Choice is good—except when it paralyzes you with indecision as you browse the myriad finish options available for your dream kitchen or bath renovation. Take tile, for example: Should you embrace the terracotta or terrazzo trends? Go bold with Art Deco lines or dark hues? Or is simple subway tile still best?
Sometimes, these questions are best put to a pro, who has seen it all—not just in showrooms and on Instagram feeds, but in action on the floors and walls of real-life homes—and has good data on what looks great and functions well for the long haul. What’s more, an expert can address the styling questions (grout color? layout pattern?) you might otherwise forget to ask until installation day.
Here in Denver, one of those pros is interior designer Laura Medicus, whose portfolio of fresh yet timeless designs reveals her stance on decorative tile: Classic styles will turn heads every time. “I love natural stone floors paired with a simple ceramic wall tile,” Medicus says. Though that doesn’t preclude her from making bold moves. “If you’re looking for a big bang for your buck, go big with your tile,” she says. “For a shower, don’t just do an accent tile at the back of your soap niche—put that accent tile on the entire wall and tuck your soap niche to the side so you don’t clutter up the big design moment. For kitchens, add breathing room on the walls, and take your tile all the way up.”
Before Medicus selects a single tile, however, she asks a few key questions: “I think about what I need the tile to do for me in the space,” she says. “Do I need a punch of color? Do I need a pattern? Or do I just need texture? Decide this, and it will help narrow your search.”
We asked Medicus to narrow things down even more by sharing the tiles she chooses again and again—along with how to style them. Here, she breaks down her top six, shown in gorgeous spaces she’s designed around town:
(pictured at top)
What: My favorite affordable, handmade-looking, subway-style tile, which comes in a few different sizes and has a pencil liner. I love the uneven surface of this tile, and I love that it’s glossy. The [dimension and sheen] add interest in a room without adding a pattern. It’s also a great price point, so you can use more of it than you might with a more expensive tile.
Where: This tile catches light in such a beautiful way. I like to go big with this one and go up an entire wall; it looks especially nice opposite or next to windows.
Styling Tip: The white is a classic, timeless tile. Pairing it with a softer grout color amplifies the handmade look. Depending on the tones in your countertop and the rest of your kitchen, I like Custom Building Products’ grout in Bleached Wood #545 for a soft warm look and Platinum #115 for a soft cool look.
Find It: Visit surfaceartinc.com to locate Denver-area retailers
What: Cosa makes my favorite handmade porcelain crackle tile, which comes in a few great colors, the standard subway size, some gorgeous mosaics, and great trim pieces. It’s a good choice when you’re looking for a traditional or even just a luxe look at a good price point.
Where: I love these tiles when I’m trying to add a little texture to a bath or a kitchen. They add a little dimension without shouting about it. They look great in vintage spaces when you’re trying to amp up that look, or they can add a touch of handmade charm to a contemporary space. I like to go big with the patterns on a large shower wall.
Styling Tip: Splurge on covering a big, clean wall in your shower with a shaped or patterned tile—and try not to put your soap niche or anything else on that wall.
Find It: The Floor Club, 741 S. Huron St., 303-777-6277
What: My favorite cement tile! There are so many beautiful patterns, colors, and configurations. They have a rainbow of solid cement tiles to choose from and I can get lost in their catalog.
Where: I love cement tile, but you do need to get it sealed prior to installing it—and then sealed again before grouting, and then sealed again! If you’re worried about it staining, think about using it around a fireplace or as an accent wall in a shower.
Styling Tip: You can customize Sabine Hill cement tiles—they have a lot of gorgeous colors to play with and you can experiment with the pattern online, rotating it for different layout ideas. One of my clients recently had a lot of fun playing with this tool!
Find It: Online at sabinehill.com
What: One of my favorite accent tiles, this is from Jeffrey Court’s Cubist line, which includes some other great shapes. It’s natural stone and comes in three gorgeous varieties: Thassos, Bardiglio, and Nero Marquina.
Where: This tile is great for special backsplashes and fireplace surrounds. If you can afford it, going bigger with it is always better. One of my clients is using the gray color in a small bar area and I think it will be really special. The tile is very reflective and looks “fancy” opposite the big windows in the space.
Styling Tip: I always turn the sheet so that the lines going through are vertical.
Find It: Visit jeffreycourt.com to locate Denver-area dealers
What: Black slate is such a classic. I use MSI’s Montauk Black Slate as a go-to floor tile all the time. I like that it’s an affordable natural stone with a classic, non-trendy vibe. It is uneven, though, so just know that it’s not a flat surface on the top.
Where: This tile looks great on a floor. I’ve used it on floors in entries, kitchens, laundry rooms, and bathrooms. In my house, I’m putting 18-by-36-inch black slate tiles on the floor in a windowed hallway.
Styling Tip: I usually use dark slate in a simple rectangle format, but I’ve also used PetraSlate’s 6-inch Ebony Hexagon tile in a bathroom (pictured above) with gorgeous results. Or, try slate in a 4-by-12-inch herringbone with a light grout for a stunning floor!
Find It: Visit msisurfaces.com and petraslate.com to locate Denver-area retailers and dealers
What: A few different companies sell great pickets, but my favorite is the Reine from Bedrosians. It’s a good price point for a shaped tile, it comes in a few colors, and there’s usually good availability.
Where: I like a large-scale picket for kitchen backsplashes and shower surrounds. It’s just a little bit different than your standard rectangular tile and it’s a classic shape even though it’s trendy right now.
Styling Tip: In general, I prefer picket tiles placed horizontally in kitchens and vertically in showers. Because it has angled ends, I think it looks cute next to hexagonal floor tiles.
Find It: Bedroisans Tile & Stone, 14155 E. 42nd Ave., Suite 70, 303-722-2200
Laura Medicus Interiors, gildedinterior.com