Tile in living room: fugly or nice?
November 20, 2013 2:50 PM   Subscribe

I am getting rid of the horrible pet-stained carpet in my living room and am considering replacing it with tile. Is this a completely crazy idea?

I currently have wood laminate in the kitchen/dining area, which flows into the living room. It's still in reasonably good shape. Originally I thought I'd just do the living room in the same laminate, but the color and brand have been discontinued and I do not want a so-so match (and I am told that so-so is as good as it can get). Putting another shade and grain of laminate next to the current one looks wrong, hence the tile solution. A friend is adamantly opposed and says it will look horrible because tile is for bathrooms and kitchens. It's none of her business, I know, but it's giving me pause. I'm not particularly skilled at interior decorating and would prefer my living room not be fugly or strange. Your thoughts?
posted by Wordwoman to Home & Garden (48 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Lots of houses in the Southwest have tile floors. It's not weird.
posted by MadMadam at 2:53 PM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Tile in living rooms (like big terra cotta colored tiles with nice area rugs) is fairly standard in the southwest and looks nice. I associate it with hot regions (it's cold as hell in wintertime) and places where there might be a ton of sand/dirt/mess like some beachy type places that aren't old enough to have wood floors.
posted by jessamyn at 2:54 PM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

says it will look horrible because tile is for bathrooms and kitchens

Ridiculous. Every place I have lived outside of the US has had tiled living rooms. Coming back to carpeted houses has been bizarre and unpleasant, and I am very glad that my current place is wood floors.

Tile will be cool and pleasant in the summertime, and it's easy to keep clean year round. You will want slippers or house socks in the winter, though.
posted by elizardbits at 2:54 PM on November 20, 2013

Pretty popular here in Florida also.
posted by white_devil at 2:55 PM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

We have terra cotta tiles in part of our living space and it's visually very attractive, but I wouldn't want it in a living room because it's cold on the feet and noisy.
posted by joan_holloway at 2:55 PM on November 20, 2013

IANAdesigner, but my sense would be that it depend on where you live and what tile you are thinking of. Like the others, I find it's really common in warmer climates but might be odder in a northern colonial house. I also would be worried about cheaper tiles looking a lot more like bathroom leftovers. Tile is pretty permanent once installed - what about choosing a floating floor that would contrast with the floor you have nicely?
posted by dness2 at 2:59 PM on November 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

It really depends on your location, the style of house, and the type of tile. Can you clarify any of those three variables?

Here's a search on Pinterest for tiled living rooms. Do any of those reflect your idea of how this might look?

Unless you live in a place where tiled floors are common, and your house is not a style which usually has tiled floors, I personally think it would be better to do two types of hardwood floors. Pick a different color altogether than the current one in the kitchen.
posted by barnone at 3:03 PM on November 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

I much prefer wood to tile. I understand that regionally tile is a popular choice, but in almost every case, I think wood would have looked better. Tile can look like a cheap solution, even if you've spent a lot on getting it done.

If you do decide on tile, I think that the best appearance is achieved when you use very large tiles.
posted by quince at 3:07 PM on November 20, 2013

I live in Colorado. Tiled living room floors are not common here -- but does that matter if I'm not doing this for resale? I'm planning on living here for the foreseeable future. I don't know what type of tile to use; suggestions are welcome.
posted by Wordwoman at 3:09 PM on November 20, 2013

We had brick floors in my childhood home in Louisiana. My grandparents in the same town did, too. Brick is not tile, but if many people in my very traditional hometown had non-wood and non-carpet living room floor options, so can you.

That said if you are going to do this, you should go with the nicest and most real/authentic/traditional tile you can afford. Also probably look at photos of houses with tiled living areas and model yours after one you like, as opposed to just going to Home Depot and picking any old thing. Your living room will look like a bathroom if you pick out bathroom-looking tile.

