Tile Takes Over

The reinvention of tile, in particular porcelain tile, is changing the way designers remodel master bath spaces. Larger formats, new finishes/textures and resemblences to natural stone and wood are giving designers more options when it comes to creating the spa-like baths clients still desire. But the tile revolution isn’t the only new thing to hit the master bath. Following are some of the latest trends designers have seen pop up in some of their most recent bath remodel projects.


Designer: Nancy Moon, CKD, CAPS; Beckony Kitchens & Baths; Colorado Springs, CO

Design goal: These busy professional clients wanted a sanctuary/spa-like environment with renewed/updated functions, fixtures and finishes that provided for a more open, contemporary and organic feel.

Trend: Large-scale, rectangular tile

“We see 12"x24" and 6"x24" sized tiles on floors and walls, laid in horizontal and vertical ‘brick joint’ patterns as well as simple, straight patterns. In this shower, we used 12"x24" vertically oriented, fabric-patterned tile on the walls and ceiling.”

Trend: Linear and fabric patterned tile

“Although we still see some tile that replicates a simple, natural stone such as travertine or limestone, more often clients are choosing tile with fabric textures like linen or burlap, as well as linear patterns like simple, vertical lines. Metallic sheens are becoming increasingly popular, too.”

Trend: Decorative glass tile

“We are still seeing glass tiles as bands of color in showers and around the vanity backsplash. Often the glass is done in more simple earth tones so the sheen difference between the field tile (often matte) and decorative tile (often high-gloss or a mix of frosted and gloss) gives interest. We are seeing more interest in shapes, too, often rectangular shapes including 2"x3" pieces set up like soldiers or dominoes. In this bath, Hirsch tile was used for color splash in the shower, then repeated on the vanity backsplash.”

Trend: Lighting mounted directly on the mirror

This provides a reflection of the lighting to make the room brighter. It also allows the mirror to be larger, making the room feel larger, too.

Additional trending elements: Moon’s clients often include tubs within the shower enclosure to maximize space. Multiple showerheads and body sprays provide a full luxury shower experience and heated floors, once considered a luxury, are now becoming the norm.

As far as color, Moon gets requests for greys and taupes – the color of the moment being a warm grey taupe in paint, countertops, tile and cabinets that is often mixed in varying shades for tone-on-tone elegance and tranquility. Medium-stained vanities, such as the natural maple shown in this bath, are also popular. “The dark, espresso look is giving way to beautiful medium tones like natural walnut, alder and light brown and gray stained woods. Brown tones are more popular than reddish tones, but natural and lightly stained cherry is still popular.”

Trending products: Rectangular sinks (both vessel style and undermount styles); floating vanities and shelves that create simple, horizontal lines; pebble shower floor tile; modern pedestal tubs.


Designer: Amanda LaRose, CKD; Kitchen Interiors; Natick, MA

Design goal: “Hands down, the goal was to make the space feel bigger and to increase storage. There was no room to expand the footprint so we needed to make the 6'x7' area as power packed as possible from a functional and visual perspective. Storage was capitalized on wherever possible, but it needed to be innocuous as well so as not to disrupt the visual flow. Simple planes of the soffits, directional veins in the tile and a random mosaic pattern all make this small bath feel more grand.”

Trend: Feature walls

Feature walls help draw people into the space. They can also mask the size of the room, notes LaRose. “In this case, the broad veins of the Crema Marfil tile – which was painstakingly vein matched – make this small bath look larger.” Mixing natural stone with mosaics, which is another design trend, also helps make this room feel larger. “The small mosaics distort the grid scenario that the eye uses to subconsciously measure a room.”

Trend: Wall-hung fixtures

Wall-hung vanities and toilets can visually enlarge a space. “When you run a floor wall to wall, without impeding it by a vanity or toilet base, it gives the illusion of a larger space. Functionally, it’s also easier to clean.”

Trend: Soaking tubs

Deep soaking tubs with clean lines are popular. This particular tub, although only 27" wide, is 5.5' long and 19" deep for total submersion Air features, although not included in this tub, add to the hydrotherapy experience many clients are seeking. “A lot of people find therapeutic relief for muscles and skin by moving water.”

Additional trending elements: Wall-mounted lavatory faucets are trending, especially in smaller spaces. “When you don’t have a lot of depth, you can gain some of it back by putting the faucet through the wall.” Many of LaRose’s clients also opt for one large sink, such as a trough model rather than two smaller sinks. “Then they choose two faucets over one large basin. It takes less footprint, allowing you to capitalize on another important aspect in the bathroom: countertop space.”

Trending products: Tile that looks like Calacutta marble; tile that features wavy, mirrored finishes, and tile that is water-jet cut for a perfectly machined square edge to minimize or eliminate grout lines.


Designer: Karen Kinsella, designer; Kinsella Kitchens & Baths; Cincinnati, OH

Design goals: These homeowners wanted a resort/spa feeling with an elegant look. Two ‘must-haves’ included a large walk-in shower and a garden tub. “She loves to soak in the tub, so including one in the space was very important to her.”

