I feel like Carrie Bradshaw, but less sex columnist and more design writer. After a lot of reflection, provoked by a reader’s comment, I came to ask myself last week, “is a lot of tile really want we want? Are we over-tiling because we can and perhaps it’s not always the right choice?” Until recently I was on team “tile” everywhere, all the way – like in Jessica’s farmhouse kitchen above. Like a fashion stylist might love hats, I LOVE tile as a design element, a lot. I wrote more about the desire in this post but the idea is how you can take a simple tile and create high impact by putting it on all walls. It reflects the light, gives the rooms so much texture, and you barely need any art or accessories to dress it up. This was my intention a couple months ago in the kitchen and our main bath… until I read this comment from a reader, Lane, on the tile post…
From commenter Lane (edited slightly for context): I’m European, having grown up with it, I don’t like tile on all walls. I love the simple design without excess trims, but not tile all over. I think it’s based on limitations of the past. Homes were humid, people were scared of mold, there was steam, bacteria, no ventilation, often no window in a bathroom either. I love to leave some walls without any tile. It makes a bathroom look and feel warm, pleasant, approachable, room-like, spa-like. Kitchens also feel warmer like a place to gather rather than prep meat. These (drywall) are actually good parts of American design. Kitchens with tile everywhere remind me so much of butcher shops and fish markets. That’s a completely different feeling that I want in my kitchen. Finally, tile is much colder material than drywall, plaster or wallpaper, both in terms of actual temperature and its reflection. So that’s my case against it, having lived both in Europe and in the States. I do believe many of my European friends wouldn’t agree with me. But many of them actually change their mind when they come here. I’ll be curious to see what you do. I’m sure there are exceptions to what I think about tile all over. In any case, I just wanted to point out these things in case it might be helpful. Perhaps, you’ll find a way to mitigate this if you decide in favor of this.
Lane’s comment was so interesting to me and truly made me stop to think. Thank you, Lane. I love an opposing perspective based on real-life experiences. So when I perceive a ton of tile on all walls as beautiful (like above), I now see that it can also be read as sterile, “easy to clean,” and cold. Now, I think without a lot of natural light it’s nice to have a texture on your walls so the room doesn’t feel “dead” and to give it movement, but that texture could be wood or painted paneling, plaster, limewash, special molding, etc. It doesn’t have to be tile or even just drywall. And it made me wonder if in our main bathroom and kitchen we should do more plaster, less tile, which saves on material AND labor and maybe it will make it feel warmer and give us more of the vibe we want? I’m not talking backsplash or near wet surfaces, just on the walls away from where water can actually damage.
A TEST CASE – OUR MOUNTAIN BATH
So I gave myself a test: I love the vibe of our bathroom at the mountain house and while we are infusing more color in the farm, and it will have more of a traditional bent (grids on windows, more classic lighting, custom wood vanity), I want the same feeling – quiet, spa-like, warm and not overly designed. So as I was contemplating Lane’s comment I asked myself if I would want tile on more of the walls in this bathroom (not just behind sink and toilet), and the answer was not an immediate HELL YES. It was more of a “sure, that could be pretty if it’s quiet and with non-contrasting grout”. Here’s a rendering of our farm bath to give you an idea of the space (it’s not designed yet):
I think if everything else is really pretty (custom vanity that I’m PSYCHED about pretty stone countertop, huge windows, and blue-tiled floor). But then I wonder if it’s just not necessary to put on all walls. Anne’s vote is a huge “YES, MORE TILE” and Brian also thinks it will be extra beautiful (the tile we have chosen in here is SO PRETTY, high gloss and handmade from Pratt and Larsen with so much reflection and movement and a twist :)) But he admitted that it probably won’t be necessary to put it on multiple walls, either. I know it would be stunning, but would plaster actually be more the vibe we want? Aside from budget reasons, I ask myself, is less tile a better idea?
But plaster ain’t cheap. What we did at the mountain house on the walls is this almost fake plaster finish where after they mudded the drywall, they did a pretty messy hand trowel on the walls that left a lot of “plaster-like” schmears. Then we painted on top of it. This isn’t apparently common but as I’ve written about it before is much cheaper than a flat finish OR plaster, and kinda gave the same look and is very forgiving. You are supposed to do semi-gloss in the bathroom, but since we’ll have a closed shower door we aren’t going to – if we were to do drywall we’d do this hand plastered fake technique and paint a flat paint on top. That’s all to say that maybe we don’t even have to use plaster at all!
Here’s a close up of what it looks like (it’s super hard to shoot, sorry):
In-person we really like it (admittedly in these photos I’m not that impressed with it and it looks fake, but you barely notice it in person and it just looks warm and hand-done but not too much at all). Would I like proper plaster more? Yes, but the cost difference is huge especially if you are doing a big space. We’ll definitely price it out, too and it might be worth doing in some rooms but not all of them.
THE FARM KITCHEN = WITH OR WITHOUT TILE?
So let’s analyze the mountain house kitchen, which has SUCH a good vibe and we LOVE its simplicity and warmth (admittedly I understyled these shots, but trust me that the light and wood are enough and you don’t really need “stuff” in here).
Would that wall be prettier with a simple stacked white tile? Maybe, right?? It was something we thought about but honestly I don’t miss it on a daily basis at all and I like how understated it is. Now to be fair the wood grain adds a lot of texture and movement so that’s why I pulled it back with a simple white quartz and no tile – letting the wood and windows really shine. But a matte white tile, stacked vertically up to the vaulted ceiling would be beautiful, actually – just on that back wall. No regrets, just fun to analyze and explore with you all.
