A Trip To The Tiles Shop


Last Sunday we went to select tiles with our contractor which happened to be Jim’s birthday. We didn’t throw a party (we are not party people) but when we left the shop after three hours, I felt like as if I was having a hangover from last night’s party. No worries, we also snagged some Subway tiles while we were there. I’m all about exploring new ways to showcase classic designs (and within budget). Let’s see

The final selection is something like “we went nuts with squares”, more on this later. From the very start (like three years ago when I first started researching on home renovation) I always know I wanted wood-like tiles for the entire unit except the two bathrooms. This is something that I do not waver (unlike about 1900 other design decisions for my home *cough*).

Having the same flooring running through the entire space; 1) it’s a 700 sq. ft. apartment, 2) I’m knocking the upper half of my L-shaped wall to create a semi open kitchen-dining. A visual expansion of space and fluid continuity from living to kitchen is something that a small and open concept space really needs. Different flooring just looks choppy; instead, a rug will be used to ground the living space giving a sense of different zones even though you can see everything in one glance.

See the inspiration for my dining area.

We were presented with a few different wood-like tiles, there was one that has more linen lines instead of wood grains but we rejected it because it’s too smooth (like when it’s wet you will slip and kill yourself kind of smooth, sorry tile!). I also didn’t want the distressed look because it would be too rustic for our modern home.

There are those who says it’s pretentious to use tiles and try to pass them off as actual hardwood floor. You see, there is no shame in using wood-like tiles because of its advantages; simple, functional and cost effective. I’m not lying to myself (or anyone else) and know very well what and why. The wood-like tiles we picked has running tone effect making sure that there is enough variation in each tile so that they more closely resembles actual wood.


There is a debate on using plywood and laminates for kitchen because they’re “bad” materials…I will shed more light on all these on the blog as our reno progresses, so stay tuned. I believe it’s OK to use any materials as long as you’re being honest and use it in a tasteful way. 

For our kitchen, we are going with floor to ceiling square tiles (similar to the above blue kitchen). 30 cm x 60 cm (12″ x 24″) Volakas marble-like ceramic tiles pre-cut with 5 cm (2″) squares. This tile is outside the price range indicated on the quotation which means we will eventually have to pay the additional difference in price. This tile also comes with running tone effect that means you don’t end up with identical tiles and thus will better resemble marble.

See the inspiration for my kitchen.

In Singapore, majority of us (citizens) buys an apartment from the public housing scheme. Because land is scarce in Singapore (much like Hong Kong), it’s very expensive to own a piece of land (expensive like millions of dollars). Condominium is also certainly not cheap (they comes with security and facilities such as gym, swimming pool). (If you’re interested to read more).


We had the choice to buy a 3 room apartment but we bought below our means, we went for a 2 room instead. All units in our new build comes with floor tiles and floor to ceiling wall tiles at wet areas (namely all inner four walls of the bathrooms and kitchen). Ours come with basic white wall tiles (nope, not the classy Subway tiles) and taupe floor tiles. Not the worst but I wanted to add a little something and decided to make the shower wall a feature wall. 

If you can visualize the above stone (brick pattern) in squares on square pattern—this is the tile we selected for our master bathroom feature wall. The tiles we picked has a vintage pattern and is classy enough to tie in the rest of the white walls and the floor tiles we picked (dark grey). 


Because all units already come with tiles and waterproofing, you are not allowed to hack the tiles. Any damage done to the waterproofing might cause not only water damage to your own unit but the unit below you. As long as the waterproofing is left untouched, the housing board (own by the government of Singapore) will cover any repairs for the first five years of a new build. You can always choose to take the risk and hack the tiles but in doing so void all warranty.

Thus, the sensible choice is to overlay on top of existing tiles. You do lose “some height” but it’s really insignificant in comparison. In fact, we are glad to be working with a contractor who has a reputation to uphold (Singapore has an official list of contractors approved by the housing board which they can receive demerits for violating rules and regulation). It’s not a foolproof system but honestly it’s better than nothing. When overlaying, it’s not advisable to use large tiles because it will cause unevenness and “popping” down the road.

I wanted the stone look for a spa-like feel and also some masculinity to break away from the white Subway tiles in the second bathroom. Jim wanted more “dramatic” design because obviously he wants to spend his money where he can sees it. The good thing is as his wife, I trust his taste. And as a designer, I am able to see how his choice can work into the design of our home. 

Source: 1 // 2

Actually most of the time we share the same taste (thank God!); both of us prefer the flat Subway tiles over those with beveled edge. One thing because Jim wanted black grout in a classic brick pattern (something he previously said no to, but this is something very common among homeowners even designers change their minds). White grout works better with beveled edge while black grout lines act as a good contrast for the flat tiles. If it’s solely up to me, I would gladly try the one in the left bathroom; Subway tiles lay to look like planks. For more tiling pattern for good old Subway tiles, see here and here.


These are two of the same tiles in grey and dark grey (actually you can say black). We picked the same floor tiles for both bathrooms because of its anti-slip texture, we’re highly concerned about wet slippery floor. Both our previous rentals had bathroom with textured floor tiles and we really like it. Jim insisted the dark one to be used for the master and the lighter one for the other bathroom by the hallway. Our wood-like tiles and baseboard (known as skirting in Singapore) are still pending for confirmation.

Subscribe to the blog for any upcoming updates on our home renovation, I will be revealing the rest of the tiles as well as my 3D designs and progresses (full of useful tips and blood and sweat). I will also be writing a review on my contractor when the reno is done (as I find it unfair to talk about it in depth right now because technically the reno hasn’t commence). As well as my advice on what to look for in a designer/contractor for your home reno. I’m in the middle of prepping for another Style Challenge on the Living Room/Family Room; mood board and 3D reveal coming its way. I’ve been thinking about the possibility of giving away FREE space planning and 3D designs for my readers when my home reno is completed. ;) Stay tuned.

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All words by me and featured image from Trendir


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