance. Arrrrgh! Again, I feel like a perfectionist, feel like I’m being picky, and don’t have anyone to speak to about this, especially since I am the lone woman in a houseful of men who don’t really care much either way, as long as it all functions correctly. So now, I want to trust designers, I really want lots of help to fix this and work on the huge project we have coming up of adding on to current house and remodeling our house, but I now have trust issues. I want to hire Candace Olsen, or Geneveive Gorder or someone I have seen their work and admire it and who seems to listen to their clients and somehow make it all work in the end and look beautiful and functional too. I’m crazy desperate, and fearful of spending more money and having to live with further discord. I do not want to be the worst client ever, but feel the designer wasn’t listening to me or had their own agenda that we were not privvy to. Surprise!

      So now with our kitchen, I want to change the granite, hubby says not going to happen, I want to paint some of the cabinets, all are natural wood, the floors are natural ash, and my husband thinks it a travesty to paint anything that is a nice wood, afterall we paid for that hardwood because we liked it. 24 years ago. I want to paint the walls, which I can do…because right now the cabinets, floors, and walls are all yellow tones, I want to stain the ash floors a darker stain – was told ash doesn’t stain well. I’m desperate and going crazy, so I appreciate this blog and all the comments, but especially want you to understand that what makes some of us cry and cringe, though isn’t hideous to most, and we still have our health, it is a constant thorn in our psyche and emotional side, and akes us angry and frustrated with our own selves for making those decisions in the first place.

      • Paulo says:

        Great points, Debra. There is nothing wrong with being a “perfectionist” client…it’s your money, the designer works for you. If a designer says a “perfectionist” client is too picky and troublesome, what they’re not saying is they’re not a good enough designer to rise to the challenge before them. Don’t hire designers (or any “professionals”) that are unable to articulate and allow time for the client to visualize and agree/disagree with their suggestions.

        As clients it’s our responsibility to not only answer questions, but just as importantly to ask questions…lots of questions. In this story it’s easy to blame the designer for many reasons, it’s easy to blame the client for being a perfectionist…what’s been overlooked was the responsibility of the client to build a relationship with the designer before giving her business to see if they’d work cohesively, and allowing herself to be pressured into making decisions she regrets. She didn’t do due diligence in finding the right designer—as they say, caveat emptor.

        • Sylvia says:

          It’s easy to blame the designer because the designer neglected their basic role, resulting in a terrible outcome.

          Many people, in a new situation where they have little or no experience themselves, aren’t strong enough to stand their ground, nor should they have to be. Clients dismiss their own instincts and ignore red flags because they believe that surely the professional knows better.

          The professional SHOULD know better.

          Artistry and beauty may well be in the eye of the beholder, but there are still design standards. This case isn’t an example of poor style expression or an unreasonably picky client, it’s an example of WRONG.

          Any designer looking at the counter and tile combination who thinks it’s an acceptable match should reconsider their expertise or commitment to excellence in their field.

          How convenient it is to promote professional design service, then leave a client to fumble in an unstructured process, bear no responsibility for the outcome and have the nerve to patronize the client afterwards (who is right in this case, by the way) by saying ‘oh, it’s not that bad’ or blame the client, as in ‘it’s the client’s own fault for not knowing better. Buyer beware’.

          Imagine going to a doctor for your first eye exam, the doctor says “pick some lenses out of this box that you think help you see better”, and then after the patient gets headaches while wearing the new glasses, the doctor says, “well it’s your own fault, you picked them.” Perhaps if the patient knew everything the doctor should know, they would have made different choices.

          That’s why it is the responsibility of the professional, not the responsibility of the client, to know better.

          A professional should also define the parameters of the service they will provide for the fee they are getting paid, not expect a client to discover along the way what will or will not be provided.

          If kitchen design services don’t include coordinating finishes when designing a kitchen, then I’m baffled by what exactly this designer was charging for. Indicating all available options from which a client may choose is not designing. It’s showcasing. At the very least, the designer should have reviewed the client’s choices and indicated a mismatch prior to installation.

          Accomplished designers and true professionals (in any field) should be dismayed over this unfortunate example of a costly and botched outcome as it diminishes everyone else working in that field. It is shameful and should be recognized as so, not simply brushed off as ‘the client got what she paid for.’ If you believe otherwise, I hope you will reconsider carefully what your obligations are as a professional. Anything less should be thoroughly disclosed to your client. Then maybe they WILL go elsewhere.

  • Hoechstetter Interiors says:

    What a shame this happened to this poor woman!

    Chalk another one up to *cheap* design advice is worth about as much as what is free, and to the warning that people in a showroom have only one primary interest. Independent designers have much more flexibility, many more options – and a lot more incentive to make sure things work and the client is satisfied.

    It’s also a good illustration that if you already know basically what you want, it’s fine to let a *good* designer give you guidance, but for the big ticket things in particular, it’s OK to stick to your guns and insist the designer work within those parameters.

    Since she already hates the granite, I agree that it should be junked and the cabinets painted.

    I’d also suggest she donate it to a local 501(c)(3) shelter or other charity who might want to be doing some remodeling, and then (if her tax advisor agrees, of course) at least she’d be able to take a tax deduction to recoup part of the cost.

  • Sarah says:

    My heart breaks for her… I hope she can find peace in the recommendations you’ve made and get her space fixed.

  • Veronica Domurat-Tostado says:

    I’m not a designer. I’m just passionate about design and learning everyday something. That been said, I agree with changing the countertop. Maybe painting the cabinets but not necessarily. I don’t find them that bad, maybe because mine are similar and I like them. But back to the counters, is the biggest clash of all and like you suggested it, even if is an inexpensive new counter but in the right color. Like another reader said more white and a happy color for accesories would help. I’m sorry for this lady that had a tough time creating hr kitchen. I’m glad she find you Maria. And thank you because you just made me feel “important” giving my humble and honest opinion hehe 😉

  • Barbara says:

    Wow, spot on Maria – I would do what you said too! I’d probably paint the cabinets first because to me that’s most overwhelming. Then deal with countertop. To her credit I think a lot of people have this same issue – I’ve been looking to redo mine and see a lot of similar pictures. I wonder if she can sell the countertop granite on craigslist to get some of her investment back. My favorite is white kitchen, black countertop.

  • Veronica Domurat-Tostado says:

    Sorry I couldn’t stop. Is it painting the walls an option for your reader? Because I’m thinking of a pretty soft aqua green, that way is less clashing of whites and ivories.
    And she could change the counters to a simple white and put some bright yellow flowers in a pretty vase and fall in love with her kitchen again 🙂

  • Donna Frasca says:

    I was just telling my client yesterday that anyone, even the housewives with a flair, can pick out pretty colors but I’m sorry, it take a Professional to be able to choose a palette that all work well together. Those undertones are the culprit and if you don’t understand them, you’re “flair” just won’t work. The pink and beige undertones are the #1 issue to address in most homes. It can be a very expensive lesson.

  • Emily says:

    Thanks so much for sharing! I’m a perfectionist and I often second guess my instincts. It really helped me to read about your experience.

  • Lewis says:

    Would Caesarstone’s Osprey help? Trying to find a really subtle pattern that has both white and ivory.

    I personally would be loathe to paint cabinets I had just paid a fortune to install. Perhaps paint the uppers only?

    I hope the homeowner can find a solution that makes her feel good in her space. I too am sensitive to my surroundings, so I understand how she is feeling.

  • Cathy says:

    I feel terrible for this lady. Nothing worse than being so disappointed everyday when she walks into her kitchen and many days just waking up. Hopefully she takes your advice. She needs to be happy in her home.

  • Lauren Tyson says:

    I am definitely feeling her pain. In 2008 we bought a “repo” home with very busy granite countertops. Without design help, we chose a busy quartzite stone floor. The floor not only clashed with the granite, but was bumpy and rough. Further, it did not get the right sealer/enhancer put on, so it also looked chalky for a couple years till we fixed it. On top of that, peach walls! What a mess! All because no professional help, and being in a rush.

  • chris says:

    this is the reality of using “on site designers”….they are really only interested in pushing their own product and have little interest in how it relates to the rest of your room or overall home.

  • Mary says:

    Well, it’s definitely a first world problem! But seriously, I think that it is a very nice kitchen, but totally understand having a vision, TRUSTING someone’s professional abilities and then having them flake, leave and living with the train wreck. When I was totally rebuilding a house from a fire, I had a decorator who specified all the wall colors. As soon as they started going up, I hated them. My hallway that winds through my house looked like a giant urinal that just wasn’t quite clean. I called her. She came over and basically shrugged and said “well I guess you could try this or that.” I knew at that moment that this woman had maybe 10 colors that she used and that was IT – no matter where she was or what the house needed – she just went to her 10 colors, collected her check and moved on. I eventually repainted every room in the house (the entire hallway was repainted within two days much to the amusement of my painting crew who were from the third world, but decided I was a first world nut case). At least it was paint – I can’t imagine the same feeling with hard finishes…well yes I can! I find most designers have a limited number of tricks in their bag and once you have tried them then they are done whether you the trick or not. That is why one of my goals this year is to call Maria!!!!

    • Judy says:

      Yes, I do agree with you about designers. In order to work fast and make more money, I think that most of designers put the same color palette in every house that they do that year. As the style and colors change, they then change it up and repeat in every house that they do.

  • Kevin says:

    I agree with other comments. If I walked in her kitchen, i would compliment her on how nice it was (it is). Although I would know that something was a bit off – but only a bit. I love the backsplash (and don’t think I would see any white / ivory difference), i like the floor and even like the cabinets (with glass doors). I 95% love my white kitchen (but something feels a bit off)

  • kara says:

    Oh, I feel for her…’s so much money to remodel & a kitchen to boot! Uugh. When I did my laundry room remodel I copied almost exactly what I ripped out of a magazine……I’m so happy I did! I love walking into that room and visitors comment “How did you know how to do this room like this”? Magazines folks & pinterest! So, good point Maria–don’t feel guilty copying magazines! They are inspiration!

  • wow…that poor woman. Lesson learned but owch at a very big expense. Hopefully your post and her story will stop the same from happening to someone else.

