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How to Work with your Dated Granite Countertops: The Ultimate Guide

By 10/22/2020February 13th, 202324 Comments

While quartz has largely taken over, granite had a very loooong moment. So many of us have inherited granite countertops we would not choose. Today I’m sharing a roundup of my best advice for making your granite countertops look less dated and more classic and timeless. If you’re tackling a kitchen refresh, you’re sure to find the best strategy here.

Granite has been a weighty topic on my blog. I do not recommend granite to my eDesign clients.


Because natural stone is not predictable in colour. What it looks like in the context of whatever surrounds it in the yard is guaranteed to be very different from the way it looks in your new kitchen. (see more in Why Choosing Granite is So Hard).

And because of variation from slab to slab, and the inconvenience of its heft, it’s nearly impossible to test it properly. And proper testing is critical to seeing the neutral undertone and how it relates to your other finishes.

Most people are not designing a kitchen that looks like this one by Kelly Wearstler:

Quartz on the other hand, tends to be much more consistent in colour and pattern. You can test a sample and know what to expect. It’s much easier to get it right. Plus, there are many more options that are clean and crisp looking, more versatile and timeless.

My eDesign consultations are about providing accurate colour advice, and since I can’t be standing in the stone yard with my clients, I prefer not to specify granite.


How to Work with Dated Granite Countertops: The Ultimate Guide

However, I also understand that many of you inherited kitchens that were built or renovated during the peak of granite countertop installations and you just need to bring your kitchen to a place where you can live with it.

My eDesign clients are constantly asking for ideas to update their kitchens working around their existing granite. I’ve seen it all. 

Why granite is so challenging:

  1. Busy Patterns – once you have pattern in one finish, now every other finish needs to be quiet and solid
  2. Dated, Earthy Colours – most granite has pink beige and gold undertones which usually means that new white cabinets will be too stark 
  3. Multiple Colours – when you have an element in your decor that already has flecks of 3 or more colours, it becomes much harder to introduce a new colour into your decor that doesn’t exist in that pattern

The good news is, there are lots of ways to create a fresh kitchen around busy, earthy granite. I’ve collected a few of my favourite posts on the topic of granite to help you either find ways to live with it and work around it. Or even to make better colour choices if you are planning to install it.

Here’s the round up, click on the headlines and they will take you to the posts!

How to Update 90s Granite (and Make it Disappear)

Bigger than the Three of Us

If you’ve inherited a dated earthy kitchen backsplash, the fix is relatively painless. A new subway tile backsplash is a surprisingly affordable and simple upgrade. You can even paint a dated backsplash to freshen up your older kitchen.

But countertops? That’s a bigger investment. 

Don’t despair! It’s absolutely possible to refresh the look of your kitchen without replacing your dated earthy granite.

I’ve got a few tips and some great photos that demonstrate how you can make your 90s granite countertops disappear. I’ll show you an unexpected way to create a fresh and current look using what you’ve got. Click here to read more.

Will a white kitchen work with my existing granite countertops?


If you are getting ready to tackle a partial kitchen renovation and you are planning to keep some of your hard finishes like countertops or floors, you MUST READ THIS first!

This is a great “What Would Maria Do” question. And I see this a lot – people trying to design a white kitchen around their existing granite countertops (or even with an existing earthy floor or backsplash tile).

This is tough love advice because you know how much I LOVE A WHITE KITCHEN. Take a look at my reader’s kitchen and find out why in this instance, a white kitchen is not the best choice.

And hey, if you’ve already tried to update your kitchen and realize this is what is wrong, I’ve got a few strategies to help you make it work. Click here to read more.

Which Backsplash Tile Goes with Granite Countertops?


Whether you are trying to coordinate your backsplash with existing granite, or you are installing new granite, choose your backsplash carefully. Most people assume that they need to find a pattern backsplash to go with the pattern in their granite.

Unlike fabrics, mixing tile patterns is not a good idea. And, you likely won’t find a pattern that coordinates with your granite. Instead, I have some solid advice. Click here to read more.

Why Choosing Granite is So Hard

Have you ever installed granite in your kitchen or bathroom… and then wondered why it doesn’t look like you thought it would?

Here’s an engaging tale from a reader who installed new countertops only to find that she now had a spotted lizard holding court in her kitchen!

