When it comes to design, I’m all about a creative combo. Lately, I’ve been particuarly into a new trend I’ve been seeing: mixing different sizes and shapes of tile in the kitchen or bathroom for some added oomph.
Tile is having a major moment right now, and designer Shoshanna Shapiro weighs in as to why. “Part of the reason we are seeing more interest in backsplash tile is also due to the European kitchens we are so drawn to with more open wall shelving or no upper cabinetry at all,” She says. “We have more surface area we can play with when eliminating or opening the upper design elements to the kitchen. This area is eye-level and a great place to create that organic, peaceful moment that makes us happy to be home.”
Designer Jean Liu is one pro who has enjoyed experimenting with tile configurations. “We are fans of using plain tiles but creating interest with them by mixing their shapes and sizes,” she says. “This approach is appealing to us because it allows us to add subtle interest and details to a surface such as a kitchen backsplash or shower wall. Sometimes rooms aren’t large enough to pull off sweeping design moves, or there’s already another feature in the space that is meant to be the focus.”
Liu notes that she prefers working with tile that is the same shape — yet cut to different sizes — as opposed to mixing different shapes entirely. “It creates a rhythmic effect that is not overwhelming because of the material’s consistent color,” she says.
Designer Sara Hillery, however, isn’t opposed to the shape-mixing approach, and you can see an example of this in the bathroom above, where hexagonal, subway, and mosaic squares are used to create one cohesive but dynamic look. “Any time we are varying the scale of the tiles to make a pattern, we’ll pair shapes together,” she says. “Square tiles and mini mosaics work well together, as do hexagon and rectangular tiles if the tiles are the same.”
When mixing shapes and sizes of tile, Hillery likes to purposefully vary shades. “In a space where we’ve chosen to pattern one surface in a certain way and then use another shape for a different surface, we also pick a different color or sheen for the tiles so that the difference is clearly intentional,” she explains. You can certainly choose to emphasize the changes like this, or you can stick to a single finish and colorway instead. It’s totally up to you and your preference.
Subway tile in particular is being used in new configurations throughout the kitchen, often paired with square or smaller rectangular accents, and that marks a bit of a departure from how it’s typically used. “We are tired of seeing [subway tile] laid in one direction and in one size,” Shapiro says. “We are shaking things up a bit within the same material. That can mean that we take the 3-inch-by-6-inch tile and come up with a new way to lay it, mix the colors of the tile, or change the size within the design to create a new pattern that surprises the eye.”
No matter which way you choose to vary your tiles — either shape, size, sheen/finish, color, or some combination — this patchwork look adds a modern touch to a cooking space or bathroom, and it can even be budget-friendly, too, since solid field tiles tend to be less expensive on the whole than patterned or hand-painted ones.