Bathroom Tile Choices

Tiles are appearing in more styles and colors than ever before, unleashing new design creativity in the bathroom. Here are some of the freshest tile trends.
Zen Style Powder Room

Zen Style Powder Room

Tile for the bathroom is not just your mother's aqua ceramic anymore. OK, you knew that. You know about subway tile and stone tile, too. But how about pebble tile? Or tiles with lights? Or glass tile mosaics with semi-precious stones? Perhaps not. Let's take a tour of the latest clay out of the kiln:

Mosaics are the tiles of the moment, says Mary Lou Kalmus, ASID, of Designing Edge in LaGrange, Ill. They can be porcelain, glass or metal, with traditional motifs or modern. And shapes range from chipped pieces to squares, rectangles, hexagons and circles.

Glass mosaics come in intense and myriad colors. And some, such as Ann Sacks designer Erin Adams' Quilt tiles, combine colors. They look almost like pillows, with a center color and then one or two bands of different colors around that. Put together, even Grandma couldn't come up with prettier patterns.

Oceanside Glass Tile's Tessera tiles contain earth oxides such as copper, cobalt, and chrome to make them shine in all their 42 colors. And they're earth friendly, made from recycled glass.

Metal tiles can give a wall or floor the look of medieval chain mail or add spots of shine in your own mosaic design. Sicis' Metallismo comes in stainless steel or polished brass and in shapes such as squares, mini-bricks, ovals, dots, rhomboids and elongated octagons.

Period black and white mosaic tiles are still popular, says Mary Lou, and mosaic tiles fit well into more traditional designs as well as modern ones. Walker Zanger's Antium line lets you bring the look of ancient Roman mosaics into your bath.

Rug mosaics are another traditional look gaining popularity, says Tina Krashna, of Ceramiche Tile in Pittsburgh, Pa. And these tile rugs rival the lushness of any Persian one.

"We achieve the visual intricacy of patterned area rugs with stone and quartz mosaics that will last a lifetime," says Tina. She's been using Sicis' Rug Mosaics.

For a simpler look, Mary Lou says that concrete is continuing to win converts: "Concrete has been on the scene as countertop material for a while, but now we're seeing it used in floors and walls — great for Zen-type environments in a more contemporary setting." Ann's Clodagh flooring is concrete in 14 X 14-inch square tiles with convex sides, softening a hard material.

Doing an about face from the Zen look, decorative and embossed tiles are especially popular, says Mary Lou. She points to Pratt and Larson's new Tropical series, with palm trees and the golds, greens and blues of a South Seas beach scene.

Stone tiles continue to be hot — with a twist, says Tina. Manufactured stone that once looked contrived has made the leap — with technology's help — to perfection. GranitiFiandre's Geologica line is a manufactured stone with all of the drama but none of the drawbacks of the real thing. Made of all-natural ingredients, it's 30 percent harder than the real thing — which makes it work in your real life. The Rouge Languedoc color mimics marble quarried from the Aude region in France — a stunning red background veined with white.

Another, more striking, trend Mary Lou sees is the use of a medley of tiles — both in shapes and materials.

"Many tile lines come in a variety of sizes that can be combined in innumerable ways. But you can also mix porcelain with glass or metal or natural stone. Glass adds sparkle in an otherwise matte look, and a dash of stainless or other metal does the same."

To help you add that sparkle, Daltile's Ahnzu line has metal tiles as well as ones with semi-precious stones — a little bling for the bathroom.

Or, instead of bling, you can go for wattage with Villeroy and Boch's Light Tiles. They have LED lights in wear-resistant ceramic and glow white, blue, or amber. You can leave them on or connect them to a switch, and they'll last for about 100,000 hours — enough to light about 11 years of nighttime bathroom forays.

Ceramiche Tile's Tina agrees with Mary Lou on the mixing-it-up trend — she's seeing a mix of new shapes, including large-scale rectangles, such as 12 X 24 inches complemented with planks of 6 X 24 inches. She says the finish is different today, too.

"The textures have been toned down to resemble sealed concrete and weathered stones. We've moved away from the glossy wall tile with a matching floor to now using the same floor tile on the walls, so a smaller space becomes more expansive."

And Tina sees the current neutral color trend of beiges deepening into still natural tones of greens and browns.

Another of her favorites is pebble tile, where stones or pebbles are embedded in a mesh backing, which can be laid and grouted just like tiles. The rougher surface — as well as the look — makes pebble tiles perfect for any water areas, such as showers or pool decks.

The trends are numerous, says Kalmus, because there's a huge number of new products and ways to use them. She suggests taking advantage of the variety by not limiting yourself in your tile choices.

"Bathrooms used to be more utilitarian. Now they're showcases that can be more than beige and plain tile. I am currently working on a bathroom that is incorporating limestone, handmade ceramic tile and concrete. My advice is to not be afraid to try something different and mix media."

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