  • Carol says:

    I was so sad reading about this experience and it confirms that we should trust our intuition. That said, the kitchen is not awful. While I personally don’t love dark cabinets, they appear to be good quality and are the only “dark” in the room. And I like the floor. You were absolutely right not to go with black granite, imagine how awful that would be. While an additional investment, new white/light quartz countertops and backsplash (with Maria’s counsel) could turn your angst to joy. This kitchen has huge potential to be pretty and timeless.

  • Jill Baum says:

    Unfortunately, the stress of remodeling also makes you make decisions under pressure. I used to make an idea book, chose everything using those ideas and then had a consultation with Maria. I didn’t have samples of everything so I also ran it by the decorator from the store where I purchased my furniture (the store is impeccably done). For the record, I don’t think your kitchen is awful and maybe some beautiful art or throw rugs will improve it just enough to like it. I would change the wall color too. Good luck!

  • I see the conflict, and feel empathic to your dislike towards your kitchen. It does not offend ! Can I offer another alternative. How about amazing cream leather barstools with backs and nailhead trim to distract from the linking of the counter to floor.
    And some carefully chosen counter accessories as well as a focal piece for over the stove.
    Try Vanguard for stools, or Sunpan.

  • Kathy says:

    The people who owned my house before me moved out shortly after they spent a lot of money remodeling the kitchen. They bought a new house almost immediately and rented this one for a few years before selling it to us. I’m pretty sure it’s because they hated the results of the remodel! The cabinets were custom and ornate, expensive appliances, granite, etc. but from the moment we moved in I hated my “very nice” kitchen. My husband thought I was crazy! The cabinets and floors were the same orangy-brown (orangy-brown everywhere!). The granite a very busy orangy brown, gold and black. The backsplash a rustic tumbled travertine. I like clean lines. After living with my kitchen for 6 years we are in the process of getting it refaced. New white shaker cabinet doors, paint the cabinet boxes white, new quartz countertops. When they put the first coat of primer on the cabinets I was SO HAPPY. It is finally coming together.

    I think many people end up with this dilemma and don’t love their kitchens after spending a lot of money. Your reader probably has friends and family that think her kitchen is very nice and that she is crazy. But I understand! I hope she can afford to make some changes now, but maybe she can find comfort in knowing that something can be done someday and she doesn’t need to start from scratch!

  • Amy says:

    First to the homeowner, rest assured that most people don’t notice the clashing colors. The readers of the blog are hyper-aware of these things, but the average person who walks into your kitchen will not focus on this. Having said that I fully agree you need to do something. I am going through a minor remodel of my kitchen now so I can relate to trying to decide what to change and where you can get the most bang for your buck. Maria suggests changing the countertop first. You can probably use the existing granite elsewhere. That is what I am going to do. Talk to your fabricator about it. Do you have bathroom counters, a bar, or even a laundry room where you might be able to use it? That way you are not just throwing away the money spent. Regarding painting the cabinets, I would tread carefully. It is recommended that you have them professionally painted by someone who will use a paint with a catalyst which makes the paint bond (they remove the fronts and spray them in their workshop with special industrial paint). This will give you a factory-like finish. It’s a little more expensive, but well worth it to preserve the quality of brand new cabinets. If you can’t do that at least have the fronts removed, sanded and sprayed professionally (worth the time and effort). It will look good, but may chip a bit over time. If you do it yourself look into Rustoleum cabinet solutions (check their website). I have not used the product personally, but it was recommended to me by a house painter. It is for do it your selfers. Knowing that you are picky, take the time to get the cabinet painting right. Done the right way you will have lovely new cabinets in the color that you wanted. You have an investment in quality cabinetry so it’s worth the extra cost and effort to get it right.

  • Beth says:

    Even degreed interior designers do not generally study color – both the effect on us humans (beyond pop psych) and technical (including undertones). It’s hard finding someone who knows what they’re doing and also knows how to encourage a client’s taste if s/he’s unsure.

    I like white kitchens but don’t think they are the only kitchens. : ) From what I can tell on a computer, this kitchen could be quite nice with a counter change to play nice with the floor – though it still wouldn’t be to the taste of the homeowner. I’d do quartz – it’s too upscale a kitchen for laminate.

    I see tons of kitchens where the backsplash and the counter are extremely busy and look dreadful together – even in my favorite tile showroom. At least that mistake was not made!

  • Betty says:

    I too waited 12 years for my new kitchen. I saved my hard earned money only to be steered into darked stained cherry cabinets with raised panels – my dream was shaker white cabinets. I took free advice and I’m sorry to say they were men. The insanity continued with tumbled beige undertone tile because my friend had them and a busy granite countertop. I too am sensitive to colour. I added sunny yellow walls to the entire house and then I never wanted to be in the kitchen. Yes, a first world problem but I have Maria booked for my next house…it has yellow and burgundy walls with beige kitchen cabinets…I’ve told my friends to come over quick to see the before because I know the after will be great

  • Robin says:

    In the two major renovations I’ve done, the kitchen and master bath, it is the tile that has caused problems for me. I did well on flooring, cabinets and countertops, but with so many overwhelming choices of tile, my backsplashes don’t make my heart sing. I know what you mean about spending so much and then feeling like it isn’t perfectly what you wanted. I don’t think adding accessories will help – it’s like putting a bandaid on a gaping wound. Decide that you made some mistakes – certainly we all do, including designers, forgive yourself for it being a costly mistake (we’ve all done those), and get those cabinets painted and change the granite. I think you’ll like the ivory tones mixed with the whites – that combo has great richness and depth when done well – but you shouldn’t cringe when you look at your home. And don’t do a poor paint job on the cabinets – that will make you cringe further. It’s frustrating, and we’ve all done it!

  • JoyceB in Atlanta says:

    Just last month, on a house tour, I saw a kitchen so like this one in north Atlanta. The kitchen designer was there and proud of her work. Like others, I think the cabinets are fine. Granite has been foisted on the public for so long now, and it is a lot like wallpaper was in the past – heavy and busy. A friend was talked into a ‘zebra striped’ black and white granite in her traditional home. But worse, when I asked where the microwave was in the plan, she said the designer told her it would go in the walk in pantry. It was only when I asked how many times a day she used her microwave, and showed her pictures of the drawer microwaves available, that she has a better working kitchen. Your suggestions Maria to the lady are very good. I also like the one about covering the floor with carpets and runners. Sisal is not too expensive and has that yellow undertone. It can be treated to be more practical.

  • Debbiecz says:

    Dear Maria, if your contributor is close to Illinois I have paint brush in hand and am more than willing to help out! How discouraging to pay for a professional and yet not receive professional service though the lesson for all of us is to stick to our guns when unhappy. A true professional will listen and then either do as requested or explain why our non-professional wishes won’t result in what we really want. A friend once called me in tears because her just installed patio was ugly. She had waited 15 years to do this complete backyard re-do and she hated it. I’m a wuss but can be brave when giving orders to others, I told her to call the installer ASAP, explain and fix it. She did, they did and she’s SO happy. The installer was happy too as he thought once it went in it was wrong but as she seemed ok with it he didn’t say anything. I would go with the countertop quartz option and then paint the cupboards after getting some paint advice from Maria of course!

  • Wendy says:

    I have been so afraid of this woman’s story becoming mine! I could feel her pain while reading her words. Like her, I am incredibly sensitive to my environment, but not confident in my choices, and my tastes and preferences seem to be constantly evolving. I’m not a designer, but finding this blog helped me understand WHY I was unhappy with the way my house looked. I’ve also learned why I’m not a fan of those granite countertops and fancy tiles that are so popular (too busy).

    We are currently saving toward a kitchen remodel, but it will probably be 4-5 years before we can do it. I am trying to learn what I can in the meantime so that when the time comes, I will trust my instincts better, and when I hire a designer I will be able to assess whether or not I’ve found a good one and will have confidence stating my preferences. I also have a number of kitchen pictures on Pinterest that I could potentially “copy” per Maria’s suggestion above.

    I have learned so much from Maria’s blog over the past couple of years (and her book), and I hope this homeowner will learn from this blog and from her own experience and eventually have the kitchen of her dreams.

    I have been applying what I’ve learned about undertones by making inexpensive changes in my current kitchen (and other rooms) to “practice” what I’ve learned with lower financial risk. I love white kitchens right now, but will I still love them in 5 years? As an intermediate step I’ve painted my 80s oak cabinets white, which looks 100% better and allows me to try out that white kitchen in advance and to sell the husband on the idea. I’ve selected a neutral paint with a green undertone from Maria’s Bonus Book of Colors for the open plan kitchen/family room that works with the white cabinets and also looks good with what I now know is a green beige couch and greenish blue chairs. All the wall colors on the first floor now have a bit of green or green undertone to them, almost all the fabrics and new throw pillows work together (I still need new window treatments), and for the first time ever, almost everything looks good together and flows.

    Even with my aging kitchen, very modest furniture, and small budget I am finally starting to get that harmonious look I’ve always admired, but found elusive. The closer I get, the more obvious it is which objects have clashing undertones so I can paint/refinish them or replace it with a different accessory. Even something as simple as replacing an orangish-brown basket with a seagrass one with green undertones or spray painting a clashing vase with one of the colors from my fabrics makes a huge difference.

    I feel more comfortable in my home now, and I’ve gained a lot of confidence in my choices and my ability to shop for my own home, at least for less expensive pieces. I hope the same will happen eventually for this homeowner.

    • Linda Veldman says:

      Wendy I have been in the same boat as you, sensitive to my surroundings, not always confident in my choices (often overwhelmed by the number of choices) and evolving tastes & preferences. One thing I have learned over the years, if you choose classic styling and as Maria suggests clean and simple for your hard finishes you can’t go wrong. 11 years ago (at the beginning of the trend) we installed a white hand painted kitchen with panelled doors, matching painted island bench with a wood countertop. My “old” kitchen is now looking a little tired, but it’s not screaming yesteryear by a long shot. By choosing a style at the beginning of a trend it’s given our choice longevity. Because the kitchen is basically white with touches of charcoal (stove and some benchtops), over time I’ve been able to ring in the changes with different accessories. Even if you notice your tastes changing over time there
      there will still be some common threads – ie. I’ve always loved simple and classic but now I want to include a bit of retro. If my kitchen is classic, to bring in retro all I need is an accessory such as bar stools or cannisters etc. Good luck with your kitchen remodel. It took me months of research to get the look I wanted, but it was worth it.

