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Zzzz of Zellige? Here Are 4 Other Tile Trends To Fall In Love With (Oh, & They’re Mostly SUPER Affordable)

As someone who has never embarked on or completed a renovation, I’ve never had to pick a tile for…anything. There was that one time my parents redid the floors in our family home and I tried to advise them against the 20×20 beige ceramic behemoth that didn’t seem to match the sweet Colonial I grew up in. And the time my sister needed help choosing a backsplash for her kitchen. But me personally? Nope. Never. 

So, as that “someone” who has never had to pick a tile for themselves, I sure am obsessed with tile. I don’t need practical real-world experience to know how transformative it can be to a room. I love how it can turn a blank box into something worth twirling around in with a smile plastered on one’s face. Some of my favorite trade shows I’ve attended in my life as a design editor revolved around tile, including CERSAIE in Bologna many years ago. 

I say all of that to preface what I’m about to dive into today: tile trends I’ve observed in the last several months by studying the many rooms I hoard in my saved folders across all my social media and beyond. Of course, Zellige tile is still the darling of kitchen and bathroom design and I don’t see that changing in the near future. Let’s say you either don’t love the look of Zellige, like it but are ready to try something new, or simply don’t have the budget for the hand-crafted tile…what else is there? I covered a few of them in my bathroom trends post from earlier this year but there’s more to say on the subject. 

From Old World blue-and-white tile (or Delft) and basic and SUPER affordable ceramic squares used in interesting ways to even more budget-friendly penny and hex mosaics, there’s a lot to consider beyond Zellige if you’re planning a renovation this year. Let’s take a look, (the incredibly cheesy subheads are on the house). 

Delft-initely Trending: Blue-And-White Delft Tile

I’m going to start with both my favorite and also the most expensive because we should break the heart first and then rebuild from there. For anyone who isn’t familiar with Delft, you actually probably are and just don’t know it. First invented by the Dutch in the 1600s, these tiles commonly depict hand-painted portraits of everyday life, farm animals, florals…anything really. The designs are simple, and humble but unique and tend to have a characteristic crackle in their glaze. I’m most fond of these tiles on a fireplace surround (where they were commonly used centuries ago). 

To give you an idea of the price, the Royal Delft company, which has been making these for five centuries, sells modern-made tiles for as much as 277 Euro—each. (Though there are a lot for around 21 Euro, as well.) BDDW commissions custom tiles and full fireplace surrounds for the price of “call to inquire” which always means “you can’t afford this.” And an EHD favorite, Clé Tile, carries their stunning and varied Maiolica de Delft collection for around $45 a piece. You can also find them at places like Etsy (mostly reproductions) and 1stDibs (if you’re looking for original antique Delft tiles), but be prepared to earmark a great majority of your budget for them. 

Regardless of their cost, the blue-and-white classic designs are 100% trending. I’m seeing the tiles everywhere lately, both in traditional home designs and crisp modern spaces. It’s such a cool juxtaposition to contemporary style but also feels like a warm hug from your grandmother in a classic kitchen, bathroom, or hearth. Ugh, I just love it so much. 

For anyone like me who’s a renter (or just doesn’t have thousands/10s of thousands to spend), you can buy decals or even peel-and-stick wallpaper (like this one from Chasing Paper) to emulate the look. 

I wanted to start with a very crisp, contemporary installation of Delft tiles from Studio Seiders for anyone scoffing and thinking I’m peddling fuddy-duddy design ideas. Tell me this isn’t beautiful, unique, and something that would draw you in to look at each and every individual tile. These are modern tiles from BDDW (made in the traditional way) and I just love how the designer used them to encircle the hanging shelving unit in the bar area of this home.

LeeAnn Thornton shared this image of I believe her own home this past fall and I immediately saved it because of that stunning fireplace surround. Here, it ties into the more traditional styling (and I find myself quite envious of her collection of blue-and-white dinnerware).