SO WHAT ABOUT THE FARM KITCHEN?
In the farm kitchen, we have designed a ton of windows and skylights (as you know) to bring in light to the kitchen and living room. Right now in the renderings, we have tile in between the windows and up around the door, but the more Brian and I think about it the more I’m wondering if not only do we no need it but would the kitchen be warmer and more the vibe we are going for with less tile. Or is the tile around the windows going to be just so pretty? Especially with pretty light switches popping off it?
And here, below, is what it would look like if it were just a short backsplash up to the window and flanking the hood (again, not designed yet, guys).
One of the best/worst things about me is how open I am to new ideas, and frankly how much fun it is to explore different perspectives and figure out which one fits the best with what you are going for. There are some things that are not negotiable, but then others where seeing an opposing view might actually yield a result closer to the goal. Living and working in this home I want a certain feeling and it’s not an “OMG WOW SO MANY STATEMENTS”. It’s more of a “roasted Sunday chicken, comfortable furniture, and casual warmth” and then you slowly feel the vibe and see the details and quality of the materials. ARCIFORM is pretty darn exceptional at the details that make an older home feel appropriately designed. And Anne (founder and lead designer) is quite the tile pusher 🙂 It’s a pretty darn fun debate if you ask me and I don’t really think there is a way to lose or be “wrong” if you choose the right tile for the vibe you want – it can always be more understated even if it’s a high quantity.
Opening Image Credits: Design by Jessica Helgerson and Yianni Doulis | Photo by Aaron Leitz and Lincoln Barbour | via Architectural Digest
I am really sensitive to noise, so I vote short splashback. I think a wall of tiles makes for very harsh acoustics.
I totally agree, I feel stressed just looking at pictures of rooms with lots of tile, because I know how acoustically stressful they’d be to be in. And also they look uncomfortable and uninviting because they’re such hard surfaces.
oh ladies. do you have any idea how sensitive i am to noise? I never THOUGHT about this. sometimes I wish I had my kids noise blocking headphones that we bought for them to go to outdoor concerts or fireworks when they were tiny – just for parties or when we have guests and the house gets roudy. maybe thats why i’m so relaxed here at the mountain house (no tile, all wood). thank you for this insight.
My understanding is that a true plastered hood vent will also help dampen noise from the fan. We had ours covered in sheetrock and are planning on finishing with a plaster treatment. Plank and Pillow has a great step-by-step tutorial on their site and Sachi Lord has a quick video on her Insta. I think plaster on the hood only would be such a subtle and lovely layer of texture.
Aaaand now I totally want that! Our range hood is the worst, and so noisy.
My mom was a nanny for a family with tiled bathroom walls and she said it was the worst when the kids were little, she had a headache after each bath. I just finished a design program and brought this up during my final materials presentation and my teacher agreed that acoustics is something people don’t take into account when they tile their bathroom floor to ceiling. It’s lovely visually but hard on the ears.
From an acoustic standpoint, you also should be mindful about the amount glass windows/doors you install. Sound bounces off of them just like tile.
As this blog describes, most sound in a room reverberates off of hard surfaces.
Ha, that’s just what I came to say. Some girl cousins had a bathroom all to themselves, all tile. It was so LOUD! I was just a kid and it bothered me, I can’t imagine now.
Me, too. Also, what tile lovers see as texture, my eyes and brain see as too much pattern to process. That pattern, especially for shiny tiles with light bouncing off of them literally gives me a headache.
I’d be Team Less Tiles, Anne’s comparison to “butcher shops and fish markets” is spot on. I also think hotter countries have more tiles than cooler countries. I’m also European, but I’m Irish so we don’t usually have to worry about too much heat in the summer and we need things to feel warm and cosy in the winter, so we don’t lean too heavily towards the tiles. But in somewhere like Italy or Portugal (home of spectacular tiles – they even tile the outside of the houses) where you are always fighting a battle with summer heat, tiles make a lot more sense. So for you, in LA they may make a lot of sense but will they in Portland?
Also, it’s totally true about the acoustics, if warm and cosy is what you’re after then completely tiled walls definitely works against that.
this is such a fascinating point to me right now!!! i’ve always thought of LA as being a warm and summer-y place and the PNW as being more temperate but portland has been 20-30 degrees warmer all summer. maybe it’s more of a precipitation/lighting thing?? like, sunny and dry places just feel more appropriate for “cool” tile and damper, darker places inherently feel like they need to be “warmed up” even if they’re technically hotter??? i love these comments for getting my brain going this AM!!
Agree. When I first moved to London on a three year working holiday I found the bathrooms surprisingly different to Australian bathrooms. Fewer tiles, all had central heating (very nice), some didn’t have showers (just a plastic nozzle thing from Boots attached to the bath spout and you sat in the bath for your ‘shower’, a shock to the system and also inclined to flood downstairs flats by creating water pressure issues, which took a while to work out) and the most amazing thing to all of us was that all the bathrooms were carpeted!! Yes, carpeted. It was a revelation! Unthinkable in Australia. I think that may have changed nowadays as I religiously read The English Home magazine and bathroom styles seem to have converged in our globalised world but it was a hoot and so unexpected.
I can roll with some differences due to different climates, but I can and will NEVER get on board with carpet in the bathroom. NEVER. ICK. That is honestly gross. lol
I have actually just recently been pondering this since we are in the preliminary stages of planning a kitchen renovation. I love tile, but have been seeing more kitchens on my Insta feed with less tile- definitely a different vibe – that I am into. I was telling my husband that we could perhaps not do tile except for above the stove/oven which is where I feel it is most needed for easy cleaning.- primarily to cut costs. So although I love tile, I definitely think that a minimalist tile look can also be great and maybe even a little different and maybe less expensive.
