Victorian house tiling ideas - Grand Designs Magazine
Blend your kitchen island into your flooring as an updated tiling idea


Victorian house tiling ideas

Tiling ideas for Victorian homes run the gamut from penny rounds to encaustic. Discover these fresh looks to bring modern tiling to your home.

By Sara D'Souza |

In  the 19th century Victorian era life was booming, prospering from the wealth of the Industrial Revolution and boundaries were being pushed with design and style, not least with their tiling. Sadly, over the years a lot of Victorian tiling got covered over with cheap vinyl or carpet, but there are so many benefits to tiles. They’re versatile, easy to clean and hold their value, and there are some incredible tiling ideas.

Increases in tile technology and production mean it’s easier than ever to bring some of the beauty of Victorian tiling to your home, if yours are unsalvageable. From modern mosaics to penny rounds and encaustic to large format, these tiling ideas will bring the wow-factor to your home.

Modern mosaics

Intricate geometric tile patterns were a signature in Victorian style and were as elaborate as they were beautiful. It was a time of real creativity and Victorian mosaic tiling used a technique known as tesserae, which is defined as “a small block of stone, tile, glass, or other material used in the construction of a mosaic”. The small tiles were cut and laid in ornate patterns. What made the Victorian era especially interesting was the experimental use of colour from reds to turquoise. The Baked Tile Company is a great place to look if you want to bring the mosaic style into your home.

The Penny Tile (or Penny rounds) is another way of bringing the mosaic look into your home, with hundreds of tiny round tiles with a smooth finish. Often seen in European cafes, the penny round is a design classic. Opt for a single colour, or a mix, glossy or matte. Porcelain Superstore have a lovely range of Penny round tiling ideas which have a Carrara marble feel.

Get creative with mosaic tiles in your boot room
Image credit: Baked Tile Company

Large format marble tiling ideas

Proportion wise, large format tiling is most commonly seen on floors, but you could flip the perspective and put them on walls. Large format sizing is typically defined as any tile that’s over 15 inches. Large format tiles are a good option if you have a smaller room, as they can give the illusion of space (and are particularly good in small Victorian bathrooms and kitchens). As ever, it’s a balance, you don’t want to go so big that the size of the tile overwhelms the room.

Another benefit is that they don’t need as much cleaning as small tiles, given how much less grout they require. So you’ll benefit from less time spent scrubbing and re-sealing. Porcelain is one of the most common materials for a large format tile, but you can find elegant stone or quartz options. For a seamless tiling idea and luxurious look, cover your walls and floor in the same large format tile. Given the extra weight of a large format tile, installation can require professional help to work out the correct weight distribution and if there’ll be any support requirements like expansion joints.

Use large format tiles as an updated tiling idea

Image credit: Tile Warehouse

Blend your floor tiles into an island

Kitchen islands are ideal in Victorian homes, as they typically don’t have much counterspace and tiled kitchen islands are one of the latest trends to upgrade your kitchen in both style and function. Firstly, there’s a tiled kitchen island counter top, which was popular in the 1980s (and reminiscent of rustic bars around Europe), and are working their way back around again.

They fell out of fashion because they can be more high maintenance than their marble, granite, or quartz counterparts, most notably because of how much cleaning grout needs, but they can look fantastic when done well. They can add colour, texture, and style to your kitchen island. If you’re thinking of a tiled top, go for something with thin grout lines as you can, and when cleaning them, make sure you use something that’s food-safe.

For an easier way to bring creative tiling to your kitchen island look at tiling the front of the island. Tile Warehouse (pictured below) has seamlessly blended its island front into the kitchen floor and opted for a plain subway style tile on the wall.

Blend your kitchen island into your flooring as an updated tiling idea
Image credit: Tile Warehouse

Mix bright tiles with bold wallpaper

In the Victorian era bathrooms were seen as purely functional and the tiling ideas would have reflected that. Now we see the bathroom as a sanctuary and a place to retreat to away from a frenetic world and designs run the gamut from calm and soothing to bold and playful.

