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How to Use Grout as a Design Element in Tile Installation

Some of the most common questions our design experts get aren’t actually about tile. In fact, they revolve around grout. Surprising? Not to us, because of two key factors: 

  1. Grout is an essential part of the installation process, and
  2. Grout isn't confined to just installation. It can be so much more. 

When used thoughtfully and deliberately, using grout as a design element can deliver a delightful twist to even the most standard tile installations. Here are some considerations when embarking upon your next tile project.

Bringing Surfaces to Life

Grout does serve a functional purpose. It is necessary for the construction process; solidifying the surface and preventing any potential damage or wear. But, that’s just one part of its overall contribution to any tile project. 

Just as other design features meld together to complete a space (paint color, lighting, furniture, fixtures), grout can elevate a tile’s presence and bring it to life. Whether you choose a grout that matches, complements, or contrasts with a tile selection, you’re incorporating a nuance that is far beyond “function.”

Experimenting with Grout Joint Size

Grout joint size is another detail that opens up design possibilities.
Sarah Sherman Samuel’s bathroom renovation is a perfect example of how joint size can be an integral part of the design. As Sarah notes, using grout this way was an “experiment; something I had never seen done before.”

Using clé’s modern farmhouse brick in white matte, Sarah installed an extra-large one-inch grout line horizontally, and a 1/8-inch grout line vertically. She used TEC Power Grout in “bright white” to complete the look. 

Given that this was a new design approach, Sarah had hesitated before sharing it with her audience. But, once she did, her experiment was met with broad-based curiosity and acclaim, and a trend was born.

That first foray has now served as inspiration for a limitless combination of different colored tiles, shapes, grout ratios, grout colors to create new and unique layouts.

Also noteworthy: our recently launched Fornace Brioni + clé’s Casale Rustico–a tile  that came about as the result of our appreciation of grout as a design element. Casale Rustico grew out of clé founder Deborah Osburn’s desire to create new design possibilities with rustic white tile. To do that, she created two bundles that show off what both the tile and a bolder use of grout can do. 

The normale bundle allows you to set the individual tiles with tighter joins, while the misto bundle is a more artistic and textural approach to an installation with large and random grout joints that transform a simple white tiled surface into a sophisticated interplay of tile and grout. 

Getting Creative with Grout’s Palette

Grout comes in a wide variety of shades, allowing designers to use that palette in different artistic applications. Compared to tile’s centuries-old history, the trend of using colored grout is quite recent, only emerging over the past 50 years. This means the tile community still has a lot to learn about using colored grout—but it also gives designers the opportunity to infuse a unique aesthetic that can range from striking to subtle.

In a past post, we highlighted how application of different grout colors can dramatically change the look and tone of tile. For example, pairing a very light-colored grout with a white or light-colored tile allows the tile to take center stage while the grout rests quietly in the background. Alternatively, pairing a dark color grout with white/light tile makes a bold statement and really highlights the desired layout or pattern.

With dark tiles, using a darker grout color will create an uninterrupted, consistent look. Matching (or closely matching) tile and grout color in this way may also make a room appear larger. 

Sometimes, contrasting too much can give a space a “busy” look. But, if the tile itself has a design feature that serves as a focal point, contrasting grout colors can provide a nice balance.

Ultimately, grout color choice is best left to the discretion of our clients, their designers, or their contractors, as they are the ones who really have a first-hand look at the installation. 

Grout: An Overlooked Piece in an Important Range of Design Elements

We find we’re often inspired by the directions in which designers are taking the tile/ grout combination: Pinterest and Instagram are both fertile territory when it comes to new discoveries. When shaping your vision, don’t forget to explore different grout options. Often overlooked, it may be the unexpected design element that elevates your project to perfection.


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