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Vancouver Interior Designer: Will Installing Granite Sell your House Faster?

By 08/15/2011February 15th, 201838 Comments
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My clients previously had renters in the house I’m talking about (below) and were now going to do a quick little renovation to sell it. This was an old character home and the last renovation had been done in the 80s which meant that all the cabinets in the bathroom and the kitchen were oak. The advice they received from their realtor was so WRONG that I had to pull out all my best stories to convince them that they should follow my advice instead.

Still not convinced? Tobi Fairley just posted about painting cabinets as well. She asked a Real Estate expert about which wood to paint and which could stay.
And just in case you think I am the first to suggest painting wood? Not true. But when it’s dated and old, yes.
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  • Luciane at says:

    I'm 100% with you, Maria!

    Your videos are great. Love the idea and especially how much we can learn from it.

    Have a great week.


    Luciane at

  • Elle O'Conor says:

    Maria, I love your blog! When I was a child and I found out that paint chips were free, I was SOOOOOOOOOO happy! I've been obsessed by color from the time I started building houses out of cardboard boxes and "redecorating" with paint chips, "custom made" furniture, and art 🙂 So I just have to say I love your blog and when I am settled again, you are so hired to help me choose colors. Oh, and couldn't agree with you more about the oak and granite — egad! what was that realtor thinking?!

  • Sjn says:

    I totally agree with you too. I hate that people think putting granite on tired, old cabinetry will make a difference. As a buyer, I'd rather gut the whole thing than think I'm paying for that granite and have to keep the old cabinets. I think there are 2 kinds of buyers…. those that want to renovate the way they want it to be, or those that want to do nothing and want the house in move-in ready condition.
    We recently renovated our 21 year old kitchen. We had white cabinets that didn't look bad, but were so dysfunctional. We have Travertine tiled floors so I wanted the warmth of stained wood in my house (I know, I know… you love white). We stayed with the same footprint but put in new cabinets and granite, and we are quite happy. I think my new kitchen will sell my house, if it were on the market that is!

  • Designs By Pinky says:

    THANKS for this advice. I might have done this, put in granite with my 1984 (still pretty) oak cabiniets. I now realize maybe I should just leave the TILE countertops. What I would LIKE to do is gut the entire thing but………..:):) XO, Pinky

  • Kathysue says:

    Omgosh you are sooooooo right. I am not sure why people in general think that granite is the answer to all our problems in the counter top world. Kitchens need to look clean, fresh and tidy in order to attract buyers. Dark cabinets and dark granite will still give it a cave look. They are so lucky to have called you, Whew, I think you just saved them. Kathysue

  • Shia says:

    Hi there…my fiance and I just bought new cabinets for our townhouse and we're debating over granite and corian. I love corian…I love how there is that seamless transition to the sink…am I crazy for not loving granite?

  • Carrie'sCreations says:

    You are so right!!! It is a granite craze out there but that is not the be all end all. I can't stand when you have crappy wood and people are afraid to paint it. I mean it's one thing if it's gorgeous wood but builders grade oak is not quality wood. Also can't stand it when people have really bad wood trim and doors in their homes and are afraid to paint the "wood". If the baby is ugly, the baby is ugly, dress it up. I am all for it:)

  • Jil Sonia McDonald - Interior Designer says:

    You are just as cute as a button!
    oh yeah, and totally right too :)Thanks for the backup.
    No granite and oak cabinets please people.

  • Anonymous says:

    oh, how timely. My school-teacher friend retired in May and was sooo excited to finally have time to renovate her kitchen. She talked about it off and on all summer and just invited me over to see it a few days ago. Her 30-year-old kitchen has new paint, new window coverings, new stainless appliances, a new sink& faucet and brand new granite countertops…that she installed over the 30-year-old builder grade cabinets. She spent a LOT of money on the renovation, yet it looks awful because she didn't replace her very tired, very dated, very cheap stained cabinets. They aren't even oak..I don't know what they are…could even be some form of old plywood…I don't know. But, I do know her kitchen still looks tired and dated to me. What was she thinking? I agree Maria. If she had to put the house on the market today the "new" kitchen would not be an asset. I haven't even mentioned the old tiles are still on the floor…..UG.

  • Honey says:

    Well, somebody had to say it! Thank You, Maria.

    The only problem I have is that the people who would follow that realtor's advice don't follow design blogs so they can't hear you. They are watching too much HGTV and seeing the realtors and clients on those shows stating "oooo, granite….oooo, stainless steel, it's a gourmet kitchen" They make me want to cry.

    Wake up sellers…let me do the reno myself! Can you tell I am currently house hunting in the land of orangey-brown stained oak cabinets? It's very painful.

    (Home sellers should also consider using gel stain to darken their oak cabinets, especially in the bathroom, if it would look right in their space. A nice espresso finish really freshens up those orangey-oak cabinets as much as painting them a white. And it is so easy to do.)

