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9 ways with tiles

Walls and floors may be functional but they are also a backdrop for the rest of your interior design scheme. Anita Rivers, our lead product developer, has a keen eye for colour and knows a thing or two about using tiles to make the most of a space. We managed to catch a few moments with her to get her thoughts on decorating with tiles.

No. 1 | A small room doesn’t have to have small tiles

People often think a small space needs a small tile. But in fact a larger tile provides more colour and fewer grout lines, creating the illusion of a larger space. With floor tiles, the eye flows across the floor, and grout lines will barely be noticed. Rectified tiles reduce the size of grout lines, creating a modern, flat look. On walls, if you lay by eye rather than using spacers, you can achieve a finer grout line, again making the space seem bigger.

No. 2 | Use different shades of the same colour

In the 80s there was a trend for putting clashing colours together – bright reds with yellows, for example. Today we prefer colour to work in harmony. The easiest way to achieve this is to choose different shades of the same colour; think of a column of colours on a paint chart - lighter and darker shades of the same colour, working in harmony together. This is also a good way to match other things in your kitchen. For example if you have kitchen units of a particular colour, choose a darker or lighter shade of that same colour.

No. 3 | Don’t use matt tiles in a dark room

Matt finishes absorb light from a room, and make a dark room seem even darker. When considering floor tiles, choose a honed surface – where the porcelain has been lightly polished to give it a sheen. This makes a room feel brighter. You might also consider a slightly undulating surface, which will reflect what light there is in different directions.

No. 4 | Use blue tones to cool a room, yellow tones to warm it

If you have a very brightly lit, sunny room, choose a floor tile colour with a very slightly blue tone to it. If it’s a room with a cold feel, maybe on the northside of a house, choose a floor tile with a subtle yellow tone. These tones aren’t necessarily obvious - think of a grey with a very, very slight blueness to it (which will cool a room), or a grey with a very slight yellow, brown or pink (which will warm a room).

No. 5 | Lay floor tiles to enhance the proportions of a room

The direction in which floor tiles are laid can have a huge impact on how we experience the proportions of a room. Always place a whole tile at the entrance to a room as this creates the feeling of flow. If the room is narrow, run the flooring across the room. It is short, run the flooring from one end to the other. Try using different widths of planks to add character.

No. 6 | Choose at least three colours if you’re creating a random colour pattern

If you want to create a random looking blend of colour tiles on a wall, choose at least three colours to avoid a chequerboard effect, and don’t be afraid to put two tiles the same colour next to each other. Using four colours or more it makes it easier to achieve a random effect. Rather than leaving it to your tiler, it’s an idea to lay out the pattern you want for the tiler to follow.

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Savernake in Silverless Street with silver grey grout and Figgins Lane with white grout

No. 7 | The colour of grout can do a lot to enhance a tile design

In fact, grout colour can change the way we perceive the colour of tiles. Strong colours like white or black will draw attention to grout lines, whereas softer colours like light greys will blend in. You can create very different looks by choosing to draw attention to the geometry of the design or to create more of a colour block effect.

No. 8 | Lay tiles out before tiling begins

Whether floor or wall tiles, always take them out of the boxes and lay them out on a surface or the floor. Make sure you’re happy with the pattern and colour variation. Choose tiles that give a pleasing variation of shade and tone.

No. 9 | Choose tiles from the same collection

When we create collections, we make sure the overall palette works together, so you can choose colours from across any collection and be confident that they will look stunning. These colours aren’t simply darker or lighter shades of the same colour; they are different colours, but they’ve been carefully chosen to have a similar tone.

We're here to help

Whether it’s planning a design project, advice on how many tiles you need or help with coordinating a colour scheme, we pride ourselves on going out of our way to help you choose the perfect tiles for your project. Our team is on hand to help - simply get in touch.


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Ben Spriggs, Editor-in-Chief, Elle Decoration

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Pat Jones, customer

“Marlborough are a trusted collaborator to design unique tile collections which delight our customers”

Rebecca Malon, Head of Design and Product Development Neptune

“Over 20 years, our brand has relied on Marlborough for specialist colour and glaze development.”

Colin Roby-Welford, MD of Fired Earth

“We are delighted with our stunning tiles - the colour and finish have brought our kitchen to life.”

Nicky Sweet, customer

“Superb! Great design advice on combining styles and colours. Thank you for going the extra mile.”

Emma Todd, customer
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