The Pros’ Picks
Tile is perfect for a classic, enduring home design. But here are a few trends even the experts couldn’t resist.
Ron Maddox, Dal-Tile
Whether in handcrafted mosaics or backsplashes, clear glass tiles with colored backing have a rich, glossy hue, and translucent molten glass is beautiful in sunlight.
Combining natural-stone field tile with metal accents: bronze with yellow limestone or aluminum with Carrara marble. Or take it one step further. Tile walls or floors in the new plank metal tiles to imitate the look of studded wood flooring.
Luke Gilcrease, Lucasso Natural Stone
Try one of the new finishes for natural stone. In addition to polished or honed, each of which give the stone (and therefore the room it’s in), a very different feel, now there are options such as tumbled, semi-tumbled, brushed, and pillowed.
Whether as medallions or borders, mosaics are increasingly popular today. Not only in formal, elegant Old World-style homes, but also in more comfortable, casual styles.
Kerry McCauley, International Granite & Marble
Travertine and limestone tiles are perennial favorites. They’re relatively inexpensive choices that look like a million bucks.
Tiles cut from semiprecious stones such as amethyst, jade, lapis, malachite, and black onyx are the perfect way to surround yourself with lasting luxury.
Steve Pickert, IMC
Large tiles are in. Laying 18-inch square tiles makes a room look much bigger.
Marble is back, but this time around in showy colors such as bright green, gold, and black.
Steve Snider, contractor
Italian glass mosaic tiles are very, very in right now. It’s the most exciting thing I’ve seen lately.
Glenn Boudreaux, ASID, IFDA, Design Collection
People are going for the clean look, not using ornate things. It’s a Zen-fusion look.
The newest porcelain tiles have that concrete look. This is another way to use tile for a clean look.
Lynn Sears, ASID, Lynn Sears Interiors
Many of my clients want casual and comfortable, and tile is a good choice for that.
The gorgeous terra-cotta tiles that are available now have a lot to do with the upsurge of the Mediterranean influence in design.
Tiled stairs. I like to see tiles with a rustic finish as stair risers.
Beverly Field, ASID, Beverly Field Interiors
Moroccan inspirations –tiles with strong color and ethnic motifs.
Thick grout lines are out –and ugly. Aim for nearly invisible grout lines.
I think we’ll see more tiled kitchen counters. They’re more practical, since they’re easier than granite to maintain and keep clean.
Pam Kelley, ASID, Pam Kelley & Associates
I’m doing a lot of work with hand-painted tiles, particularly in kitchens.
Imports are big: French tiles with fruits and vegetables and Dutch tiles, mostly in blue and white, with scenes or small motifs.
In bathrooms, relief tiles add interest and texture for relatively little expense.
Penny tiles –small tiles that were so popular in the ’40s and ’50s and that you sometimes see in commercial bathrooms– are strong again. A bathroom floor done in round or square penny tiles is charming.
Just the Facts
Expert advice on choosing the perfect tile for your project.
A: There are three basic types of tile. Knowing the characteristics of each will help you choose the right one for the job.
Ceramic tile is made from different types of clay that are pressed and fired in a kiln. The tiles can be glazed with a mixture of metal oxides for color and ground glass for a hard surface. Ceramic tiles range from vitreous (water resistant) to nonvitreous (not). “The benefit of ceramic tile is that it’s easy to clean and practically maintenance free,” says Ron Maddox of Dal-Tile. “The glaze makes it very durable and also allows manufacturers to create many custom colors. Ceramic tile offers the most design versatility.”
Use ceramic tile on kitchen counters and backsplashes and in bathrooms. Be aware that ceramic tile can chip or crack, revealing that the color is only applied to the surface.
Porcelain tile is made of highly refined clay that is fired at very high temperatures so each piece is extremely dense and durable. “It’s the most durable tile you can find,” says Ron Maddox of Dal-Tile. Porcelain usually has more texture and can look like natural stone. Unlike ceramic tiles that show red or grey in the middle when chipped, porcelain tiles are the same color throughout.
Porcelain tiles are a good choice for kitchens and baths, as well. They also make great flooring.
Natural stone includes marble, granite, slate, limestone, soapstone, and travertine. “Natural stone flooring is produced by Mother Nature,” says Steve Pickert of IMC. “Sitting in a room with natural stone makes you comfortable, and then you realize that what was once a mountain somewhere in Italy is now your floor.”
Stone tile is a beautiful option for your kitchen and bath. Softer stones (some marbles and sandstone) are not a good flooring option for high-traffic areas, such as the kitchen or family room, but would be beautiful in your dining room. There are many durable stone options that can withstand the daily wear and tear when installed in high-traffic areas.
