And then we met the tile man.
I told him the tile I'd wanted for my bathroom was discontinued and asked if he knew of anything similar. He searched through his giant catalogs and found something pretty close. I got a little jumpy inside. But then he quoted a price that was more than double what the original tile would've cost. Same materials, same specs, same everything. When I regretfully told him that was outside our budget (and I was truly regretful), he instantly bristled.
Ez and I continued to look through the selection, talking through ideas. We found a porcelain hex tile that was somewhat convincingly glazed to look like marble. I asked the tile man more about it.
"That's going to be way out of your price range," he said. "It's $22 per square foot."
For porcelain? With grey streaks half-heartedly painted on it? "Wow, that much?" I asked, not actually believing him at this point. "That's surprising. You can get real marble for less than that." (Even good quality real marble, I wanted to point out but didn't.)
"Then go for it," he said coldly.
And that was pretty much how our specialty tile store visit went. High prices, low friendliness. I tried not to be rude when talking about prices, but the fact I didn't come in with an unlimited budget was really the nail in that coffin. We took some information about some overpriced slate and went home.
I placed my tile order at Home Depot that afternoon. Though they no longer carry the 2" hex I wanted, they did have the 1" in the same color -- it wasn't what I had really wanted, but I could be happy with it. (After four tough years of renovating this house, I've learned to be content with "good enough.") I stood in the master bathroom and stared at the sample for a good 15 minutes. I compared it, side-by-side, to this one from the Tile Shop. I made Ez come in and close his eyes and envision what he'd want the perfect, relaxing shower to look like (taking into consideration our bathroom has zero natural light coming in).
He gave his opinion, then I whipped out my credit card and placed the order. (Ez also wisely said I I should order it ASAP if it was my choice, so as not to risk another discontinuation.) Seven boxes of Merola 1" antique white unglazed porcelain hex tile -- priced at just $4.95 per square foot -- arrived on our doorstep the next day. (That's the one on the left in the photo above, though ours will not have any black tiles in it per Ez's preferences.)
So I guess I have the rude tile man to thank for helping me finally make my decision! Bad customer service for the win! ☺