Designers today can classify mosaic tile styles into several very distinct categories.
Modern homeowners can use these styles to decide what resonates with their tastes and then have many different options available within each main style design category.
These styles range from the natural use of organic, sustainable, materials to highly industrialized designs that have a sharp modern twist.
Next time you are thinking of doing a home or business remodel, consider how the following styles might enhance the look you want to convey to your visitors.
#1 Natural/Organic Style
The Greeks were using pebbles in their walkways long before everyone went "organic" in modern times. This look is now back in favor, but instead of walkways, pebbled tiles are often used in the bathroom under shower heads that simulate rain or around a bathroom surround. Pebbled floors not only provide visual interest, but provide a pleasant textural feel under the soles of the feet.
Another form of organic style chooses an earth-based color scheme, like browns and greens, to convey a feeling of "naturalness." This is often enhanced with natural materials, like stone tiles. Here is an example of this type of natural design.
Classical and traditional designs create an Old World feel and are inspired by ancient designs that have withstood the test of time. They can include classic geometric borders like you might find in a Greek villa or an Italian fresco-like designs done in mosaics. The idea is to bring the past back into the present, whether that is the ancient past, or something a little more recent. This design brings to mind the pyramids, with a classic limestone floor and ancient-looking sculptures that look like something you would see in Ancient Egypt.
Traveling forward in time, we still can get an Old World feel that is more European. It is still traditional, but makes you think more of the Renaissance that classical ancient times. Here is a traditional design of a stove backsplash which uses mosaics to create an Italian fruit bowl.
Vintage differs from the classical/traditional style in that it is more Victorian. A vintage look is more modern, but still from the past. It stems from designs that were popular around the 19th and 20th century. It includes mosaics like subway tiles, penny rounds, and even cobble stone. Here is a "penny round" tile in a hexagon shape in a modern bathroom.
Even a mosaic design that features themes for the late 19th or 20th century can be considered "vintage" even if the tiles are glass. Here is one celebrating the Art Deco period can be considered "vintage-inspired."
Contemporary design typically has a neutral color scheme and avoids being too futuristic in style. You can see lots of beige tile in contemporary bathrooms, but it also has some interesting style trends, like wood look-a-like tiles. These can be either ceramic or stone tiles cut into planks to create the visual style of a traditional wood floor, with a contemporary twist. This travertine stone floor is laid out in planks as a nod to traditional wood floors, in a contemporary-style kitchen.
Industrial tile design uses mass-produced tiles to create modern works of art. They are often not unique, but are still highly prized for the ability to quickly create designs that are easily installed with a guaranteed look. Stone masons will still use tile cutters to custom fit to a specific space, but the design is already pre-packaged. This bathroom has a modern look with a Soho strip border and a basketweave mosaic design floor.
Part of the industrial movement is also an emphasis on new materials, like glass and metal, to make a design more futuristic. Modern design usually has a minimal color scheme, can even be monochromatic, and features very simple, sharp, lines. Here is a kitchen backsplash that offers a modern, abstract, design above a glass cooktop with a metal tea kettle.
A special mention goes to Asian-inspired designs that are very popular today. The elements of this design tend towards minimalism, natural materials, and flowers like cherry blossoms or orchids. This bathroom mosaic features cherry blossoms. Another form of Asian-inspired design is more Zen. It has a muted palette and very minimal decor. This is supposed to be peaceful and meditative.
One of the more exciting developments in mosaic tiles has been possible with a new technology: waterjet cutting. This tool is so precise and delicate that it can cut luscious curves in stone tiles that were impossible to do by hand in the past. It adds instant star power, like in this hotel lobby waterjet medallion.
Many More Styles Within Each Category
These broad categories of mosaic tile styles may help you to define what appeals to you most, but it really can't do all the tile styles justice. For that, you will need to do more research to see the subcategories that are included in this broad overview. We have only covered a few basics: natural/organic, classical/traditional, vintage, contemporary, industrial/modern, Asian-inspired, and custom tile styles.
You can get a good idea of color schemes, lines, and a sort of "flavor" with each style, but it doesn't tell you that you can get Azulejos or Moroccan tiles that are classic/traditional or that the modern style also includes dimensional, textured, tiles. After some research, for instance, you might find that you want to go with a vintage tile that is also engraved. There are still many, many, more different tile designs out there within each major category, so do some homework before you make a final decision.