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For millennia, humans have been mixing and baking the combination of sand, clay and water to create a flat surface to protect their feet and homes from the elements. Glazed brick dates to the 13th century BC in ancient Iran, marking the advent of humanity’s use of colored tiles to beautify our surroundings.

From the Ishtar gate in ancient Mesopotamia to the groovy patterns at the bottom of a Palm Springs swimming pool, time has given us endless inspiration for incorporating tile into our interiors.

Who says tile should be banished to the bathroom? Take it out of hiding and let different surfaces throughout your house become the focal point. Read on for some inspiration to create a masterpiece (or two) in your own home.

Creative Tile Ideas

Wall Tile

Whether your style is modern, coastal, bohemian or traditional, there are thousands of tiles out there that will suit your aesthetic. It’s a great way to create visual interest when there is a lack of interesting architecture.

Using interesting tile on the wall is a practical alternative to wallpaper, especially where wallpaper runs the risk of peeling because of the high levels of humidity, or if you’re looking for something that can stand up to scuffing (read: children and pets).

Contrasting Tile

In the bathroom, you have the opportunity to tile the entire room. We love the idea of using a different kind of tile on the walls than you have on the floor. The contrast created from using an array of colors, styles and sizes will create a walk-in jewel box that will add a punch of excitement to your morning ritual.

You also can use tile to create designated spaces within large rooms in the form of a tile “rug” within the floor design. Whether it’s a welcoming pattern in the foyer that leads your guests down the hall or the look of a rug in front of your tub, using carefully chosen tile that accents the rest of your flooring is a sophisticated move.

Geometric tiles are a wonderful solution for high-traffic areas in need of a pick-me-up. Select a bold patterned tile, or create your own bespoke design using different sizes, colors and shapes for a one-of-a-kind masterpiece.

Woodgrain Tile

We’ve come a long way, baby. First there was wood flooring. Then there was laminate. Then there was attractive laminate. Now, there’s woodgrain tile.

Combining the best of hardwood (resilient, natural) and laminate (water repellent, inexpensive), woodgrain tile comes in an almost infinite number of sizes and “finishes.” It can be used in the bathroom, kitchen, laundry room or mudroom for a wood look without the danger of damaging the precious hardwood.

Any design can be achieved with this brilliant tile, including staggered, herringbone and parquet patterns. But you needn’t limit its use to flooring; create the “reclaimed” look on that wall that’s begging for a treatment (no termites!), or follow the design of the floor up the wall in your bathroom or mudroom.

In the Kitchen

Some say that a backsplash should occupy an area only large enough to contain cooking splatters. We say: Think outside the box. You could have a backsplash that’s just big enough to extend a little past the stove or sink, or you could continue that thread all the way around the room to create cohesiveness, especially in smaller kitchens.

In larger kitchens, a single backsplash can create a dramatic focal point. Using interesting patterns or a mix of colors that complement your existing color scheme, a backsplash can draw the eye to the kitchen feature you want to highlight.

Try using tile inside (or on the wall behind) glass-front cabinets. It’s an unexpected and artful way of dressing up the often-forgotten area that sits at eye level.

In Other Places

Refreshing the outdated surround on a fireplace is a surefire way to update the entire look of your living room. Take it a step further and update the hearth, or even the mantel, to create a unique fireplace that perfectly suits your style.

Another great way to use tile is on your stair risers. This adds visual interest to an unexpected area by giving it a punch of color.

Tiling the back wall of your bar is a beautiful way to delineate the space. As a bonus, it’s easy to clean if things get rowdy. While using mirrors here is a tried-and-true technique, we like the idea of updating the look by using metallic tiles instead. You’ll get the same illuminating effect, but with a bit more character.

We hope we’ve given you some creative tile ideas for your next project. What’s your favorite way to decorate using tile? Let us know in the comments below, and check out our gallery for even more inspiration.