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Patti Cowger

I’ve been writing about tile lately. I’ve mostly been describing the different types of materials it’s typically made of, the pros and cons of each, and where best to apply. I’ve also been encouraging those in the midst of a tile project to take risks. Stylish and classic risks. Ones that can make a big impact in a space.

Risks can involve color, texture, size, and pattern but I’m also suggesting one that involves placement. In a recent seminar, I showed attendees several photos where tile had been installed from floor (or countertop) to ceiling. I regularly propose this idea to my clients. Their first reactions are always the same – afraid and questioning my sanity. But, when they see examples of finished projects using such a practice, their minds are open to doing the same.

While this is may be a bold idea, today I’m going to conclude my thoughts about tile with a few nuanced, but important, tips.

I’ve been using the porcelain tile that looks like wood slats for a few years. I am really drawn to about 95 percent of those on the market. The ones that I avoid have a sparkle to them. Not the kind of sparkle you see on highly-polished wood, but something that looks like glitter. Glitter that shouts, “I’m tile, not real wood.” So, when looking at various samples, be sure to look at them from different angles and lights as the glitter is not always immediately noticeable.

Another way to reinforce a real wood look is to use tiny grout lines. I like 1/16 inch but will agree to 1/8 if the tile setter insists. But, I don’t budge on these next two tips: always use a grout color that is slightly darker than the tile. This will mimic the natural shadows created between real wood slats. Going lighter will destroy the illusion.

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My second tip relates to the installation. This type of tile usually comes in 24-inch or 36-inch lengths. Instead of offsetting them at half their length, do so at one-third or less. (Or, install them randomly.) In other words, most rectangular tiles are 12 inches long or less. In these cases, offset patterns would start in the middle of the tile. But for longer lengths, it would start at a third the distance or less. This is a better proportion and will look more natural.

If you’re a do-it-yourselfer and installing glass tile for the first time, be sure to choose the correct thinset and grout. Different manufacturers offer different products such as white or gray, sag or no-sag thinset, sanded, non-sanded, or epoxy grout, for example. When it comes to glass, in particular, the right product is crucial. Gray thinset, for instance, can show through the glass and alter its color and sanded grout may scratch the surface.

If you’ve chosen a crackled (or “crazed”) ceramic tile, be sure to seal each individual tile before installing. Otherwise, when you grout the surface, it will seep into the cracks and be impossible to completely remove it. Also, keep in mind that the cracks in the glaze may grow over time.

If you are working with a professional tile setter, be sure to express your vision and review any concerns you make have.

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Patti L Cowger is an award-winning, Napa-based interior designer and owner of PLC Interiors. For more information about her interior design services, visit her website at www.plcinteriors.com; call 322-6522; or email plcinteriors@sbcglobal.net.