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What Everyone Should Know about Porcelain Tile

By 11/29/2012January 25th, 202145 Comments


Marble floor source

Porcelain tile is all mostly bad

I was on the phone in an on-line consultation looking at a photo one of my clients had sent me.

She had selected about 6 porcelain tiles and she wanted me to help her chose one for her bathroom. This was a traditional bathroom with a Kohler Memoirs pedestal sink and toilet.

This was how the conversation went:

Me: Do you like any of these tiles?

Her: Not really, is it possible to find nice porcelain tile?

Me: No

Her: Well thank you, I kept thinking there must be one but I couldn’t find it.

When was the last time you saw a bathroom or kitchen with porcelain tile that you liked?

Mostly, it’s blotchy, busy, bossy and ugly. If you look through either my Tiles I like or Bathrooms I like Pinterest boards there’s no bad porcelain tile in sight.


I suggested that she install a white or Carrera hex tile with dark, green grey grout because white tile will just get dirty anyway (unless it’s the new epoxy grout). This way you get the clean look of white tile without the high maintenance factor. Large white tile shows everything.

The second possible option is a tile that looks like marble. They do exist now in 2020.

And she was happy.

The easy and most simple solution is usually the best one.

Related posts:

Is your Bath Perfect or Perfectly Nice?

Which Tile is Best for Multiple Rooms

This Colour Mistake will Make your House Look Bad?

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

Download my eBook, How to Choose Paint Colours: It’s All in the Undertones to learn how to get colour to do what you want.

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

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229 pins


  • kelly DuByne says:

    I just used the epoxy grout on a bathroom project. It’s lovely-expenisve, but well worth it in the end.

  • Wendy says:

    Yeah, ColorBlox makes a really nice porcelain tile…all sizes. I’ve used the 18×18 one in their color called “Powdered Sugar” a bunch of times. Nice quality, simple, and has some grit for bathroom installation. You are right AGAIN…simple = best.

  • Marlene says:

    We just used 10×20 porcelain tile in bathroom and love it. Century, Darwin, color floreana. Rectified so imperceptible grout lines.

  • Marie Lexa says:

    Too bad you’re not in Europe. There is really lovely tile here.

  • Ann Marie says:

    I installed “Q Porcelain Tile by Provenza” in my kitchen, dining and ilving room. It mimics the look of marble or wood. It is simply stunning, easy to keep clean and looks gorgeous.

  • sharon says:

    At first, your comment that porcelain tile is mostly ‘bad’ confused me — after all, isn’t the subway tile you recommend porcelain? Then I realized it’s the pattern fired into the tile you don’t care for…likely all those conflicting undertones!

    One example of a simple procelain tile is American Olean’s hex pattern, offered in white, or white with black — a lovely look for a classic bath. Saw it at The Tile Shop for $5.59/sq ft.

  • Hex tile and penny tile are my favorite – you can’t lose!

  • A decent porcelain tile I have seen is one that is a copy of Calacatta marble. We “were” going to use it but ended up using the real stuff.

  • Linda says:

    I found this porcelain for my bath and it was everything I wanted. I liked the look of slate but all was too dark and the maintenance was too much. So when I found this it was it. I love my floor and it works well with white and carrera marble which I have on my tub deck and plan for it on my countertop. Sye is Gravura the color i loved is White Mountain. Here is the link to the Mohawk tile.||page=3|cmed=1|pp=25

  • Linda says:

    Sorry for all the spelling mistakes and off words. That is what happens when you post from a phone and do cut and paste with a small screen. Maria I can send you a picture of my bathroom if you like.

  • Paula Van Hoogen says:

    I know this about tile, but I love the idea of using corks in a flower vase (in photo). My husband thinks I’m nuts when I “study” photos of interiors….can’t help it! The hex tile is a wonderful classic–great advice Maria. The grey/green grout is classic for that as well.

  • mairi says:

    Good post Maria. We actually chose porcelain tile because it is strong and the colour is solid throughout plus an excellent price. Should a hairline crack arise it is hard to see. Ours is in the kitchen/laundry/mudroom and tone-wise blends in with our hardwood- a solid warm cinnamon tone with a few subtle slate flecks which means dirt doesn’t show. Being in and out so much three seasons of the year in the garden mud plus two dogs, this floor has served us well and still looks new after 10 years. By now I know that if we had gone with a wood floor in these areas we would have had to refinish it a couple of times. We do wear shoes in the house for example so activities impact our flooring choices. I agree with plain or nearly plain tile choices if it’s to be porcelain.