  • Maggie S says:

    I recently moved into a rental house that has new Formica counters that look like white marble –and they are very nice.
    My advice would be to replace the counters with Formica counters (in the right color) first –they are inexpensive and the rest of the kitchen may look better. It might feel odd to take out granite but better to be happy with the way it looks.

    I feel so bad for her to have spent all that money and be so unhappy with the result. I hope that her husband is sympathetic.

  • Sarah C. says:

    I’m not a professional but to me, the kitchen is lovely. Personally, I would change the wall colour and accessories to make it work. I feel so bad for this lady that she has to spend further money to get a kitchen she loves because of shoddy advice. The floor and the counter don’t jive. However, I really hate the idea of taking brand new expensive products and just getting rid of them because of a colour error. Such an excess and waste. Okay, I’m just going to throw a crazy idea out there and I don’t even know if it’s possible but here it goes: You might be able fix the colour of the travertine tiles by having them professionally stained with a penetrating stain to adjust the colour so it’s not so pink. Perhaps a call to a marble company is in order to see if it’s possible. If that’s the solution to the colour challenge, then nothing needs to be gotten rid of and the cost may be significantly lower than ripping materials out and starting over.

  • Rebecca says:

    Might I add that the white v ivory could be lessened by adding a bit of ivory to the adjacent area.

    Maria, understanding undertones has been a great help in being able to verbalize why instinctively I felt a room was not in harmony.

    Since I was a teen or tween I would mentally remodel rooms. Now I know why some spaces made me so uncomfortable.

  • Betty says:

    Hi Maria. Please show my post as “Betty ” no last name if you use it… Thanks. See you in march. I would like to know what your favorite kitchen looks like?

  • Oh my goodness what a sad story. I could so easily see that happening. If I were her, I would change whichever I hated more – the floor or the counter (probably the counter) – and then paint the cabinets ASAP. I hope she makes some changes and sends you an ‘after’ photo so we can all admire the difference.

  • Amy says:

    Oh boy, do I ever sympathize with this homeowner! Her story brings tears to my eyes! My husband has been chuckling over how stressed I’ve been as I choose everything for our new house that’s being built. It’s very difficult to get everything right and very hard to stand up to people who are advising you. I agree with all the wonderful advice in the comments that a new countertop will help tremendously – something quite plain and light. And some color on the walls, too. Get Maria’s help with that for sure!

  • Roberta says:

    Thanks goodness for the white subway tiles! I think if she replaces the granite with something slightly off white, she’ll be happy for now. I would wait until a pro painter is affordable for the cabinets though. Good luck!

  • Betty says:

    I just recently finished a kitchen remodel (3 years old now) and my cabinets are quite similar …my backsplash is ‘off white’ (not ivory, but not ‘white white’ either, with matching extremely fine grout lines)

    the biggest conflict that i see (at least from my monitor) is the conflict between the granite which has the yellow undertone and the floor which appears on my monitor as pinky beige…very tough to reconcile those very expensive hard finishes!

    a couple of inexpensive options might be to try to do some color correction with lighting….for example the backsplash looks more intensely ivory where the undercabinet lights hit…i used LED lights which made my ‘off white’ tile look much whiter and the white sample look *too* white next to my granite which is more beige but has a lot of ‘movement’

    i would also consider putting glass shelves in the cabinets with glass doors and lighting them with LED lighting as well

    i personally find the floor to be more of a problem than the countertop she has…either way it would be very costly to replace either or both…

    i would NOT paint those cabinets…they are lovely…at most i would consider painting the island cabinetry, but it is hard to envision how any paint color would correct the conflicting undertones between the countertop and the pinky beige floor tile

    i’m not entirely thrilled with my choices (i picked my granite before reading this blog and others) but it still is lovely and i get compliments all the time…no, not ‘perfect’ but certainly not bad enough to rip it out…

    I guess I am saying I certainly understand her disappointment, but as an outside observer, her kitchen still looks appealing even with her colour mistakes

  • SandyCGC says:

    I hope your reader will go with your Option 1, Maria. At least Step 1, change the countertop (which she is never going to like) to the off-white solid, quartz countertop you suggested (and donate the granite). If she can do Step 2 (paint the cabinets off-white) now as well, do it. Otherwise do Step 1a (put some color on the walls, with advice from Maria). Once she gets the countertop changed and some color on the walls, she’ll feel better, and once the cabinets are painted, she’ll BE better. Then, down the road, empowered with the assistance of true designer/color expert Maria and her own new knowledge, she’ll make whatever other changes are needed and finally get her perfect kitchen.

    She’ll never recoup the costs of her disaster. But you said in your 2013 Goals post, Maria, that you needed images of the “wrong thing” for you e-book, and your reader can at least smile about being the first to respond and hopefully get a mention in your book later.

  • I am a decorator and I just wanted to cry when I read she took to her bed and cried 🙁 All that money and time spent and ending up with something she clearly dislikes.

    I agree with your fixes for this woman. I too would tell her to paint the cabinets herself if needed.

    I’m VERY proud to say I work totally independent of ANY brand, store, etc. I do not have a store front operation which means I WILL not push any particular brand of anything! All too often I get called in ‘after the fact’ because the client can’t “make it work”. They got sucked in by the ‘free design advice’ from the tile store, the countertop store, etc. Often times they find out too late that the ‘advice’ they got was from some salesperson selling items stocked in the store and must sell!

    I truly hope any other people out there will go to a caring designer or decorator who’s goal is to give the client the room/home of their dreams….not just sell product.

    Thanks for sharing the story…and I hope the woman someday gets her dream kitchen.

  • Kitty says:

    Wow! It was brave of your reader to share her story. I think we’ve all purchased the wrong thing based on someone else’s advice and then we feel obligated to defend it/keep it. For what it’s worth, I think the countertops she chose are beautiful, just not right for her kitchen. Please keep us updated.

  • Wendy says:

    I’m a designer and this poor woman’s story had ME in tears! I can really relate since I, too, felt bullied by advice from contractors, tile people, painters, etc during extensive remodels of my past and current houses. Nowadays, I am brave enough to be assertive about my taste, but I wasn’t when I was younger. I’m also hearing that this woman feels so deeply RESPONSIBLE for spending her family’s hard-earned money on HER mistakes, but I wish to remind her that nobody’s perfect, and I bet her husband has made mistakes financially too. I vote for replacing the counters, as Maria said, which will be cheapest and quickest fix. There’s even a possibility that the slab place will work out a barter for your material…they can often sell half-slabs. Live and learn…try to see the humor of it (in time). It’s via our mistakes that we learn the most… Best wishes to you!

  • GaBi says:

    Designers on site are usually designers who did some very short course / but I can be wrong / they are NOT really interested to work on self / by selfstudy, presentations so on /but they WANT to be recognized as a designers. To become a professional designer your task is NOT finished by the graduation party, it is just a beginning.
    Definitely I have to agree with Maria that the best start to give a hint of your visual taste what you like to satisfy your feeling towards your environment is show some pictures at the very first meeting with a designer.
    If the designer will show the inclination to something else this should be a warning sign that she will lead you to the corner what she likes, but not you! It is a very often use tendency / unfortunately / from a designers – I don’t know why?? Sometimes the situation can be clashing becasue the professional designer after very brief look around your house will recognize your taste and can lead you to a right point with a very high end result even you will show some picture which is the result of a very short moment of “likes”.
    Kitchen is the most use place immediately after we wake up and it should be very pleasant to have a coffee and your breakfest before you leave for your workplace / creating a good mood for the day / it was proven that if we have a bad experience in the morning our day could be gone.
    Dark wooded kitchens are considered as a clasy, but as Maria explained it needs to be in balance and the sensitivity of the rest of the colors are crucial as you put together one puzzle and on the end you expect to have a beautiful and enjoyable picture.To renovate these days is not an easy task not just for a designer, but also for the owner because of the confusion of the owner and the designer / maybe too many choices /. I wouldn’t prefer to have a dark kitchen around area of Vancouver because of the grey sky during the all winter season and it make you more depressed. Definitely light solution can bring a very diferent picture as it was recomended here before, but Maria I know you have a case here to make this lady happy even changing the grout color around the tiles and color on the walls to make this kitchen even better.

  • Joni says:

    I would never paint these new cabinets – you can always tell they were fiddled with with careful examination!.

    Rarely if ever would someone look at this kitchen from a birds eye view pitting the clashing undertones of the floor & the counter top against each other in such a cringe worthy way. Buyers always want granite in their kitchens, even if it’s not done well. Keep the granite & focus on an easier less expensive OK fix.

    I see the white counter stool cushions, little white floor rug in front of the fridge, milk chocolate drapery & white walls as the areas to make the reasonable fix.

    Next use a professional to get the color, texture & scale right! After all, you most likely will not live there forever & buyers like high end finishes like you already have now!

  • JaneM says:

    What a nightmare, instead of the kitchen of her dreams she has another project !
    My husband and I moved recently and the criteria for the new home was a updated kitchen and decent bathrooms.We had experienced too many expensive renovations in former homes that hadn’t work out. I do have to say the cabinet sales person we used at the prevoius house did try to explain that I had picked pink undertones in the tile.
    I had no idea what she meant. ( thankfully I do now.)I’m much more confident in choosing finishes and colors now.Maria you have made my life so easy,the new house was painted in greeny greys and I would have been lost without your blog.
    (I’m a blue pottery and pale yellow walls kinda gal.)so grinchy greens were not my go to colors.
    But now I’m a big fan of olive, I love the contrast with my wood furniture.I even have some brass accents, quite a change for me.
    Thankyou for all the information and insight.

  • mairi says:

    Thinking outside the box re: the floors, this may well be worth a try….
    A ‘barely there’ stain (tried on spare travertine tiles and tested) may provide the hint of colour needed to bring the undertone around. Porousness would determine uptake, and it’s hard to tell from the photos.
    Great discussion Maria!

  • Jan v says:

    Most of us can relate. Many times I’ve regretted not having followed my own gut instincts, instead going with the suggestions made by others whom I assumed “knew” more than I. Lesson learned is to be sure of the skills/motivation of a “professional” before following their advice.

    As to the kitchen, I think the yellow granite needs to go. The cabinets seem to coordinate perfectly with the floor as they share the pink undertone. Changing the warm yellow lighting to a cleaner light source will probably clean up the yellow cast of the backsplash tile.

