Everything Old is New Again: Tile Countertops, Then and Now

Everything Old is New Again: Tile Countertops, Then and Now

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Nancy Mitchell
Sep 9, 2014

In 1979, when this kitchen first appeared in a book called Planning & Remodeling Kitchens, it was the height of chic. I think we can all agree that that giant window is still delightful, but the color scheme seems very, very, 70s. And those tile countertops! You would never see tile countertops in a modern kitchen. Or would you?

Just for grins, here's a little more old-school tile countertop action, this time from 1982. (Although you might not even notice this countertop amongst all the wallpaper and Jello molds and general bric-a-brac.) Tile countertops enjoyed a lot of popularity in this period of time, and then they disappeared. Until...

(Image credit: Fjeldborg)

Yup, what you're looking at is a tile countertop in a modern, minimalist kitchen. I'll admit that this struck me as odd at first, but the look is growing on me. I like how the tile adds just a bit of texture to a minimalist space, and the way the tile interacts with the paneling that forms the backsplash. Image from Fjeldborg, via Sixteen Doors.

(Image credit: This is...)

One complaint that I hear about tile countertops is: who wants to scrub all that nasty grout? I'm with you: scrubbing grout is bad enough in the bathroom. But there's a solution: not-white grout. The grout in this kitchen looks to be a light gray. I think the countertops are really working with what this kitchen has going on: sort of an updated, minimalist-country look. Enhanced, of course, by the squirrel on the counter. Spotted on This Is.

(Image credit: Miluccia)

And here's some really dark grout, for those who really hate scrubbing. Something about the square tile and the dark grout reads very, very, modern. Spotted on Miluccia.

(Image credit: Design Sponge)
(Image credit: Design Sponge)

I think the tile countertops really contribute to the timeless feel of this Berkeley kitchen, from Design Sponge. Nobody is going to look at this kitchen in ten years and say, oh, that's so mid-teens. (Is that what we're in?) It's sort of trend-defying.

(Image credit: House to Home)

And finally, I'll leave you with a couple different tile countertops that are a little off the beaten path. If you're willing to put in the time to keep a surface like this clean, adding a penny tile countertop (like this one from House to Home) could completely transform your kitchen. The coved detail where the backsplash transitions to the countertop is just genius (and something that you couldn't really achieve with other countertop materials).

(Image credit: Fantastic Frank)
(Image credit: Fantastic Frank)

This one might be my favorite. At first glance it may look as if the countertop in this Stockholm apartment from Fantastic Frank is made of marble, but take a closer look and you'll see that it's made of small marble hex tiles. This would definitely require a bit more doing to get clean than a typical marble countertop, but I think the movement in the different tiles would help to conceal the etching and staining that are the curse of marble countertop ownership. And of course, it is gorgeous.

What do you think? Would you be happy to see tile countertops make a comeback? Or is this something that's better left in the past?

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