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The most timeless bathroom floor tile ever: 4″ white hexagon

Is 4″ white hexagon tile, specified for floors, the most timeless modern bathroom floor tile ever? I declare: Yes, it is. And it’s not easy to find today: Above, from Classic Tile New York.

Why do these 4″ hex tiles make my very-hard-to-achieve “modern-era timeless” list?

  • Remember: My modern-era timeless era starts after World War II. That’s when the way we live in America — in terms of the interior of our homes and the main products in them — shifted dramatically. Since then, the new modern basics — indoor plumbing, electricity, fitted kitchens — have not changed that much.
  • My modern-timeless list tends to include products that would fit in any decade thereafter. To “fit” that means they generally haven’t been insanely “in” style — or “out” of style. They have not generally been — ack! — that word to run screaming from: “trendy”.
  • 4″ (ish) square ceramic field tiles, including in light pastels, are timeless for bathroom walls. If you really want to hedge decades, go for ivory, bone, rose beige, or light grey. 
  • And now I declare: 4″ hex floor tiles are timeless for floors. I really like the hex for floors better than squares because the hex gives the floors a bit of motion. Use a concrete-colored gray grout or darker to hide the dirt.
  • Note: When specifying floor tile, consult with experts to make sure the tile you want is specified for floors. Flooring has its own particular specifications, I believe; I am not the expert.

Update: Thanks to reader TK, who also spotted 3.75″ white porcelain hex tiles from Merola via Home Depot — great price — super easy to access:

Link love:

CategoriesBathroom Tile
  1. Karen Johnson says:

    Just bought a 1959 rambler. Cutom built at the time. Four and a half baths, every one with hex tile on the floor and vanities: wood brown, green and pink. I fear replacements will be impossible, and we’ll have to settle for substitution.

  2. Craig says:

    Our house is a mid-century modern ranch circa 1954 and has 6″ beige hexagons in the entry. They may not be original to the house but we love them. They remind us of cells in a bee hive. We also have a pink bathroom!

  3. Mary Elizabeth says:

    Regarding subway tile, I suppose you could call it timeless because it’s been in the New York City subways since 1903 and it’s still there. Having gone to school in NYC, I tend to associate the tile so closely to the subway that I can’t imagine it in my kitchen or bath. 🙂

    1. Pam Kueber says:

      Again, my “timeless” standard starts at post-WW-II and asks, what was used since then, continuously, so that you likely could not date it. Subway tiles fail in my rubric.

      1. Good heavens, that got some people fired up! In pondering the different comments, the English nerd in me questioned the understanding of the word “timeless,” and my interpretation is something that holds its value, whether that be economic or aesthetic. I find these tiles to be “timeless” because if I were to buy a home with these tiles — in good repair — I would not think, “wretched things need to go!” I would think they are timeless in that they look attractive, whatever their age and I can work with them as I make the house my own. Just because they were/are hard to find does not remove their beauty, or “timeless” appeal.

  4. Re says:

    My mother had these tiles in her house which was built in 1975 in Louisiana. In fact, most of the houses on her street had the same hexagon floor tiles and all were built by the same builder. Maybe they were popular in certain areas of the country, and with individual builders.

  5. Allison says:

    Are you saying these 4 inch hexes were something that was common post-war?

    Because I don’t recall EVER seeing large hex floor tile in a mid century home. Maybe I just was never in a section of the country where they were popular, but my experience is certainly quite different. I don’t recall seeing these large hexes in the shelter magazines I’ve collected from the period either.

      1. carla says:

        Although I would never put myself out there as an expert, like Allison I too will say these large hexes are something I have never seen in all my years of garage sale/estate sale buying & selling, norfrom me and extended family and friends living and buying houses from the 1930s through 1970s. Perhaps this is a regional thing: my experience has been exclusively western: Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Wa, Or, and Ca. I have seen Many, many bathrooms with the smaller hexes, throughout many time periods. But never the larger ones. So I do not dispute your timeless moniker for them: just startled by it, since it is something I’ve never seen. I am especially interested in this topic as this summer we are moving back into our 1938 cottage. The renters destroyed the original sparkle laminate floor in the bathroom, and I have been thinking about tile…

          1. JC says:

            I have lived in a 1939 house and a 1950 house where these were the original bathroom floor tiles. In Dallas, Tex.

            1. Liz says:

              Same, in a 1963 house in Arkansas. My parents’ bathroom had the 4″ white hex tiles (still does, actually).

      2. Allison says:

        I’m not arguing that they were never ever used, Pam, just that they could not have been common in the parts of the country I have lived in over the past 60 odd years. Without pretending to be an expert, I’d think I would have been in a house that had them if they *were* commonly used, like the small hexes or mosaics were.

        Could they have been institutional? Or is this just something you see a lot of in the Northeast but not elsewhere?

