INTERIORS The lowdown on floor tiles

Multi-coloured tile mosaic

Floor tiles – Get the lowdown

Interior Design
Niamh Tuohy

If you’re of a certain age, you’ll know that fads and fashions come and go in cycles. And if you’re of a certain age plus some, you’ll know that these cycles come in cycles! Invariably with a few different bells and whistles attached. However, ideas and styles basically get churned out every few decades with alterations here and updating there.
Interiors can be much the same, albeit at a slower rate. Carpets were hugely fashionable in the ’60s and ’70s. Wood came into vogue in the ’80s and more so in the ’90s. Now tiling is the choice du jour for floor covering. Previously a material reserved for kitchens and bathrooms, tiling is taking over as the No 1 option for both domestic and commercial projects, especially, with the advent of under-floor heating, which solves the problems of warmth.
The biggest drawback with tiles is quite simply the choice available – ceramic? porcelain? mosaic? Where do you even begin? Avoid going stone mad by learning what you can about each product below.

These are small tiles (usually about 1 inch by 1 inch) laid side by side over small or large areas depending upon your preference. They can come on a mesh backing, making it easier to lay over bigger areas making the job of laying them a lot less labour intensive.
Used in excess, I find mosaic to be quite overbearing, but if introduced to a wall or floor as an additional pattern to compliment the main tile, they can really work well. I tend to use them to add some contract to tie together themes and colouring.

These would probably (but not always) be at the more affordable end of the scale for tiles. They can come in every colour under the sun and can even have pictures embedded into them. Be careful where they are laid though as some ceramics may only be suitable for walls, not floors.


A man-made product, these tiles are incredibly hard wearing. They are highly suitable for both floors and walls and can be manufactured to mimic other materials, so their versatility is huge. Due to their shear strength, they are much harder to cut than ceramics for example and as a result will be more expensive to lay due to the extra labour involved.

Being a natural product, whatever way you lay it or wherever you decide to install it, you will be getting a unique end finish. No two tiles will be the same, which adds to the individuality of the material. They can be cut into many original shapes allowing you to create your own patterns and design. With that red/orange earthy hue, they can really give a warm cosy feel to a room – not always an easy thing to do with tiles.


One of the most expensive options, not just from the point of view of initial outlay, but also due to the continual need for upkeep and maintenance. Marble is one of the more luxurious stones and can really add the wow factor – but you pay for it. Remember that marble is porous, and therefore needs to be properly sealed if using in an area exposed to moisture.

Also at the top end of the scale, granite differs to marble in that it is much harder and therefore more resistant to moisture damage and less susceptible to staining. However, it is still a good idea to have it sealed as it will add to its durability.

All in all, weigh up your financial situation with your lifestyle, and, as always, shop around and get several prices from tile suppliers as well as from fitters, as prices will vary from place to place.

Naoimh Tuohy
is an interior designer based in Westport and working countrywide. Originally coming from a property background, she made the jump from valuing buildings to redesigning their interiors. She has worked freelance for the last six years and specialises in show houses, home-owner renovations and investment-property fit-outs. She can be contacted at 087 7625539.