For luxury or practicality, tile fits the bill

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Photo - Courtesy: Case Design
Courtesy: Case Design
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When talking tile in home decor, two key components come to mind: the practical and the aesthetic. Practically speaking, interior spaces exposed to moisture are prime for tiling. Aesthetics, on the other hand, tend to be trend-oriented.

"These days, folks are doing large luxury showers, remodeling little stalls from the '60s and '70s," said April Case Underwood, of Case Design/Remodeling. "They're putting in floor-to-ceiling, oversized, 12-by-24-inch tiles, with less grout and fewer joints, except on the floor, where smaller tiles are better for traction."

For extra embellishment, accent tiles are banded at eye- or waist-level. Elsewhere, on the bathroom floor, tiled mosaic rugs and perimeter details also are popular. Mother-of-pearl is one of the au courant materials used.

Brian Brennan, of Custom Design Tile, said that for showers, "tiled recesses for soaps and shampoos are more common now, as are built-in seats and benches."

The overall trend in bathroom tile, according to Brennan, is neutral in color and matte in texture. Underwood concurred that bathroom palettes are generally muted: warm-toned, such as beige, ecru, brown and gold, or cool-hued, such as gray, blue, white and silver. Vivid color doesn't age as well or as classically.

"But anywhere that people entertain, they invest more and add bling with their choice of tile," Underwood said. "For example, it's currently fashionable to have a built-in bar, especially in basements. People may put a neutral floor tile around it, but for the backsplash, they want the 'wow' factor."

Glass tiles, with color and dimension, have become the go-to for a fresh design element. Beach-glass shades are particularly popular. The glass tiles also come in many finishes, including clear, frosted and metallic foil-backed. Iridescent glass tiles change with lighting conditions and reflect color from adjacent decor.

Powder rooms are another public area within the home where special tiling flourishes. One might tile an entire wall behind the toilet or the sink for drama, tile-frame an inset mirror as a decorative accent or experiment in architecturally inspired 42-inch-high tiled wainscoting. Because powder rooms are tiny, doing something showy doesn't cost as much.

Another smaller-scale remodeling solution is replacing -- or adding -- tile to the fireplace.

"You can do some standout stuff," Underwood said, "such as dry-laid stacked stone to the ceiling; it has natural variations in color and plenty of texture."

Long, thin, 4-by-24-inch porcelain tiles in a subway pattern create a more contemporary look. Also, split-faced stones now are thin and light enough to be applied to dated brick surrounds and even drywalls for a quick update.

Meanwhile, in industrial-inspired kitchens, metal-finished porcelain tiles, such as copper, pewter and stainless, continue to gain popularity on whole walls, as backsplashes and in 2-by-2 decorative inserts on bigger-tiled kitchen floors.

"The newer porcelain tile, which looks just like natural stone but with little maintenance, is also a hit in kitchens, as well as in bathrooms," Brennan said, but added: "Tile is a popular material, because it comes in a lot of finishes, colors and textures -- and never more so than today."

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