10 June 2021
Nothing in nature or the man-made world is really perfectly flat or smooth. If we take a microscope to anything that appears smooth it soon becomes evident that we live in a world of textures.
The decorative effects of texture on wall coverings provide great scope for customising our homes. Tiles are the ideal material for creating texture because of their repetitive module nature, range of finishes, durability and straightforward maintenance. We have gathered together a selection of tile textures and ideas on where to best use them in the following article.
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Before the modern age, it was difficult if not impossible to manufacture large expanses of sheer or planar surfaces. In practice, this meant that surfaces tended to get divided up and modelled, hence walls were provided with dado rails, panels, mouldings and cornices etc. Older buildings, therefore, have a marked tactile quality and this is one of the reasons that they are so highly valued. Because they feature craft expertise in the timber joinery and plasterwork that define the surfaces and spaces within. With the textured tile, this same sensation of craft can be recreated with modern-day building budgets, thanks to sophisticated manufacturing techniques. For interior design, the three-dimensional properties of textured tiles add visual interest as well as being a practical cladding material. The texture helps add depth to space and provides a tactile quality that reflects light in very different ways.
The following article considers wall tiles that have either a light three-dimensional relief (embossed tiles) or have a more modelled surface with geometric or organic designs. Flat surfaces, however, can also suggest texture with pattern, even though they are smooth to the touch.
We will explore the different type of tiles and textures available and suggest some appropriate applications. Cladding walls with tiles is a highly practical choice of finish when texture is added and the overall effect can be sculptural or decorative.
Tile textures can be something intrinsic to the material per se or something that is applied during the manufacturing process. Broadly speaking the following are among the most popular types of tile textures:
Small pieces of glass or other material that are grouped together in panels have a texture that depends on the type of material and also on the scale of the tile, the way the tiles are assembled and the grouting.
A rough texture stone effect arranged in a linear mosaic with thin strata of alternating materials, ceramic and grout. The overall effect looks like a matt concrete finish over an entire wall.
The repeated motifs suggest a texture that in many cases however are smooth to the touch. Others combine patterned tiles with a gentle relief over the surface of the tile. Tip: combine contrasting patterns in a monochrome colour scheme for a highly contemporary décor.
Meanwhile, more sculpted tiles in ceramic are made using moulds in order to achieve a three-dimensional surface. The highly modelled effect can recreate organic fluid forms –that are smooth to the touch over their undulating surfaces– or more abstract three-dimensional patterns.
Another alternative is the geometrical texture tiles that resemble mosaic, like the 3D motif tiles, that are repetitive almost mathematical in their expression. The tile itself has a modelled surface that provides texture.
Whether geometric or organic, in light relief or modelled in 3D, the choice of textured wall tiles depends on the desired effect and the practicalities of use. It would not be recommended to use a mosaic tile with texture as a splashback in the kitchen given the issues with maintenance. Conversely, a patterned tile would achieve the same effect and be easier to clean.
Nowadays, the range of tile textures includes options for creating wall murals and bespoke artworks. A feature wall in a living room can make an impacting design statement, texture tiles cladding a chimney breast or creating a backdrop for a sculpture or painting for instance.
For the bathroom a more decorative wave style wall tile that mimics how water runs off surfaces creates a more fluid environment, the walls are treated in a sculptural way. Curved or wave texture tiles help create a home Spa décor, as well as attenuating noise for a more relaxing bathroom experience.
Tiles with textures in the bathroom can break the space up into zones. A decorative 3D tile in a shower enclosure might have a curved wave motif, for example, that contrasts with a smooth tile on other walls. The area around a WHB, on the other hand, could be clad with a more linear stratified texture tile, which is contrasted with the mirror or bathroom cabinet. Another alternative could be to clad an area around a free-standing bathtub with embossed tiles to frame the sanitaryware and draw the eye to it. The options are best expressed when thinking about the space as a whole that is composed of different parts. In this way, all the bathroom tiles in the same space should ideally relate to one another, maybe by colour or contrasting dimensions in the same texture.
The embossing process involves the stamping, carving or moulding of a pattern onto a surface so that it stands out in relief. This can be in either a negative or positive format and typically involves intricate geometric patterns. Tiles that are embossed can feature repetitive motifs which when used to clad a wall surface have a warm and decorative appearance.
Any tile that does not have a smooth surface is considered to be a textured tile. Tiles in construction are primarily used for cladding walls and flooring. The textured floor tile helps provide anti-slip properties. The textured wall tile is mostly used for decorative effects. The choice of textures can range from light relief or embossed to sculptural and strongly modelled. Tiles with texture absorb light in a warmer way that smooth, reflective tiles.
The optimum choice of texture depends on the location where the tiles will be used. For shower enclosures certain textures are not suitable because of maintenance issues. As a decorative cladding however in living rooms, hallways or dining areas the choice is simply subjective, to do with individual tastes. Wherever tiles with texture are used the practicalities of maintenance must be considered.
Mosaics tiles are the most popular textured tiles in the UK because of the wide range of design options, dimensions and applications. Together with patterned tiles they represent good value for money and are extremely durable. Different formats and scales in the mosaic tiles provide diverse options for smaller and larger surfaces.