Classic mosaic flooring from yesteryear is enjoying a comeback

Beloved for their old-fashioned charm, small mosaic tiles are resonating with homeowners who want floors that are uniquely patterned and boldly expressive. From itty-bitty hexagons to miniature squares, tiny tiles are back in a big way.

“Mosaics are appealing because they can adapt to different period styles and can be used in so many applications; they’re both timeless and versatile,” says Keith Bieneman, owner of Heritage Tile in Oak Park, Ill. “They’re also wildly photogenic.”

The intricate tile pattern for this master bath was created by senior designer Chelsie Lee of Jessica Helgerson Interior Design. (Photo by Christopher Sturman via The Washington Post)

He’s not kidding: Intricately tiled floors have been on the upswing in recent years, thanks in large part to the Instagram account @ihavethisthingwithfloors. Started by three Dutch friends who share a fondness for taking pictures of their footwear against striking floor patterns, the feed curates images of marzipan-hued mosaics from all over the world. For more than 812,000 followers, the timeworn entries of old hotels and hat shops from Lisbon to Los Angeles serve as a reminder to look down and appreciate the history beneath your feet.

Unsurprisingly, homeowners want to bring the vintage feel of the eye-catching tile they see elsewhere into their own homes. That some of these mosaics look as if they require an advanced degree in mathematics and an abundance of time to lay out only adds to their allure.

“There’s definitely an appreciation for the way things used to be made,” says Erin Oliver, vice president of Little Rock-based American Restoration Tile. “Mosaics aren’t fast and they don’t look like everything else on the market.”

According to Bieneman, mosaic tile first became popular in the United States in the late 1800s, when plumbing came indoors and the need for a sanitary surface became paramount for germ-obsessed Victorians. Porcelain flooring was imported from England, but as demand for indoor bathrooms grew, American manufacturers started to produce smaller unglazed porcelain tiles. Soon basket weave, penny-round and hex designs became ubiquitous in homes.

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