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Am I crazy to like plain glossy 4" tile?

Posted by linelle (My Page) on
Tue, Feb 25, 14 at 19:53

All the tile around my tub/shower will need to come out and be replaced when I remodel. There are thousands of tile/color combinations I could choose. And yet...I look at the 23 year old tile in my bathroom, a light gray glossy 4" tile, and it makes me smile. It's simple, it's clean looking and I kinda think it's my style.

Would I be an idiot to replace it with something similar? I have subway tile in the kitchen, so I've kinda gotten that out of my system.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Am I crazy to like plain glossy 4" tile?

I think gray tile is beautiful. If you're crazy, you're not alone.


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RE: Am I crazy to like plain glossy 4" tile?

I too love traditional glossy tile. When I was in grad school I lived in a duplex built in the 50's. It had pretty sunny yellow tile in the kitchen and beautiful soothing grey tile in the bathroom. It had the traditional white tile in sink on the end of the vanity and a long expanse of grey countertop. I still think of that bath.

My remodel this spring is going to be a mixture of Daltile grey and white tile. I am going to eliminate one of the sinks and just have one large nice sink on the end and tile the countertop - the vanity is 84". I got a lot of grief from ladies at 2 Daltile showrooms saying that I had to do granite. And I have chosen a rectangular tub with armrests and will tile the deck too. I plan to use epoxy grout and expect good results.

So no you are not alone.

Actually the 4x4 tile has been used longer in history than the subway. The young people today think that "period" tile is subway tile.

Here is a link that might be useful: Royal Baths Royal V 60x36 drop in tub


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RE: Am I crazy to like plain glossy 4" tile?

Nothing wrong with liking it at all. It is a classic for sure! I know in our case, tile size was determined by 2 things: how much I did not want to scrub grout & what size the pattern/color we liked came in. Since I hate scrubbing grout, we went with 10x13s set vertically in the master and 9x18s placed horizontally in a brick pattern in the kids baths. Very little grout scrubbing occurs at our house now :-)

If you have a similar aversion to grout scrubbing, those same tiles likely come in a 6x6 and maybe even a 12x12 if not some other rectangular sizes as well. I really don't think you can go wrong with glossy in any size though!


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RE: Am I crazy to like plain glossy 4" tile?

I really love plain 4 x 4 white glossy tile. Clean and really timeless. Gray is always beautiful as well.


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RE: Am I crazy to like plain glossy 4" tile?

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RE: Am I crazy to like plain glossy 4" tile?

Anna, at least the people in your Daltile stores spoke to you. I've been in the one in my town 4 or 5 times. I could be spurting blood from a major artery all over their showroom and I doubt anyone would look in my direction. In fact, they sit in their warehouse and don't even bother staffing the showroom. I could be bleeding to death and walk out with all their samples and they'd never notice.

Both of my showers have the glossy gray 4x4" tile with white grout and I've never had to scrub the grout. What are you scrubbing? Soap scum?

I appreciate why people use larger format tiles, but it's got a contemporary look that I'm not really after.


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RE: Am I crazy to like plain glossy 4" tile?

No, I think plain glossy 4" tile is fine.


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Really nice designs, Anna!


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The Daltile inside the loop in Houston is large and has a lot of displays. When I have stopped by it is always very busy and very full of professional designers. The one on the SE side of town is very down to earth and the showroom ladies spend A LOT of time with you, writing specs out for you, giving you samples, etc. That is where I got a lot of good advice from the clerks from behind the contractor counter - they really like Laticrete Hydroban and Spectralock grout. It's still cheaper for me to order the Hydroban online. The clerks like Kerdifix too. So I need to order that too online. Unfortunately, I will get my tile from Home Depot because of the price, ability to return and 5 minute drive from the house. The showroom lady told me not to worry about getting all of my ceramic wall tile from the same dye lot - the colors don't vary.

Right now I'm thinking grey on the bottom half and white subway above the chair rail. I will be using an acrylic shower pan from the same manufacturer as the tub. The chair rail will run all the way around the room. So the bottom half of the shower, the tub and the vanity backsplash and the wainscoting will be grey. The tub deck and the vanity countertop will be white with a white v-cap.

I'm keeping the existing floor tile - it is 13x13 Porcelanosa ceramic white stone look with blue grey marbling, very slight gold and pink undertones - 16 years old late 90's style but I can make it work. It is very strong tile. I tried hammering out a piece when I tore out my cm shower and I couldn't break it.

I haven't decided on the sizes of tile yet - I need to work on trying out different sizes as they go around the room.

