Building a new home: tile, flooring, countertops, and color

It’s time for a new-house update!
And even though we’re now living in the home, I really want to document it all systematically.  So today we’re talking about flooring and tile.

If you’ve missed my other posts, our family is building a custom home in the Austin, TX area.  We’re not physically building it ourselves—we’ve hired a custom builder to do the hard part and we’re along for the decision-making ride.

Check out my previous posts documenting the whole process:
We’re building a new home!
Groundbreaking Party
From foundation to frame 
Stucco, shingles, and a pretty paint job 
Sheetrock, paint, and a double-decker deck
We moved!…and an ode to the old house

When we last visited the house it looked like this:

The cabinets had just gone in!
And, I love them.  I knew I wanted white cabinets from the very get-go…but I also knew that I wanted white stone countertops.  And I worried that it would be a lot of white (for anyone else in the house, who’s name is not Dana….because I would be perfectly content to live in a house dipped in marshmallow goo).

But.  As it all came together with the cabinets, counters, flooring, and pops of colored tile throughout the house,  I absolutely love it.  And Casey does too….so let me show you what we did.

First off, the wood floors.
Okay. They’re not wood.  They’re tile!

And they’re really amazing.

Now before you scoff at the tile—like I may have done when our designer first showed it to me—let me tell you the pros and cons.

I really love wood floors.  In our old house we had very light wood maple floors made of engineered wood—which is the most common type of wood flooring these days.   Typically there’s an engineered wood like mdf on the bottom, and then a thin layer of real wood on the top, which you tongue + groove into place in large pre-pieced boards (or in individual planks like old fashioned wood floors).

So I had my heart set on wood floors again.  They’re just warm and inviting.  Yes, after 4 years in our old house the floors were scratched up in many places.   But nothing bad; just wear and tear.

So when I met with our designer to pick out flooring the first thing she said was, “I have a vision for your whole house…..and I found the perfect tile flooring that I think you’re going to love.”
I inwardly rolled my eyes.
(“I’m not doing tile”)

And then she pulled out this beautiful long 36×6 inch porcelain tile that had a really cool natural farm house look to it.  It wasn’t really brown… was like a warm gray/brown and matched my favorite boots perfectly.  And it had some
texture on the top that made it feel like wood, and the pieces were all varied so it wasn’t matchy matchy.  And then she showed me the flooring laid out in the showroom.

And, I was totally on-board.

It was really beautiful!  And the upside to using tile vs. wood is that we could use it throughout almost the entire house….which makes a home feel larger and more cohesive.  We could use it in the kitchen, laundry room, the bathrooms, everywhere! (although we planned to use carpet in the bedrooms).  Plus, the tile doesn’t scratch which is truly amazing.  Drag chairs around in the house, no prob.

We’ve been living on these tile floors for a month now and the only downside I see—compared to wood floors–is that it doesn’t have that same warmth as real wood.  I just gotta be honest about that.  Some winter days I miss that rich feeling of walking on wood.  But when summer hits, these tile floors are going to be my best friend.

So really, no complaints.

Now there’s a range of wood tile out there from pricey to inexpensive and some of it (in my opinion) can look a bit plasticy.  Wood tile is still on the early trend so I can only imagine that over the next 10 years there will be many more options to choose from….like bullnose tile pieces for the stairs (but we’ll get to that in a moment).

This particular tile is by Marazzi and the style is Cambridge Oak, Natural color.  Check out all sorts of flooring options on my pinterest board here.  The cost was the same as doing real wood floors, so it wasn’t cheap.  But I found that with home building you have to decide which big ticket items are important to you, and you cut back on the ones that aren’t (and plan on going over budget a bit…..which is just the reality.)

Our tile guys were awesome and worked hard, around the clock for a few weeks.  I was actually surprised at how long it took but was glad to know that there was a lot of precision work going into it.  They’d point out small inconsistencies to me and ask, “in order to make this all fit, I had to move this one tile over 1/8 of an inch.   Is that okay?”  The artist in me appreciated that attention to detail and pride in their own work.

Little by little, the stairs went from this:

to this (with the walls painted Repose Gray):

And deciding exactly HOW the tile should look on the stairs led to much discussion.

