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Vancouver Interior Designer: Which Flooring is the Best for Your Kitchen? Tile or Hardwood

By 09/03/2011January 28th, 201752 Comments

Every time I consult with a client on colour for a new kitchen floor, I always steer them to hardwood over tile, cork, marmoleum or vinyl. Why? Because hardwood is like jeans, it pretty much goes with all colours.

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There’s nothing neutral about any of the other flooring choices. So, if you choose an orangey cork floor to tie in with the rest of the oak flooring in your house (for example) you now have an orange floor in your kitchen, and that becomes a “fixed” colour that you must consider as part of your colour scheme.

As I mentioned in this post, the days of defining each space with a different flooring choice is over. In my mom’s carriage house, I specified the hardwood flooring to go throughout the kitchen, master bath and powder room. It makes the space feel even more spacious and is totally timeless.


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This week I consulted with a couple who had couriered three marmoleum samples to my home prior to our call. Light gray, medium gray and charcoal. Their countertops were Uba Tuba granite which is primarily green. My immediate advice was to eliminate the marmoleum from consideration and take their hardwood flooring through. And here is my rationale for why:

1. The gray flooring in no way relates to the granite (which was already installed).

2. With a gray floor this kitchen will always say “installed during the gray trend.”

3. There is not a stitch of gray anywhere else in their home (nor were they interested in adding any).

There really is nothing more beautiful than a white-on white kitchen (below)! Why mess around with countertopsbacksplashes and flooring in a bunch of different colours and undertones? The chances of them all going together perfectly are so slim it’s just too much effort only to be annoyed in the end when it doesn’t turn out quite the way you envisioned.

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I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want something like that to bother me every time I walked into my brand new, (not to mention) expensive kitchen. I would want my kitchen to be timeless, way beyond the shelf life of a 10 year trend cycle.

What’s my second choice if hardwood is not an option for your kitchen? There is no simple answer here, just make sure whatever you choose that it works with the era of the rest of your house, especially if you don’t have any plans to coordinate the rest of your home to the trendy colours you’ve just selected for your kitchen.

Which flooring is in your kitchen?

Related posts:

The Colour of Wood vs. Wall Colour: How Important is it Really?

Which Hardwood Floor is the Most Timeless?

The Best Tile Floor for Your White Kitchen

Five Steps to Selecting the Colour for Your Kitchen

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

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me.

To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!

If you would like to learn to how choose the right colours for your home or for your clients, become a True Colour Expert.

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52 Comments

  • Divine Theatre says:

    We have wood. I love the durability but not a fan of the colors in this builder's home. Orangey builder's oak as far as the eye can see! Oh well. It was a good price. We will change it as we go. For now we have wool oriental runners on each side of the island…covers the orange fairly well!
    We had a tile floor in our past home. Every time my husband dropped the mayonnaise jar, or a dish, etc. the floor cracked. Not pretty.

  • Anonymous says:

    I once had a dishwasher incident that makes me very skittish about wood floors in a kitchen!

    If I was changing my kitchen floor, I'd use those wonderful Stonepeak ceramic tiles that look like wood.

  • Catherine @ peace love sweater says:

    Agreed! We have beautiful hand scraped Oak in our entire main floor and kitchen. I love the look and the continuity it brings to our home. I have had water damage twice in four years due to a faulty fridge – yikes! Thankfully the entire floor did not have to be ripped up either time. I still would choose wood in if I had it to do over again – I just can't imagine any other flooring that would look as good. I will be installing a water sensor behind my fridge in the next few weeks.

  • Annie says:

    We have american walnut through the entire home minus the kids rooms and bathrooms. I LOVE IT and plan to do it in our next home as well.

  • Katy says:

    I agree, but more because tile sucks so bad. I hate tile. It dates quickly, the grout stains like h*ll, and it's monstrous to replace.

    My second choice is vinyl, but I like those big squares that you can make a checkerboard with…black and white or a color +white…

  • Kori Donahue says:

    Definitely hardwood! Have a great weekend! Hope you can enter my new giveaway!!!

    http://www.blondeepisodes.com/2011/09/great-news-its-back-to-school-giveaway.html

    Kori xoxo

  • Anonymous says:

    I think it all depends on the house. Putting hardwoods in a kitchen where the rest of the house has stone floors just doesn't work for me.

