How to Live with Garish Bathroom Tiles

As a renter in a not so modern area of the city, I’ve had to live with my share of ugly home dÃ?©cor. I wish someone would let my landlords know that the era of avocado cabinets and faux wood paneling is long past, but unfortunately, they seem less concerned with beautifying their property than getting my rent check. It’s easy enough to replace the outdated, horrendous, and overtly quirky, but what happens when you’re either working within a very tight budget or renting? I’ve learned that redecorating can be either as expensive or as cheap as you make it. Moreover, a little, or better yet, a lot, of elbow grease can make a world of difference.

When it comes to bathroom floors, I don’t believe anyone can top my last home. Somehow, the colors of pink, lavender, baby blue, black, puke green, and yellow were chosen in solid colored octagon tiles to be laid in a V pattern haphazardly. My boyfriend and I came to the conclusion that they must have laid down whichever tiles they could find, regardless of color, in order to save money. Because even the color blind would be able to tell that their varying depths caused that bathroom floor to resemble pointillism gone horribly wrong.

At first we tried to cover the floor with numerous bath mats, but it was neither as cheap as we expected, nor as successful. We had a fairly large bathroom, about 12X8′, and at about $17 for a 21×34″ (from Target, they also vary depending on which size and brand you get) it took five spaced out to even begin to cover our bathroom floor. Yet, the tile that still showed in the areas between the mats became outstandingly ugly. Not to mention that coordinating the color was a hellish experience. Seeing as how we had nearly every color of the rainbow on the floor, we were stuck in a catch 22, any color would match some part of the tile, while simultaneously clashing with the rest. Additionally, while bathmats are convenient and plush, I love the feeling of new bathmats under my bare feet when I get out of the shower, they don’t offer much style. If anything, they take me back to the ’80s, when my parents used to coordinate all matching bathmats and toilet rugs to the floral shower curtain.

Next, I tried one, larger rug, however I ran into a couple problems, the first of which was expense. Even at places like Walmart and Target, large rugs don’t come very cheap, ranging anywhere from $60 for the cheaper quality to several hundred for the nicer ones. There are very plain and lower quality rugs which I found at Walmart though for about $30 for a 60X30″ one. However, if you’re artsy, or even if you just have a little bit of spare time, it’s not difficult to paint it. Measure out a border and tape it off using painters tape, if you have a steady hand you can free hand a pattern within, but if you don’t feel comfortable there are plenty of sponge stamps or stencils that you can purchase for relatively cheap from a craft store. If you want something more geometric, use the painters tape to tape out shapes or a grid. Just make sure that you use waterproof paint, I’ve found that plain old latex paint I had left over worked just fine and withstood even my dog s trampling all over it. But the problem with regular rugs is that they’re not meant to withstand moisture, and if you plan on very hot showers or giving your kids a bath, the water might cause the rugs to mold eventually.

An alternative to a traditional area rug in the bathroom is a naturally woven mat, like a jute rug. However, jute rugs are incredibly expensive, ranging from about $160 at Target, which was the cheapest one I could find, to an average of $300 from places like Pottery Barn and online manufacturers. I was perusing Bed Bath and Beyond one day though when I stumbled upon some woven bamboo place mats for $2 each and I realized they were the exact texture I was looking for in the bathroom. I bought 20 of them and sewed the edges together using a whip stitch and regular tan colored thread in a 4×5 pattern. (In retrospect, I realize that if I had purchased those placemats which had cloth borders, this step would have been considerably easier, however, even without the cloth it wasn’t very difficult to sew them together.) This rug was the one I used in my bathroom until I moved out, and it proved to be very convenient as it was easy to clean, and even replace, as proven when my dog chewed the corner and all I had to do was buy a replacement $2 placemat. I later created a custom fit to the bathroom because the little bit of tile that showed around the toilet irked me, and people constantly raved about my wonderful, woven bamboo floor. However, if you plan on doing this as opposed to a large rug, you need to be very careful about measurements and be sure to always use cardboard templates, especially in tricky areas like around the toilet or the base of a pedestal sink. Also, be sure to secure the rug, I used sticky tape around the edges underneath the rug and it worked just fine. If you have a regular rug though, just make sure you put a rubber mat beneath it so it doesn’t slip. If you really want the mat to feel more like a floor and not a rug, get a couple bathmats and put them on top of the mat, such as in front of the toilet or the shower.

If there is absolutely no way to cover your floor, either for allergy or budget purposes, you can work around it as well. The biggest mistake that people seem to make are either to ignore the tile wholly and create a theme that does not coordinate whatsoever or use bright patterns to distract from the garish tile. The whole point is to mute the tile, and using other patterns or clashing colors only draws more attention to it. If your tile is a solid color, or relatively within the same color family, try to use those colors for inspiration. Just because the tile is an obnoxious shade of orange, however, does not mean that you should paint your bathroom to match. Play off of the color, and get accessories or paint that fall close to it on the color wheel or a muted version of the color. Avoid at all costs colors that are directly opposite to it on the color wheel (blue is opposite to orange, yellow to purple, red to green, etc.) because those are the hues that will cause the tile to pop. If your tile is like my unfortunate bathroom, it is a little harder simply because the myriad of colors makes it hard to coordinate. Try to stick to the ground color (the most dominant one) or choose a neutral that will match everything. Avoid white because it tends to be sterile against really bright patterns, and try grays, tans, beiges, blacks, and even cream. Remember, decorating without any heed to the ugly tile will only cause the tile to become even more prominent as the sore thumb in the room.

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