Talking tiles

Martin Currell, Sales Director at Domus Residential, discusses the benefits of using tiles in a bathroom, the options available and the trends for 2016

There are numerous benefits with tiles: they are modern, easy to clean and compatible with underfloor heating. Crucially for housebuilders they provide a surface that is robust and that also greatly contributes to an attractive design scheme in the bathroom.

The latest design trends coming through for 2016 are varied. Geometry will remain strong with circles and triangles making an appearance, both in the tile shape and the printed designs on the tiles themselves. The industrial feel is now mainstream and this year the textures will become rougher – for example concrete tiles containing bits or more 3D texture to give a grittier or plastered appearance.

Tiles are emerging with lines that appear hand-drawn, that are artistic and imperfect. Contrasting this rustic, handmade feel, the trend for glamorous and luxurious marble is still strong. Coming soon, there will be new book-matched collections with patterns and veining joining to appear like one giant slab on the wall or floor.

In terms of size, smaller tile formats are becoming more prominent, 20cm square or less, combined with very large format tiles up to 1597x3197mm.

Housebuilders are presented with a plethora of options with a clean, white bathroom no longer providing enough of a wow factor to attract discerning buyers.

Popular currently are textured finishes which create a softer feel to the hard surface. Large formats are also favoured with less grouting, making the space feel roomier and uncluttered. Porcelain simulations have also never been more in demand at the luxury end of the market. With the introduction of inkjet technology, the quality of stone replication is so good that porcelain tiles are replacing natural stone on a large number of luxury developments. Porcelain is easier to look after than stone and you are assured a uniform thickness, consistent colour and design throughout the development. Porcelain examples include marble, limestone, onyx and a wide variety of distinctive stones from around the world.

The tile colour is also important. Popular colours at the moment are soft muted shades of blues, greys, reds, pinks and yellows and for larger bathrooms we are seeing the introduction of coloured grouts which are used to either harmonise or make a striking, contrasting statement.

Choosing the right material 

Any bathroom surface must be hard-wearing, impervious to water and humidity, and require low maintenance, as well as being aesthetically inviting. Ceramic and porcelain are generally the most popular materials that meet all of these requirements.

Ceramic tiles are made from clay which is shaped and fired. It is lightweight and easy to cut and install, however, it is also more prone to wear and chipping than porcelain tiles.

Porcelain for use in tile manufacture was developed some years ago to overcome many of the technical and aesthetic shortfalls inherent in traditional clay-based ceramics. Vastly more robust (cutting requires diamond edged tools), non-porous and colour-fast, porcelain is suitable for virtually any cladding application, unlike its comparatively fragile, light bodied cousin. It is perfect for bathroom floors where items may be dropped causing damage to ceramic.

Mosaics are a great way to create a feature wall, surround or niche in the bathroom; they offering a huge array of designs, shapes, colours and imaginative mixes of materials. The reflective nature of glass mosaic is enhanced by water and other richer precious metal finishes add instant luxury making them an ideal option for bathrooms. The glass itself can also be metallic, mirrored, clear, frosted and iridescent – making for some truly unique visual effects. As well as glass, mosaic is also available in many varieties of natural stone, porcelain, ceramic, and even precious metals and natural hardwood.

With the natural look still as popular as ever, many customers are using wood effect tiles that look like floorboards but are actually porcelain tiles in a large format. However, despite the preconception that you cannot use wood in the bathroom, due to moisture penetration, it is possible so long as you chose a quality engineered product that has been treated with oils or lacquers that make it water resistant. To maintain the floor, the home-owner simply needs to mop up and remove any excess water. It is also important that the room is well ventilated so there are no excessive fluctuations in moisture and temperature – these are the same rules that apply to wood anywhere in the home. The benefits are being able to achieve a harmonious design scheme throughout the entire floor plan.

Wet wet wet

There is an increasing desire for the wetroom look in bathrooms and here the floor needs to be completely rigid so the tiles do not move over time. Tiles are the key feature of a wetroom so the cuts and the grouting have to be perfect – an expert tiler is required. ‘Slim’ porcelain tiles are ideal as the ultra-thin (4mm) depth makes them easier to cut and easier to create the falls down to the drain. When using porcelain tiles on the shower floor, consider using a linear drain; the sleek modern line of the drain eliminates awkward tile cuts and also gives you a host of tile range options. Alternatively, for an uninterrupted tiled floor, look for a drainage system that sits in the wall at floor level.

Design insider tips 

To achieve a minimalistic contemporary style that will appeal to a wide range of buyers, choose one tile range and specify it in two different sizes for the walls, for example a smaller mosaic in the shower a larger size for the rest of the room. Go one shade darker for the floor in a textured bush-hammered finish. You can also pick one colour and mix matt and gloss finishes for interesting light and shade reflections.

For a classic look, a monochrome design scheme is a great option that will always withstand the test of time. In addition to classic black and white, also think about mixing textures and finishes to add depth and interest to your design. Try a combination of high gloss tiles with matt surfaces, or textured tiles with smooth ones and experiment with varying shades of black and grey. Also consider black/white or grey/white marble-look tiles which add a touch of timeless luxury to a monochrome design.