Tile isn’t just a bathroom basic anymore. It surrounds us in our daily lives—a functional backdrop that protects our sheetrock against splattering sauces, wet paws, and bubble baths. But it can also be beautiful and artful—a potential design element in any home. From statements to subtle complements, read on for four ways of making your home your own from the experts at The Tile Shop.
1. Make a Splash
Tried, true, and trusty, white subway tile is the reigning queen of backsplashes. But as the tides of trends turn, color and variation are on the rise in backsplash design. “You want your house to reflect your character,” says Kirsty Froelich, director of design for The Tile Shop. “When you have your friends over, you’re going to be telling the story of your life and your home, so it’s personal now.”
If you’re staying within white subway, Tara Young, a store manager at The Tile Shop in Woodbury, suggests laying it in a herringbone, chevron, or basketweave pattern. “Or you can stack them for a more modern look,” she says. Adding a dark grout can bring out whatever pattern you choose.
Switching up the shape of your traditional backsplash tile adds personality without going color-crazy. Froelich suggests a long, skinny tile or something with a pottery feel for more depth, while a rounded tile adds softness. “Even if you want to do white subway everywhere, you can have a unique accent running through, just to bring a little personality to your backsplash,” she says.
A kitchen can be a big commitment, but a bar or other niche corner offers an opportunity to make a splash. “A bar backsplash is a great spot to put a tile with a little flair or splurge on your dream tile,” Young says.
You want your house to reflect your character. When you have your friends over, you’re going to be telling the story of your life and your home, so it’s personal now.Kirsty Froelich, The Tile Shop
2. Choose a Handmade Tile
“Most tile in the world is made in factories, in production lines,” Froelich says. “To do handmade tiles is completely a craft—a work of art.” Zellige tiles are handmade tiles, which The Tile Shop sources from Morocco. At the unassuming factory, they dig the clay outside and put it through a filter, let it harden, and then press it into brick molds by hand. The brick molds then dry, and the pieces go through a roller. They are then cut to shape around a mold. After drying again, they’re fired in the kiln. After the firing, workers hand-chisel the edges of the tile, shaving away some material. Finally, the tiles are sprayed by hand with color. Chiseling “is a really skilled practice,” Froelich says. “And the reason they chisel them is because you can get the tiles really close and you don’t need to have grout joins.”
The Tile Shop is looking to expand its collection of zellige tiles to include more colors and shapes. But, of course, this artfully crafted material comes with a higher price tag. “We like to offer things that have that look at different price points,” Froelich says. The shapes and patterns of classic Moroccan zellige tile are replicated in cut-shape porcelain tile, which retains worldly flair at a budget-friendly price. “Do the right thing for your house—the right thing for you—you can always get a similar look [for less].”
3. Go Big in Small Spaces
Patterned tile gives that extra wink of personality every powder room, mudroom, entryway, and guest bath are craving. Young suggests playing with pattern on your laundry room floor or fireplace, where “the limited space prevents the pattern from overtaking the rest of the space.”
Small spaces are ideal for dipping a toe in the patterned waters. “You have an opportunity there to showcase a really cool pattern, whether on the wall or on the floor,” Froelich says. “You want to do it where you get a bang for your buck.” She loves a pattern in the entryway because it welcomes people into a home with a taste of the flavor inside. “A lot of people ask, is the pattern going to bother me? But you’re not going to spend a lot of time in a second bathroom, and it’s what your guests are likely going to see,” she says. “It’s a unique place to do that personality-driven design, where somebody will walk in and it’s unexpected.”
Wherever they’re used, patterns attract the eye. Use them for emphasis, Froelich says. “Let’s say you’ve spent quite a bit of your budget on this beautiful hood over your oven. I would put a pattern there, so that your eye is drawn there.”
4. Use Mother Nature as Your Muse
Blues and greens—those earthy tones currently hidden under a certain unmentionable white mound—are nature’s bread and butter. “People want to bring nature indoors,” Froelich says. “Greens and blues are so common and, when you don’t have it and you can’t go outside, you miss it.”
Desert hues have arrived and are ready to face off against our cold white winters. “For us, the past 10 years have been gray and white,” Froelich says. “And now, I’m excited to say that people really want to warm up their grays and their whites.” We’re not pushing for clementine or chartreuse—but try the terracotta trend. “Crackled or fired clay look tiles with variation in tone between tiles are really popular right now and add depth and movement,” Young says.
No need to throw out all your gray and white. Instead, Froelich advises warming it with gold and taupe and tossing in darker green or sage and a terracotta color. Even if tiles remain neutral, paint and fixtures can introduce warmth and try on a trend. “The greens with gold are really popular,” she says. And, for those of us not looking to replace every doorknob and fixture in our home, there’s good news: “If you have a chrome faucet, you do not have to do a chrome light,” she says. “I want to layer in these different components because I’m multifaceted—I want my house to be as well.” Ultimately, Froelich says, your color palette comes down to one question: “What makes you happy?”
Don’t know where to start? Here are a few of the Tile Shop team’s faves.
- Young’s favorite, Meram Blanc Carrara Marble Tumbled, “has a timeless feel and suits several styles,” she says. “I’ve never seen a project completed with this tile that I did not love.”
- Froelich has been a longtime Annie Selke fan, and loves Annie Selke Flora in Coconut Milk. “She had this pattern in bedding, and I just love it. I love the name of that color too,” she says. “It has this beautiful little leaf pattern, so it’s natural, but it also has this round softness, and I just think it’s beautiful. It’s just going to add that little, oh wow, that’s cool!”