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Ask An Interior Designer: Tips For Choosing Tiles

Clare Phillips is an independent consultant on interior design and house building who has recently completed her own self-build project in Surrey. Having spent a significant amount of time choosing and styling tiles for her own contemporary five-bedroom home, we thought she would be the perfect person to give us some tips on choosing tiles.

Clare has used a mix of large format grey and wood effect tiles in her home to create a modern feel with a touch of Scandinavian style. She is a big fan of the colour consistency of wood effect tiles and says “wood changes colour over the years, as it is a living and breathing material. You have to like what that colour will become in 3+ years exposure to UV. For instance, pale oak becomes very yellow over time unless treated with a wash or stain to keep it looking pale. Tiles are consistent. They stay the colour you’ve chosen.” Not only will they keep their colour, but they are extremely hard-wearing so there’s no danger of scuffs or scratches from heels or furniture.

Another appealing factor is the range of tiles available. “There’s an amazing choice out there. Wood effect, concrete, encaustic, brick, oxidised metal etc. The choice is unlimited” says Clare. She also loves using textured tiles as they can “lift neutral, calm colour schemes”. Added to this is the fact that tiles are a great choice for allergy sufferers as they are easy to keep clean and dust free.

Tips For Choosing Tiles

  1. Allow time to choose. You don’t want to be forced into making a hasty decision. You will live with your choice of tiles for years, as they’re a long-term investment so take time to get it right.
  2. Create a mood board. This does not have to be anything fancy, just a few pictures torn out of magazines or an online board like Pinterest.
  3. Allow space in your budget to purchase samples. When choosing tiles for my new home I sourced many samples. Samples of floor tiles were laid down and wall tiles positioned vertically. I walked around them in all lights: daylight, artificial light, sunlight, and on a dull day. As I revisited the samples I was able to discount the ones that didn’t work for me, removing them until I was left with my final decision. I promise you, it’s worth the effort.
  4. Build a relationship with your favoured supplier. Talk to them so they understand the look you’re after. Take magazine cuttings with you or show them photos on your phone of the look you like. If you aren’t sure discuss it with them. A good supplier will know their tiles and will know what’s available out in the marketplace. They can source samples that are not regular stock items to help you find the right tile.
  5. If you’re dealing with large quantities discounts may be negotiated. I’ve tiled all floors and several walls in my new house so I was able to use the quantities required to gain a discount I was happy with.
  6. If you’re having underfloor heating (UFH) then tiles are a great choice as they are a fabulous conductor of heat. I love walking barefoot on warm tiles in the cooler temperatures and they’ll be wonderfully cool to walk on when the summer finally gets here.
  7. Tiles should meet recognised ISO standards to ensure they have the correct qualities for their use, this includes testing for thermal shock. Important when choosing a tile to be used externally, your supplier can advise you.
  8. Consider what the body of the tile is made of. I’ve used porcelain, as it is a high-fired ceramic that makes for a tough tile to withstand changes of temperature and hard wear.
  9. Slip resistance – if you are using tiles in bathrooms, wet rooms or externally around a pool area, then you must get to know ‘R’ ratings. Suitable tiles will be given an ‘R’ rating ranging from R9 to R13.
  10. Some tile materials may require specialist sealing or cleaning products. Talk to your supplier to see if this is necessary. It will depend on the body type of your tile and its intended use.
  11. Match your grout carefully as there is now a wide colour selection available. It can ruin the entire look if you don’t. For example, when choosing a wood effect tile I prefer to match the grout so it blends as one making the tiles look longer and more like a plank of wood. If you wanted the ‘on trend’ industrial look on walls you would probably choose a brick-sized tile and pick out the grout in a darker colour.
  12. Consider using skirting tiles to give continuity. There’s a great choice available now but if no skirting tile is available, your tiler can cut down larger tiles to fit. I’ve used skirting tiles throughout my new home providing a wonderful streamlined look and no re-painting/staining of wooden skirting will be needed in the future.
  13. Think about this size of your tiles as a larger tile used in a small room makes it look bigger. Fewer grout lines gives a more streamlined look.

We hope you have found this advice helpful, to see more of Clare’s work scroll through the images at the top of this post or you can follow her on Instagram.


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