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Slate or Porcelain Tile in the Bathroom?

By 04/14/2010June 26th, 201747 Comments

Recently, during a consultation,  I walked into a bathroom that was very much like this one:

Source – fun post on bathrooms in the 2000’s

 Okay this is actually not that bad compared to the one I saw (which was more like this one), but unless you plan to live in your house for the next 20 years—don’t do it!

The reason I say this is because it’s like painting your bathroom walls dark blue or green, once you get tired of it, you’re stuck with it until you take it out! It’s certainly personal but it’s why I prefer the more timeless look of white or cream.


If you love this [the slate or dark] look, confine it to the flooring (above). I still think white or a light coordinating colour (for the walls) looks clean, just like a bathroom should be!

Love this bathroom by David Jiminez

A bathroom big enough for a claw foot tub is such a luxury Source

Remember my post on “When is White just Right?” Well I might have missed White or Cream Tile – it’s just right in bathrooms in my opinion (the powder room being the exception which is the jewelry box of the main floor).

What do you think my lovelies? Has the slate trend of the 2000’s gone too far?

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  • Karena says:

    Yes, and I love the David Jimenez bath! He is right here in Kansas City!!

    Art by Karena

    I have a fascinating interview with artist Robert Anders up on my site…come enjoy!

  • Melissa @ Veranda Interiors says:

    I do think it is a trend that is passing us by. I had a client 6 years ago that even had to have a slate covered hood fan, at that time I didn't speak up. Fortunatly now, most clients that want to use slate only want it in the mud room or the basement bath, I am still good with that. Nothing can beat a clean crisp airy bathroom! Good luck on the new home front. Mel xxx

  • Nancy@marcusdesign says:

    Yes, I think people should definately put slate to rest! White is just right for the bathroom… airy, clean and fresh!! I love the subway tile in the David Jiminez bathroom, it is so classic. It will be something people wouldn't get sick of quickly as you would with the slate! I am always drawn to white bathrooms, I did a post on bathrooms I love and only realized after I was done that most of the bathrooms were all-white!

  • heather jenkinson says:

    Hmm, well, I have to agree that those two examples are *interesting* to say the least – my heart would have sunk too because you can't fix that, it has to go and that's a big job.

    I agree that slate has been de rigour for a good for years now and yes, I did a bathroom, recently where 3/5 surface areas where dark grey slate (floor) and metallic grey walls (porcelain tiles)- this is not a plug, but on my blog, the link to my website shows a photo of this room and it worked for two reasons. 1. Slate is a great conductor of heat – we put down underfloor heating. 2. The bathroom is a relatively small/dark space and darkening it up gave it a real sense of esteem. The client loves it (I love it!) and it won me two further projects. I'm not too bothered by what is in 'fashion' or on trend etc. and it's not the material that counts, it's what you do with it that really matters.

    Thank you, that got me in the mood for work today (it's admin day…).

  • Amy says:

    I think in the right place and in SMALL quantities it can be the right choice, you'll have to come scope out our Master Bath redo-it's almost done…but yes, that much of anything would be too much! *Amy

  • pve design says:

    Good advice! I have seen a black porcelain tile bath from the 40s which was quite chic. I do love the white.

  • Naomi says:

    I don't know, I think many white bathrooms are pretty, but sometimes I'm a little bored by them. Why is it that we can have color all over our homes but our kitchens and bathrooms must be white, white, white?

    I actually like slate, but think that walls AND floors is too much.

  • Sarah says:

    While I agree that white definitely looks cleaner in a bathroom, it can also look boring and, well, samey. My uncle went the slate route a few years ago – grey slate for his kitchen floors and black for his bathroom floor. It works well in his kitchen because it contrasts nicely with his white walls and near-minamlist style. In his bathroom they used black slate for the floor and the shower walls. It really gives the shower area a sense of being separate from the rest of the bathroom, which I've always liked. Admittedly, their bathroom is all white, very big – they have a claw foot tub! 😉 – and has two windows which let in a lot of light, so the slate doesn't overpower the room.

    I think that slate, like so much else in design, can look good anywhere, when it's well thought out and part of a coherent look.

  • Vanessa says:

    I would probably still use slate on the floor in a bathroom, but not the multi-coloured one like in these images. I loved Heather's image on her blog of the dark moody bathroom she referred to above. I still prefer a lighter tile on the walls though. Stone (marble, limestone) is another choice other than slate or porcelain which is timeless.

