Three Granite Countertop Mistakes Everyone Makes

I see this mistake a lot in new kitchen designs. The minute your granite countertops are installed, something doesn’t look right but you can’t quite put your finger on it. It’s the most common mistake when choosing granite. Find out what it is and how to avoid making this mistake in your kitchen.

Here’s an email I received with this question:

Help, I don’t like my granite countertops!

“I have just installed this kitchen in my new build. We have been in the house one month. What can I do about this dreadful granite countertop? I can’t afford to change the tile and I actually like it. Please help me, I can’t sleep at night because I hate how it turned out.  My husband said, redo it and make yourself happy again. I am lost, can you give me some tips ASAP?  I sure wish I would have read your DO NOT mix patterns post before I made my purchases.”


So first, I love my readers husband. He knows that a happy wife is a happy life.

Terreeia would say the same thing. She knows that I would obsess and obsess and SHE would not rest, until the mistake (whatever it is) was fixed.

1. The most common mistake when choosing granite countertops

Unfortunately, this kind of mistake is easy to make when you’re making decisions with small samples. Because once you choose granite, you’ve maxed out your pattern quota for the kitchen.

A small 4″ x 4″ granite sample plunked on top of this tile in the kitchen shop probably looked totally harmless. 

NOW that it’s installed with the rest of the finishes, this kitchen looks like it has an old countertop with new, current greige tile floors. There is nothing we can do to change that except to paint or replace the countertops.

Read more: When Should You Rip Out Brand New Tile?

The least expensive option to fix this kitchen

You could paint the granite.    

And this might be a good idea for the interim. We all know how expensive a new build is, AND it’s rare that your old furniture looks good in a new house, so I might want to get my main rooms looking good first before I went ahead and replaced the countertop.

Of course the other argument for replacing it now is, her husband is on board with the idea. Better to get it done now than wait for new funds to be available down the road.

Plus renovating is messy. Always best to have it behind you for that reason as well!

Read more: How to Work with Granite Countertops: The Ultimate Guide

The more expensive fix? Replacing the countertop

This floor tile is not too heavy or trendy in my opinion. But there’s unfortunately no way to save both.

Here are three solid options she could try, and there are several more that would work as well.

Solid greige or green grey quartz

2. The second most common mistake: Not shopping with your samples

The second biggest mistake people make when they choose countertops is NOT shopping  with the floor tile, or the countertop sample, if they are looking for floor tile.

Your countertop should look happily married to the floor tile. And the only way to ensure that your kitchen is happiness is to bring that tile along.

Look at that kitchen again (above). If she had plunked even the 4″ x 4″ sample right on top of the tile, she would have seen right away that it wasn’t awesome yet.

3. The third most common mistake: Listening to the granite suppliers advice

I’m cringing as I write this, but when I was looking for examples, I came across this advice said many ways, written on different granite supplier websites. This was, in their minds, one of the biggest mistakes people make when choosing granite:

“Making the colour your priority: The colour of the countertops is important, but not as important as its quality. While you should think about what your kitchen will look like, you also need to think about how long it will last?”

What??

Don’t worry about the colour??? 

That is the WORST advice to listen to when renovating. 

That is because they have no idea how to help their customers with colour, all they care about is SELLING GRANITE.

So, while it seems tempting to listen to the person selling the product. They do not have the vision of your house in your head you do. Your designer does. 

Read more: Danger: Your Designer has Left the Building

Now that we’re here, there’s one more mistake I see all the time with granite countertops and that is:

For the most part, granite doesn’t look good with trendy, current, geometric tile. Even if it’s plain and white.

While granite might seem like the most up-to-date and current choice, marble or quartz is what we’re doing now. 

What else works with her existing floor? 

Colour.

If this kitchen had solid (or almost solid) countertops that related to the floor, her kitchen could almost be any colour at some point when it came time to plan a refresh.

Sergey Klotchov

Or blue:

HGTV

Nothing wrong with a pink backsplash, if it’s a colour you love:

Wren Kitchens

Or mint green:

House & Home

or mustard yellow:

Studio Shamshiri

And, I’ve said this before many times. It’s almost impossible to install hard finishes for a renovation or new build without making a mistake at some point.

