Color Coordinating: Should Countertops Match Floor or Cabinets

Date: January 21, 2020
Author: Jon Smith
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Whether you’re building a new kitchen from scratch or renovating your existing kitchen, color coordination is key. Choosing a countertop, is typically where most people start, adding flooring and cabinets next. Then filling in the other cosmetic pieces and appliances once the major components are in place.

Should Countertops Match The Floor Or The Cabinets

When color coordinating a kitchen, the countertops should complement the flooring and cabinets, but not directly match. When choosing a color scheme, there should be two colors, and a third for accents. The countertops and flooring should be similar, and the cabinets should be the second color, complementing the color of the countertop and flooring.

I’m sorry to say; designing a kitchen isn’t as easy as picking out a countertop and matching cabinets and flooring. If the idea of choosing a countertop along with flooring and cabinets that compliment rather than directly match seems overwhelming, then keep reading. Here you’ll find tips and tricks that will help guide you through the process and will hopefully take some of the stress away.

Color Coordinating in the Kitchen: Start with the Countertops

Countertops are generally the focal point of the kitchen. While the floor covers more surface area than the countertops, the line of vision isn’t directed down. The countertops are usually what people see first.

Also, countertops are often made of materials that have multiple colors involved. This will be an important factor in the overall color scheme of the kitchen when choosing flooring and cabinetry.

Consider Overall Style

The kitchen is where everyone gathers for meals and conversation. It’s the place where people entertain when friends or family come over. Kitchens are basically the hub of a home. No matter how big or small, the kitchen serves as the epicenter of all home happenings. This is why it’s so important that the kitchen directly reflects your style.

Everyone has a vision for the kitchen. It’s always helpful to gather photos, samples, and visuals in one spot while determining the overall aesthetic of the finished product. That way, you have something to refer to as the project continues. When searching for ideas that match your vision, keep in mind your style. There are different countertops that will fit in with each one.

Traditional

This is an overall favorite and one of the most common kitchen styles, hence the “traditional” name. Traditional kitchens are simple and clean, with little elements that add a certain level of comfort. The overall color scheme is light with a lot of white, with a very casual feel. Nothing too fancy.

A kitchen that’s traditional in style is usually a favorite amongst families or people that love to have a company. Countertops in a traditional kitchen are usually neutral in color, with lots of beige or gray. They’re typically natural stone materials, such as granite or marble. Butcher block countertops for kitchen islands are also common in these kitchens.

When choosing a countertop to match a traditional style, keep in mind that it should be durable, because these kitchens are used, and used a lot. Granite and marble are also great options because they can endure a lot of action without a lot of maintenance.

Contemporary or Modern

These kitchens are sleek and minimalist. And, if there are details, they’re usually artistic in nature, and not done in abundance. The focus in a contemporary kitchen is the updated appliances and cutting-edge design, so the countertops are more or less an accessory to these.

Metal or concrete countertops have become popular in contemporary kitchens. Laminate countertop in various colors is another contemporary style option because this countertop material is available in different colors and can adapt to any scheme. Quartz is another choice out there, but only if you have the budget for it.

The contemporary style is also characterized by a lack of decorations, so the countertops aren’t covered in fruit baskets and appliances and tchotchkes. The simplicity of the countertops themselves is the decoration. Therefore, when choosing a countertop material, it’s important to pick one that can be easily cleaned and fits into your cleaning routine.

Transitional

Transitional kitchens are a happy medium between traditional and contemporary. This style if what happens when you love elements from both styles, and you’re somewhat stuck in the middle. It’s great for those of us that don’t like to commit to just one side or the other. If the vision for your kitchen is somewhat in the middle and transitional in nature, you can start with a countertop from either style.

Coastal

A kitchen with a beachy vibe usually has cool color tones and lots of wood or seagrass elements. And light. Coastal style kitchens feature lots and lots of natural sunlight, of course.

Anyone that wants to feel like they’re near the beach might want to stick with a coastal kitchen aesthetic. The countertops are usually very simple and compliment the airy, sunlit color scheme. Butcher block countertops are natural and bring in the driftwood element.

Sometimes the countertops in a coastal kitchen can be a major design element, featuring sea glass or natural stone that channels the sea glass color scheme.

Eclectic

Anyone that wants an eclectic kitchen is in the market for something that’s very personal. A custom-fit kitchen. There’s usually a lot of contrast in colors and textures, so the countertops should reflect this overall feel.