I knew I wanted “wood” tops with white risers.   But the problem with tile vs wood is that there wasn’t a bullnose piece to go on the stair edge.  And I didn’t want the tile to look cheap and small on top—I wanted it to be chunky like wood.  So the tile guys created a rounded edge on-site and placed a small tile piece on the stair front, and it totally worked.  I’m happy with the finished look.

Sick of talking about tile yet?
Well let’s make it more colorful!

The great room once looked like this:

And now it looks like this!

For the fireplace I selected a 1×1 tile by Daltile, color: Spa Blue.

I’m so in love with this shade.  It’s soothing and subtle.

And the look is pretty close to the photo I used as inspiration.

Definitely a more finished look from our Christmas card photos.

For more ideas check out my fireplace board here.

In two of the bathrooms, we went with a neutral gray color on the floors, in large 12 x 24 tiles

And then on the walls we threw in the color.

I never used green in our old house but with this house I’m bringing it in….starting with the Master Bath and the front door.
Did mention it was green?
I love it.

I guess the tile guy wanted to fit in too because he brought a green apple to work every day and placed it right there on the shower ledge.  Made me smile.

One day I asked what he thought of the bright green tile and he said, “well, it’s going to give you lots of energy in the morning!”  I like that perspective—it’s the energy shower!

For most of the showers we used Interceramic tiles in Bold Tones, size 6×6, in a broken joint pattern.  This color is: Limelight.

We selected white 2×2 tiles for the floor of the shower and the tub splash.

And it finally came together!


For the downstairs bathroom we used Dark Gray from the same tile series.

We added an exterior door to this bathroom in case we build pool, for outside access.

Upstairs we used Gulf Blue.

And the shower went from this:

to this! (more photos in the Dropcloth Shower curtain post)

All the bedrooms got a pretty layer of carpet:

In the Master bedroom all three flooring types come together.

And on the upper deck we selected tile over wood so it would be waterproof for the deck below.

We continued a small patch of the same tile into the playroom and guest room–which both open to the upper deck–to keep the carpet from getting dirty near the doors.

Still with me?
The flooring is done!
Just one final bit to share: the kitchen counter and backsplash.

It’s fun to watch your house being built, but, it can also give you anxiety….like the day I pulled up in pouring rain and three guys jimmied that heavy slab of Silestone into the house.

(“please don’t drop it, please don’t drop it”)

They got it in place!  Now the tile guys could finish the backsplash.

We used American Olean Legacy Brick Subway, color: LG02 Hazel and it makes the room so cheery!

I really love this shade of blue.

And that my friends, is one BIG long blog post.
Thanks for reading.
And have a great weekend!
Next time I’ll show you some pretty interior details.

  1. 2) Samina

    How could you not wake up happy, looking at tile colors like that?

  2. 3) Julie R

    Your choices are absolutely gorgeous! I can’t wait to see the rest of the house!

    • 5) Dana

      Oh good! I felt like that post was the longest piece of tile in history….so I’m glad you still want to see more! There’s definitely more to share 🙂

      • 6) Elaine Buttacavoli

        Beautiful choices. What is the brand name & color name of the lovely light gray floor tile with the linear wavy lines that you used in the bathroom?

  3. I *love* “hearing” (and seeing) all the details! Thank you!

  4. 8) Marilyn

    Everything looks beautiful. Love it!

  5. Oh, Dana, it’s coming together so beautifully! And I love how adventurous you are with color. Our home is still ivory. We haven’t taken the time to paint the walls, for so many reasons (but mostly laziness). It’s absolutely delightful looking at yours!

    • 10) Dana

      Thanks LiEr! It felt risky when I made the colored tile decisions…but now I love it! I may be ready for change in 10 years…but then I’ll just have to rip it out and start over 🙂
      Fun to hear from you!
      Have a great weekend 🙂

  6. long post because you have lot to share, in a pretty lovely way.
    love the apple, love the tile… and love learning from you – living in texas – that the Marazzi got those tiles.
    i chose wood, because here – northern italy – we have some really freezing winters 😉 but i live 20km away from their firm, so maybe next time i’ll consider tiles 😉

  7. thanks for sharing with us! All the pictures are gorgeous!

  8. Love the yellow pendant lights in the kitchen as well the blue tile backsplash! The green tile in the bathroom is pretty cool, too.

