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Which Colour Me Happy Reader Are You?

By 02/22/2019April 19th, 202296 Comments

Whether you found my blog recently on Pinterest or have been following me for years, everyone is reading my blog from the mindset of a particular season of life. And, I want you to know that this blog is speaking to ALL of you! 

I once saw a chart that illustrated the mindset of a lifelong learner. In it, there was a process that was repeated over and over again over one’s lifetime. It goes something like this: Learn, Do, Unlearn → Learn, Do, Rest → Learn, Do, Unlearn, and so on until retirement. And I believe there are always lessons to learn – especially when you listen from the perspective of “what don’t I know already?”

Of course, this process reaches beyond our careers or the jobs we do but is applicable to all things in life. And I assume if you’re here, you too have a desire to learn and seek opportunities for knowledge – whether or not you’re a design professional (in other words getting paid to do this for a living) or simply someone trying to make colour choices for their own home. 

Which colour me happy reader are you?

First, you should know that with every post, I realize I’m writing to at least four different audiences, aka four types of designers.

Sometimes that’s hard to do that without slightly irritating one or two or even three groups of readers. And believe me, all I want to do is HELP each and every one of you. It’s the whole reason I started writing this blog. 

Now, I think most of you will fall into one of these four groups. But, if you fall into a different group, I would love for you to let me know in the comments below so I can meet you too!

The novice

The novice is someone who knows what they like when they see it (or you at least know for sure what you don’t like)! This person also knows enough to know that they have NO IDEA how to make all the millions of design decisions they need to make in a renovation or new build project. And so they’re here to soak up all the colour and design advice they can.

I have such a soft spot for these readers, especially when they make all the common easy-to-make mistakes that a novice often does.

I’m writing for you, my dear novice, to help save you from expensive mistakes.

Please hear me when I say, there’s nothing to feel bad about if you fall into this group. I’m not an expert in everything (nor should I be), so there is no shame in landing here.

You may be in the middle of renovating your home, looking to decorate and update your living spaces or be lucky enough to be building your dream home. 

And you know what’s at stake here. So, you really don’t want to waste money on your way to getting the home you’ve always wanted.

My focus for you is to help you get it right the first time so you can love your house forever. That’s what timeless means to me.

Atlanta Homes

When you’re a novice, you often find it hard to visualize how your design decisions will look once they’re installed. And it’s not until you see it actually installed that your gut feeling kicks in – and it’s either a happy dance or utter disappointment.

Because, if you’re feeling disappointed, you can see where automatically choosing the trending accent tile might lead you astray. Or you might realize how installing a 4″ (or even worse, 6″ or 8″ pull) on every single door and drawer looks way too busy.

Or how choosing your favourite patterned countertop and pairing it with your favourite patterned tile may leave you feeling overwhelmed by all the patterns in your kitchen – not the look (or feeling) you were hoping for.

When you’re a novice, you might also have been bossed around by a hired designer.

Obviously, as a novice, you are not trained in design (and that’s why many of you end up in my workshops). Because you fall into this category you didn’t know how to push back when your designer had a plan for the trendiest finishes for your home, and now you’re feeling less than happy with the end result.

The non-professional with a great eye

The non-professional with a great eye is someone who is a big design enthusiast and has the knack to take their ideas and bring them to life. Their house is tastefully and beautifully decorated and everyone loves it.

I have such love for these readers because they are right where I started and I remember how it feels to have a whole new world of colour and design open up, and a language to share it with others.

I’m writing for you, my dear non-professional with a great eye, to help you keep up with the trends and learn new tips and tricks to make your home even more beautiful.

Atlanta Homes

Some of you attend my workshop because you might have experienced a colour mistake or three and then obsessively painted your walls a couple of time over to get it right, or called the contractor back to rip something out, and then took to the internet to get some help.

And you landed here.

When you found my blog (and this probably applies to many of you no matter which group you’re in) you finally realized you were not crazy. You knew your floor tile had a purple undertone and no one, not your spouse, your designer or your contractor, NO ONE else saw it but YOU.

There are literally thousands of comments on this blog from this group (well, from every category) who appreciate my no-nonsense, classic and timeless approach to design and choosing colour.

When you’re a non-professional with a great eye, you can easily get flooded with requests from friends and family to help them with their rooms and it may just lead you to become part of the next group.

The new designer 

The new designer is someone who is in love with design and is filled with enthusiasm. They have a huge appetite to learn everything they can about the subject. They may have taken courses to increase their knowledge as they start a journey of making their creative passion into their career.

I have a special energy for these readers and am cheering them on as they learn to hone and sharpen their skills in the world of colour and design.

Lauren Delroach

I’m writing for you, my dear new designer, to give you helpful advice when you’re stuck with a colour question. I also want to save you from some of the earlier mistakes I made when I was a new designer. You know, like thinking it was a good idea to combine five different fabric patterns because I could coordinate all the colours or being convinced that accent tile was an obvious and necessary part of any bathroom or kitchen installation. Every master was once a disaster. 

When you’re a new designer, you have everything to learn about making the right choices for your clients and also, how to explain the answer to the question “Why?” And you might even be wondering about all that colour theory you learned

I want to give you all the help I can when you’re losing sleep over a paint colour you specified and you’re holding your breath hoping you made the right choice. Because yes, I’ve been there, done that.

There are always lots of you in my workshops and it fills me with joy and delight to hear your questions and to spend solid time with you unwrapping the mysteries of colour and how it works. You are gifted learners and I treasure you.

The seasoned design professional

The seasoned design professional is someone who’s been in the colour and design business for years. They know what they’re doing as they’ve got the experience to back up their natural talent.

I have such respect and admiration for these readers—my peers—and value their comments when they write. I’m flattered they read my posts and return the compliment when and if they write one of their own. It is a community that I’m honoured to be a part of.

Atlanta Homes

I’m writing for you, my dear seasoned design professional, to drill down to the minutia of colour in a way that contributes to your business and your client’s happiness with you. 

You may love my aesthetic (or totally not) but you follow me because you continue to learn about this elusive world of undertones in colour. Because you can also chalk this blog up to free ongoing training by reading my no-nonsense articles about this topic. And that’s information you can’t get anywhere else in the world.

You don’t always agree with me, but for the most part, you do. Which is why you continue to follow me. And for that I’m grateful.

