Bathrooms are fun - that is if you're a designer and not the person cleaning them. There are literally thousands and thousands of choices when it comes to tile and a wide ranging selection of bathroom fixtures to complement any choice.
One thing I tend to avoid studiously is overworked trends - and that's how I was feeling about mosaic glass and subway-style tiles in the latter part of 2008 with three bathroom renovations, in three different homes, on my upcoming project list. One of the baths, in a condo that was going on the rental market, was very small, lacked any character or style, and was sorely in need of an update. The homeowner wanted the room to feel modern and special, and be a real selling point for the apartment.
From my design perspective, two considerations were key. The first was that to appeal to the broadest possible audience of potential renters, we should keep to fairly a neutral palette. Secondly, to visually enlarge the space, we had to keep the room light, the design simple and the eye moving around the bath without any unnecessary breaks in the flow. For the wow factor, I looked to materials.
High quality "wood-look" tile has been around for a while. With lots of wood-toned colors to choose from, it's an easy means of extending your wood floor into wet areas or outdoors where real wood can be very high maintenance and become problematic. Inspired by a Zen sensibility as well as the construction of saunas, I decided to clad the walls of the bathroom in plank-sized wood-look porcelain tiles.
Selecting the lightest one I could find that noticeably retained the character of wood, I used Rex's Abisko in a plank-sized 4' x 24", in betulla, a color which looks like pickled wood. The tile is rectified so very little grout is seen, enabling you to avoid the traditional "boxy" look of tile. The long planks helped as well in this regard, minimizing the number of vertical lines and keeping the eye flowing in a horizontal direction. To really get the look of a wood-walled bath, we decided to mitre the tile corners throughout the room, as you would do with real wood. It worked beautifully - the first words out of everyone's mouth upon seeing the room were, "Wow! You put wood on the walls!"
Another great source for wood-look tile is Mission Stone and Tile which carries the LEED-certified, green-friendly Vintage Wood Planks collection, a great look for your weekend home or anywhere else you want a more rustic look.
Mary Elizabeth Hulsey, who owns the company and runs it like a family, regards Mission as a "bargain boutique" for stone and tile and is committed to selling at affordable price points.
(Click on pictures for full-sized photos.)