Does your Floor Tile Have to Match your Countertop or Surround?

marble tile and countertop

Does your floor tile have to match your countertop or surround?

One of my long-time readers posted a comment recently still haunts me. Brace yourself today my lovelies, because my post today is a RANT.

Here’s what happened to my reader:

 “I recently stopped at a big box store to pick up some info about kitchen countertops.

There was an older couple standing at the design table with a “kitchen designer” looking at samples for their kitchen. They had a cabinet sample that was probably from the white range but appeared to be a dingy beige which most likely had pink undertones, a very busy multi-colored brown granite, a too busy backsplash and two samples of 12×24 floor tile, one somewhat mottled and busy as Maria hates ( I do too) and one plain and somewhat striated.

They were trying to decide on the floor tile and the wife remarked that she liked the striated one best but she felt it didn’t match in color (she was right).

The “kitchen designer” said:

“The other pieces match; the floor tile doesn’t have to match”.

If I had had any creds or maybe if I were you, Maria, I would have whacked him. The husband asked about going to the tile warehouse to see if they could find anything similar in pattern in a more satisfactory color and the “kitchen designer” said,

“Well, you could, but why bother when you have the perfect tile right here.”

I couldn’t stay where I was so I stepped away out of sight and thought maybe if they walked off without making the final decision, I could speak to her, but when I walked back through a short time later, the couple were sitting in the guy’s office and it appeared as though he was writing up their order.

If so, don’t know what they decided, but whatever, she is going to have a kitchen she hates forever because she didn’t follow these principles, trust her instinct or have someone to help her.”

WELL YOU COULD BUT WHY BOTHER WHEN YOU HAVE THE PERFECT TILE RIGHT HERE? NOOOOOOOOOOO. This advice makes me so ANGRY. The fact that someone can have a paying job giving people such bad advice is just WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.

Related post: How to be Smart in a World of Dumb Designers

Your floor tile ABSOLUTELY MUST coordinate with the countertop and while we’re at it, everything else in the room as well.

When I started searching to see if there was any good advice out there specifically about this business of coordinating floor tile, the best I found was this statement in a blog post:

“Don’t be afraid to break the rules a little bit.”

Rule #1 on selecting tile

This is absolutely NOT the time to break the rules. 

The reason why most bathrooms and kitchens are a HOT MESS, is because the homeowner or designer most certainly did BREAK THE RULES.

No one needs to read a blog post for that kind of useless advice.

If you don’t believe me, just go on-line and start shopping for a new house and tell me how many bathrooms and kitchens you absolutely love? Feel free to post a link in the comments, I would love to see that rare unicorn.

The rule for hard finishes in any room is you get one pattern and THAT’S IT.  After that, all other surfaces must be as close to SOLID as you can possibly find (I know sometimes it’s not easy to do this).

If you follow this rule, you will be happy with your kitchen or bathroom and not just want to MOVE OUT immediately, by the time all is said and done.

white tile granite countertop

image via Made by Girl

It’s hard to fine a tile floor that doesn’t have a LOT of pattern. And the problem with a completely solid tile in white or cream is it starts looking too modern for most kitchens. This one works (above) with the patterned granite countertop.

I am not a big fan of granite because I think I would get tired of it really fast but if I had a granite countertop in this colour, I would install the same gorgeous chandelier. It’s like they were made to be in the same room together. I love the way it so beautifully relates to the granite.

Related post: Is Quartz Sexier than Granite?

does your floor tile have to match your countertop or surround

via Decor Pad

Marble look tile floor with a solid countertop and surround. Perfect.

 granite counter blue tiles

via BHG

Here we have a patterned grey countertop and the rest is solid with hits of blue. Couldn’t be prettier.

Rule #2 on Selecting Hard Finishes with Two Patterns

If you ended up selecting two PATTERNS for the same room, DO NOT install them until you find an INSPIRATION picture that you madly love with the exact same patterns.

Sometimes it works. It’s rare, and the undertones need to be identical, but it can be done. For the best results, I recommend that you stick to Rule #1 but if you find yourself here, make sure that you have found an inspiration photo on the web that you can live with.

