The Kitchen Tile is Back + Big Renovation News!

Hi Everyone,

Yes, the kitchen tile is back! That was one of the surprises I was waiting to tell you about.

The replacement tile went up Friday morning, and Phillip, the tiler, sealed it afterward. Then, he returned Saturday morning and grouted it with white grout.

If you missed the first tile installation trainwreck post, you can see it here.

Even though I had done tests and it was sealed, I wasn’t taking any chances. Like I said, if I prefer a darker color, I can always use a grout pen.

So, let’s take a look at the newly installed and grouted kitchen tile!


range backsplash detail


A tight close-up of the newly installed kitchen tile with white grout.


subway tile white grout


When standing in front of the range, it looks like this. You don’t see the crazing at all.


Sink wall historic white subway kitchen tile - white grout

That entire counter is only nine feet long.

range wall kitchen tile white grout
The range wall with only the fantastic Zephyr hood lights on.


subway tile - white grout - sink wall

The lights are normally on, but since the lighting is not what it will be, I left them off.


While the tile is beautiful, it lacks that vintage feel we had below when the kitchen tile had no grout. I don’t dislike the white grout; however, it looks too contemporary.


sink wall subway tile cropped


The first subway tile before the gray grout ruined it.


Kitchen subway tile living room - renovation 2024

I know some of you have strong feelings one way or the other regarding the color grout for the kitchen tile.

In this case, the darker grout lines are my preference because they look genuinely old. However, the lines don’t need to be quite this dark. Therefore, I’d love to try a light-ish gray grout pen in an inconspicuous spot by the Zephyr range hood.


rejuvenation subway kitchen tile


This color grout would give the tile the right amount of definition and vintage feel. I’d like the tile to look like it’s been there for decades, not days.


However, for now, I am very happy with the kitchen tile.


This is interesting. I found a blog with the same tile, and surprise, surprise, she had the same issue with dark grout, only hers was worse than mine. 

That’s because she used pure black grout, which I’m not a fan of, even if it didn’t bleed into the tile.


What else is going on, Laurel?


There is a lot going on, but I need to break it down. Therefore, I’ll begin with the floors.

Last week, Pat, a long-time delightful reader, recommended the hardwood flooring contractor she used for her former Beacon Hill home.

The flooring contractor, Gary, came over on Thursday, was very knowledgeable, and seemed intrigued by my job.


OH! Get this.


The old hardwood oak floor is RED oak, not the white oak, Robert specified and had put down. I figured he knew what he was doing. Well, the floor upstairs has to be replaced, anyway, except for the border around the stairs. But, we can deal with that issue during the staining process by tweaking that border color if necessary.

Incidentally, I’ve decided to keep the color pretty much the same: a rich cognac color with a semi-gloss sheen.


Today, I approved Gary’s estimate, and they are set to begin July 8th.


In the meantime, Gary is making samples for me. This is how it should be. With Robert, I get, “What color do you want the floor to be?” I don’t know, nor does anyone else, until we see samples of how the stain will react with the floor. When we decide what product(s) will best suit our needs, it’s wise to do a test sample on the floor once it’s sanded to double-check.

Sometimes, we only do samples on the floor. However, the white floor downstairs is a little trickier.

I can’t wait to share more about the floor-finishing process.


Will the painting be done by then?


Ahh that is a terrific question, and the answer points to the lack of management and communication on this job. No, the painting won’t have even started. This should’ve been discussed before Bryan decided to take matters into his own incapable hands.

All of the messy parts need to happen first, beginning downstairs, and then after that’s done and covered, the upstairs can be completed.


How does this work with you living there?


That’s another terrific question. You guys are so smart! ;] Well, I’m 99% sure I have a place to stay when things get really bad, and it’s unbelievably close by. In fact, it’s in my building! More about that later.


What about a painter, Laurel?


Ahh… Yes, there’s news on that front, too. However, I need to save that one.

I will also be discussing a timeline for the completion.

To be continued…



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38 Responses

  1. Your renovation looks so gorgeous. I’m so impressed, even though I know there are details that you aren’t delighted with. Your blog has been a real inspiration to me during my much-lower-budget reno in a historic home. THANK YOU!

    FWIW, if you don’t like white grout, I could lend you my family of slob cooks for a week. My white grout did not stay white very long. 🙂

  2. Light gray grout will definitely make the tile look more original to an old house! The white/non contrasting grout on handmade tile is a current style for sure which is probably why so many people like it.

  3. I love the white grout! It lets your fabulous tile be the statement vs grout lines. Hard to tell in a picture but the tile looks hand made and the white really shows that off. The sophistication of the cabinets and tile being different textures of the same color is really lovely. Love everything you are doing.

  4. I’m interested in the fact that red oak was installed rather than white oak on one floor. Apparently you didn’t realize that. I thought I remembered that one was more expensive, was harder, took stain differently, etc than the other.

