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If you are considering adding a tile shower or renovating an existing one, there are many more options to choose from than the ordinary porcelain or ceramic wall tile you're all familiar with, and different ways to install them beyond the ordinary grid pattern seen in so many bathrooms.
Many of your options will involve newer materials that you may not be aware of, while other options involve style variations you may not be familiar with. Learning about some tile manufacturers can be helpful sources in your search for a truly exciting shower treatment.Continue to 2 of 20 below.
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Traditional ceramic or porcelain tiles are fine for showers but don't overlook the possibility of using a natural quarried stone product. While considerably more expensive than traditional tile, natural stone gives a truly luxurious look to your home.
One good source of both information and products is Arizona Tile. The example shown here is Jura Beige, from a limestone quarry in Eichstatt, Germany—Medici Walnut Bathroom Shower Tile, ST-205.
Note: Arizona Tile has gorgeous tile, and it's the go-to place if you're looking to break out of the rut. John Huarte and wife Eileen began Arizona Tile in 1977 in San Diego and now services primarily the western United States from 25 locations. While Arizona Tile does have a healthy range of porcelain and glass tile, it excels with granite, marble, limestone, travertine, slate, and onyx slabs and tile.Continue to 3 of 20 below.
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Arizona Prairie Series Porcelain
Porcelain tiles can be manufactured to mimic natural stone, at a much lower cost. This porcelain tile looks very much like a natural slate material. Some homeowners use the terms "porcelain" and "ceramic" interchangeably, but there is a distinct difference. Although both are made of clay particles, porcelains consist of ultra-fine clay particles fired at extra-hot temperatures, which forms a hard, glassy surface.
One example is shown here: this fine porcelain tile is part of Arizona's "Prairie Series" (Dusk, Frost, Sky, and Sunrise). This example is Prairie Dusk.Continue to 4 of 20 below.
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Arizona Sculptor Line
Porcelain tile can also mimic veined natural stone, such as marble or limestone. Only close examination or an expert's eye would tell you that this is not a natural marble product.
Porcelain reproductions of natural stone offer several advantages. Because they are manufactured under controlled circumstances, marble-lookalike porcelain can maintain uniformity throughout the tiles.
With natural marble, you are sometimes at the mercy of natural variations in the quarried stock of marble. And because marbles are often shipped from overseas locations, such as Italy, the shipping costs greatly increase the overall cost of the products. Designer porcelains, while more expensive than standard ceramic tiles, are much less pricey than true marble.
The example shown in this photo is from Arizona Tile's Sculptor line.Continue to 5 of 20 below.
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Porcelain Mimicking Marble
Here is another example of vitreous porcelain tiles standing in for marble. A major advantage of porcelain (in addition to expense) is the ease of maintenance. Marble is tough to maintain in such high-moisture environments.
That's not to say you cannot use natural stones in the shower. You can, but it requires a greater outlay of money for installers adept at stonework, as well as stone's continued maintenance.
This example is also from Arizona Tile's Sculptor Series.Continue to 6 of 20 below.
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This tile installation is stylish and contemporary, yet it comes from a tile manufacturer—American Olean—that produces cost-effective tile. Also, it's a dead-simple shower tile design to duplicate. Its contemporary look comes from the simple grid pattern made with 2 x 2 tiles rather than the standard 4 x 4 or 6 x 6, installed with broad areas of different colors.
In the example shown here, the look is achieved with:
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- American Olean Matte Glacier 4 1/4 x 4 1/2-inch tiles for the plumbing wall.
- American Olean Bright French Roast 4 1/4 x 4 1/4-inch tiles for the shower surround.
- American Olean Bright French Roast 2 x 2-inch tiles for the divider wall.
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Some premium tile manufacturers will offer entire packages of coordinated field tiles, border tiles, and tile accessories designed to create a distinct style statement. Some will even offer color variations in the same style. Along with the field tiles, you can buy coordinating bullnose, listello, quarter-round edgings, and more.
This example shows the Verona series of tiles and accessories from the manufacturer Eleganza. This series is aimed at creating a very elegant modern Italian-style shower and bathroom.Continue to 8 of 20 below.
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Neutrals With Complementary Accents
At times, the best tile treatment will be to use soft neutral colors but add some interest with accent strips with sculpted textures. A single accent strip of designer tiles at chair-rail height can make all the difference. Accent strips can also work at baseboard level, or along the ceiling line, as well.
This example features tiles from Daltile. The field tiles are Goldust 12 x 12-inch and 6 x 6-inch tiles. The accent strip is the Copper Arches Fashion Accent 3 x 8. Note the hopscotch floor pattern, made by alternating groups of four smaller tiles with one larger tile.
Note: Be wary of using wall tiles for floor applications. Floor tiles must be thick enough to handle foot traffic When purchasing tiles, always specify the intended use. Manufacturers will not guarantee wall tiles used against recommendations on a floor.Continue to 9 of 20 below.
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Smooth and Creamy
Extending the idea of neutrals is to use field tiles and accessory tiles all in the same narrow range of colors. Variety and interest are obtained through the subtle introduction of pattern variations and closely related accent tiles.
In this example, also from Daltile, the shower uses principally the Brixton series, with Brixton Sand 9 x 12-inch and 6 x 6-inch wall field tiles, and Brixton Sand 9 x 12-inch accents on the shower wall.
The shower floor features Gold Rush Mosaics Wheatland 2 x 2-inch tiles with BX10 Universal Accent on the step.