  9. totally stunning, all of it. And the tile will feel so good in the heat!! I’m super jealous of the silestone, it’s my dream countertop. 🙂 Someday…

  10. 15) Lori

    Absolutely beautiful!

  11. I LOVE it! Bright blues and greens are my favorite to throw around the house so I am a huge fan of how boldly you used the colors in the tile. I have serious house envy 😉 I can’t imagine having a bad mood stick around when I am surrounded by such cheerfulness. I’m so excited for you that everything is turning out so beautifully!

  12. love this!!!! it’s so fun to see the house come together! 🙂

  13. 18) Leah K

    Love it all! We are buying a house this summer and I am going to change whatever kitchen we have to white and aqua too 🙂 i have been in love with kitchens with those colors for years now. I think I’m going with white, aqua, and bronze/copper.

  14. 19) Marion

    Your new house is beautiful! You could go on and on, love reading about your adventure 🙂

  15. 20) ellen

    We are in the thick of our home build, and I keep coming back to you house posts. You gave me the guts to go with a exterior color other than BROWN. We went with Serious Gray and I love the blue-gray-ness of it! And incidentally, I picked the same wood look tiles but in a different shade. No worrying about soccer cleats or water leaks? Sign me up!

  16. If I ever have the opportunity to build my dream house I am hiring you to design it. I love everything! The wood tile floor is soooooo cool!!! And the bright green tile in the shower is awesome. I would probably spend an extra 10 minutes in the shower just to admire the color. LOL! I love all the rest too. Just gorgeous! I love your style Dana!

  17. 23) Diane Jostes

    Thank you for all the info. We too are building a home and I am right now at the point of picking the flooring. I am thinking real wood floors but after seeing your pics and your info about tile I might rethink my choice. Thanks, love seeing that other people are feeling anxiety over decisions & for us the very last time we do this and we want it right and forever.

  18. 24) Heidi L

    As always, I can’t wait to see more! The tile colors are so modern and fun, exactly the colors I would want in my own house. Those last pictures of the kitchen look exactly like the house I would imagine you designing!

  19. 25) Christina

    Beautiful!!! We are remodeling our entire kitchen and I love the all white with the blue tile. I’ve been looking at tons of samples! Thanks for adding the exact item #’s. Our current design style is so very plain and I’d like to kick up the color. Now if I can convince my husband by showing him your photos 🙂

  20. 26) bleu

    WOW tile on the stairs and it looks great!

  21. I really love the color of the flooring and that its tile! Also all the tile in the bathrooms and kitchen. Gorgeous!! Looking forward to the next post

  22. Love love love it! It has the perfect combo of crisp white with splashes of color! Can’t wait to see the rest!

  23. oh i’m so glad i saw this post! i was just at home depot like 6 hrs ago and i had JUST spotted the wood tile and i totally loved it! we are beginning our first house hunt and i am just so giddy inside to be spending a lot of time at home depot/lowes to remodel our to-be house! your house is SO lovely! i love every single post no matter how long! <3

  24. BEAUTIFUL! I am loving a white kitchen right now…with a pop of color on the backsplash. It is gorgeous. It is funny to hear you talk about the dilemma of deciding how the stairs should look. My hubby has a flooring business, and he does the installs for a living. He talks about work all the time and he is always talking about stairs. I think it must be a common topic of discussion, and also hard work to get exactly what the client wants. I love how it turned out…and I am going to show my husband the stair pictures! I think he will appreciate the amount of work that went into them.

  25. 31) julis

    Simply gorgeous…love the choice of color!

  26. 32) BuxomBlue

    Your house is gorgeous! I love the bright white with pops of colour! And, the materials and colours you chose for them are just wonderful! And, that green tile bathroom! And, — haha, I am gushing. 🙂

  27. 33) Kasey

    I love seeing the “process” of building a home. It’s absolutely beautiful!

    I only write this for anyone considering the tile floors, but keep in mind I have 13 children! My husband installs flooring for a living and he talked me into installing porcelain floors in our kitchen, dining room, and family room. It looked great, however, if glass was dropped it shattered into a million pieces. If it wasn’t for that, I would consider tile/porcelain again.
    Congrats on your house, love it and your blog.

  28. 34) Amy

    I am totally an “old house person” but I love your house so much!

  29. I love it! I love the wood tiles. My in-laws lived in a house with a lot of tile. I was always freezing in the winter, but it really did help the house stay cool in the summer.