Most granite has a very distinct pattern, and once you make that choice – you are at pattern quota. That means no more pattern in your backsplash! And that’s just one of the reasons why choosing granite is so hard. Click here to read my tips.

The Most Classic & Timeless Granite

White Kitchen with Absolute Black Granite


Finally, there IS such a thing as timeless granite. And if natural stone is your thing, you might as well know which ones I think are most classic.

If you want black countertops for example, there are some really good black granites that come in less expensive than black quartz.  

There are a few granite countertops that meet my classic and timeless standards and I’m sharing them with you. I think these granite colours can work well with fresh and current kitchens. Click here to read more.

Make the best of what you’ve got.

So that’s my roundup for making the best of the unwelcome and dated granite countertops that so many of us are trying to work with!

But if you are still unsure which approach will work best for your specific kitchen and granite, I would love to help! You can find my Create a Classic Kitchen consultation here. Want to paint your cabinets? You can find the Cabinet Colour consultation here. 

Related Posts

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

Does your Floor Tile Have to Match your Countertop or Surround?

Second Rule of Design: Waiting Now Equals Beautiful Later

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  • ALISA says:

    Is there a link for your classic granite choices?

  • Stacy says:

    I still love granite. I love the thickness of it. As long as it’s not peachy, I can live with it. I find that quartz too often has a pinkish tone to it. I recently installed a gorgeous white/gray granite in my kitchen, and it is the only pattern. I have no regrets! It’s not a dramatic pattern, and it’s pretty uniform.

  • Susan Henry says:

    Yes, would love to know what your classic granite choices are.

  • Alison says:

    Hey Maria,
    It seems like half this post has gone missing? I know you’re going to have great advice but it’s not in this post?!

  • Debra says:

    Where waiting for the choices?🤔

  • Jennifer says:

    Thanks for the roundup! As always, your advice is spot on.

    One suggestion: the way the post is organized made it a little unclear to me that the green headers above each photo were a link to a blog post (especially since on my screen it showed the header, then a picture, then an ad, and then the blurb about the post). It might be a good idea to repost the link at the bottom of your blurb as well with something like “read the post here”

  • Katy says:

    As a granite kitchen counter owner myself, I would love to have the answers, but I think they’re missing from this post!

  • Kristin says:

    We just built a house and used leathered black mist granite, which we LOVE. Looks like black soapstone but without the softness that worried us. We’re in love with it, and we’re thrilled that because granite is “out,” it was more affordable than even a mid-range quartz.

  • Amy says:

    We installed a gorgeous Bianca Gita granite island 6 years ago. Our particular slab does not have a pink undertone, which is rare. I chose Silestone White North quartz for the perimeter cabinets so they, as Maria teaches, would not compete with the island. It was perfect. Until the quartz was installed on our cream cabinets and the pink-beige undertone screamed at me. It turns out my 12” x 12” quartz sample matched perfectly but the actual installed quartz was more pink. Unfortunately nothing could be done as the contract states there may be differences in quartz as it is a mix of natural stones. I share this only to encourage others to be aware this *can* happen. A note—I had not yet found Maria when we made our choices. Thankfully we love our kitchen and chose to love/overlook our mistake.

  • susan says:

    15 or so years ago and knowing absolutely NOTHING about granite or quartz counter tops, I decided to go with honed, absolute black granite. Did I mention that the hubs had me under the gun to select something in less than 2 weeks?

    And yes: I also decided on a white kitchen and repainted those awful golden oak cabinets myself. Ugh. What a job! But 15 years later, and they’ve held up far better than expected.

    However, if/when we replace these black counter tops, it will not be with the same stone. Hard water and black stone don’t play well with each other. (White calcium?) And its dark hue also sucks too much light out of the room even though I painted the walls 50% Revere Pewter.

    Keep safe and well all!

  • Joanne says:

    When I was remodeling my kitchen, the builder with whom I was working really encouraged me to look at granite. He has a very good eye and I really love his work. So, I dutifully went out to three different places that sold granite and was impressed by the dramatic, gorgeous pieces I saw. Despite that, I was reluctant to choose granite. First, all of the pieces were stacked like those in the picture and that is NOT how you will view them. If I asked, the person working there would lug it down, but how many times was I going to do that? Second, one of the places was a huge indoor place so there was no way the lighting was anything like my home. Finally, I have a LOT of counter space and as beautiful as these pieces were, cutting them down would change the impact and overall look.

