Do’s & Don’ts for Decorating with Black Tile

The dangerous part about any new trend is when you start incorporating the old with the new and the black tile trend is no different.

Here are some guidelines to think about if you are considering black tile in a bathroom or kitchen:


Paint your walls black instead of tiling. You’ll get a similar look and feel and then it’s easier to change when you want the room to be a different colour.

Just make sure the black is repeated somewhere like in this shower floor (below).




Balance the dark backsplash with dark wood flooring (below). Note that the heavy, dark bar stools also provide contrast against the white island and relate to the backsplash.


Install this much black backsplash tile (below) with black tile floors as well! And you’ll just clean all day and all night since every spec will show.

Do's & Don'ts for Decorating with Black Tile

{via pinterest}


Mix granite (even though the pattern here is subtle, below) with Arabesque backsplash tile. The granite competes with the backsplash so you’re not sure which to look at.

This backsplash tile belongs with a solid countertop.

Also, notice that black is not so fabulous with this traditional wood stained kitchen.

Do's & Don'ts for Decorating with Black Tile | Maria Killam



Choose shiny tile over flat. It bounces more light around the room.

Do's & Don'ts for Decorating with Black Tile | Maria Killam

{via pinterest}


Combine lots of heavy black tile with earthy granite. It’s just not as spectacular as white.

Which means adding it to a dated bathroom with earthy finishes (or combining it with new earthy finishes) won’t be as great either.

To my eye, earthy finishes combined with solid black just don’t play well together.

Do's & Don'ts for Decorating with Black Tile | Maria Killam



If you’re really going to install black floors (which will show EVERYTHING, see this bathroom below—it’s photoshopped to look that perfect ; ) ; ) keep the walls classic with white subway tile and repeat the black in the grout.

You don’t have to repeat it in the grout (that might be too busy depending on what you’re doing), but repeat it once somewhere. Either in black framed art or the mirror or the scone lighting.

Do's & Don'ts for Decorating with Black Tile | Maria Killam


DON’T choose black hardware in a white tiled shower if the shower is the first thing you see when you walk into your bathroom (below). It usually looks too busy. The eye bounces from the hinges on your glass doors to the shower fixtures, it’s just too much black. Remember, can look harsh, flat and predictable really fast.



Choose brass faucets and hardware. If you’re going to install a kitchen or bathroom this trendy, might as well go big and warm it up with trendy brass as well.

Keep the countertop lighter for more contrast.

Note, this is a VERY TRENDY look. A little black and white makes a timeless bathroom. This much black, takes us right back to the 80s.

Do's & Don'ts for Decorating with Black Tile | Maria Killam


Choose white grout to break up the black in a white kitchen like this.

Notice that most of the photos I’m showing have white grout with black tiled walls.

Do's & Don'ts for Decorating with Black Tile | Maria Killam

 {click on images for source}

Hope these guidelines help you if you’re considering incorporating black tile into your home.

If you ask me what I would do, I will keep my bathrooms pretty white inside my upcoming renovations because that’s the most classic look. I have seen too many black powder rooms from the 80’s to repeat that in my house.

Update, here are my renovated bathrooms.

Over to you, are you loving the black trend and thinking about black tile for your home?

Related posts:

Maria Killam’s Trend Forecast for 2015 

The Best White Bathrooms

 How Black is Your House?



leave aREPLY

  1. Just not loving the black tile look. I agree with your advice to paint a wall black if you want this look – much cheaper and easier! It reminds me of my last home bought in the late 90s which had an all black bathroom, black floor and wall tiles and black fixtures. I HATED it. Also hard to keep all that shiny black tile looking clean, every drop of water showed up.

  2. I don’t think the above photo with the arabesque is even black; it’s dark brown. this and the fact that it is beveled makes it not work with the wood cabinets.

    • Black/Brown, it’s all the same advice really. Except that brown goes better with earthy finishes than black. Thanks for your comment!

    • If you click on the source and get to the actual blog post, those tiles are gray. I think the reason they don’t work is because of the countertop and not because of the wood cabinets. The granite of the countertop is too busy and green. If the countertop had been a solid black color, it would have played better with the tile and the wood. The juxtaposition backsplash and countertop with the wood would have looked intentional. Right now, none of the surfaces relate to each other, so it looks off.

  3. I think if one is already a fan of black ( i am), and the black tile is used with appropriate and complimenting cabinets, hardware, flooring, faucets, counter tops – this can be a very compelling design & decor statement. I find it a nice departure from decades of white subway tile, but its not for most – I doubt it will be much of a across the board big trend – better for those of us who really love it!

  4. Timely post Maria. As you know, my client saw a show home house with black backsplash and instantly wanted it for her kitchen. After many conversations, many samples, and forwarding a few of your blogs, she now sees how black is not a great choice (not only will it not work with her fixed finishes), it’s not practical for her situation nor will it look good in the style of home she has and what she’s willing to do to modernize. I’ll be forwarding her this one too!


    • When I moved back to California from New York, I lived for 3 months in a bungalow that had a black and white kitchen floor as well as laundry room. When I was using the laundry room for the first time while unpacking, unbeknownst to me the drain came out of the laundry tub and flooded the two rooms. I ended up cleaning that floor thoroughly to get all the water out. Every time after that you would see all the dark stains on the white tile and light stains on the dark tile, and I decided then never to have a black and white floor.

      For the nine years I lived in New York, the bathroom and kitchen was tiled in white with black accent “dots”. That was ceramic tile, but the water wasn’t as hard as where I live now.

      Even with a housekeeper, who wants to send that much time cleaning? Life’s too short. Even black paint will show water spots.