I just painted my master a soft bluish grey color. I don't know what color I will paint the vanity and tub apron - I think I will wait until the tile and lighting is installed to choose paint colors.

I'm detailed oriented and am looking forward to doing my own tile work. I especially want to pay attention to the area within my view while laying in the tub!

This post was edited by Anna_in_TX on Tue, Feb 25, 14 at 22:54


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RE: Am I crazy to like plain glossy 4" tile?

Here is a link showing advertisements for bathrooms from the 1920's. Alcove tubs were standard and many were used as showers. Pedestal and console sinks. Lots of color - this was after the white "sanitary" trend, beginning of art deco. All the ads feature square tile. There is one ad that shows intermittent rows of square and subway tile. There is a beautiful bath green and gold bath with large rectangular tile set vertically. I just love these baths and I see a lot of trends that are repeating now 100 years later. Many of them can easily be reproduced today. Some of them were too expensive for the average middle class family to afford. I think the Wolf ad was probably the most typical. Happy browsing!

Here is a link that might be useful: 1920's bathrooms

This post was edited by Anna_in_TX on Wed, Feb 26, 14 at 2:17


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Linelle, I saw your tile over on the thread about the tub surround tiling. I just think that gray tile you have is beautiful and pristine. The ends of the tile, that are thicker than bullnoses, are just perfect. It looks brand new in your picture.


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@Anna, thanks for that link. Very informative. I didn't realize how the 20's used contrasting colors that I would have attributed only to the 1950's. Also, interesting is the use of wallpaper which is frowned upon these days, especially in bathrooms. As an aside, how many people with large bathrooms are installing a sitz bath? ;-)

I have a similar dilemma in that I like 4" tile and happen to have a 1950's bathroom with tile that is in excellent (almost like-new) condition. I feel bad to rip it out and replace it just for the sake of ripping it out. The original color combo was green and yellow - "ming" green tiles, borders and mosaic floor with yellow faux marble pattern Formica counter, yellow toned wall paper and white fixtures.

A minor refresh was done in the 1980's by replacing the counter top with white Corian, the chrome vanity pulls with white porcelain, the taps with the white porcelain style popular at the time. The look is not consistent.

I'm thinking about a restore, but am hesitant about going back to the original green and yellow combo. Or maybe ivory. Don't know. Am having a designer coming in for an opinion. What do I know? Did not find anything close online. Link below is different - gray tile instead of green and the vanity is formica; mine is wood. And I have white fixtures. I supposed if I were really bold I'd go with yellow and green and paint the walls salmon pink. :-( If the OP is crazy, I'm a loon!

Here is a link that might be useful: Yellow & Green 1950's bathroom

This post was edited by DreamingoftheUP on Wed, Feb 26, 14 at 8:18


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RE: Am I crazy to like plain glossy 4" tile?

Oh, forgot to mention - see the link below - the ever popular toilet room - in 1926!

Here is a link that might be useful: 1926 toilet room


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Just as an aside, my Grandmother had the pink bathroom shown in the last link (1926 toilet room). Pink tub, sink, and toilet. Loved it when I was little.

In our first-married house, we had a yellow/black deco bathroom. It was in excellent condition, so I made a yellow stripe shower curtain and accessorized with black. It was great!


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Anna, thanks for the pics. Yep, I like 4" tile. I've lived with it for 15 years and am not tired of it.

Enduring, the tile in that photo is 23 years old, but the shower has really only seen about 5 years of daily use. When my husband was alive that was my bathroom; now that he's gone, I use his.

It seems a shame that I am considering tearing out perfectly good tile and replacing it with the same thing, but...the tub is being replaced, I'm getting rid of glass doors and going to a curtain, all the fixtures will be new. The tile itself shouldn't be expensive, just the labor. I would also consider white, but think I prefer gray, maybe a slightly warmer gray.


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RE: Am I crazy to like plain glossy 4" tile?

Well, Linelle, if you are crazy, then so am I! ;) This is exactly what I did. Yep, brand new bathroom with tub surrounded by glossy white 4X4s. In the shower I have glossy white 6X6s. I do have a few decorative touches to break up the expanse of white, but I do like the clean, crisp look of it. Oh, and I also did the tub deck in glossy whites as well. The tiles just look like they belong in my older home.


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Dreamingof UP: If you don't care for the colors of your bath, then choose the colors that you want and recreate the bathroom for that period. And you could pick out a design based on that whole decade, give or take a few years - a design that fits in with the rest of your house.

Here is a link that might be useful: 1960 AS Bathroom


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RE: Am I crazy to like plain glossy 4" tile?

