Penny Tile Bathroom – Classic & Timeless Beauty of Penny Round Tiles

Penny tiles, also known as penny rounds, are a classic and timeless tile shape that have been used to decorate bathrooms for over a century. With their small, circular form reminiscent of old coins, penny bathroom tiles evoke a sense of nostalgia and vintage charm. Here we’ll explore the history of penny tiles, their defining characteristics, popular design styles, installation and maintenance tips, and reasons why penny tile bathrooms have stood the test of time with their enduring, classic beauty.

A Brief History of Penny Tiles

Penny tiles first became popular during the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During this time, architectural designers looked to the past for inspiration and penny tiles were chosen for their resemblance to medieval mosaics. The tiles were mass-produced using hydraulic press machines and installed in homes, public spaces, churches and train stations throughout Europe and North America.

The term “penny” refers to the tiles’ size – one inch across – similar to the diameter of a penny coin. They were affordable to produce and purchase, making them accessible to the working and middle classes. By the 1920s, penny tile bathrooms and kitchens were common in many homes and public buildings.

After falling out of favor for decades, penny tiles had a resurgence in the 1980s and 90s as interest in restoring period homes grew. Their timeless beauty and vintage style has continued to appeal to modern homeowners, designers and tile manufacturers keeping penny tiles a staple of classic bathrooms today.

What Makes Penny Tiles Distinctive

Small, Circular Shape

The most identifying feature of penny tiles is their petite, circular form, averaging just one inch in diameter. The small size allows the tiles to be arranged in intricate patterns yet still provide full coverage on floors and walls. The circular shape also eliminates harsh lines, giving penny tile installations a softer, organic feel.

Vintage Aesthetic

With their resemblance to old coins and mosaic tiles, penny rounds have an inherently vintage look. Their aged appearance gives bathrooms a touch of old-world charm and richness. Penny tiles come in colors popular decades ago like black, red, caramel and seafoam green, further enhancing their retro appeal.

Textured Surface

Authentic penny tiles have a slightly uneven, textured surface as a result of how they are produced. The rustic texture provides visual depth and dimension and gives the tiles an authentic handmade appearance. Smooth, flat penny tiles lack the same vintage character.

Durable Material

Penny tiles are most commonly made from durable porcelain or ceramic clay. This enables them to better withstand moisture and heavy use compared to natural stone tiles. Their durability contributes to their longevity – penny tile installations can last for generations with proper care.

Popular Design Styles for Penny Tile Bathrooms

The versatile, classic penny tile can be incorporated into many design aesthetics:

Vintage/Retro Bathrooms

With their round shape, muted colors, and textured finish, penny tiles are a perfect match for vintage or retro-style bathrooms. Pair them with clawfoot tubs, distressed vanities and industrial lighting for a trendy throwback look.

Victorian Bathrooms

For a formal Victorian bathroom, penny tiles lend an ornate, opulent feel. Coordinate them with marble counters, elegant wallpaper and brass fixtures for a relaxing yet decadent space.

Farmhouse Bathrooms

In a rustic or farmhouse bathroom, penny tiles complement barn doors, white subway tiles, and antique-inspired vanities beautifully. Their imperfect texture enhances the cozy, worn-in charm of this style.

Cottage Bathrooms

For a quaint cottage bathroom, soft colored, seafoam green or baby blue penny tiles pop against white shiplap walls and vintage tub surrounds. Their whimsical appearance works well in this casual setting.

Modern Bathrooms

While inherently vintage, penny tiles can also complement modern bathroom aesthetics. Their small shape and colors pair nicely with concrete, stone and glass surfaces for a stylish juxtaposition of old and new.

Tips for Installing Penny Tiles

Installing penny tile takes time and patience but is a manageable DIY project for an experienced tile setter. Here are some tips:

  • Carefully plan the layout ahead of time. Penny tiles allow for stunning patterns but they require more precision to install.
  • Use a cement or mortar bed for floors rather than a peel-and-stick method. This provides a smoother, more durable surface.
  • On walls, apply a cement backerboard first for a solid, non-porous surface.
  • Use plastic tile spacers between pennies to maintain even grout lines and prevent tiles from shifting.
  • Mix grout carefully following package directions so it has a firm, thick consistency. Apply slowly working in small sections.
  • Clean grout haze off tiles with a soft, damp sponge before it dries completely.
  • Seal penny tiles after installation to limit absorption of liquids and prevent staining.

Taking the time to properly install penny tiles will help preserve their beauty and ensure your bathroom’s timeless, vintage style for generations.