Trend: Lighter glazes

Glazes are still popular, but they’ve lightened significantly. “They’re almost non-existent. But they add depth of color.” These lighter glazes also set off the cabinetry. “For a long time, faux finishes almost blended together with the cabinetry.”

Trend: Customized vanity height

These 36"-high vanities are accented with vessel sinks which increase overall height to nearly 42" to the top of the bowl. “It’s about customizing height to make it most comfortable for the homeowners. These clients are fairly tall and they intend to stay in the home as they age. They don’t want to have to bend over to wash their hands.”

Trend: Chandeliers

“We’re seeing them everywhere! We’re using a lot more elegant lighting…not just traditional bath lighting anymore.” A coffered ceiling detail, which is mirrored on the floor with tile, provides a dramatic backdrop.

Trend: Increased details

Although this bath is monochromatic, it is very detailed, as seen in the floor tile, cabinetry and even mirror frames. “Even though my clients don’t do a lot with stark contrast in coloration, they do like a high level of detail that distinguishes homes from each other.”

Additional trending elements: Cabinetry is ‘lightening’ up, notes Kinsella. “They aren’t necessarily less detailed. Details just aren’t as thick, mouldings aren’t as heavy. They’re probably about 30 percent to 40 percent lighter than doors from the 2000s. Details are more simple, but no less elegant.”

Kinsella is also adding contrasting finishes to cabinet interiors, as well as interesting hardware. “We’re not seeing plain slabs without texture. With the Great Recession, we saw people pull back, for practical reasons, from doors with heavy ornamentation. But once they saw their new spaces, they loved them. They did it for the dollars, but ended up really liking the look.”

Kinsella is also seeing painted finishes becoming popular, especially creamy whites and pale, cloudy-day grays that “read white in a bright room.” Driftwood is also making inroads – thanks to Restoration Hardware – especially as accents.

Trending products: Body sprays, glass sinks (in various colors, shapes and textures), metal sinks (polished stainless or oil-rubbed bronze) and interesting faucets.


Designer: Kayron Brewer, CKD, CBD; Studio K B; Seattle, WA

Design goal: This client wanted a fresh, beach feeling bath as she aged in place. Accessibility features include wide walkways, easy accessibility to the toilet, curbless shower, handshower on a slide bar that doubles as a grab bar, lighting under floating vanity to provide light at night, color transitions (and lighting) that provide ease of seeing transitions in the space and a seat in the shower. “She is in her 50s and plans on staying in the house for as long as she can. She wanted a bath where accessibility would never be a problem or a challenge.”

Trend: Abundance of organizational space

Drawers within drawers are a common request. “For this client, it kept a clean, modern look to the face of the vanity. I’m doing a lot of this detail in baths as well as kitchens.”

Trend: Curbless shower with linear drain

This element creates a modern, clean look from the main floor to the shower floor.

Trend: LED lighting

“It isn’t just for the kitchen! It also works great under a floating vanity.”

Additional trending elements: “I have worked on quite a few master baths where homeowners opt to have a larger shower with a seat, handshower, etc., rather than a tub, or they downsize the tub to increase the shower. Freestanding tubs are also staying very popular, in both traditional and modern settings.”

Trending products: Under-tile heat mats, grab bars that function as a handshower slide bar, LED lighting.


Designer: Mark T. White, CKD, CBD; Kitchen Encounters; Annapolis, MD

Design goal: These homeowners wanted a spa-like environment, reminiscent of a resort they had visited.

Trend: Extravagant tile designs

This shower includes four different tiles, including the eye-level strip of horizontal tile, slate tile walls, pebble floor and shower base curb accent. “It’s popular these days to have extravagant tile designs in the shower, then mix them up.” A frameless glass enclosure, another trend, showcases the design.

Trend: Multiple showerheads

Multiple showerheads accommodate clients of varying heights, which can be especially important when one person is considerably taller than another. Hand-held showers are proving popular as well, especially for women for shaving their legs.

Trend: Chrome fittings

Even though this bath offers a more traditional vibe as far as cabinetry, chrome fittings on the open shelves below the vanity top add a modern touch.

Trend: Dark, rich cabinetry

The rich, dark wood gives depth to what can otherwise be a simple room. The mid-height cabinet featured in this bath also provides easy access to linens.

Trend: Wainscoting

Wainscoting is popular in dining rooms and living rooms. Bringing it into the bath updates this space.

Additional trending elements: Heated floors are a big hit, notes White, as is toe kick lighting, which can be used as a night light. White’s clients are also asking for direct access to the closet, toilets separated from the rest of the bathroom by either a half wall or pull-out door and built-in outlets in drawers, under cabinets and in mirrors.

Trending products: Freestanding tubs, heated towel racks, chrome towel shelves, wall-mount telescope mirrors (on articulating arms), TVs, coffee makers, benches in the shower and tile for creating really intricate mosaics and other designs.