I can’t tell you the amount of times I have said to myself – why the need to tile everywhere in kitchens and bathrooms? I’m glad Lane bought it up.
I don’t get it either. Especially all the walls. You are forever stuck with the color/pattern. When/if I renovate my kitchen I plan to stick with the 4 inch backsplash. I think tiling all the walls is a newer trend. Yes, it was done in the past but I think that was for durability and cleanability. Not necessary now. I don’t think we’ve been doing all the tiling for the past 40 years. And the comment about acoustics makes sense.
If you do no tile, I recommend a 5-6″ backsplash! I think we did 5″ and it looks more intentional than the standard size.
Umm… am I allowed to bring up that one can always take tile down or re-tile in a different tile/pattern? lol. White subway tile has never gone out of style, esp in a farmhouse.
I think the cost and time involved make people think about it differently. Anywhere you go in interiors blog world you will see people equating tile and other hard surfaces with permanence. Sure, it’s not technically true, but there is sound reasoning behind it. Practically speaking, for many tile is treated as permanent in daily life. It makes little sense to include long caveats about how it could be changed when they know they definitely are going to live with it and would probably move house before changing the tile.
It’s kind of like when we are all looking at real estate and we nix this or that house because of the roof style or because the windows are the 50s slider-style. We could just buy the house and rip off the hipped roof and redo the underlying structure to have the mansard roof of our dreams, but how many people do that? Same with how we could buy a house, then pay for someone to come cut bigger holes in all the walls to replace the sliders with more common double-hung sash windows. But not too many people do that either – because of the cost and time involved.
This whole process gives me decision fatigue. None of the decisions are sticking! And all the conversations you must be having amongst the changes. To Brian, to Anne, to EHD team, and then the comments! My head is spinning.
This isn’t a typical renovation – it’s a complex design project that we all get ringside seats to. Anything new and different and interesting takes discussion, time, and mid-changing. And the decisions that are changing aren’t radical ones. I’m really enjoying seeing how the sausage is made!
Yes, I do get that side of the coin. Just leaves me with an uneasy feeling
Karen, i’m sorry you are uneasy. its just part of the process and all things fun to debate. we are not behind right now so we have time to make these decisions and its seriously FUN. Remember, the goal is to make changes in this stage of the process, on paper before anything has been officially ordered or installed. Now if we are still having these debates in 6 months we should all be worried. but right now we are going room by room (starting with kitchens and baths) and dialing in exactly where all things are going, starting and stopping, etc. (I have the general idea and art direction, so we are now getting into nitty gritty). Now is the time to debate every design decision in a non-rushed way and I love bringing it to the blog and getting further insight. I have NEVER regretted getting more feedback. I take what I want to and still make the decision that is best for us, but other peoples experiences are so valuable. We have deadlines to order things (tile is late August). IF you are exhausted, just skip these posts! xx
Ha! I didn’t mean it to sound so negative! It’s all good.
Emily said several times when showing the renderings “not designed yet”. So I think up to now the decisions have been where to put the walls/layout the rooms and now is the time for details like how much tile and where it will go. Doesn’t seem at all to me that things aren’t sticking but rather that the design debates/decisions are just now starting. And I find it SUPER helpful to hear abt her process as a designer and other ppl’s feedback as I start into my own home renovation.
Love this internal debate! I personally like a good balance. For instance, in our family bathroom we chose to do subway on all four walls with a classic B&W hex floor. It’s practical and a lot of the areas needed tile functionally, so made sense. Plus it fits the classic feel. We did no wall tiles in our kitchen or on-suite though as we had other features we wanted to shine (plaster range hood and freestanding tub under an arch). This definitely makes the areas feel more cosy than it would have otherwise and saved cost for us.
Personally I just hate half-tiled walls, but it’s 100% personal preference! I just like it when you go all out with what you do and half-tiled walls just visually break up a space. Think about what black ankle-straps on shoes does to your legs 🙂
But I so look forward to seeing what you choose to do in your home! I’m sure it will all be pretty 🙂
Agree on the hate for half tiled walls. Go big or go home! In 99% of the cases, I feel like half tiled walls just look unfinished. If you don’t want to do so much tile, maybe you could just tile the stove wall and then have a simple backsplash of the countertop material on the sink wall (like a 2.5ish inch one that deVOL commonly uses) or no backsplash at all?
I agree with you re 1/2 tile. I think in the rendering at that point we had just nixed a wood countertop perimeter so we were playing with just the same tile as a short backsplash, but I wouldn’t typically do that and would opt for a short slab backsplash. And Astrid, your house sounds super pretty!
My experience with short slab backsplash is that somehow tomato and/or turmeric-based sauces always wind up on the paint above;). At least in the bathroom the splashing is just water.
Oh really? I love half tile walls in old 1930s bathrooms – especially the green/black combo! And then an outrageous wallpaper on the top.
I LOVE half tiled walls …My USA 1950’s and 1930’s bathrooms and British 1900’s kitchens and baths all have/ had half tile walls with cute vintage tiles and often pencil tile accents and I find them so CHARMING – easy to clean and you can change the wall colors to fit your mood !
We have half-tiled walls in our first-floor bathroom and I love it! They are in place of wainscoting, and have a decorative border around the top (until they run into the shower tile, which goes higher.) I love it!