There is so much to take in (in a good way) in this kitchen design by Merete Coleman. I swear I discover something new every time I go back and look at it. But what I saw from the get-go was the Delft tile backsplash and hood surround. I love this more simplified design with mostly just the corners painted because as a singular tile, it looks to be quiet and careful but all together, the sum is far greater than the parts, so to speak.

I have personally loved following the progress of the home of Chalk White Arrow’s Sara Charlesworth but nothing has captivated me more than that fireplace. It used to just be a black box of painted brick but Sara transformed it with this super affordable tile (it’s $1.26 per tile) from Milagros out of the UK.

While some of the other inspirations above were more streamlined or restrained, I didn’t want to skip over how intricate and ornate some of this tile can be. This is a design from Clé’s collection and the use in a bedroom rather than a wet space is super interesting.

Bye-Bye Basic: Square Tiles in Unique Designs

Okay, that was painful, but we trudge onward, yes? Falling in love with someone totally out of the stratosphere of what you can afford suuuucks, but I’ve got something that is different but also so fun. All hail the modest 4×4 porcelain tile. If you’ve ever lived in a rental apartment, you’ve likely cursed the cruddy white squares plastered on your kitchen counters (::raises hand::) but it’s capable of so much more than that. 

I’ve been noticing people having some fun with these, particularly with mixing up different colors. At their cheapest, you can find them for about $1 a square foot at your local home improvement store, but they also come in some really pretty of-the-moment hues from higher-end tile companies like Pratt + Larson, Bedrosians, The Tile Shop, Tilebar, and beyond. 

And before heading into inspiration photos, I do want to point out that some of these are Zellige tiles or higher-end hand-glazed tiles, but the look can be easily replicated with a more affordable porcelain (albeit, without as much visual interest). 

Once upon a time, when I was a marketing director, I creative-directed a photoshoot in the home of Sam Donnelly of Mercantile and Merchant and while the above is not her home, she did design this bathroom (her home, for the record, was ridiculously stunning and had the best-smelling soaps and candles EVER in the guest bathroom we used). There was this soap, this soap, and this one. This was the only candle I could find. Ok, back to this bathroom. I love how she created a checkerboard below the chair rail height by introducing another shade of blue tile. This could easily be reproduced in whatever color scheme you like, but I think it’s especially successful because the two colors are in the same family but have different saturations.

Okay, yes, fine, you caught me. I’m obsessed with Chef Molly Baz’s quirky, playful, and modern aesthetic. You’ll have to be my level of room stalker to zoom in and notice the butter-yellow ceramic tile backsplash, complete with butter-yellow grout. It’s not an easy look to pull off by any means, but wow does such a straightforward tile look good. The lesson here is a monochromatic kitchen can work, and you can use a cheap 4×4 tile to pull it off.

First spotted on Domino’s account, I love the tile choice in this bathroom by Shelbie Cox Studio. It’s similar in vibe to the bathroom by Mercantile and Merchant in that she uses two-tone tiles on only part of the surfaces. And of course, carrying the design from the shower into the floor of the space is top-notch and helps to make a small bathroom feel a bit larger and more cohesive.

If you have a good eye for color and abstract design, you can definitely pull off something like the above by Studio Becky Carter. This looks to be about five different colors (a white, cream, dusty blue, gray, and rust) with the added complexity of being hand-glazed Zellige tile where every tile is just a touch different than the next. But pish posh…you can get a similar graphic punch with basic squares.

Another beautiful and creative tile application by Studio Becky Carter (this one was featured in Architectural Digest). Rows of solid light green squares run parallel to alternating light green and dark green squares to create a basketweave effect. This one is for anyone who loves a checkerboard pattern but is kind of over it and ready for something a bit different.

Who said a tiny little powder bath can’t take up a whole heap of space visually, hm? Certainly not Michelle C. Gage who designed this room. The pastel blue ceramic tile feels darling paired with a mint green bullnose edge. It’s hard to tell if that part of this room has always been there or is a new install, which to me is a sign of something that will look good for decades to come.

A Penny (Tile) For Your Design Thoughts

We have the wildly popular cottage core design style of the last few years to thank for the resurgence in penny tiles (and hex…keep reading). And while these never really fell out of favor, they’re certainly popping up more and more, especially when used to create a mosaic design of varying colors. 