    Once the granite is gone I think the kitchen would be very nice. Habitat for Humanity is a good destination for the granite!

  • Elizabeth Minish says:

    I agree with the idea that the countertops are the main culprit here. Something that is not often talked about is that even if the granite had a pink ndertone to go with the travertine floor, there is also an inherent style clash between granite and travertine. Sort of like wearing chinos with pumps. Granite is inherently more casual. Quartz would be the way to go if solid surface is in the budget.

    Word of caution about a DIY paint fix for the cabinets: Unless the homeowner is an EXCELLENT painter, painting the cabinets herself might bring more heartbreak and it will be difficult (read expensive) for a professional painter to get rid of the brush strokes common on most DIY painted cabinetry if they don’t pass come up as well as the self-acclaimed perfectionist hopes. Try the countertops first and see how much this helps.

  • sandra berube says:

    Maria – your advice hits the mark: – this homeowner sounds ready to take positive action! Making the
    countertop changes first; trading with the granite yard could be a workable solution. Add fresh flowers weekly, a beautiful throw rug. When financially ready – professionally repaint the upper cabinets.
    I look forward to this homeowner’s happy future postings.

  • sandra berube says:

    looking forward to reading happy news from this homeowner after making her changes.
    Maria, as usual, your advice was right on the mark.

  • Marianne says:

    I want the owner of this kitchen to know that she is not alone. I too relied on expert advice that turned out poorly. My bathroom remodel has the same floor tiles..on the floor and tub surround as in the example. After reading Maria s words of wisdom, I think I can improve the aesthetic with a better wall/trim color. I also feel more confident going forward with my WHITE kitchen, living room, dining room remodel. I hope the kitchen owner chooses one of the options and loves her kitchen…it does have a great layout!

  • Marie LEXA says:

    It seems to me that part of the problem is that so called “designers”, “color consultants”, etc… (and I’m not referring to you, Maria), don’t have any artistic qualifications. What sort of credentials do you need?? Had any of these “professionals”, truly had an artistic background, these mistakes could just not happen!! I’ve renovated my whole house with an architect who gradutated from “Les Beaux Arts”, no problem with color, taste…

  • Nattily says:

    Best of luck with the kitchen re-do. So many decisions, am sorry the result wasn’t worth all the work you put in.

    Not exactly related to this post but Maria, I saw a photo today of what I think is a notweorthy example of bad beige coordination… in the Oval Office. Am I right to think these couches and coffee table are a bad combo? Coffee table seems pinkish to me.

    Thanks for your blog, i’m a new reader but it’s been very helpful while I consider how to decorate my new home!

    • Tessera says:

      Wow, Nattily! Too funny! I’m not a designer but just trying to do what I can to make the right color decisions for my own place. After stumbling across Maria’s website just last week, I ordered her ebook immediately and read it all in one night. Since then I have been plowing through her examples in her blog and on Facebook…but it’s only been a week. Just in that amount of time, I can completely see what you are referring to in the Oval Office!! The wallpaper seems to be reading kind of dirty, too, with the lampshades, framed white document, fireplace marble and wainscotting seeming to be off. It just doesn’t seem to be working. It would be great to have Maria’s take on this!

  • Kay says:

    My heart goes out to this woman. Lots of great advice here, and I hope it will help her salvage what she has. Although I sympathize with her loathing of the cabinet color, in that kitchen a home job on the cabinets might end up looking not so great. Changing the counter seems the single best fix.

    For those learning from this example, I second Maria’s advice to find a picture you love and duplicate it. Eight years ago that’s what I did with our main bathroom, which had to be gutted. I fell in love with the bathroom in a picture and modified it as necessary to make it work in our space. I duplicated the floor and wall tile, the glass block, the sinks, and the faucets and ended up with a bathroom that has given me pleasure every time I’ve stepped into it for the past seven and a half years. I would have made a mistake with the paint (using standard kitchen and bath white), but the painter used Atrium White instead (without telling me!), which was perfect.

    We’re about to remodel our kitchen, which is much scarier, but I’ve consulted with Maria, am using an independent kitchen designer, and have the benefit of all that I’ve learned from Maria during the past couple of years. Thank you, thank you! You are truly wonderful.

  • Paula Van Hoogen says:

    Maria, These are some excellent responses for this poor gal to take heart with! It is true we surely ALL do make expensive mistakes in our lives. Fortunately the do-overs are allowed. Also, you do have a perfect text book example to use in classes and in your next book,Maria. Maybe you could offer her a discount to one of your color work shops as well. She would make lots of new friends and learn so much from you Maria.
    I send her hugs and thanks so much for having the courage to share this experience. Send AFTER photos!!!!

  • Henriette Comm says:

    To this dear lady
    I am so sorry for all your turmoil. Being happy in a space you love is so important to your health, and peace of mind.
    I’ve been a reader of Maria’s blog for approximately 9 months. We had “dated oak cabinets” which had door handles in the middle of the door. Go figure!! We planned on painting them white, which we were in the process of doing, when I discover Maria’s site. As time progressed my Husband and I made decisions based on some her suggestions, Eg: black counter top, hardware for cabinets.This part of our reno is completed. We will be implementing a few more of the ideas seen on her web. I still had questions regarding ,lighting, colors, etc. So for my peace of mind, obesssions, and doubts,
    Maria and I set up a phone consultation. It was an hour well spent. We dealt with color flow, flooring, rafters, windows to name a few.
    Would I do it again? Absolutely!! I value Maria’s opinions, because she bases them on her education, expertise, and knowledge of the trade she is working in. If you peruse her blog, you will educate yourself, and get an understanding of the why’s and what’s, her information is based on.
    From my own experience and observation, I believe that Maria is trustworthy and forth right. Decisions are a part of life. Trusting people is very difficult at times, because we really don’t know what their motivation is.
    We’ve all been given a choice.Lets be wise in who we trust
    I would encourage you to endeavor to continue in acheiving the goal that you have set out to accomplish. May the decisions you make today
    give you peace of mind.

  • liza says:

    I think that the people who made the suggestions to try the changes in lighting and in staining the flooring are brilliant! I would hire them in a heartbeat! Awesome thinking out of the box for money saving solutions!!!!

  • Carol says:

    I am so sorry you have to go thru this. I wonder if Mairi’s link about recoloring travertine may be an answer – it would be worth testing some samples of the flooring. That is the pinkest-toned travertine I have seen. Even Maria says it is usually like jeans – goes with lots of things – but I really don’t care for the very pink tone of this particular travertine, so I think I might start there and get more advice about staining it. That would alleviate the most immediate problem – painting the cabinets could be postponed. The granite is actually quite nice, it just clashes with the floor. The backsplash is so light, it doesn’t have much impact; if the floor is changed, and the walls painted a color closer to the backsplash, I think the problem could go away.

  • Linda Veldman says:

    Bravo to the lady who provided Maria with an example of clashing undertones. It’s a great help to us learners to see real life examples of why rooms don’t work. And thanks again Maria for your generosity and being one of the few designers who really knows her stuff and shares (in depth) too.

  • I’m also a color consultant who has come across many kitchen mis-matches. I’ve recently had a couple of repeat clients who are remodeling their kitchens. One got caught up in the process with the kitchen designer, and when I checked out the results, the undertones were wrong. She ended up changing the cabinet order before it was too late. But when I also suggested that the countertop and backsplash choices weren’t great either, she got caught between me, her husband, and the kitchen designer who defended her choices. I think the main issue was mentioned before. The average person thinks these choices look okay, but those of us who understand undertones (thanks to Maria) can see they aren’t. Most people are hung up on what they see in the media, and can’t recognize a good kitchen color scheme. It’s like they think they have to have all these different materials, especially multi-colored granite or it’s not cool. I feel like the Grinch when I suggest less color, and more simplicity. I’m feeling frustrated because they don’t get it. I don’t sell any products, I’m just about color. I have their best interests at heart, but they seem to want the type of kitchen they’ve seen in magazines whether the undertones work or not. It’s hard for me to let go, and let them do their thing. I just keep thinking about the thousands of dollars involved. And, thinking about the wrong combos makes me cringe. I’m afraid I’ve gone overboard trying to help them, and that now they want to avoid me so they can choose whatever they want. Maria, how can I find the right balance?

  • Susan @ Susan Silverman Designs says:

    Shame on that kitchen designer for putting her ego above the needs of a client. I’m not a dedicated kitchen designer but I’ve worked on many kitchens. In my experience a kitchen designer is just that (with no disrespect meant). They are there to sell a product and I have found that most of the time that is exactly what they do. If I hadn’t have been hired to actually oversee the kitchen design, then my clients would have had a similar situation as this poor woman. In my opinion, I would leave the cabinets as is, and possibly (if budget allows) change the counter top to a simple quartz in the same undertones as the floor. It is hard for me to see the actual colour of the subway tiles, (they seem to be ok) but they would possibly have to be changed as well to coordinate with the countertop. I would paint the walls in BM Stonehearth or Ranchwood which I think will work well with the floors.

    Unfortunately that was one expensive lesson to be learned.

  • WOW – this got a lot of attention. the top picture actually looks pretty good, however, when we see the floor & island tiles together it’s pretty apparent what is wrong.

    today, I had a lady (she’s a designer) come in the paint store who wanted wall color for her kitchen remodel. her floors were peach tile, which she said she wanted to iGNORE while doing the remodel. she also brought in tile for the counter/island. I immediately pulled out THIS post and showed her how she cannot ignore the peach tile floor. I think she got it? so back she went to get a sample of the floor tile so she could choose a better counter/island tile. her kitchen had a ton of light and she was sampling very dark tile for the counters, etc. once she saw your picture of the pink beige and yellow beige not working it was very clear to her she could NOT ignore the floor. she’ll be back!

  • Megan says:

    Hi Maria, Thanks so much for bringing a situation like this to the attention of everyone. Not only does it help the average reader but it is a wake up call for all designers/decorators out there. I cannot fully articulate how I feel. I mean….this poor woman!! As a decorator myself I cannot imagine NOT doing my job to the fullest extent. Designing a kitchen, at least to me is a full service endevour. I CANNOT imagine that she had to pick out finishes on her own-that is absurd! When I work with clients myself as I am sure I speak for others out there, you become so invested in your clients projects. To me it’s as if I am working on my own home. You can’t help but become fully involved. I only hope that after this article this lovely woman is able to take some of your great advice and salvage her situation. Thanks again Maria.