    And while the all white kitchen may be safe it is also pretty boring. Again, so much depends on what else is going on in the house. An all white kitchen in a rustic Colorado house, for example, just doesn't work for me.

  • Diane Stewart says:

    I think hardwood goes with more colors if it's a medium brown with no discernable undertones. Most people I know still have the dreaded orange oak floors and they're definitly a bossy color. And to add to that, the oak cabinets are a slightly different tone. In that case, I think wall colors work best when they go with the warm tones in the wood, sort of like camouflage. Better to go with it, than try to fight it.

  • Jennifer says:

    Maria, we are doing the pure white tile in 24 x 24 with EPOXY white grout since we live in a wet area and can't do hardwood. So far it looks wonderful (and of course we're taking it throughout the whole first floor!)

    Epoxy Grout doesn't stain, although it costs more!!!

    I LOVE WHITE FLOORS!!!

  • A-L, says:

    We have wood floors everywhere except in the bathroom. Unfortunately, though, the wood in the kitchen and breakfast room is different from the wood in the rest of the house. But it's not enough of an issue for us to change it. And as Maria said, I don't even have to think about the flooring when picking out colors to use in the rest of the room, because the floor is just pretty neutral.

    I am wondering about what to do in the bathroom though. We're thinking about renovating, and like the look of a white/ivory river pebble. But since our house if more of a Craftsman bungalow, don't know if that goes with the "nature-y" aspect of a Craftsman, or if it'd be better to do white hex tiles or something similar.

  • Maria Killam says:

    Hi Jennifer,
    Epoxy Grout! Wow that solves the issues of not been able to use white tile in the kitchen because the grout gets to grungy. Anyone else lived with it for a while? Great tip thanks!
    Maria

  • mrsben says:

    I totally agree with your 'rationale' and opinion on a 'white-on-white kitchen', however
    must admit I feel other factors like life style and practicality should be taken into consideration when choosing flooring for this particular space. ie: Jennifer's comment.

    To answer your question, I currently have ceramic tile and am toying with the idea of replacing it with engineered hardwood, but am still not quite completely sold reason being; it is 31 years old and has proven to withstand the test of time. (Children, Grandchildren, Pets, Climate …the list goes on.) 🙂
    -Brenda-

  • Anonymous says:

    Maria, I've had epoxy grout for 2+ years and it still looks like the day it was installed. I can vouch for the fact that both red wine and cooking oil just wipe up.

  • Anonymous says:

    Cork comes in many colors other than orange, is softer underfoot, and resists water better than wood.

  • Barbara says:

    Hi… I am not understanding why the hardwood is considered "neutral" a s we have solid teak parquet (REAL teak that is no longer available)and I find it extremely bossy!! The original stain was a very reddish orange undertone and our walls went with a color that LOOKED white but it was a very very whited out orange tone……… so now the floors are refinished w/ a natural clear finish but still have a burnt sienna type undertone and believe me NOT everything goes with it. We have not painted or anything yet…. no fabrics picked..etc ..been here 30 years and the floor won't be leaving so we need to work with it but believe me it dominates…. (btw while it is beautiful I did NOT pick it out and did not want parquet…) wish you were here in san diego 🙂

  • HMB says:

    Oh I SO enjoyed that post on kitchen floors- if only I could have afforded hardwood floors in my place instead of vinyl planks that reak of fake-ness (and have now faded in the space by the ceiling to floor windows!!!)

  • The Devoted Classicist says:

    It really depends on the adjacent flooring, but cork would be high on the list in this case where wood is not an option.

  • Jennifer says:

    Thank YOU for convincing me that I don't want a pattern stone like travertine with my carrara marble countertops in my white kitchen!

  • Anonymous says:

    Hello all I replaced my old grout with epoxy and used epoxy as tile glue and in kitchen with crossville porcelain tile it s been 9 years and it looks great a tile man from california said that what they use out west as it doesn't crack during earthquakes!!!! And since that house is only 40 minutes from Epi center of east coast earth quake in Virginia USA I'd say it works fabulously but it is really expensive!

  • Loretta Fontaine (APPLESandRUBIES) says:

    Maria– Sadly, it's an 80's vinyl with pink and blue diamond accents. I'm wondering if I can just paint over the pink and blue for a quick fix…

    Loretta

  • Loretta Fontaine (APPLESandRUBIES) says:

    Maria– …on epoxy grout – I used black epoxy grout for a black granite tile countertop I made years ago in my previous house. Worked great and non-porous. So easy to clean!

