Our 5 Top Tips for Designing Your Floor Tile Layout
In this post, l’m sharing my *5 Top Tips for Designing Your Floor Tile Layout.* These are all the top tips I have learned over the years, and I hope they will be useful to those of you who are doing it yourself, or the homeowner or contractor working with another professional interior designer.
Earlier this spring, I was working on a marble floor tile layout for a powder room renovation in a 100 year old shingle style home on Boston’s North Shore. It was giving me fits. As I worked through the challenges of the tile layout, I realized I rely on a number of simple rules/guidelines when I design a tile floor.
By fiddling with the border width, I was able to eliminate the cut tile problem, but the diamond pattern in the corners was different. ARGH!!!
At some point I said to myself, “Wait a minute! What did Sally and I see when we visited Paris? There were LOTS of marble floors in Paris!” Sure enough, the solution to my dilemma was hiding in all those pictures we had taken.
The border is not the same. The tile inset (field tile) is treated as an *area rug* giving you the ability to control each corner of the diamond pattern. The border is what it is…
It even works with angled walls.
Enlightened, I went back to the drawing board. Et Voila! Tile as area rug!
The photo below was taken as the J. Tribble vanity was being prepared for templating of the new marble top by our favorite Boston area marble supplier, fabricator and installer, Cumar Marble. The marble tile was sourced from The Tile Source in Beverly, MA.
BTW – we LOVE how our contractor. Premier Builders, has fussed over every detail of this project!
To give you a sense of what the finished space will look like, here’s my hand rendered sketch of the vanity elevation with high gloss painted wood paneling and a coved ceiling. (Stay tuned for a blog post showcasing the finished project shortly.)
So, what have we learned to this point?
- That the tile border is not always what is important and at times, insisting on a tile border of a particular width may very well hurt the overall design of the floor pattern.
- Sometimes, the better solution is to treat the tile pattern within the border as an “area rug”, get that right, and let the border be what it is.
The basketweave pattern we used for the floor tile layout in the renovation of a powder room in an 1804 Federal Period home also required that the inset (or field tile) be set first, letting the border vary. Here’s why.
The basket weave tile piece is a nominal 12″ x 12″. BUT – the tile interlocks, meaning that when it is set on the floor, the interlocking pattern is no longer 12″ x 12″. It is something less. Working with tile such as this, it is best to describe the field as being 4 tiles wide x 6 tiles long, for example. The person laying the tile should set the basket weave field first and then cut the border tile to fit.
Speaking of border tile. When should a tile border drive a tile design?
In this master bath design in a New England shingle style home, Sally used the border tile to express and reinforce an architectural feature, the shape of the tub.
This small hallway in a French Villa style home, for which we designed the interior architecture, connects the front foyer and living room and is a great example of the pros and cons of a design decision.
For this floor tile layout, Sally and I felt that it was more important to use the tile border as a means of reinforcing the shape and size of the hall. Consequently, the diamond pattern of the white tile inset did not fall precisely in the corners of the inset. The newly installed Chesney mantel can be seen in the distance.
The solution to our tile dilemma? We specified a grout color that blended with the white marble.
You can also dress up a uniformly colored tile floor with a custom mosaic tile focal point, as Sally did in the design for a master bath in a 100 year old carriage house/barn on Boston’s North Shore. (Note how the grout matches the tile, beginning to suggest a slab of granite.)
The black and white tile floor in the foyer Sally and I designed for the same project is a great illustration of how to deal with a large irregularly shaped space.
Where walls don’t line up, it’s best to center the field of tile on the dominant X and Y axis’ of the space.
Let’s circle back and review my 5 Pro Tips for Designing Your Floor Tile Layout.
2. The actual installed dimension of certain tiles is not the specification dimension of the tile itself, such as basket weave. Install these tiles as an “area rug”.
3. Use border tile to enhance an architectural feature in a room.
4. Use grout color to either highlight or blend a field of tile.
5. In large irregular spaces, center your tile layout on the major X and Y axis of the space.
With these points in mind, whether you are doing a DIY tile installation or working with your designer or contractor, you can sleep easy, knowing your new tile floor will look fabulous!
If Sally and I can help you with any aspect of the design of your home, please don’t hesitate to contact us via the contact form on our website, here:
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