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How to Choose Floor Tile

How to Choose Floor Tile

black and white floral mosaic tile in bathroom with white subway tile

Learning to choose floor tile will give you a lot of freedom to transform your space. In our first house, we were afraid to even try tiling our floors, so we used peel-and-stick vinyl tiles instead. In hindsight, we would’ve gotten a much more professional result if we’d taken the plunge into the real thing. 

Updating the floors in your bathroom, laundry room or even kitchen can make it look like you renovated your entire house. I know you can do this. Dive in, learn to tile and enjoy the transformation!

black and white tile
You can be creative with your tile pattern for different looks, like I did here with different types of striped tiles. Photo by Holly Thompson.

Choose Floor Tile

Choosing the tile is probably harder than installing it, because you want to find something you’ll like long-term. Look for inspiration pictures of what you like. Decide if you want the tile to be the focal point or the background. If you have another focal point in the room already, the tile can be the background.

patterned floral hexagonal floor tile
Patterned tile makes a bold statement and is relatively easy to install. You can also pair it with a background tile like I did here with subway tile up the walls. Photo by Holly Thompson.

Option 1: Go With A Bold, Patterned Tile

You can choose floor tile that’s a bold pattern for a “wow factor” in the room. I love patterned tile. It’s playful and interesting.

checkerboard floor laundry
This laundry room is still in progress, but you can see how the marble checkerboard floor steals the show. Photo by Holly Thompson.

Option 2: Go with an Interesting Layout

A unique layout or pattern is another great way to make ordinary tile look a lot higher-end. A checkerboard floor is one of my favorite ways to add style to a room. And, you can choose floor tile that’s budget-friendly and easy to install.

white laundry wall tile
Using tile as a background to add texture and interest to a space is always a good thing. Photo by Jay Winter.

Option 3: Go with a Subtle Backdrop

Another great option is to choose floor tile that will be a subtle backdrop to the space, like I did with the laundry room in the picture above. I chose a variation of a subway tile shape but laid it in the typical subway-tile pattern.

onyx and marble floor tile in renovated bathroom
This onyx-and-marble floor was very difficult to install because the stone breaks easily. But the end result was worth this choice! Photography by Ashel Parsons.

When Not to DIY a Tile Floor

One option I don’t recommend is DIYing expensive tile. In my real life as a kitchen designer, I’ve had people spend a fortune on their kitchen and try to save money by laying the tile themselves. Once, it came out with wavy lines and a major lean to the right. 

If you’re going to invest in fancy tile, invest in a good installer as well. It’s a huge waste to have to rip out fancy tile and start over. It’s even worse to live with a bad install of beautiful tile and be reminded of it every day.

master bath floor herringbone multi colored brick
This house is still in progress. I like the handmade, quirky look of this tile and pattern. Photo by Holly Thompson.

What I Chose for Our House

To choose floor tile at our country house, I went with handmade zellige tiles. I love things that are a little quirky, so I chose a design with some colors that were interesting together. 

I chose a herringbone pattern with random colors. This made for a very difficult install, thanks to the irregularly-shaped tiles, the herringbone pattern and making sure the colors looked “random” enough. I love the result, but the install was pain-staking and miserable. Not for me, exactly, since I was just supervising. But, I did have to stand there and make sure the colors went in the right place.

colored wood floor tile in bathroom
If you’re going for a natural, random pattern, make sure your tiles are installed to not line up evenly. Photograph by Ashel Parsons.

Tips for DIYing a Tile Floor

If you are DIYing after you choose floor tile, my advice is to focus on easy-to-install tile or you might get discouraged and give up. There are lots of options that come on mesh sheets, making installation quick and easy. You can also choose floor tile that’s larger and will go down quickly. But make sure to figure out the pattern ahead of time so it looks like how you want it. If it’s supposed to look randomly-laid (like the ceramic wood-look tile), make sure it does or the result will be cringe-worthy.

If your bathrooms could use updating, don’t be afraid to tile the floors! It’s simple and worth it. You can also use this logic on someone else if you need to encourage them to do the tiling. However you get it done, it’s a great way to update your space without a lot of construction.

Holly Thompson bio
Photo by Angela Talley

Holly Thompson is the lead interior designer at Holly Thompson Homes in Franklin, TN. She loves making houses the best version of themselves. She is married to Dave, who is a contractor, realtor, and often works as her project manager. They own a fixer upper in the country, plus three kids and three cats. In her free time, Holly is working on her master’s degree in Interior Design and writes articles for American Farmhouse Style. In the rest of her free time, you’ll find her antiquing at estate sales, flea markets, and shops. All of those times involve coffee, to which Holly attributes her success in staying awake.

For more of Holly's DIY wisdom, don't miss Should You Do a DIY Remodel? and How to Get Faux Marble Countertops. Of course, don’t forget to follow us on InstagramFacebook and Pinterest to get your daily dose of farmhouse inspiration!

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