What’s trending in tile — and some favorite picks

By Lindsey M. Roberts / Special To The Washington Post

For homeowners with champagne taste and a beer budget (and isn’t that most of us?), it’s time to take another look at tile. Whereas a full kitchen remodel might set you back a few years of savings, a smart mini rehab might involve only painting cabinets, replacing appliances and installing a stunning tile backsplash or flooring. “Tile is an easier splurge,” says designer Kelly Emerson of Maryland’s Aidan Design. “Tile is hundreds of dollars; very rarely is it thousands of dollars.”

And thankfully, tile trends tend to hang around for a while, so you can feel good about getting your money’s worth. Today, they reflect larger design trends — such as graphic patterns — as well as advanced technology, which is letting individual tiles get bigger and thinner without compromising their strength. We spoke with Emerson, Samantha Klickna of Case Design/Remodeling and DeeDee Gundberg, director of product development for Ann Sacks, to determine which trends are worth following.

The wood look

“Wood planks are trending because they are durable, maintenance-free alternatives to wood,” Klickna says. “They add depth and dimension to any space. They also give you the opportunity to have a wood effect in a wet area: bathrooms.”

Emerson likes the Weathered Wood Field Tile in a large hex ($7.41 per square foot, architecturalceramics.com.) With a wood look, Emerson says, “you can choose a matte or a polish to change the vibe of the tile. It might have a rustic appearance, but if you select a polished finish and apply it to a wall, it becomes a very polished look.”

There are many varieties of woodlike finishes available today. The Tile Shop’s 8-by-24-inch Fronda Perla Faux Wood Floor Tile ($4.99 per square foot, tileshop.com) has a rustic look. Designers are laying these linearly, as well as in herringbone and chevron patterns.

Larger hex tiles

Gundberg has been watching tile companies come out with larger sizes of the classic hexagon shape each year. At first, 16 by 16 inches was the new, bigger size. Then it was 18 by 18 or 24 by 24, she says. Recently, she has seen tile as big as 45 by 45. “It just keeps getting bigger and bigger.” Much of this is driven by technological advances, which allow for thinner, larger tile.

Traditional hex tile is beautiful but replicable. Popham Design’s Hex Artichoke ($29 per square foot, annsacks.com,) however, is at once funky, modern, retro, graphic and classy.

Saigon Hexagon by Artistic Tile is Emerson’s pick for a fun, large hexagonal tile ($11 per square foot, artistictile.com.) It’s inspired by the French Provincial style and comes in three patterns and three muted colors.

Cement

There is a general trend toward organic materials in the design industry, Gundberg says. Included in that is oxidized metals, chunky ceramics, textiles, natural woods — and, in a big way, cement tile. “This is purely about the aesthetic and the materiality of concrete,” she says.

If you choose a patterned tile with as much spontaneity as Cement Tile Shop’s Patchwork Random ($22.20 per square foot, cementtileshop.com,) let it be the life of a room’s party, Klickna says. “Everything else becomes a backdrop.”

Clé Tile, based in Sausalito, California, is known for its artisanal encaustic cement tiles as well as its collaborations with designers. The 8-by-8-inch Star Bright in Kelly green ($14.49 per square foot, cletile.com) marries traditional and modern. “Look at the space as a whole and make sure that you’re not going overboard on color and pattern,” Klickna advises. “It’s OK to be bold with one or two of your selections, but it has to be in moderation.”

Subway with a twist

Subway tiles are as classic as you get. But homeowners and designers are getting adventurous, choosing long, exaggerated sizes or colored tiles. (“Who said subway tile needs to be plain white?” asks Gundberg.) They’re arranging tiles vertically or in a chevron or herringbone pattern. They’re even choosing contrasting grout, something that used to be a no-no but that Gundberg is seeing more often. “Grout is becoming more and more an integral part of design,” she says. Subway tile comes at all price points, too — from simple, white porcelain styles for $2 or $3 a square foot to high-end glass or hand-glazed styles. Arrange a simple, budget-friendly option in a herringbone pattern with contrasting grout to give it a higher-end look.

“Undulating and surface-textured ceramics will never go out of style,” Emerson says. She likes Pratt & Larson’s Textured Field tile ($37.50 per square foot, prattandlarson.com.)

Waterworks’ Grove Brickworks tile has pinholes and irregular surfaces that complement darker grout, a tack Aidan Design took in a kitchen project (from $23 per square foot, waterworks.com.)

Shades of blue

“Blue as a color is back, instead of white, cream, gray and metallic, which is really what we’ve seen for the last five years,” Gundberg says. “To see blue is really nice.” Everything from deep navy to blue-greens such as peacock is trending, largely because with ceramics, “you can get such intense, beautiful color,” Gundberg explains.

Klickna and Emerson use Walker Zanger’s Café tiles (from $9.85 per square foot, walkerzanger.com) — which come in three field sizes, four trim sizes and eight colors — in their projects. The tile is hand-made for the L.A. company.

“Tile is something that the homeowner can appreciate and something that a guest can appreciate. It brings warmth into a space,” Emerson says. Merola Tile’s Hybrid Blue ($5.60 per square foot, homedepot.com,) at 7¾ by 23½ inches, has a bold, geometric pattern in muted colors.

Bold patterns

“What makes a room exciting is when you walk into it and see something completely different and unexpected,” Gundberg says. “You expect your furniture to be the statement, or the paint color, but you don’t as often see decorative, stunning tile as the center of the room. When it’s done in the right way, it’s really effective.” And nothing stands out more than a bold pattern. Gundberg is primarily seeing big, bold patterns inspired by Moroccan and French designs moving from backsplash mosaics to the floor. “Kitchen floors are huge for pattern.”

Grow House Grow’s Otomi 8-by-8-inch tiles are made by mixing Portland cement, marble powder and natural pigments into a mold ($18.50 per square foot, growhousegrow.com.)

Moroccan patterns can be found at high and low prices. Overstock’s Amlo Circle Handmade Cement and Granite Floor and Wall Tile is $104.99 for a pack of 12 8-by-8-inch tiles (about $20 per square foot, overstock.com.)

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