A Wild Tile Chase: Geese Got Nothing On This

If you’ve been around here for the last week or so, you know that I have two showers ready for tile, and exactly zero tiles picked out to finish them off with.

Trust me, I’ve been looking at samples, magazines, tile shops, and occasionally peeping my head into the bathrooms of unsuspecting strangers uh, friends. Thus far, I haven’t been punched in the face or thrown in jail, but it’s really only a matter of time.

But a couple of weeks ago, Robin @ 3Acres (who sends me the best inspiration pictures, by the way) uploaded this gorgeous kitchen in one of her comments:

And can I say I just love that tile? Well, actually, that’s exactly what I did, I said, “Robin, I love that tile. Do you think it would work in a bathroom?” And the next thing I know she sends me this from a post on Things That Inspire:

And I’m all, “Wha..oh! Wait. I can’t…wh…ah… OH MY GOD I NEED THAT TILE.” I am telling you all, that is the tile that is meant to be in my full bath. The “subtle taupe of the handmade subway tile” according to Holly from Things That Inspire, is exactly what I need. And now all I had to do was find this exact tile.

Something like this tile, even.

Something where you could squint one eye and blink and make yourself think it was this tile.

So let me tell you how that went. In fact, I thought I’d illustrate it so you could get the full effect of my experience.

I wasn’t worried because there was a link to this tile on Holly’s website: Renaissance Tile & Bath


I know, I know, I have high expectations in thinking that your product website would contain pictures of your product, a search bar, or a got-damned email address.

It did include a fax number though, and I’m considering faxing them a copy of this cartoon.At this point, I am discouraged, but I still have hope. I am not opposed to doing some legwork.

Okay, now I’m starting to lose patience.

No kidding, I spend three hours searching the website of every distributor in every state for a subtle taupe handmade subway tile. I resort to sending pictures of the kitchen and bath in emails to the two tile distributors that actually have emails on their website.

Actual excerpt from one of these emails:

Wonderful sales people of Palmer Todd,

I’m not located in San Antonio (even though I am a fan of the great state of Texas). I’m actually a quite desperate homeowner/home builder in the currently frozen state of Michigan. I’m looking for a tile manufactured by Renaissance Tile… I found my way to you from their otherwise completely uninformative website. I believe what I’m looking for is from their Nest collection. I’ve attached an image with the tile I’m looking for, is there any chance that you can identify this tile and/or that I can purchase samples from you?

I thought my email contained all of the important elements: gratuitous flattery, italics to emphasize my desperation, and an offer to pay for their services. Guess how many responses I got?

I tried googling all variations of “subtle taupe tile handmade subway glazing I’m about to go crazy from searching for this tile” which was about as effective as you would suspect.

And then slumped over my keyboard and passed out for the next twelve hours.

I spent a lot of time last week at my local tile shops looking for something similar. They both carried a handmade subway tile! I brought samples home!

None of the samples were “subtle taupe”.

I braved the elements on my lunch breaks in search of just the right color…

And I finally threw my hands up in the air and paid an exhorbant amount of money for one case of 4″ square tiles in “canvas”. (Far right.)

Which is “grayer” than subtle taupe, but not as pink as the other options.I figured I could lay out a couple square feet and see how I really feel about it before making a big commitment. I’m thinking of using the 4″ tiles in a brickwork pattern instead of subway tiles, which will work better for the edges I’m wrapping, hopefully.

What I do like about these hand glazed tiles is the variation in the color. I’m not going to do any kind of accent bar, I’m just going to keep it simple and let the natural variations in the tile be the “interesting” part.

Or I’m going to scrap this whole idea and go with something else entirely. Stranger things have happened. Like this one time, I visited a website that didn’t have an email address on it.

22 Responses

  1. I’m here to help if I can. I am a former Renaissance Tile and Bath Employee (7yrs) and know a few things about tile. If you are still looking, I am happy to assist in any way I can.

    Nest is “their” line of tile, probably manufactured in mexico. It is probaby closest available to you in Chicago through Materials Marketing, Inc. If you want something CLOSE to that, then I suggest Pratt and Larson which is available at Viginia Tile Co., and they are in several MI locations and a website here, http://www.virginiatile.com/index.php.