    Loretta

  • Heather @ newhouse, newhome, new life says:

    What do I have on my kitchen floor? Horrible and I do mean horrible red brick patterned vinyl flooring from the 80's – it's going in the winter along with the dark oak cabinetry (painting it out to a white). Unfortunately even though there is wood flooring in part of the kitchen, there is an addition that just has plywood underneath. We wont' be replacing the existing pegged wood floor (laid using no nails, just wooden pegs!), now will we be able to match the existing floor. So I will be putting in a ceramic of some sort – probably an off-white. But just love, love, love an all white kitchen with a dark wood floor.

  • Shawna says:

    I just did my kitchen and put in a vinyl floor because I didn't want to worry about water/spills. I could not carry the laminate from the rest of the house into the kitchen since they no longer make it and redoing the entire house in hardwood would be too expensive. The vinyl I chose looks like 12×24 dark gray/black slate and relates perfectly to the slate look laminate counter. The cabinets are white with a white subway tile backsplash and the island counter is the 180fx marble look laminate. So now all the fixed elements are basically black and white and the wall colour can be whatever I want it to be (currently blue).

  • Tricia says:

    I am a fan of hardwood for another reason. It is so much easier on the legs than tile. I am probably older than most of your commentors so they have not experienced what a non-give floor can do when standing on it for any length of time.

    • Maggie Setler says:

      Tricia,
      I agree!! I had tile in another house and my back and legs hurt when I spent a lot of time in the kitchen (holidays).
      I’ve had a wood floor in this kitchen for 12 years –I love it.
      I’ve not had any problems with water or wear.
      Maggie

  • Andrea C says:

    Just wondering your thoughts on hardwood floor patterns. I have birch yellow toned hardwood on first floor and will be changing kitchen floors to hardwood. Should I get kitchen floor installed in standard plank installation or herringbone? Plan is to install unfinished and get current floors refinished. Medium brown is color planned..Thanks so much.

  • Anonymous says:

    I'd love to have wood in my kitchen. However, I can be a sloppy cooker at times and it's much easier to mop floors and keep the vinyl floors clean. I also have a dog and we keep his bowl in the kitchen. So adding food and water dripping on the floor from the bowls makes wood an unlikely alternative for me.

    Maria, I read your other posts about using white in dark spaces. Based on those posts, white is not an alternative for me though I would love a white kitchen. We receive very little light and the white we currently have on the wall when we purchased the house has a definite gray tinge to it.

  • Erin @ The Impatient Gardener says:

    I agree entirely with using wood in the kitchen and continuing it throughout your home, but to me that's only applicable in a handful of scenarios, mostly likely in the case of a whole-house remodel or new build.

    For instance, in my kitchen (which you may recall from a consultation), we had to do something incredibly durable for the flooring because it also serves as the main entrance to the house (i.e. a makeshift mudroom) and therefore sees 275 pounds of dogs trudging in and out multiple times a day. And continuing the flooring that runs throughout the rest of the home probably wouldn't work as it is 72 years old and matching would be difficult if not impossible.

    I have to think I'm not the only one with a problem like that.

    Interestingly enough, I'm just watching a Sarah 101 episode in which she's redoing a kitchen and put in a Marmoleum checkerboard floor in blue, gray and gold with an equally colorful glass blacksplash. Sometimes I wonder if we get so caught up in creating a timeless space that we miss out on having a "fun" space. That said, I still think and all-white kitchen is as close to perfection as it gets.

  • Stari says:

    Do you consider wood counter tops to be a neutral?

    Shaunie
    [email protected]

  • Barbara Bussey {The Treasured Home} says:

    We did a remodel 5 years ago and we replaced a maple floor that continued to yellow, so I try to never say "always". We replaced it with travertine tile which is pretty when it's just been cleaned. I think that the trick is to never let dirty people or pets in the home! 🙂

  • Kellie says:

    This was a timely post for me. Ten years ago we built our house with beautiful blonde maple cabinets (an upgrade) and the standard builder hardwood floors (not an upgrade). We told them not to stain the hardwood which was probably a mistake. The clear coat made it very orange. At first my kitchen wasn't so bad but sadly the blonde cabinets yellowed significantly over time. My kitchen is so yellowy-orange that now I was thinking of replace the floor with tile. The only thing I did right was that the counter tops are a grey tone with bit of brown and green in them (I was shockingly ahead of the grey trend). Should I refinish the floors with a different stain? Would a paint color somehow balance it all out? Any comments would be most appreciated.

