Textures, metallics, glossy finishes - tiles have never been so varied and inspiring

The next time you walk into your local pub, treat yourself to lunch in Harrods Food Hall or ride the London Tube, stop to take in the tiling. What a selection!

Tiles have been around for more than 25,000 years and are still going strong. It helps that they are easy to clean.

Star performer: The spanish-style Pradena Star tile by Bert & May adds warmth and character

Star performer: The spanish-style Pradena Star tile by Bert & May adds warmth and character

‘Tiles are the simplest form of ceramic art. The earliest known examples are Egyptian and from 4,000 BC,’ says Jamie Robb, of Marlborough Tiles.

‘Tiles were used as decorative pieces for cladding buildings and inside to keep interiors cool.’ During the Victorian era, they were produced en masse and used in public buildings, churches, shops and houses.

In the mid-18th century, hand-painted glazed tiles from Holland flooded into Britain, which led to the porcelain manufacturer Herbert Minton reviving encaustic tile making.

This is the process where a plain clay tile is infused with liquid clay in a different colour to make a pattern.

‘In the Victorian era, geometric tiles were popularly used in the hallways of middle-class homes,’ says Emma Page, of The Victorian Emporium, a company that restores period properties. ‘Cheaper tiles tended to be installed in the less grand areas, such as kitchens and servant’s quarters

‘Expensive, decorative tiles were more commonly used in fireplaces in the main reception rooms.’

Holiday feel: Decorative tiles, like this one by Balineum, will create a summery, Mediterranean look

Holiday feel: Decorative tiles, like this one by Balineum, will create a summery, Mediterranean look

Claire O’Brien, head of design at British Ceramic Tile, says: ‘The historical Wightwick Manor in Wolverhampton has a great display of William de Morgan tiles while another architectural spectacle is the Grade II-listed Albert Hall in Manchester.’

Here are some of the hottest trends:

PICK A PATTERN

Bold, patterned tile designs for floors and walls are the perfect pick-me-up for neutral but dull kitchens and bathrooms.

Ca’Pietra and Bisazza — Moorish-inspired encaustic tiles from Fired Earth — add punchy print and colour.

In crisp monochrome or rich colours, they have a holiday feel and when used in larger formats (such as 100cm x 100cm modern industrial porcelain tiles, £95 per sq m, alhambrahome.co.uk) can offer an alternative to carpet.

Monochrome magic: Make a statement on the floor with patterned tiles like this one by British Ceramic Tile

Monochrome magic: Make a statement on the floor with patterned tiles like this one by British Ceramic Tile

Tweed, tartan and dogtooth ‘fabric’ patterns, and graphic, hexagonal prints create mesmerising optical illusions.

‘Geometric patterns can work brilliantly in modern bathrooms,’ says Caroline Gow, of Fired Earth. ‘They are the perfect backdrop to angular wash hand basins and linear cabinetry.’

GO METALLIC

Warm metals such as rosy copper, burnished gold and bronze are popular.

Dip your toe in the trend with a band of iridescent glass mosaics behind a basin or revamp a bath panel — a more budget-friendly trick than covering entire walls.

Embrace metallics with golden tapestry-effect tiles or Porcelanosa’s Metal Bronze 3-D cubes (£345 per sq m, porcelanosa.com), which add texture.

EXPERIMENT 

The days of plain, white tiles could be on the wane as deep, dark ceramics in rich, inky hues and moody charcoal take over. ‘The effect can be elegant, sophisticated and exciting,’ says Karen Brimacombe, of Reed Harris. ‘Glossy, black subway tiles create a premium look at an affordable price.'  

Go for gloss: Tiles in Manhattan Jeans by Reed Harris make for a swish finish in the bathroom

Go for gloss: Tiles in Manhattan Jeans by Reed Harris make for a swish finish in the bathroom

TRY TEXTURES

But if it has to be white, liven things up with textured designs. Sculptural ceramic curves, spectacular 3-D geometric shapes and tactile domes throw intriguing shadows.

Try the Wow Wave from Stone & Ceramic Warehouse (£180 per sq m, sacw.co.uk) and Ted Baker’s TacTile (£35 per sq m, britishceramictile.com).

LOOKALIKES

Natural wood and real stone are classics, but not great in kitchens and bathrooms. But, thanks to digital printing techniques, manufacturers can transfer stone and wood designs to porcelain and ceramic.

Not only are they thinner and lighter than the real thing, they are cheaper and offer the same look as oak or marble, but won’t rot or fade and are easy to clean.

Choose from faux timbers which look exposed and stripped, polished concrete, plaster, industrial brick and chevron designs.

 

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