Mosaic Mix Up: Floors Come Alive with Pattern

July 24, 2016


In interior design, there are classic pairings that simply go well together. Subway tile and mosaics is one of those harmonious, time-tested duos—and for good reason. 

Ceramic subway tiles first made their debut in New York City’s train stations in the early 1900s, and by their side were small, durable mosaic tiles whose tiny stature nevertheless created captivating artistic patterns and borders that beautified and personalized each station. Not surprisingly, people began imitating the style, and soon the combo started popping up as floor tile in prewar homes, restaurants and other public spaces.

The clean, classic lines of subway tile walls created the perfect backdrop upon which to add dramatic, one-of-a-kind floor patterns, but without overwhelming the overall design. Another benefit: the tiny tiles complemented the smaller-sized rooms typical of early 20th century spaces, whereas larger floor tiles would have looked cramped and out of place. 

Featured: Subway White Ceramic Tiles

The same design benefits hold true today, and homeowners love recreating the classic subway tile and mosaic combo in traditionally inspired homes. But now, designers are putting their own spin on the look, trading basic colors and shapes for mosaics with unexpected textures, patterns and materials to take this timeless look to the next level.

If you want to learn how you can liven up your floors or backsplash tile using classic or modern mosaics, check out these four tricks of the trade: 

1. Hexagonal Mosaic 

Featured: Henley Hexagon 2" Marble Mosaic

Design hack: Stick with the traditional hexagon shape, but choose a tile with some textural interest. For a look that’s packed with dimension and interest, consider MSI's Henley Hexagon 2" Marble Mosaic Tiles, which feature rich black natural marble with dramatic beige, gray and white veins. Cover an entire floor with this mosaic tile, or use it for a border design and was done in early 20th century bathrooms.

Featured: Henley Hexagon 2" Marble Mosaic

2. Pebble Mosaics 

Featured: Black Pebbles Mosaic Tiles

Talk about a floor tile worthy of conversation! Our Black Pebbles mosaic tile is nature-inspired but design-minded, mimicking the look of small river rocks, yet in a refined way. Like a classic penny tile, its small circular shapes pair well with subway tiles or larger ceramic tiles

 Featured: Black Pebbles Mosaic Tiles

3. Linear Mosaics

Featured: Paradise Bay Blend Pattern

“Block random” designs were popular in the 1930s and 40s, and feature an irregular mix of small-sized squares and rectangles in various color combinations. Our Paradise Bay Blend Pattern, for example, is an ode to that classic concept, featuring a contemporary combo of glass and natural stone tiles in warm taupes and creams, paired with cooler grays and blues. This mosaic mix-up is especially great for borders and other patterns created through installation.

Featured: Paradise Bay Blend Pattern

4. Basketweave Mosaics

Featured: Durango Cream Tumbled  

Or do you prefer something a bit more traditional? A basketweave pattern is a sophisticated, time-tested look that gives the illusion of woven stone. Durango/Caramel Basket Weave Pattern, shown above, features a honed finish and warm neutral shades of creams, beiges and tans. This mosaic looks especially striking composing an entire bathroom floor.

Featured: Durango Cream Tumbled

Takeaway: Looking to the past for design inspiration is a great way to add meaning to your overall design, but don’t stop there. It’s easy to add your own twist by choosing unexpected colors, textures and materials to reinvent a classic look in a fresh, new way.