Yes, I love the look of tile “wainscoting”. I have a powder bath with half tiled walls in marble and that provides all the interest in a small space.
Hah! I love half tiled walls, but I’m a midcentury fanatic, and that’s what’s appropriate for those homes. Half tile (or 2/3rds) on the bottom and wallpaper on top if my favorite. But I also like ankle straps. 😉
Having grown up in a house with all bathrooms fully tiled, I can say that they can definitely still be warm and cosy. It’s all about the colour and texture of the tiles used. Like you, I absolutely love tile and think that it can always be beautiful and give the right vibe when thought of carefully (which you no doubt will). I get what Lane was saying about fully tiled kitchens potentially giving “butcher shop” vibes. I think that would be more likely where you have large wall spaces covered in tile (especially typical subway tiles). Whereas from the two walls you’ve shown in the farmhouse kitchen, the walls looks sufficiently broken up to not risk straying into “sterile environment” territory. The wall with the stove, etc, definitely makes sense to have fully tiled, and the sink wall hardly has any actual “wall” space, so I don’t think the tile will be overwhelming or too cold. Long story short, I think tiling both walls will look stunning and homely and cosy – especially given you will have warm wooden elements in the kitchen. As is always the case, people will be on different parts of the “how much tile… Read more »
yah agreed. and i think knowing that our tile is super farm housey and rustic would help the debate. its not a bright white subway. its a white glaze on brown clay so its super warm …
Oh, def if that is the case-I am imagining that tile and how good it’s going to look!!!
I AGREE!!! 🙂
I like the look of tiles, but as a renter whose bathroom is 100% tiled, it makes it super hard to hang things in there. I would love to put up some open shelves, art, hooks for robes, etc. but any of those would require drilling into tiles. Even if you aren’t a renter, all tiles leaves you with little flexibility later for similar things.
great point. there are a few areas where we want shelving and we have to plan those way in advance if we are tiling over so there can be the proper support behind the walls. good point though.
I just remembered a great tip a friend gave us when building-take photos of all your interior walls after plumbing and electrical is in but before sheetrock goes up. This will give you a blueprint of where you can/can’t drill holes later and exactly where your blocking is which will be especially helpful if you are tiling and stud-finders are hard to read.
We did this, and I can’t tell you how many times we have referred to those photos. So helpful!
For some reason I find fully tiled bathrooms to feel extremely claustrophobic. It feels harder to breathe in them!
I think the fully tiled wall in the kitchen could work, especially given how much natural light you will have. I’m not a fan of the half-wall tile.
I 100 bazillion percent think full tile feels very industrial. It can be beautiful but I wouldn’t want it at home. One full tile wall can be great, but otherwise I think there are many creative ways to cap a shorter tile backsplash that are really pretty and sophisticated.
I want to update my own comment – I went back and looked at your rendering, and on the window wall there’s very little wall space. So I don’t see a problem tiling it all – but if there are other walls I’d think carefully about the tile on those.
Wonderful post– the more/ versus less – tile has me thinking!
Just to add a quick observation: in the mountain kitchen (kitchen of my dreams)–you have beautiful wood framed windows and BEAUTIFUL sconces flanking each side….. good choice to forego the tile. Why would you potentially detract from those 2 visual elements?
In the farmhouse renderings — my eye again goes to the windows and view beyond. Why add more tile on that wall–even though the sink is there- no more tile! And this is being said by a “give me all the tile” person!
I think both of these options look beautiful, and while I totally appreciate Lane’s position, part of the fun of design is getting to explore styles used in other countries. We don’t necessarily have the historic tile usage she refers to, and that’s what makes it fun to try those styles in our spaces. I think both ALL THE TILE and restrained tile usage look wonderful when done right (which we know you will do it right, either way you choose to go). Love that you are exploring all of these options and taking us along for the ride, it’s a really fun journey to go along on with you. 🙂
ah, thanks. its super fun, truly and I feel like i learn so much through these posts. you can’t live a million lives, in a million houses but you CAN ask a lot of people and listen to their experiences to help you get more educated (and i feel like anectdotal stories are ‘evidence’ in home design). xx
If you have time, why not find a boutique hotel or better yet Airbnb with heavily tiled spaces and stay there a day or too? To see if you like the feel.
ha. that’s a GREAT idea. xx
This is a very smart idea. Always “try before you buy”!!
This is what we did before deciding to get a steam shower. Trying out a big ticket item is so helpful in the design process.
I’m definitely on the less is more side. Sometimes having the same finish everywhere detracts from its impact and beauty. I love the look of tadelakt plaster in a bathroom with no tiles at all!! Also, thinking of how your kitchen is open to the living area, do you want to be sitting on the sofa looking across to a tiled wall? I would try to avoid a stark contrast between the two areas. If you keep the tile to above the cooker then it will be less visible when in the main room. I would also be inclined to look at a slab instead of multiple tiles but that’s just my taste. X
Yessss -Tadelakt! (in the bathroom -not sure if it’s also used in kitchens..?)
Yep! Also frequently used in kitchens. This would be beautiful.
I think the window wall should only have tile up 1/3 of the windows, then drywall the rest of the way. The stove wall can go all the way up as that seems appropriate. In general, fully tiled rooms remind me of the YMCA, a mall bathroom, or a sanitarium: too cold, hard surfaces, bleachy smelling. You love accessories and art, so make sure you have appropriate wall space to display them. It would look odd, hanging framed artwork all over tiled walls. Just my 2 cents.
