From the Floor Up

5 Design Ideas Inspired by Mad Men

Posted by Daltile Team on Dec 5, 2015 10:30:00 AM

The home and office of Don Draper, the main character in the popular TV show Mad Men, stole the spotlight with how accurately the furnishings and wall and floor treatments reflected the 1960s and 1970s. This style can inspire design ideas featuring tile that will work today. Forget about the 1970s two-story colonial house with an avocado green kitchen, or the floor-to-ceiling pink bathroom tile that was popular in the 1950s and 1960s. Instead, you can borrow elements of the era without making your home appear too dated. Here are some timeless midcentury modern ideas that you can use in your own home.

Subway Tile Is Timeless

Various Mad Men characters traveled on New York City's subway system, which opened in 1904, to get to their advertising jobs in downtown Manhattan. These ceramic rectangular tiles used for the system were already a household name by the time the fictional advertising firm Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce came to life. The early heady days of space travel and groovy vinyl white boots are long gone, but subway tile continues to be trendy because it's stylish, versatile, long-lasting, and easy to clean. It's great for kitchen backsplashes and countertops, or for bathroom tubs and showers. Subway tile is also a terrific option for a fireplace surround in a living room. For a more twenty-first-century look, select larger tile and go with a vertical layout to capture a retro look without looking dated.
When you find the appropriate subway tile, check the product information to ensure it's suitable for your design. There are dozens of colors and sizes that are ideal for almost any design, including Rittenhouse Square, Modern Dimensions, and Festiva.

Rittenhouse Square in Architectural Grey and Almond 3 x 6

Black and White Is Forever

Don Draper and his colleagues were often spotted wearing black-and-white tuxedos to the opera or other formal events. Pairing black and white was popular during the 1960s, and this color combination continues to be a classic choice for tile. To recreate the same look, try going with a black-and-white tile design. For instance, contrasting granite in a kitchen or bathroom will channel this design period while also making your design pop.

Granite Is Groovy

While there are various types of black and white granite tiles, you won't see pure black or white options because all natural granite has high variability. Instead, consider ivory travertine or dark granite for a polished, sleek, contemporary vibe. If dark granite is the look you're after, consider going with Azul Platino, Silver Pearl, Charcoal Black, or Galaxy Black. These deep shades look great when used on a bathroom tub surround. All have dark backgrounds with flecks of gray, brown, silver, or blue, and come in contemporary rectangular sizes that range from 12 x 24 and large formats in 18 x 18 and 24 x 24 inches. Finishes available include flamed, polished, and honed. Try pairing darker granite with a lighter travertine from the Travertine Collection. This combination will look great in a contemporary kitchen, bathroom, or living space.

Picture courtesy THE NEW AMERICAN HOME

Mosaic Tile Is Back

Fans of midcentury modernism (approximately 1933–1965) saw their fair share of this type of architecture in Mad Men. While this type of architecture has peaked, its influence continues to be felt in living rooms, home offices, and kitchens with the use of mosaic tile on floors. You can also add mosaic tile to your fireplace for a modern look that feels contemporary. For example, you can frame your fireplace with sparkling glass tiles, such as the Serenade line, for a sophisticated look. Opt for a neutral glass for a glistening appearance or choose bright blue or green glass tile for a vibrant dash of color. You'll end up with a fireplace that's the architectural star of the room. You could even use metallic mosaic tile on your basement bar, and then serve cocktails that Draper would love, including his favorite, the Old Fashioned. Glass mosaic tile is available in various color options, so you can create a pattern that's completely unique to your home.

Marble Is Modern

Mad Men character Roger Sterling was known for working on a marble-topped Saarinen tulip table, but marble has been used on walls and floors for centuries. This timeless stone works in just about any setting, and it will mesh well with most design ideas. Available in many sizes and finishes, there is a marble or marble-look option for every space. It's available in popular large-format shapes, as well as polished and honed finishes. Phaedra Cream, for example, would be a stunning living room floor and base for antique 1950s furnishings. Meili Sand, on the other hand, would be a stylish addition as a 1950s-inspired foyer entryway floor. And Argun Gray, which is a more uniform marble, is also ideal for stylish entryways that combine a contemporary feel with midcentury modern appeal.

If you're looking for a marble that features high-contrast color and high-shade variation, check out Tinos Gray, which has a leather finish and brushed edge, or Daphne White, which is similar to Calacatta Gold. Either of these options would be perfect in a two-tone floor, which were trendy during the 1950s and 1960s. You can also go with a Versailles pattern, which gives off an urban and stately feel that's suitable for a floor that Draper would admire. For a look that's different from the classic 1 x 1 square or even a 3 x 6 subway tile, try a shaped marble tile for a distinctive look. For example, lantern-shape tile, wave-shape tile, and linear mosaics with a polished finish successfully channel the Mad Men era, while also giving off a modern feel.


With so many tile choices from Daltile, you can easily pay homage to Mad Men without being held hostage to the 1960s or 1970s. You don't have to smoke cigarettes, drink a cocktail before dinner every night, or wear a pillbox hat and matching gloves to appreciate the truly timeless design the era had to offer. When it comes to bringing your kitchen, bathroom, and living room ideas to life, try going with subway tile, mosaic tile, or a black-and-white pattern. These ideas will give your space a classy look that all the fashionable Mad Men characters would approve of.

Topics: Design

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