Especially if you want to take a ‘risk’. Which happens A LOT.

You could take a risk and end up with a look you love, but that is rare. How we know that, is because so many people try it and fail with the amount of bad renovations and new builds on the market every day.

Over to you my lovelies. Are you living with a granite mistake? Or did you think (like a lot of people) that granite was the most natural upgrade (if you’ve never had stone countertops) and now wish it was quartz? I’d love to hear from you! Your comments help everyone!

Hope you have a great week!

PS. Our larger eDesign packages were sold out last week but they are back up and available for a limited time only.  See all the packages here.

Related posts:

Is Quartz Sexier than Granite?

Which Countertop Should I Choose? (What were they thinking?)

How to Avoid the 5 Most Common Kitchen Mistakes

Does Your Floor Tile have to Match your Countertop or Surround?

What Everyone Should Know About Porcelain Tile

 

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  1. IMO, none of the three items — countertop, cabinets, or floor tile — works together. At least on my monitor, the countertop and cabinets are browns — the floor tile is gray. Big mistake. I’m wondering if there isn’t a “paint your cabinets” solution that could tie it all together?

  2. I made a similar mistake and had to tear out the granite countertops and replaced with white granite after crying for 2 days. But was very happy afterwards with the new look. Learned my lesson.

  3. Yes, I wish I had quartz. I did hire a designer to help me – a firm that is well respected and voted top design firm each year! I cannot believe that she led me down the granite path…I almost made a switch last minute without her and now I wish I had…it would have been thousands more but once you’ve spent $10,000 on granite what is a few thousand more!

  4. I love granite. I love real stones – in my house or on my fingers / neck. I am a jewelry designer. Cant help it – just love stones. I understand that it will boss you around and limit colors, etc. But there shouldn’t be such an anti-granite movement, IMHO. We had to work around a terrible granite / travertine / busy backsplash / dreary cabinet color scenario when we moved – and the sellers recently redid the kitchen! They thought it was a selling point!! Ugh. We ended up working with the travertine floor, replacing counters/backsplash and painting the cabinets – at a huge cost. But we replaced the counters with a granite we liked better. I just could not embrace quartz. Happy with the outcome : )

  5. I LOVE my blue pearl granite and Chantilly lace white cabinets! My floor is a medium brown hardwood and my backsplash is white subway tile . I choose the granite because I LOVE it. Quartz never was in the running, there is nothing like real stone. I did my kitchen three years ago (all surfaces were new at that time) isn’t the beauty of a room in how it is put together, not what the latest trend is in materials????

    • I agree! I redid my kitchen in 2010 and still love it. I also have medium stained wood floors, white painted cabinets, white subway backsplash and a Bianco antico granite counter which has much white in the background. Although busy, everything else is calm and the counters are a nice contrast to all the white.

    • We installed a quartzite in our kitchen that has color and may be busy to others, but I LOVE it. Blues, grays, blacks, some warm colors, too. Followed Maria’s blog advice with white cabinets, white backsplash. Its gorgeous. I love real stone in the kitchen. Did neutral quartz in the bathrooms and laundry. The best adbice I received was to rest the samples. I took home quartz, granite, everything and put dots on them in a pattern, waited a few hours and washed with soap and water. Tomato.paste, turmeric paste, lemon juice, vinegars, blueberries, soy sauce, black sharpie marker, makeup, etc. I was surprised to see how poorly some quartz did.

  6. What a shame. I do like the floor with the cabinets, but the granite not only doesn’t match the flooring, the movement in the granite seems to run almost perpendicular to the floor. If I had to live with it, I might add some warmer area rugs that would relate to the granite.

  7. You’re absolutely right! I’m so glad I found your blog when we redid our kitchen and baths. I know I would have made mistakes with the counters, but I didn’t! We did white quartz that has a teeny fleck (barely noticeable) & black granite counters in the bathroom- that also appear to be the solid color. I went with the one pattern rule for the kitchen and it’s perfect!