  • Great post Maria! I am in agreement with you. I would replace the countertops at the very least but it would look great to paint the cabinets too. Perhaps she could sell the granite on Craigslist or use it in her bathrooms or laundry room?

  • PattyM says:

    My sympathies to this woman, and how scary that so many others had similar experiences. In all honesty, I like her kitchen (although I always prefer white cabinets above wood) and had a hard time identifying the offending undertones. It is probably easier to see in person than in a picture, though, and when one walks into the room, they are not seeing it from the bird’s eye view. Hopefully this lessens the effects of the offense.

    Regardless, the owner is unhappy in her environment, so it should be changed. The least expensive effort would be to paint the cabinets which she could easily do herself. There are so many great products on the market now that I believe she could achieve a professional finish with minimal effort. Lots of bloggers have painted their cabinets and shared their experience, so I would encourage her to do a little internet research and go for it. However, her kitchen will still have the white/ivory thing going on. I used to hate the combination, but I’ve grown fond of it as it adds more layers of interest, especially when mixed with different textures. If the owner has to endure one thing, I think white/ivory problem would be the most acceptable. Again, I would recommend that she look for pictures of rooms where ivory and white are successfully combined and see if she can incorporate some of the things that make it work.
    The only other comment that I would make is that I noticed just the bottom hem of the curtains in one picture. They seem to have yellow undertones but are resting on the pink undertone floor. Maybe it would help to change the curtains to white or something that will not conflict with either the countertop or the floor.

    Good luck to your reader and I can’t wait to see what she decides to do.

  • BillP says:

    This is such an informative post. When I recently redid my ten year old developer kitchen, I pulled out all of the granite and it is now quartz. The biggest mistake in the above kitchen is the granite. Aside from this one being the wrong color, granite looks so dated and busy. At least the above kitchen has a neutral subway tile backsplash and not a muti-color glass tile. The quartz surfaces are so much fresher looking. The above cabinets look fine to me, but if repainting is being considered, I’d start with the uppers only and keep the darker base cabinets.

  • Lisa P says:

    This was a great post Maria! I’m not sure if this was already mentioned in some of the above comments – there were ALOT and I shamefully admit I didn’t read them all ;). I think the title “designer” gets thrown around a little too flippantly these days and there should always be a clear distinction when someone is paying for a service as to what they are getting – Contractor, Sub-Contractor, Project Manager, Designer or Decorator – they are all different. It sounds like this poor lady had someone helping her who was defining her services with an incorrect title perhaps?? I feel bad for this poor lady, I know how important my kitchen is to me and the time I spend there. No one wants to feel crummy when they are cooking! Good luck to her I hope she can fix it and have a lovely space in the end that is truly her.

  • Jaclyn says:

    Your reader should not feel alone or embarrassed. We all have come away from design experiences that we not 100% satisfactory and many times knew that the process was wrong from the beginning. In looking at the picture of the kitchen, the only two things that would bother me are the countertops and the height of the cabinets. I think taking the cabinets to the ceiling would have given them a lot more stature and importance. The first thing I would do is bring the countertop into harmony with the floor. That may make the owner decide she now really likes the kitchen. I would take one step at a time. The color of the cabinets and the floor seem to work together. It’s just the countertops that are the problem.

  • Christmas says:

    Wow, the floor could be tweaked, but for what it is worth, I think Maria’s advice about painting the cabnets and changing out the granite is wrong (and I usually am 100% behind her). I think it is beautiful creamy granite and I would maybe change the floors if you must. I would also do a colour on the walls to make it less sterile. Why paint those beautiful cabinets? When they get worn out a bit in 5 years you can paint them (professionally, sprayed – hand painting will never look good and will ruin them) and get a whole new look, but I would appreciate them for now.

    All that said, I know what it is to be hyper critical and I have been there with a reno, but you should know this is a very beautiful kitchen. I particularly love the backsplash tile against the countertop, it is gorgeous. If you don’t want to paint, I would consider covering the whole wall with the hood fan with it. I was the same way when we finished our reno, but now that I have moved from that house and see the old pictures I realize it was gorgeous.

    I used to like quartz, but I am starting to appreciate the geology and natural aspect of granite as long as they are not too wild. All this manufactured stuff is looking fake and monotonous to me these days and I absolutely love your grantite.

    I think your kitchen looks very expensive, in a good way, and if you took out your paintbrush and put in cheap laminate countertops that would make ME cry in bed all day 🙂

    Just my two cents!

    • Maria Killam says:

      FYI, given that the tile floor is installed directly underneath the cabinets, it would be near impossible to remove the tile without damaging the cabinets. Thanks for your comment, everyone has their own taste! Maria

  • Tracy says:

    My wise elderly neighbor once said to me “who better to waste your money, but you”. She said this to me after I was lamenting that I didn’t love my kitchen after a major expensive renovation. I’ve lived with this kitchen for 7 years and after discovering Maria, taking her workshop and talking with her, I’m taking the plunge to repaint my cabinets and rip out my backsplash. It took me years to accept I made a mistake and to just move forward! Don’t beat yourself up more than you already have and once you start focusing on the change to make your space lovable to you, you’d be amazed at how happy jus the thought can make you! Good luck with your changes!

  • Malina says:

    I really like the idea of staining the floor, but would steer away from wood stain- these are heavy and would darken the floor considerably. The best solution is a very good art supplies store or a woodwork store – and buy pigment – they are not cheap but a little goes a long way. Green would work well to remove red/pink undertone and you can try it on one stone tile (not on the floor!!) – to match to granite. If you have no idea what or how, those woodwork stores usually have a good sales person/expert on finishing woodwork, antiquing , faux-painting and first of all – mixing colors (usually if they don’t have someone knowledgeable working there they will have contact info to someone who is good). They’ll be happy to help. That would be the cheapest and quickest option.

  • Katherine says:

    In my opinion travertine is a tricky stone to work with, and, frankly, ugly. I have all yellow beige undertones with white trim in my downstairs remodel, including the kitchen. I made the mistake of installing a travertine surround on one of my 2 downstairs fireplaces. It looks dingy and has a peachy pink undertone that is awful and bosses around my living room decor. I would never install travertine again since it is 1) a dirty color and 2) has a pink undertone. I just can’t see why the Europeans can live with it, especially on a fixed element as large and influential as flooring!

  • Michelle says:

    I’m a newly graduated Interior Designer, and my heart breaks for this client! I think what happened here was that she paid the kitchen design place a design fee to design the cabinets. And THE CABINETRY is all they were really concerned with. And sure, they say they will “help” her select the rest. But really what happens is they give her a tidbit of guidance and send her out to select things herself. Why? Because she only paid enough design fee to design cabinetry. Think about it… they aren’t making any more money on her for selecting the counters or flooring or fixtures. So they don’t feel responsible to make sure the rest is just right. I’ve been there… I worked in a furniture store that offered complimentary design services. Fortunately the staff were great and really truly CARED about how the projects came out – and not just the furniture. Many times the clients were happy, but sometimes they rejected our advice and went and selected something else and came back to have us look at it before installing it – just a little “double check”. Bottom line – if you want someone to really care and put their best effort in, hire an independent designer that works for nobody but YOU. Not saying the kitchen showroom designer might not be awesome… many are… but when investing that much, you want to be certain they aren’t selling you what they make the most commission on! Ok! That said… I don’t love the cabinetry either – not my taste, BUT I think it could be a bit more liveable by just switching out the countertops immediately. Then, down the line, you could paint the cabinetry. Like others have said, there is too much competition with the granite and flooring. That’s the most overwhelmingly icky thing in the room. Fix the counter first. She could see if anyone might purchase it – a contractor or private buyer! Or donate it as suggested. It can be fixed! I have seen SO much worse!

  • Maria Killam says:

    Thank you everyone for your kind and thoughtful comments, I was moved by so many of them. This is the email I received from the owner of this kitchen yesterday:

    Dear Maria,

    Oh my goodness, I am SO glad I shared my story with you! Thank you for putting it on your blog.

    Best Therapy Ever.

    The design solutions you suggested in the post are excellent.

    The comments from your readers are so kind and supportive, and there are some really good ideas in there to boot. Wow. Talk about generous….your readers are generous!

    I am going to go back and reread everything, but the comments already really clarified things for me.

    I think a very simple white counter based on the white in the backsplash tile would be beautiful. Then I could have all kinds of fun playing with beautiful patterned and colored ceramics, textiles, flowers, plants, accessories.

    Eventually, I might decide to paint the cabinets white too, but I think the countertop is the key. That will also make the kitchen fit in with my bathrooms and laundry room that are basically simple sort of Hamptons style, with a lot of simple white.

    My husband has already agreed that the countertop can be replaced, but I may have to wait a little while. I can do that, as long as I know it is going away some day! Loved the reader ideas about possibly donating/selling the granite…I didn’t know that was possible…I will make some inquiries locally.

    Maria, thank you So Much! “first world problems” for sure, but I feel so much better.

    All the best,

    • Cynn Taibbi says:

      Wow! Such varied ideas from the readers…it really is true about taste being different for everyone.

      Hi, JB! I agree with most folks in that your kitchen surfaces clash, and that the granite should be the first thing to go. My choice would be a white quartz. Silestone offers several shades, my fave being Iconic White, but I’d go with whatever quartz best matches your backsplash. I would then paint ONLY your upper cabinets and the barstools the same shade of white. Leave the bottom cabinets the way they are. The new white counters will make a lovely contrast. Now for the floors. I would also leave them and invest in a couple of runners/area rugs. You can find fairly inexpensive flatweave rugs in a variety lengths and widths, and they would hold you until your budget allowed for a new floor. I believe they’d be just enough to distract your eye from the unattractive tile. The last step I’d suggest would be to change out the hardware as that would make a huge difference for in changing the feel of the room with very little investment. Here I’d suggest a warm brass. Probrico sells modern brass pulls on Amazon that I just used in my last kitchen renovation. If you’d like, I’d be happy to send before and after photos of it. (Not sure if that’s possible, but Maria is welcome to let me know if there’s a way for me to post them here or get them to you.) I helped my last client with many of the same design challenges you are facing. Like you, I am extremely sensitive to any spaces I inhabit and completely understand your frustration and struggle.
      Wishing you the best of luck!