Yes, fully tiled walls go very “locker room” vibe for me. It really is just personal preference at the end of the day isn’t it? I don’t like tiled range hoods either as those are definitely butcher shop, industrial space, commercial cafe vibes for me so clearly I’m on the less tile side of things!
I’m loving the plaster/limewash trend and know you would do it beautifully if you went this route. On a different note in the kitchen if you did butcherblock around the perimeter like I see in one picture, I’ve seen Devol and other british kitchens do a marble edge around the sink to protect the wood and I think its a beautiful functional feature.
100% Team Tile for the farmhouse with lots of rugs, textiles and other textures for noise reduction. I feel like comparing the farmhouse to the mountain house isn’t really a good comparison as the styles are so different!
you are right – the styles ARE so different. However, the feeling in this house is one that I want in every house for the rest of my life so thats the challenge. its simply so pleasant and easy to live in and take care of. So we are trying to design the farm with the same elements in mind – simplicity, warmth, practicality, minimalism and tons of light with a sense of openness during the day and cozy at night – but, you know. as a 100 year old farm. 🙂
Emily, I know you’ve shared snippets of this sentiment in many posts/comments, but I would LOVE a really visceral-emotional first-person examination of the mountain house: how each room makes you feel and, more importantly, why you think that is! I think this would be fascinating!
When you say you want the farm house to have the elements of simplicity, warmth, practicality, minimalism, full on tile counter to ceiling doesn’t bring those elements to my mind. It sounds more like a butcher shop, a retail business selling tile, or the changing rooms at the gym or pool. Tile everywhere does NOT represent farm house at all to me. I would use only where necessity for ease of cleaning requires.
Also team tile (seems to line up with the “older world” feel you’re going for!! I also thought how Albie framed her windows with tile in a different orientation was really special (in her kitchen renovation post).
I think I’m more of a statement tile wall & not a whole room tile. I like the second rendering better.
But I also know anything you design will be fabulous!
What if the tile on the window side was the same height as the stove side?
For areas that are not directly behind a sink or stove, I would consider drywall. For as often as you like to change things (or adapt as your family and tastes change, or even just to use your home as a place for partnership shoots), drywall is much easier to work with. Paint it, wallpaper it, drill a hole, patch a hole…
I would tile all the way up the walls in the kitchen. Those windows are so large and pretty, and I think having a tiny strip of tile between them and the countertop might look silly. I do like the look of both plaster walls and tiled walls (so much beauty and richness in both looks), but if you do leave the walls bare, I would run the slab from the countertop up onto the backsplash to make the look more seamless and less choppy.
Thank you Emily for sharing your design process with us! As a fellow designer I love to hear how others approach projects, especially those with so much experience!
Opinion/observation on the farm kitchen window wall only. When I see the full wall of tile rendering, it looks (in the words of Emily Henderson) SPECIAL. Simple, quiet, but still very special. That long wall of windows/door seems less chopped up and more cohesive with the full tile. When I see the rendering with the short backsplash on that wall, it is just “ehhh”. The tile to the wood on the ceiling makes more sense to me. Why add another material (plaster, drywall) to a wall that already has a lot going on? xo
interesting! i agree on the short tile (i wouldn’t do that either) but i like your response to the whole kitchen wall. Again i should have showed you what the tile is – that could have helped with opinions.
Maybe this is fence sitting but I like the kitchen window wall fully tiled. I agree with others that the windows break it up enough to prevent it from looking cold. The hood vent wall though looks beautiful only partially tiled. The plastered hood looks gorgeous and the space above the tile would be so much easier to hang all your great art lioe in that rendering.
I would like to add one more thing to Lane’s comment about fully tiled rooms – they are very hard and expensive to take out – it was 4 days of hauling tile down the stairs in buckets for us. And, no matter how cool they look today, they will become dated.
ooooooooooh, right…. i mean, i really really really hope this tile doesn’t get dated, but in 40 years from now it might be… good point.
I predict people will be chiseling out these all-time walls far sooner than 40 years from now. The Tile Everywhere trend feels very of-the-moment to me. I don’t think tile itself will be dated, or the tiles, but the idea of tiling floor to ceiling on All the Walls. It had it’s moment back in the early 20th century when domestic science and hygiene was big . . .but it hasn’t had it’s moment again since then.
There is also a ton of embodied energy in tile. Firing and shipping is super energy intensive, so from an Eco-conscious perspective you want to weigh the excellent durability (tile lasts literally thousands of years) of tile against the likelihood of it falling out of favor and being removed, where it would again last…. forever, but in a landfill.
Thank you so much for bringing this up! We’re house shopping, and one of the things I’m definitely put off by is tile everywhere. In the kitchen and bathrooms above, it just feels like too much for rooms that are already covered in hard surfaces. I think that’s one of the things I find so appealing about the mountain house, is the softness you brought in by limiting the materials to mostly plaster (ish!) and wood. That being said, it’s such a personal preference that I can’t wait to see what you land on for the farmhouse, and I know I’ll love seeing all the iterations and thoughts along the way! I’d love to see the sink wall with no tile at all, to be honest, to make that view and the faucet/sconces shine. In the first bathroom inspiration pictures, I keep thinking about having to wear earplugs while showering, as even the sound of the water would drive me nuts in something so hard.
Am I wrong in thinking tile can always be added later? Sometimes you need to live in a space to really know.
yes and no. basically if we spend on any sort of special wall treatment (plaster) then we’d waste that money. and then there are some jamb depth issues with windows that we like to plan for but not totally necessary. but i think you are right for some of the spaces for sure. that’s a good point! like in the main bath, if we miss it, lets just add it later.