  8. Great observation! A light, bright white quartz or marble with just a hint of veining or pattern (or completely solid monotone color) would look fabulous with those cabinets and floor. I’ve never been drawn to the “stormy” look of granite. Even the very pale granite slabs nearing white or ivory have too much pattern or “movement” for me. Just google “white granite” and you’ll see what I mean. It still reads bossy. I love Maria’s suggestions, however the gray countertops she suggested, while they match the floor, will date that client’s kitchen faster than the pretty pale complex cream or white quartz sample she also suggested.

    • A concrete coloured countertop with that floor can still be timeless because it works with so many colours. And yes a pale greige countertop (as shown in my suggestions) would be my first choice as well.

      • I see exactly why your suggesting the concrete gray now! As long as the entire room isn’t awash in gray (and the baseboards and crown molding aren’t painted gray like that unfortunate new build in your last blog post), the concrete gray adds a modern feel to the kitchen without being overpowering. Plus, if the client has stainless appliances, she can put nearly any accent color in her kitchen space! See, that’s why your the designer and I’m just a loyal follower to your methods. Thank you Maria!

  9. I replaced the corian countertops with a gorgeous granite that is a white background with gray, black and warm gray pattern. I love it! I got to see the big slabs before I bought it so I knew how big the “movement” was. I have no other pattern in the kitchen, and the floors are medium brown while the cabinets are painted navy. I like my stone to be the focus. If I had a tile floor, I would have gone with quartz most likely to avoid multiple and impossible to match patterns. For the original question, I’d say if she had chosen a tile with a fainter pattern and more of a greige color, it would be fine. The problem I see is just how blue toned the floor is compared to the countertop. Keep in mind that it’s very hard to find a granite that doesn’t have a bold pattern. There are a few granites that are creamy with golden veining, but I believe they are more on the expensive end. Or go for black! I don’t think the answer is never to use granite.

  10. This post is SO timely for me! I hate our granite as I have had it in the last 3 homes we’ve lived in. I do like the look of it against the creme cabinetry, but I really hate it against the dark island. It looks dated to me. Desperate to change it but terrified to make a mistake. Can I ask why everyone is so in love with quartz now Maria? I looked at some white with a grey vein countertop and it looked like plastic to me.

    • Because quartz IS plastic with quartz particles. I’ve lived with Corian (plastic) for too long to go this route again. Installed quartzite and couldn’t be happier – nothing like the real deal!

    • Quartz is a great option because nowadays there are so many options. I personally don’t like the fake/plastic-ey looking ones. I have a honed quartz countertop in a medium blue grey in my kitchen. It looks like concrete which I love but cheaper and more practical. It has very subtle white blotches if you will and because it’s random it doesn’t look contrived. I chose grey not because it’s been trendy but because it looks beautiful in my all white kitchen. A couple tips if anyone is considering honed quartz: (1) go to the suppler’s warehouse and pick out your slab as each slab has its own unique pattern; and (2) have either the slab supplier or your installer seal it BEFORE they install it. I wish someone had told me about the latter because the installer made some stains on the un-sealed quartz in the process of installing. Of course, quartz isn’t for everyone but I wouldn’t rule it out until one has seen all of the varieties they have now. And there are many quartz companies who offer different colors/patterns.

  11. Oh my !! Agree with her lovely husband, just get it right ! I have a husband with that attitude as well!! We built a new home 5 years ago and I’d choose the same kitchen elements again. White cabinets, white subway tile , and Quartzite called White Fantasy. Looks like marble without the worry-and brown wood flooring!
    So this is my second kitchen with white cabinets and white subway. I have found granite and tile places DO want to sell anything and everything to include in your kitchen!! They want all these complicated patterns all together!! Gahhhkk !!! (I’ve had some neighbors even say , I wish I had a less busy granite and backsplash!)
    Follow Maria’s advice, and you’ll be happy you did !! I have loved white for 40 years!!!

  12. I’m curious about the kitchen with the painted gold cabinets — isn’t that floor awfully pinky or is it just my monitor?
    And thank you for yet another interesting topic!