I think that even if you live in a cold region, this could work well with lots of nice rugs.
posted by Sara C. at 3:12 PM on November 20, 2013

Not a fan of tiled living rooms -- it's cold, it's noisy, it usually looks sterile -- but it's common enough. I prefer wood, myself. If I were you I'd be looking at either hardwood or a quality wood or bamboo lamimate. Or carpet. I know a lot of folks don't like carpet, but I do. I guess what I'm saying is that it's all personal preference.
posted by Scientist at 3:13 PM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

I had basically this tile in my last house, and thank the stars because we also had dog with a difficult past who took about 18 months to housetrain. Plus 12 total paws coming and going from our dirt and/or mud back yard. That pinkish color was not the most fashionable, but it is in fact the color of pretty much all dirt. I would be shocked sometimes when I mopped because I didn't think the floor was actually filthy.

You get dust tumbleweeds pretty bad, but it's easy to vacuum tile. We used rugs around the seating areas.

A++ would tile again.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:13 PM on November 20, 2013

Why not tile in a dark brown color, so it mimics a wood floor? That would be more design-appropriate for Colorado.

Something like this?
posted by xingcat at 3:13 PM on November 20, 2013 [6 favorites]

My best friend has had Mexican tile or polished cement floors throughout his homes for years, and has always had floor heaters to combat the chill. They're wonderful -- very slow to heat and never really *hot* -- and here is a website for DIY hot water radiant heating, which I do recommend.
posted by janey47 at 3:15 PM on November 20, 2013

If you live somewhere cold-ish you might also need underfloor heating of some kind to make the living room comfortable in the winter. It's also going to change the acoustics of the room. Hard surfaces echo; carpets deaden noise.

Large tiles that give a seamless level surface might work better than the more common sort that have a rounded edge so that the grount is sunken.
posted by pipeski at 3:16 PM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've spent time in tiled living rooms, they can look nice, and with appropriately placed rugs need not be so chilly during winter.

However, when a wineglass slips through your fingers, I can guarantee it will hit the tiles and not the rug (particularly when the owner of the house has just boasted about how expensive the wineglasses were.)
posted by malibustacey9999 at 3:18 PM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you are in Colorado I would not tile. People there don't avoid tile just because of resale value; they avoid it because it isn't so practical with Colorado weather. And, if you tile and then realize you too find it too cold in the winter, it is really a pain to undo. I empathize with your pet problem - i too have abandoned carpeting except for easy to wash throw rugs. My solution was Ikea's bamboo flooring with some extra coats of poly on top. Inexpensive, puddle proof (poly and quick attention do the trick) doesn't look bad with some scratches and dents, spot repairable (extra boards and/or sanding) and is different looking enough from wood that it "goes" with everything. I've had mine in for 5+ years and it's still working well. And if I want to replace it for some reason, it would take me less than an hour to get back to the bare floor. So, no tile, but decent bamboo floor would be my recommendation. Then put poly on it.
posted by dness2 at 3:37 PM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you live in Colorado I would think about stone tile and I would do oversize ones to avoid it looking like bath or kitchen flooring. Here's one example; you can Google up "tiled living room" in Google Images for many more examples.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:43 PM on November 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have saltillo tile in my dining room and family room and like the look of it quite a bit but I think it goes best with certain types of decor. The key to comfortably sitting on this floor is thick wool rugs with even thicker pads underneath (as demonstrated by cat in photo). Cleanup is easy but I have to do it myself as the Roomba hates those rooms—the variability in Saltillo tile size & dimensions requires a thick grout line which makes for a bumpy Roomba ride.

Yow, just read where you live. Not sure about tiles in Colorado weather, mine only warm up after several hours in direct Californian sunlight. The furnace does nothing at all to warm them up in winter.
posted by jamaro at 3:44 PM on November 20, 2013

If you're going with tiled floors in Colorado, consider also installing an in-floor heating system so they aren't cold all winter.

