Running bond, herringbone and more! Oh my!

Sure, you could tessellate some trendy triangles or repeat some punchy Moroccan curves, but all you really need for maximum tile impact are tried-and-true squares and rectangles. Set in just the right pattern, quadrilaterals can give a room a graphic touch, a burst of color, a much-needed stretch—or all three. (Bonus: Square and rectangle patterns are often cheaper to install, since the tiles are easier to cut.) These are the nine tile patterns to keep in your design toolbox.

1. Lace

This pattern only looks complicated: Really, it’s just square-rectangle pairs swapping places in even columns. Or look at it diagonally: The tiles run square, rectangle, square, rectangle, and so on, alternating in rows. Simple, right?

2. Windmill

Many folks mistake this pattern for pinwheel; don’t be one of them. The pinwheel pattern is all about squares, whereas true windmill requires a square tile enclosed by four rectangle tiles that are double the square’s size. The outcome is a never-outmoded gridlike look that reads vintage in black and white and clean-contemporary in honed stone.

3. Running Bond

This motif should look familiar: It’s the pattern used on almost every brick wall you’ve ever seen. (That’s why you might hear it referred to as “brick pattern.”) Running bond requires rectangle or square tile to be laid end to end, with offset joints that fall in the very center of the tile in the next row; the grout lines form a T. But there’s no law decreeing you must run it horizontally: Laid vertically, running bond is a great way to make a shower stall seem taller.

4. Pinwheel

This pattern’s also called hopscotch, but “pinwheel” is the best way to remember this motif: When a large square tile is surrounded by four smaller ones, the pattern resembles a spinning pinwheel.

5. Modular Versailles

Modular tile patterns take the guesswork out of the “random” look. Laid in a specific arrangement (such as the patio-perfect Versailles pattern), three or four sizes of square and rectangle tiles form patterns that look casual and uncalculated but are actually visually and geometrically balanced.

6. Herringbone

Don’t mistake this for chevron. The two look similar, but chevron is parallelogram tiles butted together to make V shapes, while herringbone is rectangular tile joined long end to short end to make check-mark shapes. And, just like chevron, you can use tile in two colors to yield zigzag stripes.

7. Corridor

Corridor’s the love child of straight (the classic pattern you know and love) and running bond. Depending on how you look at it, the pattern either alternates straight rows of rectangle and square tile, or it alternates a running bond of rectangles and squares.

8. Basketweave

From a distance, this classic pattern looks just like interlaced basket reeds—or a latticed pie crust, if you’re feeling hungry. The keys to this pattern: dark grout and larger rectangle and smaller square tiles in contrasting colors.

9. Modern Basketweave

Think of these alternating sets of two rectangles (rotated 90 degrees) as Basketweave 2.0—it has the soul of traditional basketweave with a graphic edge.