Skip to main content


This week I arrived at a consultation to help my client choose the right floor tile to coordinate with her new countertop.

I will tell you all about this particular bathroom when I get the after photo, however this tip was too good not to share with you immediately!

Always carry 3 or 4 standard white tile colours with you

We were looking at the possible floor tiles (not shown) she had chosen to coordinate with this countertop (below):

Since I always carry my true-white, off-white and cream subway tiles with me, I pulled them out to compare to the countertop and all the different floor tiles we were looking at to identify the whites we where working with.

Choosing the right one suddenly became a snap.

When you attend one of my live workshops, how you learn to choose the right colour AND explain the WHY (your colour is right) is through comparing. That’s what we do for three days.

You can’t perfectly match white tile

But paint is different than tile. You can’t match tiles perfectly.

I learned this when I chose white hex tile, white subway tile and the white end-cap in my master bathroom. I wrote about that here.

Basically all three of the tiles I was using came from three different factories in China so they are never going to be a perfect match. Even in whites.

No wonder so many bathrooms end up a hot mess if you start trying to introduce a combination of patterns, NEVER MIND just coordinating the whites.

I took the liberty of inserting the gradations of white paint colours here, below (the only one that’s missing is blue-white).

Ask Maria: My Husband got one Choice and It’s Wrong, HELP!

Learn all about the 5 whites you need to know in my White is Complicated eBook here.

You can see in the image above that the quartz is not cream, off white, or true white, right away by comparing it to the three tiles that represent each category. It is in fact greige.  The floor tile should read greige to relate well to this countertop.

And which white subway tile is right to work with it? Well you could go with off white or true white.

When choosing tile, you need to have point of comparison otherwise how do you know where you are?

You can get lost really fast and get it wrong just as fast.

Don’t just guess, this is the easiest trick, simply carry around a cream, off white and true white subway tile for easy comparison.

You’re welcome.

Can I get an Amen?

It is my joy in life to help you have a more beautiful home.

Courtney Giles Interiors

And did I mention I don’t judge? Lately I’ve been hearing this a lot “I know you don’t like this, or I know you wouldn’t have done this, but. . . ”

If you’re not convinced, read this post.

Oh, one more thing, in order to be really good at teaching colour, you can never give up the thing that got you there in the first place. The reason my colour workshop is the best is because I have actually been in thousands of homes over the years AND because I’m a decorator too.

The in-home and eDesign consultations that I do on a daily basis with clients all over the world is what constantly has me turn around and update my live workshops.

I was listening to a podcast today and I loved this quote:

“Reflection turns experience into insight. If experience was the best teacher, everybody would be getting better because everyone has experiences. I know a whole bunch of people who are getting older but they’re not getting better, evaluated experience is the best teacher.” John Maxwell.

Oh and I’m adding the white tile exercise to the hard finish exercises in the workshop.

It’s kinda brilliant if I do say so myself.

PS. I just snapped this photo in the bathroom of the car dealership I was getting my car serviced in today:

It’s all slightly darker because there’s no natural light in this bathroom

If you’d like to transform the way you see colour, become a True Colour Expert here.

Related posts:

It’s a Charcoal Tile Intervention. Don’t Miss This One

Do’s & Dont’s For Decorating with Black Tile

How to Take Charge of Your Bossy Tile

1520 pins


  • Mary-Illinois says:

    I came to realize the differences of whites when I wanted to update my fireplace. I ended up choosing a brick to avoid the whole situation of different whites. I ended up preferring the contrast of the brick with my white mantel.
    Because of that lesson I was very careful when it came time to select my white subway tile for my kitchen backsplash. My already existing white counter works perfectly with my final tile selection.

  • Ginny - So. Cal. says:

    I’m hoping the answer is “True White” tile, because the other tiles look dirty in comparison.

    I am starting a kitchen remodel and I’m considering buying your two e-books and hoping I’ll figure it out or maybe just bite the bullet and get your e-design Classic Kitchen. I sent a question to your zen desk today, but haven’t heard back yet.

