MODERNIZE YOUR OUTDATED GRANITE & LAMINATE COUNTERS
When designing and remodeling kitchens in the 2000s, homeowners (and builders) used the same 8 or so granite countertops and a handful of the same laminate ones – there wasn’t a ton of variety. And a lot of these counters have a great palette to work with – they aren’t the problem. The problem is that they’re partnered with the wrong backsplash (or wall color…or cabinet color, but that’s a different blog post).
And NOTHING says ‘I was built in the 2000s’ like a travertine tile backsplash (or a porcelain tile made to look like it).
I’ve been in over 10,000 homes, either locally or online. I’ve seen it all. And when it comes to 2000s homes, I see a lot of the same beige carpets, the same travertine tiles, and the SAME granite countertops. The challenge is that updating all of these at once is cost-prohibitive. This is why this 6-PART series (because I never stop talking in real life either) is dedicated to ideas that transition you and your home.
Ideas that honor your home’s roots and your budget, while taking it up a notch in terms of being updated.
Before we dive into the best tile ideas, let’s have a quick chat (#ornotquickatall) about travertine, as it touches SO many 2000s homes (sounds more pervy than it is).
Contrary to popular tastes, I love travertine, thanks to its mix of warm colors and texture. However, even the best-intentioned travertine can be thrown off-kilter. Let’s look at a few of the most common offenders…
- 4×4 tile size (or any square size)
- the same tile as the floor
- diagonal installation
- racing stripe
- decorative detail behind the stove
- strategically placed diamond details throughout the layout
- mixed with other tiles in a mosaic
- poorly chosen cabinet colors (wrong undertones)
This next kitchen has good bones, but a bad mix of a few of the above items…
The glass tile racing stripe and 4×4 tile/diagonal layout aren’t an updated look
BUT (a BBL-sized one), 9 times out of 10, when I see a home with a travertine backsplash, it’s not the above items that immediately kill a kitchen (they only murder it slowly), it’s the countertop/backsplash combinations. When it comes to travertine and counters (and cabinet colors), most people get the undertones wrong. Need I say more…
OF COURSE, I need to say more #always!
It’s these bad combinations and installations that give travertine a bad name when at its roots, it’s a great, natural product.
Many people believe travertine has a creamy yellow undertone. And while some can have a bit of cream in them, MOST travertine tiles cater to beige/brown with an orange-pink undertone; often, heavy on the pink. And while there’s the occasional flash of violet, it’s beige that’s driving the bus (erratically at best).
The color coordination is good between this next, more mocha-toned travertine tile backsplash and the counter. However, the tile itself and the layout are TOO BUSY for the granite’s pattern…
If it weren’t for the diamond detail, this next travertine tile has GREAT bones to work with and is well-coordinated with the granite countertop (and wood cabinets)…
You might think this backsplash is creamy, but it isn’t – it’s beige-inspired!
SO IS TRAVERTINE A GOOD CHOICE FOR TODAY’S KITCHEN?
Travertine is slowly coming back in style. While I don’t expect to see a lot of it on backsplashes (any time soon), it can be a great TRANSITIONAL update for a kitchen with granite countertops – assuming they coordinate with each other.
However, I would only consider it if you don’t plan on changing your countertop…ever. This is because travertine is far less likely to suit a more modern, trendy countertop and you’ll probably need to rip it out should you update your counter down the road. Heck, if you install a subway tile that matches your granite and you replace your countertop, you might have to rip that out too, however, subway tile, overall, is a more modern look.
It’s alllll in the tile size and layout.
If you think travertine subway tile makes the most sense with your kitchen, make sure it’s 3×6 and installed in a traditional subway tile layout (staggered). Keep the grout muted and blended.
SUBWAY TILE VS TRAVERTINE TILE
- A solid-colored (or slightly variegated) subway tile is more modern-looking than travertine.
- Travertine, via its texture, can be a bit busy for some granite countertops.
- Travertine is a lower energy look (not shiny like some subway tiles) which suits some kitchens/styles. This being said, you can also get a matte subway tile.
- It’s hard to beat how beautiful travertine looks with some wood cabinets.
- Ironically enough, travertine is best installed in a subway tile size and layout.
- Keep in mind that some granite, quartz, and laminate counters suit a MARBLE backsplash…in a subway tile size/layout.
However, this blog post isn’t really about installing a new travertine tile backsplash (unless it makes the MOST sense). This is about embracing and updating what you HAVE and transitioning you and your home into your next stage of Design…without a FULL remodel.
Do you remember what I said in The Best Paint Colors to Update Your 2000s Home?
Decorate & update for the home you have, not the home you WISH you had.
HOW DO YOU UPDATE A GRANITE COUNTERTOP WITHOUT REPLACING IT?
Don’t be tempted by trendy Zellige tiles or long linear glass or porcelain strips. Avoid mosaic tiles or a tile with multiple tints and tones.
K.I.S.S. – KEEP IT SIMPLE…sweetie
Whether you like it or not, no backsplash tile is as timeless OR as well-suited to the granite and laminate countertops from the 2000s as subway tile. It all comes down to size and color.
3×6 is the magical size. Avoid larger tiles and smaller tiles – keep it timeless and simple.
As for color, MANY kitchen designs from the 2000s can’t handle a white subway tile or white cabinets. While YOU might like white, many kitchens disagree as the countertops weren’t installed to humor white tiles.
This next photo is from my blog post re: ideas to update cream cabinets, but there’s a good lesson in the softness of the subway tile backsplash…
I’ve seen many kitchens like the above where a whiter, brighter tile is installed (with wood or cream cabinets). In a kitchen like this, a white subway tile is too stark. The soft creamy tone of the above tile is great with the cabinets and the countertop.
