Selecting Tile: The Unplugged Version

April 16, 2012 at 3:23 pm 4 comments

We have a new expert in the house at modwalls!

A few months back we welcomed Interior Designer Katelyn Bowman as our Trade Sales + Interior Design Specialist here at modwalls and she has been an amazing addition to our team. She’s got impeccable style , great design tips and an abundance of information about tile and the wide world of design.

We asked Katelyn to give us her thoughts on choosing tile and the tile selection process and below is the result… Enjoy!


So you finally decided that you’re ready to start browsing for tile options.  Great!  We’ve got some helpful designer tips on how to do just that…a.k.a. where to start.  PS, try not to rush the selection process if you can help it.

Tools of the Trade –> As an interior designer, I don’t often dissect my design thought process to others because it’s not the most profound method.  My hope is that while you master each of these steps, you will hone in on the tile that is best for your space. 🙂

Step 1 —>  Decide the look you want.  Think of it like your design game plan.  It always helps to have some type of design direction in mind when considering your options.  This will seriously help prevent you from looking at too many options and getting completely overwhelmed.  If this is you, don’t worry, you’re not alone and you have full permission to pull a “Mulligan.”  I highly recommend first browsing or  and enter the key words that describe your desired look.  For instance, if you’re looking to achieve a “Modern Bathroom,” enter just that in to your search and voila!  Of course you could also browse google images or actual magazines, but I think you’ll find these sites more effective.  You can also check out the eye candy tile gallery of our site for real-life installations of different design aesthetics.  Save the top 5 images you like and don’t feel like you have to look at every single image in order to feel confident in your design direction.  Once you have an idea of your direction, you can now focus on more of the details…like color.  Here are some examples of some inspiring looks:

Eclectic Kitchen featuring modwalls Lush 3x6 Reef Glass Subway Tile

Eclectic Kitchen by Katie Brown featuring modwalls Lush 3x6 Reef

Coastal Country Kitchen featuring modwalls Ceramic 2"x 8" Subway Tile

Coastal Country Kitchen featuring modwalls Ceramic 2"x 8" Subway Tile

Modern Kitchen by Playhouse Design

Modern Kitchen by Playhouse Design

Step 2 —>  Cohesive color palette is key.  I recommend you assess the surroundings of your tile location and beyond i.e. what materials and colors are in the area or in an adjacent space?  Consider the whole room:  cabinet color, countertop color, flooring color, wall color, etc.  Ask yourself, “What colors repeat throughout my home?”  Your answer could be neutral or more vivid color. Narrow down the possible color options based on the existing ones and I recommend that you try not to be overly monochromatic or super-duper crazy.  Pick color options that complement one another;  a cohesive color palette is key and the beauty is in the repetition!  Think of your homes color palette like a chorus of a song.  A good song hooks you in and keeps your interest, but sometimes the song changes keys and that makes the song – or in this case your space – more dynamic.

Kitchen featuring Modwalls ModDotz Marshmallow

Step 3 —>  Narrow down your tile materials (and sizes).  There are what seems to be millions of tile products out there made of a billion different materials in a trillion different sizes.  Because you have your design direction and colors in mind, this should help narrow down the materials you might want to consider.  Do some online searches on  material options: ceramic, porcelain, glass, natural stone, and cork to name a few.  Also note that not all materials or sizes are appropriate for all applications.  For instance, I would NOT recommend using a large smooth tile on a shower floor.  You or a loved one will slip and fall OR the tile will crack over time because a shower pan must be sloped for proper drainage.  Determine your options based on long-term wear and usability.

Another consideration that could have been narrowed down during your design direction step is scale, or the size of the tile.  Check out these images to see what I mean:  do you want a look with a larger scale tile or do you prefer the look of a smaller scale tile?  Tile sizes range in all different shapes from less that 1/2″ to larger than 48″ plus everything in between.  Smaller tiles mean more grout joints – which can be a good thing depending on the application.  It’s a great idea for a shower floor for instance.  It’s really just another element to consider.  I also recommend narrowing down your material based on your cleanliness habits.  Knowing what it takes to maintain the tile before you install can help you realistically commit to the material.  Tile vendors are usually the best resources to assist with all this type of information.  The saying ‘knowledge is power’ comes to mind because the more knowledgeable you are, the more confident you will be in your decision.  Plus, this will make shopping a much more fun, and specific, experience. 🙂

Modwalls CorkDotz as bathroom flooring

Water Feature featuring modwalls Brio Glass Mosaic Tile

Water Feature featuring modwalls Brio Glass Mosaic Tile

Shower featuring modwalls Lush 4x12 Fog Bank

Shower featuring modwalls Lush 4x12 Fog Bank

Step 4 —>  Go shopping!  Now that you know your desired design direction, color options, and what materials can be used, your real shopping can begin!  *HOORAY!!!*  Consider all these areas we have already weeded through and your search will hopefully be more specific and less stressful experience.  Don’t even allow yourself to peruse through options that just won’t work for you based on the steps you have already mastered.  Whether you are a showroom shopper or an online shopper, most tile vendors offer tile samples that you can order or take home to look at in your space.  We hope that modwalls  will be your first stop in your shopping search.  From there, I recommend bringing your samples to your space and checking it out one last time before you make your final decision.  And last but not least, consult with your installer on how many square feet you need (including overage) and place your order.

We hope you found this helpful!  Feel free to call or email me and the crew at modwalls to talk tile + design anytime. 🙂


Entry filed under: Buying Tile Online, Design, Fun Stuff, How To, How To Select Tile, Kitchen Backsplash Tile. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Lemongrass Love Ceram-mixed

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Decor Girl (@TheDecorGirl)  |  April 16, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    Great post and fab pics. Full of inspiration!

  • 2. divinelogistics  |  April 16, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Reblogged this on Renovate YOUR Estate w/The Johnsons and commented:
    SOoooooo…… not to completely digress, (though that is EXACTLY what I am doing…) Tile has quickly become an obsession to me. I do believe that one of the very first topics of disagreement I had with the builder was over tile and their indifference as to what we would use. I have spent a great deal of time and purchased a substantial number of samples which I cart around in my car so as to always have them available when making other design decisions.
    Tile is captivating! It’s depth and texture literally make me giddy. I came across this post from modwalls and could contain my fervor no longer on this miraculous material. Taking a look at their options…almost… make me want to rethink my choices! Check em and allow tile to change your life as well…just come on over into the light…… 🙂

  • 3. blackc96  |  April 19, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    This is great. I’ve always been overwhelmed by the tile choices out there, so this is really helpfully, especially Thanks for the tips.

  • 4. The People of modwalls « Modwalls Designer Notes  |  May 1, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    […] Katelyn is a great source for any design questions you may have, and she’s even started blogging for us. Check out her super helpful blog on tips for tile selection. […]


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Rebecca Lonergan

Founder and Creative Director of Modwalls Tile Company. Since 2005 Rebecca has been designing Fresh Tile in Colors You Crave. Shop Online at

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