Bold Tile Guide

Feb 15, 2023

Experimenting with interior design trends is exciting, but it can also be risky. After all, this isn't personal fashion we're talking about. You can always ditch a hat or a pair of shoes if you make a bad choice at the store, but with household design, the potential for permanence limits your options. You best get it right the first time, or you'll either be stuck with a look you don't love for years, or you'll pay a lot to fix your mistake.

Given the risks associated with trend-setting designs, it's easy to see why so many play it safe with simple looks. From white subway tile to neutral, large-format floor tiles, a few tried and true options have proven to hold up over time. The downside? So many opt for these 'safe' designs to the point that they lack personality. Standard subway tile won't make you cringe, but it probably won't excite you or elicit compliments from impressed visitors or prospective clients.

The good news? It's possible to integrate both safe aesthetics and an element of risk-taking into your tile design. Sometimes, it merely takes a few small details to see a familiar look in a whole new light. Below, we explore a few intriguing options for incorporating bold tile in your project without overdoing it.

Play It SafeWith a Bold Twist

Ginkgo 2
Waterways Black on Carrara
Hip 2B Square Green with Brass

Your home should reflect your personality. It's hard to accomplish this ideal when you're constantly playing it safe with simple, neutral designs. There's nothing wrong with a clean look, but at some point, it's worth injecting a little personality into your home. With tile design, it's all about blending bold and subtle elements. 

When experimenting with new tile trends, it's important to aim for balance. Don't try to tackle too much in one space. Choose one bold concept and determine how you can tone it down to create a safer look. Often, this means selecting a busy pattern or a bright color for one region of the room (flooring or backsplash, for example) while sticking with neutrals everywhere else.

Embrace Encaustic

On the hunt for a classic tile design statement? Encaustic tile is an excellent option. With this unique variety of concrete tile, patterns are not caused by the glaze, but rather, by the clay's various colors. Depending on the design, encaustic tiles may feature anywhere between two and six different hues. Encaustic looks tend to be bold and colorful, but with fewer colors (and a neutral scheme), it's possible to maintain a semblance of subtlety.

Encaustic can add much-needed visual splendor to your kitchen or bath, but it should be implemented carefully to avoid overwhelming the eye. Because modern encaustic looks tend to be especially bold, it's imperative that you tone down the rest of the room. In most cases, this means implementing light-colored cabinetry, simple counters and basic wallpaper or backsplash. The goal should be to draw all attention to the room's intricate flooring, rather than force it to compete with other eye-catching design elements.

Cuban Heritage 110 #1-C
Photo Credit: Sabine Hill
La Fruita Encaustic Mix
Encaustic Flower Rosa

If you desire a pop of color from above, choose small elements such as light fixtures that match with the encaustic tile's predominant color. This will tie the room together and provide a cohesive feel that can otherwise be lacking in rooms with bold floors and neutral everywhere else.

With encaustic, as with many tile designs, quality is critical. There is no room for cheaping out; low-quality encaustic tile can wear quickly and will never hold the timeless appeal of a professional look. This is not the style to tackle if you're looking for some sort of shortcut or a DIY approach. If, however, you're willing to invest in quality, encaustic tile could help your home stand out both now and in decades to come.

Before committing to encaustic, it's important to know that it'll show wear over time when installed on the floor. Some love the character added to encaustic over the years. However, if you or your client want the tile to look the same 10 years later as it did the day it was installed, we recommend using this material on the wall or opting for a durable, encaustic-look porcelain or stone that is guaranteed to stand the test of time.

Subtle Bathroom Brilliance

Your bathroom presents the perfect opportunity for experimenting with bold looks. By working with a smaller space, you can try on new concepts for size before jumping into, say, the living room or the kitchen. A powder room is a great place to go big on style because it's a small space where you can "wow" your guests without committing to anything crazy.

Of course, it's easy to take it too far in the bathroom. A little excess can feel extra crazy in a tiny room. Your goal, then, should be to incorporate fascinating new styles with enough subtlety to prevent bold looks from feeling overwhelming.

