Tile Part 1: Tips that’ll save you years of poor-tile-choice therapy.

MODERATELY RIVETING EXCERPTS FROM THE HOPEFULLY HELPFUL TILE TALK WE GIVE OUR CLIENTS. (PART 1 OF A 2-PARTER.) Tile can be a beast. Even when you kinda/sorta know what you want, you realize there’s this whole universe of subsets to consider. Size, shape, color, finish, pattern, substrate – even grout color can change the whole look. Here are a few bits from our part reality-check, part pep-talk spiel. LET'S START WITH BUDGETING. Newsflash. That placeholder allowance for tile is nevvvvver going to be enough. The estimate most builders plug in for tile would be laughable if it weren’t so sad. It’s like, um – what’s lower than a lowball? A lowball hunched over. That’s what that number is. So if you stick with the $6/sf allowance the builder put in, look away from the Ann Sacks. Your budget just said “No can do.” The builder’s not trying to pull one over on you – just attempting to make all the numbers work. But keep in mind, half of that tile number goes toward installation costs, which leaves you with [hold please while we do mental math] – ooh, mmm. Bad news: not a lot of choices in the $3 range. Subway tile’s cheap and still trending well into the foreseeable future, but there are a zillion other incredible options out there if you’re able to wave your money wand and change a few digits. How do you know you’re somewhat in reality-land? The best way is to go room by room with the installer, who can talk through detail pieces you’ll need to keep exposed edges from showing, and any behind-the-scenes problem-solving that needs to happen, like angling the floor for water flow, or calculating how much overage you’ll need. Oh, and Herringbone People: you’ll need to order 20% more (vs the usual 10%) because of the detailed cutting involved. On the cheer-up/good-news front, there are a few things you can do to get more impact without blowing your budget to smithereens. Plus we’ve added our two cents on what type of tile works best where, along with the all-important why. WORK-AROUNDS. Genius hacks that give you some pizzazle without breaking the bank. So let’s assume it’s too late. You’re already gaga over some super-spendy tile and there’s no talking you out of it. Here are a few ways to trim a bit off the grand total. You can save some coin by using those ‘spensive lovelies more sparingly as an inset or focal accent, surrounded by also great-looking but less-spendy ceramic or marble. Another fun touch is glitter grout. For real(!). It sounds so hokey, but it’s actually more subtle and less unicorn-y than the name implies, and adds a really pretty dash of sparkle in a girls’ bathroom – looks particularly great with glass or iridescent tile. Fun and subtle patterns can be achieved for just a few bucks a sq.ft. like this porcelain hex tile highlighted with white grout to make the pattern stound out. Annnnd one last tip-slash-cheat. A lot of gorgeous mosaics come already pre-mosaic-ed on 12x12 sheets, so you save on install costs since you’re eliminating all that time-consuming detailed cutting. STYLE CHOICES. We like to go swoon-worthy, but still somewhat sensible. The beauty of tile is that is adds one more layer in the room in terms of materials, color and texture. It’s functional, but doubles as art. But because there are an insaaaaaane amount of choices, we like to ease people in. We start with simpler rooms like kids’ or basement bathrooms – then move to spaces the homeowners spend more time in, like the master bath and kitchen. The goal is to keep the look on trend but with longevity in mind, so you’re not regretting your design choices five years from now. Here are a few of our guidelines for what makes sense where: In functional spaces, porcelain and ceramic tiles tend to be our go-to (vs natural or porous stone). They can handle the wear and tear of spilled nail polish remover or the aftermath of a special-occasion hairspray blitz. More to come on cement tile in our next blog, but this master bath wanted some flare, had to have material that complimented the historic home and the homeowners were aware and fully down with it’s living finish, knowing it will show wear over time, but willing to go down that road for the look. (we smiled) Most homeowners have their heart set on marble in the master bath, pointing us to glama-shots they’ve amassed – all snapped the day after install before any trace of human interaction. We love it too, and it’s fine for some surfaces, but definitely not great for shower floors, or steam showers. [See dull-but-important maintenance considerations we’ll be posting in a few weeks.] We saw one marble shower wall that had turned orange because the original builder had used dry wall screws that weren’t stainless. Moisture from the shower had rusted the screws and that not-so-lovely shade was leaching through the porous marble. Saaaaaad. We just adore this faux marble floor, that is actually made from porcelain and lets you get that high end look with no maintenance required…well…except for picking up your pj’s, towels, etc. so it always looks photo worthy. The kitchen backsplash is going to have a lotta lookers, so it’s probably worth allocating more toward that one, as you divvy up where the dough’s going. Brace yourself, the actual what-goes-where discussion could be a long talk. Takes some figure-outing in terms of how high to go, what finish pieces you’ll need, or how to work around windows. In one home, we popped off the casing and did extended jams – otherwise there would’ve only been a weird narrow strip of tile between the cabinets and window. Also, if you’re thinking about doing it up big, nail down your plan early. Most “wow that’s gorgeous” tile comes with the other kind of “wow” lead time (as in, “wow that’s taking forrrrrrever to get here”). People tend to get a li’l more daring in mudrooms and powder baths. They’re smaller spaces and not exactly focal points, so it’s their safe-space for getting crazier with pattern or color. Like a dance move you preview at a family wedding before taking it fully public. Next up, tile maintenance. Hows that for a cliffhanger? In our Part 2 post later this month, we’ll talk about needy tile and what to steer clear of if constant re-sealing is not your jam. Plus we’ll reveal our top-secret magic grout, which we only share with people we like. (Congrats. You qualify.) Until next time... thanks for reading!

Photos by Picture Perfect House and Joe Kwon Photography (you should follow both of them!)

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