Tile is one decorative detail that’s been around the block a few times, and with modern takes on color, shape and materials, its popularity is surging once again. Historically, tile has been pigeonholed to bathrooms and kitchens, mainly in uninspired neutral tones. But it’s time to think outside the box of neatly stacked porcelain and stone. All it takes is a little imagination and a few solid design ideas.

Trend # 1:
Gone are the days of sterile white and neutral cream—expressive, saturated color is in! In applications needing a clean, solid stroke of color, glass and ceramic tiles are the way to go. But for a more "artistic" effect, look to the wide variety of hand-painted tiles.

Out of the Box:
Afraid to use too much color? Then start small. Pick a range of neutrals and an accent color. For example, try implementing a hand-painted or bright-colored tile every fourth in the row and then two off the row above. Another solution: Make your first introduction to color tiles a private one—such as the shower stall.

Trend # 2:
Tile shapes are not just your typical 4-by-4-inch squares anymore. The sizes are across the board and off the chart! Large-scale tiles, rectangular "subway-style" tiles and character-infused hexagons, polygons, diamonds and circles are finding their way into modern timber homes.

Out of  the Box:
Uniquely shaped and custom-patterned tile can be quite expensive, but that doesn’t have to put the squeeze on your creative juices. Even standard-shaped tiles can be used artistically. From elaborate starbursts to simple geometric designs, a piece of graph paper and pencil (and of course the tiles themselves) are all you need to give your tiled spaces a customized touch.

Trend # 3:
Although ceramic and stone are still the foundation for major tile manufacturers, there’s a slew of innovative materials on the market. Glass, particularly in a high-gloss finish, is still a popular choice. Stainless-steel and copper accents are becoming a popular, modern take on the classic mosaic. Concrete is another unconventional tile material that’s starting to break out, but the surprise new addition is leather.

Out of  the Box:
Take stainless-steel tiles to new lows—use them as accent reveals in stone-tile floor applications a la Frank Lloyd Wright. But a word of caution: Always ask your salesperson what kind of application a particular tile has. Some tiles are for walls or floors only; they may not be suitable for both.

Read the full story in the March/April 2006 issue of Timber Home Living.


Walker Zanger photo