CERAMIC TILE is a totally appropriate and authentic material for midcentury bathrooms — and for kitchens, too. I’ve had several readers ask about this over the past few months – so this post is long overdue. Q. Why don’t I focus on tile countertops as much as laminate? Hmm. A. I think it’s because my two bathroom vanities both had laminate so I’m stuck in that mindset. Second, we talked about it when we renovated the bathroom, but my husband really hates tile countertops – says it’s too hard to keep the grout clean. Although: Bronwyn and Greg’s vintage original bathroom sink looks pretty darned good. Dig the green and color combination! Also, this must be tile countertop week – because we featured Jane’s new bathroom vanity yesterday, too. Jane, why did you choose tile. Any tips?

All that said, here’s what I think I know about tile countertops:

  • I’ve researched so-called “tile in” sinks, and the only ones available that I could find are (2) round sinks from Kohler and (2) vintage. I guess the round sinks from Kohler would be fine if you can find round-edge trim pieces???

    Kohler Caxton tile-in or metal-rim bathroom sink
    Kohler Caxton tile-in or metal-rim bathroom sink
  • I think you should not use glossy tile on a countertop. Will scratch. Use matte, which I think may also be called satin finish by some manufacturers. (You always use a matte/satin or unglazed tile on floors. Even matte/satin can get slippery when wet.)
  • You’ll want to use L-shaped bullnose around the edge of the counter. There are corner-pieces, too.
  • If you need/want thick tile or bullnose — I don’t have an answer for you. The tile today — which is not mud-set like the old stuff — is much thinner.

Tile countertops actually can be the most affordable solution, especially if you are handy and can do this job yourself. I also think they are quite cheery and functional – with the potential to last longer than laminate.

  1. Haley says:


    I have a question, or rather a cry for help. We are about to buy the cutest 1952 time capsule house. It has a ton of original character- original kitchen and bathrooms, intercom system and some great lighting fixtures through-out. One of the best things about the house is the BEAUTIFUL pink and black tiled bathroom. Here comes the bad news…I’m searching through your archives trying to find a place to look for a replacement sink because the perfectly pink existing sink has huge cracks in it. Did someone drop a bowling ball in it??? The answer remains a mystery. Anyhow, this post caught my eye because the sink in the picture is very similar to ours, hexagonal with square edges and tiled in the same way. Is there a name for this shape that I can use when searching online? Is this actually an “under-mount”, or is it a wall mount set into the vanity?


    1. pam kueber says:

      Use the search box, it works pretty well. It’s just called a tile-in sink.

      Methinks you will need vintage, if it’s tile-in. Try deabath.com and salvage places.

  2. Hi Pam,
    I’m doing some research as I ponder renovating my bathroom. It’s a 1920s house but the bath was renovated by a previous owner who created this weird rounded sink cabinet with a tile countertop (all hand-done) which goes over the sink (I have pictures if you’re curious :).

    I’m trying to decide what era to recreate when renovating (thinking of subway tiles and hexagon floors like your mom’s new bath). With the tiny size of the bathroom and limited storage, the counter is actually pretty handy, but we’ll probably move to a pedestal sink (hopefully a salvaged one). Trying to figure out if I should replace the tile counter with a new one (but that might be too odd with the pedestal floating out there). I’m a bit stumped, looking for inspiration here. Any ideas or other places to poke around on your site for ideas?

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