  • LH says:

    So… which one did you end up choosing?

    I’m guessing true white?

  • Lisa says:

    Wait, true white in the bathroom, right?

  • Barb says:

    OK, Maria. You’re teasing us now. What is the correct color of tile?

    • Michelle says:

      She answers in the post. Either true white or off white will work. Just make sure the floor matches the greige in the counter.

  • Barbara North says:

    That was a great post Maria! Having the right tools at your fingertips makes it easier to make those crucial decisions. Once the finishes have been purchased and installed it’s too late.

  • Martha Intrieri says:

    I find blues to be almost impossible to match as well. Any thoughts on that topic Maria? Thank you so much for all you do to educate and inform!

    • Maria Killam says:

      Blue is either too green or too purple if you don’t nail it yes. Comparing to get it right is then only way. Hope that helps, Maria

  • Téa says:

    Terrific explanation and tip, Maria! Another one to “bookmark” and refer back to! Thanks!

  • Tricia says:

    I have an unrelated comment – I apologize for that – but it just happened, so it’s fresh on my mind. (and if you don’t want to post it, perfectly okay. But I wanted to share 🙂
    I work in a place where men still wear suits. A man came in wearing a nice gray (grey) suit, blue shirt, and very pretty blue patterned tie. I took one look and just didn’t care for the outfit even though each piece was nice in itself. Something was off. But it’s gray and blue, what’s so wrong about that?. They weren’t offensive, just not quite right. Then it dawned on me. Dirty vs clean. Clean blues of the shirt and tie but the suit was a dirty gray.
    Before MK, I would have known they didn’t quite go together, but I wouldn’t have known how to explain it. Dirty v clean.

  • Vanessa says:

    This! Perfect timing, hahaha. Last week finished on a not so great note. The painters from one of my projects were going to do some touch-up work to the ceiling and starts off with the small roller (and gets quite far too, mind you…) – uses true white instead of the correct colour which is a blue white. Nothing to do but take a breather, call it a week and go at it again this week.

    Love your emails and am currently fully immersed in checking what white is used in different spaces.

  • Maria Killam says:

    Olympia tile. They have Arctic White (true white) warm white (off-white) and cream. Maria

  • ML says:

    Can you tell us what paint colors next to the tiles are please? Especially the “greige”?

  • Maria Killam says:

    I don’t have a greige tile but you can see it’s greige when you compare with the whiter ones, they are all from Olympia tile. Arctic white, warm white and cream. Maria

    • Elizabetth says:

      Can you get Olympia tile in the states? Love that you shared the names that coordinate with the gradations!

  • Patti says:

    Thank you Maria for the education in white tiles. Very informative! My questions is: what is the paint color of the bathroom vanity cabinet shown in the picture? It’s beautiful.
    Thank you!

  • Cathryn says:

    Amen! Love John Maxwell! Great Post, Very Clear!!

  • Maria Z says:

    I just completed an extensive whole house renovation, gutted to bare bones. As you can imagine there were a lot of stressful decisions to make, but what took a lot of my energy was the kitchen. It’s big and between the cabinets, surfaces, appliances and lighting, there’s a lot to decide. I’m so thankful I found your blog on backsplashes. I have buttermilk cabinets and Snowfall granite, which is basically creamy, slightly yellowish tint, but with taupe, gray, black and some rust coloring – not busy but gorgeous. (Wood floors throughout) When I started looking at white and off white backsplash samples, my contractor said “don’t you want something to make it pop?” I went with a creamy white long subway tile and the only accent it has is a subtle crazing like old china gets. You have to look close to see it, but I know it’s there and it makes me happy. My kitchen is a winner (the contractor agrees!). Thank you so much!

  • Karen says:

    Great article! Can you tell me what trim paint you choose to go with the true white tile? Thank you so much!

Leave a Reply