Congratulations! You’ve chosen a layout for your kitchen, sourced your appliances, and decided on cabinets. All the big pieces are in place. You have only a few more choices to make: what we like to call your surfaces, like tile, paint, and flooring. This is the fun part!
These finishes add style and polish, but there’s still lots to know and consider that can make a big difference in the life of your kitchen. Let’s say you’ve got a few kids and a big dog, shell out for gorgeous hardwood floors, and one weekend later it’s scratched and gouged. Hardwood, you’ve found out too late, probably was not the choice for you! Or you opt for a gorgeous shade of pale pink paint for the wall behind the range but opt for a matte finish, only to discover, pretty quickly, it’s not clean-able and now looks more like you painted the wall with dinner. Not to mention all the change orders and renovation delays that come with wrong orders and mis-calculations.
Stick with Skipp: We’ll find the surfaces that work for your lifestyle and look Insta-worthy, too. For example:
You might want to add some color to your kitchen—or just paint it a simple, clean white. While we lean towards neutrals that will always look timeless (and can be easily changed up with linens, wall art, ceramics, and more), that part’s up to you. For a cohesive look, paint the cabinets the same color as the walls, or a similar shade (medium blue cabinets on dark blue walls, for example).
You can also paint your cabinets an unexpected, contrasting hue to make them stand out. Another visual trick? Paint lower cabinets dark and upper cabinets light to make the room feel open and airy.
Whatever palette you choose, we do advise using paint with a satin or slightly glossier semi-gloss finish on kitchen walls and cabinets. Why? The shinier finish is more hard-wearing and easier to wipe down (because anything in the kitchen will, inevitably, get spilled, splattered, or dripped on). Semi-gloss in particular is easy to clean and wipe free from drips and fingerprints and will highlight detailed moulding and design elements, but keep in mind that its shinier finish can make your paint color appear a bit darker.
The most likely place you’d want some tile? On the backsplash, the area behind your countertops is especially prone to moisture and splatters. “Be cautious when choosing your backsplash tile,” advises Jessi Economos, founder and principal designer of JEID Studio. “This is so often what ends up dating a home. Paint is easy to change, but no one is excited about the idea of ripping out tile, making that mess, and paying for labor a second time around. I’d suggest you select a tile that has been around the block a time or two: If the style was around ten years ago, it will probably be around in the next ten years too.”
Here are a few popular options that are always in style.
You probably know ceramic tile by its most famous star: subway tile. But it comes in a wide variety of colors, finishes, and shapes beyond white—and there’s also zellige, a glossy, square ceramic tile that’s gaining in popularity. Subway tile in particular tends to be economical and hard-wearing, but we suggest steering clear of uneven tile like zellige which can be hard to wipe down.
Porcelain tile might sound fragile, but it’s actually denser than ceramic and stoneware tile, making it super tough and water-resistant. And it looks good, too.
Glass tile comes in a wide array of hues, and can reflect a little light in a dark kitchen. It’s durable, but it can be tricky to install neatly, since it’s transparent.
Marble is probably the most popular type of natural stone tile; it comes in a variety of shapes and lends the glamour of marble, all boxed and ready to install—no specialized sourcing needed. While we don't recommend marble for countertops, it's perfect for the backsplash, where it looks beautiful and takes a little less of a beating.
Encaustic cement (or concrete) tile is super hard-wearing, economical, comes in a variety of looks, and can even be refinished—all of which explains why it’s most often used on the floor. The various designs come the use of colored cement rather than glazes (encaustic means burnt in). Concrete tile can age with use, so you might consider sealing it for extra protection, or just planning to refinish it when it shows signs of wear.
A Note on Grout
It’s probably the least exciting detail of your kitchen (let’s be honest, probably your whole house), but it’s important to think about grout. Go with a white or light-colored grout with light-colored tiles and your backsplash will look clean and bright. But keep in mind that dark grout will hide dirt and grime much better.
Next up: flooring that’s equal parts stylish and practical. A few options:
Hardwood floors are a beautiful, organic choice for the kitchen that seamlessly integrate the kitchen with the rest of the house, if the rest of the house has wood. And, even if you tend to accidentally drop dishes, the relative softness of wood means they’ll be less likely to break. But in a room that has lots of potential spills, leaks, and heavier dropped things (like pots and pans), it can also get damaged. If you can live with the fact that it’s not waterproof and can get dented and scratched and might need to be refinished down the line—or even see all that as part of the charm—go for it.
Yes, tile works on the floor, too! But not the kinds that work on your backsplash. For kitchen floors, consider cement, slate, or stoneware. Tile comes in a wide variety of looks (including dead ringers for hardwood), it’s super durable, stands up to lots of feet and spills, and is easy to clean.
**Pro Tip: If you go for tile and tend to cook a lot, make sure you wear supportive shoes or lay some cushioned mats beneath key workspaces—the hard surface can be tough on your joints.