There are probably three of you in each of my in-person workshops. Dressed well. Making good money. With valuable contributions to make in the class.

You know enough to know that as soon as you stop learning, you might as well be dead. 

Melanie Turner

So there’s who I’m writing to and writing for. You might be a hybrid of one or more of these groups. But I believe I know you because I have been ALL OF YOU at some point in my life.

This leads me back to the point of this post.

Lots of you who read my posts are moms and all of us have (or had) a mom. And most of us have the experience of reminding or being reminded to, “Take your jacket,” “Eat your vegetables,” and “Finish your homework.”

And what’s underneath all those reminders is, “I love you. I’m for you and on your side. I believe in you and want you to be more than okay. I want you to be the best version of who you can be.”

And that’s exactly how I feel here on this blog.

Sometimes I write posts in a hurry. And sometimes in my haste it may not sound like I’m cheering you on. But I promise, that’s where my heart is. I’m always cheering you on in this journey to better understand the world colour and design.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a long time and you know that my mission in life is to save you from the bathroom or kitchen that the next homeowner simply can’t wait to rip out. Or save you from wanting to do that the minute your new installed. 

But for those of you who were (even mildly) insulted and felt condescended to, I am sorry. Truly. I’m even thankful you gave me feedback. Really.

To each of my readers, thank you for spending time and sharing your thoughts on this blog. Every day is a new opportunity to receive feedback about how we are in the world and, as I said above, if I stop learning, I may as well be dead. There are always valuable lessons we can be mindful of.

So I’ll keep learning and do better to make sure each of you is heard, AND I’ll still continue to be bossy, yet charming 🙂

Related posts:

When Should You Rip Out Brand New Tile?

How to be Smart in a World Filled with Dumb Colour Advice

Trendy or Classic, Ask Yourself these 3 Questions


  • I’ve been a fan for a really long time now. I feel like the body of your work has easily stood the test of time.
    Personally I kind of like it when you take a stand on something. Everyone is afraid to be definitive these days.
    Keep going. We’ll keep reading. We’ll also keep learning right along with you.

  • Michelle says:

    I loved your last post! It was honest and made me think. I’d rather have you tell us what you think unvarnished.
    Thank you!

  • Gina Kemp says:

    I consider myself a design professional. I spent the last 20 years designing cabinetry, (especially kitchens).
    Although I wasn’t offended by your post, I can see how it would come under fire. Every consumer is a professional. It is our job as a designer to educate (and cya).
    1. All knobs: can be difficult for someone who cannot (now or in their future) grasp a knob. Someone with arthritis may find it very difficult to grasp a knob. This would suggest all pulls.
    2. All pulls: argument can be made it is boring, redundant, etc. Limited in terms of changing them out i.e. the predrilled holes.
    Also adds confusion to drawer banks. Wide drawers may look better with two, rather than a single pull, however this may not work well with certain drawer glides.
    3. A combination of knobs and pulls: typically knobs on doors, pulls on drawers. Is probably the most straight forward arrangement. That is, as long as the pulls are one size.
    Knob and/ or pull placement can be a very subjective decision. Especially if you plan to use different size pulls or matching hardware on appliances. This may require a specific legend, individual drawings, or your time on site as they drill for placement. There are no wrong answers. You may run the chance of not meeting your client expectations which could cost you money buying new doors/ drawer fronts.
    There is no single correct answer or rule.

    • Maria Killam says:

      I agree with everything you are saying, my post was for the novice. I like a combination and always specify pulls and knobs. However, if someone were to choose one stye of pull or knob for everything (like every cabinet company does) I prefer the look of ALL KNOBS instead of ALL PULLS which is why I wrote the post. Thanks for your comment, Maria

  • Phyllis says:

    I thought your last post was fine. We should just take a breath and chill. It was knobs not stone floor tile. I have learnt so much from reading your posts.
    Recently you indicated that it has been ages since anyone asked you for a recommendation for a brown exterior. I love my brown stained cedar (almost identical to BM Burnt Cinnamon 2094-10). Was I offended? No.
    Would I change it at some point? Yes when the siding needs replacing. When we purchased the house, it was stained three different shades of dark brown. Cedar is soft. Stripping a house, this size was out of the question so I compromised. It is lovely in our woodland setting, plus one neighbour copied my color. I would much rather have my ‘brown’ house than one of the newer ones built around here that have up to five or six colors on the exterior with willy-nilly undertones, all in stone, brick and siding. Not sure what the builders are thinking.
    Love your posts. Please keep posting so I keep learning.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Phyllis, I’m glad you brought this up because there is nothing wrong with a brown house and it sounds like it’s the right colour for your style of home. What I meant was the masses have stopped painting their houses brown and just painting the current trendy neutral on everything of course is what dates. Thanks for your comment! Maria

    • Kay says:

      Natural (unpainted) cedar is beautiful. I’m not a fan of painted brown houses, but what you describe, in a woodland setting, would look perfect.

      When we bought our house it had yellow vinyl siding. When we pushed out the back five or six years ago and some of the vinyl siding had to be removed, we discovered that the house was originally clad in wide redwood boards. At that point in our renovations I knew I couldn’t afford to remove all the vinyl siding, repair all the original boards and side the addition with new redwood, so sadly decided to cover it up with more vinyl siding. It made me sick that the previous owner had covered up something so beautiful with something so ordinary, and I wish I could have corrected what I think was a terrible mistake.

  • Linda says:

    I enjoy and learn from all your posts! Thank you for generously sharing your wisdom and knowledge. You are amazing and wonderful!

  • Robbie Hutchins says:

    Oh Maria. You can please some of the people … I read all of your posts and can honestly say that I have learned more from you than from any other designer. I’m sure the criticism really upset you, which makes me both sad and frustrated. I admire that instead of nursing your wounds you’ve addressed the issue face-on. So you. Please don’t change. You’re allowed to be human and not 100 percent perfect all the time. I adore what you do, your strong opinions about colour and design, and the fact that you’re generally right (even if I don’t want you to be). Cheering you on from Australia.

  • Jane Beard says:

    I’m sorry people get so touchy. I’m in category 2 and grateful for all I’ve learned here. Your love for the topic and the audience is clear and appreciated.

