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Cocktails and Bunny Williams in LA

By 02/27/2012January 28th, 201735 Comments

I’m here at the Design Bloggers conference in LA at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel. The first reception  in the afternoon on Sunday to kick off the conference was at Hollyhock in West Hollywood with Suzanne Rheinstein. I got to spend some time with Brooke & Steve from Velvet & Linen prior to cocktails.

I picked the only frame with colour for this picture and it happened to match my skirt! (photo by Larson-Juhl)

Bunny Williams had a car waiting for her to go back to the hotel and I was lucky enough to catch a ride and sit right beside her on the way to the opening reception. We had a lively conversation about clients and design. We somehow got to talking about tile and she said she hates spaced out grout lines. She specifies all tile to be installed as close together as possible. Her tile layer has to sign a form that acknowledges if they lay it with spacers, they’ll have to rip it back out again.  She is speaking at the conference on Tuesday.

I found this fascinating because I think tile is so bossy already and then you add the wrong colour grout or too much of it to the mix and it can turn pretty tile into ugly real fast.

I decided I should write a post dedicated exclusively to grout colour but I need some feedback from you first.  So over to you my lovelies, have you had the experience of loving the tile you had and then hating it once it was installed? Do tell.

I’ll have more to report later on from the conference!

Related posts:

Ugly costs the Same as Pretty

When should you Rip out Brand new Tile?

One more Reason you should Skip Accent Tiles Altogether

To make sure you pick the right undertone when choosing grout, download my eBook, How to Choose Paint Colours: It’s All in the Undertones.

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me.

To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!

If you would like to learn to how choose the right colours for your home or for your clients, become a True Colour Expert.

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  • Tracy says:

    I converted our laundry room that was off of our kitchen into a bar/pantry with custom cabinets, bar sink and wine refrigerator. I had left over backsplash tile that I loved from the kitchen that I wanted to use to tie it all together. I came home from work and instantly HATED it. The grout lines were way too wide and the color was way too dark which made a gorgeous stone tile look dreadful. I had our tile guy rip it out and re-do it. Luckily I had enough tile! I love the “zero grout lines” when it comes to laying tile as its cleaner simplified look.

  • First of all, don’t you look cute in your matching skirt/frame!
    Yes, absolutely, it’s a pet peeve of mine having too large of grout lines. The problem is most smaller tiles and even subway tiles come ‘pre packaged’ with a mesh material on the back, holding all the tiles in place with a set amount for grout lines. Most Times, tilers have to cut off the mesh and lay tiles one by one – costly in labour, but worth it in the end. I ALWAYS specify tiles to be laid as close as possible together to avoid large grout lines! We want to see the tile and not the grout. Another pet peeve is contrasting grout, like coloured tiles with white grout – cheapens the look. I take the time to select a perfect match to the tiles, sometimes even having to be on site and make up custom grout with the exact colour as whats in the tiles.

  • Teresa says:

    YES! I found a tile that my husband had to work 3 extra days to pay for, that I loved, reduced to “when can I take it out” after the grout went in. I thought I chose wisely. Perhaps I can post photos on your FB page.

  • Jill Buckingham says:

    Oh, I thought I was the only one who hated grout lines. My husband and I build houses. I have come to do the tiling myself as I hated fighting with the tilers over large spacers. Another pet peeve is those horrid plastic end beads that tilers like to use.

  • Teresa says:

    Yet another pet peeve of mine! I’m glad I discovered this early on and recently advised a friend to eliminate the grout line as much as possible. She was reluctant at first, saying they wouldn’t sell them like that (with spacers or mesh) if it wasn’t supposed to go that way. However, now she’s thrilled with the result.
    The only time a thicker grout line works is in the Mediterranean/South American application with the very thick paver tile. In fact, whenever I see that look, I think “Mexican restaurant”! My own veranda has that look with a brick cloured paver, but I guess that’s why I refer to it as the “Hacienda”.