My grandparents' house was next door to ours, built around 1949/50. Their bathroom was pink, everything in it. All the ornaments on their Christmas tree were pink too.


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1940's bathrooms had more linoleum, but here is a 1942 green tile walls, orange accents, white fixtures and brown tile floor. Enjoy!

Here is a link that might be useful: 1940's bathrooms


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RE: Am I crazy to like plain glossy 4" tile?

I've had several houses where the homeowner has liked a somewhat stodgy material but the designer wanted something more trendy.

Sometimes the homeowner caved to the designer. They liked what they got because it looked nice, but they didn't get what they wanted.

Other times I've gotten the homeowner to rally and use what the homeowner wanted to use. A couple of times I've actually had designers tell me they were livid over the homeowner's decision because "how can I put photos of THAT on my online portfolio?"

What you like is what you like. Don't be apologetic. Some materials evoke memories, so we want those.

Boring is in the eye of the beholder. I've seen plenty of "designers" that try to stamp the same design on every space they can get their hands on.

A designer should give you what you want, but perhaps with a bit of flair. Give you something serendipitous.

I only caution people to consider not coloring too far outside the lines if they are going to sell within a few years.

What you are wanting? It's perfectly appropriate for your forever house or for a flip.


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RE: Am I crazy to like plain glossy 4" tile?

Good points Mongoct.

I'm trying to straddle the fence on customizing and redoing for resell. I am keeping the double sink vanity in my master in case I have to sell - but only installing one sink. I will go ahead and do a tile countertop for myself. If I have to sell, then install granite with double sinks because that is what is expected in my neighborhood. I'm redoing the shower - if it was just for me, I could forgo the shower and just have a tub with a good hand shower!


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linelle re: ---Both of my showers have the glossy gray 4x4" tile with white grout and I've never had to scrub the grout. What are you scrubbing? Soap scum?---

I cannot speak for others, but I know how my hate for grout-cleaning was born--rentals with 4.25x6 or so tile. Many-decades old grout is so worn that it indents between the tiles. Whatever sealer may have been there is long, long gone. If the grout is not scrubbed often, mildew will grow on the unsealed grout indents--so frequent, thorough cleaning is necessary. Cleaning the grout lines requires scrubbing with a brush up and down, and left to right, multiple times, around every tile. There is a limit to what we, as renters, were willing to do and pay for out of pocket. Or even what we are allowed to do. When a landlord tells you to turn on the furnace by opening the closet door and plugging it in, and turn off the furnace by opening the same door and unplugging it, you do not bring up fixing grout. (A good thing we coughed up the $20 for the thermostat ourselves, and installed it, because we ended up living there for fifteen years.)

Four inch, or any tile actually, looks and performs well when properly installed and maintained. But I have hated it for too long due to the cleaning, our BR will probably get 8x12" tile, and be super shiny, slickly glazed stuff with minimal grout width. I have paid my dues!


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Anna & mongoct, thanks for the encouragement and warnings. I really like the color of my 4x4 tile and the mosaic floor, but want to replace it around the tub so I can actually use the shower without the grout line work. Was thinking solid surface but the new thin slab porcelain is intriguing. Also, install shower valve to replace the two handle job there now. Then was thinking about replacing the counter top & sink with the same material for a match, faucet to match the tub/shower and why not the toilet for a low water model. I guess some would say if you're going that far, dump the tile. Besides liking it, it is around the entire room, even going up and framing the built-in medicine cabinets, which I like as well. So, am leaning towards a 1950's restore. If the designer coming next week doesn't laugh too much, I'll post pictures.

linelle, sorry for the hijack. I'll shut up here and start my own thread.


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Dreaming, no problem. :) It's all interesting and useful stuff.

Gyr, I think mildew in a shower is one of the most disgusting things ever. I remember living in a rental long ago and having to clean mildew-y grout when I was pregnant. It still gives me the heebie jeebies.

I don't even have fans in my bathrooms, but both have windows high in the shower which stay open year-round. I totally understand anyone's aversion to cleaning grout. In my house, mildew doesn't seem to be a problem and large format tiles look distinctly contemporary to me. Not a bad thing, but a real departure from the rest of my house.


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RE: Am I crazy to like plain glossy 4" tile?

DreamingofUP: here is a green and yellow bathroom, depression era house. The bath has been redone with light green 6x6 counter, walls, shower and green hex floor. The cabinets and walls are yellow. I know this period is earlier than your house, but it may give you some ideas. There are 3 photos.