There’s really nothing out there now that you can’t find within seconds. Take some extra time and do that. Then if you don’t love it, go back to Rule #1.

marble bathroom tiles

via Decor Pad

Notice that both the floor tile and the surround tile in this shower are basically identical. Which is why it works (just like the first image in this post). Before you go ahead and install marble that looks like this, make sure you are okay with the overall business of the pattern.

Some people find this kind of surround too busy (above).

multi tiled bathroom

I’m not even going to talk about the many ways this bathroom is just WRONG. A picture speaks a thousand words.

marble shower with textured tiles

Via Pinterest

Love the way this very small scale pattern on the shower floor relates to the black windows. This combination works well.

Notice I have not posted any photos using Encaustic Tile.  The more photos I see of badly installed kitchens and bathrooms using this tile (especially in the wrong scale because the patterns are generally large) the more I dislike it.  So I’m not posting any photos because it’s not a tile I would specify or use in my own home. Keep in mind, you will most likely get bored of this look within 10 minutes of installing it.

Stick to wallpaper in a similar pattern if you are in love with Encaustic Tile, it’s much easier to change out later.

If you MUST use it, DO NOT break the rule of one pattern and the rest SOLID. Don’t even do a marble countertop with it. Go with a solid quartz countertop, period. The end.

Same goes for skinny horizontal backsplash tile. You won’t see it here either. That tile is even worse because I have NEVER seen an installation that I like. I mentioned it once in 2011 when I really started noticing this tile fad here and that was the last time I talked about it.

Rant over and out.

Seriously, I really do want to save you from one unnecessary renovation after another. So if you’ve already done it, disregard this advice. It’s for the person who is about to buy their tiles and is waffling on their decision.

Stick to these rules and you will love your bathroom and kitchen for a very long time.

And one last thing. Before you start posting comments like, Maria I don’t want the same kitchen as everyone else, trust me, your neighbour is NOT installing a subway tile backsplash or a subway tile surround in their bathroom.  They don’t know that is the most timeless way to love your hard finishes, they are at the tile store, as we speak, overwhelmed by all the trendy tile and automatically assuming that the accent tile strip in their shower or kitchen is a very important decision they have to make.

But you know better.

PS. If you need help making sure your bathroom or kitchen fills you with happiness when you walk in the door, check out our eDesign services here.

Related posts:

The Best White Bathrooms

The Best Cream Bathrooms

Ask Maria: What’s Next After Subway Tile?



leave aREPLY

  1. Hello! I need help. I am doing a patterned floor in my master bath. It’s cream, not white, gray and black design. I truely love it. The person at the tile store helped me match gray subway tile with it. White did not go in her opinion. I really want the rest of the bathroom to be white everything. Would this work?

  2. Dear Maria, I am remodeling my laundry room and need a little advice. The floor tile isn’t changing but we are changing everything else, the counter tops, cabinetry, sink woodwork color and wall color. My floor is a busy 24″ tile in the brown, sandstone, gray, & golden hues that I am trying to work with. I ordered the cabinets in a “Painted Silk” color, which is a creamy white. The woodwork got painted a creamy white color called “Alt White” by Benjamin Moore. I need to choose the granite counter tops and wall paint color. My husband wants to pick a granite counter top called “Exotic Tobacco”. The floor tile and the counter top look like they have the same undertone and pattern. After reading your post I wasn’t sure if you were saying that would work. I know you don’t like granite. Also, we ordered a natural birch butcher block counter top for above the washer and dryer that can be stained on another wall. Not sure what color stain. Also, we were going to order an undermount Silgranite sink either in the color “Biscuit, Biscotti, or Cinder”. My husband is rushing me on my decisions due to items needing to be ordered. I would appreciate any advice. Thank you, Heather

    • You have already met your pattern quota and this means you must now do a solid (Plain, no pattern) on your countertops. Anything else and it will look like every other laundry room with mismatched countertop and floor.

      Whether I ‘like’ granite or not is not important here. What is important is coordinating your colours and that is impossible to do with a patterned countertop and a patterned floor tile.

