A Designer’s Guide to Choosing Tiles

Photo by Alex Block on Unsplash

Tiles are a big investment, both financially and because they are a fixed element and unlike a rug, it’s not that easy to just whip them out and replace them as the mood strikes you. No, instead it’s more of a relationship between the two of you with things starting out with a blaze of attraction and infatuation and we hope that in 10 years we’ll still love waking up to the sight of them on the floor at 5:30 in the morning. I’m going to be acting as your tile guidance counsellor and give you my designer tips for making choices you’re not going to regret.

No Bunnings Tiles

Is there anything physically wrong with buying tiles from a hardware store like Bunnings? No, but it’s like buying Sushi from the petrol station. It “technically” gets the job done but you know you could get better quality or a wider selection elsewhere. If your first destination for tiles is a big chain hardware store, you are missing out on SO MANY INTERESTING TILES! The thing about tiles is per m2 you don’t have to spend a mind-blowing amount to get something unique and different. Take a look at other local suppliers and boutique tile stores instead (I’ve listed some of my go-to retailers at the bottom of this article). Even high-end tile houses have cost-effective options. 

Commit! Don't half do it

So we all know about the all-white bathroom right? It’s in-offensive, it’s functional and no one raises an eyebrow. That’s all true but it’s also boring as bat sh!t. People know that and what they often do is then choose an accent or “feature” tile, say a Portuguese style splashback tile to break up the all-white tiles on the floor and shower, and that’s great that we’re breaking down barriers and making designer choices but if you just stop at that one splashback and all your other fittings and fixtures are very neutral it just sticks out and isn’t harmonious. Instead what we want to think about is threading and repeating that visual interest through the rest of the space. That could be choosing tapware, lighting and storage units that match the style you have chosen. This makes the space feel intentional, cohesive and it’s not going to date like a space that has an “accent” element. 

If you are a natural lover, that’s amazing too. What you need to focus on is the texture, contrast and visual interest of your choices. Instead of a white subway, choose something with some warmth and texture on the surface and pair it with a lux-looking fitting.

Always Get Samples!

You always need to get tile samples and take them home with you. If you have access to the space then see how the light works at different times of the day on the tile. See how they sit next to the other elements you’ve chosen like countertops, cabinetry and hardware. Do the pieces look cohesive together, do all the undertones work and bounce off each other (if I’ve totally lost you at this point or need a professional, then let’s chat about it, hint hint). If you’re looking at slightly different colours or sizes then see if you can get samples of those too because what you think is the right choice in the showroom might not be the best choice when you see it in situ. Some tile houses will make you pay for samples and some will not, but paying a few bucks for a tile sample is the cheapest insurance policy you can take out to make sure you nail your selections.

Check Slip ratings

Commercial spaces are highly regulated when it comes to slip ratings; residential homes are not so much, however, you still need to make sure that the floor tiles you are choosing have a suitable slip rating. How will you know? Ask your tile consultant what rating you should be looking for and they can show you suitable options. You also might see “R” ratings (Ramp) or “P” ratings (Pendulum) on a tile and this is its officially tested slip rating. 

Look at different layout options

Do some research on the style of tile you looking at and see how people are using it in different layout options. There’s a plethora of choices when working out how your final design will look. Another thing to factor in is your grout colour and size. Don’t leave it to the tiler, make sure it’s been thoroughly though through, grout can make or break your design. 

Bigger isn't always better

Another common misconception is that a large format tile (usually over 600mm) is going to be cheaper to lay as there are fewer tiles to put down. Well, it’s actually the opposite. You see walls are never perfectly straight and floors aren’t always level, or need to have a fall added such as in a shower pan. If you have large format tiles your construction team will have to do more prep work to ensure everything is level and plumb. Shower pans can also end up a mess if the floor waste fitting hasn’t been planned out and a large number of relief cuts have to be made to install your drain. This can be avoided by talking to a designer and tiling specialist at the planning stage.

A few of my favourite tile companies

Classic Ceramics

Australia Wide

UNICA Stone & Tile

Brisbane Showroom - Ship Australia Wide


Australia Wide

Tile Mall

Online Retailer - Ships Australia Wide

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