Another option might be to go with a dividing line of tile or something else and then a laminate or wood flooring that is completely different from your laminate in other parts of the house so it's obviously not meant to be the same. Or use something like cork or bamboo that's also very different from what you have in the other rooms.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:49 PM on November 20, 2013

I like tile in the whole house, but other alternatives that I've considered for myself are concrete (go ahead and click the link -- it's nicer than you'd think) and poured resin (the smoothness of tile, but possibly warmer and easier to keep clean).
posted by Houstonian at 3:55 PM on November 20, 2013

My grandparents lived in the Sierras and had tile in her living room because I was allergic to their cats.... sooo much easier to keep clean! She had warm wood furniture, a comfy couch in front of the working fireplace, and spare slippers. It was great. You could also put out an area rug and toss it when it's been peed on one too many times.
posted by jrobin276 at 4:07 PM on November 20, 2013

In Denver I would not want tile, as it is very cold underfoot. I'm not a fan of laminate, but you could take a piece of laminate with you and find a close match, or install your preferred color of laminate, and put in a few stripes of flooring perpendicular to the adjoining room, as a separator. Someone I know did a separator between 2 rooms and used a trip of polished river rocks; I like it. I would even consider 'crazy paving' - broken tiles, bits of polished sea glass, crockery, etc., but you might want something more traditional. Cork is also an option. I dislike the cork over click-together sections because of the sound; YMMV. Cork is soft and warm underfoot. Or install real wood if you think you'd continue with real wood when it's time to replace the laminate in the dining room, since you plan to be there.
posted by Mom at 4:09 PM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Stone tile is nice, but even in southern California, it gets pretty frigid in the winter, even with floor rugs. My parents' house has stone tile in the family room and kitchen on the ground floor, and while it leads to pleasant coolness in the hotter months, it keeps those rooms resistant to heating in the winter. I wouldn't be willing to go with stone tile somewhere where it actually snows.
posted by yasaman at 4:16 PM on November 20, 2013

CA here. My whole downstairs (kitchen, living room, dining room, family room, one bedroom, two bathrooms) is tumbled travertine marble and it's awesome. It looks a bit like this. Totally not weird at all. I've got a combination of sisal and wool area rugs. In your climate, I would run some radiant heat underneath it to keep it from feeling too cold in the winter.
posted by cecic at 4:46 PM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I live roughly an hour south of Denver, and I rent a tiny bungalow that is tiled throughout. I LOVE it, although I might love it for different reasons than you would. First and foremost, I have really bad allergies, and not having carpet has made an enormous(ly good) difference in my (allergy-triggered) asthma. Tile is a breeze to take care of - sweep, mop once in a while, done.

It *is* colder on your feet in the winter. If you like to walk around your house barefoot, you're probably not going to like it. I wear socks and/or slippers and use throw rugs next to the bed, the sofa, and anywhere barefoot is likely. Other than that, I seldom think about it.

The Front Range isn't the arctic circle; winter months reach the mid-50sF pretty often, even in January/February, and sustained freezes are rare. If you can afford under-floor heating, it's an excellent comfort addition in this climate, but if you can't, it's not the end of the world. Tile is not going to 'look weird' it is a perfectly normal flooring choice, even in Colorado. Especially if you're not planning on re-selling the house, you seriously should not waste any energy on what someone else thinks of your choice - what's the point of having your own home if you can't make it exactly what you want it to be, for the reasons that matter to you?
posted by faineant at 5:04 PM on November 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

Not werid. Check this out. I've seen it at my doctor's office and it looks GREAT. Wears like Tile, looks like wood.

If you want it to be warm in the winter, you can put radiant heating underneath it.

Mmmm. Toasty.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:06 PM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

To me, tile in the living room is like carpet in the bathroom. Sure you can do it, but my eyes are going to be going "WHY WHY WHY".

That being said, who cares what my eyes think?

Yes, my eyes think.
posted by sm1tten at 5:39 PM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Tiled living room floors are not common here -- but does that matter if I'm not doing this for resale?

No, and if your friend doesn't live in your house you don't have to take their personal taste into consideration.

I live in NM, and tile floors are common. Sometimes they do odd things to sound but that usually goes away if you have a normal amount of furniture, or add a rug.

