Mad About . . .

10 Things I Hate About You (My House): The Ugly Tiles

5th May 2020
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One of the things I am often asked about is ugly tiles – particularly in rental homes where it isn’t always possible to replace them. It can also be hard to change tiles on fireplaces without ripping the whole thing out and even if you own a property it’s an upheaval to rip them off and make good and replace. So the solution may be to paint them.

I was sent this press release by Annie Sloan last week showing these gorgeous painted tiles (styled by Marianne Cotterill) and thought I would ask Annie for her tips and techniques. I have written about Annie’s paint before in this post The Do’s and Don’ts of Painting Furniture but this time I wanted to tackle things that we might, understandably be more nervous of doing such as fixed tiles and baths etc.

And perhaps the first thing to note is that Annie created this gorgeous pink and orange pattern using dinner plates and bowls so you don’t need fancy equipment. And the second thing is that her company is still selling online: “We’re sending out orders to stockists and distributors all over the world. Annie Sloan Interiors is a global company so we have to keep supporting our stockists who need to sell Chalk Paint™ to earn a living,” she told me last week via email.

“We’re encouraging our stockists to start selling online and where possible to do kerbside pick-ups and online deliveries. As they are independent retailers, they are able to be very responsive and flexible and are doing everything they can in order to keep their businesses afloat at the moment – so please do get in touch with them to see if they can help with your isolation projects.”

So how exactly do you go about painting tiles? The first, probably obvious point, is that you can’t paint all your tiles. If you need to be scrubbing or cleaning them (particularly) with chemicals on a regular basis, then no paint is going to stand up to that. So behind a cooker, which is also exposed to steam and heat on a regular basis, isn’t going to work. A family bathroom may be tricky, but a bathroom used by adults or a downstairs loo are perfect candidates.

You also need to allow proper drying time – at least 48 hours for two layers of paint and the lacquer finish ideally takes 14 days to properly cure, so if it’s a floor that you need to walk on do half at a time. Or you may have seen people painting stairs do every other one so they can still get up and down.

If you want to create a pattern then paint the neutral colour first, says Annie, and don’t forget to start at the point furthest from the door! Get the right tools: masking tape, a ruler, a tape measure and draw out your pattern before taping it off to ensure good lines. A small brush with flat edges will also help with clean lines.

The tiles at the top are in Annie’s Barcelona and Antoinette colours, created, as she said above using bowls and plates. “You don’t need anything more complicated than that and geometric shapes look fabulous. Terrazzo is a good one too and virtually impossible to mess up.”

Annie also suggests painting tiles before you lay them as that might be easier. So if your budget doesn’t run to fancy designs then you could perhaps buy plain white tiles, paint them, allow them to dry fully and then lay them. And do bear in mind that while painting tiles is a solution to getting rid of ugly tiles it isn’t a quick solution as you really need to factor in the long curing time for them to be tough enough to withstand family life afterwards. If you need a solution in a hurry this might not be it.

In addition to tiles, Annie obviously suggests painting furniture. Like that pretty stool lower down the post,  as well as anything mass-produced that you might have and want to personalise. But you can also paint your own kitchen cupboards if you have, she suggests, “a partner, a weekend and no interruptions”. For some of you now will be the perfect time. For others not so much.

First of all clean them really well with soapy water and a wire brush to remove any oil. You can remove all doors and drawers or you can do as Annie does which is paint them in situ. Remember she says she invented this paint precisely so you can get stuck in straight away as she didn’t have the patience with undercoating and primer and all that.

If you are painting laminate, which won’t normally take paint, Annie suggests a base coat of diluted paint first and the paint will then stick to that.

Once you have painted make sure you finish with either gloss or matt lacquer to make it tough and remember that long curing time. If you have laminate cupboards, Annie has made a video here to help you.

Annie also recommends leaving a lot of time between coats. “The chalk paint will bond to smooth and shiny surfaces but it will take longer than if you are painting something porous such as brickwork. Allow a minimum o two hours between coats and apply it thinly.

“To help with thin application you can dilute the paint with a little water and dampen your painting tool – either roller or brush – which will help make it thinner. Once it is completely dry you can apply the protective finishing sealant.”

But if you are doing a kitchen, which needs to be super tough, Annie suggests a 21 day curing time for the lacquer. In which case she said you should paint in parts – top cupboards first for example. Aim for three coats of paint as well before you lacquer to fully protect against water.

This might seem like a massive job but it’s cheaper than a new kitchen and costs more in time and inconvenience than actual money. If you do it slowly and properly you should be able to wipe down the cupboards without any issues for years afterwards.

So what do you think? I don’t have any tiles in my downstairs loo but that seems to me like a good place to start.


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  • Sue 17th May 2020 at 9:10 pm

    Wonderful post thank you. And that black table – please, where is it from?!

    • Kate Watson-Smyth 18th May 2020 at 9:52 am

      Well – funny you ask because it’s actually an Ikea Docksta table, painted in Annie’s chalk paint. I know!!!

  • Tatiana Decor 8th May 2020 at 3:48 pm

    Thanks for the great idea. I spend a lot of time looking for ways that I can use to update tiles in the bathroom. Over time, it has faded and now looks very sad. Now I know what I will do with the tile and how to paint it beautifully.

  • Essjay 5th May 2020 at 1:24 pm

    Perfect timing! My Annie Sloan paint order should arrive tomorrow to give the dining room table a new life. The downstairs toilet floor tiles are horrid and I’ve been wanting to paint them for ages. Your post is perfect. Now do I dare during lockdown with 3 young teenagers….🥴

  • Tara Kaufmann 5th May 2020 at 9:34 am

    I’ve never had a new kitchen, so am an old hand at painting tiles and cabinets! Currently painting kitchen tiles white and stencilling green stars onto them. It IS quite a faff so I’m doing one section at a time. It’s fabulously cheap and a great solution in a house where the tiles are basically holding up the wall.

  • Chiara 5th May 2020 at 8:18 am

    As a person only marginally designed to complete DYI projects, this sounds like THE challenge, but it sounds interesting for small tiled surfaces. On a completely different topic, do you know the name of the painting technique used on the pink walls of the bedroom in the photo above? I’ve been trying to find out for ages! Chiara

    • Sheree 6th May 2020 at 11:17 am

      Hi Chiara, It looks to me like “rag-rolling”.

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