  • Tricia says:

    I have seen so many showers done in the multicolored slate and have wondered, why? I find it dreary and even though it might be brand new…not a place I would wish to step into for a shower. It is not something I would ever do for myself or a client but that's why we have choices.

  • Siddhartha Herdegen says:

    Well, I’m not a designer so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about but I like slate in the bathroom. I agree with what others have said, it needs to be balanced and not overwhelm the space, but I definitely like the look and I absolutely love the texture.

    I was staying at a lodge in Kenya last month and in the bathroom they had a strip of slate going down one wall, across the floor, and then back up the opposite wall. I thought it was a great way to bring in the feel of slate without overpowering the small room.

    The other materials were very rustic as well (in an African way) so it all worked together.

  • Lazy Gardens says:

    I really like that slate … pity they used a stark white toilet, sink, and cabinet and a grey speckled shower base in there. No attempt was made to make the rest of the bathroom support the slate … it's stuck there like an anchovy on apple pie.

    HEATHER, and any other bloggers or website owners … speaking of colour, black text on a dark grey background and medium grey-green text on dark grey is a less than optimal choice. On my desktop monitor it's barely readable. On my laptop it's a dark blur, and on my Android it's a dark blob. is an add-on for Firefox that lets you check the text areas for contrast between text and background to see if your design is within shouting distance of the accessibility standards.

  • Alina says:

    While I love slate, the first bathroom is awful…to much of it. I tend to like confining it to the shower stall.

    White is always good in a bathroom!

  • Wendy says:

    White is certainly safe and clean…always a good vibe in a bathroom! But a Zen-like or spa bath often looks best with natural stone, either as an accent or horizontal surface. Can't be overused or it looks too heavy and industrial…and you can't see those germs that Westerners fret over.

    Most importantly, it all must blend with the rest of the house…craftsman, modern or Asian works best. A slate bath in a traditional house looks like that "anchovy on an apple pie"…LOL, well put.

  • heather @ what's blooming this week says:

    Never been a fan of the slate shower – it's just too dark and a little cave-like for me. It's white tiles all the way – that way if you want colour, it's easy to add with paint or accessories. Love the David Jimenez bathroom too.
    Happy house hunting.

  • Crystal says:

    Two of my bathrooms have slate floors and showers, while the third (in the guest cottage) is white. I think any craze can go too far – and I had to stop my husband from tiling our tub surround in the master bath with more slate, as I said this would be too much.
    In the 3/4 bath, which is fairly small, it gives the room some punch – gray slate, deep red walls. The master bath has a little more natural hues in with the slate, and the walls are khaki – the room is big enough and light enough that the slate sort of "grounds" the space.
    But slate on the walls? Yep – too much!

  • Erin @ The Impatient Gardener says:

    I agree wholeheartedly! More than any other space in the house, I want a bathroom to be CLEAN and relatively simple. Modern even, and I'm NOT a modern person. I'm also a person who has a really hard time waking up, so my bathroom needs to be as bright as possible. To me, all of that equals WHITE (or off-white, maybe).

    I'm not a big fan of slate in most applications either. It's beautiful, but I feel like it's a little hard to work with in terms of a color scheme, and usually that scheme ends up being too dark for my tastes.

    Lastly, I think there's another good reason to have porcelain tile in a bathroom vs. a natural stone: who wants to mess with having to seal a natural stone?

    We're going to be putting in a new bathroom within a few months and I'm envisioning a grayish-brown porcelain tile floor (12×24 maybe)and white walls with some kind of accent tile. I've been noticing that some of the big TV designers keep mentioning that they like the horizontal surfaces in a kitchen or bathroom to coordinate, so if they use a light floor, they use a light counter, etc. Is that a theory you also subscribe to?

  • Nichole@40daysof says:

    I think you are absolutely right about this. I once saw an episode of Holmes on Homes where a huge bathroom was done in terracotta and slate tiles. It was beyond ick. Love the David Jiminez bath.