I am on team less tile- I think less tile has a warmer, more classic, more vintage vibe, better acoustics. Plus cleaning a high gloss white surface up to the ceiling in the bathroom or anywhere sounds exhausting. TONS of subway tile everywhere is gonna look dated ….I dislike a fake plaster finish made with drywall, however I went for a plaster style mood in my home in the north facing bathroom and back bedrooms with the paint color. A soft vintagey almost white that feels like it came with the house. 2 -3 coats of primer and hand sanding between 2 coats of paint really builds the depth in the painted wall to offer more plaster-ey depth… I hope…
ooh that sounds pretty. i want to see!
Is plaster really as/more expensive as handmade tile? I’m surprised to read that the cost is prohibitive compared to the alternatives and other high-end finishes being used!
no its definitely not. I couldn’t get a definitive answer and this really is less about budget and more about aesthetics, but if I wrote that they are about the same I don’t think so. I think tile and the install of tile is more expensive, than plaster. likely double. but it totally depends on the tile, your area, and the square footage.
I was also surprised that the cost of plastering would be a factor to consider. In the UK we have walls plastered as a matter of course, it is almost always the cheapest option. I would also worry about the lack of flexibility – I know that you are decorating for the “long term” but having the option for a different colour paint on the walls gives you a potentially big change for a low cost.
The USA usually does drywall with spray on texture as the cheapest default wall treatment. It’s not smooth and doesn’t look as good as plaster. Usually a special tradesperson does plaster, also with drywall and texture, but there is more precision with plaster from what I understand.
After 9/11 all the jobs left New York and I worked construction with my master carpenter boyfriend for a while.. We made a plaster wall in the hallway with skimcoating and sanding, – about 4 layers worth. It was messy and time consuming, but not difficult. We used real plaster of paris, you can buy it in tubs or mix it yourself… It was messy and time consuming, but not difficult. I just removed a textured drop ceiling and skimcoated and sanded it and it wasnt that hard- again just messy and time consuming. I think people exaggerate the difficulty of these things esp. if you embrace a Wabi Sabi finish LOL
I especially do not like the tile on the hood. That is too much tile. I also prefer half tiled walls. I don’t like the look of a tiled wall all the way to the ceiling.
I love tile and stone but I do think in some cases it’s overdone. There’s no practical reason to have tile all the way to the top of a 10’ wall behind a toilet. I think it works best when it’s a good balance of form AND function. When you get too far away from why you have tile some place, it veers into trendy territory. Plus then you don’t have the option to change color or add wallpaper. And as others have pointed out, the acoustics can be really rough, and add to the coldness of the space.
I love this discussion. I didn’t think I’d feel this way but I’m leaning less is more. In your bath rendering, I can’t tell what’s happening to the left of the vanity but think it would be beautiful to have your tile just on that back inset wall. It would feel more special and make it a focal point. For the kitchen, I’m not loving the tile around the windows – seems busy and so unnecessary. You could do a full wall or partial on range wall. While I love the inspiration photos, the comparison to the butcher shop rings true to me- very commercial/institutional. The noise issue would definitely be an issue for me as well. I’m dying to rip out my tile kitchen floor for these very reasons and replace it with cork-it’s soft, warm, and quiet!
You have good options and probably won’t regret either way. But personally I find the fully tiled spaces to be a bit claustrophobic (especially kitchens – bathrooms are ok that way, but not my preference). I feel like they are keeping me in somehow. Yes, half tile breaks things up, and tile is beautiful. But i think a space feels more free and breathable with partial tile.
In our bathroom, we tiled around our half-enclosed shower and al three sides around our tub up to about 3 feet, and it makes it a special place with special tile you can touch. But above that tile is regular wall and it feels open. And I really don’t like fully tiled kitchen walls. That said, you have lots of windows so it won’t feel totally tiled in, like some that have all the full walls tiled (months ago you showed a kitchen that was fully tiled, and it made me cringe, even if the tile itself is pretty!).
I’m sure it will look beautiful however you do it, but I would absolutely vote less tile – use it to make a special place, but not over everything.
What a good topic. Yes, it is possible to end up with a clinical vibe, I can see where your commenter was coming from. I think one reason that happens (in addition to acoustics) is when the heating system isn’t as gentle and consistent as it might be. Here are the things I worry about with tile: (1) pale grout. Hard to clean, quick to discolor, and if you have a wall that is all tile you’ll end up with darkened grout near activity areas and pale grout higher up (2) not enough tile in high use areas or areas that need scrubbing and durability. I WANT tlle in bathrooms. Think of the flu. Think of splashing in the tub. Think of the splatter radius from people who stand up to pee. I think it’s either 6 or 8 feet,i I want tile in kitchens. Anyone who cooks regularly knows that you need tile not just around the sink but in a generous spread around the stove. Wiping a splash of spaghetti sauce from plaster or drywall is not fun. And tile is beautiful and can be so lovely to look at. I guess I’d say if you have to… Read more »
I definitely am team less tile! I didn’t realize it but I found myself nodding along that yes – whole tile rooms do feel more cold and like they’re there for a specific working purpose like cutting up a bunch of meat! I think this works just fine in closed off kitchens, but for kitchens that are open to the living room (like mine, and also your farmhouse kitchen) – I don’t like all the tile. The farmhouse kitchen is open to the living room, and the wall of windows is there to serve the living room as well (via letting in all the beautiful light). The whole wall of tile just screams “IM A KITCHEN” whereas a the plaster/drywall feels inviting and integrates better with the whole home. I know you said it isn’t designed, but just saying – I also like the rendering where there is a stone backsplash behind the stove 🙂 If it were my kitchen, I think I would do a stone backsplash behind the stove up to the vent and then the same stone shorter around the perimeters. Also I REALLY don’t like a tiled vent hood; that always looks very DIY to me… Read more »
I think that since you have all the windows to break up the tile, it won’t give that cold butchershop feel. It will be subtle and a detail that catches the light, I say all the way up! If you do go part-way, I’d keep the height of the range wall, it will be a nice moment partway up the window.
