Residential Architect Tips: Cost-saving Ideas for Designing with Tile

Tile. It can ground the floor, climb the wall, and imbue every room in the house with welcome personality.  If you’ve shopped for tile recently, you’ve no doubt noticed a dizzying array of beautiful options. Whether glass mosaics, cut from luxurious stones, hand-painted and imported from Europe, or intricately textured, tile choices available today are quite impressive….and often quite pricey. 

But that doesn’t mean you have to settle for inexpensive, pedestrian tile. It just means you have to be creative about how you choose to use costlier options.  At Morgante Wilson Architects, we’re well-versed in the art of stretching tile budgets. Our clients – whether those along Chicago’s  North Shore building dream homes in which to raise their children, or those constructing Michigan vacation homes to enjoy with friends and family – consistently request gorgeously tiled bathrooms, kitchen backsplashes, and floors.

Here are our residential architects’ and designers’ five favorite tricks for integrating truly special tiles with less expensive, standard tiles - without breaking the bank:


Create a tile border.

Borders on a wall or a floor can be a single line of particularly stunning tile that runs through a less expensive background, or “field” tile. It can also be mixed with cheaper tiles to create a pattern, or repeat. Either way, the effect is the same: opulent luxe without a huge payout.

Similarly, if you’ve fallen in love with an expensive sheet of mosaic tile, you can cut that sheet and intersperse it with a less expensive field tile. If you cut a $100/per square foot mosaic sheet into six, two-inch strips, you’ll end up with six linear feet of mosaic tile for just $100!


Put your money where your eyes are.

An easy, effective way to get the most bang for your tile buck is to use pricey tiles where they’re most likely to be noticed. In a bathroom or kitchen, for example, that would be on a backsplash – which is closest to eye level.


Even the field.

If your expensive tile choice is large, say four feet by four feet, then pick an equal sized – or even slightly larger – field tile. Then inset the expensive tile into the less expensive tile to create patterns such as pinwheels or basketweaves.


Think unique.

Tile can be applied to a host of surfaces beyond conventional floor and wall treatments. Try insterting a row of decorative tiles in a wood floor to accent a threshold. You won’t have to use much of it – but you’ll create enormous visual impact.


Go commercial.

These days, commercial tiles – once available only to members of the trade – are widely available. You just have to ask. They’re often more economically priced than their residential counterparts, yet offer the same decorative result.  Borrow any of the ideas we’ve just discussed and apply them to a mix of commercial and residential tiles and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much you’ll like the end result. Bonus: commercial tiles are typically very high quality, extremely durable, and usually neutral – so they make good background choices. One thing to remember: most commercial tiles come in very large sizes. Just ask your installer to cut them down to use any way you want. The options are virtually limitless!


Those are just a few of our favorite tricks for making the most of your tile budget. Give us a call to discuss other ideas – or to find out how else Morgante Wilson Architects can help you create the home of your dreams.


Elissa Morgante
Morgante-Wilson Architects
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Related posts from Chicago’s North Shore residential architects, Morgante Wilson:

Residential Architecture:  Where to save, where to splurge

Five ideas for designing a spa-like bathroom


Morgante-Wilson Architects provides residential architectural services in Chicago, Evanston, Winnetka, Glencoe, Glenview, Highland Park, Kenilworth, Wilmette, Northbrook, Deerfield, Northfield, and Ravinia.

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