Out on the tiles
3-D tiles are the new stand-out trend, and they're popping up where you least expect them, writes Kirstie McDermott
Pastel de Nata custard tarts, peri peri chicken and glorious sunshine: Portugal - and its associated exports - is something we just can't get enough of in Ireland. In fact, we love the country so much that in 2017, 35.4pc more Irish people visited than the year before, and our destinations of choice were Porto, Northern Portugal and Lisbon.
But what does that have to do with interiors? Well, here's another thing Portugal is famous for: its beautifully intricate, decorative tiles - or azulejos. Lisbon's streets are awash with colourful tile-clad buildings and you'll also see them in metro stations, bars and restaurants.
There's nothing like seeing something in situ to inspire you to use it yourself, so it's small surprise that back at home, we're beginning to bin the large-format, boring beige porcelain tiles that feature in so many of our kitchens and bathrooms, in favour of something a bit braver.
The shift started with the trend for colourful, patterned encaustic and Moroccan-style offerings, which were arguably helped into fashion by the @ihavethisthingwithtiles Instagram account and its associated hashtag. Showcasing feet and floors, decorative and elaborate tiles contrast with designer duds to create visual cues that are seriously compelling for any wannabe interior designer.
"I think social media has played a huge role in people being braver with tiles," agrees interior designer Sally-Anne Bennett (@theinteriorsoc). "Instagram and Pinterest are like virtual magazines, full of inspiring ideas to use in your home. The use of cool tiles in restaurants and hotels has also made us want to recreate that look at home," she says. "The likes of Press Up group's amazing designs, and great use of tiles, from floors to walls, inspires people," she adds.
It's precisely that exposure that's giving us scope creep when it comes to the colours and materials we use in our own homes. Might as well face it, we're addicted to grey, but fresh inspiration and, thinks Bennett, a generational divide, are finally changing this.
"The younger generation are braver and more modern in their approach to decorating. The traditional look of a fake marble, magnolia porcelain tile that goes floor to ceiling is hopefully a thing of the past," she says.
So if we've embraced encaustics and gone potty for pattern, what's next? Three-dimensional, architectural tiles are the next frontier. Think high-relief ornamentation such as waves, circles and organic shapes inspired by nature. And, while they're not suitable for floors, they look fantastic on walls and push the boundaries of where we find it 'acceptable' to use tiles.
"I definitely think we'll see them being used more," says Bennett. "People are far more design conscious now, they like the architectural element of these tiles. However, subway tiles are still stiff competition, but I think adding that extra dimension is worth it."
Brands to know include Theia, a new sister brand to the very cool lighting and furniture brand Mambo Unlimited Ideas, and Wow Designs, a renowned Spanish manufacturer.
They've got the look we love alright, but there's an elephant in the room when it comes to three-dimensional tiled surfaces. And that's cleaning - so could you be bothered? "
The fact that they have more surfaces will obviously create more areas for dust and dirt to land on," Bennett agrees. "It's nothing a damp cloth can't handle."
- Kirstie McDermott is editorial director of House and Home magazine