Finding the right look, shape, colour, pattern, material, texture (that’s some list!) of tiles might seem a bit overwhelming at first (I get it, don’t worry), but I promise it needn’t be. With tiles, there are plenty of chances for you to create a standout look. The key? Be open to having fun.
Colours and patterns are already diverse, but tile makers are taking it a step further: they have started really playing with shapes, too. Gone are the days of choosing from square or rectangular tiles – now, you can pick from geometric, curved, or even more intriguing offerings.
Break the mould
Recently, one shape in particular has had a resurgence: the hexagon. It is 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.
If a hexagon isn’t for you, 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.
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 in a brick-bond or linear pattern, why not go for a colourful style and put them down differently? 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.
You have two main options. 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.
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; for cement designs, I recommend you allow for more, as they will move slightly with temperature changes – but 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.
The final step
Consider how you will finish any exposed edges to protect them. Personally, I am 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 ones 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 to be bold and experiment – they often don’t link with nearby spaces, which is the perfect opportunity to have some fun. So, what are you waiting for?
Featured image: Retro gloss ceramic metro tiles with a bevelled egde create a colourful kitchen splashback. £17.95 per m sq, Walls and Floors.
Hayley Robson is the creative director at Day True.