    1. Good observation — my original 1955 green tile bathroom had dark green 3-inch hex. After plumbers dug up the bathroom floor and destroyed it (I heard later from another plumber that they could have done the repair by going in underneath, from outside the house, but I digress), I tried and tried in vain to locate that size in a floor tile. I absolutely did not want white to go with the original grayish-green wall tile, so that severely limited my choices. I finally compromised with a light green 4-inch hex floor tile from B&W. It’s okay, but how I wish I could have found the authentic size! If ANYONE makes that today, I just don’t know who.

  6. ineffablespace says:

    Ok, maybe “Classic Modernism” or “A modernist classic”.
    I kinda have a hard time thinking about anything that’s 70 years old as “timeless”. Europe laughs at us for calling a 100 year old house “old”.

      1. Jay says:

        Correct me if I’m wrong but the product is something like 11″ x 11″. Does the super large size still count?

        1. Pam Kueber says:

          I thought that at first too, but if you read the specs closer you see that each tile is just under 4″

    1. ineffablespace says:

      Hmm. I always feel like the hair and fluff is there whether you see it or not, and the earlier I see it the earlier it is to get rid of it. Just my opinion.

  7. ineffablespace says:

    Pam, as much as I would like 4″ hex to be timeless. . . not so much. Because “not easy to find today” and “timeless” don’t really belong in the same sentence.

    I think for something to be timeless, it has to be available perennially whether it’s on trend or not, whether people are even really buying it for residential use or not. 4″ hex doesn’t quite fit the bill for me, because it is not offered by multiple vendors in multiple colors, sitting in the back pages of some companies catalog waiting for someone to order it.

    4-1/4″ square tile qualifies as timeless because it’s offered by different vendors in a lot of colors both dictated by fashion and not, and 2″ hex does for the same reasons, bolstered by Daltile who not only offer many colors of 2″ square and hex but also offer obscure trim pieces that are special order, but they offer them nonetheless. When I ordered the cove/cove inside corner and the cove to 90-degree inside corner pieces, I was the first person who had ordered some of those pieces in the rep’s territory in over a year.

    They must do enough volume in commercial or institutional setting with some of this stuff to keep offering it.

    So I think for 4″ hex to be “timeless” again, it would have to have a resurgence like 3×6 subway did–and be available readily and maybe even become ubiquitous for a short period of time to entire the timeless category.

    People call subway tile “timeless” and maybe it is now because of its resurgence (and it’s second decline, now) but I think anybody who was looking for subway tile before the latter part of the nineties know it was Not timeless at that time, because it was almost impossible to find and very expensive when you did.

    1. Chad says:

      I agree that subway tile is considered timeless but don’t know if I agree that it actually is. The original subway tile I’ve seen from the early 1920’s or before did not have the same rounded edges as what you see later. The tiles were completely flat with very thin grout joints. So when I see new subway tile I think it’s unmistakably new even if it’s traditional in style and neutral enough that it goes with just about anything. Personally I’m biased toward thinking small mosaic floor tiles are timeless because they’ve basically been around for the entire history of bathrooms, but they subtly changed over time. The circa 1925-1955 Art Deco-ish look feels timeless to me but it was also out of favor for a while after its long run.

      I think my parents’ master bathroom used to have light grey hex tile similar to this on the floor. I think it dated to the late 80’s, installed by the previous owner along with new vanities and Corian banjo tops into all the circa 1951 bathrooms.

      1. Pam Kueber says:

        Subway tiles are not timeless — and had very little if any use during the midcentury modern era and for a few decades after. They are a recent revival after scores of years in abeyance.

      2. ineffablespace says:

        No, lots of people call subway tile timeless but it’s not, because of its long absence (decades) during most of the twentieth century. Since the “modern” bathroom is from the twentieth century, subway tile has really been out of favor much longer than it was in. (maybe it’s going to be sorta timeless because of its’ strong resurgence even in non-period-style bathrooms.
        4×4 tile is more timeless if you have to call anything timeless. By the 1920s I think more tile was square than not, and it’s never been completely out of use since.

        I don’t think there is really anything that is completely timeless because nothing is applied the same way over and over in the same way in a design vacuum. Everything is influenced on some level by the current culture.

        In America I think the general overall style that comes the closest to timeless is the various permutations of Colonial Revival which is an outgrowth of Federal which is a purely American style and Georgian. Things of this style have been built since the country was started, and even those revivals are influenced by whatever the contemporary culture was so that we have highly Victorianized “Centennial” colonial revival, and subsequent revivals around 1900, 1920 with deco influences, and post-War with midcentury influences and so on.

        1. Pam Kueber says:

          Again: My “timeless” picks all aim to relate the modern era beginning 1946, when we began living like we still live today.

    2. Pam Kueber says:

      I tend to think that 4×4 hexes have only been “out” for about the past decade. Before that, long run. I’m sticking with my pick!

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