Tiles have serious design cred

In show-stopping shades or subtle stone and inky slate effects, tiles are trending big-time — and there’s a style perfect for every room in the house.
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Forget that splashback — now tiles are covering walls and floors throughout the house, for hi-tech drama. Combining design, technology and craft, they are a major player in London’s interiors.
Tiles were big news at Clerkenwell Design Week, when textile artist Ptolemy Mann made a show-stopping wall of 4,200 in graded colours using Prismatic plains from Johnson Tiles.
The ancient St John’s Gate was lined with Turkish ceramics for the event, and British manufacturer Original Style launched its Designworks showroom at 91 St John Street, EC1, installing a 15-metre, 900-tile “colour wall”. Tiles sit in little boxes and you can take away samples.
Tiles now have serious design cred, with big names jostling to make their ceramic mark. Olympic torch designers Ed Barber and Jay Osgerby launched a range of tiles called Mews at Clerkenwell, and the Italian maker, Mutina, has already commissioned other European design stars including Spain’s Patricia Urquiola and the Bouroullec brothers of France.


Stunning monochrome: Halo Halo, Bisazza glass mosaic pattern, 10mmx10mm tiles in modules of 60cmx60cm, following a design by Paola Navone, at £2,135 a square metre. From Bisazza (bisazza.com)
The Mews range reflects London’s streetscapes. “We love all those different textures of wood, brick, iron and stone,” says Osgerby. “And we did endless experiments to get them right.”
The result is just six colours, called chalk, fog, pigeon, lead, ink and soot, but each is in 15 graded shades and a choice of shapes and textures, so there’s potential for subtle, understated effects. They are stocked exclusively at Surface Tiles showrooms in Queenstown Road, Battersea (020 7819 2300) and Essex Road, Islington (020 7354 7000).
Surface Tiles also has a “bargain” showroom, Surface Tiles Outlet, at West Molesey (020 8481 9588).Director John Newey says shoppers love the new top-tech porcelain tiles that use HD inkjet digital printing to imitate wood and stone, with infinite colour gradations.


Chic chevrons: U-Color mock wood tiles in 60 shades, from Surface Tiles
You can put lookalike “stone” —from creamy marble to inky slate — in huge, relatively lightweight slabs on to a partition wall or a top floor. Colours stay true and don’t fade, and maintenance is a doddle.
Porcelain wood-effects have a softer style, from bleached driftwood to dusky ebony, and their plank-like strips look great in a fashionable herringbone layout. For a ritzier designer take, visit Bisazza in South Kensington, where glass mosaics shot through with pure gold are dazzling. See its lavish spread of designer panels downstairs at 60 Sloane Avenue, SW3 (call 020 7584 8837), where Pucci signature fashion prints hit walls and floors in swirling pinks and purples.


Beauty and the bath: Bisazza glass mosaic gold collection, Elena blend (bisazza.com)
More restrained is Milan’s Paola Navone, with an enigmatic patchwork of abstract squiggles, while flamboyant Dutchman Marcel Wanders — you may have seen his range at M&S — does newly discreet floral hexagons of matt black.
Fashionable ombré grading is easy with tiles. Choose five or six shades from the same colour spectrum.
“A single-coloured wall can be static and flat,” says Ptolemy Mann. “Using grades of colour adds interest and depth, bringing your wall to life.”


Floor ’em: Westmorland Tiles’ Stone Planks range, from £71.88 a square metre. Suitable for indoors and out (01539 727974)
Material Lab, the Johnson Tiles showroom at 10 Great Titchfield Street, W1, can help with this (020 7436 8629; material-lab.co.uk). It stocks a wide range of materials for walls and floors. See, for example, iridescent faceted diamonds from RCA graduate Giles Miller (gilesmiller.com).
Fired Earth got its name from the handmade terracotta tiles it brought to Britain in 1983, and its free catalogues are a tile bible for many Londoners. These days, reclaimed terracotta is popular. But also explore handmade decorated wall tiles, cool new geometrics and subtle stone and slate. All 10 London showrooms have specialist advisers, with a flagship at 74-75 Marylebone High Street, W1 (firedearth.com).


Very Moorish: Fired Earth’s handmade Marrakech base tiles, £4.68 each, with Targa decor tiles, £8.46 each (firedearth.com)
A sophisticated neutral palette is popular at the large Stone & Ceramic Warehouse in Chiswick (51-55 Stirling Road, W3; 020 8993 5545). “Cool greys, taupes and mid-tones reflect light and make a room look bigger,” says director Stuart Wisbey.
New large-format porcelain tiles are good for open-plan floors. They involve fewer grout lines and are ideal for underfloor heating, adds Wisbey. “Buying tiles should be touchy-feely, just like buying fabric and wallpaper,” he says. “Think about how and where tiles will be used, and the noise level.”

Bisazza glass mosaic pattern: design by André Putman, 20mmx20mm tiles. Price £355 a square metre. From Bisazza (bisazza.com)
You may still prefer real limestone, marble, granite or slate. Some are extremely hard, others softer, and many need sealing. For specialist tiles in bright colours — and great service — go to Criterion Tiles at 196 Wandsworth Bridge Road, SW6 (020 7736 960; criterion-tiles.co.uk), next to sister firm, Pietra Wood & Stone.

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