You'll want to get tiles that are rated well for durability and slip resistance. It will be less work to lay larger tiles. If you don't want it to look like a bathroom don't put in white tile. Traditional satillo tile is pretty, but needs extra maintenance. Visit more than one tile store, the selection varies a lot.
posted by yohko at 5:44 PM on November 20, 2013

I'm in OR/WA, and while tile in the living room isn't common here, I've seen it. My grandmother has some kind of dark (black?) very slightly physically-textured tile in her living room, so it was not slippery, not as cold as the floors in the bedrooms (no carpet in house at all) or kitchen, and I've sometimes wished I had flooring that was similar. The walls in that part of the house were some sort of wood-paneling, if I remember right, and while it might not have been the most modern set-up, it was certainly cozy and easy to clean.
posted by stormyteal at 5:59 PM on November 20, 2013

Can I recommend cork tile flooring? I once lived in a house with cork floors and they were fantastic. Cool in summer, warm in winter, easy to clean, very subtly cushy on the feet. You can buy them stained in different shades and do whatever pattern you want, or no pattern at all. The only thing is that I don't know how they would look next to your wooden floor.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 6:29 PM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

I recently moved from southern NM where tile everywhere was totally common and desirable in new fancy homes to CO, where I've yet to see it. It would definitely stand out here, but I loved our tile floors for how easy they were to care for and wouldn't mind having them again if it weren't for resale issues. You will still want area rugs to warm things up, visually and underfoot, but i don't think it's really so cold in CO that they'd make you freeze. I would personally go for a slate colored or dark brown tile to blend better with the decor here rather than a sand or terra cotta color.
posted by waterlily at 6:31 PM on November 20, 2013

I grew up in a house with tile floors. This was in Los Angeles. Depending on the style of house, they look fine, but they're so, so, so cold sometimes. I really cannot emphasize this enough. I live in New England now, and the coldest winter here still can't compare to setting my bare feet on that tile first thing in the morning as a kid.
posted by Diagonalize at 6:43 PM on November 20, 2013

A lot of people in the Southwest do terracotta flooring and it's gorgeous. If I lived in Colorado I'd consider installing radiant heat underneath, as others have mentioned.

You might look up some examples of different styles of tile flooring and see what might work with your aesthetic though. Terracotta flooring in a big open Southwestern house with simple furniture is great, it would look stupid in a Victorian house. But there are options and options.

Alternatively, one thing we considered when talking about replacing a section of flooring in one of our houses, was going with a totally contrasting laminate--we had light wood everywhere and we considered doing very dark wood laminate in the section that needed replacement. I think it would have looked fantastic, although we ended up going for a less expensive fix since we were selling the house soon.
posted by padraigin at 7:28 PM on November 20, 2013

I personally cannot stand the look of tile in living rooms.

Apart from that, every tile-floored room I've been in larger than a bathroom has been loud and echo-y, very unpleasant acoustically.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 7:43 PM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

If your floor is built over a crawlspace and supported by wood beams, you may need to install hardibacker or similar on top of the subfloor to prevent tiles from cracking. That would add thickness and may result in a hard-to-conceal transition depending on how thick the tile is. A slab floor probably wouldn't have this issue.

Either way though, if I was in your situation, I think I'd go for a totally different style of wood-ish floor to contrast with your existing laminate -- like the cork or bamboo suggested above.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 7:49 PM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

We put travertine tile in our kitchen years ago and I desperately want to pull it out now and put in oak to match the dining and living room.

I do not think there's an aesthetic reason not to put tile in a living room, but I'll tell you why I regret using it even in a kitchen. One, it's cold (as previously mentioned). Two, EVERYTHING that drops breaks. And three, that damn grout is impossible to keep clean. Ours is supposed to be a light taupe color but it is dark gray most of the time (gross) unless I scrub it with a toothbrush, and there are better ways to spend your life than scrubbing grout lines with a toothbrush.

If you do tile, use a dark grout so you can at least pretend it's meant to look like the blackish color it's going to end up being.

But if you can swing it, I'd redo the whole place, kitchen and DR included, with wood floors.
posted by torticat at 9:09 PM on November 20, 2013

I lived in a rental with bathroom-style tiles in the living room. I did not like it at all- it was cold in winter, sterile looking and anything dropped on it smashed or chipped (my new MacBook Air, for example). Terracotta would look less stark, to me, and wood would be better again.

