During the last ten years of working in this field, one of my greatest pleasures has been the observation of the evolution of design vocabulary.  I've even kept a little notebook of popular words and phrases that clients use to describe what they want.  I could probably write a blog on each one... maybe I will.

What is the word of the moment?   Timeless. Merriam Webster defines it as...


adjectivev time*less \ˈtīm-ləs\

  • : staying beautiful or fashionable as time passes
  • : lasting forever
From kitchen backsplashes, to foyers to shower floors, this is the word I hear over and over.  Male or female, young or matured, budget-conscious or moneyed, the refrain sounds a little something like this, "I want to do this once, & I want it to be timeless".

I think the dictionary definition is a good place to start.  Let's dissect it...

On Staying Beautiful

To stay beautiful, it must be beautiful in the first place.  If your first thought when you see a tile is "cool/weird/wild/unique" chances are it is all those things, but it might not be beautiful.  The logic follows that it won't become beautiful over time, but it could lose its cool-weird-wild uniqueness.

For example When I saw this in Vegas 5 years ago, I said "wow".

Backsplash Tile

It's eye-catching and Vegas-y for sure.  I've even seen it in application, notably CBS' Big Brother House 2014 and painted over for 2015.  But, I wouldn't necessary categorize it as beautiful and therefore, not timeless; and because I've been looking at it for few years, it has lost novelty.

In stark contrast...

Bath Tile

This bathroom is beautiful at first glance, and because of the classic finishes selected, it will remain beautiful.  The tile is Calcutta marble (a popular choice for thousands of years) and the fixtures are polished nickel (a warmer metal than chrome). But the use of Lucite, clean lines, and a bright accent color freshen up this vintage, timeless look.

On Fashionable

The comparison of tile and fashion happens daily here in the Concept II showroom.  There is a near constant flow of new products arriving at our door.  Hand-delivered to East Rochester, tile manufacturers are trying to catch our eye and show us something we haven't seen before. Chanel does it every year, take the classic suit, add a zipper detail, and change the pocket orientation? Re-imagine the fabric?
The Fashion of Tile1956 Fashion of Tile2016
Just like in fashion, the best ideas are a twist on a classic. You could nip the corners of a herringbone pattern make it a chevron. Give it some gravity and imagine it dark and moody?  How about varying the textures?
Tile texture Tile Texture
The results... sexy, enduring tile.

On Lasting Forever

The desire for "timeless" goes a long way in explaining the current regard for subway tile.  It can invoke a time and place, but it's quiet, consistent, and clean. Subways may not last forever, but the appeal of this tile has spanned nearly 100 years, and it has earned the timeless badge.

Timeless tile design

I have to say, of all the buzzy design words I have heard people use over the years, this one - timeless - is a pleasure to fulfill.  Comforting and refined at the same time, it seems to work in our homes, and in our lives.