White subway tile remains a top trend in bathroom decor, but it can feel a bit pedestrian on its own. Why not punch it up with a striking look for the shower floor? A bold pattern featuring hexagonal, or chevron tiles can make all the difference. Conversely, chevron can be used for the shower wall, while a more standard look can keep the floor looking simple and clean.

For a new spin on subway tile, try it in a bold pattern on the shower floor or wall. Bold colors can make the shower area stand out in an otherwise neutral dominated bathroom. This tactic works best in bathrooms with large windows. For example, try subway tile along the shower or tub wall in a bright color such as yellow or pink. A window with a simple white treatment can break up this burst of color nicely, ensuring that the brightness never overwhelms the rest of the bathroom.

Perhaps your sink wall is the best place to make your bold statement to add a touch of personality. While a variety of feature wall patterns can bring life to your bathroom, Moroccan patterns are particularly intriguing. While this style has been a mainstay for creative, yet elegant environments, it has recently seen a resurgence among those who are tired of large format looks and eager for a little intricacy.

Determined to establish a classic atmosphere? Marble should do the trick. Cool, calm, and unfailingly elegant, marble looks especially beautiful against a neutral vanity. This approach allows you to integrate luxury into your bathroom on any surface, floor, wall or even countertop.

If you're struggling to choose a predominant theme for your bathroom, mixing and matching may be a possibility. Choose two somewhat subtle looks to integrate thoughtfully and ensure visual interest without looking busy. Small statement tiles such as mosaics combine nicely with different patterns if limited to a small area. If mixing patterns, it's best to stick to a neutral color scheme while calling attention to varying shapes.

Bold Wallpaper + Understated Tile

black flooring porcelain (2)Belgian Bluestone

When's the last time you explored bold wallpaper as an option for your home? If you've been reading Architectural Digest lately, you know that wallpaper is making a comeback in a big way. It's a great option if you're tempted to play with new colors or patterns but reluctant to opt for anything as permanent as tile.

Today's hottest wallpaper designs are a far cry from the florals that dominated during the 1980s. Contemporary graphics are a top option. Several modern wallpaper designs make the most of the texture trend, providing subtle effects to add dimension.

No matter which wallpaper you choose, it's important to maintain the concept outlined above: pair bold with subtle to prevent spaces from looking busy. With wallpaper, this means opting for subtle tile flooring or breaking up a bold look via neutral backsplash.

In the kitchen, for example, you can use white or neutral backsplash (along with white-painted cabinetry of large cupboards) to break up striking wallpaper patterns. This is a perfect option for toning down bright colors or unusual patterns that might look too busy if allowed to take over an entire room. With the right wallpaper, your kitchen can look clean without feeling boring.

A similar tactic can be used to mute otherwise busy looks in the bathroom: choose a bold wallpaper design and layer over it with a large mirror. Add light-colored furnishings and matching floor tile to complement the look. This is your opportunity to make a style statement without turning your bathroom into an aesthetic nightmare. It's also a great tactic for small bathrooms, where excessive patterns can make tiny spaces feel even more cramped. If most elements are white (save for a few colorful details) you'll visually expand a diminutive space while still keeping it interesting.

Designing for Permanence at Decorative Materials

Confectionary Stone Mosaic
Grand Tour Starburst Antique Silver Limestone
Puzzle Piece – Mint

No matter how you decide to incorporate bold tiles, it's important to consider the potential for changing tastes in years to come, but most of all, it's important to design for you or your clients' taste. If someone loved a look two years ago and still loves it now, chances are that no matter how bold the design, it will continue to be beautiful in the eye of the beholder.

When designing for permanence, ask yourself: Do I truly love the style I'm about to implement? Or am I merely sticking to the whims of the moment? 

We are here to help you tailor your design to the looks you love and create the perfect blend of timeless and trendy. Ready to play with new and intriguing tile designs for your next project? On the hunt for a classic look that you feel confident will stand the test of time? No matter your style prerogative, we have the looks you want and the materials you need.

Check out our inspiration gallery, where you'll find a variety of tile ideas. Contact us at your earliest convenience or visit one of our Colorado showrooms so we can create the space of your dreams.