  • Kelly DuByne says:

    When we had our kitchen redone in 2010 I specified the smallest grout line possible….and used white grout to match the white subway tile. A clean, classic look! In projects I specify the smallest grout line possible as well. I ha ve to admit, I do use colored grout….

  • Dianne Tant says:

    Love your skirt and you NECKLACE (I’m a accessory Diva). I never thought about small grout lines – but I LOVE THE IDEA – because i hate grout! it is always ugly…never the right color…what a great concept you have!
    Keep wearting “colour” girl

  • Donna Frasca says:

    Love the transition from skirt to grout!

    Grout color is always a problem. Either wrong color, wrong product or wrong size. It’s one of the main reasons I don’t like tile.

    Love to hear what you’ll say about it – have fun and take tons of pictures for those of us who couldn’t make it. Love this picture of you!


  • Cathy Z says:

    This has nothing to do with grout lines (although I’m on the smaller the better bandwagon). I just wanted to say that whenever I open my email and see “Colour Me Happy” in my inbox, I crazy hurry through all the rest of my “junk” and then savor your posting. Like keeping the best bite for last at dinner 🙂 Thank you Maria for all of your real, informative, fun, colorful, useful efforts!

    Downloaded your ebook and am saving it for my plane reading this weekend!

  • Carol says:

    I just recently designed my very first shower surround (using oversized subway tile 4×8 placed horizontally). I think I got lucky with the grout choice (matching tile, with average spacing) but I can see how one mistake could change it all. There is one thing that using more grout did help with: I could use grout to fill in small tiling mistakes. Overall, though, the look of very little grout is what I would go for next time.

  • Karen says:

    Grout can make or break a tile for sure, but I wouldn’t necessarily always specify it with zero grout lines. Getting the undertone correct is key and generally I like the grout to complement rather than contrast with the tile. If you want a certain look however, say retro, I love using 1″ hexagon tiles in white with a darker gray grout. This also works great with the black and white version of these tiles. To see an example of a vanity splash and floor I did at a client’s house follow this link to a page in my website and scroll down to the black and white bathroom.

  • How funny you write about tiles and grout on the day I have had a client hate the splash back tile I had laid for her. She selected and insisted on the tile, it was a glass mosiac and she loved it as a sheet but once up on the wall she hated it – yes too much grout, hated that the lines weren’t straight and the colour of the glass changed – so we are taking it out. This was definitley a case of too much grout, but not neccessarily the wrong coloured grout but defintiely the wrong initial preception of the tile. I am a believer that the tile not the grout should be the focal point and when using a tile as a kitchen splash back the less grout the better. I too may not comment alot on your bloggs but love reading them, so yes thank you Maria – I ahd to comment today as it was too coincidental – all the way from Australia.

  • Maria, you look fabulous! I always, always do as small a grout line as possible. Except when I do Bali pebbles but that is an entirely different look from ceramic or porcelain tile. I actually prefer to use stone tile whenever possible and one reason is the minimal grout line. And the stone look.
    They do make really small spacers though. My stone man used them on a fireplace I did in field stone.

  • Beryl Wing says:

    I think there’s a place for all different grout lines – as these comments reflect. My only thought: dark – or darkish – grout. No matter how well I keep house (admittedly some weeks/months are better than others) and despite an occasional deep on-hands-and-knees scrubbing, the light grout always looks partly dark. My next tile job I’m using dark grout. And I’m even thinking of removing the existing grout room by room and replacing. Not sure how big a job that is.

    Does anyone else have this problem? Or am I the only challenged one?

