how to plan your tile project

by clé tile | published: Jul 07, 2023

Fornace brioni + clé casale rustico normale bundle. Design: storie collective / photo: stacy zarin goldberg

shopping for tile isn’t like shopping for shoes or a tee shirt. it’s a bigger, more permanent expression of self that outlives any trend, creating the foundation (both aesthetically and literally) for your kitchen, bath, foyer, and your home as a whole. daunting? perhaps. but don’t let that dissuade you. with the right prep, you can get the perfect tile for your needs — and it’ll be worth the effort.

the keys to shopping clé (hint: think and shop like a pro)

a successful clé experience requires advanced planning, doing your homework, and shopping carefully, because artisan tile is unlike any other.

what this means is you’ll need to have all your facts and decisions squared away as much as possible before you place your order. as with most things worth doing, it’s a reap-what-you-sow kind of situation: the more patience and work you put in up front translates to less stress and a bigger payoff.

seven steps to successful tile shopping

  • plan. pick a place to start.
  • find your inspiration. now take it further.
  • narrow your focus and do your homework. (this one’s a biggie.)
  • find your new best friend: your tile installer, someone who has experience with the tile you’re considering.
  • have your contractor measure your space.
  • order carefully, and account for overage (!).
  • prepare for delivery. (hint: it’s a little more involved than getting a package from amazon.)

(floor) foundry flats brick in petrol, (backsplash) eastern elements rice paper 4x4. Design: matt mckay / photo: Joshua McHugh

planning your tile purchase

1. plan. pick a place to start.

as we see it, there are two ways to approach this.

the first is to picture a project, then figure out the role of tile within that project. your whole house, or just the kitchen? will your tile be the hero, or will it carry through a motif from elsewhere in your house? a functional approach (e.g. “i only need a backsplash”) is a fine approach — just don’t let it limit you. even the most practical needs can be turned into “wow” moments, so finding a tile that strikes the right balance for you will be of utmost importance.

but there’s another, slightly more counterintuitive (and dare we say, even more creative) approach: fall in love with a tile first, and then figure out how to use it. that powder-room that’s been languishing? that odd alcove you’ve never quite figured out how to work with? there’s a place for every tile — even the boldest — if you find the right space for it. open your mind, get some samples, and imagine the possibilities. (keep in mind that samples are meant to serve as examples — not perfect replicas).

2. find your inspiration. now take it further.

find your inspiration on pinterest, instagram, or at what makes you stop scrolling? what can’t you get out of your head? that’s what we call a good start.

then take it further. think about how you can put your own spin on things, maximizing your use of tile in the space to amp up your design. take tile up to the ceiling (or put it on the ceiling), use it to enclose an exhaust fan, or craft a built-in bar — there’s nothing quite like variegated handcrafted tile to add character and soul to a space. and remember: grout can also be a major design element, elevating the humblest of tiles to major design statements. whatever you do, do it with gusto and conviction.

belgian reproduction square + rectangle bundle. Design: emily lauren interiors / photo: madeline harper photo

3. narrow your focus and do your homework.

narrow your focus (a bit). consider what kinds of clé tiles fit your project. our range is expansive, so we’ve grouped them into three categories—classic, heritage, and maison clé—based on their characteristics, their use, and how much TLC they require.

then do your homework. make sure you know what you’re getting. this is where you need to be honest with yourself:

a.  is the tile going to give you the effect you really want?
many people love the look of our zellige, but discover that it’s far more (or less!) varied in color, size, and texture than they’d thought. if variation is what you seek, go for our more “characterful” tiles; if a little more uniformity is a better fit for you, we have you covered there, too. the one thing to know about our handmade tile is this: the level of variation depends entirely on the production batch your order is a part of — with minimal to extreme variation within the batch, depending on the type of tile you order — and no two batches will be the same. which is to say, ordering handmade tile requires somewhat of an open mind. explore our tile variation guide, our primer on white tile, or find information on variation on every product page.  it’s also worth mentioning that at the end of the day, you may find that handmade tile (and the variation that comes with it) isn’t your thing — and that’s totally OK. better to know early on than after it’s too late.

