“I don’t want to choose finishes that will be out of style soon”

That is the thing I hear most when people are looking for finishes for their kitchen or bathroom upgrade.

Because, let’s face it, a kitchen renovation is no small exercise – it’s demanding, it’s a lot of money, and a hell of a disruption. You want to do it ONCE, and you want to do it right.

Regardless of our taste and how much we can spend – we all want the same things when we remodel:

• We want it to be comfortable and look beautifully pulled together
• We want to spend our money on things that will increase the value of our property
• We want finishes that look fresh and new. FOREVER! : )

Sure, sounds so easy. So let’s look at the issue of timeless finishes. Do you know what the number one item is that’s most likely to date your kitchen?


We’ve all seen those kitchens with the backsplash tile jumping at you. It’s busy and dated and ugly, and no matter what you do, you can’t get away from it.

Funny thing is, at some point someone chose to put it in – with all the options available, this is the tile they picked. Maybe it was on sale?

But even a small budget is no excuse for bad taste – look at this…


This delightful kitchen was done on a low budget – but it’s packed with character and is timeless in its understated beauty. Can you tell when it was done? I can’t.

So what is it then that makes one kitchen look dated long before another?

Should we just ignore trends altogether?

NO, there is nothing wrong with trends – it’s when we overdo a trend that it becomes a headache.

Interior trends tend to last about 10 years, and the current gray trend has been around for about as long. Before the gray trend it was brown – remember all those Tuscany yellowy-beiges?

It is very obvious to see in what era these kitchens were renovated. These are perfect examples of how NOT to use trends. Let’s break it down.


In both kitchens above the trendy color at time was totally overused. It’s on every available surface the kitchen has to offer – counter tops, backsplash tiles, cupboards and floors. It’s so intense that my 9-year old daughter asked why the picture on the left was in black and white! It’s not, honey, what you see here is NOT KNOWING WHEN TO STOP.

It’s no wonder we get completely worn out by trends.

However – if you use trends selectively and artfully – for instance by placing trendy colors alongside non-trendy neutrals and whites, by adding contrasting elements and splashes of color  – you’ll be happy with your finishes for a long long time.

Mia’s Design Tip
Limit the number of finishes and tile detail in your kitchen. The more detail you add to fixtures, the sooner you’ll tire of it.


In this kitchen a deep gray is used on the base units  – this helps to ground the kitchen and adds a lovely contrast to the tall, white units.

Gray loves brown. I could not find the original source of this beautiful kitchen (if you know, please let me know) – it is timeless with with the warm wood base cupboards, white wall cupboards and black accents. The gray island makes it a bit more current and adds a fresh touch.


Bright, fresh, and NOW is this kitchen with gray on the walls and sparkling white cupboards. The timber floor is a crucial element to add warmth to this room.


In this remodeled kitchen the white and gray marble contrasts with the black base units and brightens the room. The timber shelves, floor and vintage rug adds warmth and character.


Have you ever noticed how a busy backsplash tile or counter top keeps drawing your attention? If you scroll back to the images of the “Don’t-do-this” gray and brown kitchens, you’ll see how your eyes just keep going back to the busy gray counter top and speckled brown backsplash tile. The same thing will happen in your own kitchen if you have a very busy finish – until it drives you crazy.

If you want to maintain a certain level of sanity – avoid finishes that are overly busy and/or with lots of veins or contrasting hues in them. A solid color, or a mix of similar colors is much more classic and timeless.


Bold colors? Of course you can use strong colors – just keep it solid. Look at this beautiful navy blue tile with the contrasting white grout. Good thing this is not my kitchen – I will never leave it.

Mia’s Design Tip
You can have only ONE busy/patterned/ veiny/ speckled surface in your kitchen. This will be your Ruler – it dictates what you do elsewhere. Choose your other finishes to coordinate with the undertones of your ruler finish.


This is your big take away today – don’t use the current trendy color on fixtures that are difficult to replace. Here is my measure – if you have to change your outfit to do the job, i.e it takes intensive labor, or an expert – don’t do it in the latest hot color.  This makes a lot of sense – if it’s trendy, it will at some point become un-trendy – it will date your kitchen.

To be clear – don’t use the current trendy color on the backsplash tiles – they are nasty to replace, you’ll likely have to replace the drywall too. Don’t use it on the counter tops – difficult and costly to swop out. Definitely NOT on the floor – don’t even think about doing the floor in the latest trendy color, especially in a large open plan area.

