In 2020 it’s not unusual for a store to have tens of thousands of social media followers. It’s notable, though, when that store sells something as functional and everyday as tiles.

Since launching in 2017, Tile Cloud, an Australian company that streamlines the tile-buying process by taking it online, has amassed some 142,000 followers on its Instagram, which is full of satisfying pictures of tessellated bathrooms, kitchens, laundries and more.

“Often tile manufactures will have CGI renders of what the product looks like en masse in some weird room and they’ll computer render something out the window – like the Italian Alps. You’ll look at it and think, ‘This doesn’t resonate with me at all’,” says Drew Mansur, who co-founded the company with his long-time business partner Mark Wilkinson, and sister-in-law Flo Kelly. “It was a really conscious decision to not have any of that anywhere [on the website] and make sure the photography was all our own right from day one.”

Most of the stylish in-situ shots on Tile Cloud’s Instagram were taken by its customers and shared as “a source of inspiration for people to check out what’s possible with tiles”.

The website has the same approachable ethos. Tiles are ranked by colour, shape, room, material and pattern, rather than unrecognisable industry names or code numbers.

“There are all these different ways you can get to the product that you want, so we needed to come up with a way that lets people shop by what they know they're looking for, which is not just one size fits all,” Mansur says.

Both Mansur and Wilkinson previously worked in tile installation, so it was Kelly, whose background is interior design and ceramics (specifically tableware) who encouraged them to tone down the industry speak. The team worked together to review hundreds of tiles before choosing and photographing the selection they felt best expressed a modern Australian aesthetic.

“[There] was an insane number of almost indistinguishably similar versions of tiles – like 15 shades of grey … and you look at them and think, I can't even tell the difference,” says Mansur. “You get so over it so quickly.”

If you need more help, Tile Cloud offers half-hour online consultations, and there’s an option to order five coaster-sized swatches for $15 (including shipping) to see the nuances between your shortlist up close, before you order by the square metre.

At present, the tiles are mostly imported from China, Vietnam and Malaysia but Tile Cloud is hoping to stock a custom line of Australian-made tiles soon.

"A big part of our offering is having a curated range,” says Mansur. “We’ve done the work, we've gone and said, 'This is the coolest version of this style'."

Tile Cloud is Sydney-based but ships Australia-wide with flat rates for set by state. Shipping starts at $70.

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