The main bathroom floor uses Brixton Sand BX02 18 x 18-inch field tile.Continue to 10 of 20 below.
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Though not easy to install, requiring a professional installation for best results, there are some decided advantages to glass tiles in a shower. Because it reflects light, glass tiles in a shower make for a very bright, invigorating environment. And glass is fairly easy to care for—glass cleaner and a soft cloth usually do the trick. And glass tile is now popular enough that a huge variety of styles and colors are available for you to choose from.
The example shown here is from South Cypress Flooring: Glass Cubes 12 x 12-inch Opalescent Frosted Bubble Glass.Continue to 11 of 20 below.
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Marble With Glass Accents
These days, combining different materials in a shower is not only allowable but encouraged. Standard ceramic or porcelain field tiles can be accented with natural stone borders, for example, provided they are well chosen.
One great shower tile idea is to complement your marble tile with bands of glass tiles, as shown here. The example is from South Cypress Flooring: Solistone Marble Stone and Opera Accent Glass.Continue to 12 of 20 below.
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Tile the Ceiling
In a surprising number of bathrooms, the ceiling is left covered with ordinary water-resistant greenboard and painted—a treatment that is not only dull but may be susceptible to water damage over time.
A better solution is to tile the ceiling, as well. Why is it not done more often? Applying tiles overhead is not the easiest task for DIYers, and even some installation professionals might prefer not to tackle it. But the advantages are worth the effort. The ceiling offers a great opportunity for a contrasting treatment that will add great interest to the overall design.
This example is from South Cypress Flooring: Solistone Opera Accent Glass 3/5 x 3/5 allegro mosaic.Continue to 13 of 20 below.
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1960s Starburst Tiles
Tile treatments can be an important part of a retro renovation. What would say the 1950s like a bathroom done in period pink or green ceramic tiles, for example?
The 1960s was another decade with hallmark features, often defined by the use of unusual accents.
In this example, gorgeous pale-green retro tiles from Ann Sacks in your shower announces that you've entered the 1960s.Continue to 14 of 20 below.
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A relatively new trend for showers is the use of brass and other metal tiles. While metal tiles have been used in kitchens and other areas for some time, they are now making their way into showers. The reflective surfaces catch ambient light and help your shower shimmer and glow.
Many metal tiles are used in showers, but some, including iron and copper, will require sealing to protect the original finish and prevent corrosion. Brass and stainless steel will not require this.
In this example, the multicolored metal tiles are from Ann Sacks. These 2-inch tiles work well either in the shower, as pictured, or as a bathroom or kitchen backsplash.Continue to 15 of 20 below.
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Soft Green Colors
Soft greens can create a very relaxing shower environment. Because relaxation is the goal with a shower like this, striking accents are kept to a minimum, though a bit of visual interest is added by the diamond backing on the recessed shelf and a diagonal flooring pattern.
In this example, the tiles are from Ann Sacks/ Barbara Barry: square 5 x 5-inch glossy tiles in gloss, toward the bottom bisected by 3 x 6-inch tiles, and then at the very base 1 x 5-inch surface bullnose.Continue to 16 of 20 below.
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Real Carrara Marble
If you are willing to take on the maintenance of real marble in the shower, then you may want to consider genuine Carrara marble (Italy) which, according to Arizona Tile, is a rather rare commodity due to winter months shutdowns of the quarry.
This Carrara is a gorgeous marble with delicate, lace-like veining. The tile below the marble panel is a glass mosaic.
This example is from Arizona Tile: Bianco Venatino and Skylights Glass.Continue to 17 of 20 below.
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Mosaic glass tiles have many advantages in a shower. Mosaic tiles are applied in sheets of attached tiles, making them relatively easy for DIYers to install. And, as mentioned earlier, glass tiles are relatively easy to maintain in a shower environment. Manufacturers offer hundreds, if not thousands, of options for glass mosaics.
In this example, there are tiles from Arizona Tiles Skylights Gray Stack collection. It's a nice, unique glass mosaic that comes in 12 x 12-inch mesh-bound sheets.Continue to 18 of 20 below.
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Limestone and Listello
Here is another shower in which natural stone and human-made substances are mixed. Natural limestone field tiles are used, but with decorative listello bands made of resin. This can be a great way to control costs in a large shower. Finally, a tumbled stone mosaic set at diagonals completes the picture.
In this example, the field tiles are Jura Beige from Eichstatt, Germany. The horizontal listello band is called Medici Walnut, from Arizona Tile. The mosaic is from the Sterling Collection, called ST-205.Continue to 19 of 20 below.
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Tumbled Stone Mosaic
If you want a truly eye-catching shower and are not worried about nay-sayers, consider a mosaic of tumbled stones. It is not the treatment for everyone—you might not want to install such a shower if you are staging a home for sale, but for unique tastes, this will work very well. If you're not quite this adventurous, you could consider this as an accent tile, or as a decorative band or border.
This example is from Arizona Tile's Sterling Collection Mosaics.Continue to 20 of 20 below.
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Earthen-Brown and Multi-Sized
Natural stone tiles arranged in patterns of different sizes can create a look that is both timeless and modern. Consider slabs of granite, marble, limestone, travertine, slate, and onyx for such a shower treatment.
Among specialty tile companies, Arizona Tile stands out as a source for this kind of tile. Be sure to check out Arizona's site, too. Unlike some company sites, it does a great job of describing the origins of their natural stone tiles.