Caring for Penny Tile Bathrooms

With their durable glazed finish, penny tiles are relatively low maintenance. However, their textured surface and grout lines requires some care to keep them looking their best:

  • Sweep or vacuum penny tiles regularly to prevent dirt buildup in crevices.
  • Use a neutral pH cleaner and soft cloth or mop to clean – avoid abrasive products.
  • Re-seal grout lines annually to inhibit mold growth and staining.
  • Do not let water spots or soap scum sit – wipe down surfaces after bathing.
  • Avoid dripping water along the edges of walls and floors to prevent water seepage.
  • Place bath mats on floors to minimize abrasions and slipperiness from water.
  • Immediately clean up spills to limit absorption into porous grout lines.

With proper installation and routine care, penny tile can maintain its vintage appeal for many years of daily use. The occasional re-sealing and gentle cleaning is a small effort to preserve their enduring style.

Why Penny Tiles Remain Timeless

Penny tile has decorated bathrooms with its humble, uncomplicated beauty for over 100 years. Here are some of the reasons it remains a classic:


Quality penny tiles are accessible at a range of budget-friendly price points. Their small size allows for impactful designs without the expense of large format tiles.


Penny tiles suit a wide range of design aesthetics from modern to historic. Their simple shape and diverse color options make them widely adaptable.

Texture & Shape

The charming imperfections and organic roundness of penny tiles add character that manufactured, uniform tiles lack. Their inherent texture prevents a dated or sterile feel.

Nostalgic Charm

Penny tiles offer vintage appeal that provokes a sense of nostalgia, reminding us of earlier eras and craftsmanship. Their sentimentality helps them maintain popularity.

Artistic Potential

With endless pattern options, penny tiles provide opportunity for creativity. Homeowners can use them to add personal artistic flair that feels special.


When properly installed and cared for, high quality penny tiles can last for generations with minimal wear, retaining their beauty and historic character over time.

For those seeking a tile that marries timeless style with affordability and creative potential, the penny round remains unrivaled. Their sustained popularity after so many decades pays tribute to their versatility, charm, and lasting beauty. Penny tiles will continue to embellish bathrooms for many more years, providing that irreplaceable vintage elegance generation after generation.

Frequently Asked Questions About Penny Tile Bathrooms

What are the best places to use penny tile in a bathroom?

Penny tiles can be used on bathroom floors, walls, ceilings, backsplashes, tub/shower surrounds, and even vanities. They work well in any area that will not have dripping water.

What colors look best for penny tiles?

Classic penny tile colors like black, white, caramel, seafoam green, and red never go out of style. Blues, greens, and grays are also timeless. Avoid very bold colors in loud bathrooms.

How difficult is it to clean grout with penny tiles?

Grout between pennies requires more precision to clean than large tiles. Use a toothbrush and mild cleaner for the grout. Avoid harsh chemicals that can discolor grout over time.

Should penny tiles be sealed?

Sealing is highly recommended after installation. An impregnating sealer repels water and stains without altering the tile’s appearance. Re-seal every 1-2 years.

Can you install penny tiles over existing bathroom floors/walls?

In some cases, penny tiles can be installed over existing surfaces that are in good condition. Consult a tile professional to assess if this is possible in your bathroom.

Are reproduction/faux penny tiles lower quality than originals?

Some reproduction tiles mimic the colors and textures of original penny tiles at lower prices. Check manufacturer quality standards. Well-made reproductions can still have longevity.

How long will penny tile bathroom floors last?

With proper installation and maintenance, a penny tile floor can last 50 years or longer. Limit abrasion by using rugs and promptly cleaning spills to extend their lifetime.

What’s the best grout color for penny tiles?

Matching the grout color to the tile or going slightly lighter are best. Dark grout can make the tiles look too busy. White or off-white grout enhances their vintage look.

Penny tile is a versatile, affordable, and enduring classic. With proper care, your penny tile bathroom can retain its vintage elegance and charm for decades to come.


With their diminutive round shape and vintage vibe, penny tile has enriched bathrooms for over a century, adorning walls and floors with humble, handcrafted beauty. Tiles resembling old pennies and mosaic medallions offer an ornate yet accessible way to add display artistic flair and nostalgic charm. Penny rounds suit both period decors and sleek, modern rooms equally. Their diverse adaptability, balanced texture and array of pleasing colors explain penny tiles’ sustained popularity. Installed with care and properly maintained, penny tile bathroom floors and walls can last generations, gracing homes with their uncomplicated, timeless elegance. For those desiring a classic, decorative touch that won’t break the budget, penny tiles are a charming, creative, and enduring choice.