Using tile to decorate and enhance your home brings a distinctive focal point to your kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, mud room, and staircases. In kitchens, there is nothing like a custom tile wall as an ode to the importance of cooking and family and friends. Let your choice reflect your favorite colors, artistic traditions, travels, or heritage.

We also love tile as quiet accents for every day rituals like making tea or coffee or bathing. Remember, just because a room’s design is mostly determined by its function does not mean you cannot make it more cozy, unique, or beautiful.

1. Tile Backsplash in Your Kitchen

A signature kitchen stands out with a customized backsplash like this gorgeous herringbone design. Of course the best part of installing a tile backsplash is choosing your layout and design.

DIY TILE

The installation is quite intricate and you need to follow the instructions carefully, but installing your own tile backsplash can be really amazing too–a work of art in fact! Before you get started, there are a few tools and materials you’ll need:

Tools + Materials:

  • Notched trowel / float
  • Sponge
  • Bucket
  • Tape measure
  • Straight edge
  • Level
  • Tile cutter

  • Utility knife
  • Wall tile
  • Mortar
  • Sealer
  • Tile adhesive
  • Grout
  • Cheesecloth

Once you have all the right tools and materials, you’re ready to begin! There are typically 11 steps to installing a tile backsplash, including pre-laying the tile, preparing the mortar, laying the tile, sealing it, grouting it, and sealing it again. This project requires an intermediate skill set and that you set aside a weekend to complete the job. For printable instructions, and a step-by-step video tutorial, check out the Home Depot’s how-to guide.

2. Decorate Your Bathroom with Tile

Chose interesting shapes and configurations using neutral colors for long lasting beauty and style, or go colorful with artisan designed tiles. Tile can be used as a backsplash for a sink, as a framing device for a free-standing tub, or as a focal point for a walk in shower.

Small bathrooms also benefit from tile walls, or imaginative floor mosaics, like this breath taking rose mosaic pattern pictured above. The white tile wall in this Malibu home was updated by designer Maggie Pierson for the founder of Dogeared Jewelry Marcia Maizel-Clarke to reflect the owner’s artistic personalities

For a complete guide to installing tile in your bathroom, check out our Bathroom Tile Installation Guide.

3. Use Tile to Update Staircases

Ceramic and stone tiles can be installed on the risers of concrete, steel, and wood staircases. To successfully tile the risers, you must layout the tile properly, cut it accurately, and set it with precision.

Professional contractors often recommend against installing tile or stone directly onto wooden stairs, and suggest first adding a cleavage membrane to the wood riser such as 15 lb. builders felt or a polyethylene, and if needed, a galvanized diamond metal lath. Professional builders also emphasize that safety is key, and that while a detailed staircase is beautiful, it should not impede walking up or down the stairs.

Tools + Materials: 

  • Wall tile
  • Tape measure
  • Grout
  • Membrane
  • Galvanized diamond metal lath

  • Wet tile saw
  • Mortar
  • Trowel
  • Brown builder’s paper roll
  • Grout sponge

Follow this detailed step-by-step to decorate your staircase with tile:

  1. First, make sure the riser is soundly constructed, not loose, and very clean (dust, grease, dirt, sealers, loose plaster, or paint can interfere with the bond).
  2. If needed, add a cleavage membrane like builder’s felt, carefully cut to measure and allow it to dry.
  3. Measure your top riser, beginning at the top. Keep in mind that each riser may vary slightly so your cutting and layout will require patience and precision.
  4. Chalk line the vertical center point on the riser.
  5. You can use brown paper to do the layout; pencil out an area the same size, and layout your tiles with the first tile in the center, allowing cut tiles on either end. Label each layout, “Stair #1 from top” for example.
  6. Cut the tiles with a wet saw and check the fit.
  7. Now you will apply mortar to the riser using a trowel. If the riser is hard to access, put the mortar on the back of the tile.
  8. Press the tiles in the pattern you designed. Tap lightly to bond.
  9. Allow mortar a 24-hour drying period.
  10. Using a grout float, grout tiles, packing from different angles for proper and secure coverage.
  11. Allow a few minutes for drying and then clean with a sponge.
  12. Dry for 24 hours.

4. How to Frame Tile  

British traditional, Craftsman, Mission, and Art Nouveau home lovers often frame and mount painted and relief tiles within a wood frame like these pretty pieces. You can do the same for travel mementos or antique pieces you collect whether from Spain, Italy, Portugal, Mexico, or Morocco–or anywhere else in the world.

John Burgess' framed tiled in modern abstract pattern, @ etsy

There are so many fabulous tile artists out there to browse! Feeling inspired? Look for handmade or hand painted tiles to add to your home. Standout artists include Clé founder and creative director Deborah Osburn, particularly the watercolor series in indigo.

DIY TILE

Another inspiring artist is the renowned potter Forrest Lesch-Middelton, whose work will appeal to those who love a dark rich earthy palette and complexity from an evocative rich interlacing of patterning and colors.

Tools + Materials:  

  • Wood frame
  • Tape measure
  • Support board

  • Strong bond glue
  • Felt
  • Hardware

Follow this detailed, step-by-step to create frames for your tiles:

  1. You can use a pre-made or antique frame as long as it is a precise fit and is sturdy enough to hold the weight of the tile(s). I like box frames made for tiles, or Trivet frames with pre-drilled holes in back for hanging (Motawi makes specialized frames). And if you want to do more, you can buy pre-made trays for tile showcasing.
  2. Like all our projects, measuring is essential, be sure to accurately measure your tile and take into account depth with any felt, and support you plan on adding.
  3. Measure to make sure your frame and support dimensions match the tile.
  4. Be sure to put on the hardware before mounting the tile on its support, and make sure it is sufficiently strong to hold the weight of the tile. Do not drill into the frame after you install the tile in the frame.
  5. Adhere felt on the back of the tile or the back of the support, and use an all purpose strong bond glue. Mount on particle board or other heavy-duty support.
  6. The tile can be mounted within a hollow or on the flat side of box frame.

5. Decorate a Mosaic Vase or Pot 

Mosaic containers are a great creative outlet, and aren’t technically complicated, plus you get to play with color and patterns. The vases or pots make great home-made gifts and look super on patios or in gardens.

We use ours in the kitchen in the winter to showcase herb starter plants and transfer them to our enclosed porch in the spring.

Tools + Materials:

  • Glass vase
  • Pottery vase
  • Small tiles
  • Mosaic adhesive

  • Small paintbrush
  • Spatula
  • Premixed tile grout
  • Damp rag

Follow these instructions to create your own beautiful mosaic pots and vases:

  1. Clean and dry your container or vase.
  2. You can layout the pattern or tiles on paper or your working area.
  3. Paint adhesive onto your first area (use a strong crafting glue or a hot glue gun, but make sure the glue is not visible or at least concealed by the mosaic colors.
  4. Take your tile pieces and push them down gently onto the glue, leave a very small space between your tiles such as 1/8 inches and allow drying for about 24 hrs.
  5. Grout entire surface using your spatula, making sure that the grout is in the gaps as well, gently scrape the grout that has settled on tiles. There are different types of grout, and you can choose colors for your design. Dry overnight to 12 hours.
  6. Use a damp cloth to lightly clean the grout off your tiles, buff with a clean rag.

Images courtesy of Deborah OsburnRoom DaytonNV DesignRosa Beltran, Design & Amy Bartlam, PhotographyAcademic TilesMy Domaine, Style me Pretty, Norman Design GroupMadame FigaroJohn Burgess, Clé, and Country Living

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