  • Between you, me and the Fencepost says:

    Oh man! I really liked the slate bathroom until you said it was no good. White is obviously the better choice but looking at the slate it wouldn't have even occurred to me that it was a problem. White white white . . ( that's me pounding my head on my computer board)

  • Pangaea Interior Design says:

    White bathrooms are not for me. My two favorite bathrooms I've seen recently used Italian porcelain tile on the walls. One of them looks like Corten rusted steel and is done in large horizontal tiles with the mirror also a horizontal one fitting in with the tiles. The second one I love has Italian porcelain tile that looks like deep wenge color wood planks. Both absolutely gorgeous! But then I like super modern and lean to industrial as well.

    But if you love white bathrooms and are going to rent this home … I think you still have to keep looking. It will always bug you — just like the brick fireplace that hit you between the eyes at your current place — and you won't be able to do anything about it. I just know you're going to find a wonderful spot! Keep looking Maria!

  • Steph says:

    LOVE this post! I couldn't agree more. I am so sick of slate bathrooms!!! Here in Utah the "mountain" look is so popular. It seems like 8 out of 10 homes I go into the bathrooms are like a cave of slate. Blech.

  • Kathy says:

    I may be in the minority, but I love the slate, especially in the colors in the picture! It does need to be supported by other features in the bathroom, as Lazy Gardens said. I love that it's easy to take care of and injects some color into the bathroom. I'm just not a fan of all white or nearly all white bathrooms.

  • summerbl4ck says:

    I have to agree with what others have said that white is safe and sometimes boring. It does look "clean" but it also has to "be" clean. As a busy working mom, I admit that I don't time to clean as often as I should (or maybe I just choose to spend my time doing other things) and I appreciate the natural color tiles in my bathrooms that hide a few dust bunnies in the corner. White can be so unforgiving.

  • Mary says:

    We are in the middle of a master bath reno and I had ordered black vanity cabinets for the bath last year. They sat in our garage for the longest time waiting to be installed. Every time I walked by them I knew I made the wrong choice. Last week I finally sent them out to be sprayed white. My husband was annoyed with me to say the least but at least now I'll LOVE the bathroom when it's completed and not regret my choices.
    The only concern I have with my white bathroom is the white grout. It will be hard to keep clean!

  • Twenty Two Flamboyant Street says:

    Nay! I'm a white bathroom girl. I love the freshness and brightness of it. Slate anywhere but on the floor is something I admire from a distance but prefer not to live with.

  • Ideezine says:

    I love off white bathrooms with glass the shade of water. It feels spa like, fresh, and relaxing.

    Our bath spaces are purification chambers and we don't spend as much time in them as we'd like. So simple is best with lots of window light and beautiful mirrors, fixtures, and space in draws, cabinets, and shelves.

    Great towels, scents, and lighting complete the space.


  • Donna says:

    Marie, You know I know next to nothing about as a total amateur, all I can say is how these bathrooms make me 'feel'. The first bathroom feels grungy to me..not appealing. It makes me think 70's.

    The second one is very interesting! I like the natural tones and surfaces..but it's a bit too modern for me. It seems a little cramped too. The third one, all white, seems just a tad bit sterile although it is very pretty. But I'm sort of tired of getting stuck with white and after 22 years of renting..that is really tired! Ha!

    However,like Goldlocks and the Three bears, I have to say that the last bathroom is 'just right'! Of course, it may be that I'm partial to that green. But it seems like that design combines a little bit of color for some pizazz but keeps the nice fresh look of the white too. The best of both worlds! Now I have some ideas for how to work on our bathroom this summer!


  • Donna says:

    I forgot to mention that we now own our own little ranch in the country and I get to do whatever I like for the first time in my whole life!

    Suddenly I'm in a panic because I have to make decisions about decorating that I never had to make before.

    Your articles are giving me lots of food for thought!

  • Red River Interiors says:

    I love the slate. When I walk into a master bath I want to think of far away exotic places… Slate does that for me… Fay

  • heather jenkinson says:

    To 'LAZY GARDENS' – thank you, that is really useful information; thanks for taking the time to look and come back with constructive points.

  • Maria Killam says:

    I love all these great comments, this is awesome! My issue with slate is that it's like painting your bathroom dark blue or green or something. And there is no changing it (without a big expense) once you decide you don't like it anymore. And I agree, keep it in a mountain log home or something, home cause that's where at least it's themed with everything else.

  • chanteusevca says:

    I agree with you, Maria. I've never cared for the one of the heavier, dark stones on the walls. I'm a light and airy bath person. It does feel cleaner and fresher to me. But that's just me. I know some of my friends and family love hte heavy, dark Tuscan look. It makes me feel claustrophobic. Can't wait for help with our master which is way overdue for an overhaul.