We also recently did our small bathroom in floor to ceiling tile but left one wall and nook just drywall — the contrast is really nice! If the texture of the tile is warm/cozy it is going to just give you that feeling x more tile!
I’m Team Less Tiles too especially on the range hood. I don’t really know why statement range/hood areas don’t float my boat (I don’t hate cooking LOL). If the view out the windows is lovely, then I suppose that’s where I’d prefer to have the primary focus of the space or maybe a statement countertop on the island.
I agree on the range hoods – all I can think when I see the tiled ones is, wow, that must be really heavy. Probably not the desired reaction!
It’s always been a dream of mine, since having 2 boys anyway, to have a full tiled bathroom with a drain in the middle of the floor so I could bring a powerwasher in there and blast away!
@Monica, SAME, girl, SAME. I would 100% tile my boys’ bathroom (they are 14 and 16 now) FLOOR to CEILING. Would I tile my kitchen or the primary bathroom the same way? No. But a kid’s bath 1000%.
I’m surprised to see so many “less tile” comments here. Maybe it’s a reaction to the butcher shop vibes we got in the late 90s, early aughts from the white subway tile with dark grout we saw everywhere.
My view differs in bathrooms versus kitchens. I think plain drywall is gross is bathrooms. Seems unsanitary and unfinished to me — also reminds me of a builder grade house. Maybe that’s my inner turn of the last century preferences showing (when “sanitary” tile became popular). I prefer bathroom walls that are tiled, covered with slabs, finished with wainscoting or wallpapered. That said, fully tiled rooms with tiled ceilings can feel oppressive.
With kitchens, I think it depends more on function and level of “busy-ness.” I love the DeVOL no backsplash look that is more room-like than utilitarian, but realistically, I get my backsplashes dirty and want them to be cleanable. And then cutting the tile off often creates weird lines, in which case, I vote to tile the whole wall.
Also, for this house, I think it makes sense historically for the tile (versus the mountain-house wood) to be the special moment. Agree with Anne.
I definitely prefer less tile in the bathroom, a fully tiled bathroom feels so commercial – like a public bathroom or a hostel. Even if it’s a nicer, cozy handmade one, I don’t love being surrounded by such a cold, hard surface. I’ve never been a fan and I don’t think it has the farmhouse, cozy vibe you are after. As for the kitchen, the fully tiled wall is stunning. But, there is something simple, unpretentious and practical about less tile that feels more farmhouse to me. It’s a look I’m seeing more of in kitchens and I really like it.
What if you took the tile up to the midpoint of the windows or to the height on a side wall under the shelves? Best of both worlds? I also think that tile makes the acoustics way too loud. But I love the way it looks.
When I see all of those lovely kitchen windows, I think of the wall of your house extending to include and frame the view (you chose that fabulous piece of property for a reason!). From that perspective, my eye wants to extend the windows down to the counter and quiet the walls. For super moist areas, outdoor stucco is sometimes used indoors for a plaster effect. For less moist areas, Diamond Kote (sometimes with a little sand for color and text) can create a glowy effect. Typically, the recommendation is to paint Diamond Kote, buuuuuuut the play of light if unpainted can be lovely. My heart is smiling at your enjoyment of the process.
I am here to chime in on the “plaster is standard” comment. I know we have debated this before in the comments, but plaster is not the cheapest or most common. I am a designer who has lived in California, New York, New Orleans, and now the Midwest. Every single place I have ever been (all corners of this country), it has been possible and relatively inexpensive (compared to other options mentioned here) to drywall and you only mud and sand over the joint lines. Not the entire wall, creating texture. I don’t understand why it seems so difficult to find this in the spheres of construction happening on this blog. If you want to cut in any electrical or do anything in the future to the inside workings behind the wall, you want it to be drywall, not plaster. It is certainly more cost effective than tile everywhere. Yes, all construction materials are expensive right now, but I am just completely lost as to why the only other option to tile seems to be a textured plaster. It is not at all….
Just a thought!
I agree! I have been so confused why just “regular drywall” isn’t an option. I’m on the East cost and textured drywall or plaster finishes are very uncommon. I’ve never lived in a house with plaster and honestly can’t think if I know of a single house with plaster walls. Drywall is so easy to patch, repair, paint, etc.
This is a regional thing. In the northwest especially and the west in general textured walls are the norm. Contractors don’t learn how to do smooth walls so unless you find a drywaller from the east coast your choices are “heavily textured” or “lightly textured”. It’s not more or less expensive, it’s just what drywall is here. I think the confusion is when you use the word plaster, which *is* more expensive and different.
