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Colour in Tiles

Vancouver Interior Designer: What Do Ruffles and Backsplash Tile Have in Common?

By 08/24/2011January 28th, 201723 Comments
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Yesterday, when my on-line client Lori from Seattle got on the phone with me for an exterior and interior consultation (exterior below) she said, “I might have to change my backsplash because of your video blog this morning.”

Before I show it to you, here’s the exterior (above). We tweaked the brown to more of a gray-brown to tie in even better with the roof. We agreed that it looks better coordinated with the roof instead of going lighter. We then chose two colours for her to try to coordinate with the stone that would provide less contrast.  The current stucco (as you can see) is too light and chops up the house too much.

First question was about her existing hardwood floor. She’s going to take it through the rest of her house (it’s currently in her family room and kitchen). However, now is the time to take it all out and replace it with the right colour if I thought there was a better one than what she had.  I declared it perfect.

Lori has a great eye for design. She wanted some help with the design and finishes for her new master bathroom as well as the colours in her house. She felt they were too dark and wanted a fresher look.

When I saw this photo of her backsplash and granite I thought – beautiful! She found the granite first to coordinate with her fabulous orange range and then installed the backsplash to go with it. She wanted it to look like it was an old stone wall that had been there forever.

The granite and backsplash will continue on this side of the kitchen (the bulkhead is coming out) and the stone backsplash will continue all the way around on the walls as well.

Then I saw this close-up (which is exactly what I was talking about in yesterday’s video blog-patterned tile and patterned stone—very hard to coordinate) and Lori said, “It’s done on this side of the kitchen but not on the other side yet, should I change the backsplash to coordinate better?” And this is what I asked her:

1) Did this bother you before my post this morning?


2) How long will you live in this house?


3) Does it bother you now?


Then my advice was to keep it.

It’s kind of like this: Recently my stylist Angie at You Look Fab, posted about how she is “over ruffles.” When I read that, I thought about all the clothes with ruffles – the ones I own, which she selected with me — and I knew that I wanted to be as hip and current as her in that moment. I wondered if I should be “over ruffles” as well in my own wardrobe?

But then I decided, I’m not over ruffles. I like them, they suit me and I am not in the fashion business so I would not get tired of them remotely as fast as she would.

Just like the business of colour trends and design. Which I live, breathe, and eat. Every single day.

So then you should not be surprised when I, walking into yet another house with badly coordinated backsplash tile and granite, would scream, “Subway tile – Quick! And DO NOT STRAY from this advice!”

So, my lovelies, there you go. Just in case you thought I was just a one trick pony and couldn’t see past subway tile. . . here is a perfect example of what I just said NOT TO DO, and now I’m saying DO IT.

The lesson here is. . . context is everything. And it works really well if you know the rules first.

Then, you can break them. Just like we did here.

Related posts:

Which Backsplash Tile Goes with Granite
The Best Tile Floor for Your White Kitchen
A “Something’s Gotta Give” Kitchen Cabinet Dilemma

Download my eBook, It’s All in the Undertones. If you have a computer, you can download my book!

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  • Ashley @ A {Blonde's} DIY Life says:

    Love it! Rules are there to be followed and broken at your own risk! I mean if you love something for yourself, who is to tell you otherwise! Great advice!

  • Jil Sonia McDonald - Interior Designer says:

    I can hear a collective sigh from all over the universe. 🙂

  • Bean bag chairs says:

    The best rule is "do as your mind says". Afterall it is you who is going to use the space.

  • Cherri @ SmartyPantalons says:

    Context is right. It's not so much about "breaking the rules" as it is about context, which is about being smart with resources. It doesn't make sense to expend resources to re-do tile someone is perfectly happy with in their own home.

  • says:

    See, those questions you asked your worried client is why I like you so much. You're client rather that rule centered.


  • kelly@refresheddesigns. says:

    Very good advice. It is easy for us as designers to get caught up in the rules because we live and breathe it. Thanks for giving pause to remind us to think like a client.

  • Donna Frasca ♋ says:

    What's that they say, “different strokes for different folks?” While I find it very unsettling, someone else may love it. Not everyone likes the same things or follows the norm.

    I had a client with a 6,000 sq. ft home that wanted one color beige for the ENTIRE home and a purple kitchen. It wrenched my stomach but she was happy as a clam.

