That tile post I told you about

I told you I was having a bit of a time finding the tile I really want for our master bathroom. Usually my problem is not being able to make a choice. Though the living conditions I currently find myself in seem to testify otherwise, I can be a bit of a perfectionist... and when it's time to choose permanent things like TILE, my brain gets hogtied into a state of indecision.

But this time, I know what I want!

I just can't find it. (At least not affordably.)

The parameters are thus:
  • Tiles need to be on the smaller side per S's request. No large slabs. 
  • Need to look older/vintage/timeless/a little bit country. We can't do glass mosaics or anything very modern. Just won't work in this ramshackle old place. 
  • Need to fit into our budget. (No marble.) 
  • Must coordinate with rustic details and a wood floor. The master bedroom will have exposed log walls, and the wood floor will continue into part of the bathroom. I painstakingly crafted this little drawing for your edification. 
©Thirtyeight20, 2012. All rights reserved and then some.

This drawing very artfully shows you that the part with all the dots is where we will be putting floor tile. We'll be putting tile on the walls highlighted in blue. (Note there is a dividing step between the shower area and toilet area.) The rest of the bathroom will have a wood floor, probably coated with a marine sealer just to safeguard against the effects of any extra-vigorous showering.

OK back to the tile stuff. (Remember: floor tile in the speckled area, wall tile in the blue area.) I have pretty much determined that I like subway tile for the walls, but not necessarily in bright white as is the popular thing these days. In my hunt for tile ideas, I've seen lots of people hating on the concept of off-white or beige tile. People like their WHITE! But bright white is maybe too mid-century for our house, or perhaps just too stark for both floor and wall. I want something a little more aged looking. Something creamy, or even biscuity. Something like one of these:

I found this long before I realized I needed to save sources. Sorry.

Image from Lonnymag

Luckily, finding off-white tile is easy. Lots of companies make subway tile in a variety of biscuity colors I'm sure S and I can agree on. The problem is finding a coordinating hex tile for the floor. (Because what looks old and goes with subway tile better than hex tile? I dare you to tell me, because I really would like to know in case I overlooked something.) When I've found nice subway tile, there's no good 2" hex to match.

Conversely, I have found the perfect hex floor tile at my friendly neighborhood Home Depot, but they don't make a subway tile that matches! It's one or the other with these tile makers! In this case, they don't even make a bullnose or corner cap piece to match. They basically don't make anything else that matches. What you see here is all that they offer, even if you call the manufacturer and grill the salesperson...  (Why can't I just prefer bright white? Then all my troubles would be over.)

Anyway, this is the tile I want:
Merola Old World 2" Hex Tile, $4.95 per square foot at Home Depot

It's kind of a creamy grey-beige ('greige' in fancy decor-speak) in a matte finish. They aren't bleached or glazed or overly messed with. They're just sort of like natural. If my brain were Goldilocks, she'd be saying, "Ahhh, that's just right."

But... how to proceed when there's no wall tile to match?

Then I looked at this photo from my "Master Bathroom Inspiration" Pinterest board, and I had an idea. I am not sure where the tile pictured here is from, but this is pretty much what my favorite Merola tile looks like in person. 

Image found here (but looking for original source)

The biscuity floor and the white painted wall got me thinking. Does the floor tile and wall tile have to match exactly? Can they be different shades? If a white painted wall looks good with a biscuit floor, could a white tile wall look okay too?

So, my question is, could I pair my ideal biscuity floor tile with a white wall tile? (I just might be willing to do that pure white subway tile on the walls if that's the case.)

What about this next photo? This is nice, yes? The off-white paint around the window mirrors the off-white flooring quite well. Could I -- a regular person without any formal training in interior design -- pull this off in my house? After all, creamy off-white walls with bright white trim is my go-to color scheme. 

Image from Country Living

This non-matching tile idea is intriguing, and I've been noodling over it for a day or two now. Sometimes, I've even starting think that floor and wall tile that matches perfectly would just be too much of the same color. Other times the idea seems risky. SO, all of this roundabout tile monologuing to say, here I am, back at indecision.

Any opinions? Anyone? 