  • Cheryl says:

    We have Baltic Brown granite and love it. We don’t see the pinky undertones; it looks pretty classy. The owner of this kitchen has styled it well — the white dishes, clean lines in counterstools and counter decor create a welcoming tone. Possibly punch up the kitchen rug with some color and design. Do one thing you will LOVE, in other words. It is all a learning curve, this life, address whatever you can and let the rest go.

  • Anne4 says:

    Don’t despair we’ve all experienced the horror of dreams dashed on the interior design front!

    I think this a beautiful kitchen..apart from the countertop. The floor, units and tiles are lovely and the right colour of pale duck egg blue or grey would set them off to perfection.

    If replacing the countertops is not an option, it might be possible to reduce the discordance between the pink toned items and the yellow countertops by finding a fabric which marries both tones (perhaps a check) and using this to cover the stools and their cushions and to line the glazed upper cabinets.

  • Fran says:

    I so sympathize with J.B. I made some of the same mistakes when I undertook a major kitchen renovation five years ago and hired a ‘kitchen design firm’. I know now that it’s worth every penny to hire an independent designer who has your best interest at heart. Unfortuantely, so many of us learn that lesson the hard way. J.B., don’t be too hard on yourself. Although I love white cabinets, I think your cabinets are beautiful and look very high-end. The wood tone is gorgeous with your stainless appliances and creamy subway tile. I predict you will fall in love with your kitchen once you have the new countertop installed!

    • Lloyd Goldstein says:

      As Fran’s husband, I have to admit that the long and drawn-out misadventure with our kitchen was not helped by my own part in the process. In stereotypical male fashion I repeatedly urged her just to “make up your mind” and do SOMETHING. I think I also contributed to her hesitancy by reminding her that today’s solution was entirely different from yesterday’s grand idea.

      There eventually came a time when I was so tired of a process that was going nowhere that I even endorsed plans with which I didn’t totally agree; I just wanted it to be done. I think Fran finally gave in to the accumulated pressure from both me and the contractor, selecting and finalizing a look and finish that she tried to talk herself into believing she could live with.

      Happily, it’s all be redone/resolved to our mutual satisfaction and pride. The icing on our cake was a visit by Maria and subsequent posting of our home pictures to Maria’s blog. The positive comments from Maria and the blog’s readers have contributed a great deal to Fran’s new-found sense of design and color compency. She is a proud graduate of Maria’s color course and now occasionally works in an interior design setting where she offers help to others.

  • For the reader who was brave enough to share this… I am (now) only a rare visitor to Maria’s blog. Her work is excellent and her advice is probably spot-on for the year 2013. But, I too have made many mistakes and I find I’m happier when I don’t get reminded of them frequently. That’s why I’ve stopped visiting.
    Please be consoled that your kitchen looks really nice and only the undertone-sensitive would spot anything amiss. Moreover, I assume it functions well and that you’re able to spend many happy hours there with loved ones.
    My assumption is, Maria’s advice on replacing some of what you’ve done is not going to fly with your budget or your husband (or even your own priorities for where to spend several thousand dollars). That’s why I’m living with granite I don’t like, too.
    And, on the upside, trends do change. Maria acknowledges she is obsessed with white kitchens, but believe me, wood will come in again; you just have to hang tight (as do I!) until it does.
    Bravo also for your comment about being healthy with a roof over your head. Just hold that thought. 🙂

  • Lorraine says:

    Love this, thank you for sharing!! I’m so sorry the homeowner is so distraught, I am certain I would feel the same way. A valuable lesson for all of us and I hope that she undertakes a change soon.

    We bought a house with a kitchen with brown cabinets, grey floor tiles, peach countertops and GREY/BLACK backsplash with white grout (lol) and seagrass wallpaper. We have an interior designer so I called her. She said switch the backsplash and paint the walls – we don’t love the room but for $800 it now works. I don’t cringe when I walk into it, it’s very liveable and I know that someday soon we’ll start working on the overall picture. Something about making it all “go” suddenly took the pain out of looking at it. I hope the same thing happens for the homeowner VERY soon!!

  • Lesli says:

    oh, this was painful to read. really painful. I feel for this woman, I really do…
    I cannot tell you how may times I have been standing at the counter at my own Benjamin Moore store, listening to the guys behind the counter give “color advice” and cringed. Too often the people being depended upon and paid for this decorating advice…are simply not qualified. But thank goodness she found you!

  • Amy says:

    For those people who are afraid of painting cabinetry please understand that there is the quick and cheap way and a better way that is more effort and more expensive, but can yield a factory-like finish. I have been going through a similar dilemma with my kitchen cabinets which are a light maple that has darkened over time to what looks like a goldy-orange. My cabinets are Plain and Fancy, expensive good solid wood and in good shape, but I am so tired of the color (which I inherited when I bought the house). I can sympathize with what you are going through. Lots of people have told me NOT to paint my cabinets. If the current look doesn’t make you happy you should paint them, but take the time to do it right. First do NOT take a brush to them. You will not be happy with the result. At least hire a professional painter who will sand and spray the fronts with regular paint. If at all possible find a cabinet refinisher who will spray the cabinets with an industrial paint that has a catalyst in it. This is similar to the process of painting a car when they do autobody work. The paint will bond to the wood and look exactly like a factory finish. My refinisher will even take a cabinet sample and match the paint exactly. These are nice quality wood cabinets it is worth paying a little more to get the paint right and you can end up with the cabinets that you always wanted.

  • Carol says:

    Check out She had her kitchen cabinets painted several years ago and has posts detailing exactly how & what she used. A while back she even wrote about how well the paint job has held up.

    I, too, can relate to undertone mishaps! I’ve been living with pinky beige tile & carpet, cherry cabinets, Venetian gold granite and SW Dromadary Camel colored walls with a yellow/gold undertone. I paid over $2000 for a designer to help me choose these colors and as soon as the paint went up on the walls I knew it wasn’t right. It wasn’t until I discovered Maria’s blog that I figured out what it was that bothered me about it. Now i saving up so I can undo all of this.

  • Cindy says:

    Ok, she needs to paint those cabinets some shade of white immediately, , like tonight…
    she should find an all night paint store and buy paint and go at it! you can recommend a good white to her !
    I think she’d feel a thousand million times better if she did. Then maybe look at the counter tops next, since that’s the next least expensive fix. Some cute baskets up top, and it will be great! I feel for her, because i totally completely understand everything she says and went through… and would have made the same mistakes. I am sensitive to my environment too, and i know children are starving in Africa, and it seems so shallow to feel so bad, but i would too. I mean, it’s clearly a nice kitchen, and much better than i can afford, but it needs some serious tweaking! I just found you from the Cote de Texas blog, and what a treat your site is! Choosing paint colors is the bane of my existance!


  • Jenny says:

    Run…don’t walk….to your nearest Ben Moore store and paint those cabinets in White Dove. I used their Advance Oil satin paint on my kitchen cabinets and they are diamond-hard. It was a big job, but I did it myself so I only paid about $60.00 for one gallon of paint (it goes far and I did 3 coats-she would probably need 2 gallons as I have fewer cabinets). I think first getting the cabinets white would solve a LOT of the problems in this kitchen. Then change either the counters or the floor when a bigger purchase can be made. I feel so bad for this reader-the expense and waste of the mistakes would be too much to bear. Just remember that everything is fixable, somehow, someway!

  • Monique says:

    Maria, thanks for the generous post. My heart goes out to this woman. Sometimes the so-called “professionals” can make clients feel as if their word is the only truth. As I don’t have the funds right now for a full kitchen redo, I have, as you suggested, culled photos that I like and will probably reproduce the kitchen I like best at some point.

  • mrsben says:

    How very sad as clearly this person was considering quality only to end up with disappointment. Hopefully she will have the funds to correct the mistakes as IMHO, the cabinets though not white are still lovely and as for all we know may suit the architectural elements and character of the home as a whole.
    P.S: Not of offend, but I have seen some white cabinets that can also look very cheap.

  • DAS says:

    To the homeowner:

    >>What a nightmare. So, anyway, enough of this. We’re healthy and have a roof over our heads!<<

    Wonderful perspective.

    To our horrific homebuilder our family gained perspective with: "It's just a house, not leukemia."

  • tara dillard says:

    Have done many kitchens thru the years. By accident. You know the type, free design if you buy their cabinets.

    Hired for Landscape Design, their kitchen was designed but not installed yet. Customer asks me to look at the kitchen plan. Something ‘not right’ about it.

    100% of the time, every square inch of kitchen has been filled with cabinets, duh.

    Have now done some kitchens with my team. Our design! Those clients hired me first for their garden, then it traveled a bit.

    Why is this happening? I make my money off good design, not cabinets or garden hardscape. And, because kitchen cabinet companies decided to pay their sales force like used cars sales!

    You look great in the pic Maria….

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  • Beth says:

    Oh the anguish! I totally know that pain, though in my case it was my own mistake. My husband and I redid our kitchen when our twins were 2 yrs old using IKEA cabinets. Our old kitchen had dark 70s melamine brown (original!) when we bought. We painted them navajo white right away. That worked for a while, but the peach walls and laminate floor and disintegrating cabinets were too much.

    When the remodel all came together something just bothered me and I couldn’t place it until I read your blog Maria. We installed warm yellow-based strand-woven bamboo floors, birch slab lower cabinets and white high gloss uppers with ceaserstone white countertops (have yet to decide on a backsplash! probably white subway tile, am trying to realize that subway tile will be beautiful, not boring!) In theory the birch cabinet color would have been just right had IKEA not changed their formula for the birch cabinet finish.

    It is ever so slightly pink/white!

    Other birch items I have from IKEA are more yellow, and warm up with age, which I like. They said this finish would not change color. Boo! I guess I also wanted a change from the white painted cabinets, and maybe went too far. I would have been happy with the white all over, but wanted to “do something different” from what we had. It’s our first house, first remodel. Lesson learned! Now I know enough to be dangerous 🙂 and certainly enough to avoid clashing undertones and the visual static they bring.

  • Maura Ostrom says:

    Don’t waste anymore precious time and potential for happy times in your home. First step is to replace your counter with an off white quartz as Maria suggested. Then start looking for a great piece of artwork that makes you happy and hang it over the range top. The right accessories can work miracles.