  • First, let me day that I am so in love with that house I could die! I really agree with this post, and so well said! To me, subway tiles are like ruffles to Angie. They are so everywhere that I wouldn't do them myself. (unless it was the absolute perfect choice for my kitchen). As you said, context is everything. I think the choices your client made are perfect for the feel of her house. Did I mention your blog is the best??:)

  • Linda Pakravan says:

    Early on in my design life, a carpenter taught me a valuable lesson: I was obsessing over a minor detail with a scotia molding. He took me aside and asked me, "at the end of the day when you are standing in your own kitchen, can you see this?" and the client is happy, right? Right.

  • BestofDesign says:

    For some reason your post really lifted me up! I think as a designer, I often walk in to a new client feeling I have to "solve the problem". I find sooo many times that clients intuitively know the answer they just need a good sounding board —in the end they are still happy with my "services" even if we don't change things! Love your blog, Maria!

  • unifiedspace says:

    Great post with excellent examples and all so true! BTW I am normally happy with my wardrobe until I venture into town and see new stock – sometimes its better not to see too many choices!

  • Sjn says:

    be your own person and fill your home with what you love. The world would be a terribly boring place if we all followed the same rules.

  • NewLightRedesign says:

    Love your practical advice. My friend has a purple accent wall in her home that no one likes but her. She absolutely loves it, has no plans to move so I told her why would she even think of changing it if she loves it so much.

  • Barbara Bussey {The Treasured Home} says:

    Thank goodness for the rule-breakers of the world!

    Lori's home is going to be even lovelier! I hope you'll share pictures!

  • Lazy Gardens says:

    What keeps the backsplash well away from overdone territory?

    The counter and backsplash have color, scale, and texture in common:

    Backsplash is in warm tones, complementing the counter nicely. If it were yellowish or greenish or greyish .. we'd be saying "ish, what was she thinking?"

    The granite is one that has a squared fracture veining, not the swirly kind or the "raisins in a pudding" effect.

    The backsplash stone is flat, square, and fairly large. The color blocks in the backsplash are the same size and shape as some of the chunks of color in the granite.

    The stippling of holes in the travertine(?) reinforcing the dark stippling of color in the granite.

  • Anonymous says:


    I love seeing your work with your real clients. Great looking house–I put the photo of the outside in my idea file.

    I must confess that I'm also over subway tile. To me it is a good idea that has been over used.


  • Christina Rodriguez says:

    Love to break the rules! But love subway tile as well! Make sure when you do use subway tile, the installer knows how to do it. And don't take their word for it, make them show you!

  • Anonymous says:

    Good post Maria. Whew.

  • Vickie H. says:

    This is another excellent post. The more I follow you, read your advice, look at your photos….the BETTER I like you…I mean, I have liked you from the beginning, but you keep it so real…I REALLY like you.

  • Anonymous says:

    Pretty insightful. Thanks!

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  • Donna says:

    Maria, Thank you for giving us permission to do what we love! I'm not over ruffles either. :o) The comparison on how to respond to the latest fashion trend or decorating style is very helpful.

    That's one thing I admire about you as an interior designer –your advice is realistic…not idealistic.

    Excellent post!


  • Connie @ Connie Nikiforoff Designs says:

    I just read this older post. Oh my! The backsplash and countertop "fighting" a little is exactly what my neighbors have! Money was no object for them so they have a very patterned, high end granite countertop, rough stone backsplash and a different type of yet another pattern ceramic tile floor in their kitchen. Every part is beautiful but it doesn't work together! Waaaaay too much "pattern". I wish they would have asked me for a consult before choosing. Oh well…as you told your client: If you like it, then leave it. 🙂

  • Fran says:

    Well! I am so surprised! Since reading your blog and newletters I have been feeling slightly bad about my EXACT! (at least in looks) granite AND backsplash installed in August 2011. This was my kitchen to do and my husband did a more DIY at the beach. We picked most of our own finishes with a few consults with each other and specialty stores.
    We fell in love even more with the granite when it was installed and the next day came the tile. Once the tile was installed , HE said it detracted from the granite! I think the backsplash is neutral and is similar to the granite and like a pair of khakis or jeans. We have clear maple cabinets with a finish that shouldn’t yellow much and light oak floors that have aged some. We just fitted in more of the same oak where needed for the new kitchen.
    i had a color consultant come in to help me with the paint to help highlight the cabinets. Kelly Bernier Designs helped to choose BM shaker gray and adagio for the adjoining family room. She took your class!
    Anyway I am happy, but even more so today after your post!

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