Guidelines for selecting tiles - East Valley Tribune: At Home

Guidelines for selecting tiles

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Posted: Thursday, March 15, 2007 2:24 pm | Updated: 6:15 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Unearthed in the pyramids and in the ancient ruins of many Greek cities, elaborate tile work has been used to visually tell stories and cool down surfaces on interiors and exteriors.

Unearthed in the pyramids and in the ancient ruins of many Greek cities, elaborate tile work has been used to visually tell stories and cool down surfaces on interiors and exteriors. Tile has been a favorite decorative medium for 4,000 years due to the perfect mix of durability and beauty. Tile is cool underfoot during hot summers, it can be washed down easily, and tile lasts.

I find it fascinating that tile is as popular today as it was thousands of years ago. The detail found in some of the most ornate vintage pieces such as Moorish mosaics and blue-and-white Dutch tiles continues to be reproduced. You can also look for vintage tiles at flea markets and antiques stores.

On a visit to Italy last summer, I stayed at one of the most beautiful hotels I’ve ever seen. I fell in love with the vintage tiles that decorated the floors of the centuries-old Villa Cimbrone, and it renewed my passion for this ageless art form that is as practical as it is attractive.

Ceramic tile is made of clay and then baked under very high heat to harden and create a surface glaze. Even today, with all the modern methods of production, there is a purity about ceramic tile that is timeless.

I have never been nervous about picking paint colors or even wallpaper patterns, but tile — that is a whole other story. The choice of tile is vast. We can be inspired by how other cultures use this amazing medium in so many decorative and practical ways.

When you first head into a tile showroom, you will be amazed at the selection. Some showrooms are as exciting as a jewelry store, but it is not just a matter of picking your favorite design or color. Thought really needs to go into the whole process of tiling, whether highly decorative or just a simple kitchen backsplash.

You can easily change the ambience of a room with a new paint color, but tile will be with you for many, many years. Mistakes can be costly.

Here are some important tips when deciding on the right pattern, size, color and texture.

Think first about scale. Tile, be it ceramic, glass or stone, comes in sizes from tiny half-inch mosaics to 2-square-foot pieces of marble, granite or stone. (Anything larger comes as slab.) The size needs to be in proportion to the dimensions of the room as well as the fixtures and fittings.

The main impact of patterned tile is the repeatable design. Depending on how the tile is laid and if a border is created, the pattern will either visually extend or reduce the floor space. The same is true of today’s trendy small tiles. They work best in smaller rooms such as bathrooms and powder rooms or tight spaces like back-splashes, but can look too busy over larger areas. The general rule is the larger the tile, the smaller the space will appear.

Grouting around tile serves three purposes. It helps to hold the tile snuggly in place, levels out the space between tiles and adds to the beauty of the overall design. The width of the grout should be in proportion to the size of tile. If a wall or floor is tiled in a solid color, keep the contrast between the tile and the grout color minimal; otherwise the area will look too busy.

The finish on tile is available in glazed or unglazed. If unglazed is your choice, then you will find that you are limited to the natural colors of the clay, which range from pale sandy hues to the deepest rich reds. Natural tile and stone are very porous and will stain easily. You may choose to apply a sealer to protect the surface.

It’s most helpful to draw a layout of the area you are going to tile. Work to scale, and you’ll be able to gauge the finished picture. When you have purchased the tiles, draw a grid on your surface and place the tiles dry to make sure of the fit. Once they are set in cement, it’s difficult to correct mistakes.

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