I am an unabashed die hard fan of Fixer Upper. When people tell me they don’t know what that is I die a little inside. One of the newest episodes from Season 5 — the Safe Gamble House — really stood out. Yes, it’s a mid century mod dream home, but it was the bathroom’s ungrouted tile that was ultra special to me.
The handmade backsplash tiles for the bath are left ungrouted to showcase the raw, rough edges of the tile. The ungrouted tile looks stunning, especially in contrast to the high-gloss deep blue texture of the tile itself. Oh Jo, you’re always coming up with quirky ideas.
But wait, low and behold, I stumbled across another project where ungrouted tile had been left in all its glory in the shower! And I’m like, pause life, is this a new trend, or is this something that I’m just out of touch with. So, I start thinking back to all the homes I’ve toured (virtually and in person) in the course of my writing career and I’m trying to recall if I’ve seen this before. The truth is that I can’t remember, but I really don’t think I have.
The above photo is from a project by Decus Interiors called the Woolahra House. The Woolahra House is a home in New South Wales, Austrailia. The bathrooms are completely different, but you can see how the same design concepts have been applied successfully in similar, but divergent ways. The designers described the Woolahra house as an optimistic explosion of colour, where organic materiality has been employed to anchor the design. One of those examples of “organic materiality” is the handmade ungrouted tile, with its raw and unrefined ceramic edges that contrast the chic finish.
In both above cases the homes are inner city urban dwellings, yet the ungrouted tile lends a rustic and pastoral vibe that is somehow still edgy.
So I did a little digging. Becauase every time I google “ungrouted tile” I get these results that are basically like, “OMG YOU CAN’T LEAVE YOUR TILE UNGROUTED, BECAUSE WATER.” But, grout doesn’t make your surface waterproof, so I call bogus on that argument. However, I think it takes a special type of tile to execute this design correctly — specifically hand cut or handmade tiles. Tiles that are formed individually by hand have a level of uniqueness and an absence of uniformity to their individual shapes that lends itself to being ungrouted. I’m certain that machine cut commercial tiles just wouldn’t get the job done.
What’s the verdict? I dig it, but would you leave your tile ungrouted?