    • Wait! What? You’re coming to Chicago?
      How did I not know about this?
      Maria, please let me know the details.

  5. Maria, the Atlanta Furniture Mart show is in July. Access to people, fabrics, and furnishings….seems like a good mix. Maybe incorporate a day of the Mart with the class to discuss what to look for when shopping for ideas.

  6. Agree with it all – I love black, but cleaning water spots off shower/kitchen tile? No thanks.

    And that black kitchen with the all-white subway tile? It would look stunning if the grout were black! However, since it’s not, I’d advise a large chalkboard hanging in the blank space, or maybe even a large mirror with an ornate frame as contrast.

  7. I like black , but not to that degree.
    I honestly think for long longevity I would not want all that black.
    I had a black Island in my last house and it was work to keep up and I don’t have any children at home.
    If you like to dust every day then it might work..
    I agree with you Maria , paint a wall black add a black pillow and let that black balance out some of your white .
    Nothing like balance and contrast.

  8. This is amazing! Oh goodness the competition with backsplash and counter tops plus cabinets! YES! Your advice is so RIGHT ON! I am overly excited but so happy to have found your post!

  9. a long time ago, i bought a solid english tudor-ish home, built in 1939, from the original owners. it had shiny black bathroom tile with white grout, up to wainscoting height. the bathtub was in a recess and untiled. i decided, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. and i had more tile custom made for the bathing alcove, up the walls and on the ceiling. i added stripe wallpaper (subtle) — brown and black or something. and a plain window shade made of the same wallpaper. it was a wonderful room. i didn’t know what i was doing, but i kept variety of colors/finishes to a minimum and honored what was there. black towels, too! it was a traditional room and not hard to keep clean. i still miss that bathroom!!

  10. one more thought about grout. tile setters like wide grout lines because it’s easier. with black tile (or any tile except mexican and saltillo) it’s best to keep grout lines very thin, very precise. the dark/light rhythm of grout vs tile drives me nuts (personal opinion, i guess). the tile should be the hero, not the grout.

    • Sometimes, the grout accentuates the pattern, but brick is just a standard pattern.

      When I first moved to New York, they were redoing the tile in the ACTUAL subways. It was hideous going underground. It looked better after it was redone, and they kept the mosaic signage, but that first impression left me scarred for life. I’m not joking, either. It. Was. Hideous. This was after I saw a little old man peeing in the subway grates across from the 92nd Street Y on the Upper East Side when I hadn’t even found an apartment.

  11. Wonderful post. Thank you KA for your post. My career has been in healthcare. While everyone is raving about the timeless subway tiles, all I see is the inside of Psych hospitals and wards. They use white subway tiles everywhere so they can hose down the pee, poop, vomit, blood, semen, and spittle. Disgusting and big htmarish memories from training. A group of healthcare providers were laughing just last week about those timeless (aka institutional) tiles. It is hard for most of us to choke down a meal that comes out of a subway tile kitchen. We say nothing because we realize that people paid tens of thousands of dollars for that kitchen.

    • I can get that! But I still say keep it white or cream anyway. . . coordinating busy backsplashes RARELY actually coordinate or look good.

  12. What a great post. I’d never consider black tile in my home, but even if I did, your terrific guidelines wouldn’t have occurred to me. Thanks for sharing your expert tips with us!

  13. This is a great post! As I go through decorating each room in my house there is a definite black and white theme emerging.

    I don’t care for dark backsplashes or wall tile for the most part.

    Yesterday I picked my floor tile and it’s black marble! It has a lot of white veining throughout so maybe it won’t be quite as bad as solid black. The wall tile will be white.

  14. My Dad chose shiny black subway tiles with white grout for the kitchen backsplash back in the early 90’s. He was color blind. My mother was not thrilled. Who knew my Dad was so cutting edge.

  15. My husband and I bought our first home from a builder in 1971. I chose a black shiny bathroom tile and a pink bathroom suite. I thought I was the hight of sophistication, that was until I realised I had to clean the darn thing after every shower. O boy did we have a hard time selling that place. Black tiles done it once and that was enough!!!

  16. Worse than black tile is a black commode and pedestal sink. Or dark brown is just as bad. One house my parents bought had been “professionally decorated.” I walked into the powder room, saw a dark brown commode and sink, and announced “how can you tell if it’s dirty? It’s poop brown already!” The next time I visited, they had replaced them with cream.

  17. Not a fan of too much black…frames or wrought iron and glass fireplace screens, lighting are as far as I will go. The world has so many beautiful colors and white/ grays enhance them….black is too heavy and depressing

  18. An excellent and informative post, Maria! That said, as for black tiles (or large appliances) ‘different strokes for different folks’. For myself (regardless that I am retired) and I do like a clean home; I prefer not to be a slave to housework as black surfaces require constant maintenance. ☺ -Brenda-

  19. My first condo had black tile counters and backsplash in the kitchen. It was impossible to keep clean; every water drop showed. Don’t let the pretty pictures tempt you because you will regret it.

  20. Maria, You are spot on regarding this B&W article! Black-and-white has always grabbed my attention. So in 2001 I renovated my hall bath with white subway tile around tub and octagon white tiles on floor (which at the time I had to special order) Very nice upgraded stainless fixtures with Kohler memoir pedestal sink & matching toilet (you kinda get the picture) some accents with black. Well Its 18 years later and I still get “you did this bathroom 18 yrs ago”. It just doesn’t look dated.
    Pssst: just keep the grout clean 😉
    Again very helpful advice,

    Teresa McHaney