November 5, 2020 | Updated: November 30, 2021

Home ideas

Wall tiles for your living room

 Of all the wall finishes available to transform the living room in terms of décor, wall tiles are possibly the most durable, versatile and impressive.  

Thanks to their stunning visual impact and their robust strength and resistance, wall tiles are an excellent option to completely transform your living room. Paint, wallpaper, wood panelling etc. are all popular choices but are hard to compare with wall tiling when it comes to the sheer variety of finishes and resilience.



Put simply, wall tiles will look as good as the first day they were laid over their entire life span. Here below, we look at some practical and imaginative ways to use wall tiles in the living room. Everything from fading into the background to becoming the protagonist of an interior design project for the room where we spend the most time in our homes.


The many ways that wall tiles can be featured in the living room

Given the tendency for living rooms to be open plan these days, often incorporating dining and/or kitchens, working or study areas, wall tiles are a great way to visually separate the different sections. There are also the more traditional ways that wall tiles have been used in living rooms over hundreds of years like fireplace tiles around an open fire or heat-producing appliances. If your preference is for a feature wall in the living room then wall tiles can recreate the effect of wood panelling or become a contemporary art installation or mural in their own right. Given the variety and quality of products available some guidance will be required.


Walls tiles for the living room fireplace

The fireplace, whether coal or gas, still constitutes the focal point of the living room and often, the home itself. Traditionally, the use of tiles around the chimney was based on their heat-resisting properties, easy maintenance and decorative effects. Nowadays, those same properties are still the reason why tiles are appropriate for cladding the chimney breast. If used to define the entire volume of the chimney, installation wall tiles lend the room a greater depth and draw the focus of the eye to the fireplace as a feature.  The image attached shows a modern gas fireplace with a wide chimney breast, the metallic effect tiles underline the contemporary feel of the living room.



Floor and wall continuity, matching floor and wall tiles in the living room

Architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Renee Mackintosh were renowned for their subdivision of living rooms, entrances and formal reception areas into major and minor spaces. The inglenook for instance would be an area of a living space with a lower ceiling that would provide a sensation of containment. Wright liked to contrast small entrances with more spacious living spaces.

The same effect can be achieved using matching wall tiles and floor tiles. The image illustrates a ceramic timber effect floor tile combined with ceramic timber effect panelling in a stairwell with seating. The continuous surface creates a sensation of the enclosure, of protection. Adding seating and a lamp helps transform a circulation space into a room.



Wall tiles creating a feature wall

Living room wall tiles can be centre stage or fade into the background; it all depends on the colour, pattern and texture of the tiles. A feature wall in a living room doesn’t necessarily mean that the tiles become the focal point. Instead, they can provide a neutral background, different from the other living room treatments, to allow a special piece to shine. This could be a piece of art, with a picture light, or a designer item of furniture or both as featured in the image attached. The wall tiles featured in the above image illustrate how the artwork, planting and shelving become the features of this living area.



Wall tiles to help define sections of the living room

Another decorative way to use wall tiles in the living room, especially an open plan living room, is to define areas within the space. The most obvious example of this is the dining area, the wall surface nearest the dining table should be considered as bounding that part of the room which is used for dining. This is more commonly used for formal dining tables and the choice of tile should reflect this. In the illustrated example, a two-tone wall tile provides a backdrop for the tables and chairs help create a dedicated dining area.

Accent wall as art installation using wall tiles

The reference par excellence for the use of wall cladding as art is the Mies van der Rohe Barcelona Pavilion. Here marble slabs, selected personally by the architect, were combined to form the walls or planes that enclosed the space. The very same effect can be recreated with porcelain marble effect wall tiles. The above image shows a very dramatic blue-veined marble wall in the foreground in a double-height space, with a similar tile featured in the background defining the dining zone. The colour and pattern of the wall tile add drama and character to the architecture of the living room.



FAQs regarding the use of wall tiles in the living room

For larger living spaces, large format wall tiles will work best and vice versa. The area of the wall to be tiled and the overall affect that you want to achieve will also determine the appropriate tile: glazed or non-glazed, textured or smooth, patterned or plain.

Yes. As a way of defining different sections of a living room as well as creating custom art installations, tiles are ideal for wall finishes. Another popular use for wall tiles in the living room is for cladding chimney breasts.

Yes. The backing or structure is very important when choosing a wall tile for the living room. Plasterboard on metal studs, masonry block work or timber frame construction all have limitations on the amount of weight they can support. A recommended supplier will give more details.

It’s always a good idea to talk to a supplier or research online for the specific tiles that will provide the finish you require for your living room. Create a neutral backdrop, or become more of a feature, or match other finishes in the living room such as the floor tiles. Wall tiles should be combined with an appropriate grouting to achieve the desired overall effect.

Traditionally, porcelain wall tiles were reserved for palaces and the homes of the aristocracy but thanks to sustainable modern manufacturing porcelain wall tiles are more affordable. The clay used for porcelain tiles is more dense than ceramic and its water absorption is lower resulting in a finer texture which can be glazed or non-glazed. The overall effect is both luxurious and elegant and therefore ideal for a room like the living room where normally people spend most time.

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