    And I totally understand your anxiety with the slab of counter top. We recently replaced 3 sliding glass doors (2 upstairs). The workers dragged one of them up the stairs and the other one they handed up to the balcony. I was sure they would be broken!

  30. I searched and searched but could not locate the button for the application I need to fill out to move in with you guys! I am in love with absolutely everything about this house. When we tiled a kitchen counter in a previous home, we used epoxy grout. Did you use traditional sanded grout in your showers, or go with something more durable like epoxy (but more expensive upfront and a heck of a lot more challenging to apply)? I’m not sure I would be willing to tackle epoxy on a large scale project, but maybe the pros are braver than I!

  31. You’ve got fabulous taste – those are my colours too 🙂 I’m looking forward to more house posts!

  32. I love the tile choice. We have satillo and it is a nightmare and depressing to look at each day. Someday I hope to change it as it would brighten up the entire house. Since we live in Tucson it fits in and everyone says it’s so “rustic”, but I think they are just trying to be nice! 🙂

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  34. 40) Jennie

    Love, love, love all your choices but the kitchen definitely has the wow factor! Can’t wait to see more.

  35. This is gonna be such a beautiful home! I’m also looking forward to the next pictures!

  36. 42) erica

    thank you for sharing!! we are at the beginning phase of building a custom home and i was hoping you would do a post on your flooring and tile pictures before we had to make decisions. i love everything you picked, thank you for the post!!

  37. Thanks for sharing, it is seriously GORGEOUS! Love the tile choices. You have the best taste. 🙂

  38. 44) susan

    most excellent post! Thanks for sharing your “build” with us. The design decisions, all those choices, it’s all wonderful!

  39. Oh my goodness I love your home! And love the wood look tile- we are seriously considering it when we have to replace our flooring. I ♡ white kitchens and your fun bathtub tile!

  40. 46) becca

    i love the house tour! can’t wait to see more. I love all shades of blue too so all your pics are so up my alley! I love all your tile choices. your home is beautiful. love your pops of color and style.

  41. 47) Andrea

    Yay! Love your new place! Congrats!

  42. 48) Becky Thompson

    Thank you SO much for including the paint and tile colors & links. The tenants just moved out and we’ve claimed the wheel-estate in Port O’Connor. That blue tile is going in my kitchen! LoveLoveLove… And I’d never even heard of wood looking tile. There’s a monster flooring depot place here in San Antonio over on the west side and I’m going there this week to explore options. The existing carpet & linoleum are out and I need something to withstand coastal moisture. The tile might just be the thing and a happy medium to wood floors. I don’t want to put a ton of money into it in case it all blows away in a hurricane, but I do want something to withstand furniture moves and fisherman’s boots.

    Thanks Dana. I so admire your style so you may have a baby-sister house in Port O’Connor who copycats her big sister in Austin. She sits on a 1/4 acre corner lot, 1 block from the water, across from a house with wet slips that just sold for $1.4M so I don’t want her to remain the place that neighbors roll their eyes at. Wheel-estate yes, but she can still be pretty inside and out thanks to you and my aching back.

  43. 49) Melanie P

    I’ve been waiting for some more details, yay!!! Not too long at all! I can’t wait for more. I am so intrigued with the wood tiles. We have hardwoods (Maple) and they were sooooo beautiful when we first moved in, but they are so scratched up now 🙁 They probably look okay to a visitor who doesn’t know better, but I can see it!

  44. 50) Fay

    I love all the work you have done for your house!!! One thing in particular I have a question about is can you tell me the square footage for your master bath? It is the perfect layout for what I am thinking I want in my master (we are getting ready to remodel). I want to make sure I have some room for it. Thanks so much and great job!!!!!!

  45. 51) Marisa

    A friend of mine got a similar “wood” tile in her house and I about died when I saw it. I love, love, love it!!! I’ve been trying to convince my husband to use it and he doesn’t see my vision. Now I can show him this post and prove that it’s a great decision. My wood flooring has been great, but I can’t seem to get it as clean as tile and I want to switch. Your color choices are all things happy and I’m oozing with envy! It’s gorgeous!