    PS we have black granite kitchen counters in a condo with an open plan and floor to ceiling windows. I fuss at that granite every day — every little speck or grain of dust shows up. So beware black…

    • I’ve had black granite kitchen countertops and now have black quartz. I will never again have a black countertop! In addition to showing dust, it shows every single water spot and drives me insane. I’m constantly wiping around the sink whenever water splashes. The salespeople all told me that granite and quartz wouldn’t show water spots and I mistakenly believed them. My next countertop will be white.

    • Sandy, you are asking about the mustard kitchen. If you look at the original photo, the floor does not look pink. The photo that Maria posted has been lightened up quite a bit and maybe the colour changed a bit as well when that was edited.
      Now I am thinking that I want a mustard kitchen! Don’t think it would be popular for many, but perfect for me.

  13. I wonder if the brown stained cabinets “forced” the decision for the brown granite? I love your colorful kitchen photos Maria, but in some cases, the home calls for wood stained cabinets or it could just be a homeowner’s personal preference. I’d love to see your ideas for current wood stained cabinets with wood floors. Some influencers are using high end wood cabinets, EHD has reclaimed beech at her Mountain home and it’s pretty and has quite a bit of movement, but these were custom build. Several influencers are using white oak with white oak floors. What’s your recommendation on lighter wood stain cabinets like birch, white oak, natural maple, alder and the floors that should go with them? Thanks for all your valuable lessons.

    • Yes! Maria help us with wood cabinets. The style of the door and any rules for flooring if you go with wood cabinets? I got scared was discouraged by our cabinet makers dated oak choices and went for white shaker cabinets because we put in medium tone brown (timeless right?!) hardwood floors. But family life with kids tells me wood could have been a good practical choice!

  14. We had a limited budget to renovate my mom’s house in order to sell. I was agonizing over countertops to look ok with the hideous tan tile and whether to paint the dated cabinets or what wall color would hide the ugliness. We finally decided to demo the floor and replace the tile with wood look planks, paint the cabinets Oxford White and the island Hale Navy, then install butcher block countertops from Ikea ourselves (which saved thousands). Could painted cabinets and butcher block work here?

  15. I agree! When a design choice is a soul destroyer, it is best replace it as quickly as possible. I would consider one
    solution first, ask your stone supplier to take a couple of large samples (the sink cutout) of your granite and change
    the finish, one to a honed finish and another to a leathered finish. The result will subdue the pattern and may be a
    workable solution.

    • I totally agree with your solution. I think the honed and leathered granites are beautiful! They are so much more subtle in appearance than the polished granites. I wish more designers were familiar with this option. The look of quartz is ok, but the fact that it doesn’t hold up under heat, and also stains and chips makes it a less viable option in the kitchen. It works better in bathrooms. In my area of the country, quartz is going out of style and the new countertop darling is quartzite.

  16. We went house shopping in our city. That horrid 90s granite was in most of the homes along with a ubiquitous color of brown carpeting. We ended up not buying because every house needed extensive updating.

  17. On our kitchen/house redo we upgraded to hardwood floors (Santos Mahogany) throughout first floor. They are the ‘busy’ in the kitchen. White cabs, white subway backsplash w/warm gray grout, Brazilian soapstone counters with the most gorgeous arched vein through the peninsula piece. Looks like soft lightening from the corner then curves down to up for the peninsula. Two other counters have a straight vein through it. Soft movement that doesn’t distract but is a piece of artwork. LOVE. IT. Highly recommend waxing vs mineral oil for soapstone. 👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻

  18. I’ve always been a huge of painted cabinetry and wood floors. Through the years I have enjoyed several different color schemes – and I’ve also painted floors to enhance my cabinets.
    The inconsistency in the finish selections is not a happy outcome, but not completely impossible to live with. Personally, i have more trouble with the floor as the stand out eyesore. Neither the style nor the color matches anything – it’s too contemporary for the cabinets. i don’t care for a hard cold surface under foot and the large grout spacers become a nasty maintenance issue. If the flooring was replaced with a lighter shade wood the kitchen would be lovely as well as compatible in style and color.