If your style fits into the eclectic box, rather, or outside of any other box, be ready to make lots of choices. Pretty much anything goes within this style realm. However, if you’re planning on committing to this style, you’ll have to be prepared to make decisions and to make sure there’s a balance.

The countertops are a great place to start, so whatever material you choose, it can be the aspect that ties everything together. This is a kitchen that’s all about the look, so it may or may not be used as often as, say, a traditional kitchen. The durability and longevity of a countertop material may or may not be important in this decision.

Craftsman or Rustic

Just like the name says, this style is for the artist. It’s all about natural materials and handcrafted elements, or at least things that appear to be that way. Lots of ornate details are characteristic of this style.

Darker countertops in natural materials like granite or marble fit well into this style. Soapstone is another option for this style. A craftsman kitchen looks and feels like it’s used by someone that knows their way around a kitchen, so the countertops should at least look like they’re an important part of the cooking process.

Farmhouse

With the increasing popularity of some design shows, farmhouse style has become one of the most widely favorited styles, especially in the kitchen. Lots of greenery and sunlight fill these kitchens, along with exposed wood features. These kitchens have a very country feel, so even if you’re not actually on a farm, you might feel like you are.

A farmhouse kitchen is really where most of the action takes place, so the materials on the countertop have to be heavy-duty. Inspirational quotes and signs are commonplace in a farmhouse kitchen, so these are often left on the countertops as decoration. The countertops themselves are the background for much of the other elements.

Butcher block countertops are often spotted in these kitchens. Another favorite is laminate. Sometimes, a wooden look can be achieved with a laminate that looks like wood. However, soapstone and marble are also both commonly used.

Mediterranean or Tuscan

Kitchens with elements that resemble Italian and Greek themes fit into this category. These kitchens often feature natural stone or brick, with lots of neutrals in the color scheme.

Butcher block is also common in the kitchens as a countertop. Also, marble or granite with lots of browns and beige is used frequently. Both are great options, so the choice lies within the preference of the homeowner.

Mid-Century Modern

Imagine the kitchen from The Brady Bunch, only updated. Lots of clean, straight lines with a white foundation. There are pops of color in a mid-century modern kitchen, but just a few. Geometric shapes in the light fixtures and furniture are also featured in this common kitchen style.

Laminate countertops are usually done in this kitchen. They’re the most versatile when it comes to colors. Also, if sticking to a true mid-century design, this is one of the only types of countertops that were available during the time of the actual middle of the century.

Shabby Chic

A farmhouse kitchen with lots of vintage elements can be described as shabby chic. Similar to an eclectic style kitchen, the shabby chic kitchen has very few rules. This style has become popular for those that love the farmhouse feel of an open, inviting kitchen, without ditching those favorite vintage elements.

Any kind of countertop fits into this style. Really, anything goes. However, because this style is very budget-friendly, laminate countertops are often used in shabby chic kitchens, since they can be the most affordable option.

Industrial

With the availability of homes that are built-in nontraditional spaces (think of old urban factories turned into loft apartments), industrial kitchens are on the rise. These kitchens feature little to no design elements. They are there just for regular kitchen use. Often times, there doesn’t have a table, just a bar with stools.

The focus in these kitchens is on the stainless-steel appliances. Concrete countertops are the most common in these kitchens. Gray and black stone, like granite or quartz, are also used. However, the stone would be matte, with very little patterning.

Putting Your Kitchen Together: Consider the Materials

Everyone uses their kitchens differently. Therefore, it’s important to choose a countertop material that will support how much or how little the kitchen is used.

If cooking is an important part of your life, a more durable countertop is a must. Are you the person that’s always hosting the family events? Then you’ll need a countertop that can handle spills, as well as hot or cold items.

However, if your kitchen is just there for looks, or you’re more of a takeout fan, then the material can be chosen more based on aesthetics and style, as well as budget.

Granite

This has become one of the most popular materials because it’s available in so many options. Although granite isn’t the most budget-friendly, it has come down a bit in price due to its popularity.

Granite looks luxurious and rich, but it’s also very functional. It is very strong and can handle hot pots straight from the stove, and even the occasional “oops I forgot a cutting board” moment.

Granite is also great for anyone that wants a low maintenance countertop. There’s very little upkeep required, and it’s easy to clean. However, all of this depends on how it’s installed, and granite does require professional installation. It’s very heavy and most definitely will crack if it’s not done properly.

