How To Choose Tiles

In this blog we have invited a selection of expert members of The House Directory to offer insights and guidance for how to choose the best tiles for your home renovation. Explore the tile choices and colour schemes in these great example projects. We hope you find it as practical and inspiring as we do!

“It’s daunting to walk into a tile showroom and attempt to find the right material for your tiles. There are so many choices. How can you pinpoint the perfect colour, pattern and texture to suit your style and needs – and all without making any unnecessary and time-consuming mistakes? Over the years, I’ve found that the answer is to start with a systematic process”

Barbara Sallick Co-Founder and Senior Vice President of Waterworks.

How to choose tiles - Waterworks_Walls and Vanity: Calacatta Monet; Floors: Luminaire Stacked Checkerboard Mosaic Special Order Tile in Lagos Azul Polished & Rosso Laguna Polished.
Image: Waterworks – Walls and Vanity: Calacatta Monet; Floors: Luminaire Stacked Checkerboard Mosaic bathroom tile Special Order Tile in Lagos Azul Polished & Rosso Laguna Polished.

Barbara goes on to say, 

Long before you tackle the showroom, make a list of your priorities. Do you prefer tile or stone? White or colour? A mix of materials? Spend time looking at books, magazines, Instagram or even films and nature to find inspiration.

While you gather images, keep in mind that your bathroom should reflect the palette of the rest of your house, particularly the rooms adjacent to it. A quick look at your closet may hint at your preferences. Do you wear breezy pastel colours or predominately navy and grey? Do you prefer solids or patterns?

Once you’ve compiled your images, take note of the tile shapes and textures you’re drawn to. While many marble tiles or slabs are almost uniform in tone, I personally love heavily veined marble varieties. To me, they feel closer to nature and the mountains from which they’re sourced. I also adore beautifully handmade ceramic tiles. They’re never perfectly smooth, nor perfectly square, and the colour isn’t uniform across the surface. But when assembled into a one-of-a-kind installation, they elevate a room like nothing else.

Be sure to lay your preferences out on a table and examine them. Do not make your choice from a single tile sample. Ask to see at least one square foot.

Waterworks_Magna 3” Hexagonal Tiles
Image: Waterworks Magma 3” Hexagonal Tiles

If you’re looking at tile, here are a few things to consider:

  • Colour or white, solid or shaded
  • Glazes, from regular gloss to matte or crackle
  • Surface texture, from flat to wavy
  • Square shoulders or round
  • Sizes, from mosaics to 60cm x 60cm squares
  • Red clay, white clay or porcelain body
  • Shapes, such as hexagons and arabesque

Some choices when thinking about marble:

  • White, lightly veined or heavily veined on a coloured ground
  • Honed or polished
  • Rectangles, squares or decorative shapes
  • Slabs
  • Mosaics

More valuable advice and insights about choosing tiles from expert members of TheHouseDirectory…

Richard Skeoch, director at Hyperion Tiles:

“When choosing tiles, consider the style you’re looking for, your own personal preferences and ensure the ones you select will complement the rest of your home or garden.

Hyperion_Bert and May Luna Old Iron Porcelain tiles, developed in conjunction with Fired Earth. Suitable for both interior and exterior walls and floors.
Image: Hyperion TilesBert and May Luna Old Iron Porcelain tilesdeveloped in conjunction with Fired Earth. Suitable for both interior and exterior walls and floors.

Take the size of the room or outdoor space into account and don’t forget to think about where they will be positioned. Floor tiles, for example, will need to be ultra-durable, so choose a hardwearing material, such as porcelain or stone, which will withstand general wear and tear. However, if you’re looking for wall tiles for a kitchen or bathroom, ceramics could be perfect.

Hyperion_how to choose tiles
Image: Hyperion Tiles – Bathroom Wall tiles: Ca’ Pietra new East Java Hummingbird Marble Brick . Bathroom Floor tiles: Ca’ Pietra East Java Temple Hummingbird Mosaics

Colour should play a key factor in your design choice as this will add instant personality to your space. Consider whether you would prefer the dominant colour to tie in with the main tone of the room or perhaps you’d prefer your tile colour to complement an accent shade. Decide whether to look for a statement tile, in which case pattern could work well, or perhaps provide a more understated backdrop, where a plain colour may be ideal.

