I love tile. I really, really love tile. Its ability to add color, texture, pattern and durability to spaces makes it the ultimate design wand. Wall paint, often a design transformation stand-by, can feel like a snooze-fest by comparison!
Almost any budget you’re working with is enough to experiment (or accent) with tile. From less than $1 a square foot, tile can work its way into almost any environment, from interior to exterior, and from traditional to modern. (And don’t even get me started on the creative use of grout colors with tile, which can add major visual impact at zero additional cost for materials or labor.)
In designing our new store at Legacy West, the tile elements and overall opportunity to customize the space with ceramic love was exciting to me. I searched high and low for options that would fit our budget and add design oomph, interest and warmth. (Tile even ended up saving the day on a storefront materials dilemma! More on that in a minute.)
Below, I share some of my favorite tile projects from the store, as well as a few tricks and tips. Hope you enjoy!
I wanted the store to have the feeling of a shop you’d visit in Europe, with tile and floors, windows and doors that had been there long before you were born. The entry to our store is no exception, and, honestly, where it all kicks off with a slightly Italian-feeling bang.
The marble tile is graphic and eye-catching due to the pattern, and yet comforting in the simple black/white palette and natural markings that harken back to marble tiles used for centuries.
I hand-placed almost every single tile you see here - even the smallest ones! - and opted for a black grout, rather than a neutral, to make each one pop. The contrasting grout trick I learned when working on a stained glass backsplash in a kitchen years ago, and was excited to repeat the technique on this entry and see the effect.
We love seeing your photos with our entry tile on Instagram.
Please keep 'em coming, and tag us @rbtlpaper so we can see!
My initial dream was a painted wooden storefront - big columns, all vintage-y white and wonderful. I found in speaking with our architects and general contractor, however, that with a west-facing storefront, we’d have a maintenance nightmare with wood, considering the amount of full sun and heat it would receive.
I spent the better part of a weekend on google and various construction manufacturers’ sites, and learned that tile can be a great exterior material. I reached out to Antique Floors, a to-the-trade showroom in Dallas recommended by our architects, and they showed me a wonderful tile from Seneca, of Ohio. Seneca makes its tiles on-site, and by hand (so no two are exactly alike), and I loved the idea of supporting small business and one that handcrafts, at that!
We debated color of the tile for some time, took a Team vote and even consulted with our developer, and went with a pure, warm white. We have been so happy with it. You’ll see contrasting grout here, too - it’s the same black grout used in the entry tile. It makes the white tile pop, and relates back to the black steel frame windows, doors and signage.
One of my favorite things to do in design is to take an obstacle or challenge and turn it into a strength or feature. (If only I could do this with my love for carbs!) At Legacy West, the wall that would hold our (many) greeting card shelves was going to be broken up by floor-to-ceiling ‘columns’ protruding from the wall - essentially, walled-in coverage of plumbing and electrical pipes that couldn’t be moved.
I took this as an opportunity to create focal points and opportunities for decorative lighting that would make each card section cozier (and the wall itself prettier, even from a distance).
There’s something innately soothing about subway tile - the almost rhythmic geometry of it all, I think - and I kept finding myself drawn on Pinterest to emerald green tiles, in particular, when working on the new store.
When I shared a favorite green tile image with our architect, Kelly Mitchell, she told me she had just found the very same tile for us for use on those columns - literally, the same manufacturer and color of the tile in the photo I had sent her!
The tile is by H. & E. Smith of England. Founded in 1926, H. & E. Smith creates the tiles used in the London Underground (subway). We’re honored for their creations to be a part of our store at Legacy West, and these glistening emerald green guys are often mentioned by visitors as a favorite design feature of the shop.Tips
- Always order a surplus of 15-20% on your tile, in case of breakage/damage in transit or during install, and so you have replacement tiles in the future should you need them. This is not an area in which to skimp/save, as being short on tile on install day means you will have an unfinished job, and need to pay the installers to return again (that’s two trip charges, instead of one) when the new batch of tile arrives. The new tile also may not perfectly match the original batch you received and used, as it may be from a different lot - this can mean inconsistencies in color, texture, and even slight variations in size. If your tile is coming from another country, there may also be shipping delays you find unacceptable, and that postpone completion of your project beyond your sanity limit. So order extra. Relish in the abundance and your peace of mind.
- If you have a complicated pattern you’d like to execute, work out the entire pattern, size, etc. on the floor with your tiles at least one week before work begins. Take a photo, and text it to both your general contractor and the installers, so they have your goals in mind, and can alert you to any last-minute questions or needs. Text it to them again the day before the install, to refresh them. (Chances are, they’ve worked on at least ten other projects since they last heard from you.)
- Be there when your tile is being installed, for the entire time, start-to-finish - no matter how small the project is. This is the only way to ensure your tile is installed in the direction you want, centered correctly, with the grout proportions and color you desire and details adhered to. You’ll also be immediately available for any issues that might arise.
- Don’t rely on your installer’s artistic sense, understanding of your instructions or vision. (They may be in a hurry on install day. Tired. Or there may be a language barrier.) Be specific. Ask questions. Give examples.
- Bottomline: plan for the worst so you can expect the best. It’s up to you to explain exactly how you want things done, and be there when it’s happening, or risk an outcome you hadn’t envisioned or that’s just plain wrong. Once the tile is cut, installed, and products begin to cure, it’s much harder, if not impossible, to make a change without tearing everything out and/or replacing materials. (Which can be very costly and hugely frustrating.)
- This is a a creative process, so remember to have fun. The unexpected will almost always occur in some regard, so be ready to be flexible (without abandoning your design intent), be collaborative, be rested and be ready to make lemonade from any passing lemons. : ) Enjoy!