  • Susan says:

    Love white or cream bathrooms. I dont think they can be beat. Clean, fresh, spa like….classic. I love your point of view.

    Hate slate on shower walls. Ok fine for an entry floor but in a bath, no never. I find it so masculine and as another reader commented cavelike. It's just not pretty or lasting.

    We had a customer in the store last week gushing about her new house with her slate bathroom and all the pretty colours. I was horrified. I personally find it way too heavy and thought, what was she thinking. To each his own…

    Great post, right on the mark!

  • AB HOME Interiors says:

    I don't know. I am a huge fan of slate. It is so pretty and it has so many beautiful colors. But Wite is fresh and clean. I think both are great!

  • Donna says:

    Marie, I see your point about the limitations of the dark slate. I saw that slate on a friend's bathroom and it really did not match the rest of the house. It felt like you had just walked into an old monastery. A group of church friends and I re-did the entire house to help out this friend who bought the house cheap after her husband died suddenly. It was in a gorgeous neighborhood but had been re-possessed. We updated the whole house, new wallpaper, re-texturing the walls, painting, appliances, laying tile on the floors..but that bathroom was one thing we couldn't do anything about. It was so sad that she was stuck.

    Marie, thanks for the nice comment on my blog! That is so sweet of you. :o)

  • Carol says:

    I was never a fan of slate on shower walls. Too cave-like, always seemed cold and uninviting — and I always wondered how clean it really was. To me it is just a cold, dank, depressing look. Lighter colors are my style.

  • Lazy Gardens says:

    Marvelous gallery of 1920s bathrooms. I like the Moorish one with the hookah 🙂

    It's a great resource for ideas.

  • Virginia says:

    love the clean look of white porcelain tile in the bathroom!

    • Matthew says:

      Marie, You know I know next to nothing about as a total amateur, all I can say is how these bathrooms make me ‘feel’. The first bathroom feels grungy to me..not appealing. It makes me think 70’s. The second one is very interesting! I like the natural tones and surfaces..but it’s a bit too modern for me. It seems a little cramped too. The third one, all white, seems just a tad bit sterile although it is very pretty. But I’m sort of tired of getting stuck with white and after 22 years of renting..that is really tired! Ha! However,like Goldlocks and the Three bears, I have to say that the last bathroom is ‘just right’! Of course, it may be that I’m partial to that green. But it seems like that design combines a little bit of color for some pizazz but keeps the nice fresh look of the white too. The best of both worlds! Now I have some ideas for how to work on our bathroom this summer! Thanks!

  • Linda at Lime in the Coconut! says:

    Well if the slate trend is anything like the brown and rust multicolored tie dye looking tile of the 70's that we ripped out of two bathrooms…run for the hills!!!

  • mydivabydesign says:

    I like slate, but I think what is in the picture is too busy for such a small space. Maybe a dark stone tile that had less variation. White is good too! Though sometimes it can look too sterile. Maybe a happy medium?

  • Laura Neuman/PepperJack Interiors says:

    I live and design near the Sierra Nevadas in California and the slate look has crept down the mountains, out of the lodges and into urban homes around here. Coupled with the low cost of the material I'm afraid that folks will continue to want it in my area. So I work hard to show them alternatives. I go crazy with this because folks also want to couple it into a Craftsman look which is my least favorite of all.

    I have seen a honed slate slab on a counter in a kitchen that was beautiful! Coupled with white and other light colors….

  • Kim@Chattafabulous says:

    White tile in all my bathrooms. Timeless, fresh and always stylish!

  • Jane says:

    I prefer white tiles for the bathrooms…and white, fluffy towels. That's my next project…
    I am so looking forward to removing all the terra cotta carpet from all the bathrooms…the laminate cabinets, too.(Why would anyone put carpet in bathrooms? Especially the pool bath…)

  • Laura Trevey says:

    love the all white bathrooms…. very light and cheerful ~~

    xoxo Laura

  • Punctuation Mark says:

    tile is easier to clean first of all… also there are more color options… I always used tile because of these characteristics… have a great weekend!

  • Erin Blakely says:

    I think I’ve now decided on Travertine. As much as I love slate, I don’t want it to affect my resale value—or 5 years from now question my design choice. Thanks for the help!

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