  • Gerley says:

    Seriously, people who get offended by the tone of a blog post -about design of all things- need to evaluate what they are doing in life!
    It pains me that no one gets to be edgy or special because we are censoring the content creators by taking everything personally and putting it on THEM to change so WE don’t feel offended. Maria, I like your tone! I love that you don’t coddle your readers! I love that you are blunt and clear, it helps me understand!
    Disagreement is okay, offense is childish and silly. If your tone is “condescending” I would have to feel “less than” to even notice!
    I took the sentence that “you might wanna skip this one” as a NICE warning. Like saying “spoilers ahead, don’t read this if you haven’t watched season 2”.
    I hope you don’t adapt to suit the infantile readers who lack boundaries because we have enough whitewashed , PR- friendly boredom out there!

  • Lisa B says:


    I’m not sure why there was so much angst in the last post, but I did find myself disagreeing. I chalked it up though to a slightly different aesthetic and that I lean towards something more functional. I find myself overwhelmingly not liking the look of most knobs. My kitchen is all knobs (probably chosen by the builder) and I’ve never been a fan. Changing the style would go a long way, but I find myself liking the kitchens with a mix of both. I think it helps function but also gives the look of a thought out approach when done tastefully. That being said your blog helped me realize ages ago that there is an art to incorporating the right amount and style of hardware. Thanks again for your insights, we don’t all have to agree for them to considered valuable.

  • Kim Timmerman says:

    Hi Maria! I began reading your blog, probably about a couple of years after you started writing it. For a long time, I was in awe of the things you wrote about color and the things you THOUGHT to write about color, because I didn’t know how to begin to think about how to use color in my home. What really bothered me was when I purchased a new beige sofa to be in the same room with a beige carpet. Something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t explain it. It always bothered me until I gave the sofa to my son for his apartment at college. Then, I bought a new sofa, and I went with a safe color….brown! Ha! Over the years, I purchased your e-books (then, I understood about the difference between the pink-beige carpet and the yellow-beige sofa), took your online course about choosing exterior home colors (surprised to realize that even cement has undertones!) and I attended your first Dallas workshop last year. Those three days of the workshop were so fun and educational and the color boards are amazing! I am still in awe of the things you write about, as I always learn good stuff. I am a color enthusiast and I buy so many interior design magazines and peruse lots of design websites, and some of these pros need to get into your workshops. The issue of pulls vs knobs was something I paid attention to after I participated in a consultation with a seasoned closet designer years ago. I notice that the older I get, the more I like pulls, and I might like the look of both for drawers and cabinets. I just have to add that even though I missed your presentation, it was so delightful to see you for a moment at KBIS/IBS….what a HUGE EVENT! I had a conversation about color with a rep for a “green” shingle/roofing company, told him about you and he said he would check out your website. Carry on, Maria! You’re doing great work!

  • Carrie TCE Dallas 18 says:

    Thank you for taking the time to clarify your intentions. Tone in print is SO tricky. We’ve all offended someone unintentionally with a misunderstood text. I wish we could all cut people slack (as podcaster/author Gretchen Rubin says). Please keep posting—we will keep learning.

  • Roseanne says:

    The worst advice I can receive is “it’s a matter of personal preference.” I love reading design blogs. A few months ago I found myself reading every design blog the internet lead me to. Blog after blog of DIYers with farmhouse white interiors. Then I decided to refine my reading to professionals with opinions. Your blog made the cut. I suggest you stay honest. Speak your mind. If your position is strong, and perhaps controversial, back it up with pictures. Unless you made a horrendous gaffe, don’t edit a previous post.

  • Janice says:

    I follow you Maria as a novice with a limited budget. I appreciate your opinion, experience, and logical approach to design. When I am ready to make any changes to our home you are my go to resource. Thank you.

  • Richard says:

    Long time reader. First time posting.
    I’m a minority reader…because, well I am man. I have not read a comments from another males.
    I definitely fall in to your description of a novice. I know what I like when I see it, but have yet to be successful assembling a look and feel that makes me love my home. I’m guilty of buying many paint samples and testing them on walls, only to walk away unsatisfied. I struggle with analysis paralysis. So many design decisions that I end up doing nothing for fear of spending money on a selection I end up not liking. Three times I’ve resorted to hiring professionals and only been satisfied once. I’ve been looking again recently because I have two places and know I need professional help.

    To Maria… the reason I shared this is because I want you to know that there is at least one guy out there who has benefitted from your posts and even a few ebooks. It is because you take the time to share your expertise with the rest of the world that I:
    – paint samples on white poster board and not walls (and position them correctly for evaluation)
    – know that incorrectly chosen under tones are the reason I love or hate certain selections
    – appreciate timeless vs. trendy design
    – understand how bossy selections of tile or countertops can drive design selections
    – came to recognize I like the aesthetic of knobs vs. pulls
    to name just a few of my takeaways. I wanted you to know there are many of us out there (perhaps not men) that learn, grow, and are able to verbalize our own style because of what you do.

  • Sandee Doss says:

    Good Morning Maria- I am the novice you describe above who discovered your blog partially through building our new home. Reading your advice immediately stopped be from going forward with what the building company’s hired designer suggested. Seems like small things, but they make a huge impact! And I am so happy I took your advice instead. Like, I literally pull up to my house and at least once a week thank you by name for posting that essay on roof/shingle color. She looked at me like I was crazy not taking her suggestions! Thankfully even with the limited choices in hard finishes that were available I chose white subway tile AND asked for no knobs be installed on cabinets until I could decide after we moved in. This might sound trivial to some and a first world problem to many, but I am so thankful to you for saving me the disappointment I knew would have followed had I simply gone with the advice of the “pros”. I am not very confident when it comes to making home decisions so I started reading (well, scouring!) your blog this last year. You are hands down the most level headed and stable designer I have read. I actually LIKE the fact that you come across firm and no nonsense and was sad when I read your post this morning. I have never taken offense in your style of writing. You are a professional. It is direct. Like a professor or doctor or other esteemed professional. I urge you to not feel like you need to appease or change your style for the sensitive reader. Why should you? Because you are “just” a designer and “just” a woman? No. If you were a man, I doubt anyone would have said anything, it would just be accepted that was your style (Karl Lagerfeld anyone?)
    Thank You for all your continued wisdom and yes, I feel the love in all your posts. You have made a difference in my life!! 🙂
    WWMD. (What would Maria Do?)

