Selecting Tile

The Fine Art of Picking Tile

Like most women, I’ve dreamed about having the chance to pick or re-pick all my kitchen and bath surfaces. But when my moment came, I froze like the North Pole in January. I wanted something unique, that wouldn’t hurt resale. Something timeless that felt fresh. I wanted a kitchen worthy of a magazine photo, distinctive bathrooms that make my daughters feel feminine, my guests feel pampered, and my husband and I feel like royalty. I wanted humble yet elegant, sophisticated but not stuffy. Oh, and in stock and in the budget. I got some professional help and learned this:

·         Choose your main (or field) tile first, whether ceramic or porcelain, or natural stone. Keep function in mind. Avoid white tile in a high traffic area, or a super-slick surface in a room that gets wet. When deciding between ceramic and porcelain, know the only advantage to porcelain is that it won’t crack (as ceramic will) when used outside in a climate that freezes.

·         Decide on size. Most materials come in squares from 1” to 18.” The trend now is toward really large (16” x 16” and larger) and really small (1”x1” or 2”x 2”) tiles. Don’t overlook the odd sizes, like 12” x 8” or 3” x 6”, which can make interesting brick effects.

·         Add accent. A trim, border, inset or backsplash is the spice in your design. Consider whether you want it to blend or contrast, or add textural relief. The same tile but smaller and set on a diagonal can create low-cost interest.

·         Bring it home. Before committing, put your tile finalists in the light of your home, against the paint, flooring and other selected finishes. Be sure the color and scale look right. Look for bad copies. When choosing a tile with a lot of variation, particularly one that’s trying to mimic real stone, lay out no fewer than four pieces to see if the pattern repeats too often. A good and economical choice can be a tile made to look like stone. Many mimic the real thing making it hard for even discerning eyes to tell the difference. But watch for these two signs of poor imitations: When you lay out several pieces, the veining or marbling pattern repeats often. Or when you look from only a few feet away, you see a visible dot pattern from the printing process. If you notice either, get another tile.

·         Select grout. Consumers today are tending toward grout colors that closely match their tile, and are going with thinner grout lines. However, thicker grout lines, particularly with a distressed tile (one with chipped edges, called clefting) can add a casual or rustic feel.

·         Be brave. The biggest mistake people make is being too conservative. They make a bland tile selection, understandable considering that this decision really is set in stone. But have courage and choose well.


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