An Evolution in Floor and Wall Coverings Means More Materials and More Choices, and Not Only in Tile

Few décor elements are as versatile – or as coveted – as tile.

“Twenty-five years ago, tile was very basic. Selections have changed,” says Cliff Hirsch of Island Tile & Marble in Melbourne. “Years ago, everything was beige, then about five years ago, we saw an increase in golds, blues, reds and other brighter colors. Now we’re seeing a return to antique whites and other classic colors. People aren’t going with those deep, dark colors . . . . Possibly because of the economy, they’ve become more conservative again. They’re playing it safer.”

Still, a good theme is not out of the picture, and light colors do not add up to “vanilla.”

Current trends in the kitchen include:

— “Environmental decorating” with “earth colors,” such as natural looking beiges, browns, tans and off-whites. Texture is important and tile now mimics stone, marble and granite.

— Glass is far less expensive than it formerly was. It’s extremely “green,” usually the product of recycled materials; extremely durable; and comes in a wide range of colors and finishes.

— “Tile tattoos,” which are stickers or details that can be added to tiles, particularly to spark up a kitchen. They come in a variety of colors, shapes and designs, can be combined with other images or designs, no glue is required and they’re easy to remove.

In the bathroom:

— Metal is all the rage, not with sheets of aluminum or copper, as once was trendy, but in smaller tiles that allow the homeowner to create patterns and unique designs. They’re popular as accents too. Bronze or copper lends a classic touch while stainless imparts an ultra-contemporary feel.

— Again, glass is huge, and not only in accents and borders. Entire walls of shower enclosures now are done in glass tiles.

— Wood may not be right for such a damp a place, but faux hardwood porcelain tile is available in planks, is easy to care for and is resistant to moisture.

— Window casing, in which wood or metal are removed or covered with decorative tile for a natural stone or ceramic border.