Choosing Tile for Our Kitchen: How We Narrowed it Down to ‘The One’

This post is sponsored by our friends at The Tile Shop. Today we’re breaking down the process of selecting tile for our kitchen renovation and all of the factors we took into account to pick the perfect tile for the space!

We’ve made huge amounts of progress on the kitchen design in the last week or so! Appliances are officially on order. Our cabinet color has been selected – keep reading to see what we picked! – and the layout is finalized. We visited two stone countertop suppliers last week and have narrowed down our selection to either soapstone or black marble (they’re similar in tone, so the black marble is filling the role for today’s purposes). Last but not least, we’ve narrowed in on our tile selection and picked a winner! (Sorry, how many exclamation points are too many? We’re just so excited to be finalizing decisions!)

Tile’s Role in the Space

We’ve written in the past about one of the first ways we think about tile in a space. The first question we always ask ourselves is ‘Will the tile be the feature in the room, or will it play a supporting role?‘. For this kitchen renovation, we went back and forth on whether bold tile or a bold cabinet color was the best choice, since selecting two bold options might be visually overwhelming. In the end, we opted for cabinets with a rich, saturated color and never looked back!

Since the Reddened Earth cabinets will surely be a huge focal point, we wanted a tile that would compliment rather than competing. If we’d gone with a more subdued cabinet tone, we certainly would have considered tile in a bold pattern or color. We would argue that the starring role and the support role are equally important in this case!

Narrowing it Down

Our wishlist for the tile in this space included a few considerations. First, we were really drawn to creamy white tiles with a handmade look and feel; we celebrate imperfections around here! We love the look of 4″ x 4″ or 6″ x 6″ square tiles, but we also considered stacking longer, thinner tiles like in our tree house bathroom. Mosaic tile even entered the chat for a moment, but we ultimately decided that too many grout lines would be too busy. These were the final three contenders:

Left to right are Pix Bianco, Riad White and Zellige White Gloss. We love the way all three of these warmer white tones will play with the natural veining of soapstone or black marble countertops, while allowing the cabinets to really shine. We think it’ll make for a beautifully cohesive look that will be simultaneously fresh and timeless. Here’s our thought process on each:

  • Pix Bianco | The most simple of the 3, still with a very subtle handmade feel to the top surface. This would be the cleanest of the 3, with straight grout lines. The best of both worlds… but is it handmade-looking enough?
  • Riad White | A lot more variation is visible on this choice, both in surface texture and color. A whole wall of Riad will look anywhere from warm white to warm grey, as opposed to a solid white wall. With our cabinets being a saturated color, we weren’t sure we wanted that much variation in the tile.
  • Zellige White Gloss | There’s a lot of surface texture on this one, too, but the edges are a little less perfect, because these are authentic handmade tiles from Morocco. They’re a new collection at The Tile Shop and are even more stunning in person! The color is the brightest white of the 3, so this one was the first one to go, but we’ll be considering them for future projects for sure.

The winner? Pix Bianco! We like that it has slight surface texture, squared edges and a consistent color throughout. That brings us to…

Selecting the Perfect Shade of Grout

… selecting the perfect shade of grout! As if selecting from hundreds of shapes and shades of tile wasn’t a big enough task, once the tile is selected, a complimentary grout color also needs to be selected. We’ve tended to lean toward lighter tile and grout tones in the past, and this time will be similar – we think. We know that the warmer natural tones of our tile will play nicely with a more neutral grout tone, to allow the handmade look really shine. On the other hand, Kim often suggests that the cleaner tile could use a touch more contrast, and that’s where grout could really help. Either way, we know the grout color will be in the warm color family.

Grout truly does have the power to change everything! A lighter tile with darker grout (or vice versa) will help the shape and shade of the tile pop and create a more dimensional look. A more tone-on-tone look will keep thinks looking calm and cohesive. In our case, a warm grout color in a light-to-mid-tone will offer the supporting style we’re after.


Since this will be our second shot at designing this kitchen, we’ve had time to source inspiration and insight from a huge number of sources. We’ve searched the internet high and low and even crowd-sourced opinions from friends. One thing that we always remind ourselves of when pulling images for inspiration or mood boards is that it’ll be nearly impossible to find one image that reflects a dream space perfectly. Otherwise, you’d simply end up with a carbon copy of someone else’s design!

Below are two inspiration images that we’ve continued to return to since we began this process:

On the left, we love the off-white handmade square tile with a contrast grout in a stacked pattern. The bold cabinet choice, lighting trio and brassy accents are also essential to our final design.

On the right, the handmade-look tile is set in a running bond pattern (where the tiles are staggered by half a tile), which we’re also considering. Bold cabinetry makes an appearance here and the dark grey/black countertops have us all types of excited.

Remember that when sourcing images or creating a mood board, it’s the details of each photo that will come together to determine the final design. Don’t hesitate to pull images that might seem contradictory to one another if they all share a common theme like bold cabinet colors and square natural tile in this case. Focus on what you like in a photo, even if the other elements aren’t exactly what you had in mind.