  19. Maria,
    I love the advice of “Don’t trust the experts!” or the salesman at Home Depot (or whatever supply center you are working with). in 2004 I wanted to install a custom hood fan into a new build and when I tried to source what I wanted at a home building center, the salesman told me what I wanted was overkill and no human ever needed a hood fan the size I was looking for. It wasn’t flooring or counter – but the same idea. Luckily – I knew what I wanted and stuck to my plan and ended up with the custom hood fan I wanted and loved the finished result. If would have forever regretted the result had I listened to the sales person. And lots of people are not confident or specific enough and end up with a bad result. Burn those words into your mind. LOL.

  20. I agree with those commenting who love natural stone. Great design MUST take function in to account. We just did a kitchen remodel with lower cabinets in SW Urbane Bronze and upper cabinets in Oyster. Floor is greige “wood” vinyl planks that look great with the cabinets and with the stainless steel appliances. I was torn because I do l like the look of a white or greige quartz countertop with my other surfaces, however I love to cook and couldn’t reconcile the fact that I can’t take something off the stove or out of the oven and set it right on a quartz countertop like I’ve done for 20 years with my previous granite. So a white granite won out and I couldn’t be happier. Still looks very modern and I won’t accidentally leave a burn mark on my expensive countertop. Now I just have to come up with some backsplash tiles…

  21. I have said for years granite is great for curling rocks and head stones in the graveyard. People laugh at me but it’s the truth. People think it’s prestigious but it’s not. I would have arborvitae long before granite. Yes I have lived in a rental that had ugly granite. Hated it.

  22. I didn’t see any mention of a backsplash. Wouldn’t that also have to be taken into consideration? I think there was a glimpse of a 4-in backsplash in her photo, but what if she wanted a full backsplash when/if re-doing her countertop? And paint color as well. So tricky trying to pull design together! (And that’s why good designers are worth their weight in gold!)

  23. I think that for people who doesn’t have an eye for color: get help BEFORE redoing or building kitchens/bathrooms. it can be as simple as putting a poll on Facebook or Instagram amongst your friends and ask them for HONEST opinions. If you have good friends: they will definitely tell you!

    Unfortunately for the lady whose pictures that was: the floor does not match the cabinets. The current cabinets DO match the counter top. Unfortunately both color combinations are a bit “2004” in style. But if she likes the brown cabinets and countertops: CHANGE THE FLOOR.

    Or: paint cabinets and get a new countertop and bring it all into 2021.
    BTW: Great article Maria!!!

  24. Such a timely article! My wife and I are building a home, and have just picked cabinetry. Wife is going with white cabinets in kitchen, with a contrasting island color–a dark brown.

    Our house is very open, and we planned to have wood floors, which will run throughout. What options do we have for floors if we went with white quartz countertops? Do floors have to relate to white?

    • Lou, search “maria killam timeless wood floors” and you should find blog posts Maria has made about hardwoods. She also has a hardwood floors category on the blog but it will bring up a LOT of posts.

    • I would look around on the internet and in design showrooms far and wide, do a ton of research about durability and cost, and bring home a large selection of samples. Some design showrooms will let you buy larger pieces of granite & quartz along with entire pieces of flooring such as wood plank, laminate plank and tile embossed to look like wood, which you can then return for full refund. I found with large samples, you sometimes have to pick through the open boxes and find the different grains of one design to really get an idea of how all the light and dark variations will look laying on the floor in your home. Large showrooms will have hundreds of ready to buy flooring boxes. There are always open boxes from which you can buy individual pieces. I spent nearly $100 on sample pieces and it was a pain in the rear to haul it all home and then return it. HOWEVER, I was amazed at how some of my early choices were so BAD, some worked so-so, and a delightful few gave me the exact direction I wanted to go. With that said, you could let Maria do all the dirty work and send a picture of what you currently have installed and let her send a few floor and countertop color selections by buying one of her interior color consultations. It may be worth it if you’re completely stuck at this point.

  25. Bought your ebooks before a new build years ago. So helpful. Helped me question the custom home “designer” in her suggestions. The only thing I caved on was wanting white cabinets. When we went to sell later, that was the one sticking point from buyers who wished the cabinets were white not wood. Fast forward, we downsized, gutted and remodeled an old 1940’s ranch. I love it! Your book helped my husband and I talk color intelligently with the painter. Choose all the finishes. It will soon be featured with our architect in a Denver magazine.

