Designing with Tile

Posted by Neal's Design Remodel on Tue, Oct 4, 2022

Including tile in the design of a kitchen, bath, or other area is a fantastic way to add interest and character to your home. There are thousands of styles of tile available and even more ways to use them in your home, so we turned to Neal's Designer Jodi Smith to get her insight into how she designs personalized and beautiful new spaces with tile.

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Jodi starts with the most important consideration. "What is the function of the space?" Different types of rooms will come with different sets of focal points, so whether it will be a kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, or anything else, Jodi knows there will be specific places the eye will tend to go. Once she has a sense of these, she asks, "Where do I want to create an unexpected focal point or pop of color?" In addition to the functional focal points, like a range backsplash or a shower wall, Jodi will also factor in the shape and size of the room and other details unique to the project. Since every home is different, the focal points will be as well. 

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When it comes to selecting tile for the areas she's identified, Jodi likes to find a fun or beautiful tile that feels suited to each project and, of course, the homeowner. "Even if the client is more conservative, a break from the norm is always a nice visual surprise," she explains. In order to narrow down what she'll look for, Jodi takes inspiration from the client, either as something they tell her or some other point of inspiration she's noticed. "Perhaps it's from a favorite color, style they like, photo, or where they've traveled," she says. Since tile can be used to bring different textures, colors or patterns to a space, she weighs each of these elements she's looking at the options.

Always keeping in mind the need to make a space feel unique and special for the homeowner, Jodi will look for tiles with a bit of something special. "I love tile that has texture, or an unexpected finish or shape," she admits. This includes options like hexagons, matte finishes, alternative materials like leather, or metallic tiles. She's also noticed recent trends that use oversized tiles that reduce the amount of grout that's needed and will consider this as an option when it feels like the right choice for the project.

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After the tile is selected, there are still many ways it can be used. Jodi isn't one for just placing on the wall in a typical fashion. "I like to think outside the box with regards to the overall shape," she explains. Sometimes that means installing a tile accent in the shower running in a vertical strip from the floor to the ceiling. Or using a bold patterned tile on the floor. Jodi doesn't limit herself on where an accent tile might be used or how. One key to making it all work is to be sure that she's balanced the more decorative accent tiles with plain field tiles, and to use different sizes of tiles in the space, "So that everything doesn't look the same."

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The details matter too, she states. "I like to use decorative trim pieces whenever possible," Jodi says. These are extra pieces that can be used to finish the edge of a field tle or to create clear visual boundaries. Many tile manufacturers will include trim pieces of different styles that coordinate with their tile colors. Jodi will also explore whether a contrasting grout color may add interest to the tile installation and suit the room's style.

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Tile can function like the painter's brush in any space Jodi designs, and the artisitc manner in which she uses tile creates wonderfully diverse and eye-catching spaces for her clients. With so many ways tiles can be used in custom installations, it feels like a missed opportunity to just stick with plain tiles in basic colors, so Jodi doesn't hold back. The eye-catching and unique results speak for themselves.

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Topics: Bathrooms, Designer Insights

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