Mercury Mosaics

TILE TRENDS: You can't break the tile but you can break the rules

By Mara Severin

Natural stone, faux stone, stainless steel, recycled aluminum, glass, porcelain, ceramic. Matte finishes, glossy finishes, metallic sheens. Huge square slabs and tiny jewel like pieces. Squares, rectangles, circles, ovals, and octagons. One-of-a-kind, handmade, sculpted tiles depicting moose and bears.

You can probably still find a basic, white, 8" by 8" tile at your nearest home store. But why would you want to? Today's choices in tile are bold, eclectic, playful – anything but basic. With their huge range of colors, mediums, textures, and sizes, tiles can help you create a look that is limited only by your imagination. "There are almost too many choices," says Jolene Schnell of Rino's Tile & Stone.

"The design flexibility is tremendous," agrees Roland Baldwin of Pacific Tile. "You put in one piece at a time, so you can do something absolutely unique." Tiles can create any look, he says, "from rustic to ultra-modern and everything in-between."

Bubble Tile by Mercury Mosaics
Tiles can be… a little out of line

While there's nothing wrong with a classic checkerboard, when it comes to tile layout, you can most definitely think outside the box. "We're making beautiful patterns," says Schnell. Herringbone patterns and basket weave looks are achieved with contrasting colors or textures. Alternating shiny and matte finishes creates a look that is complex yet subtle.

"We're seeing rhomboids, and criss-crosses, and pin-wheels," says Baldwin, "and some patterns that I don't even know the names for."

If you can contrast color and texture, says Schnell, there's no reason not to mix mediums. Natural stone tiles might surround a smaller glass tile for a playful and colorful accent. Metallic tiles – from modern stainless steel to vintage hammered surfaces might sidle up next to porcelain or natural stone. Glass and metal tiles add a splash of glamour to an otherwise conservative look.

Small sizzles and big is bold

And who says you have to have a pattern anyway? For those of you who think symmetry is overrated, tiny glass mosaic tiles can be used to create "funky designs with swirls, and curls and dots. It can be very modern and very abstract," says Baldwin. From one square inch to ¼ square inch, "they're colorful and fun and so versatile."

So while 8" x 8" tiles used to be the industry standard, says Baldwin, today, those tiles are gathering dust on the shelf. "Now people want tiles that are very big – 20 by 20 – or very small," he says.

Mosaics, Mercury MosaicsEncore CeramicsNo longer banished to the bathroom

If you're building or remodeling a home you've probably considered using tile in the kitchen or bathroom. Durable and easy to care for, it's a logical choice for high-maintenance rooms. But today, says Baldwin, "we're flooring where we haven't floored before." Living rooms, dining rooms, offices and even bedrooms are getting the tile treatment.

And it's about time, says Schnell. "It's just so easy to live with," she says. "Just run into the house with your shoes on." Shoes in the living room? In an Alaskan living room? Just one more rule you can break thanks to tile. Now maybe you can re-claim your entry way.

The start of a beautiful friendship

Carpets come and go, wallpaper is either in or its out, throw rugs get thrown out. But tile is (almost) forever. It's in it for the long run. So make sure your design is something that you truly love, says Schnell. "I always ask 101 questions," she says. "I really want my client to be happy with the end result because they'll be living with it for a long time."

Baldwin agrees. Let your tile express who you are, he says. Don't try to predict style trends. If you love it today, he says, "you're going to love it tomorrow."