Residential Remodeling Budgets: How to Save Money Designing with Tile (30 Years | 30 Ideas Series)

Like most residential architects and designers, I happen to love tile. It adds color, pattern, texture and all-around visual interest to backsplashes, walls and floors. Best of all, there are so many beautiful tiles to choose from. And while some can be quite costly, there are plenty of smart ways to incorporate even the most expensive tiles into a residential project without blowing your budget. Here are five of my favorites:

Border it.

Fall in love with a stunning but expensive tile? Use it as a border! This way, instead of covering your entire surface in costly tile, you reserve it for a statement-making outline and fill in the rest of the surface (what we call the “field”) with less expensive tiles.

Similarly, if you’re crazy about 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!

Focus on it.

A simple means of getting the most out of your tile budget is to use pricey tiles where your eye will be drawn to them. In a bathroom or kitchen, that would be on a backsplash, since it’s closest to eye level.

Keep things equal.

Choose a mix of inexpensive tiles and expensive tiles that are similar in size. Then inset the pricier tile into the cheaper field tile to create patterns such as pinwheels or basket weaves. 

Accent it.

To lower costs while you increase visual impact, embellish the threshold in a wood floor with a row of interesting decorative tiles. You won’t need many of them, which will save money – but the payoff will be enormous.


Shop commercial.

Commercial tiles, once available only to members of the trade, are everywhere today. You just have to ask for them. Often more reasonably priced than their residential counterparts, they offer the same decorative result for less money. Pick one of the ideas we’ve just discussed and execute it with a mix of commercial tiles and residential tiles and you’ll likely be thrilled with the end result. Bonus: commercial tiles are typically very high quality, extremely durable and usually neutral, so they make good background choices. Note that most commercial tiles come in very large sizes, so you may need to ask your installer to cut them down for your particular project.


Over the past thirty years, we’ve learned a few tricks for making the most of tile budgets. Of course, we’ve got plenty more ideas just like these! Give us a call to learn all the ways Morgante Wilson Architects can help you create the home of your dreams.

Elissa Morgante
Morgante-Wilson Architects
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More posts related to interior design and residential architecture from award-winning Chicago architects Morgante Wilson:

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Morgante Wilson Architects provides architectural and interior design services in Chicago, Evanston, Winnetka, Glencoe, Glenview, Highland Park, Kenilworth, Wilmette, Northbrook, Deerfield, Northfield, Ravinia, Colorado, Michigan, Wisconsin and more

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