    What your looking for is something to balance the high contrast between the dark cabinets and lighter counters. You don’t need to match the cabinets with color but to balance the shades and tones you have that already exist. A frameless oil or acrylic on canvas that has some depth of color like deep blues, grey greens, burgundies, or charcoal grey shades as just accents and then gorgeous feel good colors. Something with beautiful colors in a floral, or still life that pull the kitchen together.A large enough piece that fits nicely above your range and draws the eye to a focal point. You might want to start looking for the artwork first.
    Then expand from there. Bring in more texture,artwork over the cabinets, color and life with bowls of fruit to eat, some herbs and plants, things you need and use in a kitchen. Live and cook in the space. Any space that isn’t lived in will look dead and cold no matter how you decorate. i’m not saying clutter with lots of little things, but larger elements that provide some softening.
    A table lamp on the counter near the bar provides a more intimate feel to the space. A simple window treatment like a roman shade with some nice trim details is another opportunity to bring in color, texture and interest. An area rug… I could go on, but I truly believe you can make a tremendous difference with things you still needed to do anyway. Think about it as a work in progress and you won’t feel so defeated.
    Then if you absolutely can’t stand it paint your cabinets, but wait until you’ve tried some of the quick fixes.

    Happy nesting,

  • Upstager says:

    I did not take the time to read all the comments; however the ones I read appeared to be what to do to correct what she doesn’t like & sharing stories.

    Even as a home stager & re-designer, I have been there when it comes to my own home. I have to step back & say STOP!!! I am not happy with what is going on. I am not feeling heard – whatever it takes so I do not end up with a project I hate.

    In retrospect, she knows she needed to do that & was so overwhelmed, etc. etc. I understand. She got poor customer service.

    Even now, I would go back to the design company to discuss my unpleasant experience & ask what they want to do about it, so they can get a complimentary referral???

    I have done that a number of times for a variety of reasons and I persist until I feel I am being heard.

    If she doesn’t want to do that, this time around, she will understand the process better and needs to be prepared to say STOP!!!

    Best wishes.

  • Sarah says:

    So sorry for the poor advice you recieved.

    I think the suggestion of a white countertop is a very good one. I lived in a rental house with a white quartz countertop and similar countertops and I found it to be very pleasant. The advice above on specific white tones is better than I could offer myself.

    If it is finiancially feasable, please do make some changes so that you can be happy in the kitchen. There is no use in throwing away happy days over costs spent to date. You might also be able to sell your stone countertops to recoup some of their cost.

  • Leslie says:

    I am not an interior designer but I have visited a lot of open houses while shopping for one. The biggest mistake I see are in the kitchens with granite countertops that have a very busy or noisy pattern with a cacophony of colors. It looks dated to me. As a natural stone one can’t really control the consistency of the pattern either and sometimes there are big splotches of color in some areas that are distracting. I think engineered stone is always better because the pattern is a known quantity and will not vary. The countertop should not be the first thing you see when entering a room–competing with the total feel of the kitchen. Most real estate agents what the words “brand new granite counter tops” in their listings and I think encourage home owners to put one in to sell the house without thinking of the total effect or ambience.

  • Joanne says:

    I feel this woman’s pain. A couple of years ago, I finally replaced the hideous tile in the master bath that I had been looking at for almost 9 years. The cream-colored subway tile on the walls is just what I wanted, but I had “help” choosing the floor tile from the woman at the tile shop. Yup. Pinky-beige travertine-look porcelain tile. None of my other initial ideas for wall color, accessories, etc. work with this floor. While it wouldn’t cost a fortune to replace, I’m having trouble justifying the cost all the same, as we will likely sell and downsize within the next 5 years or so. I’m not sure I can wait that long. And yes, it’s not leukemia, but to have my error smack me in the face every time I go in there takes a toll on my spirit. Hope this lady finds an affordable solution that makes her happy.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Joanne,
      Just get that this happens in renovations. It’s just the world of it. I would just replace it if you can, it will make you so much happier. It doesn’t matter that it’s not a 3rd world problem. Once our survival is handled we look around to enhance our life and this is how we do it. Buy tile that makes us happy when we walk into the bathroom. So don’t look at it any longer, just change it and give up something else instead. Maria

  • krystyna Elahi says:

    I find your “dumb designers” title to be rather insulting to the real interior designers out there that do know what they are doing that are very often second guessed by the client who chooses to either not listen or take the advice of their friends and/or family.

  • Judy says:

    We recently finished our kitchen 9 mths ago. I was absolutely terrified making the decision with the flooring, the bench tops, design and choice of cabinets, as I knew I would only get one go at it. I think we have pulled it off brilliantly but it could of been a disaster too. I like plain my husband loves colour so we compromised. He got his Granite which is very busy plus his marble floor in Bursa Beige which is subtle and I did the design and got to choose the plain white cabinets. It’s the best kitchen I have ever worked in. It always look tidy and clean. Initially I did a lot of research and read many books and knew basically what I liked and how the area needed to be designed. It took ages. Then hubby made the discussion about the flooring which I came around to but the granite started to really worry me

  • Jeanie P. says:

    I love the way Fran has turned lemons to lemonade and has educated herself about undertones and now she can help others from making expensive errors. I also commend her for sharing her dilemma so others can learn. I feel confident she and her husband will make the modifications needed to make her kitchen a standout. I must say I love how supportive Fran’s husband is.

  • Lynn F says:

    I think you could make this kitchen classic and be happy with it. I would change out current granite to a honed absolute black or soapstone. See how you like that with the cabinets. If you still don’t like, have the cabinets painted white & you have a classic beautiful kitchen. You may have to change out the backsplash and if so use subway tile. Keep it classic.

  • Jill says:

    I am freaking out right now because I think I am in the process of making this same exact mistake. The granite is being fabricated as we speak. What are your rates. Could I consult with you!


  • Mary says:

    just a thought – they have “loose lay” vinyl floor planks ( see earthworks and I think Armstrong) which may float over that tile floor. It isnot expensive (maybe 4-5$ per sq ft) , and might solve a problem until you are ready to rip the tile out. The planks closely resemble wood and are warm/soft to walk on. And, when you are tired of the planks, you can pick them up and reuse in another room.

  • claire klein says:

    Hi Maria,

    I just finished building a home and renovating another. Have spent much of my life living with decisions that other people made (former owners, builders, etc) that were uninformed. Fortunately found your blog at the beginning of my process and am completely happy with the outcome. White shaker cabinets, absolute black granite with dull finish, white subway tile and medium brown wood flooring. Neutral yellow-beige paint on what little wall surface there is. It is a classic kitchen and with a few accessories I can introduce any color scheme I want with my dishtowels, ceramics etc.
    THANK YOU SO MUCH. I wanted to share a happy outcome. We all know the pain of a design gone wrong!

  • Linda says:

    Unfortunately, this is so hard to avoid. So many professionals to sabotage you along the way. This is why I still haven’t started my master bath. Every time I go to look at tile I am told my choices are too boring.

    The world is full of bad taste. It’s a minefield out there.

  • Eileen says:

    thank you for sharing your story. I think the cheapest and easiest fix would be to change out the counters to white, the backsplash to white subway tile. Remove the upper cabinets in favor of open shelving and paint the legs of the stools white. I’d be so happy with that! Good luck!

  • Dawn says:

    this just popped up in my News feed and I feel like I can relate to it, unfortunately. We are in the process of building a house and went to a kitchen designer so I could have my dream kitchen. I currently have in my house now, wood cabinets that I love but I wanted something different in the new house. I opted to go with white painted cabinets but told the designer that I did not want them to look yellow. He suggested a white cabinet with the chocolate glaze. The cabinets are in and all I see is yellow! What makes matters worse is my counters that I picked are Taj Mahal natural quartzite which to me when they are together looks awful. I also wanted a farm sink and clearly white will not work. At this point I can’t do anything about the cabinets but can change the granite. I also have to pick a paint color and have no idea what will work, hopefully something to counteract the warm tones of the cabinets. I am so sick about this that I am not sleeping and I swear I’m getting ulcers because my stomach hurts so much. The funny part is that when ever somebody else sees my cabinet with the counter swatch that I have they all say it looks good but I just don’t see it!

  • Maureen Byrne says:

    My heart goes out to this woman. I will add my 2 cent advice. I recently painted my custom maple cabinets with Farrow and Ball Floor Paint. Took the doors off a couple at a time, washed well with Murphy’s, and a magic eraser. I primed the uppers, but not the lowers. Painted a coats with a sponge roller, then immediately brushed the paint with a good brush all in one direction. Light sanding before 2nd coat, repeat process. No drips or runs, look professionally done. This took me about 2 weeks to do bit by bit, but it saved my sanity, and it looks so good now.

    If I could possibly afford it, I would change the floor. I know it’s a lot of work, but it would have the most impact. We replaced our floor, also installed under the cabinets by cutting around the cabinets, where the kick boards are, then having them shaved down to compensate for the extra 1/2″ that the new wood floors took up.

    Then paint the cabinets, 2 or maybe 3 gallons at most, less than $400. That backsplash and granite are not so bad, white accessories with tie it in with the rest of the house.

    Your reader is a brave woman. Good Luck.

  • Another consideration when using natural stone (travertine floors). The actual product can vary dramatically from the samples. When specifying this type of product for our clients we always obtain a sample from the current supply avoiding costly mistakes in undertones. May sound basic, but is a step that is rarely done by most designers.

  • Karan Anton says:

    It’s very unfortunate that this woman ended up with a kitchen she hates. Just let her know that not all designers are disastrous and most of us prepare a complete color board with all samples together. I advise my clients to move the samples into a variety of lighting situations such as daylight, fluorescent (pretty much required in CA), LED, and incandescent lighting. Make sure that the colors don’t clash in any of those lighting situations. The bigger the sample, the better. A cabinet door, a large tile or hardwood samples. a chunk of the granite, and a big sample of the paint help immensely.

  • Dale says:

    reason to paint the cabinets! There is a better fix.

