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4 Tips for Designing with Fireclay Tile

February 12, 2021

Today, I want to show you guys the 4 most important considerations when selecting tile, with a special emphasis on the features that make Fireclay so special. 

For us, this year so far has been dominated by tile. After completing renovations on our kitchen and guest bathroom, I am officially obsessed with Fireclay Tile. Sure, I was infatuated before, but living with it in our own home has made me a true believer. 

Whether it’s a wet bar, bathroom, or kitchen, I’m usually steering my clients toward Fireclay. Especially when color is involved. No one does color like Fireclay, and their range of available options is off the charts. It’s definitely an investment feature, but one that’s well worth it when tile is the design focus of the room—and when you consider the impact this company has! 

Image Credit: Fireclaytile.com (just look at all those colors!)

I’ve been working with Fireclay for about 3 years, and I first discovered them through a collaboration they had done with Rejuvenation. Even though they’re not a PNW brand (Fireclay’s HQ is in San Francisco), they share that same commitment to sustainability I grew up with. As a certified B Corp manufacturing in America, they know that their process matters—and is what makes their product really shine.    

Today, I want to show you guys the 4 most important considerations when selecting tile, with a special emphasis on the features that make Fireclay so special. 

1. Playing with Fireclay’s Patterns

It’s almost been one year since we first brought Fireclay tile into our own home. They’re my go-to for client projects, so I was so excited when we tiled our family room fireplace with Fireclay. We used their Color-It Tool to customize our selected pattern, inspired by old Californian architecture. I went with an off-white tile with a warm grey pattern — neutral, but never boring. 

I admit, I was originally a little nervous: I generally don’t like big patterns, so this was a leap of faith! You may notice I almost never buy patterned bedding, and I’m wary of pattern-clashing because it can make a room feel hard to relax in. Plus, I find I get bored quickly and want to change things—that gets hard when you need to work around a permanent pattern.  

But when you choose a neutral pattern, you can’t go wrong! This works especially well because my walls are white, and my couch is grey, so everything works together to create a peaceful environment. Nevertheless, this wall doesn’t need to compete—even when I’ve mixed and matched it with different rugs.   

Honestly, I can’t believe it’s already been a year! I’m still in love with the tile we chose, and the impact it has in the room. The tile puts a stately emphasis on our mantle without overwhelming the space. The floor-to-ceiling pattern gives our hearth presence, but the quiet colors keep everything in harmony. There’s a subtlety here that has me totally head over heels. 

Which is great because our new kitchen is so not subtle. 😉 

The full kitchen in view, with two pendant lighting over the peninsula and small sconces illuminating open shelving

2. Color Selection, Tile Edition

You may not know it to look at these photos, but these tiled walls are actually situated directly opposite one another! That’s right: our kitchen and family room are really one great room! You can look out upon the living room from behind the kitchen peninsula. So when we were picking out the tile, it was important our choice was cohesive with what was already going on in our family room. 

It’s a huge testament to the versatility of our fireplace tile that these statement walls can coexist. After all, a totally-tiled wall is SUCH a modern statement. (Not to mention very on-trend!) This is due in part to the permanence and precision of the look. With the added warmth of wood shelves, it’s a match made in heaven—much like our mantlepiece! The combination of all-tile and open shelving is such a power partnership. Once we knew we were tiling the wall, the shelves felt like a natural next step. 

This time, I knew that I wanted to go with color—which is exactly what Fireclay does best. Their full range of colors is phenomenal, and their latest collection is SO up my alley! They recently released The Desert Collection, inspired by all the warm hues we love most.

A white stove set in white modular cabinets with brass hardware against mauve backsplash that goes all the way to the ceiling!

The trick to picking colors that play nicely with others is in the undertone. I always select colors with grey undertones, so they all feel like they’re part of the same family. For the kitchen, we selected a soft mauve called “Dust Storm.” The grey undertone in the tile allows me to seamlessly weave in other grey details for a color palette that feels unified without bordering on matchy-matchy.

3. Should You Go Stacked or Staggered? 

Color isn’t the only important consideration to tile. Tile size, orientation, and the pattern in which the tile is laid all play a critical role in the final look. And we’re not even getting into grout today! It’s such an important topic, I think it warrants its own post. I have so much to say about it! 

Just take a look at our bathroom. 

We used the same sized Fireclay tile in our shower: a simple 3×12, this time in Cardamom. Here, we stacked the tile, which feels neat & tidy! There’s a cleanliness to the straight little rows, a seriousness, and a sense of certainty. It communicates a kind of security that I really like in a bathroom. And by keeping everything neat and monochrome, we were able to pair the stacked rectangles with a funkier star & cross pattern on the bathroom floors for some variety. 

Meanwhile, our kitchen tile is laid out in a staggered pattern. This style has more interest and movement, offering the room a sense of relaxation and creativity. I like this for the larger living space, where I want to communicate more of a carefree, laid-back vibe. Both are great options! Ultimately, the choice should depend on the mood you’re trying to convey in each space, and how you’d like to relate within the room. 

A close up on the cabinet's brass hardware beside the range's coppery handles

Regardless of how you choose to lay your tile, I always advocate for vertical orientation. It makes the ceilings feel so much taller, lending a light airiness to the space. On the flip side, rectangular tiles laid horizontally can start to feel a bit claustrophobic, especially when you’re working with a skinnier rectangle. 

4. Tile Shape & Scale 

“But Anita!” you might be thinking, “What if I don’t want rectangular tile?” 

Well, you’re in luck! Square tiles are totally making a comeback. For a long time, square tile has felt very 90’s, thanks to the white tile countertops installed in every starter home on the west coast. I can see it now—paired with oak builder-grade cabinets. Omg, remember? 😂

If that visual gave you flashbacks, don’t worry! There is definitely a way to bring this look to the modern age, with a fresh perspective that feels very clean and minimalist. I did this recently for a client project with a Japanese flair! 

white shaker style cabinets with gold, faceted drawer pulls, and grey textured backsplash

Again, we’re tiling to the ceiling. It just looks too good not to! The square lends itself perfectly to precise stacking for a serene look, particularly when paired with the pattern we chose. This time, we went with a selection from Fireclay’s Sakura Collection, which takes inspiration from Japanese landscapes and woodblock prints. The texture of these tiles is what makes them really pop, even in a neutral motif. The pattern ripples across the wall for a flow that playfully balances the square format. 

Scale is an important consideration, especially when working with square, patterned tile. You want to make sure there’s enough room for your pattern to breathe. In this kitchen, we were split between the Summit and Winter Mountain patterns, which are remarkably similar. But when we considered the scale of the application, the latter felt much too busy. 

It’s the same concept when considering tile size: we were able to use an 8” square, which is Fireclay’s second-largest option. Their 12” square is much better suited for floor applications—they’re huge! 

Choose Your Own Adventure!

At the end of the day, the color and pattern are a matter of preference. It’s the size of the tile that will make or break your look. Finding the right proportioned tile in your space is what’s really important! 

The square offers us an easy shape to demonstrate the concept, but it applies to all kinds of shapes—and Fireclay offers so many different shapes and sizes! It was a lot of fun to play with the star & cross in our bathroom, and I can’t wait to try out some of the other jauntier styles. Just look at this bold application of the star & cross in a rich green: 

Image Credit: Fireclaytile.com, Rebecca Gibbs Design

Which color-pattern-shape are you dying to try? 

Happy Day!

Anita 

 

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