Fiona Duke Interiors

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How to pick the perfect tile

The blog is back!

After a little interlude, I've decided to restart my blog. Whoop whoop!  

What to expect?

I thought it would be nice to share some of the joys, challenges and frustrations of my interior design projects. Basically, it will be like therapy for me so that I can offload all my successes, worries and doubts onto you and in return I'm hoping it will help you with ideas or concerns you may have if you're thinking of starting your own interior projects.

I'm kicking off today with TILES - over the last few weeks I've literally been dreaming of tiles. Thinking of tile sizes, tile patterns......

Whilst on the tube....

Whilst on holiday.....

My main focus over the last few weeks has been bathrooms and i've literally been surrounded by tile samples.

What type of tile should you chose?

Material choices - ceramic & porcelain or natural stone? Glass, mosaics, metals.....

What texture?

What style? stone look, wood look, tumbled marble look? subway tile look?

What size? square, rectangle, hexagon...... 

What colour? 

What colour grout? 

Will you need a tile upstand? (basically a skirting but made out of tile)

Choosing the tile is only part of the design decision - you also have to decide how it will be laid

What layout pattern? brick bond, stack bond, running bond, basket weave, herringbone, diagonal.......... 

and other things to consider such as will it work with Under floor Heating?

how much will it all cost?

You're so exhausted after you've answered all these you don't even remember to ask yourself


So where on earth do you start?

I've decided that from now on I'm going to approach buying tiles like I do when I buy kids school shoes. At the beginning of term, I used to naively get the kids feet measured and then let them choose which shoes they liked. However, once said selection was made, the shops would never have them in their actual size. Process now is we rock up, get feet measured and then ask them what they actually have and work it that way to save disappointment!

When deciding on what tile you want we've often got one in mind. A stunning tile that we've seen wonderfully styled and one we are determined to buy! However, it might be the most beautiful tile you've ever seen but 'is it actually the right one for this room?'.

Let's think of the 3 P's - PLANNING, PRIOR to PICKING (i know there is a 't' in there but it's only small)

You should ban yourself from looking at any tiles until you've done your homework otherwise, going back to my shoe shop analogy, it will be like getting measured and then trying to ram your foot into a shoe that doesn't actually fit. It will never look good.



Ok, so you have a space you want to tile. This may be a bathroom or a kitchen area. Back to basics. Measure and draw out the space. Do a little sketch whatever, just so you can see what space you actually have and what is going to be tiled. How much floor/wall space do you actually have? You ideally want to buy a tile that is relative to the amount of space you have.

For example a very large open plan kitchen or generously sized bathroom could cope with really large format tiles whereas a small cloakroom would struggle and would be best suited to a more petite sized tile.

You want to chose a tile that can fit neatly into the actual size you have - ie with as few cuts as possible otherwise you can end up with a small cut down one side that ruins the otherwise uniform pattern layout of the tile.

My initial sketches are always pretty rough but it gives me a good idea of what my options are (using graph paper really helps with the scale). Once I've decided which size tile I will use I then do a more detailed drawing so I can see exactly how they will fit. This will give you a great indication also of how many you need and how much it will all cost.

This will instantly give you an idea with regards to the best tile size. What size tile works best for the space you have?

You may be able to fit 60 x 60 square tile perfectly with minimal cuts for example and it may allow for the grout lines in the space to marry brilliantly with the adjoining bath panel. Or the space may work better with a 300 x 600 rectangular tile or a slightly larger floor tile.

What layout are you wanting for these tiles? What direction will the tiles be laid in? The dimensions of the room will need to be considered. If the room is quite narrow you can take advantage of laying the longer side of the tile perpendicular to the longest wall to give the impression that the room is wider than it actually is. Or lay a square tile diagonally to play with the perspective.


This always has a huge impact on the final design. If you opt for smaller tiles with lots of grout lines this can look quite busy (especially if you are using a contrasting grout colour to the tile) and this could make a small space look even smaller.

Should you chose a small tile for a small space? or will a larger tile automatically make things look larger? I think often it will depend on again what space you actually have and what tiles actually fit into the space.

One of the projects I'm working on at the moment is a small main bathroom with a relatively small floor area. The walls in comparison feel bigger and my aim is to balance these two out so I've opted for a very large floor tile 80 x 80 and smaller tiles for the walls. For the floor, I wanted to have minimal grout lines and this sized tile fits perfectly within the space without having to cut them at all so it will look very uniform and give the feeling of increased floor space. I will be using a grout colour that is the same as the tile so that even these minimal lines will be blurred and make the space look larger and more seamless. For the walls I'm opting for a smaller tile and this will be laid in herringbone so that it gives a sense of texture as a contrast to the seamless floor and to balance the space out. The grout for these wall tiles will match the tile to prevent it feeling too busy. Will share with you once we start cracking on this room!

By the way, don't forget, you will also need to consider the location of fixtures and fittings, wall space, ceiling height and lighting in the room when you're choosing your tile.

It's always worth buying a few samples before you commit so that you can see the tile in situ within a room. Another great tool you can use is various well known tile companies have a 'tile visualiser' on their websites. These can be really useful as you can get a brilliant overall view of how a certain tile will look and in various patterns. 

You need to think about the wall tiles also. Will these be the same as the floor? Do you want the grout lines to marry up with the floor tile grout? If the wall tiles are a different size or pattern, are you going to get the full effect of the pattern if you need to make lots of cuts?


If you've managed to get this far and haven't gone off to make a coffee, then you'll realise it's only now after all this blurb that I'm at the point where you can actually start to think about what colour or finish you want!

This is where we go back to the shoe shop analogy again as you can now go into the tile shop armed with your required tile size and desired pattern layout and start seeing what they have in this size! not the other way around........

Patterned tiles for the floor - some people say don't do this in a very small space but I think it's actually a bit about personal preferences to a certain extent. If you go for a busy pattern in a small floor space then just be mindful of what you chose for your wall tiles and compliment with something quite seamless. 

Lighter colours and gloss tiles will reflect light so can make a space feel a bit bigger but again matt/gloss can be down to just personal choice.

Let's hope that when you've chosen your perfect tile size that you have at least a few in your size to chose from!

Let me know if you've got any fab tile designs in the pipeline in the comments page below:

PS you have to click into the actual main title of this blog post for the comments page to show up

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