Advice on Bathroom Tile - Porcelain Subway, Carrara Marble mix

TXBluebonnet11June 7, 2013

My husband and I are in the process of building our dream house. I have lurked here for some time and am so thankful for all I have learned from reading the posts here. I am now seeking specific advice to a design dilemma.

I am stuck on one of the upstairs bathrooms. It will be used primarily for our older teenage child (who is a typical teen boy, somewhat careless), and then as a guest bathroom when he leaves the nest. I want to go with a classic look, with a vintage feel. The house was built in 1974, and my design style is traditional.

Here is what I'm considering for this bathroom:

1. White porcelain subway (3 x 9) tile (my preference) or square tiles (4x4) for the shower walls (above bathtub). It would be bordered at the end of the shower on each side by a black marble or granite pencil thin tile and a carrara marble bullnose (squares or rectangles, not sure) on the outside. I was using the porcelain in the shower for the durability factor.

2. White porcelain 1" hexagon floor tiles, with a pencil thin black granite or marble border and a square carrara marble border on the outside.

3. Antique Old Chicago brick applied to the wall behind the vanity (which is recessed). It would go all the way to the ceiling.

4. Carrara 3 x 6 subway tiles halfway up the wall with a chair rail on the remaining bathroom walls.

My concerns are:

1. Are there too many tile variations here? They are subdued in color (with the exception of the brick), so I think it may have a good look, but I am nervous.

2. Should I use two different sizes of subway tiles (3 x 9 for porcelain) and (3 x 6 carrara)? Would that be weird? I could go with the 3 x 6 in the porcelain. But then would it look strange to have two different types of tiles in the same size? I prefer not to go with the squares because I'm worried about it being too plain, but it is still an option.

3. Will it look strange where the full wall of porcelain tile in the shower butts up to the half wall of carrara tile?

Any comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I am endlessly stuck on making a decision. I am also debating on whether to go with polished or honed carrara. Any comments or ideas?

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Sounds interesting but I am a newbie at this stuff and like you, wonder if the Chicago brick might put it over the top - I did some googling for "Chicago brick" and found some in pale gray and even some that were almost white called "glacier".

Your ideas made me think of something a designer told me recently when I consulted with her for two hours (and not a whole job). She said that usually, you can combine different shades of white without a problems (though always exceptions of course but she was saying "for the most part"). Though she said you have to be very careful dealing with blacks - they must all match.

Anyway, my inexperienced opinion would be to recommend that you go with your ideas though do some kind of a "test board". Get a piece of plywood, maybe 24inches X 24 inches and glue a section of each tile on the board and try to put them in the same scale/proportion as you have imagined for the whole room.

If it were me based on what I know now, I would use all shades of either white or pale gray (with pale streaks being okay). And eliminate the dark edge trim you mention. And if you use Chicago brick, go with the white or pale gray type.

Could be stunning. (I wonder if you have an inspiration picture you're not showing us - might help to get more opinions if you posted it.)

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 7:18PM
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Thanks so much for the follow up. I don't have an inspiration photo really. Just putting some things together in my head. I wanted to go for an old fashioned feel, something classic but cool. I'll try to post some photos of some of the samples I have this evening.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 5:03PM
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I think I would use either the porcelain subway or the marble subway and not both. I just can't picture how to abut them and have it look nice. That would also eliminate one tile variation.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 7:01PM
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Here is a mix of ceramic (I think) and carrera. Floor ties in nicely with the chair rail.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2013 at 9:46AM
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Sorry, I wasn't saying it looks bad to mix porcelain and carrara. We have porcelain subway on the wall and marble on the floor. I'm saying that I wouldn't have porcelain and carrara subway tiles next to each other on the walls. I'd use one or the other.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2013 at 9:50AM
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I mixed marble and subways in my bathroom and I like it and get compliments on it, but it was pretty carefully integrated. I'd never use real marble together with look-alike ceramics, that's a guaranteed loser.

We remodeled a bathroom where they used a slab marble shower and countertops ($$$), mosaic floor (like the field portion of mine) and painted wood wainscotting and that looked cool too.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2013 at 11:23AM
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I appreciate all of the input. Yes, TSG114, that's what I was nervous about. Using both ceramic and carrara subway tiles. That's why I was thinking about creating a border around the edge of the bath/shower, which would be a vertical line of carrara all the way up to the ceiling and then the slim vertical line of black marble mosaic on the inside edge all the way up to the ceiling. I was hoping that the border would section off where the porcelain starts. I hope I'm explaining myself well. The carrara is 3 x 6 and I have the choice of getting the white porcelain in either 3 x 9 or 3 x 6. I was thinking it might look better to keep the size consistent but I could go with the 3 x 9's. I could also go with a 4 x 4 square in the shower, but I'm not crazy about the squares. Alternately, I could go with carrara squares on the wall, but I really wanted a vintage look. Thoughts?

