Fun with Bathroom Floor Tile

Category: Bathroom

Recently, Paul came over to "talk tile" with Aaron and I since we are getting ready to finish off the master bathroom.

Paul is extremely knowledgeable about tile and is one of the most exact people I know...his sense of visual aesthetics and his ability to improvise is the mark of a true craftsperson.

And, through him, I'm beginning to appreciate everything you can do with tile...and how beautiful tile can be.

In regards to our bathroom, we will be using a 1-inch unglazed hexagon tile in white with a border that travels around the edges of the room. We also plan on using this in the bottom of the shower, so we plan on sealing it to make it easier to clean and to help it last longer. The walls of the shower will be subway tile.

We were familiar with the traditional white and black color combination seen often with hex tile. Paul showed us the other colors that were also available in 1914 and helped us to think about other design possibilities.

The Bungalow style's early emphasis on design that was in harmony with the landscape influenced color choices that would either softly highlight or blend easily into the color of natural materials (wood, stone, slate, terra cotta, brick and so on).

(In bungalows of the Art Deco era, tile colors would become brighter and more playful. In these later bungalows, it isn't unusual to see pink, green, purple, maroon and yellow tiles in many different combinations.)

Our bungalow was built on the heels of the Late Victorian era. The colors tend to be more subdued. Our tiled foyer (which is still in very good shape) gives us valuable clues to the colors of the original house and helps to provide direction for us.

We've settled on a decorative accent in a smokey blue color. The accent will be used very sparingly, but will be a nice outline for the white of the hex tile.

When I was researching tile colors and resources, I happened across other types of tiles which would be unusual and interesting to use in tile design. Because tile can be used in SO many spaces (fireplaces, kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, sunrooms) the possibilities are very intriguing.

Interesting shapes and colors for new patterns...especially patterns that could bring the 'outdoors inside".

And hexagon tile like I've never seen it brushed stainless steel.

Fascinating. These may have not been available way back when, but I wonder... If they were, would the Bungalow Craftsmen of yesterday have approved?

(Fun tiles courtesy of and Mosaic Tile Supplies! Color ideas for hex tiles from the American Universal Corporation... other products available through Stone Source Online...Motawi Tileworks... where do you get your tile?)

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Dammit, why weren't you doing this research 9 months when I really needed it? :)

(Thanks for the fabulous links...I am SO ordering celtic relief tiles!)

I personally am not in favor of hard(ceramic) tile in a kitchen or any room where you stand a lot. Very hard on the feet & legs.. Also, what is subway tile???POPS"30"

Pops, I have to agree with you about tile on kitchen floors, though it is great for kitchen walls! (Especially backsplashes)

I've tried to look up the exact history of "subway tile" on The Ol' Internet...and it doesn't have the exact story. However! My trusty memory served me well. I remember this kind of tile actually being used in New York subways...tile that is longer than it is high (it is a rectangle) and voila! I found some photos of New York subway walls. The NYC Subway began operations in 1904. My guess is that folks started using this tile in bathrooms (and possibly kitchens) because it was easier to "set" than smaller mosaic pieces and was the "hygienic white" which was fashionable at the time. The original subway tiles were flat all the way to the edge and had very tiny grout lines...easy to clean and maintain compared to other materials at the time.

You can get reproduction subway tile relatively cheaply these days...but it is rounded on the edges and the grout lines tend to be a little thicker. The dimensions are a bit different as well.

Why do we like subway tile? Well, aside from its nostalgic aestethic, it tends to be a tiny bit more forgiving on slightly crooked old house walls :) Because you set it in a brick pattern which breaks up the vertical line on purpose.

Meanwhile, I found this company which sells actual NYC subway tile, including the mosaics needed to incorporate the name of your favorite your shower or where ever else you'd like it. (Behind that nifty bar in the basement, or on the foyer floor, or even as a part of your coffee table...)

First of all - I love your site! My boyfriend and I have been discussing subway tile nonstop for the past 2 weeks or so, as we have a friend who has spent a lot of time and money restoring his kitchen and is getting ready to install the newer, rounded 3x6 tiles instead of going with the flat style. The only place we have found that still makes the original flat kind are, and they are terribly expensive. But it seems kinda heartbreaking to put so much into a restoration job, and then cut costs right at the very end. We're still undecided about what we're going to do for our own bath and kitchen, but I'm leaning towards the original flat style, even if it breaks me..

Have you all decided whether to go with the newer style or flat? Can't wait to see the results.

Hmm. Great minds think alike... We're just starting on the plans for our gussied-up kitchen. I am thinking about hex tiles; either that or going down to our hardwood floors. There are a couple of decades of asbestos tile in the way, however. Hence the thinking about the hex tiles.

I'm looking forward to see what y'all do!

I'm curious - what border did you pick to travel around the edges of the room? I'm also in the middle of a bathroom project and we need to pick out tile soon!


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