  • Janice Waterman says:

    Wow! You really have an opinion on this topic. I totally agree that hex mosaics are gorgeous…but that is pretty much the most expensive flooring option available – period! Hex shapes are premium, mosaic installation is costly and time consuming, and epoxy grout expensive: Gorgeous when done…better show it off to everyone.

    I agree, cheap porcelains look bad but there are so many gorgeous Italian options now that are much better than real stone. First, you get what you see in the sample; they don’t suddenly look different with each quarrying like real stone. Second, they don’t come with funny pitting marks & splotches. And best of all, if you’ve a busy family home, they don’t need so much attention.

    Yes, my first choice is always real stone and I defend that everyday BUT…I disagree that all porcelain is ugly and I truly believe that it is usually a better choice for most folks. (Price, consistency and durability.)

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Janice,
      This post is written for the reader who might have given up with the few tiles they found that were blotchy and bad instead of looking a little harder to find something nice.
      There is way more ugly than pretty out there and the proof is in the bathrooms I have seen in hundreds of homes in my design career.
      Thanks for your comment.

      • Michelle says:

        Really? – because, what I got from this post was, “give up, you aren’t going to find a decent looking porcelain tile.”

        Sigh, so much ugly in the world baffles me.

  • Janice Waterman says:

    As requested, here is one gorgeous porcelain tile: Stone Project series as sold by Stone Tile.

    (and no, I don’t work for them anymore…just love the installed look.)

  • rita emilia says:

    Can you please clarify Maria, I regret that I do not understand the point of this particular blog . Are you saying that we should use only natural stonetiles on floors?

  • Laura Jens Sisino says:

    I have to say, after much research in trying to find a porcelain tile for a steam shower, I discovered, that there are a few good looking ones out there.
    Some by Artistic Tile and Ann Sacks Tile. Which, as noted above, some stunning ones they offer are made/manufactured by Crossville. Also look at some of the very cool options from Mirage Tile Manufacturers. And, if it’s ever in the budget, Walker Zanger produces a top notch product in porcelain as well as their natural products.
    Also, another great source to find great products, is going to Houzz, type in search box Porcelain tiles. There are some beautiful images and sometimes comments with sources.

  • Ricky says:

    We have used these Format brand and they are great. We have used them in baths an in entryways. We used one that had the look of french limestone, but the up-keep is much easier. We even used it on a bath where the floor tile went directly into the shower with great results.

  • Hi Maria. I love the Italian porcelain tiles by Atlas Concorde (check out their Evolve line here

    Local (Vanc.) suppliers do carry some of their stuff and they can be ordered in (by Ames for example).

    Tx for all the great tips!

    • Amanda says:

      I just saw this post after posting mine below! Isn’t this tile gorgeous? I am so thrilled with my black and white foyer! My tile installers really appreciated it, too.

  • Beth says:

    I met clients at a tile showroom today – we did things backwards for various reasons and chose paint first – and every tile we looked at was porcelain – and gorgeous. There has been an explosion of contemporary, fresh, unblotchy porceilain tile in great sizes (we went with 12×24) in the U.S. in the last few years.

    I think what you call blotchy, Maria, I may call shaded, and can’t stand it. But there’s everything from a linen look to solid color matte (what I have in my own foyer and a couple bathrooms) to patterns that range from uber-quiet to edgy, to fit every taste. At least at Mosaic Tile’s brand new showroom in Virginia!

  • Alison Hodd says:

    I agree that beautiful porcelain tiles that serve as a backdrop and not a showpiece are few and far between. As suggested by Laura I went to Houzz and typed in porcelain tile. I only found 2 that I would specify. I really like some of the tiles that mimic wood and also some of the gray-green vein-cut tiles. Are are two examples.—Eleganza-traditional-kitchen-tile-detroit

    • Laura Jens Sisino says:

      HI Alison.

      Love Architectural Ceramics! They carry so many beautiful lines.
      You should be able to come up with a few other options by searching under house photos (not products) and look for sources in the comments/questions.
      I think the market/manufacturers are realizing that there is a need/desire for better products in this department. Porcelain (especially with the fabulous epoxy grout) makes perfect sense in so many applications/households now.
      In researching for a few projects, there were some that took my breath away. Hope to find more.

