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The Grazia Girl's Guide To: Choosing Wall And Floor Tiles

© Unsplash / Liana Mikah

We're blaming Instagram (and last summer's trip to Lisbon) for our newfound tile obsession...

Blame Instagram accounts like I Have This Thing With Floors, blame lifestyle bloggers and their passion for all things marble and terrazzo, blame the fact that Lisbon has become the millennial city break destination du jour: whatever the root cause, tiles are very much having an interiors moment. Whether your tastes tend towards intricate mosaic styles, painted-on patterns or classic subway tiles, here's what you need to know before attempting to recreate a Pinterest-worthy look in your own home...

So. How do I choose my tiles?

As is usual with interiors, it's about striking a balance between considering the space you have and your own personal taste (with a smattering of practicality thrown in, too). ‘In terms of colours, crisp sleek neutral shades in marble tiles work best for bathrooms,’ advises interior designer Katharine Pooley. ‘For kitchens, I also like to use neutral colors as this provides a good base and it means you can easily update the décor by changing accessories. I would experiment more with shape and colour for wall tiles.’

© Pinterest

What's the difference between tile types?

Ceramic tiles: Affordable and easy to cut, ceramics present an excellent entry-level option.

Matte porcelain tiles: Hard-wearing and requiring little maintenance, matte porcelain is perfect for floors.

Polished porcelain tiles: This variant of porcelain has similar advantages to its matte counterpart, but reflects the light too thanks to a polished finish.

Natural stone: Authentic stone tiles are undeniably stylish (see: Instagram's obsession with all things marble) and hard-wearing, too, but that comes at a price: they'll be more expensive and more difficult to cut. You'll also need to waterproof them beforehand.

Mosaic: Often available in bold, vibrant colours, glass mosaic tiles are the perfect way to add an accent or feature wall. They tend to be cut smaller, giving you plenty of flexibility when it comes to crafting the perfect design.

What about grouting?

Ah, grouting. Such a delightful word, so integral to bringing your tile dreams to life. Practically, it's the stuff that bonds your tiles together, creating a finish that's durable and preventing future water damage. But it can play an important role aesthetically, too. 'Well-laid grouting will help determine where the eye is draw to, helping to highlight a particular pattern or design,' says Lee. 'It’s vital that grouting looks clean and uniform – especially if you have a particularly detailed or geometric pattern on your tiles.'

You needn't opt for plain white, either. 'Grouting can also contribute to a room's colour scheme,' adds Lee. 'While black and darker shades of grouting have grown in popularity in recent years, we are now seeing more varied tones coming through – even pink and green shades. Of course, you can also match your grouting to the colour of the tiles for a look that helps maintain tonal consistency throughout.'

‘Looking ahead into 2019, we’re seeing a move away from boxy geometric shapes on tiles,’ predicts Lee. ‘However, this doesn’t necessarily mean a return to fussy or floral designs. Instead, curves and soft pastel shades will be gaining ground, especially in understated fluid designs.’ Katherine, meanwhile, advises looking out for 'textured tiles and neutrals, particularly for bathroom walls.'

NOW READ: Ideas To Steal From Pinterest's Best Bathrooms

What size of tile should I choose?

According to Colin Lincoln Evans, buying manager at Tile Mountain, a general rule is ‘to purchase tiles relative to the amount of space you have.’ So, if you’re working with a large or open-plan space (perhaps a kitchen-dining room), you can experiment with larger ones, whereas ‘for a medium size bathroom, you might want to go with a medium-size tile to suit. And the most petite of cloakrooms may look best with smaller, mosaic style tiles.’ Seems sensible to us.

If you are short on square footage, a few clever tricks could help create the illusion of space. ‘Light, colored tiles can make a small bathroom look bigger, as they reflect more light than darker colors, giving an airy and spacious feel,’ suggests Jo Oliver of the Stone & Ceramic Warehouse. Plus, using the same tiles on your floors and your walls won’t just look good on Instagram. ‘This will enhance the feeling of space by creating a continuous look,’ Jo advises.

Consider your grout lines, too. ‘The more grout lines you have, the busier your wall or floor will look,’ says Colin. ‘This may have a tendency to make a smaller space look even more bijou. One thing that you can do to ensure your tiles make a room look larger is to use a grout color that is similar to your tiles: this makes the grid effect disappear more, and your tiles will no longer look framed.’