The grout you choose could make or break your design so make sure you consult a tile expert who will be able to recommend a blending or contrasting colourway for you, depending on the effect you’d like to achieve.

Louisa Morgan, marketing director, Mandarin Stone:

  • Material – Limestone, Marble, Slate, Travertine, Porcelain & Ceramic all have different characteristics. Ceramics are normally glazed and sometimes only suitable for wall use. Porcelains are dense and more hard-wearing. Natural stone is infinitely beautiful and entirely unique.
  • Style – consider the focal point of the room. Tiles can either form a neutral back drop or form a bold and striking focus themselves.
Expert Tile Guide - Gemstone Pink Matt Porcelain & Gemstone Black Matt Porccelain_MANDARINSTONE
Image: Mandarin Stone – Shower Walls: Gemstone Pink Matt Porcelain, and Floors: Gemstone Black Matt Porcelain
  • Practicality – Natural stone tiles will require sealing at point of installation and periodically afterwards. Porcelain tiles do not require initial or ongoing sealing. it is also worth considering the colour of the tiles. Light coloured tiles in utility rooms or entrance hallways can show muddy footprints more readily and dark coloured bathroom tiles in hard water areas can make limescale more noticeable.
  • Tile Size – choose the right size tile for the size of the room. A smaller tile can make large areas look busier whereas a larger tile will have fewer grout lines and make areas appear larger. Smaller tiles will generally require fewer intricate cuts than larger tiles.
St Moritz Vein Honed Marble MANDARINSTONE
Image: Mandarin Stone St Moritz Vein Honed Marble
  • Other considerations – choose an interesting laying pattern or combination of tiles to give that extra wow factor. Lay glazed brick tiles in herringbone, brick bond or stacked patterns on a wall or combine different colours of marble to create on-trend chequerboards or other designs.

Helen Parker, Creative Director, deVOL Kitchens:

  • Flooring – Invest in a great floor if you don’t have an original. There is nothing more of a shame than a beautiful room with a poorly considered floor choice. I’m erring on the side of wood at the moment but as usual, I’ve seen patterned tiles and marble ones and terracotta ones, and I’m wondering again what I really do prefer, or if I need to have a preference.
deVOL_creamsubwaytiles splashback
Image: deVOLcream subway tiles on kitchen splashback
  • Using tiles in a pantry – People often use this space to be experimental with colours and tiles as it is smaller and often a little out of the way, so full walls of tiles or boarding can be painted in bold colours to create a new room in a home that will probably become the most used room because it is so versatile. Brass fittings, copper worktops and luscious coloured tiles are all being used to make these new spaces a little bit glam as well as functional.
deVOL_emeraldgreenlondontiles
Image: deVOLEmerald Green London Tiles
  • Tiles, like wallpaper, are a great way to add texture, colour and pattern to large areas of a room, We love to extend the tiles and expand them away from just the cooking area to make feature walls. Tiling up to the ceiling and down to the floor and even behind glazed cupboards has much more impact, it is always nice to try to avoid having an area of tiles that just stops short of a corner; the sides of tiles can be difficult to obscure in an attractive way so covering whole walls avoids this problem.

Jason Cherrington, director of Lapicida:

Bring added oomph and glamour to bathrooms and shower rooms by using the same tile design for both the walls and floors. Not only does this achieve a seamless look, but it also creates a more dramatic feel.

Lapicida’s Gramercy Park North soft grey & veined black marble tiles, £474 per metre. Brassware by Drummonds drummonds-uk.com
Image:Lapicida’s Gramercy Park North soft grey & veined black marble tiles. Designed by Naomi Astley Clarke. Brassware by Drummonds.

Edward Howley, CEO and Founder of Lubelska:

  • Brick tiles are generally a rustic look and clients should be confident in wanting a rustic feel. However, brick tiles work well in both contemporary or more period settings.
  • Brick pattern ideas – it is good to dry-lay out the tiles before setting them down in adhesive. Play around with different patterns and see which one you prefer before sticking them down.
  • Brick tiles are generally porous and need to be sealed. We recommend using a natural water-based sealant. These will leave a matte finish and keep that natural look.
Lubelska_Marsh Hill by Mole Architects
 Image: Lubelska Indoor LUBR warm brick tile flooring. Marsh Hill by Mole Architects

Juliet McDonald, PR Consultant for Tiles of Spain:

Consider larger format slabs for kitchens and bathrooms as they will give a seamless, grout-free look that is hygienic, easy and less expensive to install.