    STEP 1)  As was suggested, replace the counter. Choose a solid color Corian, etc. or laminate that is similar in tone to the floor, going lighter even to white, but not darker.  If you try exactly match the pink beige of the travertine you’ll go crazy.
    STEP 2) Add a pattern wallpaper above the wall tile and cabinets in a style that speaks to the rest of the house.  The pattern should include dark and light colors similar to those in the kitchen, and maybe include a third color from an adjacent room.
    STEP 3) Coordinate the stool seat covers with the wallpaper!
    STEP 4) Accesorize.  

    That’s it! Sit back and enjoy the lovely contrast between the dark and light hues—much more interesting than all white/beige.

  • Meg says:

    I think the problem with this kitchen is more of mixed styles than colour exclusively.

    I reckon remodel follow-up is not a real option for person who just spent loads of money on something of this size.
    Pulling it all together could be done by stripping the chairs of cushions which absolutely ruin the effect white pottery has on interior. Bringing in more white and clean details to give focal points on the counter could visually make background colours (cabinets plus stone) pop out less. I envision some nicely sculptured bowl doing the trick visually at least at ‘hello’. More sleek white touches could pick it all up and hold space together. Thus if there is a possibility the tiles would be best changed to white to hold to the continuity through the whole house. This kitchen asks for more light and nice clean cuts. I wouldn’t rip the stone off this fast (except tiles).
    Another trick is to bury both counter tops and the floor by repeating their colours, just the more saturated versions, throughout the interior in binding elements though I’m aware it might turn out kitschy and must obviously throw white off its throne. But it might make the kitchen more acceptable to the eye on temporary basis. The floor-countertop clash will create it’s own style.

    It really is the question of budget and advice over distance when it comes to colour is the hardest to give.
    All in all, I can really only sympathize and wish good luck with the next remodel 🙂

  • Karen says:

    This story illustrates how important it is to have a relationship with a designer. When doing any type of renovations and furniture purchasing, it is so important to work with someone that ‘gets’ you. Maria, you have always said that it is money well spent to hire someone to help.

    However, it is both the responsibility of the designer and the homeowner to make sure they are a good fit. If the homeowner doesn’t feel the love after spending a few hours in the company of the designer, then it’s time to part ways. As professionals, we always feel it is our job to provide our clients with a look that makes them happy while still maintaining good design principles.

    No situation is ever hopeless, and there are several things, as noted in the comments, that this homeowner can do to make her space more harmonious. Good luck and thank you so much for sharing.

  • I feel so much empathy for this woman. I too renovated before I found you, Maria. I feel stuck with new green-gray tile that does not relate to my black (not my choice) granite countertops or to my old pink beige carpet. The tile covers many square feet and was a real bear going down. The labor alone to replace it would be very expensive. Arghh! I actually wish I had my old 90’s, 12″ white tile floor back. At least it was white! Two years after my new floor and I still hate it! And not just the color. The finish has no shine and it shows every bit of dirt and foot traffic. Just saw the original post and wanted to share my similar disaster!

  • Gilda says:

    I just purchased the online course and cannot find it in my emails! please help me! thanks!

  • Ellie says:

    My sympathies to the homeowner. As a kitchen designer I’ve found it really important to provide a wider range of services than technically mandated to do. I’ll plan the kitchen keeping in mind the storage & functional requirements the homeowner expresses as necessary. Also make suggestions in general space planning as these areas flow into nearby rooms. Once a plan is established, work at providing assistance with the decorative finishes. Many times the homeowner has a fundamental desire for rich, deep finishes or light & bright. This direction is necessary and should be respected. Also it must dovetail with the rest of the house details. As mentioned if all the trims are white… go toward crisp whites to relate to the surroundings. Further, I make it a practice to go to the tile store, the lighting outlets etc to provide the finished look for my clients. Far too many times in the early days of my career, I’d put together an attractive kitchen or bath & the homeowner would consult with the tile shop girl (who wants to be a designer) & we’d end up with the trendy splash, that was the wrong undertone or far too busy. I always tell my client we want a thoroughbred racehorse, not a camel when we are finished. Furthermore, I try to warn them that their neighbor, hairdresser or coach aren’t professionals and most haven’t seen their home or know enough about their personal lifestyle to make wholesale suggestions regarding their interior design! Some in this thread have suggested laminate as an alternate. Given the layout, with multiple angles, it may have far too many seams when finished to be very attractive or functional. Perhaps consider changing the shelves in the two glass door cabinets to glass then add interior lights for brightness & then intersperse some more colourful, happy dishware inside. lights on top of cabinets & under if not already there, will brighten the space too. Paint the inside of the glass cabinets with a soft tone in harmony with the splashes to lighten the look. Also consider painting all the uppers, to the fridge panel. Leave the deeper wood tone on lowers & fridge assembly. Then when you are ready, swap out your counters with a lighter, brighter counter in quartz. Perhaps a Cambria Tenby Cream quartz that is a little more smokey taupe & will harmonize with the floor. Get all the potential samples together & do not start until you have a game plan that successfully integrates all the undertones. Ask around for a designer that is a colour pro! Look at their work on line to start & you’ll see who has a grasp of tones & textures that are harmonious. A couple of hours consultation will more than pay for itself short & long term.

  • As a color consultant, I’ve encountered spaces like this many, many times. Busy granite with a busy backsplash.. or a counter that doesn’t coordinate with the floor tile. For years, builders would stick tumbled marble with any countertop, as if it was a total neutral. I always feel bad, because choosing the paint color is then just a compromise: finding a shade that doesn’t look too bad with either material, instead of one that could look great.

  • Brenda says:

    So now almost four years later, was this ever resolved for your client? Did she get new countertops? Did she paint? Dying to know!! A similar thing almost happened to me when we were doing a facelift to our kitchen. Thankfully, I had found your blog a few years prior so I knew that I wanted simple white subway tile to go with our white quartz countertops. Our home is fairly traditional, so I wanted traditional subway tiles in 2 by 6. When the “designer” at the tile store kept bringing me contemporary long (2 by 10 at least) tiles, I had to keep explaining to her that I wanted more traditional, in keeping with our home, etc. Believe it or not, she couldn’t come up with a simple, white 2 by 6 tile, so I left the store, but not before she made me feel like I was being a picky perfectionist. I was so mad. But so happy that I stuck to my guns! Thanks to you, Maria!!!!!

  • Shannon says:

    Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this! I’m doing a brand new kitchen right NOW! No designer assistance except from the cabinet place (and even then, I have changed it to fit my needs). I’ve been working on it for literally MONTHS while the house was framed, plumbed, etc…. And you helped put it all together for me 🙂

    I already know the cabinets, cabinet color and layout. I received a sample cabinet door which I’ve looked at in the room it will be in during day/noon/night… I’m going to use that to help pick out the tile, granite, etc… so that all the colors go together the way I want and how I’ll expect it to. NO RUSHING.

    So, for me the order to go in is:

    1. Cabinet color (get sizable sample of the one I want)

    2. Pick out flooring – and bring cabinet color sizable sample with me to pick out flooring.

    3. Get sizable flooring sample, bring back to house and lay it down in floor next to cabinet sample – look at them at various times of day and twilight.

    4. Get flooring installed…get cabinets installed.

    5. Take sample of flooring and sizable sample of cabinet and bring with me to pick out GRANITE.

    6. Bring home granite sample and look at it throughout the day being next to the cabinet on the floor.

    7. Order granite

    8. Final step – find paint that goes with it all.

  • Shannon says:

    I like wood and granite – I’ll take real over fake any day – even if it doesn’t match perfectly.

  • Robin says:

    Maria. This was the best post I’ve ever read. Everr. How brave and awesome of her to share this number one. Number two: She should never fear. You provided her with 3-4 scenarios that will rock her world. In a good way lol. Once she chooses her new path, happiness and peace will slip back in. Bravo to you both. She needs to follow her heart this time around. I’m sure she will. And the color/colour lesson of all time was presented to us, your large class of students lol, right here, right now. It was a culmination of all you have been teaching us since your blog began. This blog does it all. It’s thee one. The creme de la creme!!! Thank you. I feel like all of your teachings have finally sunk in. I am now equipped with your arsenal of do’s and dont’s and they MAKE SENSE to me. It took a bit of time before it all gelled and sunk in. But what an AH-HA moment it is when it all comes together!! Your client will do just fine. She was no different than so many others who entrust someone clearly not qualified. But now she has you. And now she’s got the dream team lol Thanks again for the amazing insight and the best post ever. Cudos to your client for enlisting your aid. All will be well…

  • Nancy says:

    I just found Maria’s website yesterday! As a complete novice, one thing I noticed in the photo of the kitchen is how very yellow the undercabinet lighting seems. I just finished replacing all the yellowish (2700-3000K) lights in my kitchen with 4000k LED lights and the difference is amazing! The pure white light makes everything better! Different bulbs are the least expensive and quickest fix you can try.

  • Sue says:

    First of all, kudos to the author of the letter. She comes across as a very bright, generous, and courageous person. Secondly, i still, after all these years, dont know where and how to find the right designer. Every time i wanted to start a project, i’d begin by looking for a local designer. None of the portfolios i was able to see held any promise, so i was forced to go it alone. Over the years, i redid the kitchen, two baths, back porch, installed coffered ceilings etc. Been in the house for 26 yrs. By sheer luck and through a great investment of my time, i avoided big disappointments, but i am no designer so luck must have been on my side. The only time i hired a designer was for my most recent project, back patio. I presented her with my thoughts, in writing, on what i want and what i dont want. Seems that had little effect on her design. I received her drawings, paid $750, and … something held me back even though i was dying to remodel my backyard asap. Took me a whole calendar year to understand what it was. Then I created my own design, hired a builder, and my beautiful new patio was done in 3 weeks. Besides having lost $750, i am sore about this whole “work with designer” experience, but it is torture to do it yourself when your own profession has nothing to do with architecture or interiors. In some magazines i’ve seen excellent designs but those designers are always so far away (i am on Long Island, NY). Where do i turn to for my next project??

    • Maria Killam says:

      I feel your pain because I have the same problem with graphic designers. . . I have tried so hard to find a good graphic person but I always end up disappointed and managing all the designs myself. It’s hard unless you can work long distance for sure! You obviously have a very strong and specific aesthetic so a designer for you would have to line up with your aesthetic in order for the relationship to work. Maria

  • Martha says:

    I feel this homeowner’s pain. Nothing feels worse than a disappointing final product! I hope a few changes will bring it all together.

Leave a Reply