How to Use Different Tile Shapes to Make Any Surface Look Amazing

Tiles are for creating straight-line designs on floors or shower walls, correct? They certainly can be used for that, but their potential stretches far beyond simple patterns. Tiles come in a variety of shapes, which can be used on their own or with others to create amazing patterns.

When you begin to explore the many shapes that are available, you'll discover just how versatile and intriguing this medium can be. Ahead, learn how to use different tile shapes to enhance areas throughout your home.

Mix Basic Shapes for a Basketweave Pattern

Simple shapes don't have to be boring. Rather, they can serve as the building blocks for nearly any tile pattern that you wish to create.

The entryway below uses only two shapes and two colors, but the design formed by the tiles is strikingly beautiful. The alternating direction of the light-colored rectangles forms a basketweave pattern, while the basic black squares give the illusion of negative space. The basketweave design creates visual interest without overwhelming the mid-size space of the entryway.

Create a Mural with Tiny Mosaic Shapes

Tiles come in sizes from large to tiny. The smallest shapes are ideal for forming beautiful designs. From flowers to portraits to animals, if you have a vision, it can be brought to life with tiles. Tiny tile shapes allow mosaic artists to create intricate, even lifelike, works of art, such as the sea-life design on this swimming pool.

Mosaic art rose to prominence during the Byzantine Empire. Ancient artists from long ago developed the practice of creating tesserae, shaped pieces that can be arranged in a complex design. Modern artists continue to build on and enhance this time-honored practice as they craft beautiful works with tiny tiles.

Increase Visual Interest with Two Contrasting Shapes

Monochromatic color schemes are a good design choice for small spaces, such as the bathroom. Although the color palette in a monochromatic design is limited, the room need not lack visual interest. One easy way to enhance a monochromatic room is to incorporate two or more tile shapes.

The color scheme of this shower is not only monochromatic but also neutral. The mix of gray, cream and black could easily bore, but thanks to a variety of different tile shapes, there's no danger of that happening here. Basic rectangular tiles form the background for the design. They surround a much less common shape: hexagons in two different sizes. Thin black borders provide the finishing touch.

Turn Straight Lines into Round Designs

Can you make a curved design using only straight lines? You absolutely can! If you don't believe it, you can see it for yourself in the video Drawing a Perfect Circle with Straight Lines.

You can also use straight-edged tiles to create compelling circular designs and curved lines. The process isn't quite the same as it is with a paper and pencil, but it uses the same basic principle: Put together enough small straight lines, and the resulting figure will approximate a curve.

In the below picture, you can see how small geometric shapes were arranged to form circular designs for a behind-the-range backsplash. Squares form the outer rings of each circle. As the designs move inward, the tiles become more trapezoidal. At the center of each circle is a cluster of triangular wedges or a solitary round tile.

The wavy patterns in a few of the circles further emphasize the curved theme of this backsplash. The involved tiles are mostly straight-edged geometric shapes, but the lines that they form are curved.

Use Narrow Tiles to Form a Border

A border serves the important role of directing your attention. It encloses a space and draws your eyes to what is within.

Of course, the border itself is not typically the main design. It should highlight what is most important without drawing undue attention to itself. That's why simple narrow tiles are often the best choice for forming borders.

In the above bathroom, the simple gray tiles direct attention to the trellis pattern within. On its own, the delicate nature of the trellis design might be easy to overlook. However, the border of narrow rectangles ensures that the trellis captures the spotlight in this room.

Use Curved Pieces to Assemble an Intricate Pattern

Tiles don't always have to be straight-edged. Custom-cut tiles can be made in nearly any shape. Careful crafting allows one curved tile to line up perfectly against another. Similar to the process of assembling a puzzle, the artist forms a detailed design by adding one piece at a time until the picture is complete.

Notice how many different shapes are at play in this complex design. There are feathery swirls, floral outlines, and a handful of simple circles. Along the border, long, narrow rectangles accent an intricate scrolled pattern. A mix of dark and light colors ensures that even casual viewers will not miss the precise artistry that went into this tilework.

Simulate the Look of Planks with Long Rectangles

Plank flooring has long been used to furnish the floors of American homes. In colonial times, wide wooden planks were nailed in place. Colonists left the boards unfinished; years of daily use provided all of the polishing that was needed. By the late 1800s, however, polished and varnished boards had become the wooden flooring of choice.

Despite the long history of American hardwood floors, the look fell out of favor around the middle of the 1900s. Today, however, this traditional style is experiencing a revival among homeowners who want to trade carpet for an easier-to-maintain material.

Although polished wood has a timeless beauty, marble tile is even more elegant. When you choose the right style of tile, you can have the best of both worlds: the traditional look of plank flooring and the rich luxury of marble.

In this home, the kitchen is outfitted with long, wide rectangles of marble. Variegated shades, which add interest to the design, call to mind the 19th-century practice of using multiple species of wood within a single floor design.

Tiles in Your Home

Which of the ideas in this guide to how to use different tile shapes is most intriguing to you? Will you opt for tiny tiles made into intricate patterns or broad rectangles that resemble a wooden floor?

The best thing about tile is that you don't have to choose! When you incorporate tile into rooms throughout your home, you can include a wide variety of shapes.

About the Author

Nelson Londono founded Artsaics in 1998 after learning the ins and outs of designing custom artistic tiles and stone mosaics. The New York-based surfacing company specializes in producing stunning artistic tiles & stone designs with fine natural stone from around the world. Nelson and his team's passion lies in working with their hands, heads and hearts to make each and every space a unique reflection of self expression. You can learn more about Artsaics here.

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