  1. So as I started reading this post I immediately thought "easy! a subway tile wall, a hex-tile floor!" :) One caveat for white subway tile -I've been told by multiple friends that they are a pain to keep clean. Would you be doing a darker colored grout? That's the #1 reason we didn't do the white subway tile in our bathroom. How handy is S with a tile saw? Would he want to cut down a 12x12 tile into a subway tile shape? We've done that before and it looked awesome. That way you can basically turn any coordinating square tile into the look you want and have it match the hex floor you like.
    BUT - if you want to do white tile and a beige hex floor, I think it would look great! they're both neutrals.

  2. Love the two color idea! Matchy matchy can get boring and expected. I personally think layering two (or more!) tiles adds interest and vintage goodness, as if maybe the floors and walls evolved over time like an old house tends to do. I'm also only a regular girl though with professional design training extending only to hgtv, bhg, and pinterest. :)

    Can you buy a few square feet of both for a trial?

  3. You can totally do it. Our floors our more of a biscuit (they definitely aren't a bright white) and our subway tile is bright white. It never bothers me, and everything bothers me! ;)

    1. I hadn't noticed any difference in your tile colors, but I'll definitely go back and look at your bathroom photos!

  4. Opinions?!?,.... but of course.

    Both examples you give show a darker floor than wall. This is good, keeps the room from flipping upside down.
    I like the darker grout too, I believe it does provide “age” to the floor. Jane and I are not white on White people, you know, you’ve seen the house. Consider having a small light source in the bathroom, along with your bright lights, because all that white may be something to over come in the mornings. (Or even middle-of-the-night excursions)
    That 3rd picture is cold and sterile, ….. hospital like. Your choice of wood flooring will be a nice balance. We used “Spar” varnish on the counter tops and floors. (3 coats) It’s holding up like a boss.
    So do you have your claw foot tub yet? New? Used?
    All very exciting stuff. I'm looking forward to it.


    1. Thanks for your opinion, and we will take a look at the Spar finish! We don't have the tub yet. Looking on craigslist and such to see what we can find. We do have a lot of different "mood lighting" options in the bathroom. I think there are 3 or 4 different switches in there for a variety of lighting combos. I'm kind of excited about it. And white makes me feel calm and soothed, so we'll see how that works out. Right now, we would actually prefer to sleep in Johnnie's room (which is white on white) instead of our current sleeping space, the other bedroom with the green walls. I will probably repaint that room at some point. I think the walls are distracting. But that's definitely not on the priority list right now!

  5. I think I would actually prefer the two different tones - slightly darker on the floor, light and bright on the walls. Completely matched tiles seem too... boring to me. :-)

  6. I'm not sure I'll be much help on this one... we LOVE our white subway tile in the kitchen ... and while we didn't go the hexagon tile route in our bathroom we did get the black and white vintage tile from Home Depot.

    Be sure not to use bright white grout. It's very hard to clean. And if you can, be sure to put the whole floor in at once. I can actually see some variation in the grout color across our floor because of the batch changes and it drives me nuts! (but that might just be my perfectionist side being completely unreasonable).

    I love the early 19/teens -20's finishes. I'm sure whatever you pick will look fantastic!

    1. Yeah the plan was definitely not to do white grout, though I love how it looks all sparkly and white...

  7. Oh and one more thing... if you can help it... don't get a claw foot tub. New/old it's a complete pain to clean underneath and around. Look for something called a pedestal tub. It essentially the same shape (and they make reproductions that are bigger than the doll-house sizes that were popular in the early part of the twentieth century) and is MUCH easier to clean.

    Check out: http://dailycatch.coastalliving.com/2009/04/3-beach-bath-makeovers.html

    Has some great cottage/vintage style bathrooms and a pedestal tub.

    1. I've seen the pedestal tubs. Around here, even on craigslist they go for like a bajillion dollars each. We're going to take our time to find a good tub though... it's not like it's a total necessity right off the bat since we'll have a shower and we already have a guest bathroom with a tub. Maybe we'll get lucky. I wonder what the weight difference is between a claw foot and a pedestal? That could be an issue. I'll have to check that out. Definitely don't want our tub collapsing the house or anything.


Thanks for reading! I love your thoughts, feedback and suggestions. Keep 'em coming!