I started writing this post a few weeks ago and recently received this question which fits right in:
Hello! I have a question that I would like to submit for consideration for ‘Ask Maria’ on the blog. We’re dreaming of a new build right now. Though we have already purchased two edesign consultations and have been absolutely THRILLED and do not intend to embark on a new build on our own (yikes!), it’s still fun to begin envisioning the possibilities.
What I am curious about is – what tile besides white subway tile may be considered classic in a shower? Or is that really the right answer for, say, 4/4 planned bathrooms? Thanks for the consideration!
So first, let’s be clear; a lot of tile, especially accent tile, falls into the category of a fad and here’s the definition:
An intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something, especially one that is short-lived and without basis in the object’s qualities; a craze.
Here’s the definition of a trend:
A general direction in which something is developing or changing.
Trends are longer lived than fads and they drive change. Especially in design. But they do pass, and that is why we need to be aware of where the trends have been and where they are going. Especially when we are making important selections for finishes in our homes.
It’s been a while since I’ve talked about tile trends. I’ve written so many posts about it over the years, sometimes I think that conversation is done and dusted.
But it’s not, is it?
If I don’t continue to update you on the short-lived nature of accent tiles you might run out and install one in the wrong place and then be filled with regret.
So first, let’s discuss when choosing a trendy tile could be a good idea.
You are selling a house immediately and want everyone to be in love with it
Even though, I would personally be unhappy to walk into a newly built or renovated house and see a geometric tile on the backsplash of the of the black kitchen, the not-design savvy house hunter might feel it’s updated, exciting and (gasp) current.
My one hot tip here is make sure you install the most current tile. Wait, I just realized, if you’re reading this blog, you WILL make the right decision there at least. Whew.
I felt bad when I saw this comment show up on my encaustic tile post:
Hi Maria, I recently start a business to fabricate encaustic tile in Mexico, and I feel disappointed when I read a negative comment about this beautiful product, I assume that they didn’t get the right place to buy their product, in Mexico there are many of places were you can buy this product, however I have to say that most of them don’t have quality. PS, I truly believe in the beauty of this product.
What he doesn’t know is that accent tile has a shelf life just like any fad, or trend. Encaustic tile may be hot right now but the design world is fickle. The kitchen I’m showing (above) is more trendy now than Encaustic tile was just last year. This is not to say there isn’t a place for encaustic tile, it’s just that its moment in the spotlight has passed, it no longer has our attention. And that means, if you install it in your kitchen or bathroom, it won’t look totally current, and unless the context is perfect, it won’t hit the mark for timeless and classic either.
Just try and look for area rugs or lighting (the worst culprits). You can really go down a rabbit hole scrolling very bad and dated items in both categories! That’s because they still have products that they are trying to sell that NO ONE WANTS, way back from the 80s!! It’s no wonder so many people are paralyzed trying to choose, there’s simply too much bad lighting and area rugs to wade through.
Fortunately, lighting and area rugs are easier to switch out than tile.
Which brings me back to my lovely readers question about tile.
What should you start thinking about with your new build?
The reason trends in tile are so important to grasp is that they move fast. And tile is not something that is easy to change. We call it a FIXED ELEMENT for a reason. You can’t pick it up and toss it in the bin. It’s expensive to rip out and replace.
So this is why it always amazes me that people always seem to want to get really creative about tile. The latest tile trend will hold you in a love locked gaze and make you do foolish things.
First, let’s have a quick review of the trends we all fell for in only the last decade.
Pencil Mosaic Tile
At the beginning of the decade, everyone was installing mosaic and pencil tile backsplashes. The seductive call of this style was variety of colour. In store kitchen designers everywhere pulled out a magic (they hoped) mosaic tile for every and any old combination of countertop, flooring and cabinets hoping the mix of colours in the mosaic would “pull it all together”.
The elongated pencil tile version has a linear thing going on that most people associate with contemporary and now. (Except that although I’m positive this tile is being installed somewhere this very minute, I think it’s easy to agree that it is most certainly not looking totally NOW anymore).
Laser Cut Mosaic Tile
Then fads moved to laser cut mosaic marble which, when done right, was really pretty:
However, installed with a busy granite countertop, this expensive backsplash was too much:
The Grey Backsplash
The grey backsplash is something we have seen a whole lot of in recent years. The problem with a grey backsplash? It locks you into the grey trend. Now you always need to have grey with the correct undertone to match your grey backsplash in your decor until you renovate it. More about that here.
This grey arabesque pattern (below) is also not looking very fresh in 2020. If you installed it in white or cream with white grout, then you won’t be bossed around by the colour. But in grey, or with contrasting grout that pops out the pattern, you might tire of it. Especially now the black and white trend is here.
The Encaustic Tile Trend
The encaustic trend brought a new and fresh kind of interest with pattern. I love pattern, but the problem with it is, that we live in a world where new prints and patterns come in (and out) every season in fashion. We have attention spans for a specific pattern of only a few years max. This is why, although this kitchen below is perfectly pretty, it will not look NOW, very shortly.
Now before you all mistake my intention and call me callous and fickle and accuse me of trying to enslave you all to the trends, please know I am trying to do the exact opposite. I want to save you from installing a trendy tile in your home that you will regret in 5 or 10 years.
And I’m here to say, there is absolutely nothing wrong with installing white subway surround in all four of your bathrooms.
Have fun with fabrics, area rugs, artwork even wallpaper, but don’t install the trendy tile of the moment in your new house.
In 2012, I wrote a post about what to start thinking about when you’re planning a bathroom renovation. The same principles apply now.
So what are the new tile trends that are emerging?
The market loves to respond to our appetite for novel patterns. I’ve been seeing a lot of mod geometrics in tile everywhere. Like the kitchen at the top of this post.
And here is a bathroom that looks really exciting and new (below). You have to admire the boldness of it. But will you still love it in 5 years? 10?
If you fall in love with a specific trendy pattern, it’s much wiser to have some pillows made, or get your fix with a great outfit.
More Mod Geometric Tile Via Design Milk
All this modern geometric tile belongs only in the most modern of kitchen and bathroom designs. Stick it into an average builder kitchen and it will definitely look wrong.
Hand Glazed or Zellige Tile
Another big trend right now, in 2020, is tiles that look hand glazed. Specifically Zellige tiles which are a centuries old Moroccan terracotta tile technique with glossy glass based glazes. Their appeal is imperfection, and the fact that they look OLD.
Cle Tile via Textures and Tones
How do I feel about this hand glazed tile trend? Well it certainly is sexy. Anything handmade has a bespoke look that everyone wants. The variation in tone and texture is lovely. And if you install this in your shower in your favourite colour, I’ll bet you will love it for awhile to come.
Only time will tell if we will all get tired of looking at it by 2025 or 2030. What’s your prediction?
In white tones, it’s definitely a reasonable substitute for subway tile because it’s not bossy, just a subtle, pretty texture on the walls with some shine.
So if you really want to try something new in a bathroom, this tile would still be versatile enough to work with lots of other colours when you change it up down the road. Note that it does have a more countrified feel so it would not belong in a slick, contemporary bathroom.
Details. We’re back to that again and I’m talking about that more in the video below where I’m also unpacking ‘What is in my classic and timeless tile bag’:
Which tile trends are you living with and how do you feel about them? What will you do next?
If you would like to make sure that your bathroom or kitchen renovation turns out beautifully timeless, I would love to help. You can find my Create a Classic Bathroom eDesign package here. And Create a Classic Kitchen here.
If you have a question for an Ask Maria post, please take photos with good natural light and email me here. Please note, it’s rare that I can create an Ask Maria post WITHOUT photos.