Q: I told my contractor that I want stone tile and he asked which one. I thought slate was the only option.
A: Not so. Not only can you choose from several types, there are also finish options to consider. “Natural stone as a decorating option has been increasingly popular in the last few years,” says Luke Gilcrease of Lucasso Natural Stone. “Stone works well with many looks, whether slick and modern or warm and traditional.” Stone can be polished to a brilliant shine or honed to a duller but less slippery finish. When tumbled, stone tiles have an antique and rustic look. “Stone also has the advantage of not losing its color as man-made tiles can, “says Kerry McCauley of International Granite & Marble. It’s important to consult a professional when selecting stone because some varieties are softer than others and better suited to certain areas of your home.
Here’s a crash course:
- Veined and beautifully shaded, marble is classic and elegant. It’s also a softer stone, affected by dirt and traffic, so it’s not the best choice for the foyer.
- Rich with mineral flecks, granite is one of the most durable choices. It resists fading and wear and is easy to maintain. Avoid slips in the kitchen and bath areas by choosing a honed finish.
- A popular choice for showers and bathrooms, travertine is a translucent stone referred to as alabaster by the ancient Egyptians. Seal travertine to increase its durability.
- Slate has built-in traction with natural clefts in the surface of tiles. It is highly durable and resists abrasion.
- Soapstone is a common choice for countertops. Though it can be scratched, it is stain resistant and just needs a bit of mineral oil now and then to seal it.
- Some of the finest limestone is quarried in Israel. Often mistaken for marble, limestone is harder and can be less expensive.
Q: I went to a showroom and picked out a tile I like on my own, but my designer says it won’t work. I thought tile was tile.
A: “Sounds like you might have chosen a wall tile for your floor, or vice versa,” says Kerry McCauley of International Granite & Marble. These are some general rules of thumb about tile installation:
- You can use floor tiles on your walls, but not wall tiles on floors. Tile made specifically for walls –usually of ceramic or glass– is not durable enough for the abuse your floors take.
- Of course, stone is a perfect fit for any flooring need, indoors or out, but keep polished stone inside and away from wet areas as it can be treacherously slippery.
- Floor tile should be rated at least semivitreous (see “Terms of the Trade,” below).
- When tiling your countertop, remember to choose either floor tile (the more-durable option) or wall tile (the more-options option) that is impervious to water.
- Porcelain tiles are vitreous and are perfect for bathroom or kitchen floors, but they should be sealed when used around the tub.
- The Porcelain Enamel Institute rates the wear resistance of tile from class 1 to 5. The lowest rating is okay for your bathroom; the highest is suitable for a football stadium, so it can handle your pets, your kids, and your kids friends.
7834 C.F. Hawn Fwy.
Multiple locations. Call for store nearest you.
11210 Zodiac Ln.
International Granite & Marble
1705 Wallace Dr., Ste. 100, Carrollton
Lucasso Natural Stone
905 Dragon St.
Terms of the Trade
Absorption: a percentage of how much water is absorbed by a tile in relation to its dry weight
Body: the structural part of the tile without the glaze
Bullnose: a trim tile with rounded edges used to cover outside corners or finish wainscoting
Cove: a trim tile used to fill an inside corner or connect the bottom of the wall to the floor
Decorative: tile with ceramic or painted decoration on the surface
Feature strip: also called runner or liner, a narrow strip of tile (or other material, such as wood or metal) with contrasting color, texture, or design
Field: an area of tile covering a wall or floor; also a tile of one color without decoration
Firing: the use of a kiln or furnace to create specific tile properties (such as hardness or color) with intense heat
Glaze: a coating applied to ceramic that is heated to a glassy state
Impervious: tile with a water absorption rate of 0.5 percent or less
Monocuttura: the process of firing both the body and the glaze of tile at once; single-fired tiles are harder and denser than their double-fired cousins
Mosaic: tile no more than 2-inches square made of glass or a porcelain base; mosaic tiles are usually sold in sheets
Nonvitreous: tile with a water absorption rate of more than 7 percent
Relief or sculptured: tile with high and low areas on the surface
Semivitreous: tile with a water absorption rate between 3 percent and 7 percent
Terra cotta or Saltillo: tile made of low-density clay fired at a low temperature
Trim: various tile shapes, such as corners, coves, bullnoses, and moldings, used for proper installation
Vitreous: tile with a water absorption rate between 0.5 percent and 3 percent