Specialty art or decorative tile does not always have to be included to create a one of a kind installation. In fact, when setting a single size field or plain tile, consider layouts such as brick set, herringbone, or laying a portion of the tile on a diagonal framed by a field of square set tile. This last technique helps to define specific use areas in an open concept floor plan. If a pattern is too busy for the room, changing the surface texture of the tile can create a dramatic play of light across the tiled surface. A subtle checkerboard can be achieved by alternating a matt and polished finish in the same color. Remember that the grid can be one to one or larger by using four or more tile of the same texture to form each square. Polished tile can also be used around the perimeter of the room to frame a field of slate textured tile. Playing one finish off the other increases the depth and impact of both. Finally, using more than one color is perhaps the easiest way to create a focal point. The accent tile color can be as understated as a shade variation or as striking as lipstick red on black.
Any of these techniques can be used alone or in combination. Mixing size, texture and color provides a limitless array of potential designs. Another distinctive twist that requires field tile only is called trencadis (literally, broken tile). The technique was developed by Antonio Gaudi over 100 years ago and is enjoying a tremendous resurgence in commercial and residential applications. The shattered pieces of trencadis can follow a sweeping curve or be re-assembled to cover the space of a single full tile creating a distinct texture in selected areas of a floor, wall or column.
Of course specialty accent or art tile can also be placed in the overall field of tile. They can form borders, murals or be spotted randomly throughout the installation. Accent pieces have as many names as styles. Some common pieces may be referred to as listel, listelli, bar, pencil, border, bordura, or moldura. This type of narrow trim is traditionally placed in a horizontal band running through the field of tile or may be used to cap the tile at wainscot height.