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Style with Tiles (Part 1)

Tile is quite versatile and can play a large role in the style of your home. For example, you can easily transform an outdated 1970s fireplace into a modern focal point by simply choosing a more current tile design.  Though it can be overwhelming to choose tile due to the large variety of colors, materials, shapes, and patterns, it is important to choose tile that fits the designated location. Each type has its own set of advantages and disadvantages depending on design and ease of care.

Design using Wide-Ranging Colors and Materials Geometric hexagons, polygons, and cubes as well as florals and old-world images continue to dominate tile design. Designers and  homeowners have many choices when it comes to adding interest and dimension to backsplashes, walls, and flooring.  And recent overall design trends such as dark walls, muted tones, and the Color of the Year have made their way into the tile design world. New large-format tiles offer a new, fresh look which is easier to install. The latest tile trends have been on display at recent design and building trade shows.  A denim-like blue was chosen by both Pantone (Classic Blue) and Sherwin-Williams (Naval) as Color of the Year for 2020, and the tile world is responding in a big way.

This is a new shaped tile, Picket style, is in the Titan color.

New Designer Styles and Materials 

The Corian Company has introduced a new way to use its solid-surface material, such as textured, sculptural tiles. While the brand’s solid surfaces are known for being perfectly flat and smooth, Los Angeles artist, Mario Romano, has created 40 designs with carved surfaces that have a raised pattern. The patterns include a series of raised hexagons and ones that look like a honeycomb, a sunburst, the lines of a planetary orbit and the outline of a mountain range. The designs, in a line, come in irregularly shaped puzzle piece-like tiles that fit together neatly and show no seam. They can be used on kitchen backsplashes or shower walls, or as decorative installations on surfaces throughout the home. 

Ann Sacks debuted her versatile Pas Deco of curved and flat concrete tiles.  The curved tiles have a solid brass border. The photo shows the tile is lit from behind with LEDs that accentuate the curve—a unique design with tile and subdued lighting.

Kohler introduced its Tailor customizable farmhouse sink, which has a changeable decorative front panel. Homeowners can choose one of Kohler’s six decorative panels, which range from floral to geometric.  Alternatively, customers can insert their own material, like a countertop material or tile, into the panel slot.

Porcelain tiles are more cost-efficient and easier to maintain than cement. Over the past few years, they have become popular for both floors and walls. The technology involved in creating faux-stone porcelain tile continues to improve. This season’s offerings include even more dramatic veining in large marble-like porcelain slabs. The gold veining in Daltile’s new Calacatta Topaz Porcelain slab is the design bling of the moment. This tile provides the elegance of marble but with the typically lower maintenance requirements of porcelain.

Types of Tile and Where to Use It

As one of the most versatile materials to be added in homes, tile has been used for its practical and artistic qualities.  This durable material is popular in both kitchens and bathrooms since it is easy to clean.  From bold to a sense of calm and order, tile is being used throughout the home in unexpected ways. 

It is vital to ensure that the correct tile material is matched to where it will be used in the house.  Floor tiles need to withstand foot traffic and sand/mud as in the entry way.  For backsplashes and walls, tiles can be chosen based on color and pattern rather than durability. Each type of tile has its own set of advantages and disadvantages depending on design and ease of care. There are four different types of tile materials to choose from.

Ceramic and Porcelain:  Ceramic tiles are made of clay, such as terra-cotta and porcelain.  Porcelain and ceramic tiles may belong to the same family, but they have different absorbency rates.  Porcelain tiles absorb less water and are nearly waterproof. This property makes porcelain a no-brainer for bathroom installations, as well as other areas of your home that are exposed to moisture.  But porcelain is generally more expensive than ceramic. Ceramic and other non-porcelain tiles absorb more water. Ceramic tiles are smooth and are easy to keep clean.  But over time, sand and dirt can dull a glazed surface.  Through-body porcelain, where the color on top of the tile goes all the way throughout the tile’s body, is especially scratch resistant. Due to their excellent durability, porcelain tiles are often used for flooring. Households with children and pets will appreciate porcelain’s durability.  If a tile cracks or breaks, it is easy to replace.

Cement:  Cement tile is made from cement mixed with pigment.  This type of tile is usually unglazed and has endless color and pattern options.  But because they are so porous, they stain easily.  It requires a regular application of a sealer to protect the tiles from moisture and discoloration.  Cement tiles, popular in Mediterranean- and Latin-style spaces, are often highly patterned with geometric and floral designs. Like checkerboard cake batter, cement tiles are formed by hand pouring pigmented cement into decorative molds like cookie cutters to separate the colors. When the cement has set enough, the molds are removed, and the tile is compressed under 2,000 pounds of pressure. The result is an irresistible work of art for floors or walls.

Portland cement is fired in a kiln versus being compressed like ceramic.  Due to its heat resistance, cement tiles tend to be used on hearths and outdoors.  But they do not handle intense freeze and thaw cycles. They are also not slippery.  At ⅝ inch thick, cement tiles are chunkier than typical wall and floor tiles. This is worth noting if you are abutting the tile to another material. Transition trim may be required to accommodate dimensional changes.

If the livelier Moorish-inspired patterns are too busy, consider a simpler two-toned geometric pattern.  A backsplash made of black and white tile is a graphic focal point of this clean-lined, traditional laundry room.

The back of the kitchen island is a great way to add a design focal point with tile.

Fish-scale tiles are winning hearts with their unique scalloped shape. They are curvier than subway tiles.  Even the biggest fans of subway tiles may have their heads turned by this style of tile.

Stone:  Types of stone include marble, limestone, quartz, granite, and slate.  Stone can vary from light to dark in color.  Depending on which material you choose, some types, like marble, are high maintenance and over time its porous surface will stain.

Others, like slate, can be exceptionally low maintenance, making it great for flooring.  Stone is naturally resistant to weather and is used mainly outdoors.  It is also more expensive than a man-made tile. 

Among natural stone surfaces, quartzite is gaining in popularity. It is great for countertops, comes in many colors, and it can resemble marble, but stronger. 

Glass:  Glass tiles are often used in smaller sizes since it can break or chip easily.  Although easy to clean and stain resistant, they are mainly used in mosaics, shower walls and backsplashes.  Grout choices for glass is limited to white, since other colors may distort the final color of the tile.

Alpine White recycled glass countertops are combined with flat front cabinetry for a fresh, contemporary look that feels timeless.

But designers are now using a newer recycled glass and cement material in unusual places in the house, such as the countertop in this kitchen.  They are durable, easy to clean, and attractive.  The sturdy material is a mix of 100 percent recycled glass combined with Portland cement and non-toxic pigments. The result is a surface that is both heat and scratch resistant. It is an eco-friendly material that reduces the amount of glass waste that winds up landfills. 

Drawbacks of this type of material includes: **Fingerprints and smearing can be visible across the surface **Contact with acidic foods, drinks, and certain cleaners can affect the surface and require fixing**Higher cost to install in comparison to other countertop surfaces

The customization options available with glass countertops are far greater than any other surface type. Glass subway tile is best used for backsplashes in kitchens and bathrooms.

Homeowners have more choices than ever before when it comes to adding interest, texture, color and dimension to backsplashes, walls, and flooring. Tile can also add a beautiful focal point. Creative Spaces Remodeling is available to provide advice and guidance on how to choose your tile and to install it in your beautiful home.

Stay tuned for Style of Tile Part II where we will discuss how the tile can be laid out in a pattern and how to choose your pattern. 


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