Think about how pattern will cover the surface and whether it is suitable for the particular space you are covering. Be aware that patterned tiles can result in greater wastage, so be sure to order at least 10% more than you need.

16_Tile of Spain_Saloni_Circe-30,5x90-Blanco-+-Circe-Graphic-30,5x90-Blanco-+-Circe-60x60-Blanco
Image: Tile of SpainCirce by Saloni, a marble-effect porcelain tile available with a range of co-ordinating decors, including Graphic, featured on the island and backsplash.

Chris Gulson-Brooke, Founder of Maitland & Poate:

How to choose antique tilesmodern tile materials include glass, concrete, cork, and various other composites. Antique tiles were usually made of percaline, concrete or ceramics. The allure of antique tiles comes from the variations in colour throughout the design. The natural materials and pigments of those materials made matching the exact colours impossible. Antique tiles will have slight variations in colours that add to the character and charm of their appeal.

The beauty of antique tiles is that they are offered in limited supply; however, this can become an issue if you’re intent on tiling multiple rooms or large spaces. Once you have chosen your ideal tile design, make sure there is sufficient stock, including 10-15% excess, as tiles can be damaged, cracked or mis-cut during installation. Remember, antique tiles are not something that you can simply go out and replace as they are rare and unique

Maitland and Poate - Vintage retro style white fridge in bright kitchen
Image: Maitland & Poate Christobal Blanco antique reclaimed tiles. This tile is so popular that new cement tiles are now also made recreating this design using traditional methods for exacting quantities.

How to choose geometric tiles – For bathrooms, geometric tiles have been popular for centuries as they are eye-catching and give the illusion of depth. Not feeling too brave? Then why not start with elegant greys or black and white shades on your floor using triangles and diamond patterned tile. Geometric tiles will also work particularly well on a splashback to give a bold statement when used together with neutral colour schemes.

Alternatively, add pattern and interest by creating a feature wall to define zones in your room. A patterned shower wall can look great when combined with softer tones or a textured material on the remaining walls. Introducing an interesting design or colour into your splashback will instantly give the impression of elongating the wall.

To maximise light consider using cool tones and pastel shades: soft greys, subtle yellows, pale pinks, muted whites. Pastel tones will help to reflect and inject additional light, making the room feel open and inviting.

Maitland and Poate -Ombre Deep Green and Sand by 2LG X Maitland & Poate
Image: Maitland & PoateOmbre Deep Green and Sand can be laid to create undulating large-scale stripes with soft edges, or to produce a wonderful patchwork of soft colours.


How to choose the perfect tiles? Here’s our summary of important factors to consider:

  1. INSPIRATION: Find inspiration from images in magazines, books, Instagram or films to decide on the look and feel of your space, colour schemes and the best way to achieve this in your own home.
  2. PRACTICALITY: Consider what is most suitable for each space, in terms of cost, materials, format, size, practicality as a floor or wall tile, slip resistance for wet areas, and expected foot traffic. For outdoors, check that tiles are frost-proof.
  3. MAINTENANCE : Note that real stone, including limestones and marbles, need regular maintenance but are undeniably breath-taking in their variation. Brick and antique tiles require regular maintenance as well.
  4. LARGE FORMAT: Large format porcelain tiles are generally less expensive in comparison to real stone; Large tiles are simple to install, easy to maintain and provide a seamless finish with less grout lines.
  5. HANDMADE: Handmade ceramic tiles are a popular option to inject instant texture, colour, pattern and personality into a room.
  6. ANTIQUE: Antique tiles or bricks offer the opportunity for unique and beautiful floors or walls.
  7. WASTAGE: Always order extra 10-15% tiles for wastage, cuts and breakages.
  8. SAMPLES: When ordering samples, order more than one tile in order to have a greater indication of how the tiles will appear over a large space.
  9. EXPERT ADVICE: Get expert advice for choosing the right tile direct from the source. Look at the specific area you are covering, whether it is a large or small space and the recommended tile size, material, format and design of tile and preferred adhesive and grout.

Sources:

Waterworks

Hyperion Tiles

Mandarin Stone

deVOL Kitchens

Lapicida

Lubelska

Tile of Spain

Maitland & Poate


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