Vibrant colors and dynamic patterns bring big personality to household surfaces. Try the trend in your space with these six ideas for statement-making tile.

By Laura Lambert
June 11, 2020
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Tile is having an interior design moment, and we're not referring to the standard 3x6-inch white subway tile that has filled Instagram feeds for several years. Often fashioned from cement or porcelain, this trending tile features striking patterns, saturated color, and bold personality. You've likely seen this statement-making tile featured on kitchen backsplashes, entryway floors, and all over bathroom surfaces, as well as in some of your favorite restaurants. But the classic material has been around for thousands of years, so why is it trending now?

Credit: Werner Straube

According to Alessandra Wood, design historian and vice president of style at online interior designer service Modsy, bold tile is a way to assert your individuality in your home. "We're moving away from FOMO and more toward the joy of missing out—and the home plays a big part in that," says Wood. "Our homes are a shelter from the world when the world is a scary place. And now we're living in a time when that's more true than we could have ever imagined."

Credit: Brian Anderson

Wood connects this moment to the mid-century and the Cold War-period when people similarly considered the home as a place of security. During those eras, unexpected color combinations, such as minty green and black or gray and yellow, were common across kitchens and bathrooms. Strong geometric motifs also emerged as a popular style element.

However, the true history of decorative tile, especially its use on floors, reaches back to ancient cultures across the globe, including Egypt and the Islamic Empire. "If you travel or have ever been in a historic building or monument, you've been in contact with a space that uses the same idea of a bold floor," Wood says. "It just works in our brains."

Credit: Julie Soefer

And, what's more, colorful, patterned tile is a welcome respite from the all-white rooms swathed in subway tiles that we've become accustomed to. Although white interiors work wonderfully as a blank canvas where you can layer in your personal style with decorative flourishes, investing in statement tile speaks to staying in place rather than flipping a home for profit. Because installing tile typically requires more time and money than painting, for example, it suggests permanency and personality, says Wood.

Embracing the tile trend is far easier to execute than you might imagine. Tiles with interesting colors and dynamic patterns are now widely available at home improvement stores, often with budget-friendly prices. And if you've been eyeing tile with a heftier price tag, you can keep costs low but applying the tile in small, unexpected areas, such as on stair risers, around a fireplace, or inside shower niches.

Here are six unique ways to use bold tile for an extra boost of personality in your space.

Credit: Courtesy of Walker Zanger

1. Mix Shapes and Shades

Simple, solid-colored tile becomes a lot more interesting with a thoughtful layout. "You can do some really creative installation with squares and triangles," says Erika Egede-Nissen, director of marketing at Walker Zanger. "It's this idea of geometry coming back into play." Use tiles in a variety of colors or shapes to create eye-catching patterns, such as an ombre effect in shades of blue.

Credit: Courtesy of Lowe's

2. Add a Sense of Luxury

Even when the tile itself is affordable, having a rich pattern underfoot can feel upscale, especially in certain areas. "Bathrooms and laundry rooms continue to be spaces where customers feel empowered to try bolder looks, as the spaces aren't open to the rest of the home and can provide that pop of fun without having to coordinate across adjoining rooms," says Caroline Harmon, trend strategy manager for Lowe's. Apply patterned tile to walls or floors to add a luxurious feel to hardworking spaces such as laundry rooms and bathrooms.

3. Play with Tile Orientation

Some patterned tile can be applied in various orientations to achieve vastly different results. For example, the tile pictured above, which was designed by Dolores Suarez and Caroline Gran of Soho-based Dekar Design, can be laid in multiple ways to change the overall look. When laid linearly, it lends a retro-Italian feel to floors or backsplashes. In a diamond installation (where the pink triangles fit together to form squares), the look is more traditional. Before deciding on your tile layout, rotate individual tiles to experiment with different orientations, then step back to view the overall effect.

4. Tile an Accent Wall

Paint isn't the only way to create an impactful accent wall. Decorative tile in a vibrant color or pattern, such as the botanical-inspired tile pictured above, can transform a blank wall into a striking focal point, a technique that's now particularly popular in bathrooms. To make the application more affordable, tile only a small section, such as a shower wall or the area around a vanity, instead of the wall's full expanse.

Buy It: Tahiti porcelain tile in Green/Black, ($36 per square foot, Walker Zanger)

Credit: Courtesy of Wayfair

5. Add Style without Commitment

Although a sense of permanency is one of the most appealing qualities of bold tile, peel-and-stick tile offers a workaround for renters or those fearful of commitment. Often a fraction of the cost of traditional tile, it can be easily installed over existing flooring and on walls without a professional. This temporary solution typically works best for low-traffic areas or in surprising places like stair risers.

Buy It: versTILE Geoma Peel and Stick Field Tile, ($7.29 per square foot, Wayfair)

Credit: Courtesy of Walker Zanger

6. Go Big in the Powder Room

Although powder rooms are typically small, their visual impact doesn't need to be. When applied to backsplashes, floors, or entire walls, decorative tile achieves maximum style in a limited space. "We're also starting to see folks go back to the idea of the powder room being a jewel box," says Egede-Nissen. One execution she loves is a stone tile called Ephesus that harkens back to Roman baths with intricate woven designs and pops of gold. "Folks are using [these tiles] for glamorous, show-stopping backsplashes," she says.

Buy It: Ephesus decorative stone tile in Gold, ($61.15 per square foot, Walker Zanger)

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