    What did I do? I went home and re-read your warning about granite and stuck to my preference for quartz. Thank you, Maria, for your sage advice!!! I am VERY happy with my choice and now I am the only bossy thing in my kitchen and that is how it should be!!!

  • Kristine C. says:

    We remodeled our kitchen 15 years ago which you can tell by our ubatuba green granite and maple cabinets that everyone around here was installing at the time. It’s such a dark green that it almost reads black, so if I squint I really don’t mind it. Plus it’s nearly indestructible. But I wish I hadn’t gone with the bullnose edge because it adds to the dated look. I also didn’t realize how much dark countertops suck the light out of a kitchen. That and changing from white appliances to stainless steel darkened our kitchen so much. I will be going brighter and lighter next time!

  • susan mccarthy says:

    too many ads in your post is distracting to your content.

  • Jules says:

    I inherited granite countertops and maple cabinets along with pink travertine tile when we bought our home 18+ years ago. I desperately wanted white kitchen cabinets but could not pull it off without it looking horrible. The pink undertone in the floor tile was throwing everything off. I finally decided to replace the tile with the same dark brown wood that runs throughout the rest of the house (win). It surprisingly coordinated beautifully with the counters and made it possible to paint my kitchen BM White Dove. As for the backsplash, I completely removed it because I don’t need it. There are no cooking surfaces or sink in front of a wall that would need it, so I now have art hanging where the decorative (busy) backsplash was. I am so thrilled with my new kitchen. Now, I actually like my granite. Hard surfaces matter for sure! I highly recommend your color modules; they are indispensable!

  • Jeanne Travasos says:

    The first article was the one that helped me SO much when choosing paint colors for our wine retail space when we were working with existing earthy granite colors. I had promised to send photos – I will do that soon!

  • Mary says:

    We just picked out river white for our granite – its similar to princess granite but with quite a few burgundy flecks that I think will work well with our mahogany floors. Unfortunately they did not have any samples and the cabinet maker is pressuring me for a color. I can’t decide if I should go with a pure white or an off white. I’m breaking all of Maria’s cardinal rules in making “hail Mary” decisions despite reading this blog for years (blame my stressful job and remodeling during COVID)! Anyone have any thoughts?

  • Gery Souza says:

    I recommend that you go to Maria’s “shop” link and purchase an interior design cabinet color package. I purchased the kitchen design package from her a few years ago and she helped me choose a paint color to go with the undertone of my quartzite countertop. I am thrilled with the results.

  • Liz says:

    Some friends chose a black granite countertop with strong white veins, large ones. It has not been made glossy and smooth, it is matte and very slightly textured. White cabinets, terracotta walls and it looks fabulous and will not date anytime soon. It looks classic, classy and unique in a good way. A confident choice that has paid off.

  • H. Paris says:

    When the granite craze first came along, I could not get over how ugly it was. I said it would look dated and go out of style and I was right. The earth’s granite quaries have been chiseled out to the max for everybody’s counter tops, only to end up in endless landfills after being sledgehammered out to make way for the next fashion. NEXT!

  • Karen says:

    I’ve read that some granite used for countertops can be radioactive. Have you heard this?

  • Cindi says:

    I used carribean green granite in my Hawaii remodel and it’s stunning. It’s a soft color and sort of disappears, while at the same time has flow and interest. I broke a lot of “rules” with this kitchen and it still worked. Specifically, I agree that multiple patterns usually look terrible (Maria has trained me to see this). But in this case I have a teak parquet floor, sapele cabinets which have a somewhat striped appearance, and the granite counters. Maybe it works because it’s tropical. I would attach a photo if I could.

    Now I’m designing my mainland house and it’s much harder. I want white oak cabinets and floors, but I hate both black and white counters. So I have to find something pattern that’s similarly soft. This is a good reminder though how I probably got lucky that the granite looks as good as it does. So maybe I will go with a quartz afterall.

  • Joe says:

    Granite is a forever solution for a short attention span America. Wife and I refuse to chase “fashion”.

    What a waste of a great material!


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