However, the best color for YOUR particular backsplash depends on your combo of countertop and cabinet color – assuming your cabinet color is the right color for your countertop in the first place (which we’re going to do…and cross our fingers that it really is).
THE BEST SUBWAY TILE IF YOU HAVE WOOD CABINETS
Find a color in your granite or laminate counter and repeat it. You might THINK your granite has ‘white’ in it, but most times, it’s not white, it’s a warm, creamy-based off-white or light gray-taupe. Bring several tiles home and see which one MATCHES the color in your countertop.
In this next kitchen, if the travertine backsplash were 3×6 and installed in a traditional horizontal, staggered pattern, it would be great…
This being said the MOST modern update for the above kitchen would be to install a beige subway tile backsplash that coordinates with the countertop. It would simplify the palette (as the travertine is busy) and add a bit of sheen/energy to combat the lower-energy dark cabinets.
HOT TIP: If the color in your countertop isn’t noticeable when you stand 6 feet away, it might not be the best color to match. Find a color in your counter that creates a visual connection with your backsplash from 6+ feet away.
This next backsplash is too white for the granite countertop. And while some kitchens can be saved with the right wall or cabinet color, the ONLY way to fix the space below is to change the countertop or change the tile…
While the countertop has light colors in it – there’s no white.
In this next kitchen, the soft, off-white subway tile is a great update for this space. While I might’ve done 3×6, rather than 3×10, the overall look is great. Had they done a WHITE tile, it would have looked too stark for the warmth of the granite…
By the way, the above kitchen went under a bit of a makeover. HOWEVER, because the backsplash is so well-coordinated to the countertop, all it took was some PAINT…
The above kitchen looked great with wood cabinets too. However, because the wood stain was so rich, combined with the floor, it dated the home to the early 2000s. A bright new color on the cabinets coordinated with the existing granite and subway tile backsplash gives this kitchen a new lease on life. Would you install the above granite in your home today? Probably not, but as far as updates go, it’s pretty bangin’ AND budget-friendly.
To update this next kitchen, I would install a 3×6 off-white beige subway tile and warm up the wall color accordingly…
Is a beige tile my DREAM tile? Heck no. However, the right tile can be a great happy medium between where you want your home to go, and where it currently is.
If you fight your home and what it wants, NOTHING will look good.
SUBWAY TILE WITH PAINTED CABINETS
I’m referring specifically to white, off-white, or cream cabinets. Now, assuming this is the best cabinet color that coordinates with your countertop, you’ll want to MATCH it.
Because your cabinet and backsplash are on the same vertical sight line (whereas your countertop is horizontal), your eyes connect these surfaces first – the coordination must be bang-on.
In the above 2000s kitchen, the undertones of the tile are great (warm gray/taupe with pink-violet). If I were to be SUPER picky, I’d love to see this subway tile about one tone darker OR the same color as the cabinets. But really, it looks great as-is, I’m just being particular.
And this isn’t always the easiest to do. Finding a subway tile to match the likes of Benjamin Moore White Dove, Cloud White, Sherwin Williams Antique White, and Greek Villa (common cabinet colors) isn’t easy. Go to your specialty tile stores. You’re spending too much money to waste it on a big box store ‘white-ish’ subway tile that isn’t the exact match.
IF YOUR CABINETS ARE DARK OR PAINTED A COLOR
Just as with wood cabinets, when choosing the best subway tile, find a color in your countertop that you want to visually connect with. If your countertop is more or less a solid color, matching it perfectly is a great way to go…
If your countertop has various colors in it, MATCH one of the colors that you can see when you stand 6′ feet away – make that visual connection!
Want to paint your kitchen cabinets too? Learn ALL about updating your 2000s kitchen paint colors in this blog post…
SUBWAY TILES WITH GRANITE COUNTERTOPS
Aside from what the cabinet colors are, let’s look at a few granite countertops and their subway tile partners…
The above subway tile is a great partner to this granite. While the floor tile is too bright with the wrong undertone, at least the backsplash and countertop suit each other. If they were to consider a NEW tile, I see a slightly lighter beige/tan in the bottom right corner of the countertop (along with a few flecks of this throughout) that’s begging to be winked at.
After helping this next homeowner with wall and cabinet colors to complement her rose/pink granite countertop, she asked for a bit of help picking the best subway tile. Here are the ones she brought home…
Ignore the paint sample vs the tile samples – there are lessons there too, but that’s another blog post.
1: too cool, the depth/temperature fights with the peach tone in the countertop (it’s the whole warm-cool thing).
2: too cool and the undertone isn’t right – there’s not enough pink in it.
3: too yellow/cream – needs more depth and orange/peach.
4: better than #3, I’m seeing a touch more pink mixed in without it being obnoxious about it
5 & 6: the first one that winks at the peach flecks in the granite
FAR RIGHT: I love the depth of this. If it had just a TOUCH more taupe (violet-pink) it would be perfect.
Remember, the idea is to PERFECTLY match the color in your granite, quartz, or laminate countertop. Sometimes you can find a tile that’s a shade lighter or darker that works, but you still have to mind the other colors in the countertop, as shown with several of the above tiles.
IF YOU’RE INSTALLING A NEW COUNTERTOP & NEW BACKSPLASH
Another great update (that’s trendy right now, which means it won’t be trendy one day…but it’ll have a good life all the same), is to use the same material on your countertop and backsplash (usually quartz, but some do it with laminate counters too).
This next kitchen was done in the early 2000s and the backsplash STILL WORKS because it’s simple…
This next kitchen is a modern take on this approach, as shown by the trendy, veiny quartz countertop and backsplash…
As you can see, this kitchen is still being finished and needs hardware/fridge cover
So there you have it – some backsplash update ideas to help you and your home transition into THIS decade!
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