Yes, that was part of the debate last time this was discussed. But I believe that is old thinking and may have been the norm 10+ years ago. There are qualified and capable workers everywhere. I lived in San Diego for 6 years (ending 2 years ago), and did not have trouble on any of my projects finding sub contractors and drywallers who could install the drywall and simply mud/sand the joint seams. I don’t think you have to simply “accept” that no one in your area can do drywall with a flat finish. Emily does a lot of custom work and has things built and made all the time. Drywall already has a flat finish. It is simply a matter of looking to find installers who will take the time to only mud and sand the joints instead of quickly spraying or troweling down the entire wall. If they refuse to learn a new (to them) method (that is in wide use in other areas), then they only want to do the most basic, fast jobs anyway, and that doesn’t seem to be what she likes having in her forever home.
So, I learned there’s a name for this. This is a level 4 finish. So just ask for a level 4, rather than 5, no matter where you live. 🙂 Signed, also someone from the midwest who was confused by the “smooth drywall isn’t the standard?” debate.
I am always perplexed by this when it comes up on this blog. I loathe faux textured walls. I also have a 101-year-old house in the northeast with all plaster walls and they look absolutely nothing like the example of the mountain house walls. From far away, my walls look totally smooth. Up close you can see some texture/movement
Complete gut reaction: yes to all tile in the kitchen, because you have the out of doors as contrast and it looks good. No to all tile in the bathroom because it brings to mind hospitals and prisons, and I would be thinking about someone hosing me off in my distress. I told you it was just a gut reaction.
Agree, especially when the tile is all white. Thinking “one flew over the cuckoo’s nest”.
I have lots of Thoughts(TM) about this. I cook 2-3 meals every single day in my kitchen, and I am MESSY. every cooking or washing wall in our kitchen has tile to the ceiling, and I love it—I could never live without it again. HOWEVER, I think that when floor to ceiling tiles are white, you get a more “hospital” energy that isn’t good. My kitchen is Fireclay’s mini star & cross in a lake blue, and that brings the craftsmanship and warmth it needs to feel good. Our primary bathroom has a glass-walled shower stall with floor to ceiling white picket tile, but I painted the walls a sage green to keep it from feeling like a sanatorium.
I think the best all-in tile inspiration comes from Morocco and Uzbekistan, NOT Europe—and this is where you’re feeling the aesthetic tension, maybe. The EEG aesthetic leans more toward wood molding and wallpaper, not intricate tile.
I DO think that you have the design chops and creativity to merge the beauty of Arabic tiling traditions with more “European farmhouse” aesthetic, though!! But I think glossy white tile is not gonna be it.
Good luck! This is sooo much fun!
Omg also—look at everything @hommeboys does with tile. Lots of creative full/half tiles walls, though they do use lots of zellige and not a ton of mosaic. This kitchen was the inspiration for my own (but we tiled to the ceiling): https://www.instagram.com/p/B2mSNRTAL0W/?utm_medium=copy_link
I also think Erin Kestenbaum’s kitchen is a great example of tile to the ceiling. If she’d picked white tile, the room would’ve felt much more sterile: https://erinkestenbaum.com/2019/11/06/one-room-challenge-fall-2019-the-kitchen-reveal/
Because your kitchen will be open to the living room, I vote for short backsplash against the sink/window wall, and keep the tile wall on the cooktop side, which isn’t as visible from the living room.
A balance between the two could be a happy medium. For the kitchen, bringing the tile a bit higher to the same level as the range wall could be the perfect solution. It doesn’t have to be an all or “nothing”, like this image
For the bathroom, highlighting that alcove with the tile could make it feel more special.
I have loved all of the inspiration tile images that you’ve shared and was shocked that you were now considering less tile. But then when I read this post, it made a lot of sense to rein in the tile. I guess what I would do is just start with what you love about the mountain house–and from what you’ve said, it is the simplicity, the sense of quiet and peace, and the use of little things that fade into the background but provide a sense of quality and visual interest when you pay closer attention. So what you want to do is think, what do those elements mean when translated to old farmhouse in the PNW. And my sense is that…lots of tile isn’t really part of that picture, right? I certainly would do less tile in the kitchen, since that is open to the living room and lots of tile might look busy (even if it is beautiful, simple, elegant tile) in a space with so much else going on. But maybe in a bathroom or two, you can go a little more tile-heavy.
I’m generally not a fan of fully tiled kitchens, but I think in this case it works because it’s actually not that much tile (thanks to the windows on the one wall). That said, I think it feels like too much in the bathroom. One thing to keep in mind (I saw you mention that Portland has been hotter than LA this summer) is that Portland will feel cold in the winter (both cooler temperatures and the dampness). When it’s cooler/dreary for days on end, I think the fully tiled bathroom will seem colder. But I’m from upstate New York, which has harsher/colder winters, so maybe I’m wrong about that? Around here, I hesitate even to put in tile floors unless there’s heated floors, because it’s just too darn cold underfoot (in my experience, no matter how good of a heating system you have where I live, there are going to be days where the bathroom will feel freezing when you step out of the shower).
This is such an interesting discussion. I personally like the fully tiled kitchen (minus the hood) because you have very little wall space. The windows are dominant, and you’ll have all of your cabinetry and stone to balance the tile. As for bathrooms, I really have an aversion to fully tiled rooms, particularly if the tile is glossy. It feels very cold and sterile to me, and I don’t like the acoustics. Such a personal preference!
I’m happy to see that Lane brought this up and you are giving pause and considering other options. I recently saw a blogger remodel a bathroom and upon reveal I realized that all that tile on the walls reminded me a great deal of a truck stop bathroom that I stop at in Winnemucca on the way to Utah. Used there for ease of cleaning and difficulty of damaging.
Ha! I think we stopped at that same bathroom on our way to Utah recently! And I kind of feel the same way about completely tiled bathrooms…