You don't have to worry about resale value- but you did ask for the opinions of others based on their aesthetic preferences! If you don't care, go nuts, but i think the answer is yes, it will look a bit weird in Colorado, and to some, even a bit fugly.
posted by jojobobo at 9:41 PM on November 20, 2013

Radiant heating is very nice. But it is very expensive. It isn't so bad in a small bathroom where you have to cover just a few square feet. A living room though? With the money you will spend on all of that you might as well get cork or bamboo: something that won't imitate your existing flooring but compliment it. To get a sense of how unpleasant a tiles floor is go into an unfinished basement and kick off your shoes. Now imagine living with that through the long winter.y
posted by munchingzombie at 10:05 PM on November 20, 2013

Tile, in my opinion, makes a living room feel like a doctor's waiting room. If you don't like carpet, wood is the traditional way to go.
posted by TrialByMedia at 10:07 PM on November 20, 2013

Tear out the laminate in the dining/kitchen and install new laminate or wood flooring throughout all the spaces so it matches?

These carpet tiles from FLOR are pretty snazzy, the idea being that you can pull up an individual tile if it gets peed on and replace just that tile, even keep a few spare tiles around if you please.

Recommend against ceramic tile, way too sterile and cold. Terracotta and saltillo tiles are nice and have a warmer appearance, though true saltillo may require some upkeep or special care depending whether it's glazed or not. Google for info.
posted by dahliachewswell at 10:32 PM on November 20, 2013

While it's not traditional in your part of the US...who cares? If you were looking to sell and recoup your investment in a couple of years, this would be an issue, but if you're staying put for the foreseeable future...bah, do what you want. You're not renting the place from imaginary future owners.

Tile definitely requires some real consideration to avoid a clinical feel, but you just have to go darker and earthy and larger, often textured. I'd advise that you go do a bunch of image searches and get a good solid idea of the feel of how it looks when done well, and then adapt to your space. Borrow ideas from where it's common in the Southwest, Spanish-influenced Florida and Louisiana, Europe, etc. I love the look of terracotta, stone, saltillo-style, etc.

Also, underfloor heating is a fucking revelation, just do it, if at all possible. (If not, at least get extra-extra insulation beneath the floor.) Heated floors sounded like some wacky rich-person whim like a gilded toilet to me until I experienced it as a practical thing -- oh, it's not making the floor hot, it just takes the chill off. It can be very energy-efficient as a supplement to your regular heating, actually.
posted by desuetude at 11:55 PM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would totally do this, and actually tiled living spaces are something I associate with rich people. Obviously you wouldn't put the same tiles in a living room as you would in a bathroom, that might look weird, but the art deco type of tiling in particular is really well-suited for living rooms. If you have a look at how some other people have done it you can see that it can look really nice, really classy and is a lot less hassle than carpet. Carpets trap dust and smells and do not look as nice.

The room will be colder but as mentioned, you can put in a heated floor.
posted by Polychrome at 2:44 AM on November 21, 2013

I don't know what your price constraints are, but the best examples for tile may cost more than new laminate in all the rooms.

(Facing a similar decision in the next 3 years)
posted by vitabellosi at 4:23 AM on November 21, 2013

Slate tiles are gorgeous no matter what room they're in.
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:08 AM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Tile is not common where i live in Northern VA however for pet reasons similar to yours we went with wood look tile and it has been AMAZING. everyone thinks it is wood flooring (trick is to use narrow grouting and dark dark grout) and it beautiful. i love it so much. if you are worried about the cold you can do heated tile. the best decision we ever made. If you want the tile that looks like real wood, you need to expect to pay at least $4.50/sq ft. Don't go with that crap from home depot or lowes- go for long plank, narrow tile.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 6:55 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't do tile in Colorado, too cold. Unless you have radiant heating in your floors.
posted by radioamy at 7:48 AM on November 21, 2013

I live in Florida. We have tile in our living room. As already mentioned, a lot of houses here do. I hate it, find it really ugly, would much prefer wood or faux-wood laminate, but we rent, so I've solved the tile-ugliness by buying the largest (awesome, leopard-print) rug I could find and covering as much of it as I could.
posted by dearwassily at 12:19 PM on November 21, 2013

« Older awful running weather trifecta   |   Looking For Songs That Have A Dark, Driving Beat Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.