    So I googled “which is more expensive for flooring – red oak or white oak?”

    I think it may be worth your while to look at all the info that comes up. There’s a lot! One concern I have is about whether the stains will match given, that one is wood more porous than the other. It might be better to have both floors the same in terms of the colour.

    I’m having more doubts about your GC.

    1. Hi Heather,

      Yes, the GC’s knowledge in some areas is not the best. I have worked this out with the new floor company. This is why I needed to get rid of my GC’s company. However, Gary, the owner of the new company and I talked about the need for two different stains. This is not an unheard of problem. I’ve dealt with it before. Sometimes it isn’t necessary to change stains, but in this case, it probably will be. It will be fine.

  5. I’m a huge fan of semi-green/eco Magic Oil 2K for a floor stain. Very little smell and dries in 24 hours. Easy to touch up, as there is no polyurethane/plastic top required. It’s oil that seeps into the weed. European cafes use it. Rubio Monocoat also seems good.

    1. Hi Jeannie,

      Yes, I’m familiar with this hard wax oil and have also read great things about it. My floor guy says it spots if it gets wet. I’m not sure that’s true. But, the Palman x gold two part waterbased poly is supposed to be excellent and is fully cured in only 3 days.

  6. The tile looks wonderful! I vote for giving it some time (maybe a few months?) to decide whether you want to make the grout darker. I do like it the way it is, but also think a pale gray grout would be lovely. Your kitchen is so gorgeous! Also, I’m so happy that your reader, Pat, could recommend a good flooring guy. I always marvel at the wonderful community you have here on your blog – so many kind, knowledgeable, and generous people here :]

  7. Your condo is the most beautiful space I have ever seen and it’s been so interesting to see your process. We recently bought our first prewar house (with all in tact original windows and woodwork and plaster) after a lifetime of sheetrock subdivision houses and did a far less ambitious reno. I feel less stupid and annoyed about stuff that went wrong watching your project –it’s not schadenfreude–I’m truly sorry about workmanship you encountered. But it’s somehow comforting to know it happens to far more knowledgeable people with less constrained budgets. Of course, yours will get fixed, and ours likely not except in my fantasies.

  8. I’m on team grey grout. It will look less recent, pick up the veining of the marble, and tie in with the floor–not to mention the gorgeous Cremone bolts!
    I am so relieved that solutions now seem to be coming as fast as disasters did before.

  9. Laurel, the white grout looks stupendous; much better than I thought it would. I was actually surprised how gorgeous it looked since I was originally voting for the darker grout. Please give it several months before deciding to change it! Your whole kitchen is stunning!

  10. What a nice progress report you’ve shared. It had been a real life cliff-hanger for a few weeks. Hgtv or the Magnolia channel could do a show called ‘Nerves of Steel’ and you could be the star! My blood starts boiling when I think of the painter’s cavalier attitude to his work on an elegant historic property and to you, his client. **** re: the grout… Of course you are 100% right on your grout color decision!

  11. I’m so relieved that the tiles are installed and that you got a good recommendation for the floors. Gary sounds like a great person to work with. The tiles look beautiful. I hope this upward trend in progress continues for you, Laurel! You’ve been on such a wild roller coaster.

  12. I have the exact same tile in my kitchen , white grout , has held up beautifully,,,,,,the only place that looks a tad dingy is behind the faucet where it meets the counter…..10 years old and looks beautiful..really looking forward to completion, it will be stunning!

  13. I love the white grout as it makes for a calm look. Very elegant. A whisper grey could also work, if the grout will take your color pen evenly.

  14. You are the expert and the homeowner and know what you like, but I noticed with the darker grout my eyes immediately went to the backsplash. With the white grout, my eyes just noticed all of it, the tile, faucet, countertop and cabinetry, which looks absolutely stunning! The curved end cabinet is brilliant!
    May I ask the make of your range?

  15. A wise realtor once told me if you are not sure about something, live with it for six months before changing it. At that point you will know exactly what you want to do. That advice has saved me a lot of money and grief over the years. Personally, I dislike white subway tile with dark grout; although, it works in the example you linked to because the cabinets and counter tops are dark, so the dark grout ties in the tile with the rest of the kitchen. Your kitchen is so beautiful, but it is all very light with silver hardware. I would not go with grout any darker than a pale gray. And like others have said, I personally think the white grout looks nice. So maybe just live with it a while.

  16. Your kitchen is splendid. I can hardly wait to see it completely finished. Trust your gut. You are the qualified designer, & you are doing a passion project here. I too like the kitchen tile, & don’t think the white grout will be a detriment. BUT, I too am a fan of a very light gray grout with white tle. Your painting fiasco breaks my heart, particularly because I am living with a less than ideal paint job in my custom built home my husband & I moved into just over a tear ago. Hiring highly skilled painters is virtually impossible in this area. It appears we will have to fix the problems ourselves over time. We’re retired. This is our last build, so especially disappointing. Enjoying our home otherwise!

