Tile Countertops Are Coming Back—Here's What Designers Really Think

Tile countertops: love them or leave them in the past? While some designers like New York City-based Emma Beryl think they bring "the '70s and '80s back into the kitchen," others believe they should stay in the time capsule.

Tile countertops were quite popular up until the '90s, a unique and cost-saving alternative to a marble or granite slab, plus a tile countertop is somewhat straightforward to DIY. However, what tile countertops may offer in style, they lack in practicality. We sat down with six designers to get their take.

Go Retro

There are many shapes, sizes, and colors of tile, so using them for a countertop is a creative way for a homeowner to bring in "some color and texture to the room we spend a lot of time in every day," Beryl says.

"I think it is definitely a really cool design element, but you have to think practically about how you use your space when deciding if you want to have a tile countertop or not in your kitchen," she says. If you're infatuated with a tile countertop yet prefer to leave it out of a high-traffic area like the kitchen, she suggests going for tile in a powder bath.

Designer Julia Miller of Yond Interiors is also a fan, but in the right circumstances. "We've explored them recently with clients who want a certain throwback vibe and are ready to embrace something different and fun," she says. "In that environment, they would be perfect."

Consider the Care

When it comes to the daily use of your kitchen, tile countertops would not be the right fit for an avid home cook. Beryl cautions homeowners to consider the difficulty in keeping up tiled countertops.

"Grout stains easily and like the grout on our floors, it discolors over time due to the wear and tear," she says. "You will need to put in more elbow grease to keep it clean."

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Get Cleaning

While tile countertops bring a touch of character and warmth, "it's important to consider their application, especially when you're concerned about keeping surfaces looking clean and preventing the spread of germs," says Melissa Rohani, director and partner of Studio Gutow.

Designer Jennifer Morrison of Morrison Design House is in the anti-tile counters camp due to the difficulty in keeping them clean.

"All I can think about is having to bleach the grout and kill any bacteria every single time you cook a chicken cutlet or scramble an egg," she says. "Tiled surfaces tend to be imperfectly even, which would be frustrating for most cooks. Aesthetically, all the grout is just an unfortunate look. It won't age well and will most likely discolor over time, dating the material choice immediately," she says.

If you still want an alternative to a stone countertop, Morrison suggests wood for a "lovely old-world look to a kitchen," she says. They patina beautifully, have an even surface, and aren't porous.

Love Them or Leave Them?

While designer Sarah Montgomery loves the idea of making "something passé new again," she doesn't consider them to be practical or sanitary for a kitchen.

"I can see them being used cleverly at a wet bar or butler's pantry situation or even in a vacation home or kitchenette. There is a certain charm to them if there were mosaic tiled counters at say your vacation villa in Italy, but I have a feeling the more contemporary applications will read more trendy and temporary rather than classic and timeless," Montgomery says.

Jillian Hayward Schiable, principal of Susan Hayward Interiors, also agrees to leave tile in the past.

"As someone who lived with tile countertops many years ago, the idea brings back memories of stained grout, cracked tiles, and bumpy work surfaces. Although many tiles are very practical, it can be very frustrating, if not impossible, to keep grout looking perfectly clean on a kitchen countertop over the years," Schiable says. "Stone is such a cleaner, smoother surface to work on, and much easier to maintain. While tile may be trending right now, you are sure to have an outdated kitchen again as soon as this wave cycles out."

So whether tile countertops are here to stay or just a fading trend, it all depends on your preferences and where you choose to put them.

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