  • Beth says:

    I like tile in the kitchen, the larger the better, with extremely narrow grout lines.

    And now I'm a big fan of porcelain tile that looks like wood – it now comes in extra wide planks. We have it in our exterior entryway and I used it in several places in a showroom – white (in a Schonbek "crystal room"), dark charcoal and walnut in part of a fake condo. When told it's wood, everyone touches it b/c they don't believe it.

    Just one example – http://www.mosaictileco.com/ They've used more than one color but I think there's enough natural variation in just one. The super-fine grout lines aren't noticeable.

  • han smith says:

    Food might be prepared here, with guests conversing using the host ahead of and immediately after meals, when the sink may also serve as a bar sink for the serving of cocktails.

  • mustang says:

    My entire house has orangy-pine-looking laminate. I wish I could replace every square inch of it. Since that's not possible, I would love to put down a hard wood floor in the kitchen; but how to match it to the existing laminate in the rest of the house would be a challenge. My kitchen opens up to the dining room and the entry hall, so it would definitely have to tie in in some way. Thoughts?

  • Maria Killam says:

    If you can't match it then you can't have hardwood floors in your kitchen.
    Maria

  • Anonymous says:

    There are a lot of other options than hardwood if you are looking for a flooring that works a little harder for you in the kitchen. Cork is not always orange there are lots of different variations. And there are a myriad of beautiful porcelain tiles out there that look like wood, or any other traditional flooring material.

  • susan says:

    When in doubt I specify cork..it’s great for kitchens
    and like anonymous says it comes in myriad of colors.
    So, don’t match your laminate,but stay in general color “tones” and it will look beautiful! More affordable than hardwood.

  • Ben Roath says:

    hello maria,
    just found your site and am really liking your advice and opinions. you are addressing issues that i have been questioning and have found no good answers to – until now.
    i am faced with a dilemma. i remodeled my kitchen and just had a granite counter installed. i am very unhappy with the choice. i deliberated very carefully over the granite selection only to discover how poor it looks “in my home”. at this point i have no option but to live with the choice i made.
    i will be painting the walls and adding a new floor in the kitchen which will help to bring out the better colors of the granite, but i am skeptical. i know that i can somewhat “improve” the appearance of the granite with these measures, yet i would love to have it removed and replaced it with something i can be happy with. for now this is not possible due to the cost. i have even considered covering it with another material, but have no ideas.
    the granite is imperial white and the cabinets are ikea in cherry wood, shaker style doors. i plan to paint the walls in Behr antique white and use Tilecrest porcelain
    tile, the silk road in white. the new paint and flooring will serve as a backdrop to the cabinets, thereby enhancing their appearance. the granite top will have no other patterns or colors to compete against and will also standout with what little beauty it has.
    so, i am saying i can “doctor” the current situation. i will see how much of an improvement it actually makes.
    thank you for reading my letter. it helps to have a professional such as yourself to “vent” to. do you have any input to offer, i’l even accept sympathy under the circumstances.
    with regards, ben roath.

  • Diane G. says:

    In our former 1950’s ranchburger, down here in Texas, I had beautiful hardwoods, throughout most of the house. When redoing the kitchen, I could not install wood due to a subfloor situation. After agonizing, I chose vinyl wood planking. It abutted the wood and NO one could ever tell that it wasn’t wood. It served my purpose in a busy kitchen with boys and dogs. I actually really liked it!

    • Pat C. says:

      Diane,

      I am also looking at vinyl wood plank products for my kitchen. But since I have fairly narrow plank wood flooring throughout the rest of my condo, it’s hard to find the same width in vinyl planks. Could you tell me where you found your vinyl plank product? I appreciate your help.

      PC

  • Jolene says:

    Thanks for this post Maria! I keep stumbling on your website and really enjoy it.
    The reason I’m here today was because I had a second of regret regarding my flooring choice. My dishwasher line failed and made an absolute mess. Now my original hardwood throughout my 1930’s edmonton bungalow is being replaced. I went with a handscraped oak in a darker grey brown. It’s absolutely gorgeous. I was having a little bit of doubt about hardwood in the kitchen but after reading your post – I’m over it! Thanks again!

