Tiles offer a foolproof way to upgrade a home and add a dash of color— and glamor.
In some cases, tile installation can double as art, serving as a punctuation mark or a subtle dose of pattern. Both in the bathroom and the kitchen space, it pays to think outside the box—and outside the big box hardware stores—when selecting your materials and plotting a pattern that makes the right statement and the most sense for a particular area. Here are 10 of Native Trails’ favorite tile ideas and almost as many of our favorite tile companies, several of which we adore so much that we’ve used them over and over again in our product photo shoots.
1. Subway. Before you hit the snooze button on the subway tile trend, consider the incredible versatility of this tile. Available in glossy, matte, or crackled finishes, and in countless colors and sizes, subway tile provides plenty of room to play, as it’s the perfect complement to a range of design styles, from modern to rustic, and of course to our beloved farmhouse sinks.We’re big fans of the subway tile selection at Fireclay Tile, an eco-minded company based in Northern California that handcrafts its tiles from top-quality recycled materials—even forming some tiles from old TV monitors and toilets. To impart a country cottage vibe that won’t soon go out of style, pair Fireclay Tile with an apron sink; see its tile with our nickel finish Farmhouse Duet Pro above.
2. Carrara marble. Because it’s simply stunning, Cararra marble tiles have been the backdrop of choice for many of our product photo shoots, including this one of our rustic Chardonnay Vanity and its corresponding reclaimed wood mirror.
3. Cement. We probably don’t have to tell you how on-board with the concrete trend we are at Native Trails (hello, NativeStone® concrete sinks). So it’s no surprise that we like to think beyond ceramic when it comes to tile, too. Granada Tile, headquartered in Los Angeles, specializes in cement tile and utilizes a production process that dates back to the 1870s to create its vivid tiles. “Cement tiles have beautiful, subtle variations,” designer Emily Henderson recently told HGTV Magazine, handpicking Granada’s Fez 8” x 8” tiles in blue and white (pictured here) as a favorite. She advises, “Have them laid as close together as possible so the overall pattern looks seamless. I love how the exotic motif gives any kitchen a casual, I’m-on-vacation vibe.”
4. Slate. Moody, simple, and timeless, slate tiles are said to last forever, having been formed beneath the ocean as layers of sediments are compressed over time. We appreciate how slate’s rich natural color and subtle texture spotlights our Hana nickel bathroom sink.
5. Grout. Looking to add color to a space? You may want to look not to tile itself but to the grout used to secure it in place. While gray and black grout colors are often used to anchor and define tile shapes, there are punchier color options available, too. The grout color here was actually achieved with an orange-tinted grout sealer from Grout Shield, applied over standard white grout. This product can be used to refresh dirty grout on a floor or backsplash and can be color matched to a paint chip from any major manufacturer.
6. Talavera. Handpainted Talavera tile was one of the very first things our CEO Naomi Neilson Howard brought back with her from Mexico when she began Native Trails nearly 20 years ago. Made entirely by hand by artisans using centuries-old techniques, durable and vibrant Talavera tile is right at home in a rustic or Mediterranean kitchen, indoors or out.
7. Glass mosaic. One of our hands-down favorite glass tile manufacturers, Oceanside Glass Tile, has channeled California beach mojo and great design into its Glass Mosaics collection, which you see here behind our Zuma angled copper apron sink. Oceanside’s glass tile is made primarily from silica sand, an abundant natural resource, and pre-consumer and/or post-consumer recycled bottle glass from curbside recycling programs. Ann Sacks is another purveyor of luxurious glass tile, home to hundreds of dazzling tile colors.
8. Orientation. Feeling stumped over endless tile choices? Change the way you’re looking at things—literally—and consider installing your favorite tile at an angle, in a chevron or herringbone pattern, or stacking it vertically rather than horizontally, as we did with the fabulous smoky blue Heath Ceramics tile pictured behind Kohani, one of our hammered copper vessel sinks. Heath is well loved by designers for the subtle and enticing variations in its classy handmade tile, the perfect accompaniment to an artisan sink. Many residential designers aren’t afraid to admit that they lay out tile on a floor or countertop prior to deciding on a pattern.
9. Metal. From stainless steel to bronze to copper, metallic backsplashes—both in sheets cut to size and in tile form—are increasingly used to add sparkle and sophistication to kitchen and bath spaces. We especially like to see metallic backsplashes used behind a copper bar sink, as the glitz befits a bar space; mirrored tiles offer the same effect. An added bonus: candelight and under-cabinet lighting accentuate the reflective quality of a metallic backsplash. The copper tile pictured here is the work of Artistic Tile, from its “La Leaf” collection of gold, silver, and copper leaf tile.
10. Mixed materials. Mix things up by customizing a backsplash with different materials or different sizes of the same material.For instance, use high-end marble tiles behind the range and glass subway tile elsewhere. Taking the guesswork out of tile combos, mosaic tile sheets are now widely available where mixed materials coordinated by color already live in harmony. Even a little bit of variety in pattern, color, size, or material can create interest in a kitchen or bath. What are your favorite tile companies and ideas? Please tell us in the comments. And come follow Native Trails’ Tile & Backsplash board on Pinterest for more of our favorite looks.