Quartz

Sometimes called “engineered stone,” quartz is actually a mix between quartz and other minerals. These materials are held together by resin, so it’s not naturally occurring stone that’s been taken out of a quarry.

Quartz is also easy to maintain and can handle lots of spills. Like granite, it can take the heat, too. Quartz doesn’t have to be installed by a professional, although it’s heavy, so it is recommended.

The price of quartz is rather expensive, so it’s not the most budget-friendly option out there.

Soapstone

Soapstone is great in kitchens that have a vintage or historical feel. While the stone itself can scratch, it just adds to the antique look of the soapstone, instead of looking like an imperfection.

This type of countertop isn’t one that lends itself to all kitchen styles, but it does work in a craftsman or farmhouse kitchen. Even a traditional kitchen could feature a soapstone countertop if it’s done right.

Soapstone does require a professional to install it, and there is maintenance required. However, if the countertop does get damaged, in most cases, it can be sanded out.

Marble

This type of countertop material is often featured in fancy kitchens, where budget isn’t a factor. Marble is unique because, well, it’s unique. Each and every slab of marble is different, and because it’s a natural resource, there’s no two slabs alike.

Marble is expensive. Really expensive. And, it’s not the most durable because it does scratch. It scratches rather easily, in fact. However, a marble countertop is waterproof and can take the heat.

But marble is only effective if it’s installed properly and sealed. Maintenance of marble countertops is crucial to ensure its longevity.

Solid Surface Material

These countertops are man-made from acrylics and resins. It can be customized to fit any shape and size necessary. It’s also available in just about any color imaginable.

Solid surface countertops have been popular for a long time, but they’re still a favorite because of their affordability and durability. They don’t stain and they are very low maintenance. Like many of the other options, these should only be installed by a professional.

Concrete

Concrete countertops can mimic the colors and patterns of natural stone, like granite or marble, depending on the stain used. But, unlike granite and marble, these countertops can be made to fit anywhere, so they’re more customizable. They’re actually made right in your kitchen, using forms that fit directly onto your cabinetry.

Concrete countertops can be expensive and require a professional to install. They also have to be sealed often because concrete is so porous. It’s also a very custom material, so it can be negative if the home is going to be sold in the future.

Ceramic Tile

Kitchen designs that feature a lot of detail and design often use ceramic tiles for countertops. They’re very durable and don’t have to be expensive, although there are some incredibly pricey custom ceramic tiles out there.

Ceramic tile countertops are very easy to clean, so they’re great for kitchens that get a lot of use. Another bonus of ceramic tile is that just about anyone can install it. There’s no need for professionals to do that part, so it can save some money down the road.

Laminate

This is a widely used option because of its price and color range. There’s literally a laminate countertop color available for any budget and any color scheme. It’s also highly customizable as far as shape and size.

This is a countertop that doesn’t require professional installation, so again, it can save money. While some of the laminate options are durable, others are not, so it’s important to ask before committing to this kind of countertop.

Butcher Block or Wood

While these butcher block countertops can work in many kitchen spaces, and even function as an accent piece on a kitchen island or table, they’re not the best option for a countertop that’s used frequently.

Because they’re made of wood and wood is so porous, they need to be sealed and resealed often. However, they are easy to clean if sealed properly. Also, with wood, you can sand and reseal if anything happens to the countertop, such as a burn or scratch.

Stainless Steel

With the rise of industrial kitchens and minimalist design, the clean look of a stainless steel countertop has become a popular choice in kitchens. This is a great option because it’s resistant to heat damage and very easy to clean.

One drawback to a stainless-steel countertop is that is can be loud. Making a cup of coffee in the morning can wake up the whole house if you’re not careful. It’s also rather expensive and definitely not a DIY task.

Once Countertops Are Chosen, Move Down to the Floor

Whew! There sure are a lot of choices when it comes to countertops, and we didn’t even delve into the millions of color options since that’s a personal preference that you’ll choose when you narrow down the style and material.

So, now that you’ve committed to a countertop, it’s time to choose a flooring option. While there are quite a few flooring options available, it won’t be as difficult because you’ve already narrowed down your style.

Flooring Color

The overall color scheme of your kitchen should consist of two colors, and a third for an accent if you’re feeling spicy. Your countertop color should be reflected in the flooring. The two should be similar, but not exact.

