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Ways with tiles & timber

Tiles and wooden wall paneling have a transformative effect. While paint and wallpaper are perfectly lovely options for our walls, tiles and timber offer an alternative that’s quite often practical and not to mention a hugely creative expression that’s welcome in rooms far beyond the bathroom. They’re a form of wall art that’s perhaps a little unsung in comparison to the more typical definition of the term (canvases, framed prints, photography and so forth).

So, this week on the journal, we explore three of our favourite room scenes that have tiles and timber cladding at their heart.

Let’s begin in the

Tiles in the bathroom is an obvious place to start. The principal reason is down to practicality. Splash marks don’t really show, and they’re easily wipeable should an accidental squirt of shampoo or toothpaste make its way onto your walls. Paint works too of course, but an eggshell finish is much more suited to a bathroom environment. For people who prefer the tone of matte emulsion though, paint soon becomes a bit of a trickier option as water isn't necessarily absorbed, so you’ll find it marks much more easily.

Then there’s the aesthetic side of things. Practical absolutely doesn’t have to mean you sacrifice beauty. Not only is the design of each individual tile of great importance, but the way in which you apply them counts for a lot too. Ceiling to floor is a dramatic look that can be done on one feature wall (perhaps alongside where your bath or washstand might be so you have practicality covered in the most relevant area), or it can be repeated on every wall for even greater effect (this is a wise option if you have a wet-room setup). Alternatively, you might like to tile two-thirds of your wall and paint the upper third – we love the combination of our Kennet marble tiles with our Charcoal paint.

In this scenario, we’ve used our Kennet wall tiles in their herringbone form (they also come in hexagonal and brick shapes) on a large scale. Pairing them with the familiarity of classic timber furniture and unfussy wooden floorboards balances the look so that it doesn’t enter into too-contemporary waters. Their expanse brings immediate brightness to the room regardless of whether there’s an abundance of sunshine pouring in or not, which is helped along by the Buckingham mirror’s hand-painted finish in Off-white and the Keats wall lights’ glass shades. But to stop the scheme from becoming a sea of a similar tone, we’ve opted for our Charcoal paint on the Chichester washstand, which gives it some necessary grounding.

This is a look that’s many things – contemporary, classic, dynamic, elegant, striking, serene, and has natural materials touching its every inch from the marble wall tiles, to the rattan Ashcroft baskets, to the solid oak Stratton ladder.

Into the

The next most-known place to see wall tiles in the home is the kitchen. The reasons are much the same as for the bathroom – splashes from the kitchen tap and spits from pots on the stove can be easily wiped away. Tiles can also create a much more attractive alternative to a hob’s splashback sheet. If you have a full cooker surround, simply use them to fill the space inside. 

Elcot tiles in Salt, Corrinium platter, Suffolk kitchen hand-painted in Charcoal.

While we want our kitchens to be a place of function that’s easy to care for, it doesn’t mean we always like to stick to the more obvious. This applies to the overall design as much as it does to the smaller elements, such as tiling. While Elcot is a traditionally-made tile with a fairly understated aesthetic, in this Suffolk kitchen scene, you can see how easily it takes on a more edgy personality. There are a few reasons for the shift. The glossed finish reflects light: it provides a point of contrast against the matte white walls and Charcoal-coloured cabinetry, and it works in tandem with the other reflective aspects in the room such as the polished marble worktop and brass accents. Then there’s the dark grey grouting – another point of contrast that’s bold and a little daring. This is a kitchen that really plays with light and shade – it’s a grown-up, contemporary take on monochrome – and the tiles and grouting play a huge part. 

The final point to make is the application of the tiles, which breaks a few boundaries without feeling try-hard or appearing radical. Instead of purely being used in practical parts of the kitchen, Elcot is used as a backdrop behind open-fronted cabinets and shelving – a simple, easy-to-achieve idea but one that is incredibly effective. On one wall, the tiling reaches up to the mantel shelf, but doesn’t go beyond, and yet on the neighbouring wall it’s used from work surface to ceiling. Tiles are used to change the pace, to intrigue, and to surprise.

From tiles to

At Neptune, our collections pivot around the concept of ‘edited choice’. We like to provide choice but not an overwhelming amount. Every design is considered and only a select few make the cut. So our wall coverings encompass just two tile families (with multiple finishes and sizes) as well as our Cranbrook rough boarding shiplap. It’s an option that’s different to paint and wallpaper, much like tiles are, but it translates to every single room and to parts of the home where tiles might not settle in so well, such as the bedroom or the dining room.

Cranbrook is made from Norwegian spruce – a hardwood that’s stable and far less likely to shrink as it lives through the seasons and climate changes in our homes. We’ve sanded each plank down so that you needn’t fear a splinter when you touch it, but not so much that all texture is removed – we want its character to shine through. It can be used on walls and ceilings and brings an abundance of warmth and personality. It makes you want to reach out and touch.

Wardley table, Montague dining chairs in Silver Birch, Suffolk 4ft dresser hand-painted in Snow.

In this dining room, we’ve given Cranbrook a washed finish using our Silver Birch paint shade. More often than not, we position it horizontally, but here, we’ve used it to clad the walls in vertical strips. By painting all of the exposed wood in the same shade, the timber moves in one continuous direction from the floorboards to the planked ceiling. But look closely, and you’ll see that the thicknesses vary and there’s a slight difference in appearance, telling you that streamlined it may be, but uniform it most certainly is not. It’s a subtle design detail that doesn’t go unnoticed.

The wall coverings

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