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Why Tile Pattern Selection is Integral Your Interior Design Process

Why Tile Pattern Selection is Integral Your Interior Design Process

Selecting the perfect tile for your home is only part of the design journey. Whether you are working with a designer or are handling your home’s aesthetic on your own, you need to have an understanding of how installation patterns impact your space. You see, patterns can be used to add life, depth and contrast to your space as well we create visual illusions of width or height. (It’s also hugely helpful to understand patterns when you are discussing the renovations plans, whether with a designer or contractors.) Here are the basic patterns that you will most likely be choosing from, especially if your selection is a solid square or rectangular tile. Knowing the basic tile patterns, empowers you to approach interior design with an informed imagination. Here are a few of the patterns that you will likely consider for your design project.  

Offset/Running Bond AKA Brick Patterns

Offset patterns, commonly called brick patterns, are common timeless designs that resemble brick design. A typical brick pattern offsets tiles lengthwise at various lengths. Typically, the offset width is 1/2 of the tile length and the center of each tile lines up with the edge of the tile above it. This technique is primarily good for a classic, lengthening aesthetic. The Running bond pattern results in horizontal lines creating a widening effect in spaces. This pattern is often used with subway tiles and is perfectly suited to any solid-colored, rectangular or square tile. There are numerous twists on a traditional running bond – from variable lengths to combination patterns (think vertical mixed with horizontal patterns). 

1/3 Running Bond

This twist on the running bond creates a diagonal effect. It’s a design style that works particularly well to hide imperfections in large tiles.

1/4 Running Bond

A less common variation is the 1/4 running bond pattern. Apartment Therapy calls this pattern a “twist on a twist” that is “inspired by the 1/3 offset but switched up enough to eliminate the diagonal line illusion and create a visual randomness with disorder. One row offsets 1/4 the width of the tile, with the next offesting by half (like a running bond), alternating all the way up the wall.”

Photo: Taryn Williford

Vertical Running Bond

You can also create a vertical brick design by applying the same tiles vertically. The contemporary heightening effect is another twist on the classic brick tile aesthetic. The design offers novelty without being too trendy, meaning it won’t look outdated with changing trends. This is a great pattern to lift the ceiling height through a visual illusion, or when you want to use oversize tiles to create a continuous plane of unbroken material (color-matched grout enhances the effect).

Straight Lay (Stacked)

This design is pretty straightforward. Tiles stack uniformly on top of each other creating a clean, repeating grid. The aesthetic is crisp, simple and modern. If you are selecting a patterned tile, straight lay is most likely your best installation technique.

Photo: La Maison d’Anna G


This striking technique earns its name from its resemblance to the zig-zag skeleton of the Herring fish. Tiles installation utilizes in a v-shape at 45° angles, creating a zig-zag pattern. Herringbone installations, though more time intensive and challenging, offer exceptionally sophisticated aesthetics. Herringbone patterns are especially good as accent walls, creating a powerful aesthetic even when using classic color schemes like white on white.  

Photo: HGTV


A mosaic installation is any small tile that is applied in a repeatable pattern. Endless shapes and patterns exist and the results are lively and complex. Mosaic designs are incredibly diverse and can be used for many aesthetic purposes from backsplashes and shower floors to tile wallpaper and rug effects. Many mosaic patterns have an enlargening effect on a space. It’s worth noting that mosaic designs typically require more grout and, accordingly, need more maintenance if they are located in an area susceptible to moisture, dust or air-borne dirt.

Photo: Elizabeth Roberts

Basket Weave

Basket-weave patterns can add drama and a timeless, nostalgic feel to a space. It is important to note that basketweave – especially marble basketweave tile – can be tricky to install. This Old House’s Mark Ferrante says  Mark Ferrante, “Basketweave tile, especially in marble, is tricky to install, so before you decide which one to buy, ask an experienced tile setter how much it will cost to put down. Additionally, you can either purchase a basketweave tile or create a basket weave effect with subway (or any rectangular) tile laid in pairs at 90° angles. Its historic charm is highly attractive and great as a floor tile option. 

Grout Choices

Another installation technique that can enhance your design is grout choice. Grout can increase contrast or A subtle design tactic you can use to increase contrast in a brick pattern is using a darker grout with lighter tiles or lighter grout with darker tiles. Just keep in mind that a darker grout will look cleaner than its lighter counterpart over time. 


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