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How to Design Kitchens and Bathrooms Using Mexican Talavera Tile

VirginiaLynne likes to share her creative ideas for DIY home renovation and maintenance. She uses these tips to store her own receipts.


Why Choose Mexican Tile?

For thousands of years, artisans in Mexico and other places have made tiles by hand and painted them with unique designs handed down in families for generations. The process of producing these tiles is time consuming and labor intensive, yet their cost is comparable to machine-produced products which lack the intense beauty of these handmade creations.

Moreover, when put together with a charcoal grout, these can be the easiest showers and showers to clean and maintain. As a matter of fact, I hardly ever need to clean my showers.

Variety of Designs

After looking at all the varieties available, you may think that the greatest disadvantage is too many choices. Many of these tiles can be found at different manufacturers and represent patterns which have been made for centuries. Other patterns are more recent innovations. Your installer, contractor, interior designer, manufacturer or best friend might be a source of inspiration. Check out my videos as well. However, one of the best features of this design choice is the chance to create your own artwork by combining the tiles in your own design. Here are some ideas:

Talavera Pros and Cons



Unique, one of a kind, hand made

Best for Latin or Mediterranean homes


Environmentally friendly processing, employs craftsmen

Not easy to find in larger home stores


Variability of tiles makes inperfection less noticeable

Tiles can chip

Ordering Tile

Usually ordered online from talavera specialist

Some hand painted tiles made to order and may require time for a large order


Can be installed as accents in floor or with other tiles

Need a specialist familiar with hand made tiles


Easy to clean with soap and water, black grout hides dirt

Need to be careful about using chemicals which can damage

Choose Solid Color First

Talavera tiles come both in solid colors and in designs. We started each of our bathroom and kitchen designs by choosing a solid color combination first. You can use one color for both the background and edging or choose to use a different color for the edging tiles. The main choices are blue, white, yellow, green and brown (terracotta).

We wanted to use all the tile colors, so we did a different main color combination in each room. One bathroom uses white background tiles with blue edging. Another bathroom uses green with blue for the shower but solid green for the counter. In our kitchen, we used yellow for the counter with a terracotta border. Along with your choice of color will be a decision on whether to use watercolor tiles, which are lightly glazed and streaked with color, or solid color tiles which have a bold and solid color look. The watercolor tiles have a more modern look, while the solid colors are a more classic style.

Choose Patterns

After you have decided on the primary color you want to use, you will want to look at the patterned tiles. The patterned tiles are either:

  • Single designs.
  • Border designs (which are meant to be placed in a row).
  • Tour tile designs which form a pattern when placed in a four-tile square.

Some of the border tiles can also be four-tile square patterns, and all of the single tile designs can also be used as a border.

Make a Placement Diagram

Before ordering, we made a large grid of each space and then filled in where we wanted each tile so that we could see the design and also be able to count up how many pieces we needed of each tile.

Tile Design Ideas

For a counter top, you can use a border design around the top edge, or at the corner. You can leave the counter top plain or put a few scattered single tile designs on top. We did this design both in our white and blue bathroom and on our kitchen counter top. For our green bathroom counter top, we just put a simple border, knowing we were going to add a colorful mirror and other colorful decorations in the room.

For showers, you have more space for design. You can do a border around the entire shower, and also a set of stacked borders in the middle, as we did in our white and blue shower. In addition, you can put in a tile mural or a set of four tiles as we did in our flower insert. We used a row of different single patterned tiles in a pattern on the small bench of each shower.

Types of Tile: Classic vs. Raised

The patterned tiles are a dizzying variety. In general, they fall into three groups:

  • 1-2 color tiles in classic designs.
  • 3-4 color tiles painted with a flat glaze.
  • Multi-color intricate designs with raised glaze.

Most of the classic designs have a white background and work best if you have a background color that matches them. I think they are especially nice in on a white background. Although I was not expecting to like our white and blue bathroom as much as our blue and green one, I have found that the white and blue with yellow accents is a very calming style and very visually appealing with simple chrome fixtures and black and white photos. It is actually perhaps my favorite room in our house!

However, the more complex patterned tiles are very beautiful to look at individually. You will probably find it hard to choose. It helps to choose ones which have the same background colors, like all blue or yellow in order to have them look good together. If you have a lot that you really love, you might want to scattered ones on the counter top or a row of patterned tiles on every third tile on the backsplash.

Another idea is to use squares of four-tile patterns or four tiles surrounded by border tiles or a row of similar tiles, such as the backsplash we did behind our stove. We also used several variations on our diamond patterns which are embedded in our saltillo floor.

Tile Installation Tips

These handmade tiles need expert installation, and if possible, get someone who has experience. They will often be your best help in design suggestions too.

The diamond patterns of Talavera embedded in our Saltillo floor throughout our house were suggested by our first tile installer. He initially laid down the floor tiles, then took up four tiles and cut them diagonally, replaced four of them and then filled in the remaining square with a 16 tile pattern of Talavera. We had a different tile installer for another part of our house, but he had no problem in following that same installation idea.

