This Old School Kitchen Trend Is Taking Over the Living Room, and It Makes So Much More Sense There

published Feb 18, 2021
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A run-of-the-mill, plain field tile might not be the most thrilling aspect of a bathroom floor or a kitchen backsplash, but reimagine it on a living room table… and suddenly, simple squares come together to create a design-forward piece of furniture. Specifically, I’m talking about top-to-bottom tiled coffee and end tables, the latest decor trend to make a splash on Instagram, inviting the design world to reconsider this seriously underrated material. Just peep the emerald green table above, which I spotted on Urban Outfitters; this piece is graphic, durable, and though retro in material feels fresh, thanks to its saturated color and high-contrast white grouting.

You might remember tiled countertops, and who can forget the monochrome, pink square tile-clad bathrooms of the ‘80s? The problem with tiled bathrooms and countertops is that once debris starts getting stuck in the grout of these high-traffic areas tiled surfaces start to seem somewhat undesirable. This time around though, the trend is nothing like that, since you don’t have to worry about prepping food or bathing anywhere near these designs.

The idea of covering a piece of furniture with tile was born in the 1960s from the Italian architecture and design firm Superstudio, whose works were inspired by science fiction and urbanism. Of course, you could find tiled pieces for the outdoors back then (and even earlier), too, though typically only tabletops were fully covered with mosaic-like motifs. Roughly half a century later, the creative duo behind Ikon København revived this idea with a modern twist. The result was consoles, cube-shaped side tables, coffee tables, and even tall pedestals with every square inch covered in square tiles.

Drawing inspiration from kitchens, bathrooms, and even pools, sisters Amalie and Sarah Thorgaard of Ikon aimed to take elements of those spaces and combine them with that of a traditional tiled table, which typically only features the material on the top versus an all-over application. Not finding the exact piece they had in mind, the duo decided to design their own, which meant covering the surface of a table with a unified set of tiles to build out a modern minimalist piece of furniture.

“Our tables are high quality and will last you a lifetime,” notes Sarah, “At the same time, they’re highly resilient and easy to clean, making for a practical addition you don’t need to fuss about.” In that vein, Ikon København’s consoles and coffee tables also feature hidden wheels, which means they can be easily moved around when needed. 

Credit: Willow

Since then, a whole host of brands have emerged with their own creative interpretations, ushering the concept into more widespread popularity. LA-based Willow, is one such example, serving as a stateside purveyor of tiled furniture. Co-founder Gretta Solie attributes her and her partner’s New Mexico upbringing as the driving source of influence for their creations. “I’ve always loved the idea of using tile,” she says, crediting her inspiration to Superstudio as well as prominent features of Southwestern architecture — like mosaics and patterned hearths in adobe homes. Take a peek through Willow’s online shop, and you’ll notice plenty of odes to their desert roots in terms of color palette, too, including warm peaches and cool greens that channel terracotta, stone, and sand. 

Australian brand Fleur Studios came out with its own take on this trend as well, which includes a versatile side table that can double as a nightstand or even a magazine rack when positioned horizontally. Here, the clever shelf offers a landing spot for stacks of books and whatever else you’d want to store that’s small enough to fit.

Visually speaking, these tiled pieces are really versatile. “It doesn’t command attention but you can elevate it with plants and make it a statement piece or play around with accents and let it blend into your space,” notes Gretta. The Ikon cube side table in influencer Alyssa Coscarelli’s LA home, pictured just above, is proof of how simple decorating with this kind of furniture can be. The pedestal-like silhouette not only fills an empty corner of her dining room but it also provides a prime spot to perch a striking vintage mushroom lamp. The dark grout draws your eye, but the white tiles themselves almost fade into the walls, so all attention is on the lamp.

In Katie Zamprioli’s mid-century LA home, the Ikon København coffee table feels right at home, serving as a grounding element amidst a color-heavy decor scheme.  Regardless of that, the piece still manages to stand out without requiring extra accessorizing beyond a stack of books.

Living room (open area also contains dining room and office space).

Outside of creating a design moment though, what do these tiled furnishings bring to the table? Well, it turns out, a lot. “Tile’s easier to maintain than wood or other materials that can easily scratch and stain,” says Gretta. You can put your drinks on tile — no coasters needed! — and it’s even versatile in the sense that it can transition to the outdoors and back, too. If that weren’t convincing enough, these furnishings can play double duty: A console becomes a desk, and a side table turns into a stool, nightstand, plant stand, chessboard… the list could go on and on. 

If you find yourself hesitant about trying this trend, the Thorgaard sisters suggest starting with a plain color, such as white, which will go with just about everything. Brighter-colored options work well with a darker sofa and vice versa. It’s all about balance, and these pieces add just enough visual interest to be striking but not overpowering in a room.