Square tile, the kind that seemed to cover nearly every surface back in the ’80s — from bathrooms, indoor pools, and mall interiors (now extensively documented by accounts like @the_80s_interior) — has taken a new form. In the past few months, tiled cubes — equal parts objet d’art and functional furniture — have been popping up in the backgrounds of every Danish influencer’s perfectly curated home, at design studios and concept shops like Friends of Form, and even in the bathrooms of stylish seaside hotels.
Perhaps the most widely known manufacturer of the modern tiled cube is Scandinavian brand Ikon København, which has had a stake in the space since 2016, but other companies like Willow, Ktown Corner Store, P0LY, Fleur Studios, Good Behavior, and Occasional Pieces are also assembling modernized variations of their own. And while the cube itself is somewhat new, the tile table it riffs on traces back to 1966 with Superstudio’s Quaderna table for Zanotto, which was designed by the Italian architects Cristiano Toraldo di Francia and Adolfo Natalini. (Not to be confused with the newly launched Superstudio in Los Angeles.)
Editor’s note: Ikon København lists all prices in Danish Krone, so the price shown is an approximate conversion in U.S. dollars.
According to Anthony Barzilay Freund, editorial director at 1stDibs, the collective’s ethos was built around “revolutionizing the conventional approach to architecture and planning and replacing it with functionality.” Since then, it’s become a cult collector’s item — you can still find it today, but it’ll set you back about $4,550 — and is on display at museums across the globe as a prime example of the Radical Design style. “The [Quaderna] pieces feature a clean, simple grid pattern made of a silk-screened plastic laminate that the designers referred to as a ‘supersurface,’” says Freund. “Some of the popular contemporary pastel-colored tiled tables seen on social media feel like they wandered out of a tween’s dream kitchen.”
He’s not necessarily wrong: The tiled cube gives off a specific kind of whimsy. And while some may mock it for being part of the “avant basic” starter pack that also includes checkerboard and mushroom lamps, others find it arresting in the hard-to-look-away sense. Vivid Wu, a fashion stylist and creative consultant, was intrigued by the cube after seeing it on Instagram. She purchased one from Ikon København last September after moving into her new home in San Francisco. “It’s definitely part of the resurgence of ’80s and ’90s decor, which perfectly fits in with my aesthetic,” says Wu, whose loft conversion includes other postmodern-inspired pieces like a Gustaf Westman curvy mirror, Rotganzen bouncy side table, and Pieces by An Aesthetic Pursuit rug.
Wu opted for the brand’s cube, as opposed to a console or coffee table, because she needed something smaller that could be easily moved around in her space. “It’s more than a cute tiled cube,” she adds. “It functions as a side table, a stool, a nightstand, and more.” Wu considers the cube to be a high-quality piece that doesn’t compromise aesthetics, praising it as one of her favorite quarantine purchases — she’s even considering ordering another in a different color.
Its playful aesthetic is similar in spirit to the wiggle tables and plastic furniture that have overtaken home decor (and my feed). Ikon København founders Amalie and Sarah Thorgaard believe that the versatility of tiled furniture is what resonates with people the most. “The tables and cubes allow for various ways to use them, in a functional sense,” Amalie explains. “They stand out and draw your attention, but at the same time blend in and synergize with any style. Some people make a room look very classic and minimalistic with the more subdued colors [like black and cream], or achieve a more playful look with a table in one of the more bright and eye-catching colors [like dusty blue and light green].”
Editor’s note: Fleur Studios lists all prices in Australian dollars, so the price shown is an approximate conversion in U.S. dollars.
According to Sarah, their main inspiration came from “the look and feel of kitchens, bathrooms, and pools.” While traditional tile tables typically have the tabletop tiled, the entire surface of Ikon København’s tables is covered with a unified set of tiles for a more modern, minimal piece of furniture. The style has clearly resonated: Business boomed for the brand — and home décor in general — during the pandemic; Amalie says they experienced an increase in sales that doubled their revenue from 2019 to 2020. 1stDibs, similarly, noticed an uptick in interest in tiled tables, specifically the Superstudio consoles.
While the price points for modern versions vary (small cubes start at $300), there are also tutorials on TikTok to walk anyone through the DIY process of making their own tiled table. The only supplies required to execute this pastel-tinted vision are a four-sided MDF cube, square tiles, tile adhesive, a sponge, premixed grout, and a grout scraper — all available on a trip to Home Depot. Last summer, my friend Alivia Mackenzie, a community manager living in Vancouver, became the proud owner of not one but two tiled cubes after a crafty roommate started building them as a pandemic activity. “You’re working with your hands, you’re creative, and then you’re able to stare at the fruits of your labor within your space,” she says.
Mackenzie’s interest in the tile trend was initially sparked by the checkered prints of Katherine Plumb, a Stockholm-based designer whose work took off after collaborating with Lisa Says Gah. With everyone becoming obsessed with furnishing their homes, Mackenzie thinks that the popularity of tiled tables happened so quickly because of how customizable they are.
“Exclusivity is so sought after these days, like limited releases and tiny drops of things,” she says. “I’ve seen people source really cool vintage tile or a special color grout, and then they post that on Instagram,” and because it looks different than all the other ones, it’s immediately snatched up.
Still, a cult classic never goes out of style. Freund recommends the Landscape Table 1 by India Mahdavi or the steel-based models by Thomas Hayes Studio for a more sophisticated take on the trend. Until I’m ready to pull the trigger on a table, or attempt to make a cube of my own, I’ll have to settle for this tiled mug.
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