Consider mixing a vibrant tile, stripes as pictured below, are especially popular at the moment with a pattern wallpaper like the Divine Savages. Divine Savages is a Bath based company who have set out to help you be “braver in your choice of pattern and bolder in your choice of colour.” Traditionally we’ve shied away from putting wallpaper in a bathroom, but as long as you choose a durable breathable, wallpaper and apply it to your walls in the traditional way with paste, it will withstand the functionality of a bathroom.

Mix wallpaper with tiles for a modern update in a Victorian home

Image credit: Divine Savages

Victorian tiling chequerboard update

A defining style of the Victorian era was the classic black and white chequerboard, which was a way of bringing patterns into the home. Not that the chequerboard pattern was thought up by the Victorians: it was seen in the form of chess boards from as early as the 7th century, in beautiful handcrafted Zellige tiling originating in Morocco in the 10th century, and there’s evidence of it being used in Roman architecture and in Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Ca’ Pietra’s Brompton range is the ideal way of bringing the charm of chequerboard into your home, and is well suited to a high traffic area like a Victorian hallway, as it’s made from a very durable porcelain. Pictured is a mix of their Field Milk and Field Liquorice tiles.

Chequerboard is a Victorian tiling idea that is unlikely to go out of fashion

Image credit: Ca’ Pietra

Terracotta effect with a modern finish

In Italian, terracotta means quite literally “baked earth” and it’s a fired clay that’s been around for centuries. In the 19th century, there was a rediscovery of terracotta and it was popularised in Victorian architecture for its cost efficiency and durability and terracotta tiles were particularly popular in Victorian kitchens and sculleries.

You might find intact terracotta tiles buried under vinyl or carpet in your Victorian home, but if you want to recreate them, there are some great options. Hyperion Tiles’ Antique Burgundy Terracotta Reclaimed tiles have been sourced from historic sites in France and, given that they vary in size and colour, will bring a wonderful rich texture to your home.

Classic Victorian tiling with a terracotta finish

Image credit: Hyperion Tiles

Encaustic tiling ideas

Encaustic, literally means “burnt in” and was a popular way of creating tiles in the Victorian times. Essentially, the design was stamped into the body of the clay and filled with liquid clay or slip in a contrasting colour. When fired the two clays would fuse together and give a striking effect. Compared to other tiling techniques in the Victorian era, this was a relatively more expensive way of producing tiles and they were used more sparingly, than say terracotta.

Thomas Minton & Sons were one of the most reputable potters of the Victorian era and were tasked with laying the outstanding encaustic tiles at the Palace of Westminster. To bring the encaustic look to your home with a modern refresh, Bert & May’s Luna and Rose encaustic tiles are chic and stylish and perfect when laid on the floor and walls.

A fresh Victorian tiling update on encaustic tiles

Image credit: Bert & May

Splashback tiling ideas

A fresh idea to bring traditional Victorian tiling patterns into your home without committing to a whole floor, is to use it as a splashback for a wow-factor in your kitchen. The Arlington black tiles pictured are from Tile Warehouse, and are an easy way to bring the mosaic look into your home, as each tile is made up of six by six small tiles, so it looks like 36 tiny tiles, but is actually just one.

Good for high traffic areas, the Arlington tiles have an easy-to-lay mesh backing, so you can get the Victorian look with ease. They also come in red and white. Use Tile Warehouse’s tile visualiser app to see how the tiles would look in your home at the click of a button.

Use a floor tiling ideas as an updated splashback

Image credit: Tile Warehouse

Florals for spring

Just take a look at wildlife to see how inherent pattern is in our natural world. Yes, there’s chaos and unpredictability, but over and over again there’s pleasing repeating patterns that are incredibly calming to look at. The ancient Egyptians used tessellating shapes which were geometric, with no overlaps or gaps.

Given the prevalence of pattern in nature and the soothing impact is has on us, we should probably bring it in our homes more than we do. Of course, wallpaper is a great place to start with pattern and print, but there are increasingly beautiful options of exquisitely patterned tiles. Porcelain Superstore’s Tropaz Mint tiles have an eye-catching geometric pattern and are made from durable porcelain, so work well in showers and bathrooms. If you’d prefer to experiment with tiling ideas in the garden, patio, alfresco kitchen or water feature, these tiles are also suitable for outdoor use.

Bring a fresh approach to your tiling with a floral design

Image credit: Porcelain Superstore