Let’s start with some solid-colored pennies. I really like how Ashley Montgomery matched the color of the tile to the paint (and grout and some of the floor tile) which creates more of a texture than a boom pow visual punch that this tile type can have if it is installed with a high-contrast grout.

In all fairness, I noticed after selecting this image for this category that what I thought were tiny little penny tiles are actually super tiny hex tiles but I’m letting it ride anyway because I love Heidi Caillier’s application here and I think it could work just as well in a round penny shape.

Now we enter some light mosaic work. I’ve seen this black-on-white cross a handful of times in different bathroom designs and it’s classic, timeless but still a delight. Alma Homes detailed in the post caption that they created this floor pattern by cutting out the white penny tile where they placed a black penny tile, so it can be DIYed if you have the patience to figure out your pattern, cut out and perfectly place circles where you want a different color.

Wouldn’t this be so beautiful in a breakfast nook or small bathroom? Ugh, I love this floor of Talnua Distillery. I can’t imagine something like this can be very easily DIYed but is likely a custom commission (so no, not exactly budget-friendly though certainly worth it).

Put a Hex On Your Bathroom

In theory, mini hex and penny tiles belong in the same category as they’re used nearly the same way, but to be technical about it, I’m splitting them apart. I find that small hex tiles are more common in the projects I’m seeing, and while I’m not 100% sure why, I’m guessing it’s a combination of adding a touch of visual interest due to the shape but also they’re more forgiving to install than penny tile (where if you don’t get it right, you see the individual sheets…VPL – visible penny line).

Really, though, it’s a personal choice, as is everything in design, and these are some of the spaces I’ve saved recently that got me excited for their use of hex tiles: 

Cute, right?? Hex mosaics like this in pre-designed sheets seem to be much easier to find than round penny tiles (though it looks like Terra Made may have created their own custom design for this bathroom through Heritage Tile). The center starburst in the shower pan is a great touch.

We’re all familiar with the classic black-and-white hex flower mosaic, yes? You’ll typically find it in more traditional bathrooms but Michelle C. Gage used it to great effect in this powerful modern bath. It keeps the herringbone wall tile from delivering an overly serious look to the space, at least in my opinion.

Here’s that same cross design except with an additional double box trim, inverted to be predominantly black and in a hex tile instead of a round penny. Chris Loves Julia did a beautiful job in one of their daughters’ bathrooms and it feels graphic and exciting without any color (the power of pattern).

And finally, that same hex flower BUT IN A WHOLE DANG KITCHEN by Pierce & Ward. This is an absolute showstopper and while I typically prefer to just *look* at this kind of thing than live in it, I think I could make an exception here because I love it. And if it’s too much for you, I hope it’s at least an inspiration driver for you to not be afraid to go bold and lean into the classics in new and unusual ways. Think outside the floor (and the zellige). 🙂

That’s all I have for you today, folks. I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of the above, for better or for worse, and please feel free to share if you’re also eyeing something you feel is coming up the ranks of popularity and market availability.

See you next time!

Your friend in design, Arlyn

Opening Image Credits: Design by Meet West | Photo by Rett Peek

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🥰 Rusty
2 months ago

Dang, I love your posts, Arlyn!!!

2 months ago

Always love Arlyn’s posts!! So informative, enthusiastic, and knowledgable. You clearly do your homework.

2 months ago

Zellige tiles- someone with experience in these tiles, please respond. I love them dearly- on my computer screen. I have never seen or felt them in person. They appear to have edges that stick out/don’t line up- the charm of the hand-made, no doubt, but do those edges collect dust/grease in kitchens and dust, grime in bathrooms?

2 months ago
Reply to  Christina

I think you may need 50% overage to get that designer look without too many chips. Otherwise it may look sloppy. I have no idea about durability or cleaning. I tried finding the firing temperature as the higher the temp the better and stronger the product. Quality porcelain is fired in very high temps. Stoneware can be fired twice too given the right material, but not cheap clay. Low temperature means the material is porous and mold will form in unglazed or cracked areas. I think it should depend on an application and the size of the area that needs to be covered. I do wish someone would talk more about the technical aspects.

