If You Can Only Update One Thing in Your Kitchen, Make It This

published Apr 3, 2023
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Dana McMahan's kitchen
Credit: Andrew Kung Photography

There are a lot of milestones in a major kitchen reno like the one I did with my best friend in a Victorian-era home that needed lots of love. Cabinet day was super exciting, and so was install day for the beautiful matte-white Bertazzoni range. But the day that was most exciting? It had to be the tile-install day.

Credit: Diane Deaton Street

If I posted one more Instagram story during the floor process that played Hot Chips’ “Ready for the Floor,” I was probably going to lose all my followers, but I was very enthusiastic about the choice we made for the tile. The kitchen when we got there had a reddish, vinyl stick-on floor situation with a faux-brick pattern that was busy and dreary and dingy. The room felt dark and cramped, even with white(ish) walls and several windows. In fact, I thought for a long time that we were working with a too-dark, kind-of-small kitchen. 

That is, until the big, white floor tiles went in. And we actually even cut the footprint of the kitchen significantly! The entire back section of the house was all open, but a big part of it was on an elevated (circa 1970s?) sort of platform. We took everything down to one level, then created a separate room with a new wall, slashing the kitchen size. 

Credit: Andrew Kung Photography

To make it feel bigger and brighter, we opted for massive (24”x48”!) matte-finish porcelain tile. The marble-look tiles, a product called Majestic White Lasa from Florida Tile (a manufacturer here in my home of Kentucky), were veined with subtle, linear, blue-gray and golden-brown tones that warmed up the white. 

It seemed a little counterintuitive, but the tile designer Fabrizio Tirelli, a friend of my business partner’s, promised us that the large size, especially set on an angle, and with minimal grout lines, would make the space feel bigger. And he was one hundred percent right. I’d also seen tons of these large-format tiles when I attended the Italian tile show CERSAIE in Bologna midway through the renovation, and felt like that trend would be taking off back home soon. I loved the thought of being ahead of the curve on that!

To be honest, the unwieldy size of the tiles made for a difficult install job, especially with our spec of the thinnest possible grout line, and with the way we angled them causing so many cuts to be necessary. I’m pretty sure we were very unpopular with the installers. 

But when it was done? Even without everything that came after in the renovation process, just trading murky, small, patterned red tiles for these fresh, clean numbers seemed to absolutely light up the room. Now the sunlight had something to bounce off of, the eye had minimal interruptions in the span of the floor, the veining kept the eye dancing across the room, and it was just so clean and bright.

Yes, the cabinets and paint and new appliances were all necessary parts of the renovation. But when it comes to the biggest impact, hands-down it was this floor. If you’re renovating on a tight budget and trying to prioritize which projects will make the most impact, I highly recommend you stay focused on those floors.