Choosing the Right Tile Type and Design That’s Right for Your Room

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Gloss, matte, glazed, metallic, terra cotta and more: Each has its own look and characteristics

There’s a huge array of tile types and finishes available, so it can be hard to choose the right ones. The location where the tile will be used — on walls or floors, in the bathroom, in the kitchen or elsewhere — will affect your choice, as will your budget and personal tastes.

1. Bounce the light with gloss

 Tiles with a highly polished finish, such as these large ones, can add a light and luxurious touch to rooms. Their smooth, reflective surface means they’re also easy to wipe down and keep clean (though watch out for smears and smudges). However, if you’re going to use them on the floor, always check with your tile supplier to find out about their slip resistance and traction.

Porcelain is often a good choice over ceramic, as it tends to be more durable.

2. Go for a cool matte. 

If you’re opting for shaped or patterned tiles, choose a flatter matte finish to prevent them from looking too overwhelming. These herringbone tiles are chic and modern, and the matte finish gives them a cool feel. If you’re going for matte tiles, be aware that they don’t have the same wipe-down properties of gloss tiles, so they might be a bit harder to keep clean.

3. Add shimmer with metallics. 

Gold, silver or coppery tiles can add sparkle, glamour and a touch of luxury to your home. If you don’t want wall-to-wall bling, try using them in a contained area, such as a backsplash. This look works particularly well with mosaic tiles for a jewel-like effect. In this bathroom, the silvery tiles add just the right dose of dazzle and glitter for an uplifting bathing space.

4. Jazz up subway tiles with a colorful glaze

 White subway tiles are the trend that keeps on giving, but a brick tile in a bright color can take the look to another level. These brilliant blue tiles have a shiny glazed finish that bounces light around. The finish is also super practical as it makes it easy to wipe up those tomato sauce splatters and coffee splashes.

5. Add another dimension

There’s a growing trend for 3D wall finishes, which let you add texture and interest to plain color. Lots of 3D designs are quite subtle — these wavy crackle tiles add gentle pattern to the bathroom.

Talk to your retailer about maintenance before you commit, and bear in mind that textured tiles may be trickier to clean and that matte tiles may need to be sealed or have a protective barrier applied to prevent damage.

6. Choose encaustic for character. 

Classic encaustic tiles can add a historical or Moroccan feel to your room, and the patterned designs allow you to keep the rest of the room simple. Here, they work well with the natural woods and soft gray shades in the room.

Genuine encaustic tiles don’t have a pattern printed on top. Instead, the design runs through them, so if you chip the tile, it won’t affect the design. However, they can be porous and prone to damage from acidic substances, so ask your tile manufacturer about the best way to seal them.

7. Hone your stone.

 If you want a smooth finish without the high polish, go for a honed travertine. Smoothing out the surface of this limestone variety allows the natural pattern in the stone to shine through, and it has a subtle sheen without the surface being too slippery. Honed travertine can come in satin or more matte finishes, so choose the one that will work best for you. Here, the honed travertine floor tiles give this kitchen a classic finish.

8. Warm up with terra cotta. 

Terra-cotta tiles have a classic, timeless look, and their warm color instantly makes a space feel cozy. They’re made from clay that’s been fired at high temperatures, and they tend to have a naturally matte finish. To prevent staining, the tiles must be sealed. For a more affordable option, you can also buy terra-cotta-effect ceramic tiles.

9. Go for rustic tumbled limestone.

 To give your room a bright but natural feel, try limestone tiles. Choose a tumbled finish for a look similar to the one here. It will give a distressed, rustic and naturally aged look. (The tiles are “tumbled” with sand and grit to achieve this.)

Limestone is hard-wearing, so it’s a good option for areas that get a lot of foot traffic, such as a kitchen. When you’re choosing tiles with a more natural finish, think about cleaning and whether it will annoy you that there are pits and crevices where dirt can get trapped.

10. Lay down some honed slate.

Slate is a timeless choice in kitchens, though its dark shade means it works best in rooms that have plenty of light. Choose a honed surface that has been polished to a flat, matte finish, as seen here. It will be easier to mop, as honing smooths the material’s natural surface undulations. For a more natural, rugged look, try a riven finish.

As well as being beautiful, slate is tough, durable and should last a lifetime, though it should be sealed to protect it. However, slate can be rather chilly underfoot, so it may not be suitable for a bathroom (though underfloor heating can be a good solution here). It can also be expensive, so look at the many slate-look ceramic tiles around for a more affordable option.

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