  • Carolyn says:

    Oh boy,
    With things the way they are at this point in history, getting upset about the “tone” of a blog post about home decoration and design is kind of …thinking of the right phrase here….unfortunate.
    While I desire a comfortable, beautiful, well designed home, I also understand that there are so many things that are more important. Blogs such as Maria’s are for information, education and most of us, enjoyment. If something such as drawer pulls vs. knobs gets someone so upset it may be time to step back and put things into perspective. Home design is a huge business and importantto many people and industries. But not as important as brain surgery, the plight of the polar bear or even weather or not your kid has her shoes on the right foot.
    I love reading this blog and many others, for enjoyment and education. Someday maybe I will have a livingroom that I don’t look at and see every design mistake I have made mapped out in front of me. But in the mean time I will have fun dreaming about the exact right color, the perfect rug and weather or not the plain linen chair would be better than the beautiful print.
    Perspective and kindness are really important people.

    • anonymom says:

      RE: shoes on the right feet–>Looking over at my kid…top inside out, bottoms backward… but he did it all by himself, so my lips are zipped! I read this blog for escape… all these pretty tidy houses, most of which have no sign of children or old people and certainly no pjs still containing undies almost in the hamper. The home are lovely, and I can both enjoy them and hold this season, with my child and the relentness nature of parenting, dear.

      But I’d absolutely love it if more designers made oilcloth table cloths that work for art projects and stress-free meals with Grandad at the table and classy (toy) storage furniture intended for public rooms (rather than a kids bedroom or dedicated play space) for those of us who are not McMansion dwellers. I think that’s a different blog? Just stream of consciousness, now, before I attack the tasks of the day.

      • Kay says:

        Maybe some classic wooden toys? Some companies make them, and they are most presentable. Those hideous colored plastic toys should be hidden away, IMHO. You could buy a wooden child-size table and chairs and a small bookcase to store the presentable toys. If you wanted to paint the furniture in a color that coordinates with your decor, chalk paint is the easiest to work with, requiring no prep. You could make a quite charming corner in your living room.

  • Angelle Lyman says:

    Maria, I wasn’t in the least bit offended by the language in your post. Of course, I’ve been reading your blog for about eight years, own all of your ebooks and video trainings, and attended your Specifying Colour with Confidence live training last fall. Don’t be so hard on yourself. There is always someone out there who will be offended. I do think your revised post communicates the “truth in love” better than the original but I encourage you to keep it all in perspective. You are fabulous at what you do and I for one, am so grateful for the advice and information you so generously share on a regular basis. I am one of your biggest fans! 🙂

  • Annie says:

    Cat 1 here who has moved to Cat 2 over the years all because of your blog. Built a house 5 years ago and I never made a decision without seeing if you had written a post on the topic. Am now flipping starter homes (that are in good condition to begin with) but my motto is “I don’t do ugly” and so your blog posts have become even more important as one simple design mistake can eat up a chunk of a smaller remodel budget. I love your writing style, your tone, your humor, your ability to share in such an authentic way and of course your design aesthetic. Keep on keeping on and sincere thanks for all you do!

  • Tamara says:

    I’ve followed your blog from almost the very beginning and probably fall into the second category of readers. I personally really appreciate when you are upfront and even blunt with your advice. Please don’t change too much!

  • Beth H. says:

    I 100% agree with Debra Van Dyke (hopefully her comment is below mine… 🙂 I’ve been reading your blog for years and never commented but your advice is fantastic and I keep coming back to learn more. I am a career Interior Designer and now teach ID at a Community College and the expectation that anyone knows it all is completely unrealistic, we all are constantly learning and the title of your post actually came out of my mouth yesterday to my students!! I couldn’t believe it when I just read it! PLEASE keep on doing what you’re doing and continue to be definitive. It is greatly appreciated.

  • Jane says:

    I really enjoy reading a post that takes a stand and then backs it up with real examples. Understanding what you (Maria) are “seeing” educates me and helps me to solidify my own views…regardless of whether or not I happen to agree. Thank you for your views!

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Jane and everyone who have said something similar. I will still continue to be ‘bossy but in a charming way’, however I decided to write this post anyway so that my readers could see that there are truly 4 distinct groups that I’m talking to and next time I can just link back to this post which will be easier than writing disclaimers. . . and I learned something too. .. perhaps next time I should just say “Hey I’m speaking to the novice here’. . . I usually don’t get such strong reactions so I toned down my language within the first hour and some of you would have missed that. I so appreciate the love and support of all my readers! Thanks for your comments today! xoxo

  • karen says:

    Hi Maria,

    No need to apologize but thanks anyway!

    Is there a rule of thumb for calculating which size of pull for drawers? After I read the post on knobs and pulls I went into my kitchen to see what I had, and sure enough they are all 3″ wide and I’ve always hated them because #1 they are ugly and #2 because they don’t fit my hand. We are planning a kitchen update and we’ve decided on the finish and style of the pulls and knobs we want but have not yet moved on to sizes. Please share what you think.

    Thank you,


  • Katy says:

    You’re amazing, Maria. I’m a non-professional who at least thinks she has a great eye. I’m on a fixed income, so every choice matters. I have read every one of your posts and have never been offended. The written word often misrepresents the feeling behind it that a tone of voice or facial expression will mitigate.

  • Diana C. says:

    I love your blog and the comments! I have learned so much over the years. What I love MOST is your attitude- generous, enthusiastic and loving. I think life, for you, is about living fully into your potential, and your attitude is infectious. If you think you have hurt someone, or made a mistake, you make amends and move on. Thank you, Maria.

  • Jeannine says:

    I think whenever one expresses a strong opinion about something they are bound to offend someone. But that’s not really your problem. I’ve seen other bloggers take a beating when they take a stance on things and it’s unfortunate. Sometimes I too can find it hard to hear that “that thing” I just did isn’t cool anymore but it’s not like the blogger made it uncool they are just giving their often expert opinion. I love homes and decorating but it’s not life and death here. If you make a mistake, or even if you still love what someone else considers a mistake, just be thankful for the new insight and move on.

  • Kim says:

    Wow, it amazes me how upset some folks got about your last blog post. This is YOUR blog and you are entitled to write what you want. If it offends someone, they can stop reading and move on. Personally, I love how you are so definitive and passionate about color and design. There’s no wishy-washy about you and that’s so refreshing! I’m a long-time reader and enjoy how you write. Keep it up. And thanks for all you do!