Zeitgast, thank you so much for the photo. That's very helpful! I will try to take some photos this weekend of the samples I have.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 4:35PM
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Just wanted to add, Casey, that your bathroom looks great!!

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 4:39PM
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At long last, a photo! The 3 x 9 tile is a crackle finish, which I won't be using in the shower, but it shows the size of the 3 x 9 next to the 3 x 6. It's the same type of tile but I'm not going with the crackle version. The square is the color of porcelain I'm going with. Just trying to decide if the porcelain will look ok with the carrara and if so, which size is best?

This post was edited by TXBluebonnet11 on Mon, Jun 17, 13 at 20:26

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 7:32PM
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Here is a photo of the tile samples. I don't have a sample of the 3x6 in the porcelain but the square is the same tile in a different size. I have not chosen the black border yet but I added a large black tile sample I had with black in it, just to show it to everyone with the black in the same photo.

This post was edited by TXBluebonnet11 on Mon, Jun 17, 13 at 20:24

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 7:33PM
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My apologies. I can't figure out how to post multiple photos at once. Here are the samples with the brick.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 8:34PM
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And one more...

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 8:37PM
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First of all I do not see the brick belonging at all to your other material choices for 3 reasons , color , texture and shape . You are repeating the subway style in three different Materials , I think this is too much . I think you need to stick to either porcelain or Carrara .
What material are you using for your counters ?
I would simplify the floor too . The hexagon with the marble pencil and then the marble squares is too busy . If it was up to me I would eliminate the squares and use the hexagon on both sides of the marble pencil . i would go with black or dark grey grout to give the black and white color but with the same shape . You can also put the hexagon tile in the middle and the pencil on the border . Here is a link to show what I mean and gives ideas where you can use your black and white squares .

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 12:53AM
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I cannot picture where you are doing the marble versus the porcelain subway... Can you draw that out?

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 1:22AM
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This is rough, but here is the floor idea.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 2:00PM
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Also very rough, but the vanity area idea.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 2:01PM
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Here is the wall idea. The border is where the half wall of tile butts up to the shower with porcelain tile. Hope this is helpful. I know it's rough. The beige is the proposed paint color for the walls.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 2:03PM
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And one more to show how they look together...

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 2:32PM
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Complexity can be stunning but if you aren't an experienced designer, why go there when simplicity is a sure bet when you have doubts as you've expressed?
That said, I'm inclined to think that any combination of carara and ceramic and porcelain will be fine and probably more than fine as long as in same color range. I think the Chicago brick sticks out like a sore thumb.
Only so many focal points is what I've heard as a design principle. Looks like you're aiming for too many, IMO.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 10:41PM
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I completely agree with elphaba , as I pointed out in my earlier posting, the brick doesn't belong to this sleek black and white bathroom .
Where are you using the little black and white squares? You didn't mention again what you are using for counters .
I still also think that you should be using either Carrara or porcelain subway tiles . Look at bathroom pictures on houzz .com it will give you some ideas and help visualize how things would look like .
At the end this is your bathroom and you decide what you want to see everyday in it . We are just giving you our opinion .
Good luck

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 12:53AM
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Is painting the brick considered heresy? I beg pardon if it is but I have seen some painted black or white that went nicely with your tile selections.

If you can't paint the brick consider going with a wood stain on the vanity rather than painted white. The natural wood pairs nicely with brick and still gives it a warm traditional feeling.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 2:28PM
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I tend to agree with others that there are too many different things going on and that can be hard to keep cohesive.

I think the brick is fine if you are going for an eclectic, reclaimed, unfitted sort of feel, but only if this will also make sense in your house. I tend to agree that the brick may need to go, although I can see why you like it. If you have other vintage elements in your house and the exposed brick "makes sense" in terms of overall esthetic, then I would consider eliminating one or more of your other choices to streamline the overall look while keeping the brick.

Eclectic Bathroom by Hailey Interior Designers & Decorators Opal Design Group

    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 8:52AM
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Thank you so much to everyone for the advice. That's what I was afraid of...too many elements. It's an older home and I want to keep the "charm" of an older space. I was planning to use honed black granite for the counter tops. It's going to primarily function as a kid's bathroom. I am using the antique brick in a few other areas of the house. I recognize the riskiness here, but was hoping it would come across with a charm that is original to the home. The antique brick blends better with the other elements in the home than the carrara does. I'm still not sure how to bring it all together. I know that the white porcelain is timeless. Will the carrara/black and white bath be outdated, considering it's been such a popular choice the last couple of years? What about the subway tiles?

Traditional Bathroom by New York Architects & Designers Jane Kim Design

Eclectic Bathroom by New York Architects & Designers Jane Kim Design

This post was edited by TXBluebonnet11 on Fri, Jun 21, 13 at 4:04

    Bookmark   June 21, 2013 at 2:46AM
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