  • SandyCGC says:

    Maria, totally agree with the idea of the narrower the better for tile grout lines. Bunny Williams’ refusal to use spacers was interesting to me in that the better of two tile projects we had done was accomplished with spacers. For the tile project in the house, the older tile layer didn’t use spaces and although the grout choice was quite good, the sloppy “some thick, some thin” lines of grout in the rooms drove me nuts (couldn’t afford to redo it). On the other hand, the first project several years before involved laying tile on our screened-in patio. Two very young guys (“master” tile layers in my book) very carefully used spacers but they created such narrow lines and the grout color was so perfectly matched to the tiles that you don’t notice any grout lines. In addition, there is a landing/step from the house to the patio which was tiled as well, and the edging where the flat tiles on top met the vertical tile pieces on the sides is truly a work of art. Our 1994 Sun City West, AZ house has 13″ white porcelain tile with white grout otherwise. Pity the poor souls who got/chose 12″ flat matte white tile with putty grout, still have it today and are trying to sell the house!

    Love the delight of getting a blog from you every day or other day. I’m not a professional nor will ever be, but I’ve learned sooooooooooooooo much from you since I accidentally discovered you in 2009, and somehow in the last couple of weeks, every blog from you or every internet search which seemed to reference an article from you has been so pertinent to my needs and problems. Thanks so much for being you!

    Also, love your look in the pix!

  • Brenda Thomson says:

    White on white is what I love these day. I have layed limestone tiles using pennies as spacer but it is really hard to get everything perfect. I am sure professionals don’t have problems. The closer the tiles are together the more percise one has to be.

  • Diane says:

    My bathroom tile has been bossing me around for years, but my husband wants to keep it. (He installed it about 28 years ago) 🙂 It is a cool off white or even somewhat grayed white that has little gray and mauve( or pink) squigglies in it that you really have to look for when holding a piece of it. I am llooking for a new counter top for my vanity cabinet that he also made. I painted it(it was oak) last summer to kind of match the problem tile. Figure that. When I stained the grout last summer, I used what was recommended in a tile store. It looks like a light gray and that is all I see now. I have a great Croscill patterned shower curtain and window valence in there that has warm colors and aqua in it (Royalton pattern) I have painted that room about 8 or 9 times in 4 or 5 years. I tried to ditch the curtain many times, but can’t find anything I like as well. To be contiued……

    • Diane says:

      whoops, should have read continued (left out the n) in my post. I need those glasses when on the computer. As my husband would say, “It’s tough to get old.” 🙂

  • Gail says:

    Maria, was glad to read that Bunny and I have something in common! I am a designer and I always specify the smallest grout lines possible because I feel it just interrupts the flow of so many beautiful patterns….not to mention showing too much dirt and changing colors over time. I make this request with shower walls as well as floors and backsplashes. Who wants to stand in the shower with a toothbrush scrubbing their grout for hours! 🙂

  • Hi Maria – I remember loving fat grout lines back in the day when I was so fond of Mexican hand painted tiles and saltillo on floors. Since then my grout lines have gotten thinner and thinner. The tile presentation, in my opinion, should be more about the tile and less about the checkerboard effect. Yes, please write more about this. Thanks!

  • Linda says:

    Isn’t is wonderful how someone like Bunny Williams makes a me, a pretty typical woman identify ith her style and common sense decorating though she lives in the design star stratosphere. We are groutless at our house.

  • Paula Van Hoogen says:

    Maria, you do look wonderful! And I agree totally with Cathy Z….I do exactly the same–zoom thru my junk mail and save you and Kristie(Decorologist) for dessert!
    On grout –in FL where tile is still king, we used travertine for just that reason-no grout at all (at least not visable). When we moved to NC one tile guy told me it wasn’t “possible” for him to do that and another salesman told us the tile had to be “rectified” in order to “butt-joint” the tile. What a pain. Unfortunately the Good Olde Boys like to do things here “just like we always did it”. Now we put tile only when absolutely necessary!(And found a FL
    tile installer). Almost always —It’s WHO
    does the installation!

  • Hi Maria, Long time no see. 🙂 I’ve never had an opinion about tile before, but now that we’ve been house hunting, I can tell you that tile makes or breaks our decision many times. There are so many nice houses that we don’t even give a second look at because of the bossy tile. One was positively horrid! Some kind of mottled stone with fall colors. And another that was stone and was so busy it ruined the rest of the house.