    Having been to the factory at Pratt and Larson and seeing how amazing the process is, I’m certain you will find something you love. While it may not be subtle taupe, the quality will be exceptional with P&L and their colors are fantastic.

    While it’s been some time since my previous tile life, I still love and appreciate the industry and am hopeful this will help you.

    BEST OF LUCK! Will look for updates!

    1. Well Lisa, you are an ANGEL. The first thing I saw on the virginia tile website was a subway tile by Walker Zanger that could very well be subtle taupe. I’m going to be driving up to one of their locations soon. I really appreciate the help!

      1. Good Luck! I know it’s frustrating, but sooooo worth it. A word of caution, don’t fall in LOVE with the WZ until you find out the lead time, it can be a deal breaker sometimes!

        Can’t wait to see the finished product!

  2. I feel your pain. When I was desperately looking for white basketweave for a gray dot for our main bath I called nearly 40 tile places asking if they had it. A few didn’t even know what basketweave was. YOU WORK AT A TILE SHOP AND DON’T KNOW WHAT BASKETWEAVE IS? I hope you find it!

  3. I hate when you finally find something you love and then you can’t find it. Seems to happen to me all the time.

    Hopefully the first commentor’s link helps!

      1. Oh my god Ron, I see that that PDF came from their website and I swear I looked at all applicable information I could find on the website.

        Am I crazy?

        Actually. Don’t answer that.

        Thank you!

    1. Thanks Liz! I think cashew is exactly the “color” I’m going for… not totally sold on the glass tiles yet, but I’m going to order a sample. I’m almost at the point where I’ll be able to tile half the house in just samples.

    1. Haha. You know that crossed my mind once or twice. I don’t think I could pull it off in time for a march move in date though…

  4. Here I thought I was being so helpful and all I was doing was sending you on a wild goose chase! Gah that must be so frustrating! WZ has some ridiculously beautiful and pricey tile hopefully you can find something that works in your budget.

    We have a truly authentic subway tile maker here in southern WI that makes high quality handmade tiles that can have super thin grout lines (similar to rectified but different). It’s a mom & pop store who might be able to make and ship you out some fast:


    They don’t have pictures of all of their glaze options online but the crackle khaki could work if you don’t mind the crackle. It might be worth giving them a quick call.

    1. I swear I actually found this website in my search. I think. It’s so hard to remember, it’s all a blur.

      And thank you for those inspiration pictures, it WAS a wild tile chase, but at least I know what I want now. It’s a way better place to be in!

  5. Totally frustrating! Luckily for you, you have an awesome blog that people all over read. According to their website, Renaissance Tile & Bath has a dealer right near me in Paramus NJ. I could swing up there and mail you some samples, if you want. {You have my email if you want to work out details.}

    1. Carrie, you are a doll. If I get desperate(r) I may totally take you up on this offer, but thanks to a lot of great links people are posting, I’ve got about 50 new samples on their way right now!

  6. It looks like the tile in the inspiration kitchen is glass and has anopulescent glaze…. It could even be clear-ish with a “subtle taupe” grout that shows through… ? Maybe. Best of luck on your quest!!

    1. Canda – These are great (and way cheaper than some of the other tiles I was looking at) I’ve totally ordered samples!

  7. Echoing Carrie — there’s three dealers within an hour of me. I can swing by and mail you some. Subsequently, I’m in LOVE with the tile — so now I’ll be swinging by and drooling over it for myself.

    Can’t wait to see the updates.

  8. I have written some fifty or sixty blogs on tile, because it is one of my dominant interests. A lot of the ones I write about are available only in Italy, but some time back I came across THE tile manufacturer in the USA. They are Artistic Tile, and these people make pretty much every kind of tile that ever was. You might even want to look beyond subway tile, as they have some marble-like tile that would do glorious things for a shower surround. Here is a link to that site:


    I believe their headquarters is in the New York City area, but they are available throughout the USA. They have something like a hundred different outlets.

    Just thought I’d give you some more choices to fry your brain a little. But, seriously, check them out. I don’t believe you could go wrong with them.

  9. Congratulations on possessing one of probably the most sophisticated blogs Ive arrive across in a while! Its just extraordinary just how much it is possible to get away from something just because of how visually beautiful it’s. Youve put together a awesome blog space –great graphics, videos, layout. This really is certainly a must-see blog!

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