Are you looking for 4×4 wall tile in retro colors for your mid century bathroom remodel? I’m now up to about 35 places to search for 4×4 (ish) ceramic field tiles in vintage colors. The two things I look for: tile manufacturers with four inch square sizes and who carry vintage colors (or at least, some colors). My research includes a variety of options. For example, some readers are looking for new wall tile with all the different accent pieces for a gut remodel. Others are looking for replacement wall tiles. Some readers may want basic 4×4, others may be interested in more expensive, artisanal options.
Please see my May 2, 2016 story, Understanding potential lead hazards in old porcelain enamel bathtubs and sinks and ceramic tile of any age. This article focuses on raising awareness around three other potential sources of lead dust exposure in your home – old porcelain enamel bathtubs and sinks and ceramic tile of any era — and steps you can take to assess and, if required, address them. My research for this story also indicated that lead glazes may still be used on ceramic tile to this day. See the story for more information so you can do your own research on how to proceed in your hunt for tile and in completing your project.
Another note on safety / durability / installation issues, etc.: Check the tile you are considering for its use specifications. That is: Is it recommended for only walls, or walls and floors, etc? I am not an expert. It’s my experience that 4x4s were commonly used on vertical walls — but they may not necessarily be recommended for flooring applications. So, if you are considering these tiles for flooring, check with the manufacturer regarding whether the particular line you are considering is recommended for that use. Consult with your own pros.
Four approaches to finding retro color bathroom tile for your mid century bathroom
1. Retailers with classic 1950s and 1960s style ceramic wall tiles and colors at relatively affordable prices — generally big color selections with trim pieces too:
- B&W Tile — B&W Tile has been a long-time go-to place for new 4×4 tile made today because of their expansive vintage color selection + they can make all the bullnose and other accent pieces. Clay Squared, a company in Minneapolis, also sells the B&W line.
- Make It Mid Century — Make It Mid Century now comes on as a solid competitor, with an extensive collection of 4-1/4 square ceramic wall tiles. MIMC’s lineup includes two shades of pink and other retro colors like two light blues, speckled gold dust, salt and pepper, a warm gray, orchid (!), yellow, and seafoam. MIMC also carries all the trim pieces. Owner Susan suggests calling directly to place an order to get a custom invoice based on current shipping prices, etc. MIMC’s line comes from Nemo — but MIMC carries colors not shown on Nemo’s site. Susan also can provide a second line of 4×4 tiles she not shown on her website; she says: “Ceramica Vogue’ System line is another place that carries true 4” x 4” (not 4 ¼”). (Actually, since it’s an Italian line, it’s in centimeters.). They have some good colors, including a pink and purple. They also carry four different finishes, including some appropriate for flooring (although not in all colors). We can procure these tiles for interested customers.”
- Daltile — Daltile is probably the largest brand name in tile in the U.S. — and always a place we’d look. If you can find a color you like, you might be able to buy it via your local big box or tile store — and not be charged shipping. As of September 2021, their 4x4ish wall tiles seemed to be all grouped in the Color Wheel Collection – Classic — and you can get matching shower shelves now too! And NOTE >> you can also get some mid century modern colors of Daltile 4×4(ishes) right from Home Depot – see this story. Also check the Natural Hues and Color Match collections; the latter even allows for custom colors, though I have not research the details of this program.
- American Olean — American Olean is part of Daltile and has its colors in its Color Story Wall collection. (As I write this), a handful of AO colors are also carried at Lowes.
- Nemo Tile — See Metrowall collection of 4x4s. You can order from Nemo directly. Or, Make It Midcentury carries a large selection of these Nemo tiles — plus some colors not shown on Nemo’s website; Classic Tile currently shows a smaller number of their designs.
- Classic Tile New York — Has a selection of colors from Nemo and Roca. Classic Tile New York.
- Roca Tile — Roca Tile over time seems to have introduced more retro choices. They carry a big line of trim pieces, too. Classic Tile carries some of these Roca tiles.
- Big Box stores — You can typically find 4×4 bathroom tiles at the Big Box stores at low prices, especially for neutral colors. (Note my separate link for Daltile at Home Depot, above.) When I renovating my bathrooms several years ago, I found rose beige at the Home Depot, trimmed it with white bullnose, and it looks smashing.
- Wayfair has what looks to be a changing roster of four-inch square tiles in retro colors that might fit a bill.
Lots of readers have used tiles from the sources above. Check them out (and others) in our archive of stories — Readers and their Bathrooms
2. Finding tiles New Old Stock tile in retro colors tiles locally:
- Longtime local tiles stores — It could be that you have one or more tile stores in your area that have been around for decades. If so, ask them if they have any deadstock in their backrooms or warehouse. If they do, you might also be presently surprised at the great price they give you to take it off their hands. One reader mentioned Tile Outlet Chicago. An online retailer, Tile Daily, tells me (Jan. 2018) that they have at least one palette each (that’s about 300-400 s.f.) of new old stock vintage left in more than a dozen colors; thanks, Benji, for the tip. You get the drift — check your local stores that have been around awhile!
- Re-Store Habitat for Humanity — I added this because every year I seem to hear from a few readers that they have found enough tile at their local Re-Store to do a complete bathroom. Tile contractors and tile stores may cart their extra New Old Stock straight to the ReStore. Note, this might present extra hurdles because trim pieces like bullnose may not be included in the leftovers. Think through what you need very carefully before you buy.
3. Other tile companies with 4×4 (+ish) ceramic retro color field tiles:
- Clayhaus Tiles offers an expansive color selection, 4x4s and all the fixins. Website.