  • Amanda says:

    I just installed a diagonal black and white floor in my foyer and mudroom using this Atlas Concord Evolve porcelain tile in the White and Night colors. I had to order the 24×24 size and have my tile layers cut it down to 12×12 to get the right ‘look.’ I am totally thrilled with it…it is a PERFECT B&W floor-totally classic and timeless, and the white, in the words of Maria Killam herself ‘has nary an undertone,’ which made it ideal for choosing everything else that surrounds it. The black is not jet black, but a super dark charcoal gray that reads like black. Finally, there is a slight texture to it, but it is extremely subtle…just enough to provide some traction underfoot without being obvious.

    I think porcelain is an excellent option for high traffic areas like my foyer and mudroom, but I can certainly understand the dangers of trying to choose something that doesn’t look too industrial or cheap.

    This tile is made in Italy, but it is distributed in the US.

  • Susan @ Susan Silverman Designs says:

    Unfortunately I don’t know the names of the tiles but there certainly is no shortage of beautiful porcelain tiles here in Toronto. I am also not a lover of blotchy bossy tiles but the ones I’m referring to resemble natural stone, marble, linen wood, etc. They come in matte, glossy, textured, solid, glazed, unglazed and their physical properties are second to none. And the price is usually good. Stone Tile, Ciot, Canaroma, Centura are some of my favourite places for porcelain tile. I say “porcelain” all the way.

  • KJ says:

    I’ve never seen a “beautiful” porcelain tile installed. I’ve known lots of people who were “excited” about the new tile they had installed but anytime I’ve seen it in real life I’ve only thought “Eeeek, that is some ugly tile!”. However, I’d love to SEE a beautiful porcelain tile installed so if someone could post a link to an IRL room it would be helpful.

  • Sian says:

    Maria, I’m confused by your conflicting advice. In your response to my question about tile in multiple rooms, you suggested large, white tiles, but here you say they show everything and recommend small tile with gray grout.

    I had also assumed you were recommending white porcelain tile.

    So are you recommending stone tile and something other than white now?

    Thanks in advance for the clarification!

    • Maria Killam says:

      Small tile in bathrooms. Tile in Multiple rooms needs to be light or you’re stuck with the colours in the tile forever. Maria

      • Sian says:

        Ah, that makes sense. Thanks!

      • A-L says:

        Does the recommendation for a light floor go for any flooring choice that is not wood? And should it be light with a few flecks of darker colors to help prevent constant cleaning? Or will that then veer into all the bad porcelain choices?

  • malina says:

    I love tiles from Spain – I’m even considering this one: to put in our little foyer area at the front door. I’m all for low maintenance, easy cleanup and as neutral as possible; and although i don’t usually like materials that pretend to be something else this one speaks to me, along with many other modern choices of theirs.

  • diana says:

    As stated above, Porcelanosa makes gorgeous porcelain tile, as does Walker Zanger, as does Crossville (especially Crossville’s Empire series). I’d be happy with any of those. In fact, we put Crossville in one of our bathrooms (General’s Gray). Would have gone with Walker Zanger or Porcelanosa, but the wait time for delivery stretched into months, so we gave it a miss– but I loved them both.

  • alannah says:

    I can see where you are coming from regarding porcelain tile. I love marble tiles however marble has some draw backs, very porous, it requires regular
    maintenance a sealer once a year to stop stains from damaging it. Even hard water if it has to much iron can cause a rust colour on the marble which will not come out if to much water is deposited on the surface of marble. My husband installs flooring and the best floor for bathrooms is porcelain which looks like marble, you get the best of both worlds. Hard surface, no maintenance and the look of marble. Yes it is harder to find but not impossible.

  • barbara says:

    how about the “tiles” that look like beach rocks. They are actually pebbles on a mesh and they get grouted in. A friend has them in her shower and loves them. I would like it for my bathrooms. comments??

  • Tim says:

    Ceramic and porcelain could be very nice, if anyone would make them. They keep making crap that imitates stone and it is absolutely dreadful. They should be solid color only, unless hand painted – then they look very nice.

  • carolanne says:

    my tiles for our bathroom are from Porcelanosa a company from Castellon, Spain. I found them here in Calgary because they supplied the Palliser Hotel with the tiles for their new bathrooms, we stayed there when they were taking out our kitchen… we fell in love with them so we ordered them for our bathroom, they are still in their boxes in our livingroom, our plumber is working on another home so we are waiting for him, should be any week now… not sure if the picture will open but I thought I would try…x

    • mrsben says:

      Agree, the tiles IMO look impressive. May I ask, are you using Kohler products for your sinks etc.? I have been on the hunt for a porcelain tile that will work their ‘white’. THANKS SO MUCH … -Brenda-

  • C. Spencer says:

    Crossville, Empire Series, Alabaster VS76 PO, 14”x14” is a beautiful tile.

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