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September 20, 2010 / Robert Ross

Tile envy….


I have had a love affair with pattern for as long as I can remember.  Perhaps that is why one of my favorite tasks is being asked to help select the tile for a client’s project.  For the past few year’s the starting point has typically been “well I was thinking of  using a 3×6 subway tile” or “I really want to use a glass tile”.  I am happy to say that 99% of the time I am able to shift the conversation and ultimate choice away from a trend seen in thousands of magazine features to what might be a more appropriate and timeless selection.

Durability is one of the beauties of tile.  It is permanent. As such you want it to complement and enhance a  project.

1x1 glass mosaic tiles cover every surface in this subterranean pool. The effect is magical!

Ideally it will survive intact for the life of a project. One of my favorite trips was a “pre-child” drive up the Pacific Coast Highway with Herbie. We included a stop at San Simeon, the home of William Randolph Hearst.  The place was spectacular. Hearst used an early woman Architect for the project, Julia Morgan. Her very enviable task was to incorporate the pieces of Europe Hearst acquired into a magnificent whole. It was a life long project and there are still unfinished portions. I remember looking at the centuries old Persian tiles installed in the walls of the guest cottages with awe. That these had survived the centuries intact and could be installed exposed to the elements  and still maintain their beauty was incredible.

Texture and patterns from the Specialty Tile Showroom.

Another aspect of tile is that it is incredibly tactile.  There are tile installations that make you want to reach out and touch them. Tile is one material with the capacity to introduce visual and physical texture into a project. There are basket-weaves, moulded medallions, braided borders. There are flat patterns that create a three dimension effect through the use of color alone. There are smooth and slick, glossy, matte and everything in between. There are the simple solid colored glazes, and transparent multilayered glazes.  Beyond your run of the mill glazed tiles, there are stone-look porcelain tiles, wood look tiles and even intricately moulded metals. The possibilities are endless.

More options available in the showroom

Tile is also an eco-friendly product. There is a whole array of product manufactured from recycled glass, metal, and even tile. It’s durability means that it doesn’t need to be replaced or refinished at anywhere near the rate of other flooring options. It also is made from natural materials. You might have to be careful about some of the glazes, but these are usually labeled. Eco-sensibility has led to the re-emergence of the use of tile in the living areas of a home. Larger sizing options has made this a viable alternate, particularly in modern or loft type settings. It provides a family and pet friendly surface that looks great and is easy to maintain. No longer is it relegated to the kitchen or bath.

The incredible range of available product can be mind numbing and vastly exceeds what can be found at your typical home improvement store. In fact, I typically tell my clients that if you can find it in one of the 2 big stores, you are on the back side of the trend! One of my favorite showrooms in Atlanta is Specialty Tile. It is a must stop with any client on any budget. They carry an incredible range of product and have the basic starting point covered as well.  It is truly a pleasure to watch a client start to realize the potential for their project.

Recycled Glass replicates a vintage look.

Recently I saw a post on Facebook that some friends had taken on the task of redoing a fireplace in their hundred year old home. They had found a wonderful mantle from the same period and posted in process photos. It so happened I was in the showroom that day and saw a perfect tile for their project. It was a the right shape and color. The surprise was that it was also made out of recycled glass. It was the translucency of the glass that actually allowed the tile to successfully replicate the more complicated glazing of the original fireplace tile. The tile samples had made it to the showroom 2 days before!

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One Comment

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  1. Jeff Ribnik / Sep 20 2010 10:27 am

    Another well done article, Robert!

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