- Modwalls Tile — Modwalls offers ceramic tile in 105 colors, including 4×4 and 4-1/4 square field tiles and all the trim pieces too. They have quite a large selection. Thanks to Cindy for this tip!
- American Universal Tile — The Brittany line looks to have some good pastel color choices. Also click onto their homepage to see some 3-7/8 square options, kinda interesting.
- Olympia Tile — Olympia tile is a Canadian-based company, but they have some distribution in the U.S. (See their location map.) I used their heron blue tile in my blue bathroom renovation (although I think this color is now discontinued.) They now look to have one collection of 4x4s with a few possible retro colors — for example, periwinkle, tender gray, and warm gray look promising.
- Interceramic has wall tile in a number of colors and separately, a lipstick red.
- Mid America Tile, in business since 1961, has a pretty large slate of color-colors although not necessarily a lot of retro pastels. Worth checking out, go here but then sort by specific size/4×4 > 4×4-ish Mid America Tile’s ceramic tiles .
- Mosaic Tile Supplies — worth checking here to see what they have in stock. For example, they have some variegated 4x4s (not truly midcentury) right now, but they may appeal to someone going for that effect. Mosaic Tile Supplies.
- Pratt & Larson has 4x4s in a large selection of colors. They also have custom color matching!
- Fireclay Tile has 4x4s in a large selection of colors.
- Heath Tile is a storied tile maker. They offer 4×4 field tiles in a lot of colors, very artisanal.
- Mission Tile West has pastel colors that can be special ordered in 4×4 field tile sizes. See their Revivals page here. Also check out their coordinating liner tiles.
- California Pottery and Tile Works, established in 1994, offers 4×4 tiles. Very bespoke, my sense is they offer a virtually unlimited array of color options.
- Sonoma Tilemakers makes 4×4 field tiles in light pastel colors.
- The Subway Ceramics Collection of Heritage Tile isn’t just subway tiles — it also makes 4×4-ishes and trim pieces in many lovely pastel shades, and it has all the trim pieces to go with. See the tile here.
- American Restoration Tile does 4×4 walls tiles — wall tile here.
- McIntone Ceramics has 3x3s, and they have a chunkier craftsman look, but some of the colors are really nice so I’ll put them out there. Thanks, Ann, for the tip!
- Kismet Tile tells us that they can manufacture classic white-body 4×4 tiles in custom glazes.
4. More sources for vintage replacement bathroom wall tile in retro colors:
- Match My Tile — Website here specializes in replacement tile and has an expansive inventory.
- Vintage Tile in Sacramento, Calif. — website added in 2018 (thanks, Hernan!) — Owner Andy Rosten wrote me: “We have a large stock of numerous manufacturers of discontinued tile from 1930s to 2000, and we offer free identification of those seeking to match existing installations as well as many retro colors and ship all over North America…. We also carry many 8″ discontinued floor tiles and several 12″ floor tiles from Dal and Florida Tile.”
- Greenwich Tile & Marble — for replacement American Olean tiles: Thanks to Andy Rosten of Vintage Tile (above) for a tip on where to go to see out replacement American Olean tile: Greenwich Tile and Marble . On their website, they say, “We stock in our warehouse 4 x 4 American Olean field tile in every color going back from 1945-1995.” I had a terrific conversation with owner Mike Imbrogno Jr. on Aug. 31, 2021 – fascinating story of how he acquired all this tile stock!
- Ebay and etsy — It’s my experience that there is an increasing number of what I’ll call “smaller vendors” who find tile locally, then sell it on ebay and etsy. Sometimes in large varieties. Set up your searches and start watching.
- Latch Tile in San Francisco says they offer vintage replacement tile — site here.
- Architectural Salvage stores — Places like Toledo Architectural Artifacts, as one example, says they have 4×4 reclaimed vintage bathroom tiles in many different colors. All tile is original vintage tile either taken during a salvage job, purchased as new old stock or purchased from customer’s renovation jobs. Use google to search architectural salvage in your area. And again, check local tile stores, too.
- Other sources for hard-to-find replacement tiles: Readers have reported success asking neighbors, who may have renovated or be renovating and have a the color they need — and whose house may have tile original purchased from the same place as yours. Another possibility: “borrow” tile from your own bathroom, taken from someplace inconspicuous spot; if you take this route, get with your own professionals to assess what you are working with before proceeding; remember to Be Safe/Renovate Safe.
- Color your own — Reader SillyJenn offered up a not-so-silly suggestion that some folks may want to give a try, writing: “I have a Paint-Your-Own-Pottery shop in Lincoln, NE. We have a huge color palette of glazes and carry tiles in bisque form. We have helped many people who are not able to find the manufactured color they need create their own. Just another option to toss out there for y’all:)”
Again, see this story: Understanding potential lead hazards in old porcelain enamel bathtubs and sinks and ceramic tile of any age. And, check use specifications for the tiles you are considering.
Tip: All 4 inch square bathroom tiles are not — 4 x 4!
Before you begin your search for replacement tiles, it is important to note that not all 4″x4″ ceramic wall tiles are created equally. Depending on the manufacturer, age of the tile, etc., tiles may vary in their actual measurements. So-called 4″x4″ tiles might actually measure 3.75″x3.75″ or 4″x4″ or 4.25″x4.25″ square etc. There also could be variations in the thickness of the tile. And, for salvage shop hunts, carry a piece of your tile along to make color matching easier.
So there’s my list!