Developing The Design Specification: Tile

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Nashville, TN

Step 3: Appliances & Cabinetry
Step 4: Flooring
Step 4: Tile

Tile is one of the hardest selections in the over all design – it can really make or break the design of your project. There are so many options, resources, and details, so it can be overwhelming! It’s probably time to hire a designer on the next project, so I can see how the Pros do it, but for now this is how I go about choosing the tubs & shower walls, and floors.

Generally, I end up using several resources to find the tile for a project and it is always best to start with the most expensive stores. This brings me to the San Francisco Design Center in Walker Zanger and Ann Sacks– top of the line. Fortunately, I tend to like more modern, simple looks, which steers me away from all the fancy mosaics that are incredibly expensive. But, I like starting in these places to get some ideas:

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Then, back in Nashville, I sought-out the local tile stores on Google (they are usually all located in one area of town). I took a few hours on a Saturday morning with a tall cup of coffee, to just meander through the showrooms to see what is available at what price, before I commit to anything.

The Tile Shop

Louisville Tile

Dal-tile

After I hit the more traditional shops, I go to stores like Buy Floors Direct or tile discount warehouses, to see if anything I liked is stocked there at a discount. Typically, they won’t have any feature pieces, but large format porcelain tile, for example, for rooms like the pool house or floors is great to score at a lesser price.

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By the time I am headed home, I have bags full of tile samples clunking around in the back of my trunk, until I get home, spread all the goodies out on my living room floor, and have a look at the overall palette.

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For the Midcentury Modern project, I found a lot of what I was looking for at Dal-tie which I was quite surprised about. It is a great place to get modern designs, and can custom make any color options. Now, this is a “Spec” house, so I can’t go too crazy. I stick to principles that sell well, like a white palette for the Master Bathroom- everyone loves a big white master bathroom. For the guest room, and kid’s bathrooms, I choose colors that are neutral, but throw in something different, like a vertical staight-set pattern. Usually, a tile store will have a designer on site you can make an appointment with, that can walk you through each of the rooms and help you choose.

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When it is time to order, I get my contractor to give me a “take-off” or schedule of quantities needed for each space, and add 10%. The order is then written-up, and ordered several weeks in advance of when it will be needed on site, depending on lead time I give him instructions for what to do in each room, by giving him a lot of details and pictures, so mistakes aren’t made. It is important to include the:

  1. Tile Code (with picture)

  2. Pattern to be set in (with picture)

  3. Color

  4. Grout Color that goes with it

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Then, when it gets to the site, you hope that it will all come together like you planned! We recently started tile on the Mid-century Modern project, and when I placed the subway tile I chose for the Guest Bathroom next to the floor, in the lighting of that room (versus a showroom), it just didin’t look good. I caught this before the tiles were set (glued down) and so I switched the tile for the tile I had chose for the Kid’s bath. It is really important to supervise tile closely on any remodel project, because once it is in, it is extremely hard (and costly) to get it out. Detailed pictures of finished bathrooms coming soon!

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