  • Gail M says:

    I fit under Novice who cares about what my home looks like. I’ve had several friends ask me to help them pick out “stuff.” I point to YOU. I know nothing other than what YOU tell me when it comes to design. Keep honest and true to yourself. I just appreciate that you SHARE your knowledge rather than “hoarding” it for pay customers only. Every read of your blog teaches me something to incorporate in my home. I’ll never be level 4 or even 3. I just appreciate little things that make a difference at my home.

  • Mary Kay Hillsley says:

    Maria, it was a great post just the way it was. Insightful, thought provoking, and novel. Which is what I love about your posts! You point things out that make me think, “Oh yeah, that’s what it is.” My take-away was that in some kitchens the hardware is part of the design statement, but it doesn’t have to be and the less-is-more strategy will probably be less trendy, too.

  • Dawn Young says:

    Maria you are a class act!!

  • Marg says:

    Hi Maria,
    Though you are thought of as a decorating God by many of us, you are human too, and have your likes and dislikes. We appreciate your candor and your opinion. Keep it up.
    Just one tip for people looking at buying knobs – don’t just look at them – try putting your fingers around and behind them. My husband has large hands and sausage fingers and some knobs (and pulls) actually hurt your fingers because the space behind them is so small.
    Love your blog, especially when you include lots of photos.

    • Kay says:

      Also feel the backs of cup/bin pulls if you want them. It took me quite a while to find the right ones for my kitchen because so many feel rough underneath. I’m sure the really expensive ones don’t have that problem, but the mid-priced ones do, and it matters because that’s what you touch when you pull on them.

      • Brooke says:

        ^^^ So true Kay! I just got hexagon knobs from CB2 and while perfect I feel the sharp points every time I open a cabinet. They don’t bother anyone else so they are staying.
        And Maria, I am indecisive and appreciate that you are not. I love your instagram feed. I wish I could have coffee with my mom and sister every morning, but at 9 am! xo

  • mrsben says:

    Even though I don’t agree with everything you say Maria I am certainly not offended because our viewpoint may differ however as I am also willing to learn; I’ve personally discovered by being a follower of yours for many years now that you are very capable ‘ in teaching an old dog, new tricks’ …. 🙂 . That said; keep doing what you are doing! -Brenda-

  • Heather says:

    Nicely written, as always. I have pulls on all the drawers and cabinets in my kitchen and love them (for now), but it is a busy look and is probably not for everyone. Your last post didn’t rub me the wrong way. This novice appreciates the ideas. Even when our styles do not match exactly you give me great ideas to ponder.

  • Kim says:

    Appreciate you so much, Maria!

  • Karen says:

    Wow Maria – I read your last post the entirely opposite way. That it was just another option to look at and consider. That all knobs on cabinets is a good option too. I loved looking at the pictures of cabinets with knobs. I think people need to not be so sensitive and take things so personally. I loved the post. Thanks for all of your hard work and guidance. Your blog is one of the most educational, and my long time favorite.

  • Susan says:

    Maria, I read the post soon after you made it. I had already installed my hardware and I even knew your preference for knobs last year when I did it. I went with pulls because after looking at tons of photos and reading a lot on the pros/cons, I still wanted them. I’m still pleased with my choice, too. I wasn’t offended in the least by your post.

    I’ve been reading you over a year and love that you have a strong opinion about things, actually. Don’t change! ❤️

  • Mary says:

    Oh Maria, I’m sorry you got attacked. I like the honesty. I’m in the new designer category. I found out about your blog in the Interior Design course I’m taking. I have learned so much from your blog, your color cards saved my bacon, and one of my goals is to attend your workshop one day. I appreciate your opinion and like learning from what you have to say about hardware and other bits of design. Anybody with eyes can see that there are other opinions out there, but you open up a new viewpoint to me, with pictures to back it up, which I appreciate. People will be nasty and quick to take offense, and I’m sorry you have to deal with that.

  • Lisa L says:

    No offense taken here Maria. I have been following you for a long time and understood exactly what you meant. One of the reasons I enjoy your posts is because of your directness and spontaneity. It is very refreshing.

  • Ann J Chapdelaine says:

    As a very seasoned professional Allied ASID interior designer I want to keep learning about the current trends and design practices and resources. It is what keeps me young and engaged. I will never officially retire or my spirit would surely die.
    Just continue to do your thing Maria. We can all learn from each other. You formulated a color design process that took me 40 years to learn on my own. Now I use your color tools and vocabulary and impress clients !

  • Renee says:

    You impress me, Maria! “Tone” in writing is such a tricky thing. As a teacher constantly having to communicate with parents, I can tell you I’ve been in your shoes. Once in a while, a parent is offended by something I said, and I’m immediately thinking, “Oh, but wait! You’ve misinterpreted what I said.” And I’ve learned through the many years to not dig myself in deeper by taking a stronger stance in defending what I’ve said. Like you, I apologize and find a different way to communicate my message.and that’s what you did. More people need to be like you, my dear. Kudos to you for the love and respect you showed your readers. Carry on…we need your design sense!

  • RedEllie says:

    Been reading here for five years, tho rarely read the Comments. Last night read it all and today’s new stuff. You know what? Almost All of it is helpful! Even the critical comments help because most people explained “Why” they don’t like knobs…catching pockets/harder to grip. Or don’t love the Sarah R sconces that might poke an eye out. Or the “Classic” faucet handles that make mixing water temps a little harder…(while looking so beautiful…)

    A recent kitchen makeover by The Grit & Polish used spray-painted cheap wood knobs. Since I was trying samples of knobs/handles in brass, ORB, matte black, and one polished nickel, I studied that green cabinet kitchen a while to think about it. Pretty? Yes. For me? Ummm….no. A couple years ago, The Inspired Room posted details of how She chose her handles & knobs as well as the “Why” on the finishes. It was the best I’ve ever read on the process. But that’s partly because it worked for me. And I liked her finished kitchen. So there is no one size fits all. But I could totally understand what Maria was saying about the knobs. Simple may be better, especially if all the choices are overwhelming.
    I read a lot of blogs on decor. I’ve bought hundreds of decorating magazines and books over the last 30 years. Some designers make more sense to me or I like their choices better. But the person I refer others to the most is Maria. She is unapologetically opinionated. She has the best commentary on how to choose granite or backsplash material I’ve ever read. She even recently covered the “black frames on windows” trend in such a way that it might keep someone from spending a ton of money on something that won’t make them happy down the road. And Exteriors? She nails it. Love her or don’t. Smile in agreement or shake your head so hard your brains rattle…she’s got some good stuff.

