designing with tile in the laundry room

by clé tile | published: Aug 25, 2022

fornace brioni + clé casale rustico normale bundle. design: colette luesebrink design / photo: charlotte lea photography

the humble laundry room, once overshadowed by kitchens and bathrooms as design-worthy spaces, is having its moment in the spotlight. in fact, laundry rooms show signs of becoming the new powder room—a place for creative design to flourish, and for risks to be taken.

and a great deal of that expression—even the inspiration for it—begins with tile for floors and walls.

updating design traditions

cement pattern square checkmate. design / photo indigo interiors

tile in the laundry room is nothing new. it’s always been used because it’s durable, can get wet, and is easy to clean. but laundry room tile was usually left-over, basic, mass-produced tile, with little thought to its potential to delight and inspire–let alone how it worked with color or cabinetry or other elements in the room. 

what's new is using tile to create a design statement in the laundry room. 

the new laundry room—often with elevated cabinetry and places for every last cleaning-related item (and increasingly, desk nooks and even seating areas)—often uses tile as its focal point, courtesy of vibrant colors and bold patterns or earthy textures and classic materials. the new laundry room has a strong design point of view, whether it’s streamlined and minimalist, classic and traditional, or a more bohemian flight of fancy.

laundry rooms can be some of the most personal of spaces: they’re usually on the smaller side, used only by family, and often sit behind closed doors. and that makes them fertile ground for creative expression. 

in the laundry room, aesthetics still matter (more than you might think)

cement pattern square in wonderful copenhagen. design: nicole hollis / photo: douglas friedman

the laundry room may seem like an aesthetic afterthought, but laundry—and where we do it—plays a larger role in our lives than we might think. 

according to a study conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2016, American women spend an average of 17 minutes a day doing laundry-related tasks (men only report doing 5 minutes of laundry-related chores per day) adding up to a whopping 103 hours a year. 

so why wouldn’t you want your laundry room to be as personalized and expressive—and even as downright luxurious—as any other space in your home? 

who knows: it might even encourage others to join in doing the laundry. 

here are 5 design tips to keep in mind when designing the perfect laundry room. 

1. ask yourself: how does your laundry room relate to the rest of the home? 

cement pattern square in jacobsen by erica tanov. design / photo: open home studio

like a powder room or guest bedroom, the laundry room has the potential to take on one of two design roles: an extension of the rest of the home that matches an already established vibe, or something entirely different that stands out from the rest of the space.

what direction you take will depend on what kind of laundry room you have. if your laundry room is a separate room in the home, tucked away from the rest of the house, you have a little more creative freedom and can explore statement-making options that don't necessarily have to reflect design choices already made.

if your laundry space does not occupy a separate room but rather a hallway or open vestibule that is more connected to the rest of the home, you may want to consider a design that doesn't necessarily match the rest of the home, but compliments and accentuates certain elements. you may want to go with a similar color scheme, or echo choose a pattern that goes with the vibe of your home. with tile, there is something for every style—whether it’s art deco, rustic farmhouse, or mid-century modern.  

2. pattern makes perfect

cement pattern square in peaks by eskayel. design: jamie bellessa / photography: nicole gerulat

cement pattern square in big al. design / photo: stephanie parsley

whether you are looking to make a bold statement or add a hint of subtle sophistication, patterned tile is a great way to create a design-forward, personalized area that maximizes both style and space. 

if your laundry room is on the smaller side, patterned tile is a great choice because it creates an illusion that your laundry room is larger than it is. 

patterned tile on the laundry room floor makes the most of what tile has to offer: endless design possibilities that don’t demand much effort after installation. 

once installed, tile becomes part of your home’s architecture, and doesn’t take up precious space like furniture or artwork. patterned tile steals the show in the best way possible: without obstructing space or distracting from the primary function of the room. 

speaking of function, a patterned tile floor does more than simply bring sophistication and style to your space: it also protects your home against possible washing machine leaks or the inevitable detergent spill.

3. consider an accent wall

zellige 4x4 in weathered white. design: britney groneck / photo: land thomas interiors

when it comes to tile in the laundry room, why just stick to the floor? you can have tile on both the floor and the wall, creating a backsplash area between counters and cupboards. 

to pack a punch in a small or narrow laundry room, a tiled accent wall creates a point of focus, drawing you in while maximizing design potential in a small or narrow space. 

an accent wall is also a great place to bring in contrast, whether between colors or patterns: contrast creates a natural partition in the space, making small spaces seem larger and giving you a unique backsplash for sinks, floating shelves, or drying racks. 

don’t forget: your laundry room appliances should be part of your design plan as well. today, washing machines and dryers come in every color imaginable, so you can match your machines to walls and floors, or choose a bright color for even more contrast. 

4. the more the merrier: you don’t have to choose just one tile

floor: zio & sons zellige in natural octagon + sea salt bouchon; backsplash: zellige 4x4 in moroccan sea salt. design: becki owens / photo rebekah westover

zellige 4x4 in moroccan sea salt. design: becki owens / photo rebekah westover

if you are having a hard time deciding on one tile for your laundry room, we have some good news: you don’t have to. we actually encourage mixing tiles, especially those with contrasting shapes, colors, patterns, and textures. 

if you’ve fallen in love with a tile and don’t feel the need to pair it with another one, consider using the same tile on both the walls and floor (maybe even the ceiling?) to create a wrap-around, cohesive look. 

5. think about maintenance

cement pattern square in slant. design: modern venice homes / photo: here and now agency

cement pattern square in rio. design: chelsea lauren interiors / photo: chad mellon

everything about your laundry room should be designed to optimize ease, cleanliness, and organization. this means keeping your laundry room clean should not become a chore unto itself, and there are some simple choices that can help you accomplish this. 

if you are installing tile on the laundry room floor, choose a tile that is easy to wipe clean. (cement, ceramic, slate) these tiles must be sealed and re-sealed, yet do not require much maintenance outside of that. 

another way to keep your laundry room easy to clean is to avoid thick grout lines when you install tile on the floor. 

while thicker grout lines often look great, they can require more maintenance, especially in humid areas. tile that can be installed with minimal grout spacing (cement or slate) provides a smooth and easy to clean surface, and can still bring plenty of design interest.

chalk it up to the pandemic-era obsession with cleanliness. or our new-found love of tradition. or our collective desire to romanticize all aspects of home keeping. but whatever the cause, we’re (finally) giving the laundry room the attention it deserves. and it all starts with tile.

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