Photo: James Bombales

If you’ve ever wandered into a tile showroom or even a big-box store, you know just how overwhelming it can be to narrow down your favorite styles. With so many materials, colors and patterns to choose from, it may be tempting to throw up your hands in frustration and pick the same white subway tile you’ve used in every other room of the house. But with a bit of designer knowledge, you can shop with confidence. We spoke to Toronto-based interior designer Rebecca Hay, Principal of Rebecca Hay Designs, to find out what you need to know when selecting tile for your next project.

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1. Consider the environment

Photo: SS Tile and Stone Toronto

Rebecca Hay: When you’re selecting tile for your home renovation, you want to always consider the use of the space. Is it going to be a high-traffic zone, or used in an area where there’s water? These factors are really important. For example, if you have a high-traffic zone, like an entry, a kitchen or even a family bathroom, that’s when you will want to have a highly durable tile surface like a porcelain or natural stone (if it’s treated properly).

2. Be prepared

Photo: SS Tile and Stone Toronto

RH: Know your square footage! It’s super helpful to know how much tile you will need because companies don’t always have the tile in stock. Also, you want to think about the scale of the space. If it’s a small bathroom, you may not want to do a large format tile. I would also bring anything else that pertains to the design of the room. Personally, I usually use fabric as a design ‘starting off point,’ so I’d bring a swatch with me or a photo of a piece of furniture that I’ve selected.

3. Reserve daring patterns and colors for smaller spaces

Photo: SS Tile and Stone Toronto

RH: I think it’s best to use bold, fun tiles in smaller areas of the home, like a laundry room, powder room or entry. It makes a great impact and sets the tone, but you’re not going to get bored and dizzy from staring at it all day, like you would if it was used in your kitchen. If you’re going to go with a bold tile, pick the tile first and then the design the rest of the room around it.

4. Choose your grout wisely

Photo: James Bombales

RH: There are a lot of colors when you’re selecting grout, but be careful not to go too dark with your grout because it will look dirty. We often choose sanded grout for a floor, and non-sanded grout for [tile] on the wall. In fact, I often choose a lighter, whiter grout when I’m putting it on the wall. Always use a grout sample to match the grout to the tile — and pick a lighter shade. If it’s on the floor, maybe don’t go with white, but choose one of the lighter shades within the tile so it doesn’t look dirty. Personally, I always opt for the thinnest grout line possible because I don’t want the grout to be the focus, the emphasis should be the tile.

5. Don’t be swayed by trends

Photo: James Bombales

RH: There are so many options out there, the variety is honestly jaw-dropping. Every time I go to a new showroom, even I am impressed. It can be it can be daunting to go and pick, but just make sure you follow your instincts and your heart. Go for what you feel looks right — not necessarily what you think is ‘trendy’ and what everyone else is going to like, because you have to love it!

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