    (knobs on cabinet doors/handles on drawers…and even though brass is shiny and feels new, an orb that echos the drapery rods in the adjacent dining nook made the most sense for my small galley kitchen)

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Red, your comment totally made my day! And more often than not the comments posted by my readers make the post so much better! I’m so glad you took the time to comment and I appreciate everyone’s comments today! I’ll still continue to be bossy without apologizing for it but when I immediately get such a big reaction (which is rare) I know I didn’t spend enough time putting in at least SOME disclaimers to account for all 4 of my readers 🙂 That’s why I wrote this post today, I can link back to it next time and that’ll speed up my writing!! Maria

    • Lorri says:

      I so agree with this. I have only two design blogs that are “must reads” and THIS is one of them. While there are other blogs that are good for eye candy, my two faves are different in the sense that they TEACH and DISCUSS.

  • cheryl says:

    My post is now missing, but I did mention arthritis and it being difficult to use small knobs. And that changing drill holes is no big deal if you have painted cabinets. (forgot what else) Maria, I was NOT offended! I come here trying to understand color because I have a big job ahead. Since you’ve said you weren’t a decorator before (although I mostly think you do well), I just took issue with a few things you said. And didn’t mean to make you feel bad about it. I was thinking “exchange of ideas” or “constructive criticism” more than “this is someone’s blog and her opinion”. Perhaps even hoping that you could come up with a way for all pulls to not look like “big box store” stuff, which is what a decorator needs to try and do for me. My bad. Certainly did not mean to make you feel awful at all.

    Please take that whole thing as a learning experience … not about what not to write, but learning more as a decorator. The article “stepped out of color expertise” and gave decorating advice. And there’s a lot to learn, just as it took awhile to become a color expert (which you certainly did … in spades). And some people tried to help… at least that was my intention. I’m sorry if my post didn’t come across the way I meant it.

    I fall into the first category and can’t see the result in my head. Just know when it’s good because my mother was awesome (home AND gardens pictured in (and a cover) of several Historic Homes table books); and not a “decorator”, just an amazing natural talent. I sure miss her.

  • Weil Sharon says:

    I read that other post and was NOT insulted.

    I appreciate it when you say “if you’ve already done XXX, don’t read this” because, oh, I don’t want to know if there is already a bad decision in my house. I will see it every time I walk in the room. Every. Time.

    I’ve been following you for over a year and love your blog. After buying a brown sofa in 2014 (and no one stopped me – not our interior designer or the designer at the store that I’ve used for 10 years), I eventually figured out I screwed up. Buying a trendy color sofa after the trend was over. Sigh.

    Never again. I’m working on planning a Reno right now. All neutral kitchen. I even had a dream about the countertops last night! (Ariana Grande was there drinking tea, and there was a moot around the house with a dolphin living in it…???!!!)

    Point is, I love your blog and it’s been so helpful. You can’t make everyone happy all the time. Don’t make yourself crazy trying.
    I love that you express a solid opinion, most people are so wish-washy these days trying to keep the easily offended from being offended.

    See you soon in either TX or Atlanta – haven’t decided yet!

  • Joanna says:

    Maria, there are always going to be someone who takes issue with your viewpoint and/or wording. Some people are too easily offended and too vocal in their opinions. Put that behind you and tell me about that gorgeous yellow bathroom! Any idea of the source for the wallpaper?

  • Dunja says:

    Dear Maria, thank you for always daring to give clear advice and take a stand! This is why we read you, and thanks to you I realized in time that I shouldn’t choose two types of “interesting” finishes for the kitchen and that I didn’t need to “love” the white backsplash tile for it to be the right choice (although now, this is exactly why I do love it!). There will always be people who disagree with your suggestions, and sometimes for understandable reasons – design is a mix of practical needs as well as personal preference to some degree, after all. (This reminds me of the post where you wrote about preferring open kitchen shelving, for instance, and there were loads of comments about it being impractical due to gathering dust – again, a matter of preference.)

    However, for the readers who know you, there was nothing condescending about your tone and the intention was perfectly clear: it is much more difficult to make the wrong choice and end up with a cluttered look when choosing all knobs, vs. a combo or all pulls. For the novice, that is. You have never said that everyone has to have white subway tile in their kitchen. What you’ve said, is that white subway tile won’t end up being a mistake!! And thank you for that.

  • Whitney Joy says:

    I love reading your posts. I don’t think you were offensive. I’m a novice with an empty house waiting to be designed and decorated. 🙂
    Ironically, the previous owner installed all knobs in my kitchen and I didn’t notice until reading your post.

  • Marita Heberling says:

    Maria, I appreciate that you communicate with us in an honest way. Please don’t change because some people might be “offended” by solid design principles and your expert opinion. When advice gets watered-down or sugar-coated…it loses its value. Thanks for everything you share with us!

  • Lorri says:

    I didn’t actually hear the offensive tone that some did. However, away from this site, I sometimes read posts on a web site where novices ask each other for design help. Talk about being offended! I have realized from reading there that people are hypersensitive about their houses. 😉

    Thankfully, wounded feelings are less when it comes to design blogs, because readers expect a strong point-of-view.

    I’ve read here long enough to know that though it’s rare that I disagree with Maria, if I do disagree, she is very gracious about it. But I would also say that no one should come to a design blog without expecting to be presented with a strong opinion based on experience. Otherwise, what are we here for?

    I lean toward drawer pulls, but you better believe I will pull that post up again and pore over it when I’m building a kitchen. I don’t mind having my opinions challenged. Either I will learn something and change my opinion, or I will become more resolute in my original opinion just from thinking about it more.

    Don’t feel TOO badly, Maria. I once wrote a memo in a tongue-in-cheek “angry” tone to some fellow employees. I thought it was obvious I was serious, yet saying it in a joking manner, but it WAS NOT. Oh, man, it was horrible. I feel your pain.

  • Stephanie says:

    We all have our own unique personalities and ways of expressing ourselves. IMHO the only time to take offense is when the other person’s intention is to be offensive. Maria, when you share your design experiences and color expertise with us you are often passionate and sometimes direct. Thank you for being your knowledgeable, wonderful, authentic self with your readers.

  • Carol Nauman says:

    Didn’t take it that way at all!!

