There are some trends that fade in and out of popularity (we’re looking at you, glass bricks). Then there are the ones that stay at the bottom indefinitely—and tile countertops is apparently one of them. In a survey of 1,500 Americans from February 2020, respondents voted on their least favorite home decor crazes from the past 50 years, breaking them down by both decade and room. Fuzzy toilet seat covers, ruffled bed skirts, and art with inspirational quotes also topped the list, but when it comes to the kitchen, the message is clear: Never, ever tile your countertops again (or so say 30 percent of interviewees). 

The question the report doesn’t answer: What if your space already has them? After all, plenty of older homes feature this so-called faux pas. Yes, the seams between the individual squares can create problems (chopping on an uneven surface is tough and the grout collects crumbs). And though it’s heat-resistant, ceramic isn’t the most durable material on the block—the pieces can crack under pressure. But the bad and the ugly aside, tile countertops can be cool. Before you start replacing yours, consider these six ideas.

Choose a Contrasting Grout 

Read between the lines: The literal glue holding your boring white tiles together is your best friend. Simply dyeing the seams moss green, bright yellow, or electric blue will freshen up the dated feature. We especially love the peachy pink hue designer Tina Rich chose for the Prose office


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Bring It Down the Sides 

This Countertop Was Dubbed the Worst Kitchen Trend of the Past 50 Years
Photography by Laure Joliet

Starting from scratch? The dark green bathroom at the Kalon Studio L.A. showroom compels us to use tile all over. The small squares continue down the wall and over the front of the sink, creating a waterfall-like illusion. But why stop there? D-Tile’s curved pieces make it possible to work around turns and corners. 

Paint the Trim 

white kitchen cabinets with blue floor
Jesse Kamm Studio, Los Angeles, photographed by Laure Joliet 2018 for Domino magazine

Most ceramic tiles can be painted as long as they’re not subject to water. According to Sherwin-Williams, you’ll have to clean and lightly sand the surface first (as you would a wall) and go over it with an acrylic primer before applying a high-quality latex-based paint. You don’t have to go overboard. The cobalt blue edges in Jesse Kamm’s Los Angeles kitchen are all that’s needed to make the surface seem intentional. 

Take It Outside

Designer Annie Ritz (of AndAndAnd Studio) opted for a rich green subway tile on all sides of her client’s outdoor kitchen in order to best blend in with the California landscape. While the Heath Ceramics rectangles were chosen for their color, they’re also able to withstand years of wear and tear—including the rare L.A. rainstorm.

Check In

Lucky for you, tiled countertops pair perfectly with a hot 2021 trend: checkerboard. The motif in backsplash form ensures the countertops in Nicole Cohen’s 1920s New Jersey kitchen feel fresh not dated. 


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Stick to One Color

White, doorless cabinets help the old-school tile fade into the background in this kitchen, designed by Layne Kula. The tonal palette gives the eye a visual breather, guiding you to take in the homeowner’s tableware collection—or the view of the backyard—instead. See? What’s old can be made new again.

This story was originally published in February 2020. It has since been updated.