Tiles by Pratt and Larsen available through Delphin Design LLC
If you go to Italy and look at some of the cathedrals, you'll see beautiful ceilings decorated with 1,000-year-old glass mosaics, says Agata Grudzinski president and CEO for Destin -based Delphin Design LLC.
Yet for many of us, tile, whether ceramic, stone or glass, often conjures up little more than utilitarian rectangles in our kitchens and baths that protect walls or floors from water damage.
But that scenario is rapidly changing as American consumers become more daring and sophisticated and as tile manufacturers offer more and more products that virtually beg to decorate a home. The tile industry has completely blossomed in the past 10 years, says Artur Grudzinski, General Manager of Delphin Design LLC. It used to be that people simply didn't think of decorating with tile, but only with paint and wallpaper. That is simply no longer the case.
With so many different materials on the market, Delphin Design notes a trend toward mixing porcelain, stones, metal, and glass in designs. That really leaves the customer and the designers open to a lot of design options, unlike carpets, he says. People are especially doing this in the backsplash area of the kitchen and really making that spot a focal point.
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Stone is very popular right now, whether it is limestone, slate, onyx,
granite or marble. We're seeing a lot of slate and tumbled marble these
days, in kitchens and bathrooms, but also on floors and countertops,
says Agata. Polished slate is popular, but many people prefer the matte
finish and soft edges that come with tumbled stone.
For best natural stone installation call 850-460-6506
Along with stone, glass and metal tiles, hand-painted ceramic tiles are competing for the attention of discriminating homeowners. People are no longer afraid of color, say's Grudzinski, adding that ATD searches the world for unique materials, which it then distributes to more than 100 showrooms. People are using more color, even as they are seeking natural materials in the home.
For instance, she explains, while homeowners are looking for materials that feel warm, they are no longer afraid to veer away from white and beige. One trick for bringing out the natural color and warmth of stones is to hand-rub them with wire brushes. Doing that has the effect of polishing the stone the colors become more intense and brighter, says Grudzinski.
DD has recently begun importing tiles, such as the bright-blue-day-with-a-few-wispy-clouds look of Brazil's Azul Macauba. Exotic onyx in addition to black, it comes in pistachio, honey, sable and multi-colored hues previously used to be seen only in hotels and restaurants.
But now onyx is moving into homes, says Agata. Designers are taking advantage of its natural veins and often backlighting it that translucent quality has made it desirable to many homeowners.
She adds that the popularity of onyx has been enhanced by improved technology on the part of Italian stone fabricators, which increases the ability to cut it into larger pieces and to provide a much better quality than before.
While virtually every country manufactures tile, Grudzinski believes that some of the best hand-made, or artisan, tile is crafted right here in the United States. Some of the smaller factories such as Oregon's Pratt and Larson, California's Planet Diva and Washington State's Encore Ceramics are producing really wonderful tiles, says Artur Grudzinski.
Perhaps surprisingly, says Agata, some of the best artisan tile manufacturers were people who began experimenting in tiles for their own homes and suddenly found themselves in love with the medium. That's what happened with Northern California's Sonoma Tile makers they were just a few artisans who sort of fell into making tiles, he explains.
But the world-famous work of the Italian craftsmen remains in demand, and the Murano glass and Bisazza glass coming from Italy can be found in as many as 50 colors. (While Murano is the island to which the artisans of Venice moved their glassmaking industry in order to protect the city from the fires that often occurred in the factories, DD today distributes glass that is still made in a 12th-century factory in the city of Venice itself.)
Consumers who have never considered tiles thinking that they are out of their price range should reconsider. We really can accommodate anyone's budget, says Agata. For those who have been reluctant to use tiles because of the cost, glass tiles can range from $12 to $35 a square foot, according to Grudzinski. Or an alternative is to use them as accent pieces.
On the other hand, for handmade ceramic tiles, the cost might range from $8 to $26 a square foot, with an average price usually in the middle teens.
In the case of metal tiles whether copper, brushed nickel or brass the cost is likely to be $15 a piece to $50 a square foot, she says.
DD owner reports that increasingly he is seeing tiles that are as large as 24 inches square, especially on floors and in bathrooms. These bigger tiles tend to be driven by the European market, he notes.
Mosaic patterns that are popular today include the classic basket weave and the elongated Roman bricks, notes Grudzinski. In tile-speak, mosaics are pieces that are less than 2 inches each, which are put together to create a pattern, she adds.
Agata Grudzinski notes styles that are making a comeback include the hexagonal ceramic tiles about the size of a penny that were used in pre-World War II apartments, often in New York. The retro look, from about the turn of the last century through the 1920s, is very popular, agrees her husband Arthur. People are using a lot of black and white tiles, especially young people in their 30s who are restoring townhouses. Furthermore, she adds that subway tiles, those 3-inch by 6-inch tiles that once graced the New York subway stations, are in demand once again.
While not exactly tiles, Agata reports an increasing preference for smooth stones from the South Pacific. These stones come in very soft colors, such as green, pink, white and cream, Grudzinski enthuses. They are these flat pebbles, which are a bit rounded and very, very smooth. Often they are grouted to create floors for showers and they feel absolutely fabulous on your feet.
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