  17. I have used a strong tea mixture brew to wipe on grout prior to sealing it. You need to test the strength of the tea on a sample first to get that perfect “old white” look, but generally, it works great!

  18. Hi Laurel,
    The new tile installation looks terrific. Even with the white grout. I don’t view it as modern. My first impression was that it looked clean.
    Your kitchen is so beautiful. Have you loaded all of your things into the cabinets? And when is the dishwasher panel being installed?
    That’s great that you have a close place to stay while the floors are being done. You’ll be able to keep an eye on things.

  19. I was thinking about “Blurry,” I think he had a job somewhere else for more money and decided to do what he did to get fired!
    It’s all going to work out in the end, but when is that, is the question!!!
    Kitchen is so great and just gorgeous!

  20. Your kitchen is exquisite. The white grout allows the tile edges to subtly create texture and interest. I’d hold off on adding color until everything is completed and you can stand back and assess if colored grout is truly needed. You have such great taste!

  21. The white grout looks fresh and beautiful like the new cabinetry and appliances. However, if you are set on changing the color of the grout, I suggest looking at Bostik’s Silver Bullet which is a light grey. I always look forward to reading your blog and am cheering you on from the sidelines!

  22. Laurel:

    I too like the tile with the white grout. It’s clean and beautiful. Maybe live with it for a couple of days to see if it still bothers you.

    I’m sorry for the painful paint experience. Makes me very sad for you. But soldier on! This will be in the rear view mirror before you know it! Thanks for the renovation blog!

  23. Please give the white grout a chance! You will come to love it especially once you’ve gotten the kitchen truly finished. Using the paint pen you mentioned will just make the back splash look like a childish outline so tread very carefully here if you proceed. The star of your kitchen is the exquisite cabinetry; the backsplash only plays a supporting role.

  24. What a gorgeous kitchen!
    And I could not believe how bad that paint job was. I’m hoping you haven’t paid that guy for the whole job.
    I think a wide piece of tile molding wouldn’t look good either, Laurel, I agree with you, you have such a good mental eye! I guess they don’t make a thin pencil. Wood will be just fine!
    Mainly I wanted to comment that I believe my beautiful wide and long plank oak floor, which I paid extra for white oak, is actually red oak. Seems to have turned reddish over the years (has a light finish). Wish I could tell for certain, although it’s been over 5 years now so water under the bridge I suppose.
    Thank you for you blog, you are the best.

  25. Ah, beauty has returned! The kitchen keeps looking more and more marvelous! You must be so much better to have gotten at least the tile back up, and what sounds like a sensible, professional craftsman who can do your floors properly. I do love the current floor color, and am excited to know that you are keeping it, since it looks delectable with your signature teal.

    So sorry to be sending you our Alabama heat! 🙄 Down here, there’s a lot a sweet tea – sending you a virtual cup! 🧋

  26. Hi Laurel, Love following your Reno. When I saw the picture of the new tile, the first thing that jumped out at me was the leading edge of the tile back splash at the curved cabinet end. It has a chopped off and unfinished look. I think it would have looked so much more finished, and had a real ‘attention to detail’ look, if the tile moulding piece that runs along the top of the splash had been mitered and returned down the the top of the marble splash. The other end finishes nicely and naturally as it dies into the perpendicular cabinet wall. But this highly visual end begs to be finished and actually have an end!!

    1. Hi Robin,

      We do that with wood trim, but I’m not sure if the tiler had the equipment to do that. It looks fine in person. There was supposed to be a pencil edge, but the one they have is huge and looked ridiculous so we didn’t use it.

  27. The current grout makes the tiles more elegant.
    If you have extra tiles, tape them down on a piece of wood and grout them. That way you won’t risk screwing up the actual tiles.

  28. I do agree that the darker grout is perfect. Love the way it brought out the veining in the marble. Those cabinets are just gorgeous. About painting…I’m not understanding the rush to paint. Why wouldn’t painting be the absolute last step, especially in such a massive renovation?

  29. So on Sunday, I thought I would join the legions of readers sending you stories about their own construction nightmares, consoling you and praising your considerable patience and fortitude. I typed a compassionate and somewhat amusing tribute (I thought) which vanished into the ether when I pressed a mystery key on my new iPad. I just wanted my voice to join the chorus sending positive energy your way. The painting episode and tile grouting efforts were a disaster of Brobdinagian proportions, the latter fortunately remedied. The white is nice but I agree, try the pen. You are fortunate to have such fine carpenters. Your apartment is looking outstanding, the kitchen is a dream, the stair railing gorgeous, the millwork sublime. And that fireplace is pure heaven. You even have an opportunity to test the performance of the mini-split! May from here on in, you keep cool and keep clam, Laurel. PS. that was not a typo. Boston is famous for its chowder.

  30. I love the white grout. It looks clean. Trust me, you will not even notice this down the road. It’s gorgeous, modern or not!

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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