What's old is new again, and lately, I've been living for an old-school tile installation style that now feels surprisingly modern: the stack bond—which, if you speak fluent home design, is just a fancy way of referring to tiles that are laid straight on top of one another in columns, as opposed to offset in a traditional brick or herringbone pattern. It’s more of a modern look for sure, and it fits in really well with more contemporary fixtures and finishes. But it’s also retro in the sense that you can find 50s and 60s interiors that sport this style. If you want to retain a little bit of that true old house character in your kitchen, bathroom, or wherever else you would put tile, you can do that by choosing classic subway tiles or even white ceramic squares. This kind of pattern would be particularly stunning for a fireplace or really anywhere you’re going for an elongated effect—maybe you have low ceilings or even want to emphasize a particularly lofty roofline.
The only problem, especially for the amateur but still relatively able DIY-ers like myself, is that I’m not sure I could be trusted to get this look 100 percent right. I’m type A to the max, so I would need my grid to look as uniform as a blank Excel sheet. The grout lines in this type of installation are essentially perfect vertical straight edges. Even with spacers, I still think the potential for messing up—even just a little—is high. What's the answer, beyond professional installation? Well, larger tiles, for starters, like the ones in this bathroom. There aren't as many grout lines, which means fewer opportunities to make a mistake.
Another option is to choose an already imperfect handmade tile, as seen in this bathroom. With these types of artisan tiles, you’re going to see slight variations in size, thickness, and finish from the get-go, so you can expect these things to impact the grout lines and overall look a bit as well, and that's more than okay. It can actually create an optical movement effect, which can be a great design tool to keep a room from falling flat or feeling stiff.
But if you’re drawn to this style for its rigor and uniformity (like me), then you probably want to go all-in with a smaller tile and those ruler-straight grout lines. Here’s the good news—I’ve started noticing more and more stores carrying stack bond sheets, especially in smaller field sizes. These sheets pretty much do all the heavy lifting of installation—beyond tile cutting, and I’m good with that. Some shortcuts are well worth taking, even in a home renovation.
Here are some of the sheets I have on my shopping radar. The only question now is whether to go horizontal or vertical with this stacks-on-stacks look.
This skinny blue glass option would be beautiful for a shower application.
Of course, Carrara marble is never not chic, so this stack bond sheet is no exception to this rule.