From the Forum – Help me pick kitchen tile and countertop!

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mr.TinDC

Help me pick kitchen tile and countertop!

“A few people on this site like to say that the house renovations don’t have any “soul” or something similar. We’ve suddenly gotten the opportunity to do new countertops and tile backsplash and I’d love to see what people are liking. I prefer a clean, modern look but appreciate any ideas that you share. Thanks!”

You can see all forum topics and add your own here.   If you are having trouble uploading your question to the forum please try clearing your cache. If it still doesn’t work please email me at princeofpetworth(at)gmail

41 Comment

  • my dream kitchen would be all gold calcutta marble. please do it and post pics and then invite me to dinner, thx

  • I think it is hard to give you advice without knowing what you have picked for the other parts of the kitchen. White cabinets? Cherry cabinets? wood floor? slate floor?

  • Despite wanting to have “soul,” you also want something that’s not too trendy/gimmicky.

    I’ve seen some beautiful “greige” cabinets. Try to avoid the standard-issue builder cabinets in blond/reddish wood. Also try to avoid overcrowding the space with as many cabinets/racks/shelves as you can possibly fit – that makes it look crowded. The trendy thing to do right now is brass hardware, but that’s easy to change up down the road as long as you have concealed hinges (though that’s a little harder). I’m a big fan of farmhouse-style brushed nickel, or oil-rubbed bronze. For countertops, I love white marble but it’s terrible to care for so I would go with a medium-grey or dark stone. A white tile backsplash is classic, and there are so many kinds of subtle textures in tile/patterns that can make it look rich. I would avoid the trendy colored backsplash/stripe of tile because I think that is already looking dated.

    But all of this depends on what your style is – is the rest of your house modern? Traditional? Mid-century?

    Overall, I would go with high-quality materials in varied neutrals with rich textures. Don’t do a “pop” of color because it can look dated so quickly. Avoid overcrowding with gimmicks like wine racks and decorative range hoods and baking sheet racks. And for the love of god, if it’s possible, PLEASE put in a gas stove.

    • I’ve always heard that white marble was high maintenance too, and I was, for that reason, surprised to see Hanks on the Hill use it for their high traffic bar area, where all sorts of spills and stains occur. If they can manage keeping it up in a restaurant, I figure doing so in a home couldn’t be that onerous.

      • Apparently some things really tend to stain marble, like tomato sauce. So if you’re a bar and are mostly dealing with light-colored liquids, it’s not a big deal. Marble is also ideal if you make a lot of pastries because it holds in cool temperatures. But if you make a lot of pasta sauce, it can be hard to maintain the pristine (pretty pretty) color.

        • This is why some kitchens will have one slab of marble (for rolling out pastry dough) with the rest of the counter tops some other material.

      • That doesn’t follow. You don’t want acid on marble (lemon juice, tomato sauce, etc.) – but if it’s in a high traffic area where it’s constantly cleaned (as with a bar), perhaps it does not have time to stain.

    • Emmaleigh504

      My grandmother had marble counter tops (she got the marble when they tore down the old bank). They were awesome b/c you could write phone messages with a pencil right on the counter. I feel like her counters were indestructible, but she didn’t have shiny surface like some people like.

    • bfinpetworth

      I had brand new marble countertops in my last home. Within 6 months there were etch marks all over the place. The thing is, it really doesn’t harm the overall look of the marble, and you can only see the etch marks with the light at certain angles. I also think that over time, the marble would become so etched that the entire surface would have that dull sheen rather than the polished sheen (which might explain the use of marble in some commercial applications). My recommendation is if you want to go with marble, start with a honed surface rather than a highly polished surface – this will mitigate the impact of etching. And trust me, if you cook at all, you will etch it, it is almost impossible not to, and it takes seconds to accomplish.

  • if I were going for a truly modern look, I would opt for a stainless steel tile back splash in a subway tile size. and perhaps white marble countertops. other counter options could be white ceasarstone or formica (but they are a bit more boring).

