Interior designer ANNE HATTON says ceramic tiles are one of the easiest ways to transform a room and add value to your home

THANKS to the ancient civilisations of Egypt, Greece and Rome, tiles have been valued for their beauty and versatility for millennia. Many archaeological sites have unearthed tiles that are still intact - testimony to their durability and eternal appeal. Add to that the fact that they can be used in a variety of places for both practical and aesthetic reasons - and the range of materials, sizes, shapes and colours - and you have anear-perfect product.

They continue to have appeal today and, combined with modern technology and sustainability, they are still a wise choice in any project for the home, both indoors and outdoors.

There are many positive reasons to choose tiles as a material, not least for their durability. Wallpaper, paint, wood and carpet all have their place in the home, but why not consider tiles as a stylish alternative?

Where to tile?

Tiles can be used virtually anywhere and aren't simply found in the kitchen or bathroom - although they are the perfect choice for rooms with running water. With modern adhesives, tiles can be mounted on almost any surface, from concrete to wood, partition walls to bricks. Tiles can be placed on walls, counter tops, window sills, doorsteps and floors, even those with under-floor heating. They can also be mounted on

aqua board, a watertight product made from cement and glass fibre mesh, for shower cubicles.

How to use tiles?

There are endless ways to arrange tiles; simply by mixing different colours of the same shape tile, you can create a look that is unique. Adding a contrasting border on the top row of a panel can provide definition to an area. Accent tiles with patterns or different colours and materials can add a bit of zip without breaking the bank (they tend to cost more but, when used sparingly in a random way, they really pop out from the background).

Another important tip, when choosing your colour palette, is to remember that lighter colours make small rooms appear bigger, just as bigger tiles help to create an illusion of space. Small mosaics, however, will cosy up a room.

Add style to your kitchen Tiles can have a variety of looks, from the ultra modern to the retro. Spills from cooking or washing can be wiped up with a sweep of a cloth and most tiles will withstand modern cleaning products. Wonderful combinations can be created with colours (unornamented square tiles in three different colours for a fresh contemporary look above a hob) or by mixing different shapes of the same colour.

Tiles work enormously well on walls, but consider them for the floors too. They will withstand the wear and tear of traffic, pets, stains and dirt walked in from outside. The only thing to bear in mind with a tiled floor is that anything dropped on it is more likely to break.

Transform your bathroom These days, most bathrooms have a white suite, which offers the perfect backdrop to add colour in other ways. Usually found behind the sink or tub, tiles can be used elsewhere in the room

ACCENT: Even in the bathroom, tiles need not be just plain colours - in fact, you could happily have the whole room tiled from floor to ceiling. Tiles are the perfect hygiene solution. The one important safety consideration is ensuring that floor tiles have a slip-resistant surface.

Lovely living areas Tiles will work extremely effectively in other rooms, such as conservatories, lobbies and hallways, and family or dining areas. While the first instinct might be that tiled floors can be cold, adding rugs can create warmth. Glossy, reflective tiles give a chic, modern look, whereas textured tiles with a matt finish create the opposite feel.

Something new Iridescent or metallic tiles have become mainstream, as have glass and recycled tiles. Recent innovations include tiles that change colour as you pass, tiles that look like leather or wood, iron, platinum or silver. There are even tiles that emulate fabrics, grasses and sand. Whatever your project, there is bound to be a tile to suit.


With such a huge variety available, it is important to know the technical properties and the composition of what you are using. There are new developments in tile-making all the time, but these are the main types and the best way to use them.


Easy to keep clean and beautiful, but may not be suitable for heavy traffic areas. Floor tiles are available in a variety of sizes (usually big) and colours, allowing for different weights of traffic.

Glazed ceramic

Suitable for any wall use, particularly in bathrooms, kitchens and laundry areas.

Natural stone

Examples are marble, limestone, slate, travertine and sandstone. Very popular,giving a clean contemporary look. Each piece gives a natural colour variation, adding depth and lustre to a surface.


Extremely hardwearing and attractive; can be used virtually anywhere. Look for those with anti-slip surface or glazes. Require special adhesive.


One of the most versatile tiles, excellent in both small and large rooms. Very useful for walls with lots of sockets, changes in height or curves.


Made from natural clay and vary in water absorbency. Require sealing at regular intervals to prevent staining.


Virtually maintenance free, ideal for floors, and give a rustic look. Made from clay, they have a natural slip resistance.

Anne Hatton teaches interior design through Bucks Adult Learning and runs Embellishments Ltd. Visit www.embellish or call her on 01753 882 425 or 07776 171 328.