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The One Item That Inspired Our Entire Kitchen Design

A question we receive often when it comes to a new room design is: Where do you start? And the truth is … we don’t have a clear answer. I’m admittedly the kind of person that feels frustrated if we start a room design and it feels ‘off’; it could be anything from the paint color that feels wrong, to the rug or the chair or the finish of X, Y and Z. When this happens, I begin my deep dive. I search every corner of the internet for that magical piece – whether that’s a thing or a photo – until I find my missing puzzle piece. During my deep dive, I may stumble across an item for the room that is so right, and I’m immediately relieved. Suddenly, everything makes sense. I get downright giddy (true story). I’m excited about the possibilities again!

Let’s consider our Tree House. As soon as we saw this matte black bed, the entire master bedroom fell into place. When we landed on this sofa, we were like, yes! And in the kitchen, it was something as simple as this grey-beige-y (greige!) backsplash tile:

When we thought about how we wanted our Tree house kitchen to feel, we kept coming back to the same words: Warm. Inviting. Also? Non-fussy. Clutter-free. When we walked into our meeting with the Lowe’s Design Specialist, we came armed with those words in mind, inspiring Instagram bookmarks and a handful of samples, including our flooring, a sofa swatch, and the tile.

During that meeting, as we first started sorting through cabinet colors, countertops and the countless options available, we quickly realized that the tile was becoming our non-negotiable. The warm grey seemed to embody everything we were looking for! If we started to stray from that small ceramic sample, things quickly started to feel ‘off’; it wasn’t until we course-corrected back to the tile that things fell into place again.

You know now that we ultimately decided to go with white cabinets and a mostly white quartz countertop, and we’ll be bringing in hits of brass, matte black and natural wood tones, too. And although the sample in these photos is the larger 4″ x 12″ size, we knew we wanted to stick with the more classic 3″ x 6″ shape. But the first night after our design meeting, I had a moment of panic. What if the greige tile looks dated? What if it makes the room feel dark? Should we have gone with a more traditional white? (Which was then followed by, no, move away from your comfort zone!)

I began searching online for examples of ‘grey tile backsplash,’ which immediately brought up results that felt wrong. All wrong! But when I took a closer look, these images also weren’t paired with white cabinets. Or white countertops. So, I took a step back. I refined my search. I dug deeper. Finally, I felt like I was getting somewhere. I began pinning my little heart out:

one | two

For a hot second, I asked Scott if we should swap those white cabinets to something with color – ha! But doesn’t that backsplash look so pretty with the blue?


And then, never mind. More white cabinets. More grey backsplashes. More kitchens with wood accents. I got excited all over again – giddy! – and I felt more than ever that we were on the right track.

four | five

So now we ask you, where do you start when you design a room? Is it a paint color? A piece of artwork? Your favorite photograph?

Inspiration designs by 1| Caitlin Wilson, 2| Erica Burns, 3| Emily Henderson, 4| Katie Hackworth, 5| Ginny Macdonald

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  • Elaine3.29.18 - 6:28 AM

    I’m apparently the same way – a single item will dictate the entire space and once I find that item, it’s like it all just clicks into the correct alignment. For example, I’ve stared at and hated my living room for most of the time I’ve had my condo, thinking it for sure had to have 2 bookcases on one wall. In January, it occurred to me I should do one on one wall and one on a different wall and suddenly the whole thing felt perfect. It’s not done yet (yay waiting on a new sofa!) but it’s clearly moving in the right direction at a rapid pace! And it’s suddenly exciting and wonderful.ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.29.18 - 9:06 AM

      What a relief! It always feels so good when you can rearrange a room into a space you love without absolutely needing to buy something new. That said, HOORAY for a new sofa! :DReplyCancel

  • Jennifer3.29.18 - 8:45 AM

    Our fire place, while not directly visible from our kitchen, is 5 feet and 90 degrees removed from our kitchen peninsula. With our kitchen redo, every material is being held up to the grey/limestoney hearth and mantel. It’s my north star.ReplyCancel

  • beth3.29.18 - 9:41 AM

    We are just finishing a kitchen remodel and I guess my non negotiable was more in the layout than material. So I haven’t finished our backsplash yet and I am wondering what direction you will go with grout. We are doing a simialr tile but in a more true grey. Are you going to do a matching grout or something with a bit of contrast? I immediately thought I would do matching but maybe I should step out and do something trendy – like have some contrast.
    Thanks, BethReplyCancel

    • Kim3.29.18 - 10:01 AM

      We’re keeping things very toned down and neutral, so we chose a grout that’s as close to the tile color as possible. As for your backsplash, what colors are your cabinets and countertops? If there’s already contrast there, you might want to keep contrast minimal on the tile to prevent things from looking too busy. Or maybe a happy medium and do a subtle grout contrast?ReplyCancel

      • beth3.29.18 - 8:02 PM

        Thank you for reassurance that going matching is OK. :) Our cabinets are birch with creamy white quartz with grey veining. I am thinking we want the cabinets to be the stars so matching grout is probably a better idea.ReplyCancel

  • ryan3.29.18 - 2:40 PM

    I’m taking a LONG time to finish my kitchen remodel. First had to wait until we completed the whole house electrical upgrade and next replacing the water supply lines. But we’re close and for the longest time I wanted grey backsplash tile. But mostly because I though white was too trendy, too obvious. I got samples, I tried to make it work but I was also worried about the kitchen getting dark and heavy. We have a west and NW facing window but really it’s a view directly into our neighbors kitchen so not a lot of light gets in. We also have cherry countertops and white/blue cabinets (that will be repainted greyish-green soon). Also the kitchen is only 9×9.

    I finally realized that white tile with a light warm grey grout is probably our best bet but I think part of my problem with picking finishes is that I don’t have one item to center it around. I guess it could be our chrome pulls which are reproductions identical to the originals in the house but they only inspire me to try to keep the design as true to the age of the home as possible without any direction toward color. Or maybe it’s the cherry countertops. They are a bold color and it can be hard to find inspiration pictures online because wood counters are still uncommon.

    I struggle with decision paralysis so at some point I just need to pick SOMETHING and really it will all come together.ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.29.18 - 3:14 PM

      Cherry countertops paired with grey-green cabinets sounds so stunning! But I hear you, that could start to look or too heavy pretty quickly. Based on what you’re saying, I would lean white just to bring in a place for the eyes to rest (with all the other color going on). Maybe consider a handcrafted white tile or a herringbone pattern… something to keep the white from feeling too boring if that’s what you’re worried about?ReplyCancel

  • Whitney3.30.18 - 12:48 PM

    I am loving the blue cabinets and white countertops, it gives such a modern and clean feel! I am drooling over that, I have considered getting new cabinets for some time and this may have just encouraged me to beg my husband sooner than later! Thanks for the post.ReplyCancel

  • It’s amazing how one piece of tile can totally steer all of your decisions! I actually like to start like you did – how do I want the room to feel? Then I go from there!ReplyCancel

  • Mark4.1.18 - 11:26 AM

    I think starting from a piece of artwork is a brilliant idea – it’s much easier to match your room to a piece of art than it is to find art (art that you actually like), that also matches your decor.

    I also love the idea of having every room in your house themed around a certain piece of art. How cool would that be?ReplyCancel

    • MEB4.1.18 - 1:29 PM

      There is a lot that I love about this idea, however might it depend somewhat on the diversity of your art work. Things might get weird and chaotic quickly. On the other hand, if you are into that look, as many of us are, then let the fun begin. Party games could include attempting to match the room to the artist!ReplyCancel

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