Nothing elevates a simple tile (or frankly, an already elevated tile) like your choice of grout color and application. Sure, you’ve probably seen photos of bathrooms with white tile and bright yellow or cobalt blue grout, but if you’re looking for something a little more subtle and livable for the longterm, let me present to you the five grout ideas I’ve been taking notice of that are, frankly, just plain rad.
Low Contrast Tile & Grout
I found this shot on Domino and it says both “modern” and “warm/timeless” to me, to be honest. Not sure all of you would agree with that string of thoughts, but I wanted to show you what a matte tile with black grout does. Because the textures of the tile and the grout are “similar,” it just creates an overall “texture” for the backsplash, as opposed to a big TILE moment.
Here’s something similar but at a larger scale, from Studio McGee. While this is more “charcoal on charcoal” than the “black on black” from the previous image, the slight satin sheen of the tile catches the light nicely while still not being overbearing (say, as if there had been bright white grout in place of this dark gray).
Tonal Tile & Grout
Next, I want to move into a more “tonal” category, i.e. grout that’s similar in, well, tone from the tile it’s setting apart. It’s like a hushed “I’m here, but not trying to upstage anyone.” The supporting actor of sorts, except, guys, the tonal tile and grout situation is WHERE IT’S AT right now. Let me show you some great examples.
We’ve been sharing photos of Mandy Moore’s house (designed by Sarah Sherman Samuel) for the better part of a year, and it’s the gift that keeps on giving. The taupe-y grout color works really well here with the “timeworn” tile. The application is a little “shaky” (in a good way) so it feels looser and less pristine.
I see this “tonal” thing A LOT with penny tiles (which, by the way, are a fantastic budget choice for a remodel project that can be made far more special and “custom” with a deliberate grout color choice). Plus, with something this small, that means a ton of grout to get filthy and disgusting over the years, so going with a darker hue is always going to be a safer choice for anyone who’s concerned with that.
When you step back and look at this room, it almost just feels like a big textural wallpaper moment, but upon closer inspection…just a penny tile (and that ceiling wrap…so good).
I’m particularly fond here of that blue and the blush. The tonal grout really elevates the humble penny tile, people.
Gray grout isn’t a “new” idea, no, but I felt it was important to talk about. White grout is such a default for people/builders, but gray is kind of a tiling secret weapon. Let me explain.
In the Portland house, Emily and team were going for an “updated/modern traditional” look, particularly in the hard fixtures throughout the home, and an easy way to accomplish that in a bathroom is to go with a “fresher” gray grout. In the downstairs bathroom, it also happened to feel pretty tonal and give just enough depth (but not TOO much) with the beveled subway tile.
This is the shower area for the same bathroom. A white grout here would have blended too much with the tile itself, defeating the purpose of going with a non-traditional tile shape. The (extra thin) gray grout line is quiet but lets the kite tile really shine.
In the upstairs hallway bathroom, the beautiful shower tile already had so much texture and visual movement, so going with a gray tonal grout brings down the visual clutter that could have occured with a higher contrast grout.
Gray doesn’t just have to be a “hushing” tile agent. I’m pretty obsessed with this bathroom color combo of terra cotta and gray. It feels moody, luxe and more down to the earth than having used, again, a white grout (I should go and rename this post “why not to use white grout.”)
Anyone who’s been following Emily for the last several years will absolutely remember this brass “grout” line. It felt special then…and now. You can read all about how she decided the layout of the brass and the cost (spoiler alert: at the time, it was $32 per 8-foot length), head here.
As you saw from Emily’s old kitchen and the one above, the brass insets work particularly well with marble, but I’d love to hear if you’ve seen it with any other tiling material as a backsplash.
Now, onto floors. Friend of the brand Joy Cho of Oh Joy! is in the process of building a new home (which we’re following along over on Clever…are you?), and she snapped this photo a few weeks back of her brass grout lines, so for anyone who wonders if it’s still “happening,” why yes, yes it is.
Ah, what do we have here? More of Mandy Moore’s house. I make no apologies. Anyhow, the sporadic geometric pattern on her floors made via brass insets on terrazzo are niche, yes, but still a showstopper.
Thick Grout Lines
And finally, something about grout that is unrelated to color. Enter, the thick grout line.
I’ve been seeing this pop up more and more and I’m VERY into it. I think it’s a really fresh, updated application to jazz up a basic square tile.
Here’s a space with a slightly less intense grout line, but it still feels stately and purposeful. Anything thinner might end up feeling like the sloppy work of a lazy contractor.
Another Sarah Sherman Samuel triumph, she recently shared this photo of her upcoming master bedroom on her Instagram account and the thick-thin application feels so…new?
