I have never been keen on fakes. Why buy pretend when you can have the real thing? I have mused about this often on the blog in varying degrees of forcefulness. But, I have to admit – perhaps it is age, perhaps, more likely an improvement in the materials available – to a softening of my stance on this. It began a couple of years ago following a refurbishment of the changing rooms at my local gym.
“How fabulous,” I thought, as I breezed in one morning. “They have clad the walls in wood, how very modern and cool.”
And then I touched them. They were tiles. I headed to my exercise class with my principles rocking slightly on their foundations.
More recently I complimented a friend on her fabulous, and thriving, cheese plant.
“Oh it's fake,” she said airily. “It's hard to tell isn't it. And I don't need to worry about taking care of it.”
Having just lost my one of my own plants to a room that was too dark for it to survive, a crack was beginning to appear in the mortar of those principles.
The final straw came when planning the new kitchen. How we longed for Carrara marble. But we have children. And they are so messy. And we like to cook. And that splashes. And drink red wine. And that spills. Marble, said the experts firmly, was out of the question. Try porcelain tiles instead.
And so you find me here. With my principles lying in ruins at my feet, as I plan new ways to decorate with tiles. Take flooring for example. Wooden floorboards are all very well – I have them in my own house – but they are at odds with my other obsession which is underfloor heating. I have radiators because of my Victorian floorboards. Now I wouldn't change that in my sitting room and bedroom but, perhaps, in the kitchen and bathroom a few wooden tiles that were warm underfoot would be better than draughty boards and an ugly radiator?
Or perhaps a floor of the aforementioned marble tiles would bring a real luxury feel to your shower room? There are now so many possibilities that you can take it for granted it will look good, so you can make a decision based purely on the practicalities.
Topps Tiles have created a range of tiles that are practically indistinguishable from marble and wood as well as concrete and stone. They call it get the effect, love the difference. And, as all those natural materials are porous, they are more difficult to maintain than their tile counterparts. Not to mention a lot more expensive.
My favourites include Mora, which has all the variations of a real oak floor, Legato, a mixed marble effect that looks real, and Antler, a stone-effect tile with all the subtle variations in colour that you would expect from the real thing.
These days it's no longer a question of buying tiles because you can't afford stone. It's about considering if tiles are actually the better solution.
By Kate Watson-Smyth