How to choose tiles (and have great fun with them)

how to choose tiles

Keen to find out how to choose tiles? You’re not alone. Finding the right look, shape, colour, pattern, material and texture (that’s some list!) might seem a bit overwhelming at first. However, I promise it needn’t be. With tiles, there are plenty of chances for you to create a standout look. The key to choosing tiles you’ll love? Be open to having fun.

When you come to choose tiles, you’ll see that colours and patterns are already diverse. However, tile makers are taking it a step further: they’ve started playing with shapes, too. Gone are the days of choosing from square or rectangular tiles. Nowadays, you can pick from geometric, curved, or even more intriguing offerings.

Why not choose tiles in trend-led shapes?

Recently, one shape in particular has had a resurgence: the hexagon. It’s coming back in all sizes and colours and is especially popular on shower floors, where it creates a unique appearance that helps zone the room. However, I’m of the firm belief that these tiles also look good when covering the entire enclosure – go bold, I say.

Ca’ Pietra Woodland Glaze Porcelain Melange green tiles, £73.15 per sq m, Hyperion Tiles.

If a hexagon isn’t for you, don’t worry: we’re no longer limited to geometrics. Softer shapes, such as fish scales, are available alongside triangles, stars, and circular designs. Best suited to walls – and ideally used as an eyecatcher rather than an all-over look – they add interest and a contemporary edge.

Chloe Lozenge Blush matt tiles, £65.25 per sq m, Baked Tile Co.

Modern ways with metro tiles

As you choose tiles, let’s not forget about the classic metro brick tile – it may be ubiquitous, but it’s far from boring. Instead of laying white ones, why not go for a colourful style, as below?

Marais green tiles, £47.88 per sq m, Porcelain Superstore.

In addition, instead of laying the tiles in a brick-bond or linear pattern, you could choose a different style. Herringbone, for example, looks elegant – just remember long, rectangular tiles work better for this. Such a simple change in direction can immediately elevate your scheme.

Burleigh Calico Decor Flame tiles, £656.12 per sq m, Craven Dunnill Jackfield.
Plush cocktail shine tiles, £49.95 per sq m, Walls and Floors.

Glossy or matt?

You have two main options when you come to choose tiles. Glossy is still popular, usually as ceramic tiles, and can be an easy way to bounce light around – great in compact rooms, as it gives the perception of space. However, they need more maintenance and can be a slip hazard on floors, which is why I recommend matt tiles for that. Apart from being safer, they also don’t show marks, for example from damp feet, which makes them great for wet spaces.

Radford black and white matt patterned porcelain outdoor floor tile, £50 per m sq, B&Q.

Good installation and choosing grout

It’s always fun to choose tiles, but the work doesn’t stop there. Installation is crucial for a high-quality fit. I always advise keeping the grout thickness to a minimum, for a clean look and smooth finish.

For porcelain tiles, 2mm of grout will be sufficient. However, for cement designs, I recommend you allow for more, as they will move slightly with temperature changes. Consult your chosen trade, or ask the store where you bought 
them.

This advice applies no matter which shapes you choose. The rule of thumb is to match the grout colour as closely to the tile as possible. If you do this, always go for the nearest lighter option, as it will darken naturally when it gets wet.

With white tiles, I would suggest an off-white – I prefer Mapei 111 – because a purer shade will discolour quickly and look dirty. For a contemporary style, find a different colour of grout to add a fun twist to your scheme, for example a light tile with black grout – or maybe even red or blue? In terms of material, epoxy or acrylic grouts are best for wet areas, as they are both more resistant to mould and mildew and can cope with heavy traffic, so are good for spaces with high footfall.

Classic black and white checked floor tiles

Retromix black and white floor tiles create a classic checked effect in this bathroom. They cost £37.50 per sq m from The London Tile Co.

Trims and finishing touches

Consider how you’ll finish any exposed edges to protect your chosen tiles. Personally, I’m not a big fan of trims, although options have vastly improved in recent years.

If you do need to use them, go for flat metal trims instead of bead effects so they don’t distract. You could also match them to the finish of the brassware. I find this idea very exciting – just think how great a black tap and trim would look paired with show-stopping patterned encaustic tiles. For a seamless surface, set the tiles flush with the plastered wall. It is a bit more work, so it will be easier to do if you are updating the whole space.

If you ask me, bathrooms are ideal places in which to be bold and experiment. They often don’t link with nearby spaces, so they’re the perfect room in which to get creative. So, what are you waiting for? A lot of fun awaits you, so go and choose tiles now!

Titan Ocean metro tiles, £49.99 per sq m, CTD Tiles.

This feature was originally written by Hayley Robson, creative director at Day TrueIt has been edited and updated by Ariane Sherine.

Featured image: Metropolis star black wall and floor tiles, £22.95 per sq m, Tile Mountain.

Fancy painting your own tiles? Check out our DIY guide to doing just that.

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