Here is a link that might be useful: Green and Yellow Bath

This post was edited by Anna_in_TX on Thu, Feb 27, 14 at 13:26


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Thanks, Anna. That bathroom is very nice and does give me some ideas. But what I like the most are those tudor arches! They are awesome! My home has a segmental arch with a short rise in the tub alcove and in two hallways. More subdued for the 50's. :)


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RE: Am I crazy to like plain glossy 4" tile?

I am contemplating redoing my tub and if I ever do, I will in all likelihood use some combination of 4x4 or 6x6 plain white tiles. I might add a chair rail or some other kind of detailing to try to break it up, but I do want it all to be white. Glad to know I'm not the only one.

It's a pretty major undertaking to redo a bathtub - especially when you only have one in the house - and whatever I do, I would want to be as neutral as possible, style and color wise. There are some very pretty baths out there with strong colors, but I'm always afraid that the integrity of the tub and surround will long outlast my interest in having a bath styled around that particular shade of blue. Not to mention I try not to do anything with permanent fixtures that would invoke a visceral "THAT has to be ripped out, immediately" in theoretical future buyers.

I've been trying to find inspiration photos and everything is subway, subway, subway. I don't know how on earth people can consider it to be the ultimate classic when it's nearly the ONLY tile shape you can find being used at the moment, and yet it was nowhere to be found 20, 30, 40 years ago. IMO plain square white tiles are more "classic". I've seen them around from many different eras but they don't seem to have ever been trendy, and hence will never be really obviously dated. At least, that's my theory. ;)


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RE: Am I crazy to like plain glossy 4" tile?

A great thread

Here is a link that might be useful: Gardenweb Historical Accuracy thread


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RE: Am I crazy to like plain glossy 4" tile?

That's a great thread, Anna and within is the neat Flickr link below. Some of the photos are repeated from your previous link but there are new ones.

I guess what I like best are the vibrant colors. Admittedly, I don't care for some of the sharp 3-color contrasts (e.g. yellow/lavender/black). However (no offense intended for those who do like them) I don't care either for the very boring color schemes of contemporary baths. My second bath, installed in the late 80's when the basement was finished, is a very light cream (almost white), looks very 1990 and is pretty boring. While I prefer white bath fixtures, the colors available from the major companies are all boring pastels (outside of black). That's the reason I'm trying to preserve what I have but make it practical for today.

Also, I might add that historical accuracy is relative to the social class one came from. As a lower middle class kid in the 60's, I and some relatives lived in 1950's suburban homes while others lived in the city (Chicago) in two flats constructed in the 1920's. Most of the two flats were not built with ceramic tile baths - they had no tiles, only painted walls. Some relatives had installed those horrible plastic 4x4 tiles that were available after WWII. One uncle remodeled his into the 1950's look - built-in vanity with blue fixtures. The tract home I'm in was built in 1957. Speaking with some original owner neighbors (3 homes - they are all in their 80's!), these homes came with ceramic tile baths but no tile in the kitchen. Some homes were upgraded to add ceramic tile to the kitchen (like mine); others added it later. Bath fixtures were white but many upgraded to colored fixtures. From the homes I've visited, (for sale/open house, estate sales), it seems the vast majority opted for a pink bathroom, but they are all glossy 4x4 tile. All have had to do 'something' about the tub surround because the tiles were simply applied to the plaster walls. Mine is unique in that the shower was hardly used - the tiles around the tub are intact. These tract homes were targeted at families where dad was in the trades or lower level management. All are 1200 to 1400 sq ft, with what would be considered today tiny baths and bedrooms. As the standard of living improved, the luxuries formerly available only to the upper class became available down the chain.

Here is a link that might be useful: 20th century baths

This post was edited by DreamingoftheUP on Sat, Mar 1, 14 at 7:55


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I'm the only one I know IRL who has a subway backsplash. When I first came to GW a few years ago, I thought subways looked very vintage and historical. Now, it's all you see. I still like mine, but they now seem popular and more of this era. I wonder how they will fare in a few years.

As for 4x4, all the stuff in my bathroom seems dated and a little shabby and cut-rate...except for the tiles around the bath. They look nearly new and the shape and light gray are very pleasing and soothing to me. Looks like that tile is an evergreen if you don't care to hop on the Trendy Train.

The house I grew up in was built in 1948, flat roof, so much glass that I couldn't say my house had an exterior color at all. It was just glass and trim and a front door (aqua). We had pedestal sinks like those in Dreaming's post, but for the life of me I don't remember tile. My bathroom had just a tub, no shower-over, no handheld spray. Hair was washed either by total immersion or kneeling and leaning over the tub. I'm thinking there must have been tile halfway up the wall and I'm thinking it was dark blue but not glossy. We did have those mirrored toothbrush holders that were recessed into the wall.


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