Though grout may seem secondary to tile, it’s necessary for tile’s functionality and is an essential design element that finishes the look of the installation.
Current design trends have elevated grout to more of a statement element. While neutral colours are still the most common choice, bolder hues are being used so that grout stands out. A grout line that’s very thin or, alternatively, very wide also makes a big impact.
Let’s look at what else is influencing grout.
Tile trends have a huge impact on grout palettes and installation patterns. A top trend right now is bringing nature inside. This can be achieved through the use of wood-look, marble, verdigris, earthy terracotta and other natural stone tiles, as well as the incredible range of new tile hues in nature’s greens or blues. Neutral grout colours in the earth tone or blue-grey family match or complement these tiles, and further enhance the nature-indoors feeling.
Highly patterned tiles are also trending with their bold graphic or exotic looks. Moroccan tiles are especially favoured for their intricate floral or geometric patterns and vivid jewel-tone glazes. Manufacturers have expanded their neutral grout options in support of these distinctive looks. Whites and very light grey grouts work outstandingly well with these tiles as they keep the focus on the patterns.
Installation of different tile shapes to create intricate patterns is seeing a resurgence in popularity. Whether hexagon, subway, picket, arabesque or fan, these shapes or a combination thereof are being mixed artistically with matching grouts to form new looks like colour blocks and tone-on-tone expanses. Used within intricate patterns of tile shapes, grout can be any colour in the palette, chosen to match or contrast the tile. Grout installation can also be bolder, moving from classic narrow lines to ultra-wide areas between tile shapes.
Large format and wide plank tiles continue to trend, with no signs of slowing down. These types of tiles are ideal for creating an edgy industrial or sleek modern aesthetic. Recently, designers have begun using disruptive tile installations to add interest to the minimalist look. These artistic surprises might include new metallic, textured or handcrafted tiles. Since large format or plank tiles have nearly invisible grout lines, metallic tile is best set with grout in the same tone as the tile. For textured or handcrafted tile, a neutral grout colour keeps the statement tile the hero.
A Colourful Spectrum
There are several factors that influence colour trends. Some are predictable, such as fashion and art, while others may be more surprising like the pandemic. While the human need for tranquility, respite and simplification was already growing, the pandemic intensified this desire. Colours like grey-blues, earthy bronze or nature’s blues and greens provide this calming effect.
Other trends resulting from the pandemic are the growing interest in bright, mood-lifting colours like sky blue; darker shades, such as navy blue and black, that add drama and awaken the senses; and vivid digital hues, arising from the dependence on digital forms of communication. Showing up in both commercial and residential spaces, these saturated colours have been dubbed A.I. colours for the artificial intelligence medium that has inspired them.
Today’s grouts come in a rainbow of hues to complement or contrast these colour trends. While white and black are still favourites as they offer a classic look and can also push tile in a more modern direction, grey is also in demand. Beyond this neutral trifecta, colours run the gamut, offering a fresh feel that can easily lean to bold and unexpected.
John Anderson is a senior product manager for H.B. Fuller’s construction adhesives, with 30 years’ experience in the adhesives industry. John began at H.B. Fuller in 1992, working in the lab as a development chemist. Over the years, he has held various roles, managed many teams and had positions ranging from technical service manager to global product marketing.