b.  is the tile appropriate for your use, whether indoor or outdoor, near heat sources, or used in a shower?
not every tile can go anywhere. check the usage information under the “product specifications” section near the bottom of every product page, or feel free to email us at

c.  how much effort do you want to put into maintenance?
like anything that’s worthwhile, tile needs to be cared for, and most change over time as they patina. read up on how your choice needs to be maintained in our material guidelines. you’ll also find information on every product page.

d.  do we have enough in stock?
look for that information on every product page.

e.  how will it need to be installed?
in general, we always recommend professional installation, but consider it a must for our heritage and artist collection tiles (our zelliges, cements, terracottas, brick, and stone). check out the installation fyis on each product page, as well as our material guidelines. when in doubt, call your installer and ask how much experience they have with a given type of tile and installation.

clé slate 4x12 plank. Design: joelle elaine design

weathered white 4x4. Design: cathie hong interiors / photo: margaret austin

get the tile fundamentals in place

4. find your new best friend: your tile installer, someone who has experience with the tile you’re considering.

find the right installer. this is the person who will make or break your project. ask for examples of their past installations and get confirmation that they have experience with the kinds of tile you’re installing, and the kind of installation you have in mind. there are many installers with many years of setting tile — but if they've never set clé tiles, then you can easily run into issues.

Any experienced installer will create mock-up boards before the installation for your approval; make sure you hire a contractor that always provides this service.

5. have your contractor measure your space.

measure. then measure again. (have your contractor do it for you). after that, make sure that at least 15% overage has been added to your total. your installer may have already added it to your order. if not, our overage calculator located on every product page can help. 

we recommend a minimum 15% overage to compensate for expected transit breakage, installation cuts, future repairs, and some of the additional variation that's inherent in artisanal tile.

the biggest mistake clients can make on a project (besides not hiring an experienced installer) is not ordering enough tile. the moment you run short of tiles, your project is in danger, courtesy of delays and add-on tiles that don't match your original tiles.

you might even want to order a little extra to give you additional breathing room. for zellige shoppers in particular, if variations and imperfections are not your thing but you still want the look of zellige, we encourage you to buy 30% more to enable you to cherry pick the tile. the last thing you want to do is to have to order again, which will introduce a new set of headaches for you.

eastern elements rice paper 2x2. Design: emily farnham architecture / photo: yoshihiro makino

shop carefully to get exactly what you want

6. order carefully, and account for overage.

order quickly (and with care). our stock is always limited, and we really hate to disappoint. in fact, if your project is on a tight timeline, it might help to have a backup choice just in case. be sure to account for any overage (as discussed in step 5 above) to avoid any dreaded add-on orders.

we offer a 3-hour period to edit, add to or cancel orders once they’re placed, but after that 3-hour window, there are no returns, refunds, edits or cancellations.

learn more about our return policy here.

7. prepare for delivery.

prepare for delivery. receiving tile is a little more complicated than receiving an order of shoes. All deliveries are curbside ONLY. That means someone must be present to move the tile into your home or business, inspect the product (both the quantity and for breakage) and sign the order. If you require special assistance, please notify the freight company (extra fees may apply for special assistance and are to be paid by the customer.) 

There are times when unfortunately due to shipping truck mobility constraints or other factors determined by the freight company, they are unable to deliver to your address. In those cases, tile must be either picked up from the nearest delivery place or routed to a different address.

any issues with breakage or shortages must be reported within 48 hours.

read our delivery faqs here.

from there, it’s up to you

we wish we could tell you that installation will be a breeze, but we all know that it can be a bit of an adventure. (here is the clé golden rule when it comes to installations.)

what we can tell you is that your tile — carefully sourced, made by hand, and handled with care — will give you joy for years and decades to come. every time you look at your backsplash, your bathroom, your floor, or wall, think about the people it took to get it there, the tradition and skill they represent, and the care you took to choose and install it. we hope you enjoy it.

(floor) belgian reproduction star + cross (wall) eastern elements rice paper 2x6. design/photo: taylor + taylor