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No one likes to hear this when selecting finishes. It is so easy to get caught up in all the amazing choices available but, believe me when I say you need to consider this step, otherwise your room, or worse your whole house, will visually look busy. This would not be a good thing for most people. The addition of newer, soft finishes and minor updates will keep timeless hard finishes in your home looking fresh.

The flooring in this photo has a strong pattern. The walls are painted in a neutral off-white color.


Hard finishes are materials like stone, tile and granite for countertops. These materials can typically be expensive and even if you get a “deal” on the materials, the labor to install them is very costly. It is best to install them only once over the life of your home if possible. Choosing neutral hard finishes allows you to change the room with less expensive materials such as soft finishes and small decorative pieces.

I find the selections of hard finishes are limited especially when it comes to stone. Choose stone finishes first and work your overall color scheme around them. Purchase materials that will age well. Again, it is best to keep them neutral, understated and timeless so the need to change them is minimized over time.

Granite was all the rage for a long time. I still see it in kitchens as it is a great surface for food preparation. The problem with granite is that the pattern can be very busy - very loud, if you know what I mean. If you are renovating, have a busy, loud granite pattern and don’t want to waste this material by removing it, work your color scheme around it by picking something subtle and neutral so that the granite remains the eye-catching feature in the kitchen. I have seen lots of kitchen remodels with busy, loud granite patterns on the counters and a competing backsplash. I find this distracting as my eye continues to try to figure out which one to look at. Keep the other finishes simple and complimentary. Choose a floor that does not compete. Choose a neutral, complimentary wall color. Choose simple, understated cabinetry. Let this type of granite have all the attention.


Patterns such as Versailles, offset, running bond/brick pattern and stacked with linear grout joints seen in modern interiors can be timeless. It is important to coordinate the tile or stone with the appropriate pattern and grout color. Herringbone and chevron pattern, in my opinion, is tricky. I find that with some tiles I don’t mind this pattern and with others it becomes too hard on my eyes, especially in the case of a kitchen backsplash. It all depends on the color of the tile and the color of the grout. A strong contrast in grout color showcases the outline of the tiles and makes the pattern more prominent. That would be fine if the flooring and the countertop material are plain and the pattern doesn’t compete. For historic home renovations look at older photos of comparable styles of houses to see which patterns are being used. I recommend staying true to the style of home if possible.

Soft Finishes.

Curtains, rugs, carpet and major upholstered furnishings are soft finishes. These finishes can also be quite costly, but typically installation or delivery costs are less than hard finishes. Choose major or large upholstered furniture with a neutral fabric. Choose a fabric that will hold up to your lifestyle requirements. Large pieces will most likely move with you from house to house. Make an investment in well-crafted pieces and they should last you a very long time. Try to pick timeless styles and pieces that can work on many levels. Tables, benches, stools and end tables can be used in different places in the home. Moving them from room to room can help change up a space making if feel fresh.

Curtains and wall to wall carpets remain with the house. Again, choose something neutral. Steer clear of trends. Purchase the best you can afford. If you inherit furniture or have worn pieces that are not antiques, painting them all the same color goes a long way to make them look like they belong together.

Updates in a room can be accomplished by choosing smaller items in current colors or shapes such as throw pillows, plants in interesting shaped planters and photos. Small lamps, books and baskets all help to change up a room and to keep if from feeling dated.

Paint Color.

Paint is incredible. It comes in any and every color imaginable, therefore, the wall colors should be chosen last in your overall color scheme. I find that lots of people do this backwards and choose a wall color first before the flooring or the furnishing style. I have made this mistake. Don’t. I would like to caution you about a couple of things regarding paint:

  • Pick your trim color to be the same from room to room.

  • Pick your wall and trim colors with the correct undertones.

  • Pick your wall colors last after your hard finishes have been determined.

  • Pick your wall color by painting a large, stiff board and put it against a large white background in the room you are painting to get an accurate idea of the color and the undertones.

  • Don’t paint every room a drastically different color.

Final Thoughts.

Settle on your decorating scheme (or style direction) and pick your hard finishes before you select anything else. Make a one pattern limit to your hard finishes per room. Select a trim color that can be used consistently throughout the house. Some people love the wood trim look and others love painted wood. Decide which camp you are in. If the trim is to be painted white, choose the proper undertone to work with the hard finishes and the final wall color. Do not pair a white with yellow undertones with a stone with pink undertones. I recommend doing the same with wood trim as it also has an undertone that will compete with the hard finishes in your home.

If you are looking for a comprehensive package of hard finish suggestions, shop my various finish schemes for sale. The PDF download is a materials list of coordinated hard finishes and appropriate foundation whites for kitchens or baths. Be sure to get both corresponding rooms if you are planning a complete remodel.





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