      Go to the countertop store with a sample of your tile and plunk them down one after the other until you can see there’s one that looks the best over all the others.

      There will ONLY BE ONE if you’re lucky.

      If you don’t have a sample of the tile, bring home every solid countertop that looks like it would match. This will not ACCIDENTALLY and MAGICALLY ‘work out’ if you don’t do this. It’s painful, but necessary, it will look like every other pedestrian laundry room if you do not follow these instructions.

      If you need help, you can purchase a hard finish consultation here:

      Hope that helps,

  3. Building new house – overall satisfied so far except 1 bathroom. Installed a porcelain tile floor that looks like marble with a brown grain for the marble. Bought the brown vanity online and it came with a marble top (with a gray grain). My gut tells me the brown grain marble looking floor clashes with the gray grain marble countertop, Please tell me this is acceptable or can be worked around cause I spent everything on the new house and we’ll have to live with what we have for a few years.

    • If it doesn’t work before you install it, it won’t look better once it’s installed. You will be cranky every time you walk into this bathroom. Hope this helps, Maria

  4. what great advice! i
    I am building a house and to the point of final decisions on the flooring, counters, etc. I think I’m follwing your rules. I agree with timeless and classic.
    One question: I found a tile that is neutral ( taupey grey with a tiny bit of movement) and works with the counter choices for various rooms (master bath, back entry & drop station, office bath, laundry room) would it be boring to use it in all these spaces??? The rest of the house will be white oak. I need to order next week! *panic*

  5. Maria, I have a small 1960’s bathroom that I’m gutting and remodeling. Is it too much to use marble or marble-look tile on the shower walls floor and countertop for the vanity?
    Should I just use it on the countertop and floor and use a plain tile in the shower? I’m so torn because I love the look of marble showers but I’m afraid it’s going to be too much.

    • If it’s all the same I think it can work well. It depends on how busy the marble is! I am not a fan of really busy looking marble surrounds, but I have seen many that are beautiful. I think you have to be there when it’s being installed (unless it really is a soft veining) Hope that helps! Maria

  6. Thank you for such a great explanation on pattern choices. I am redoing our kitchen and you just saved me from making a not so good choice. Tile Floors are installed and I am looking for a counter and backsplash to coordinate with the floor. Based on your post, my hesitation to move forward with the ones I picked was probably due from too many patterns. I am looking at granite but now think Quartz would look so much better with a more soft and muted color. Just don’t know about resale and if Quartz would be as desirable as granite. Well back to the stores for another selection. Thanks again for your post.

  7. Hello Maria

    I am re-doing one of my bathrooms and want to use wood-look tile on the floor. Can I use the same tile (not just the same look – but exact same tile) for the vanity countertops? I have an L shaped vanity that’s 7 feet long on one part of the L and 4 feet long on the other.

    I want the bathroom to have a breezy Bahama feel, with sunny ocean blue walls, white ceiling and trim, and I will probably paint the cabinets white as well. I am thinking about wood-look tiles that look weathered and have browns and blues in them.

    Is it too much for the floor tiles to also be on the countertops? Or should I go with a smaller countertop tile in a solid that compliments the floor colors?

  8. Maria
    I have 18″ porcelain tiles that are a travertine look. I am redoing the room but leaving the floors. I am using a white subway tile in the shower and was thinking of a pebble shower floor. I am getting white cabinets and trying to find a countertop has been a struggle. I know you say only one patter, but I found a granite, Blue Dunes, and was wondering if that would be too much? I currently have white countertops in builder grade and I am wanting to do something different. I am looking for the country/farmhouse feel. Any advice?

    • Yes the only way to make white work with travertine (which should go with cream) is to introduce a stained cabinet that ties into the floor, then you can have a white countertop and white subway tile, etc. Hope that helps, Maria

  9. Hi Maria, so i understand it….
    If my 24 x 24 kitchen tile is a grey shade with suttle movement, my counter top should match ? My cabinets are white shakers, and i was going for a white back splash ?