  • Angela M. says:

    Maria, you are so darn funny! You realy should have your own show. That they pay you to do. 🙂

  • LauraJane says:


    I love that you look genuinely shocked to hear this suggestion. Could not agree more. 🙂

  • chanteusevca says:

    Love your video, Maria. You are always on target. I have looked at hundreds of homes in our area, and the ones who have simply put new granite countertops in and not updated the cabinets or other finishes I simply check off the list. We are not about to only update with granite countertops and not redo the rest of our kitchen for a completely fresh look to this 15 year old house. Hope to see your beautiful face and expertise on HGTV one day soon! You are always brilliant!

  • Maria Killam says:

    Thanks for your comments everyone 🙂 I was just talking to a client who says she has been house hunting for years (not in a big hurry to move but if they find something more fabulous on the water, they'll move) she said they walk into these $3-4 million homes and she says to her husband "we can't buy this house, because I don't want that kitchen, and especially the granite". I am not buying a brand new house just to tear everything out.

    Even a bigger reason to go with a solid surface stone rather than granite. Choose a granite for someone else is like saying "Here's the plaid sofa that comes nailed down in this house that you have to live with for the next 15 years".

    That's another post I think but I thought it would be good to say it here too!

  • Donna Frasca ♋ says:

    Maria, you're too cute! Funny too. I agree. Having granite in that mix is like having a CZ in a platinum ring setting. Just don't do it!

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree as well. Putting granite counter tops on old, outdated countertops is really not fooling anyone.

    However, in the defense of the realtor, I've seen buyers reject a house with an unbelieveable kitchen layout (including a bay window adorned eating area) simply because there were no granite countertops. Go figure!!!

  • for the love of a house says:

    bless you for saying so… enough with the granite as a quick fix. I'm thinking it would have been shiny too;)

  • Brillante Interiors says:

    Loved what you said, shocked about the realtors' suggestion…
    I can see you on TV with your personal show VERY SOON! It will be a great one! Think about it.

  • chandra says:

    Thanks for awesome tips!
    Harassment Complaint Letter

  • Right on Maria! Love this advice! Your videos are great. Its fun to see you animated. I have all that orangy oak and trim. Its just gross. Im in the process of deciding a color to stain it all. Wish there was a white stain that wouldnt go pink over the oak. My wood loving husband doesnt want paint. The battle continues, lol.

  • Heather @ newhouse, newhome, new life says:

    You are so right again, Maria! We recently bought a 1935 Tudor style home and it has it's original wood finish on all the trim PLUS a 1980's reno kitchen in, you guessed it, dark oak – to add to the darkness is the brick patterned linoleum. The plan is to paint the cupboards and trim in the kitchen and lighten up the floor with a new ceramic finish. The only thing light in my original kitchen is the counter and it needs replacing! I'll keep the wood trim in the principal rooms, but paint it out in the kitchen and bathrooms. Great advice.

  • Linda @ a design snack says:

    Maria, I LOVE THIS VIDEO!!! Wish a copy could be sent to everyone out there who says, "it's oak!!!! we can't paint this good oak!!!". Frankly, I still do not understand this fascination with oak. And I still don't understand why some clients hyperventilate when we suggest they paint their builder's special pine molding…that heaven help us, has been stained "golden oak". Please pass the valium.

  • Pink Overalls @DIY Home Staging says:

    Isn't it strange how granite has worked its way to the top of the heap? There are too many "granite snobs" out there, and way too many people who walk away from good homes because there's no granite.

    What bothers me is people who remodel by ripping out cabinets to install prefab, new ones made of sawdust and glue, even when the old cabinets were custom made on site with real wood by experienced cabinet makers. What? They never heard of paint?

    And don't get me started with men who are so in love with stained wood that they think it is criminal to paint it. Please!

    Maria, you need to start preparing a pitch to HGTV for your own show.

    I loved hearing this advice. I posted your link and video to my Facebook home staging group. Thanks for being a voice in the dark.

  • Lazy Gardens says:

    We are in the middle of a kitchen facelift on a 1980s house, in preparation for resale. The goal is to drag it into this century and fix the deteriorated bits, but not drop any more money than necessary.

    Footprint stays the same. It's poor, but if I add a few shelves, shorten an overhang, and maybe move a couple of cabinets from the laundry to the kitchen (they are identical) it will work better.

    Floor tile stays. It's a saltillo look-alike throughout the house and classic for this area.

    1 – Refresh cabinets? CHECK! General finishes Gel stain does wonders for faded walnut, especially when it's REAL walnut!

    I replaced the bottom of the undersink cabinets with new easy to clean white melamine.

    I'll replace the shelves and paint the interiors so it's all clean and fresh. Clean sells!

    2 – Replace appliances? CHECK! My trusty used appliance dealer came through with a very lightly used smoothtop range and OTR microwave/exhaust combo for 30% of the new price.

    3 – Replace countertops? CHECK! Some really fabulous, extremely expensive granite remnants that go with the tile will be installed on either side of the range and butcherblock will go on the rest. Because they were remnants, they were priced in the "ordinary granite" range.

    4 – New tile backsplash? CHECK! And because the granite is somewhere between assertive and downright gaudy, the tile will be a meek plain subway tile in cream from DalTile.

    5 – New paint? Of course, probably a cream to match the backsplash.