A tile professional has a lot of experience with working out patterns, so they may be able to see a design which might better fit your situation. Our experts helped us several times to adjust the tile design to better fit our particular bathroom. In our white and blue shower, we had originally planned another border of single tiles, but our tile installer suggested the pattern of tiles mixed with the white tiles. Several times, our installer helped us to adjust the original plan in a way which made the installation work better as far as tile cuts and also was much more aesthetically pleasing.

Enjoy Your Unique Tile!

Finally, relax! We ended up worrying too much about which tiles to choose. Handmade Mexican tiles are simply beautiful no matter what design you choose. Each one is so individual, that in the end you will simply love looking at them.

Lots of people have granite, marble, and other tile surfaces. These are all very nice, but nothing is as beautiful to look at and original as Talavera. Every day, you will see something new in the patterns and enjoy looking at this practical art.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Can I put a coat of clear epoxy on the tile?

Answer: I am not a tile expert but I don't think that clear epoxy would work in the long term on this sort of tile.


Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on August 14, 2020:

Hi Marylee. We have a tile top that works well in a bathroom used by 3-4 teenagers in our home. The tiler used a tileboard, cut a hole and dropped in the sink to fit.

Marylee on August 13, 2020:

Hi Virginia, I'd love to use a drop in Talavera sink but am stymied on finding a cabinet with a wood top- would rather not have tile top in heavy use bathroom??

Shelly from Oshkosh, WI on December 10, 2017:

Can you please tell me what sealant you used for your countertops? I want to make sure when I do this that it is food safe. I'm also really nervous about the surface not being level when I'm done.....any tips?

Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on November 22, 2016:

Hi Paul! We have bathrooms with mostly Saltillo tile with Talavera accents. The accents are 4 tiles by 4 tiles and they are more slippery than the Saltillo but not as slippery as a ceramic tile floor. In our showers, we used glass tile on the floor and Talavera on the walls and ceiling. We also have Talavera on the counters of both our kitchen and bathroom. They are beautiful and very unique. We love them!

Paul Brydon on November 22, 2016:

Like your ideas thanks. Can you used Telavera tile on the floor in a bathroom or is it to slippery?

Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on January 13, 2013:

Great question Mollymoss--I did brush the sealing on them a couple of times when they were first installed. After that (about 7 years now) I have not re-sealed them. If you used a light grout you probably would have to worry about that but with black grout it just doesn't show any stains. In fact, I actually almost never clean my showers. Really! We do have a family rule that we wipe down the glass in the showers after every use (because it spots and is clear glass). Other than that, I really don't have any mold problems like I've had with every other shower. we do have excellent drainage in the showers and used glass tile in the bottom. On the countertops, I use no harsh detergents, just soft soap, a scrub brush and a towel. Easy!

Mollymoss on January 13, 2013:

I love the tile counter tops but how do you seal them to prevent staining? The grout lines are so wide that it must just "slurp" up the sealer. This is my only real worry about installing then. .

Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on December 31, 2012:

Patti--we've used all those tiles and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out if the colors would work together. In the end, I think that I realized that most combinations using Talavera go together. I do think the yellow tends to dominate a room, however. You can look at my Hubs on RTA kitchen cabinets, which show our yellow kitchen tile for examples.

Patti on December 31, 2012:

I am looking for pictures of yellow mexican washed tiles with terracotta colored grout. Thinking of doing the bullnose in green mexican washed tiles. Can't figure out it the terracota will look good or not.


Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on April 20, 2012:

Thanks Beverly, you know that every time I take a shower in that bathroom I really feel like I'm in a luxury hotel! In fact, I really don't get too impressed by any hotel I go to nowadays because our own home is so beautiful since we've done all the tiling with Mexican tile in bathrooms and kitchen, and Satillo tile throughout the house. Then we replaced all our cabinets with RTA cabinets I put together myself (see my other hubs about that). We did it so cheaply, but it looks like we live in luxury!

Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on April 20, 2012:

Thanks so much for stopping by JS. I do love granite too, but it was very funny that when we were having our tiling done, our neighbors had an Italian granite and tile company do their kitchen. One day the Granite installer came by hoping to sell us his products. I pointed to our tile and told him what we were doing. He looked at it and said, "That is really beautiful. Where did you get it? It think my wife would like that in our house!"

JSParker from Detroit, Michigan on July 11, 2011:

This is a terrific hub, Virginia Lynne. If I'd read it before we did our kitchen and bath, I might have been tempted, although I love our granite kitchen counters.

These tiles are gorgeous. Great photos and video. Voted "Up" and "Awesome".

Beverly Stevens from College Station on June 12, 2011:

What wonderful tiling ideas! What a great way to add color to a room. I especially like the green shower and the tile above the stove. Nicely done.