Mia’s Design Tip
The best floor finish for a timeless look that will give you ongoing joy is light/medium brown wood. My heart aches when I see an entire open plan floor done in the latest grey stained wood. Oh, it’s painful.


Ah, good question. Because the last thing I’m saying is that you should go all boring and safe on all your finishes. Not at all. Be bold and adventurous on things that you can easily change.

Here are great places to go trendy…

Pendant lights are easy to replace and you can have a lot of fun with them. Play with color, scale and shape.


Paint, of course, is the first thing that comes to mind – on the walls (below), as well as cupboards and islands.


Faucets and cupboard hardware is a quick and easy way to update your kitchen instantly – look at these beautiful brass hardware on the navy blue cupboards below. The wall sconces above the sink also add to the new look.


Just as I was looking for more images to show where you can be trendy, these images from color expert, Maria Killam’s recent kitchen upgrade popped up – and it drives the point home exactly. Maria has renovated her kitchen about six years ago, keeping the basics, well, very basic. This gives her the opportunity to refresh her kitchen every few years with minimal costs and very little trouble.


Here she’s added some detail to the island and painted it fresh green. She’s replaced the pendants over the island, swopped out the chairs, and changed the Roman shades. Whala – a fresh look in a zippy.

Mia’s Design Tip
Be bold and adventurous with things you can change with relative ease – light fittings, cupboard hardware, faucets, paint on walls and cupboards, window shades, chairs, artwork and accessories.

I hope you found this helpful and have lots of fun with all the fabulous options out there.

If you find yourself stuck somewhere along the way, and want a stylish kitchen with timeless finishes – I can help you with a quick plan – online, or in-house. Help is only a click away.

Have fun!


Please share, so we can learn…

What was your biggest remodel slip-up?

Have you ever installed a tile or top that you regretted almost immediately?



I have no idea why this clip popped up while I was searching for images of kitchens with busy backsplash tiles – make you wonder…  Anyway, when I showed it to my husband he almost fell off his chair from laughter, and well, I didn’t get back to finishing the post until the next day. : )

You may also like…

Never pick a color based on its delicious sounding name

How to change an ordinary wall into a stunning feature wall

Posted in Finishes, Kitchens and tagged , , , , , , , , .


  1. We had the kitchen cupboards painted white and I don’t like them. The painter may have been inexperienced, the paint may have been wrong. They are oak. Should I have them repainted, refaced or order new cupboards which would have updated hinges and laminated shelves? I have not replaced the counter, backsplash and sink yet. We have white appliances and live near the ocean in California. I’m looking for a beach look.

    I want something timeless, easy to clean and understated. The white cupboards are already hard to upkeep. Thanks.

    • Hi Marilyn, I’m sorry to hear that you are unhappy with your cupboards. What bothers you about them – is it the paint job, the paint, or the color? I know that white cupboards show more dirt, but on the other hand, white is timeless – and it’s a small price I’m happy to pay. White is also a perfect choice for the beach look you’re hoping for.
      If you have a specific question about your kitchen upgrade, I’m happy to help out as best I can. 🙂

  2. Great post, thank you! What do think about subway tile, do you think it is timeless? I’m so worried that I’ll choose something that will date soon.

    • White subway tile is a timeless classic. It does, however lend a hint of nostalgia as it’s been around for more than a hundred years – so it depends on the final look & feel you want to achieve in your home. There are plenty contemporary variations of subway tile available today, and pretty as many of them are, they fall more in the category of being trendy.

      If your priority is timelessness, I do not see that you can go very wrong with a standard white subway tile with white grout. A great bonus is also their low cost. The size and style of the tile you select will depend on the size of the wall and the proportions of your kitchen.

  3. We’re currently looking at re-doing and designing our kitchen, so this post is fab, as it isn’t all that big. I’m looking to completely change the styling and these are right up my street! Thank you so much for sharing so many amazing ideas.

    • You’re welcome! I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and good luck with your project! When it doubt – keep it simple 🙂

  4. We always want whats the trending design we see over the internet but we don’t do some thinking that this design will last for around 10 to 20 years from now. Before having your kitchen turn into a trendy one make sure it will last for a little longer.

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