Tile Beautifies a Kitchen or Bathroom Wall

    Photo: RBerteig/flickrKitchens and bathrooms are a major focal point in 21st century home design. And no wonder! The modern trend is to transform these once-humble rooms into highly personal spaces that nurture body and soul. With this end in mind, we're seeing more and more exciting ideas for tiles to adorn the walls of kitchen and bath. Take a peek at today's tile styles and care.

    Wall Tile Styles

    Tile shapes: they're not just rectangular anymore. Choose from contemporary contours like circles, diamonds, hexagons, or marquises.

    Texture is also important. While tile that emulates wood grain or metal is still going strong, fabric-look tile for walls in both kitchen and bathroom really stands out from the crowd -- how about breezy linen or maybe luxurious silk? Brick-style tile is another bright idea, to give you the handsome rustic look of brick without the weight.

    Don't forget that size matters. Oversize wall tiles are dramatically elegant (and on the practical side, cut down on cleaning because they require proportionally fewer grout lines). On the other hand, tiny button tiles are cute as ... well ... a button.

    We especially love encaustics. These truly unique, earthy tiles are embellished with charming patterns which are not painted on, but rather created when the tile is first formed, using various colors of clay.

    Walls and Backsplashes

    The original purpose of installing tile on walls and backsplashes is to protect vertical surfaces from water, oil, and other splatters and stains. That's still essential, but there's no reason why wall and backsplash tile can't be fabulous-looking as well.

    In the bathroom, try a full wall backsplash to show off exceptionally lovely tile. For your kitchen backsplash, extend the tiling up to the bottom of your cabinets. A 4" backsplash looks skimpy and creates a horizontal line that is jarring with the rest of the decor. Just for fun, craft a backsplash within a backsplash -- make the over-the-range area stand out with a hand-painted tile mural or one single large tile that coordinates with the rest of your wall tile.

    Both kitchen and bath can benefit from a strikingly tiled feature wall, especially when it adds vivd interest to a neutral color scheme.

    Tile Care

    Keeping your tile clean is essential for hygienic reasons and to maintain its good looks. Use a dry rag to remove surface dust. Then swab or spray on a tile or stone cleaner. Let it sit a minute or two, longer if the surface is very stained or grimy. Use a soft cloth for cleaning the tile itself, as it may be delicate, although the grout can be scrubbed with a stiff brush. Finish by rinsing with clear water. TILE CARE TIPS: Mop up spills promptly. Never use vinegar or any other acidic substance to clean stone tile.

    A little extra care when you install tile walls and backsplashes will save time and trouble later on. Choose your tile material with an eye to the future. For example, a tile with an artistic rough texture will lend an intriguingly rugged air to your room, but require more care than a smooth glazed tile. If you have your heart set on a special textured tile yet don't want to be bothered with constant cleaing, install it as an accent wall away from the "front line" -- that is, the cooking, dishwashing, or tooth brushing area. You may want to apply a waterproof sealant to safeguard tile made of an absorbent substance such as limestone or travertine. Grout, too, will benefit from a sealing treatment.

    Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.

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