"Marble-Look" Porcelain Tile for our Fireplace

Invariably, when we update something in our house, something else (that we thought looked fine before) stands out as not looking as nice/fresh/updated as we had previously thought. Why is that?!?

  • When we added on to the front of our house, the new entry way felt so nice – and the adjacent wallpapered foyer almost immediately felt really dated.
  • When we painted the foyer, the walls looked a whole lot better, but then the carpet felt super dingy.
  • When tore out the carpet and refinished the original hardwood floors, it was such a huge improvement — except that the remaining carpet in on the stairs immediately felt really worn out.
  • When we replaced the carpet on the stairs, the foyer felt really fresh and updated … but the adjacent living room did not.

It’s a bit like an “If You Give a Mouse A Cookie” book – and I’m pretty convinced that we’ll work our way through the whole house like this and wind up right back where we started, thinking it’s time to refresh the entry way!

Anyway, on to the living room:

I shared a while back about how we finally made the decision to update the paint color in the living room to something less pink.

the "before" picture - the living room had slightly pink paint, tile, and carpet.
The “before” picture – with slightly pink paint, tile & carpet.

We had decorated around the old paint color (and carpet and tile) for a long time, but kept coming back to the fact that it looked a little pink regardless of what else we put with it in the room, so we re-painted the walls with a warm gray color (Sherwin Williams Colonnade Gray) and couldn’t be happier with how it turned out!

Painting the living room gray - the fireplace tile looks super pink now!
Painting progress

We knew, though, that once the paint color was updated, the fireplace tile would start to feel out of place (since it was also pretty pink) – and we were right.

Painting the living room gray - the fireplace tile looks super pink now!
The fireplace tile really doesn’t match!

So, I started looking for ideas online to figure out what type of fireplace tile we might want to replace it with. We knew we wanted something pretty timeless and classic, but we had no idea what type of tile would have been used on the fireplace when our house was built. So, I just started saving pictures of fireplaces that felt really classic to me. It wasn’t long before I figured out that all the fireplaces I loved were some version of mosaic marble tile.

Inspiration (image source)
More Inspiration (image source)

When we went to pick out some samples at the tile store, though, we found that we didn’t love the price tag (real marble tile was quite a bit pricier than most other tile we looked at, even in the limited quantity we would need to do just the fireplace) – and we also didn’t love that most of them were polished and super shiny.

So, we kept looking through all of the sample boards before finally landing on a matte finish “marble-look” porcelain tile. (The exact tile we picked was Florida Tile Precious Calcutta Herringbone.) We liked that it had the same classic look as marble, but without the price tag, that it was not shiny, and also that it wasn’t as porous as real marble so staining wouldn’t be as much of a concern if something got spilled on it.

Florida Tile Precious Sample Board
Florida Tile “Precious” Sample Board

The tile we picked comes in a lot of different formats, but I loved the herringbone mosaic from the start, so that’s what we went with.

We had hoped that we might find the original tile underneath the pink-ish tiles so that we could finally see what might have been used in 1915, but they were long gone. Maybe some day we’ll find some old pictures of our house – I have to think they still exist somewhere!

Removing the old tile & laying out the new.
No original tile underneath – just plaster & concrete. :(
Tile installation progress
Tile installation progress.
Before grouting
Tile installation is complete, but not yet grouted.

For the grout, I knew I didn’t want white – white grout can be hard to keep clean over time and I thought it wouldn’t provide enough contrast with the tile for the herringbone pattern to stand out. My first thought was to pick a pale gray, but the veining in the tile is actually a mix of grays and browns and the gray grout felt really cool in comparison to the colors in the tile, so I picked a light “putty” color instead. In our house, it feels more gray than brown and coordinates well with the tile & paint color in the living room – it was definitely the right choice for us.

After grouting
Tile & grouting complete!

I love the end result! The herringbone pattern of this tile is maybe a little more modern of a look, but it still has that classic vibe that fits right in with our formal living room.

The finished fireplace tile - Florida Tile Precious Calcutta Herringbone Mosaic.
The finished fireplace tile - Florida Tile Precious Calcutta Herringbone Mosaic.

Once the tile work was done, I cleaned everything up and gave the mantle a fresh coat of our off white trim paint (Sherwin Williams Modest White). It feels so fresh and clean, now!

The finished fireplace tile - Florida Tile Precious Calcutta Herringbone Mosaic.

Every once in a while, though, I think it would look really awesome with a bolder (for me, at least) choice of paint color for the mantle – I think a dark warm gray color would really make it pop. Something like this:

What do you think? I’m not sure if I’ll ever be brave enough to do it. White is just so classic!

The finished fireplace tile - Florida Tile Precious Calcutta Herringbone Mosaic.

Anyway, that’s the latest with the fireplace – and, as you can probably guess, that led to the next update: the carpet. That, though, is a story for another day. (I never knew carpet installation could be such a fiasco – ugh.) Stay tuned … :)

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