  • I like the high-end manufactured surfaces– concrete, glass etc. I personally would avoid granite or marble. Environmental nightmare to quarry, ship, etc.

  • Emmaleigh504

    I’m a fan of concrete counter tops, and glass back splashes.

  • clevelanddave

    I tend to not like tiles on a countertop in a kitchen itself because food and other stuff can get caught in between the tiles. Further, if the grout is not very dark, it will stain. On the other hand, it can be very nice for a backsplash. One fancy backsplash tile I really like is from a small pottery in Detroit that has been making custom tile for more than 100 years, Pewabic Pottery…

  • We redid our kitchen and did cream glazed cabinets (instead of stark white. I was skeptical, but so happy we did!). We did classic subway tiles in off-white and quartz counters that mimic the look of marble. I love marble but it is an awful choice for kitchens because it stains so easily. Quartz doesn’t stain and requires no maintenance. We did Cesaerstone London Gray and it looks very much like real stone (a lot of quartz looks very fake, but the newer variations look a lot more natural).

  • Emmaleigh504

    I love picking stuff out, just have me over to see your place and tell me what you like and we can do it together! (as long as I have veto power) I helped my parents redo their kitchen it’s awesome!

  • White cabinets–some with glass doors, some without.
    Butcher block countertop
    Do the floors in bamboo. Use leftovers for backsplash.
    Paint the walls yellow.
    Boom — country kitchen.

    I did 2 this way (hi to my tenants).

    • I love the look of white glass front cabinets and butcher block countertops… not sure how practical they are but I think they look nice and timeless compared to all the ugly granite you see all over the place.

    • I love the look of white glass front cabinets and butcher block countertops… not sure how practical they are but I think they look nice and timeless compared to all the ugly granite you see all over the place.

      • The problem with glass-front cabinets is that they’re fine for nice-looking dishes and glasses… but not so great for boxes of cereal, cans of fruit, jars of peanut butter, etc., etc.
        Even frosted glass doesn’t work well with pantry-type items like the ones above.

  • laduvet

    I like a clean, updated look, yet with old farm house materials or statement piece – the mix of new and old worlds work really well together and is totally “in.” Green materials are a plus! I cruise for inspiring ideas.

  • This is a hard question. I’m not one of the ones who has accused flips of lacking “soul”, but I think what is meant is that everything looks cookie cutter and trendy. There’s no personality. So, without knowing what the rest of the house looks like and your personality, there’s no right or wrong answer. Our house has a mid-century feel architecturally-wise but our furniture choices tend to be more contemporary. When we redid our kitchen, we tried to keep with the mid-century feel but updated and tried to be realistic about what would work in our space (a galley). We started with Ikea Adel medium brown cabinets (which coordinated with the wood floors throughout our house). Added Ice Snow ceasarstone cabinets, and then white subway tiles stacked (for a more modern look) for the backsplash. We balanced off the white with dark tile floors and a pop of electric blue for the walls. I think it works for our house and shows our personality. We went to Architectural Ceramics for our tile and met with a designer, which was free. Our designer asked us a lot of questions about the color choices, finishes and our personality, and really helped steer me in the right direction (for instance, I really liked the clear lines of subway tiles, but was concerned it was too traditional for our space). Although they don’t sell countertops, I was able to ask the designer’s opinion on the color combos. You will pay more than HD, but they have a good selection at different price points and our most expensive tile choice was still only $7/sf.

  • Just one tip: I love the upper lip on my counters. It’s barely perceptible, but it’s enough to keep an egg or a pen from rolling off. I actively appreciate it on a regular basis, so if possible, I’d recommend you see about getting a small lip on yours.

  • on counters — divisive and lot of options and opinions. If you want to play it safe go granite. If you do so I’d encourage you to seek out recycled granite counters, as they are readily available and far more green than new ones. Personally I like concrete, but part of the deal with concrete is not getting hung up on its imperfections. It gets a bit of patina with use and it’s tough to keep it looking shiny and new.

    on backsplash avoid anything too colorful or busy. It looks better on paper than it will on you wall. I like glass tiles — they can be pricey though. Avoid counter backsplash and tile counter surface to cabinet — it’s a much cleaner look.