  26. Happy Wife, Happy Life…what a smart Hubs!
    I don’t care for any of these 3 finishes but the countertops are especially annoying!
    (The pastel pink design just needs my 1950’s Barbie by the sink!)

  27. I bought my home as a new build 3 years ago. The builder would only sell it to me if I agreed to accept the finishes and design choices chosen by the previous buyer who backed out. Construction hadn’t began yet so I bought the home unseen. Fortunately the previous buyer chose classic color combo like white shaker cabinets, dark grey granite and wood laminate floor. Only wish the backsplash is fully tiled with white tiles rather than a 6” backsplash. Nothing wrong with granite as long as the color palette is timeless.

  28. The painted granite looks amazing. In general, I prefer real stone and granite counters can be beautiful as long as they coordinate with the other finishes in the kitchen. Quartz is less bossy, but doesn’t add any warmth or interest to a space. My favorite is marble, or one of the new porcelain slab counters.

  29. Hi Maria,
    I read this post with great interest.
    Currently, I have granite. I have had the busy, warm colored tones for many years that match my brownish cabinets. This year I am planning to redo my kitchen, and I will have nothing to do with granite and will choose light cabinets. I’m going to go with quartz, because to me, it is calmer and elegant. I just feel you can do so much more with the color scheme, without being “stuck” with the “bossy” granite design.
    I love your blog and NEVER miss a post! Thanks.

  30. My best choice ever was to get honed black granite counters in our old stone cottage. It was soft, and luminous and a joy to work on.

  31. In my mind the best natural upgrade is a white marble and i have not changed my mind in 35 years. Any visit to an italian or french cafe – well it is everywhere. And surprisingly, over all these places i have lived and kitchens we have done, I have never had it. I have had the formica version and do in this new kitchen (euro gloss blue slab lowers and frosted white glass uppers). We mostly have starter homes so you make do!

  32. I don’t know why quartzite isn’t ever mentioned as an option (other than its cost). It is natural, more durable than granite and less precious than marble. While not as “white’ as marble or quartz, you can put a hot pan, straight from the oven on it without fear. That ties with looks for importance in any kitchen I want to have. It is natural, beautiful, and while slightly warm toned, not busy or bossy like granite. It is my dream surface.

  33. Hi Maria,
    I think it would be interesting to pursue the question of kitchen cabinets.
    For instance, if you opt for white or cream colored cabinets, should you go plain or would it be dated or too busy to get a glaze painted on in the crevices of the cabinets? I’m referring to a cabinet that is a raised panel design. If they were cream, could be latte or if they were white, could be light gray. I’ve seen pictures of beautiful kitchens that have the glaze and they looked gorgeous, but then again, I’ve seen pictures where the kitchen looked too busy. What are your thoughts on this matter?

      • Athena Nicolaides

        Hi Maria! I love your blog and just finished reading one of your books. I have a similar question to Kathleen but it pertains to wood-look tile. We have to put wood-look tile in our kitchen because hardwood just isn’t a practical solution for us (kids, older dogs etc.) We are about to start a kitchen renovation and chose granite as our countertop. It’s called Persa Avorio and it has a mix of white/cream/gray and I’m putting in a solid backplash. I found a wood-look tile that is a really light warm gray color like whitewashed wood, with a subtle wood grain pattern on it. My husband prefers another tile that has a distressed pattern to it but picks up colors of the granite and is a bit darker. We did our homework and put the tiles up to the granite etc. and both tiles go color-wise. Does a distressed pattern on wood-look tile count as a pattern? I’m thinking you will say yes, but I’d like to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much Maria!

  34. I sell flooring and fortunately my showroom has dozens of flooring styles installed on the floor. Some of them have a lot of shade variation. One of my customers showed me her granite countertops as she was looking at a floor with loads of variation. She asked me what I thought of the 2 together. I told her “let me see if I can tell you what I’m thinking”, “If the granite was your shirt would that floor be your pants” She immediately got it and looked for a more even toned floor.
    Using a clothing example is something most customers have way more experience with. This may not have worked on someone from a different background.