  • jane says:

    Hi
    My entire house (1880’s) is softwood, Douglas fir. It is really beat up in the kitchen and I need to replace it with something that can be cleaned. It can’t be refinished. It’s too worn. Is marmoleum tile in a checkerboard pattern really a mistake? I’m looking for timeless but I will never be able to match the patina’s of the wood in the rest of the house.Please advise.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Choose one of the colours to coordinate with the existing wood and then go lighter or darker to co-ordinate with the countertops or cabinet colour. I think that’s a great idea. Maria

  • Sylvain says:

    Hi,
    loving your articles, we’re redoing our kitchen in 4 weeks time. We have natural birch hardwood floor thoughtout the house except for the kitchen. The plan is to sand/revarnish the existing (oranges) hardwood, leaving it in natural color. And put prefinished matching hardwood floor in the kitchen.

    The kitchen will be with white shaker cabs and we really want leathered absolute black countertop. Will it look odd with the natural/whitish floor? I’m thinking this is still better than tiles anyway. I don’t want to stain or have dark floors, but that is usually the kind of floor with this type of kitchen.

    thanks!

  • Christina Duncan says:

    Choosing a wood floor for the kitchen is risky. I started with a kitchen/family room that was 1950’s knotty pine (and looked 60 years old!) with a refrigerator and stove top and dishwasher to match (horrors) and turned it into something pretty and livable — and without replacing the cabinets (although it took a lot of labor to get them as beautiful as they are now). I’ll post B&A’s if anyone is interested. The one thing I will comment on right now is this: Choosing the floor was so difficult. I visited at least 30 stores and talked with salesmen until I was about to scream. But what one wonderful salesman told me was that you can spill a little water now and then on these modern wood floors and it will be okay, but on about the 30th spill the water will start making “inroads” into the under layers and then your troubles begin. Since I care for my elderly mom and am always dropping little plops of this liquid and that carrying things back to her room I chose a thick sheet vinyl flooring with no “grout” lines, and it turned out so nice. Everyone asks about where to get it and I love cleaning it with a mop and water only. It was the best decision I made. The “solid” pattern I chose has a soft industrial look of concrete with a whitish background and touches of gray that go with my lovely, lovely gray walls (SW: Worldy Gray; so beautiful) and a touch of caramel that matches the fridge/dishwasher, which I didn’t have to replace! So understanding how you actually live your life is important when it comes to making your decision about flooring for the kitchen.

  • Janice says:

    We did wood look tile in our recent kitchen/utility reno. Does it look bad like a faux imitation of a wood floor? I suppose that depends on who you ask. To me and to most it appears to be hardwood. Will send a pic if you would like to see it. I wanted and needed a wood floor but after having a busted hose in the kitchen am soo thankful that I have tile. My only regret (if you can call it that since it is really not a big deal to me) is that the tile grout dried a little lighter than I wished it had. Always enjoy your posts. We are just DIY people but I have learned a great deal from you!

  • Lilly says:

    Has the world gone insane or is everyone stupid? Why on earth would anyone in their right mind come to another person’s professional website and give advice to other readers in the comments section? If you want to give advice, get your own website. Don’t you realize how incredibly rude that is? Not to mention, that if you are not a professional your advice is presumptious, unwanted (at least it should be unwanted) and probably incorrect. Jeez, there is not a modicum of manners left on the planet.

  • Charlotte Ivancic says:

    Good Morning Maria! Am reading your posts and ideas concerning flooring. In this post 09/03/2011, you said that you would install wood floors throughout a house- even in the master bath. Do you still suggest that? ie. also in the front foyer and mudroom? I’m thinking in terms of water damage of course. Also, would you recommend using a high end laminate throughout a home, as opposed to engineered hardwood?

    Thanks so much for your informative posts!

  • Emily Gaines says:

    Hi, Maria! I know this is an old post, but I’m currently remodeling our kitchen, and I love your advice on how to make things classic and timeless (which has always been my preferred style).

    One question you didn’t answer here is: what flooring would you put in a white kitchen if you have hardwood (orangey white oak) everywhere else but really, really don’t want hardwood in the kitchen? (I love the look, but my kids are super messy eaters.)

    I saw you recommended checkerboard somewhere else, but we have an oddly-angled transition, so I don’t think that would work.

    What are my other options if I really want something timeless? (I’ve considered brick, limestone, and terracotta just because those add some warmth, but I’m not sure.)

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