    Cabinets . Slab base with carefully selected pulls. I really like open shelving, but some people find it’s too exposed visually and collects dust. We mixed glass wall cabinets with slab doors on pantry/above fridge, with one wall of open shelves.

    This is FUN. All the advice with none of the decisions or cost. Enjoy!

    • Ugh on the granite. In additon to often being not very attractive:
      Granite is very hard — buy extra cups and plates so when you drop them from 2″ above the counter and they break, you’ll have spares.
      Also, granite will suck all the heat from anything you put on it, so to keep your food hot/cold you will have to put it on trivets, so make sure you get extras of those, too.
      And consider whether you are at an age where you want to have your ovaries/testes leaning up against a surface that might be releasing more radiation than you like to think about.

    • I’m just wondering how long before we start being told that granite — or anything that looks like it — looks “outdated” and that we’re supposed to get something else for countertops.

    • Where do you like to look for pulls?

  • GO to and type in whatever you want “clean modern tile kitchen” and you will have about a million photos of exactly what you want

  • It really does depend on your house – not that you have to be locked in to that particular era. My 1941 “colonial” has ugly white plastic cabinets and white Formica from the mid-80’s, which is an odd juxtaposition. When I can afford to gut and re-do, I will probably stick with classic white wood cabinets (with exposed Deco-style chromed hinges), and possibly a cherry-red Formica counter with stainless steel edging.
    Granite is so overdone that it has lost its luxury appeal. Carrara and calacatta marbles are quickly heading that direction as well. People are such sheep!

  • I could do a backsplash for you in low relief cast glass.
    We could even talk about making it backlit if that’s appealing and it makes sense for the project.

    shoot me an email if you’re interested.

  • As an alternative/supplement to Houzz, I’d recommend looking for ideas on Pinterest, as much as its pains me to say it. Once you find a kitchen you like, you can look at the “boards” where these images appear and get other related ideas. The images on Pinterest are often more organic and lived-in looking than the ones on Houzz, and a lot link to sources, as well.

  • We just redid our kitchen, and went pretty basic. White subway tile backsplash (for a modern spin, use a gray grout). We used ikea off-white cabinets to save money and just put in custom shelving in the areas where we had gap room. Splurged a bit on the pulls (Restoration hardware) to make it look less cookie cutter. We went with granite for the counter–I liked the idea of quartzite (pietra di luna–so pretty), which is like granite in terms of upkeep, but looks like marble, but it cost too much $$. We found a light colored granite that looks quartzy and called it a day. Oh, and if you like the look of marble, you can just accept that it will develop a patina and then not sweat the stains/etching. it will look like an awesome European bakery!

    In terms of soul, I’d say, avoid mosaic backsplashes and coffee shop-style pendant lights and you should be good. Every kitchen looks soulless until you live in it and move in your fruit bowl/mixer/trivet/etc.

  • Just finished my kitchen.

    Went with 3×12 white glass subway tile from Lowes, then did a strip of blue glass tile that I got from

    I went cheap on countertop and just got butcherblock from Ikea that we stained and sealed.

  • White is impractical, as well as cliched as any wood tone. Marble is a soft surface. The heat distribution of granite means you can put a hot pot on it or keep a crockpot on it. With no fear of breakage. OTOH, it needs periodic sealing and can break because of hidden flaws. Avoid stainless appliances, they are the harvest gold or acacia do of this era. Also avoid the glassy backslashes everyone has. Hardwood cabinet faces will be durable but can warp unless they have backing to prevent this. Put money into good cabinets rather than getting carried away with cooktops (which may cause probs with countertops if they need replacement), or expensive counter finishes. Think how to maximize space w/o making every cabinet or drawer an add-on.

  • I did white marble with brownish veins for my counter tops and white glass subway tiles for the back splash. Very clean and elegant but still simple and modern looking. They sealed the marble and recommend at least twice a year. It’s just myself so keeping clean is not an issue for me.

Comments are closed.