2 months ago
Reply to  Christina

I’ve always wondered about this as well. We need the scoop.

2 months ago
Reply to  Christina

I just visited a house where they installed Zellige tile on their shower wall. The edges do stick out. She said that you have to get an installer that has worked with it before because there is some expertise required to place everything correctly. Also, she purposely designed it to be just on the wall with the shower head so that the water doesn’t hit it directly. Cuts down on the mineral deposits.

Roberta Davis
2 months ago

I love penny round tiles! I hate cleaning grout, though, so I would probably only use them where they wouldn’t get dirty grout.

2 months ago

We recently completed a renovation of our home, which included the hallway and primary baths. We own a 100+ year old victorian shaker and I knew I wanted to do tile layouts that felt correct for the time but modern. Using simple ivory and charcoal subway tiles in a offset vertical layout– with a top and bottom black border and pencil trim and details made it look and feel authentic. In the hallway we alternated rows of a 6″ square with 3″X6″ subway in warm gray. The effect was exactly what i wanted– updated historic.

And all the tile was less than 10$ psf.

2 months ago

These are all soo pretty. I love how Ashley Montgomery did the penny tile with matching pain/grout. It looks fantastic! Such subtle texture. Thanks for sharing all the eye candy, Arlyn!

2 months ago

Arlyn, I love the eye candy and really enjoyed this post!
I recently went through the new build process and when choosing tiles I learned that even though you may pick an inexpensive tile product, if it is small or the pattern is complicated, you pay a lot more for installation. In the end, it costs as much as or more than a simple layout of high priced tile. This was just my experience and I wonder if others have had the same.

2 months ago

In the process – the design associate showed us several tiles and then calculated the cost of installation for each.

2 months ago

Beautiful inspiration! The possibilities are endless with tile design so where do you begin with choosing what you want? I would love to see a professional designer’s process of sorting through all the options to create a tile design plan that fits the budget and overall aesthetic.

Erika Otter
2 months ago

We mixed mexican tiles from here with green in the background for our kitchen and it is FABULOUS. Highly recommended.

2 months ago
Reply to  Erika Otter

Please show us. I’d love to see your Mexican tile.

2 months ago
Reply to  Erika Otter

Please show us your Mexican tile..would love (!) to see.

2 months ago

Don’t you “peddle fuddy duddy designs” at us, Arlyn! hahahah

Cici Haus
2 months ago

We did the floor in our powder room in various colors of 6×6 squares in a “random” pattern, very similar to the Studio Becky Carter example, in 2015 and I still love it!

2 months ago

For anyone falling in love with funky hex patterns, they’re more affordable than you’d think! You can even find some patterns stocked, but custom runs are often $15-20 per square foot, which is NOT terrible. They’re custom produced in sheets, complete with tidy little directions for your installer, so it’s a very simple installation in labor.
I’ve had fab experiences with both Heritage Tile and American Restoration Tile. I got a bonkers wonderful sheeted pattern in vibrant historical colors for my 1911 Victorian (much more in keeping with the original details than black and white would have been), and it brings me so much joy.
And always do your math! Floors are a great place to splash out because they’re small. Walls add up faaaaast so the price makes a huge impact, but a 5’x8’ bathroom floor at $20/sq ft is $800, whereas the wall tile for the same room would need to be below $5/sqft to hit the same total. Just do the actual math, and you may be able to swing it for your fave design.

2 months ago

That Pierce and Ward kitchen makes my heart sing every time I see it. Great post!

2 months ago

“I’m going to start with both my favorite and also the most expensive because we should break the heart first and then rebuild from there.” my shopping philosophy always!

1 month ago

Absolutely obsessed with the new Delft trend. I also noticed it in Beata Heuman’s farmhouse tour and swooned. I’m Dutch American and already do a small Delft Christmas tree every year (among other pieces), but now MUST make it happen on a future fireplace surround.