Here is a similar design from Bigger Than the Three of Us but in a black on black. I was wondering if the install process was any different for something like this, considering you likely weren’t using standard spacers, and they wrote the following: “We spent hours and hours installing the vertical black wall tile with a large gap. I think it looks amazing but it was a JOB. To lay tile like that, you have to install support boards for every single row. Those boards have to be installed and left installed until your mortar dries. Then, once you go through that whole process (which takes A LONG TIME), you get to try your hand at grouting a traditional grout line as well as an inch and a half grout line. You need different grout consistencies for both of those. I wouldn’t recommend laying tile how we laid it unless you are aware of the time investment that you need. I’d say that whatever time investment you need to lay a typical backsplash, then times that by five and you’ll have the time needed to lay this one. ” So, be warned if you want to embark on this journey, it’s…a process.
And that’s it! Five grout ideas that have been catching my eye recently. Any here you’d be interested in trying in an upcoming project of your own? Any you DID try and loved/hated? Let’s hear it.
i really like that black on black grouting! so good. also, the brass grout lines + terrazzo combo is still one of my favorites. the floors in the lobby of my old work building used to have that and i just always appreciated that detailing. the building was built in the 60s or 70s, so that trend is an oldie but goodie. Here’s a picture of those floors: https://www.instagram.com/p/BTt5QEeFN2a/
Love these, especially the black on black and the brass inlays! However, as the former owner of a bathroom with tile on the floor, walls, and ceiling, I can tell you right now that scrubbing a tile ceiling is a huge pain. If you’re going for that tonal look, is suggest paintIng the ceiling with an epoxy paint tinted to match the tile/grout for easier maintenance 🙂
So inspired. Pinning like crazy!! 🙂
These are all so pretty, makes me feel grumpy for what I’m gonna say, but I’ve only every done gray grout. Silver gray to natural gray. Because however it starts out, that’s the color it’s going to end up. Dust and dirt take their toll.
A lot of the inspo pics are so gorgeous but they’re from houses of wealthy people who don’t have to consider the upkeep. Mandy Moore doesn’t scrub her own grout. If it starts to look dingy, she can hire someone to steam clean and reseal it, or just replace it all. The rest of us have to be more practical.
Agree – that’s all I could think of when looking at all this thick grout…who is going to clean that?
Love all the inspiring links to great design sites though, as always, the links are the thing in these posts!
Same thing with matte black tile. It waterspots like crazy. If you want it to be pristine, you gotta put in a lot of maintenance.
All I could think about was cleaning…..I’m a bleach cleaner person too. I remember growing up my mothers obsession with keeping wide grey grout on the floor in its original shade…..her obsession translated to my elbow/ hands and knees labor……..could I get anymore morose and negative? K bye ??
I think that’s exactly WHY I was interested in other grout colors. So much white grout that had to be scrubbed all the time that now, as an adult with no children yet to force to clean my house, I’m like THERE HAS TO BE ANOTHER WAY.
I never thought I’d be so interested in grout!
Ha! Glad you found it interesting!
I’m about to do a wetbar and looking for great backsplash ideas, and some of these would definitely work for that, about the only place I’d consider those big grout lines, an infrequently used wetbar!
I went with low contrast tile and grout in three bathrooms. Because I used marble and natural stone with a lot of variation, I wanted to minimize the extra business that grout lines would have added. I’m very happy with the resulting textural/tonal outcome, it helped make each bathroom feel a little more spacious and collectively they’re cohesive even though I used different stone/size/pattern in each bathroom. I printed my own grout swatches (image search grout colors in a brand that you have access to) and cut thin strips to experiment with contrast and tone after the tile was installed, it helped expedite my grout selection.
Grout is half of the equation yet so often treated like an afterthought.
yes totally agree on the “half of the equation but treated like an afterthought” comment. It’s like the shoes of an outfit. Functional, sure, but can absolutely change the entire look of what you’re wearing.
Holy cow, I’m flipping out. Thanks so much for featuring my powder bathroom!!
Ashley, your bathroom was the one that got my gears churning to begin with! Such an inspiration. ::applause emoji:: for your beautiful home!
I pinned Sarah S Samuel’s thick thin tile as soon as I saw it and knew I wanted to copy for my upcoming remodel. Just so good.
I’ll never get over how beautiful the brass grout inlay is! Stunning!
We did copper inlay with jade/teal green glass subway tiles in our basement wet bar and it looks amazing with the under cabinet lighting
ohhhh that sounds spectacular!
PLEASE SEND PICS!!!!! 🙂
Bravo, great post!
thanks so much, glad you liked it!
Where to find colorful grout?? Any source
I believe if you are having someone install your tile, you should talk to them first about any specialty colors as they typically have their own sources. For a DIY project though, if you want something just a bit different but still pretty neutral (grays, taupes, charcoal, rust, blues, mossier greens), Home Depot actually has that kind of thing in stock! For something BRIGHT though, might take a little more research as to what specifically you are looking for. Some specialty tile stores might have more options, as well!
Oh! Also, check out this link from Custom Building Products: https://www.custombuildingproducts.com/support/interactive-tools/grout-color-choices.aspx
The brass inlay. Swoon.
This was super informative. I always learn so much reading the blog. <3