I used 3/4 inch OSB on the bottom layer (you can see the blue factory edge along the front - which I hope to paint one day to hide that edge). I then nailed tile backerboard to the OSB to remove the 'flex' so the tile wouldn't crack. Then I installed standard kitchen tile with mortar and grouted the joints - just like laying regular tile. I left enough room around the edge to trim it with one inch outside corner molding to cover the edges. After two years of use it is holding up well. My wife picked out the tile to match the living room.
Cost was about $120 including all the materials, including OSB, backerboard, grout, spacers, mortar, tile and a tool. I had plenty of stuff left over. It was still much cheaper than what a hearth pad was going to cost at the local stove store, plus it matched better (happy wife), and was fun to work on.
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