  46. 52) Krista Hansen

    I love everything about your house!! I bet you didn’t know you would be building MY dream house, did you? I’m so tired of my brown/beige house but it’s only 4 years old, so nothing really needs replacing. But after almost 2 years here, I want some color!! I’m glad I can get my fix by seeing your beautiful house. Keep the house posts coming!

  47. 53) Karyn

    Beautiful! I don’t imagine winter lasts long in AZ for the tiles to be too much of a worry in winter.

  48. LOVE the color choice on the back splash! I also love that you took a chance with the green in the bathroom- wow, it looks amazing!!

  49. 56) Kelley

    What type of counter top did you use in the kitchen – marble, granite? It looks beautiful.

  50. More pictures! Seriously, I want to move into your new house! And can you design my first home? No, seriously… Love the tile color choices. You have such an eye for color and I love it. I need to take more risks!

  51. I love so much about it all, Dana! The tile in the kitchen is so gorgeous! And I love the idea of the “wood” tile – it looks fabulous too!

  52. 59) Kimberly R

    Every inch of color in your house makes me happy! Such inspiration!!!

  53. 60) eirian johnson

    Sensational work Dana! Haven’t loved anything besides our house build as much as that and it’s fun to re-live it through you.

  54. What a lovely house and lovely views!
    I live in Spain on an island in the Mediterranean Sea and our houses are not so big.

  55. 62) Marjolein

    Stunning! we live in white (walls) and grey (concrete look tile floor) and every bit of colour via accessoiries (?? excuse my english :s) really jumps out

  56. 63) KellyS

    We recently decided to put wood look tile into our kitchen. So happy to see you do a review of it! I want to put it in through the entire living space but my husband thinks it won’t work. I can’t wait to show him your post! Thanks!!

  57. Wow Dana, this is just plain awesome. I love your home/house. Building such a beautiful house would be impossible for normal people here in the Netherlands.

  58. Love that we got to see more of your house project! I love your tile choices, I am such a wimp to commit to color with tile! But I think it looks amazing! Maybe I can get the guts to do something fun rather than…white basic. LOVE the wood look stair treads as well. I hate carpet to take care of carpet on stairs!

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  60. 68) Justin Walters

    This project looks great! For those interested, all of the tile featured in this post can be found at We would love to help you get the materials for your next renovation! 1-800-891-2623

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  62. 70) Mary

    So beautiful!! I have a question for you: are you finding the tile on the stairs a bit slippery? We’ve been waffling between real wood and wood tile for a while, and my only concern is that I’ve heard that the tile on the stairs is slick. I have three little, little kids and don’t want anyone cracking their noggins. Thanks for the beautiful inspiration!!

  63. 71) Ann

    Are the Cambridge Oak tiles hard to clean? I ‘m wondering if you are still happy with them. Do the authentic grooves gather dirt?

    • 72) Dana

      Yea. I think they stay pretty clean…at least they look clean to the eye 🙂
      I’ve been really happy with the flooring. I love it!

  64. 73) Tiffany

    What a beautiful home! We just purchased the same wood look tile and I’m having a hard time choosing a grout color. Would you mind sharing the color and brand of grout you chose? It’s not easy to find one that blends when there are so many colors throughout the “grain” and you have such a small sample piece to work with in the store. Your choice looks great! Thanks and take care! =)

  65. 74) Jenny

    Do you name and color of the tiles you used in the bathrooms?

  66. 75) Elaine Buttacavoli

    Can you please tell me the brand name & color name of the gray floor tile with the linear wavy lines in the bathroom. Thank you.

  67. 76) Lisa

    I just came across your blog today and have spent a few hours pouring over your new home build. Ahhmazing! I painted our house Gauntlet Gray and would love to know what color you used for the green door. I’m guessing it’s Sherwin-Williams. I have looked everywhere and couldn’t see where you listed it. Your house is spectacular…I’m in love…. 🙂 Thank you for sharing….

  68. 78) Lynnette

    We are considering the Cambridge Oak for our new home. Did you use the 6″ or 9″ and how did you decide? Also, your floor looks more like the Brown color rather than natural. Which one did you use?

    thanks for your help.

    • 79) Dana

      We used 6 x36 size. And the color does have a brownish tone….but it’s kind of a driftwood brown. I really love it!

  69. 80) Linda

    I, too, am using grey wood look tile. I like the carpet you used. What is the name
    and color?


