Though the design team may be reluctant to acknowledge it, even the largest of projects has a budget. And budgets often lead to value engineering, which sets limits that force design decisions. Floors and walls often take the hit, as clients direct their funds toward the items they perceive as necessary—furniture systems and lighting, for instance.

But who says surfaces, too, don’t deserve to become an element of high design? Enter tile. The versatile, modular wall and floor covering is available in seemingly endless shapes, sizes, colors, and materials. Here are eight reasons we love it:

1. Bold Geometry
Architects may disagree, but geometry looks much better as decor than it did in our high school math textbooks. Picket from Fireclay Tile re-imagines the iconic look of the classic fence in an elegant ceramic tile. With clean lines and bold sizing, the pattern comes in 80 lead-free glazings that range from vibrant brights to modest neutrals, and in gloss (fossil, shown) and satin matte finishes. Plus, the material is made from 70% recycled content sourced within 200 miles of Fireclay’s facility in Aromas, Calif., where the product is manufactured.

2. Updated Whites
White tile can evoke a sterile aesthetic that is better suited to operating rooms or commercial kitchens than to bustling contract spaces. Designer Erin Adams gives the color an update in her Slant Stitch collection for Imagine Tile. The 12”-square floor and wall tiles showcase a minimalist design that incorporates two patterns in graphite, lime (shown), coral, and cyan colorways on a white background.

3. Tradition Re-examined
The materials specified in a project can reveal several details about the job—site location, client type, and how the space will be used. A natural stone, marble is a material for the ages. It has been used in buildings as geographically diverse as the Taj Mahal and the Washington Monument. Arizona Tile’s Calacatta Gold is sourced from Italian quarries and cut into 2"-diameter hexagons, 12" squares, and 12"-wide-by-24"-long rectangles. Pencil-thin black veining contrasts the marble tiles’ thick strands of gray and its white background.

4. Easy Mosaics 
Mosaics are a beautiful addition to a space but require an artistic bent and—perhaps the bigger deterrent—time to put together. From New Ravenna Mosaics, the Delft Collection is inspired by the fusion of 17th-century Chinese patterns and Dutch handcrafting, bringing delftware’s vibrant patterns to life in crisp blues and whites. The hand-cut tiles are offered in jewel glass or natural stone with patterns that emulate traditional florals, chinoiseries, and Roman pineapple borders.

5. Prefab Pieces
Laying tile is a job usually left to professionals or hardened DIYers. Marine Tiles from Moonish take the pain out of wall tile installation because they require no glue or grout. Instead, the plywood tiles are fitted with a magnetic backing and are mounted on steel stickers, which can be placed on any smooth and level surface. Once installed, the tiles can be rearranged as needed. Twelve patterns are available, including capri-fiore (shown).

6. New Dimensions
Three-dimensional walls can subtly accent a space with delicate plays of shadow and light. The crisp lines of Ann Sacks’ ASC Modern collection establish that contrast in 12 protruding geometric profiles, including peaked diamond curved field (shown). Available in 30 finishes, the glazed tiles are designed for use indoors and in some outdoor applications.

7. Material Variety
Ceramic may be the go-to material for floor and wall tiles, but it’s not the only surfacing on the market. Wood, metal, leather, and slate are all used by designers to warm up or streamline spaces with natural hues and textures. Walker Zanger’s AnTeak tiles and mosaics are made from FSC-certified reclaimed teakwood. Offered in a range of shapes (hexagon, shown) and colors, the designs draw their inspiration from sources as varied as classic European wood flooring and midcentury modern design.

8. Sustainable Surfacing
The push for eco-friendly architectural products is inspiring serious cases of creative reuse. Slate-ish’s tiles are just that—slate, sort of. Scraps of Richlite and Paperstone paper laminates sourced from U.S. countertop manufacturers are hand-split and cut into geometric shapes such as squares, hexagons, triangles, and parallelograms (shown). The lightweight tiles average 1/16” to 1/4” thick and are offered in gray, light brown, and dark brown colors.