Tile day!

Dearest internet, we did it! We chose all of the floor coverings and bathroom tiles for the new house* and it didn’t even take seventy billion hours! Only, like, sixty-nine billion hours. Not even.

(*The house is actually an apartment, but I will continue calling it a house. Not because I’m under any illusion that it is a house, but because it just sounds more natural to me. To ponder: is that specific to my US/suburban upbringing where most people did, in fact, live in houses? Do people who grow up in a big city find it natural to say, like ‘when we move to the new apartment’? Note to self: find person who grew up in a big city to ask.)

Anyway. So the reason ’tile day’ (not a real thing) feels so momentuous is because it’s basically the most significant thing that we get to choose about this place: there’s the light switches (but honestly, how much do you even look at your light switches?), the doors (we opted for the free default white ones), and we are not planning to put any color on the walls yet (how could you possibly know what color you want before choosing any furniture, or seeing what it feels like? And who has chosen their furniture over six months in advance?! Maybe people who already own furniture, but not us!). So… the tiles!

And by tiles, I mean all the floor coverings and also any wall coverings for the bathroom and kitchen. And the reason I use tiles to mean floor covering generally is that probably all of it will be tiles. Are you picturing random little square tiles? Me too, honestly, but it turns out that here in the tile capital of the world (guess what everyone: I live in the tile capital of the world! I didn’t even know), tiles are a Thing. I mean, check these out:

I mean, look at these! You can get tiles that look like wood planks. You can get tiles that look like big slabs of fancy concrete (and are called Boom! so that seems like a win). Now, the trick here is that certain things are included in the buying price of this house/apartment and certain things come with a premium cost, so you have to be a bit careful. For instance, the little fake planks you see above are included, no surcharge. The Boom! tiles are more expensive because of how big they are (apparently – I kind of just listened for ‘extra’ and ‘included’ and tuned the rest out. I am not a good decision maker and needed to preserve all available mental energy).

So, one very smart thing we did (in my humble opinion) is to go to the tile place twice. Once as a kind of recon mission: we wanted to just do the same floor covering throughout (apparently that’s trendy? I don’t know, but the partner felt strongly about it and I felt neutral so there we go), and we figured wood-effect tiles were the best choice because a) real wood that is also nice is out of our price range, and b) apparently wood-effect tiles would be more durable. Oh, and we definitely wanted wood-effect as opposed to fancy concrete, which is apparently what is super trendy at the moment. I’ve always loved wood floors, but was open to fake wood, also because look at it! Can you tell? I definitely wouldn’t have spontaneously called that out as fake if I hadn’t been told. And it got more realistic as the planks got bigger (and therefore more expensive).

The tile guy is a wonderful guy, because he very kindly and clearly explained to us all the ones that were included in the standard line-up available to us, and then the ones that we could afford for a modest surcharge (including the slightly larger ones pictured to the left) and then left us to it. We got out all of the sample planks… put them on the floor side by side… put them near a window and then far from the window to assess them in various types of light… lined them all up and then separated them… walked on them with shoes and without (yes, I took my shoes off in the tile store: someone told me it was important to know what they feel like with bare feet, and you know what? They’re not wrong!).

This took several hours, but by the time we were finished, we were down to two choices – the ones in the above picture, actually. My ideal wood floor color for our house (or kind of in general, but specifically for our house because I want it to maximize the impression of light inside of it) would be a natural-looking light wood color that I can best describe as ‘honey-colored’ or perhaps ‘warmly sandy’. The tile guy was a bit nonplussed by my descriptions (although I eventually found a – far too expensive – plank called exactly honey, so…. I am not as weird as he was making me out to be).

At this point, the tiles faced off against one another in a sort of sports-like game bracket (what? I have no idea what I’m talking about – that thing where teams eliminate each other progressively to get to the final game… you know?). Hopefully you know, because I’m not going to be able to explain it better. (And I really hate women-are-dumb-at-sports type stereotypes but good lord, I just do not care enough to figure out how most sports work.) Okay. Irrelevant. Anyway. So the wood-effect tiles faced off against one another and were slowly eliminated until only those two in the close-up picture remained. We went home to sleep on it.

Unfortunate turn of events: I had to work late (and go to sleep correspondingly late) the night before the official, final Tile Day (and we still had all the bathroom tiles to choose!!! on no sleep!!! stress!!!). I do not function well on little sleep and the prospect of little sleep stresses me out. As does the prospect of momentuous-seeming decisions. Unfortunate. However, after stress-texting a number of people with barely intelligible messages about “tiles… choosing…stress! ugly bathroom?!!” we gamely made our way to the tile place (showroom?) and the tile guy worked his magic.

Now, I don’t know if the tile guy does this on purpose (is he aware of his magic?) through some finely honed system of tile psychology, or if it just comes naturally to him, but he is honestly brilliant at his job. Situation: there is a showroom literally crammed to the gills with different tile choices. Perhaps 15% of them are totally not our style and can be eliminated just by walking past them. An unknown (but probably large) percentage are out of our budget, but, again, we don’t know which ones those are. And the remaining (vast!) quantity, are fair game. So how would you ever narrow it down?

With the help of tile guy! This particular tile guy’s genius method was to ask us for a couple starting points (ours were ‘neutral-ish’, ‘unobtrusive’, ‘not too flashy’, and ‘I quite like light gray?’) and then pull out some options. Then he proceeded to lead us through a series of very straightforward, binary “which do you like better, this one or this one?” choices, and in no time, we had narrowed the field right down to one design pair in two color options.

We stared at them a good long time. The texture of them was very pleasing to our eyes and fingers. During this time, we eliminated the darker floor tile in a very natural-feeling way, due to concerns about making the apartment seem sufficiently bright and light-filled. (The darker wood-effect tile was also *very* lovely, though. Very rich and cozy. If I had a place with more natural light, I would definitely have considered it.) We stared at the bathroom options some more. I was heavily leaning towards the grey. The partner also was, but we kept glancing back at the beige and saying “oh, but that’s really nice too”.

Then we remembered that we have two bathrooms, effectively saving us from the trauma of actually having to make this decision. The grey we were leaning towards was assigned to the bigger bathroom (with the geometric design version for the shower walls) and the beige was assigned to the half-bath/laundry room, with the geometric design for the wall behind the sink. Solution! Hooray!

We left the tile place and the genius tile salesman feeling happy and satisfied, which is not usually how I feel after making a decision. Progress! (Maybe?)

In other news, apparently I’m now the type of person that prattles on for numerous paragraphs about tiles. That’s… honestly not something I had anticipated in life. Is that just what happens when you buy a house? You feel super invested in parts of it that, in all of your previous rented abodes, you never even noticed existed?

Header photo: these lovely tiles were proposed somewhat early in that binary-decision making process gracefully led by tile guy. They were immediately vetoed by the boyfriend. Sad. I really like them! Perhaps I will just attempt to buy a single small set of them to use as decoration somewhere.

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