  • Arlene says:

    Oh my how sad when your blog is free filled with knowledge that people still complain. Gratitude is a wonderful attribute for all humans. Keep doing what you are doing Maria. You can’t attract all of them.

  • Michelle Ku says:

    Wow, so sorry to hear how people reacted to your hardware post. I’m a fairly seasoned professional and really didn’t agree with what you said but, I’d never beat you down for how you view whatever design situation. There are usually many, many correct answers to the design dilemma being posed and if you and your client are happy with the end result, that’s all that matters.

  • Sandy says:

    I wasn’t offended by the last post, but it did remind me of something I didn’t get around to sharing…My first thought was that (much as I love the vintage photo and its cabinet hinge and handle dance of geometry) Maria was trying to save us from something like Russell Lee’s “Modern Kitchen” (1939), I could only find it on Etsy at the moment:

    My second thought was: Maria is doing a great service we aren’t giving her credit for, over and above the design help, one she hasn’t mentioned. She’s doing a great service to our environment by helping to keep torn-out materials out of the landfills. For every home designed or remodeled to last, that’s a fabulous accomplishment. Thanks Maria!

    • Maria Killam says:

      Thanks Sandy and that photo was perfect 🙂 I love my readers so much! Maria

    • June says:


      WOW!!!!! Thanks for sharing the link to that kitchen cupboard photo. I’m a real novice, but looking at that kitchen hardware gave me a HUGE LAUGH!!! Incredible! But like you, I do appreciate the beautiful B&W vintage photography.

  • Gini says:

    Thanks for making your knowledge available to us, Maria. As a novice, I appreciate the straightforwardness of your blog. I enjoy your blog so much that I downloaded a couple of your ebooks-and while I still consider myself a novice-I’m now a novice armed with tools and budding confidence in my design abilities. I read your knob post (before you softened the language) and took no offense. Sometimes you just have to call it like you see it.

  • Kay says:

    Maria, you have strong opinions, based on your many years of experience, and you express them. That’s why I read your blog! You have helped me so much over the years, and it’s thanks to all your advice that I have a house I love.

    One thing that might be of interest to the nonprofessionals is the ability to mentally see how things are going to look. Apparently only 10% of people can do that. If you can, and if you have learned from Maria about undertones, you will be able to imagine how the choices you’re considering will look in your space. The first complete decorating project I ever undertook, my daughters bedroom, turned out exactly the way I had imagined it—to my great surprise. If you have that ability, decorating is much easier. But if you don’t, you have lots of company. As far as I know, the ability is innate, and cannot be taught. It’s also not infallible—especially with color—although you get better the more you use it.

  • Lori says:

    When I read your pulls/knobs post, I wasn’t exactly offended, but I was a little WORRIED that the kitchen I just installed (with both knobs and pulls) was “wrong.” I suspect that some of the negative responses you received came from a place of fear (that maybe we did it wrong) and possibly regret (that we know we did it wrong!). If we are following you, we are, at the very least, novices for whom a pretty environment is very important. And as we all well know, a beautiful, well-designed home is sometimes difficult to achieve – especially on a budget! But one thing that I’ve learned about you through the years is that you have our best interests at heart, even if the delivery sometimes comes across as strong or blunt. And truth be told, that is why I always come back to your blogs. You call things as you see them and most importantly, you’re always authentic. I never get around to reading most mass emails in my inbox, but I always go out of my way to read yours! So thank you for all you have done to educate ALL of us and keep doing you!

  • Christian P. says:

    Maria, I hate to see you apologize for being yourself. Your original post on hardware was exactly why I love your blog. Have you heard of Sally Hogshead and the How to Fascinate system she invented? It’s kind of like your undertone system, but for people. My guess is that you’re a Maverick Leader ( Irreverence is part of your nature. Embrace it and go with it.

  • Gery S. says:

    I like the saying “Take what you need or want and leave the rest.” Thank you for your great blog.

  • Hi Maria, gosh, I read your first post hot off the presses and didn’t hear any snarkiness at all.
    (I admit I rushed over to my kitchen to look at my hardware, and decided I did pretty well, but yes, I certainly could of just used more knobs on the uppers!) Thank you.
    But, how wonderful of you to write this new post clarifying a few things and telling us a little more about who your audience it.
    Thank you for who you are and how much you care about all of us!

  • Sarah says:

    I appreciate that you recognized how the post was received and took the time to reach out to your readers. Great communicators make sure that nothing gets in the way of the message.

    I wanted to share my experience with this hardware nightmare in my house. My house came with a kitchen full of 40 white ceramic 4″ pulls on dark oak cabinets and drawers – and it felt so chaotic! They were extremely well made custom cabinets that I did not want to paint or replace (fixed element) and I did not want to fill and re-drill 80 holes! So, to downplay the noise of the pulls I replaced them with new 4″ pulls with a dark oil rubbed bronze finish that matched rather than contrasted with the wood. Now the pulls recede and let other elements in the kitchen take the attention.

  • Fran W. says:

    Great post! I’m definitely in the second group, and I’ve learned so much from your blog and your workshop. I’ll always be grateful for the advice you provided and the mistakes you helped me avoid. You’re a gift to the design world in my book!

  • Maria, I love your post because you do have a clear opinion! I don’t always agree (OK maybe once I didn’t :-)) but I ALWAYS appreciate your honest take on everything and enjoy every post – including the last one. Thank you for generously sharing your creative knowledge with us!

  • Alison says:

    Maria – I have followed your blog for several years. Because of your can-do spirit and efforts to evolve as a person, colorist, designer, photographer, teacher, blogger and businesswoman – your approach, blog and website have become more professional, comprehensive and accessible. Part of your success seems due to your honesty about yourself and design. I have always welcomed your direct, candid communication. Occasionally, it’s seemed a little blunt, but that was OK, because (1) your readers are clear about what you think and (2) your readers know that your goal is to help us become knowledgeable, and to grow and share ideas, so we can learn and possibly make better, more informed decisions. Our choices may differ from yours, but that’s design. There isn’t one perfect way (though after mistakes, other ways seem like they would have been far better…). I appreciate your willingness to step back and redirect some of your comments, but I most appreciate your message with the personal, invaluable, usable and creative information that you share. We can take that in, then do what works best for our unique projects. Thank you.

