It’s a widely accepted notion that using trim to “finish” any sort of wall or floor installation is the final, necessary step of a lengthy process. The cherry on the sundae. Icing on the cake. You. Did. It.
What many don’t know is that when it comes to tile, most countries do not use trim. No trim!
Tile trim, for the most part, is an American invention born out of a perceived “ease of installation” (which, as you’ll discover, isn’t really the case). To be fair, our history of tile use is very young, mostly limited to bathrooms, and kitchens, floors and backsplashes. America doesn’t yet have the tile traditions of countries where tile originated—and then flourished.
At clé, we have held to the international model of no trim, and we encourage our clients to do the same. However, we don’t expect you to come along on this journey without a bit of explanation as to exactly why tile trim is unnecessary.
Above: mitered edge of Bergen Liberty brick.
But First… a Tile & Trim History Lesson
Countries throughout the world have had a long history of tile making. But, it’s not just about the creation of the tile itself. Many of these countries consider the craft of tile installation every bit as artistic as the craft of tile making. Both require a balance of technical skill and artistic devotion. Craftsmen and craftswomen in both tile making and installation have maintained this practice into modern times.
If you’ve decided to design your space using tile, it’s important to understand this rich cultural significance. Otherwise, you may fall into the trap of these three tile trim myths.
Above: Marble can be used in lieu of a mitered edge. A shower bench made with a mitered edge.
Tile Trim Myth #1: Voila!
One misconception is that tile trim completes the design. We’d argue that trim takes away from the design. Tile actually looks best when surfaces meet seamlessly and in a monolithic fashion. It produces more of a custom finish than a manufactured one. Still not sure? All you have to do is look to those countries who have been doing this for a lot longer than the U.S. A lot. The rest of the world utilizes far more tiles than the U.S. per capita, all without the use of tile trim. Surely they’ve been doing something right.
Tile Trim Myth #2: Trim Is Cost-Friendly
We’ve seen many (too many) design instances where tiles only covered a portion of the wall, backsplash, or mantel (aka: “short-sheeting”). This choice is constructed to be less about design and more about cost-savings. But, that is a misconception brought on by perception—the perception that covering an entire surface with tile is more expensive than finishing with trim. Not so. Trim is actually quite expensive and could push your budget to its limits (if not completely over the edge).
Tile Trim Myth #3: All Tile Has Accompanying Trim
Like we said, we are young. Most tiles are made outside of the U.S., which means they don’t come with trim. Are you going to mar your beautiful tile design by resorting to broadly manufactured trim options at the big-box hardware store? There are a number of options for tiling without trim (see examples and illustrations in our Trim Guide).
Above: White Modern Farmhouse Brick is mounted flush with the wooden boards to create a seamless surface.
A (Tiny) Exception to the Rule
In some of our tile collections, we do offer a trim option—primarily because they are a tile with a distinctive “American-made” aesthetic. Our factory-produced subway tiles and artisan crafted glazed thin brick tiles are two collections that include this option. This exception to our rule is limited, however, so be fair warned. Instead of a full-range of trim, we have a very minimal offering—just enough to allow those clients who are pro-trim.
But, our preferred stance (and we stand by it!), based on historic tradition and aesthetic presentation, is to recommend tiling without trim.