Final Selections!

The final selections will end up looking very similar (if not identical) to the picks below. Cabinetry painted Sherwin-Williams Reddened Earth(!) will certainly be the star of the show, while the subtly beautiful Pix Bianco tile with, potentially, Irish Cream grout will support the bold cabinet color. The more muted tile tones will tie nicely into the lighter veining of the bold soapstone or black marble countertops. We’ll also be mixing warm metal tones with brass hardware, polished nickel faucets and a black sink.

Redesigning this kitchen in phases has allowed us to spend time in the newly-open space and get a feel for how natural light will impact the tone of our choices. We can’t wait to see the morning light streaming through the back door, reflecting off of the glossy tile and highlighting the perfect balance of cohesion and contrast!

PS: Here’s our step-by-step guide to setting a tile backsplash, 5 things to consider before your next tiling project, and a fun video where we share our approach to choosing tile.

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  • lak5.17.22 - 5:22 AM

    Your choices are lovely!  Can’t wait to see the finished product. I continue to learn when you explain your inspiration photos in your blog post.  Your eye for details amazes me.  Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Sandy5.17.22 - 8:51 AM

    If you decide on the black marble, but can’t let the idea of soapstone slip away, we used soapstone as a hearth and fireplace surround and have been more in love.ReplyCancel

  • Cynthia Gylov5.17.22 - 9:01 AM

    Looks so deliciously beautiful and peaceful!ReplyCancel

  • Susan5.17.22 - 9:25 AM

    I’ve not seen ANY red kitchens. I’m thinking the beauty of this one will kick off a new trend. I wish I had a place for tile like this. I love it in every applicationReplyCancel

    • Scott5.17.22 - 10:47 AM

      Thanks so much! We’re pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone in the best way!ReplyCancel

    • Carswell5.17.22 - 11:31 AM

      It’s interesting to see the progression of changes in your spaces. I’m definitely on board with the current direction – although I like seeing clean white spaces my preference is for more colour or contrast. 
      My kitchen started out with a somewhat more red version of the earthy colour you’ve chosen for your cabinets – with the red on the bottom cabinetry and a soft cream colour for the uppers. Then I took the red to the uppers as well and painted the island black. 
      Now I’ve taken the black all over with light countertops and a punchy tin ceiling wallpaper in creamy whites and blacks for the backsplash. (One of the Brooklyn Tins series – which also graces my powder room.)ReplyCancel

      • Scott5.17.22 - 11:43 AM

        Sounds lovely!ReplyCancel

      • Kim5.17.22 - 4:15 PM

        We’ve definitely been having fun exploring with earthy colors more and more lately!ReplyCancel

  • Sheila5.17.22 - 4:31 PM

    Love your choices!  I think I missed an explanation of the extent of the tile.  A previous post mentioned it covering the wall behind the stove but what about the sink wall?  Will the tile go to the ceiling there, too?   And if so, will you be wrapping it around the door to end in the corner?  Or are you using a low backsplash of the counter stone? Feel free to point me to the post where this is discussed if I missed it!ReplyCancel

    • Scott5.18.22 - 12:31 PM

      I don’t believe we’ve covered it in detail yet, but there will be a floating shelf running the length of the sink wall from the countertop cabinet to the pocket door. The tile will likely stop at the bottom of that shelf.ReplyCancel

  • Erin5.17.22 - 5:39 PM

    I sometimes find hand-made looking square tile can look dirty looking, as if the grout is a hundred years old in a scummy bathroom. The tile in the first inspiration photo looks a bit like that to me. There is an Emily Henderson bathroom (I think in her mountain house) that has square handmade tile on the floor, and it looks old in a bad way. But the square tile in the second inspiration photo looks great, and I cannot imagine any scenario that you two would put in dirty looking tile! Whatever you choose will be gorgeous and perfectly neat and tidy, as always! I can’t wait to see it and I love the warm colours you are choosing lately.ReplyCancel

    • Julie5.19.22 - 1:40 PM

      We loved installing our handmade tile because when we chipped an edge when cutting, it didn’t matter. We also didn’t have much grout, so that wasn’t there to look dirty. But I was surprised how much I liked the natural edges.ReplyCancel

  • Julie5.19.22 - 1:47 PM

    Gosh, it’s beautiful! Not that you care what a random girl from the internet has to say, but I definitely strongly prefer the zero grout line compared to that inspiration photos with the thicker grout. You guys always do amazing work, I appreciate you overanalyzing every detail and sharing with us!ReplyCancel

  • Laura5.22.22 - 8:34 PM

    I love the color combo you’ve chosen! It will be so warm and beautiful. We just remodeled our kitchen and we originally wanted soapstone. In the end, we went with a honed black granite with white veining and we’re really happy with it. The soapstones we saw weren’t as black as we wanted them to be…this looks like I imagined soapstone to look if that makes sense!
    Can’t wait to see your kitchen come together!ReplyCancel


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