Whether it's adorning an entire wall, or simply lining a niche, the feature tile is a design staple deftly taking your room from banal to beautiful in one fell swoop. Pop them on your kitchen splashback, or rev up your powder room, like this space by Studio Atelier, to create a unique wonder wall. “It’s the room guests use, the one people will actually see,” says interior stylist and one-third of our House To Home Beautiful design team, Aimee Tarulli. Tiles are tough enough to handle the specific challenges of your kitchen, bathroom and laundry, from splashes and steam to dirt and grease. Here, we share expert tips on how to make the most of your statement finishes.
Even the simplest of finishes can turn heads. To create interest and movement all at once, try a shaped tile in a mix of three colours or trusty subway tiles on a 45-degree angle. Using a striking shape, such as a Moroccan lantern – even in the same colour as the walls – will create a patterned display, while stone or timber-look tiles add texture and natural warmth. Large format options, such as marble slabs, are gaining popularity and geometry is still in vogue – however, 3D tiles are catching up. “Three-dimensional tiles bounce light and shade around, to create shapes and shadows that add physical depth to a space,” says strategic designer Rachel Gilding of Beaumont Tiles.
Determine what you’d like to highlight and what needs to keep a low profile. Making a feature of the wall behind a special fixture – such as a kitchen or laundry splashback – will give it instant hero status. “Use a mix of full feature walls behind freestanding baths, as well as the rear wall of the shower, to add some contrast,” suggests designer and co-founder James Treble of e-course Interior Design For Profit. The floor is fair game too, and can be a clever technique to trick the eye, especially in a small space like a powder room. “Have a darker patterned feature on the floor to outline the edges of the room,” says interior designer Olivia Sirocco of GIA Bathrooms & Kitchens. “A feature wall draws your eye when you enter, and if done correctly, it can bring a long skinny room forward, or make a shallow room feel like it has depth.”
“It is really important, when planning your tiling, to take into account the size of the room, how the space is used, and the spatial flow,” says interior designer Olivia Cirocco of GIA Bathrooms & Kitchens. For bathrooms, as seen in this space designed by Black Lacquer Design, compile a palette to include a wall tile, floor tile, feature tile and grout colour. Strategic designer Rachel Gilding of Beaumont Tiles advises doing this early. “Not only will it get your renovating gears into motion, it will also influence your eventual selections in the room,” she says. Many tile stores have pre-prepared palette combinations to choose from, but if those don’t appeal, choose one tile – wall, floor or feature – that draws your eye, and build the palette from there. Crosscheck your selection against the style and atmosphere you’re hoping to achieve.
Bold as brick
While tiles are terrific, there’s another trending material that will give your scheme tough love, and that’s the not-so-humble brick. The staple of the industrial look, today, comes in myriad colours – including metallics – and finishes from matt to gleaming gloss. “Using larger bricks and blocks will create a more elegant, streamlined effect, while sticking to monochromatic tones – blacks, whites and all shades of grey – will evoke a feeling of luxury,” says general manager of marketing Brett Ward of Brickworks Building Products, parent company of Austral Bricks. Have fun exploring all options, from architectural bricks to the Palm Springs vibe of breeze blocks, which have also been reinvented in different patterns. Best of all, it needn’t break the bank. While prices vary, you can create an amazing look even with products from the lower end of the spectrum. “Bricklayers usually charge by the brick, so larger bricks may save you some money,” adds interior stylist Aimee Tarulli.
"The smooth textures of glazed or semi-glazed brick bring a sleeker tone to the room"Brett Ward