    • 81) Dana

      I’m not sure on the carpet! It was just a generic ivory/tan color!

  70. 82) Jess B

    I just found your blog and your home is GORGEOUS! My husband and I are also considering tiling the stairs and I am like you, I want the traditional wood-look but with tile. What you guys did looks GREAT. Have you had any issues with the tile “stair-nosing” being kicked off? Were any special products used? Thanks! 🙂

    • 83) Dana

      Nope! The bullnose on the stairs has been great! We’ve been in the house for about 2 years now and I haven’t had any issues anywhere with the tile. Hopefully that doesn’t change!

  71. 84) Chris

    How is this tile to clean? We are doing tile in our basement and I am considering this tile.
    Also how did you choose grout color??

    • 85) Dana

      The grout color is just a tan color. It blends really well with the tile.
      And I LOVE the tile is the color of dirt! haha. I can go longer without mopping 🙂
      It’s fine to clean. The texture on the top of the tile does make it so that things can get stuck in the grooves a little more than a really smooth wood floor. But I like feeling the texture on my feet. And it looks cool too.

  72. 86) Esme

    LOVE the colors, tiles, everything! Question, what was used to create the rounded edges on the stairs. I want to do the same with mine, but don’t want that unfinished look on the edges. I love your stairs.

  73. 87) Travis

    This is amazing! We are going with the Repose Gray as well and I was looking for a trim color and found this post! do you remember what your trim color is? Thanks!!

  74. 88) torri

    Just wondering ho they did the rounded edge for the stair tiles? I am DIY my stairs and really don’t want to use a metal bullnose. Thanks!

    • 89) Dana

      They sanded the edge of the tile slightly so there were no sharp edges. It wasn’t a “bullnose” but it turned out well.
      We’ve been happy with the overall look!

  75. 90) Jeannette

    How exactly was the rounded edge for the tile stair made? Was it a piece added in or was it the tile itself?

  76. 91) Holly

    Beautiful job 🙂

    Just wondering where you got the grey 12×24 floor tile? It’s gorgeous. I would love to find it for my new build.


    • 92) Dana

      I can’t remember now, to be honest!
      We picked them out at a local flooring center here in Austin. I’m sure a tile shop near you would offer something similar (rather than big box stores like Home Depot, Lowes, etc)
      Wish I had more info, sorry!
      – Dana

  77. 93) Jennifer Chase

    I am in the process of installing wood tile upstairs and on my stairs. I wanted to follow up to see how your stairs held up with the technique the tile installers did. Are you still happy with it?

    • 94) Dana

      Yep! It’s been 3 years and they’re still great and awesome. We haven’t had any problems. No chipped tiles, no pieces falling off etc. Love it!

      • 95) Amy

        I’m in the Austin area and getting bids on flooring. I love the stairs. Could you share who you used for your tile?

  78. 97) jessica

    Thanks for this post! We’re looking at this exact tile & color for our whole downstairs. How did you decide on grout color? Did you do epoxy or sanded? Did/do you have any issues with bowing? One contractor mentioned this was a possibility with the long 36″ length. You’re basically the only blog post about it so I’ve been pouring over all of the pictures of it in ‘real life’. Why isn’t everyone using Marazzi?! 🙂 The texture is so impressive, looks and feels almost like real wood!

    • 98) Dana

      Awesome! Exciting!
      We did not do epoxy grout. And we’ve never had any bowing of the tile. Four years later we’re still really happy with it!
      Good luck with it!

  79. 99) Dio

    Hi looks great! Question is the floor that matches your boots the Cambridge oak ?

  80. 100) Katha

    Hi Dana,
    still, what feels like years and years after this post, I’m coming back to it on a regular basis. We are renovating a very old European house and I want colorful tiles not only in the bathroom (which seems to be common now) but also in the kitchen. We have an old real wood oak kitchen of a more massive build and I want to add dark green tiles in the background. It will be still some time, maybe years, till we get around to do the kitchen. But your colorful ideas always remind me, that yes, this is such a good idea to do 🙂

    Thanks for taking us along (still)

  81. 101) Raluca

    Hi! We are looking to do a similar tile design for our house staircase but I’m a bit concerned about the high maintenance needed for the white walls getting dirty very quickly (I mean the back of each stair and side of each stair, in white). Can anybody share their experience with this?

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