    I got my cast off this week and started therapy. I can hardly move my wrist but I’m working on it.

    It’s good to see you again. 🙂

  • PS. LOVE that photo of you! Looks like you are on the cover of a magazine..which you should be. LOL

  • Sue says:

    Recently a friend found a beautiful small silver grey glass subway tile for her kitchen backsplash. They had a hint of copper that beautifully bridged the 10 year old grey Corian to the cherry wood cabinets, making both look new and not dated. I couldn’t believe she found the perfect tile. Not only did the tiler leave wider grout lines than needed, he insisted she use a brand of unsanded grout he like. Since it didn’t come in a silver or grey, she chose a copper which outlined each individual tile in a heavy contrast. Ruined the effect but I don’t dare say anything as she’s happy.

  • I have learned a TON about tile. First, thank you Maria for helping me pick the perfect tile floor. The white 24 x 24 inch porcelain with white grout looks wonderful with my white / carrara kitchen. Any of the stones would have looked way too busy (not to mention bad undertones)

    Here are a few TILE tips:

    1. The type of tile you pick will determine how much spacing you can have between them. It usually will tell you in the tile information sheet.

    2. As a rule stone tiles are cut with precision so they can have practically no space, porcelain (and glass) are cut after baking so they are also very precise for a 1/8 or 1/16″ space (or less), and ceramic are the least precise since they are often cut before being baked, so they may change shape, and they require a larger space.

    3. Installation prices vary greatly for different spacing. My contractor (and the other bids I received) all quoted twice the installation cost for my porcelain to be placed at a 1/16″ space instead of the recommended 1/8″ space for my particular tile. We couldn’t afford twice the installation price (it was for almost 2000 sq.ft.) so we went with the 1/8.

    4. The type of grout you use matters a lot too. We ended up with an epoxy grout which has held up well the past 6 months. Even old marks come up really well with a little Comet cleaner on the grout lines. It was pricier but definitely worth it since it doesn’t stain or mold! (Used a lot in bathrooms, but for us with white tile and white grout, the floor looks practically seamless even with the 1/8″ lines)


  • Karen Arcand says:

    I’m with Bunny and the tile spacers but’s difficult to find an installer who does,’t want to use them, and the bigger the better it seems. I finally found one, then he retired!

  • I just wanted to say that I love your picture with the frame, looks great!

  • I’m so envious of you for getting to talk up close and personal with Bunny! I adore her, and already know all about the grout lines since she wrote about it in one of her books. I take copious notes since she’s a treasure trove of design. Lucky you!

  • I forgot one other thing:

    If you get a glazed ceramic tile, it will be a different color throughout the body than on the top, That means if (when) it chips, it will be VERY noticeable. Many of these, for example, are terra-cotta or even dark grey underneath a light glaze. Stone or what is called “through-body porcelain” tiles won’t have this problem.

  • Great pics:) I really like your much nice inspiration…I wish you a lovely day.

    LOVE Maria at

  • Lane McNab says:

    I couldn’t agree with Bunny Williams more about having small grout lines. The unfortunate thing about any grout lines smaller than 1/8″ is that you have to use unsanded grout but I think it is totally worth it!

    I had a limestone herringbone tile laid in a master bath remodel and the tiler started off the project being off by about 1/32″ and when he finished it looked like a funhouse! When laying a herringbone pattern the measurements have to be completely accurate or by the time you get to the other side, the line of the herringbone will have a dramatic curve. He had to pull the whole thing up and start over–poor guy! Here are some before and after pics:

  • HOW DID I MISS THIS POST? lol. Okay, Love that you have a chance to be that personal with Bunny Williams, and totally jealous. But what really has me is THAT SKIRT!! In my signature color range of orange/coral. Pray tell — where did you get it? I must own it. I LOVE it. Was it from a shopping trip with Angie? Have a happy day, and I really would die to know where that skirt is from. you look amazing.

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