If your countertop is marble with gray and white, then a gray floor tile would be complementary and would work great. Or, if you’ve gone with a granite countertop with beige and brown, then a light version of that beige would be an option for flooring.

Overall, choose one of the colors from the countertops to be featured in the flooring. Not all of the colors. This will look too busy and confusing. The overall look when viewing the countertops and flooring should be cohesive.

Flooring Materials

When you have an idea of a color that coordinates with your countertops, then you can move on to choosing a material. While there are many choices when it comes to flooring, some, such as glass tiles or pebbles, just won’t work in the kitchen. We’ll focus on those that can withstand all of the kitchen activities.

Laminate

This is a flooring type that’s available in many colors and can be a DIY project. It’s also very affordable. Laminate flooring fits into any style and any budget.

Laminate is also very durable, so it’s great in a high traffic area. If your kitchen is a highly used area, laminate flooring is a good option. It’s also easy to care for and doesn’t require a lot of maintenance other than a good cleaning.

But, if your laminate flooring does get damaged, it will have to be replaced. This is why laminate tiles are often used because they can be lifted and fixed without having to lift up the whole floor.

Vinyl

Although many people think this is a dated flooring option, vinyl has come a long way since it was introduced years ago. Vinyl is easy to install. It’s also very, very affordable. There’s high-end vinyl available, too.

Vinyl is readily available and easy to find. Most big box stores carry vinyl flooring options. However, vinyl is not the most durable flooring option. It does have to be replaced from time to time.

Real Wood

These are always a popular option because they will last a lifetime. And they look great. Wood floors fit into just about any style of kitchen. They’re also very durable and can handle lots of action in the kitchen.

While hardwood floors are easy to maintain, they can require sanding and resealing if they become damaged. Real wood floors are pretty pricey, but they do last and are worth the price.

Engineered Wood

Man-made wood flooring is available in any color or style, to fit any kitchen color scheme. However, this is slightly more resistant to the kind of damage that can happen in a kitchen, such as dropping heavy things or water damage. Engineered wood is also easy to find in stores.

While it’s recommended that a professional does install any engineered wood flooring, it can be a DIY project. It’s also very easy to clean and repair if needed.

This flooring is laid piece by piece, so removing the spot that’s been damaged is a fairly simple process. It’s a good idea to keep a few extras around, just in case.

And Now for the Cabinets

The hard part is doe – or at least the majority of the thinking and choice making is done. And this part won’t require nearly as much thought. As we mentioned, color coordination is a kitchen consists of two colors, and sometimes a third.

You’ve chosen flooring and countertop with similar colors. Those will account for one of the colors in the scheme. The cabinets should be done in a color that compliments that color scheme but does not match. Ideally, the cabinets should be almost the opposite of the flooring and countertops and will serve as a means to break up the color scheme.

Think of it as a kitchen sandwich, with the countertops and flooring being the bread, and the cabinets as the meat.

  • If you’ve chosen a light countertop and flooring, the cabinets should be dark.
  • With a darker shaded countertop and flooring, the cabinets should be light. The color coordination should be done based on complementary colors, or opposites. Think back to the color wheel lessons in elementary art class.

The one exception to that is if you’re going for an all-over white or very light kitchen, then the cabinets will work if they’re showing the lack of color, or white, also. However, unless the kitchen has plenty of natural light, a darker flooring and countertop will always need a light-colored cabinet. Otherwise, the kitchen will be too dark.

Conclusion

Color coordination is important in a kitchen, to tie the elements together and give the space a cohesive look. While cabinets, counters and flooring don’t have to be matchy-matchy, they should complement one another.

The kitchen is one of the most important rooms in the house for the gathering of family and friends. And it needs to be practical, too. There are a lot of options out there for choosing the style and functionality you need in the color combinations that bring out your home’s personality.

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About Jon - Website Owner

Jon Smith

Hi, my name is Jonathan Smith. I have been in the granite business for many years and have worked my way up from an installer helper to an installer and then a countertop business owner. 

I started my countertop company with very little and grew extremely fast because of my knowledge and helpfulness. I started this countertop resource for 1 main reason. That reason is that there are no countertop websites with all the correct information and none of them are from an industry expert like myself. 

I am still in the trade every single day installing countertops, educating people on the type of material they are using for their homes, and making people's dream kitchens a reality.

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