  • Anne Wilbur says:

    Thanks for sharing your heart Maria. I am so grateful for what I’ve learned and continue to learn from your books and blog posts and online classes. I hope to take your class someday. Getting an eDesign from you was one of the best decisions I ever made and has helped immensely in the last 1.5 years of renovations. I have gone from novice to a homeowner with a decent eye in the past few years, and you are a big part of my learning! So thank you for sharing so much to help us all learn.

  • Maria, I love the sentence, “If I stop learning, I’d rather be dead”. It is soooo true. I once had a new designer sitting next to me in a seminar and she ask, how long had I been a designer? I told her 15 years. She said, you should know it all by now!!!! She shocked me, I told her, I would never know it all!!! Now in business twenty eight years, I still don’t know it all!!! I tell my clients I learn something everyday. I go to classes, markets, webinars and read magazines and books!!! In fact, I will see you in Corte Madera in April.., second time….

  • Dianne Chinery says:

    Wow. How gracious of you to write this post! Anyone who has been here a while knows that you want to bring happiness; and as you’ve mentioned before, that sometimes means ignoring things (whether they are posts that would cause discontent or a fixture you cannot do anything about right now).

  • Sylvia says:

    Hello Maria,
    I haven’t posted a comment in a long time, but I felt compelled today. Partly it was due to your sincerity, partly because so few people take responsibility when they unintentionally hurt or offend someone, and partly it was the way you spoke about mothers and what their underlying message is, however they might actually say it. Pulled some heart strings there… You took the time to explain and apologize over, well…knobs (I know it wasn’t really about the knobs). I respect you for doing it, not because I think it was necessary or that you need to change (it wasn’t, and you don’t) but because you felt a need to reach out to those who not only read and disagreed with your post, but who were somehow offended. It shows character and strength to recognize and admit when you might have done something better. I was lucky enough to find your blog, maybe 10 years ago now? It’s the only blog I read on an ongoing basis, not because I agree with everything you say or the way you say it, and yes, you can be bossy:) but because it resonates with me. It is exactly because you express your strong, precise, and well earned opinions that I find you refreshing and interesting. I find you quite brilliant in many ways, actually, and I have long admired the way you’ve grown your blog and your business. I can’t help but notice when things don’t match or look good, am genuinely disturbed by it, and you do indeed help me feel less crazy. I can’t help the way I see the world, I can only control how I respond to it. I think the way you respond, as you have demonstrated, is with consideration and class.

  • Lisa says:

    Maria – There was nothing wrong with the tone of your last post. You presented it as an option that you’re starting to see being used. You called the beginning of a new color trend six months before I started seeing it in the Home Design magazines, but now it’s everywhere. I’m betting you right about the knobs to. Big dominant pulls have been a trend for a long time. They might be on there way out. I put pulls on my drawers, but followed your advice and chose a finish the blends with the cabinets so they wouldn’t be too “bossy.” You tell your readers what trends you see. As an individual owner, I can decide for myself if I like the trend, (I hated Tuscan brown from the beginning.) but at least I’m making an informed decision. I love your blog – please keep calling them like you see them!

  • sandyc says:

    Maria, you definitely do not have infantile readers and you don’t adapt or coddle them nor do you need to. I do see this post and the one you referenced in your hardware post “Rules are for Amateurs, Exceptions are for Professionals” (which can sound a bit condescending to some of us until you read it) and perhaps several other posts being used as part of an informal teaching project (as a world-renowned color expert and professional designer, your teaching abilities are unparalleled, I think). Perhaps just a little box on your web page: “Recommended readings if you are new to my blog” and a list of those posts? I still hold, as I’ve stated before, that I find some point of value in every blog you post even if the subject matter is unrelated to anything in my life. It helps that I’m an eternal student so hopefully I won’t be dead for a long time, but eternal students must have eternal teachers and you are one in my books!

  • Norine says:

    I love how you write . . .I am an amateur who could be easily misled in the overwhelming world of choices. I am a teacher who knows sometimes you take your own knowledge for granted and it slips into the far recesses of your brain.. . and you need to renew your toolbox – with a reminder from a peer. (you for the pros who follow you). You serve and instruct all those who follow you.

    I am not in the kitchen re-do time of life right now, but I know where to get a great color consult – I have done that with you.

    I really appreciate that you took the time to write this post. Taking ownership of things that go “wrong” is a mature attitude, a life lesson, and a reminder for people of all ages (the reader groups).

  • Tamra says:


    It makes me sad to hear others thought your last post was negative. You are a fantastic teacher and I look to your posts as more of true guidance and mentoring. Even the best mentors upset mentees. Thank you for being so transparent and loving while you teach us newbies.

  • Bonnie Roetscher says:

    I am boggled by how anyone can misconstrue your wording as I find you to very succinct at all times. So there.

  • Hello Maria!

    I am somewhere between the new designer and the seasoned professional, and I love your descriptive writing! I don’t always agree with everything you say ( I ALWAYS recommend pulls for my cabinet clients, especially for drawers! ) but I love the way you authentically responded to the feedback! You are correct, I follow you for a multiple of reasons, the biggest being, I can’t EVER stop learning, even after 30 years of being in the design industry in some form. I can’t wait to have the opportunity to take your class, #1 on my wish list, and I have a plan for the future! Don’t ever lose your sparkle!

  • Angela says:

    I loved your post and was not offended in any way.

  • Becky says:

    Being offended is a choice. I choose not to be, so I always come away with great information, not great irritation! Thanks for carrying on – GIFTING us with free information! -… and not hiding under the bed, haha! ?❤

  • Barbara says:

    No worries here Maria, and no apologies necessary. Everyone should be allowed to have an opinion and a voice without others taking offense. We know that you truly want your blog to be helpful and educational, and it is! Design, like so many other things (art, music, fashion, food) is subjective. Not everyone likes the same thing. And aren’t we thankful for that?! How boring would it be if everything was the same, uuggg! So let’s all be mature and self confident enough to know our own tastes and not feel insulted by someone who likes or believes something different please.

  • Holly says:

    Well, I missed the post & all the drama, but I’ve never been offended by any of your blogposts! That was very nice of you to write this follow up post. I often feel bad for bloggers because people these days are sitting behind their keyboards with pitchforks!! With all that’s going on in the world, who knew that door hardware would create such an uproar. Let’s not forget that being kind, open minded and quick to forgive are great qualities that last a lifetime, perhaps longer than your home décor.

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