    Total cost of the facelift will be way less than the price of the cheapest granite countertops, and nothing will stand out as "I was added to impress you with my cost".

    The neighborhood realtor thinks it's a good facelift. She has had a series of sellers who dropped $3-=50K+ on a badly planned kitchen remodel and they aren't happy that they can't recover the money by jacking up the sale price.

  • Cindy Usic says:

    I couldn't agree with you more. As a realtor, my pet peeve has always been walking into a home with granite counter tops over builder's oak cabinets. Keep up the good work!

  • pretty pink tulips says:

    Great suggestions, Maria! I've bought and sold 4 homes and there are really smart, not expensive things to do to sell your home. The potential homeowner would just have looked at the kitchen and thought…darn, I still have to redo this!

    xo Elizabeth

  • Cote de Texas says:

    loved this – you are soooo adorable!!!

  • Beth says:

    How timely! I just emailed a client a link to today's blog so she can watch the video.

    Last week we colored her house that has loads of natural light, in soft blue and green beachy colors.

    The kitchen had green plaid wallpaper and oak cabinets from the previous owners. The wallpaper was removed, and the cabinets stick out like a sore thumb.

    I suggested she ignore the counters for now and paint the cabinets. So she's going to visit some cabinets at another client's house that were finished with Cabinet Coat.

    It has a smooth, hard finish that can be made in lighter Ben Moore colors (Preview in the -60s & 70s and Classic in the top couple of chips). The doors were sprayed.

    Thanks for the video; my client should get a kick out of it – I did!

  • Mary Anne says:


    I haven't commented in awhile, but must comment on that crazy realtor.
    Included in real estate classes, should be a course in design! GEEZ what a knucklehead. Not to mention that granite will someday be outdated! The kitchen covering of the 90's and millineum!

    Also wanted to comment on painted furniture. I love consoles in the dining room. I also love using lamps in the dining room as well which allows you to do so. Painting old furniture, is now as update and I couldn't agree with you more. I did it and love it.
    Did a blog on my French country chairs that were good chairs. Scarry, but I couldn't love them more and so does everyone else!!

    I too am an interior designer, but find your advice very helpful.

    Thanks Maria for a wonderful blog"!

    Mary Anne oxox

  • barbara@hodge:podge says:

    Kudos to you! I find granite dates a place as well. Your suggestions are right on the money! Take it from me {a buyer, slowly looking} I saw a house with the same thing, peach wood cabinets with granite. My first thought was I hate the granite but expensive to replace and then the whole kitchen was dated. The granite didn't fool me.

    Have a great weekend 🙂

  • Kincaids says:

    You are so fun to see on video – I had to watch it twice. In our prior house I spent 2 years convincing hubby to let me paint the oak in the kitchen. He finally gave in, then wouldn't you know that as soon as I was finished he couldn't wait to have people come over so he could show it off! Since then, he has never again protested when I paint some wood, either cabinets, trimwork, doors, or furniture. Best of all, when we did a major remodel on our current home, he was totally onboard when I ordered white cabinets!

    • KK says:

      Can you give me some info on how you painted the oak cabinets and what colour.

      Did you also paint the fireplace Mantle ????


  • Anonymous says:

    You are so fun to see on video – I had to watch it twice. In our prior house I spent 2 years convincing hubby to let me paint the oak in the kitchen. He finally gave in, then wouldn't you know that as soon as I was finished he couldn't wait to have people come over so he could show it off! Since then, he has never again protested when I paint some wood, either cabinets, trimwork, doors, or furniture. Best of all, when we did a major remodel on our current home, he was totally onboard when I ordered white cabinets!

    • KK says:

      Can you give me some info on how you painted the oak cabinets and what colour.

      Advice and info is much appreciated


  • Anonymous says:

    First question: If you paint oak don’t you get the texture of oak underneath? How do you paint your cabinets so they look professional and not a do-it-yourself project?

    Second: I have loads of oak trim, oak fireplace in the kitchen, and pretty neat wood beams crossing the ceiling. I think painting the cabinets white would not go architecturally. Any other options?

    • Maria Killam says:

      Oak is dated period. So the ONLY options to update your house is to paint the cabinets. They don’t have to be white but they should coordinate with your flooring and countertop. Depending on how it all looks together the rest of the oak trim, etc should probably be painted out as well, but there are always exceptions to the rule. Email me for my rates if you’d like a consultation. [email protected].
      Thanks for your comment,

  • Cherie says:

    I’ve commented before about my love for granite, but feel compelled to make my point again. Granite comes from the earth, just as marble, stone, wood, and in a roundabout way, bricks and glass, too. Like using stone in a house, granite, as well, is a lasting choice. Of course, I know that trends come and go, but granite, if well chosen, is a thing of beauty. I love that there are so many wonderful choices for counter tops now, but granite IS ONE OF THEM. It is more affordable now, so more people can have it, and why not, if it is beautiful? I know granite is not the “be all end all” of counter tops, but it is a good choice for many people. And it can look pretty on old cabinets…if the cabinets are of good quality and the granite is well matched to them.

  • Rachel says:

    Youtube says the video is private. Can’t watch it. 🙁

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