Category: Article:

Art Tiles in Decor
by Dr. Oneida Cramer

Art tiles, today, are pretty enough to frame. Perhaps, you?d prefer mounting one on a little easel among a pot of mums or sticking it in ivy for a beautiful centerpiece on the dining room table. Tile-lovers are always looking for new ways to display their tiles?for instance, a custom tabletop, a tray, or a trivet with cork backing. Don?t forget, tiles make wonderful gifts to hang, especially in nice shadow box frames that accommodate the depths of the tiles, according to Elizabeth Finks with French-Brown Floors.

?I feel like I work in an art gallery because all of our tiles are hand done,? Finks said. With hand-made tiles selling up to $100 per tile, custom tile retail takes on the ambience of an art gallery. Still, most tiles, even beautiful art tiles, are used more and more in the design of wall and floor coverings these days.

?Because people are trying to stay away from so much carpet in every room due to allergies and the cleanliness factor, a lot of people are putting stone as the main flooring material. If they don?t do so, then they may use tile,? said Lee Anne Barker with Antique Floors, which sells to the trade.

?The traditional kitchen back splashes are a big area for tile,? said Janet Bottomley with Antique Floors. Kitchen floors are often made of tile or stone, and bathrooms are tiled in the shower and tub surrounds. Because tiles have become so much more decorative, designers are taking tiles out of wet areas and using them to cover the entire bathroom?floor to over the ceiling, and putting them throughout the home, especially in showcase areas, such as the fireplace.

?We are seeing a lot of interest in glass tiles,? said Pam Garnett, showroom manager of Ann Sacks. ?It?s not just in contemporary venues, but in more transitional interiors. It?s a real clean line.?

?Glass tiles can be either mosaic or standard size,? said Finks. ?Mosaic literally means they?re small?a combination of small tiles. You don?t have to have a picture. It can be all colors or all one color and still be considered a mosaic.? Interestingly, glass tile imparts the look and feel of watery coloration. And when pressed with a vibrant salamander, the tile adds artistically to bathroom application, according to Barker. Plus they clean so easily.

Metal tiles are also popular?some stainless steel?but a lot of bronze, according to Garnett. ?They?re beautiful little jewelry pieces for the back splash or floor in various designs with limestone.?

Metal is used in a number of ways usually as accents, Fink says. And manufacturers are casting dots, d?cor inserts, and one-inch by three-inch liners in pewter, copper, or bronze. A brand-new line of artist, Planet Dive, casts concrete tile embedded with decorative metal and makes a relief tile coated entirely in metal like copper, bronze, and silver.

Planet Diva is just one of many small unique manufacturers that make today?s tile industry have such wide diversity. The newest surface adding to that diversity is Dupont Zodiaq Quartz Surfaces, a category of surfacing made from quartz crystals. The product comes in 16 colors and large sheets (52? by 118?), which are custom cut to the exact specifications of the counter top surface or wall space. And the nonporous material does not require sealants, as does natural limestone.

?We do a tremendous amount of limestone,? Garnett said. ?There?s no reason why you can?t use limestone in your shower in your bathroom. It?s all about sealing it?that?s the secret. We always recommend a penetrating sealer because it leaves the stone more natural looking.? Other sealers act as color enhancers?to deepen the color of the stone. But you need to reseal the limestone between one and five years or when water starts to darken the stone. Resealing is done more often in a high traffic area, like on the floor, and less frequently when on the wall. So, when considering natural stone, remember it does require maintenance, more so than say a ceramic tile.

In fact, the ceramic tile is the most popular and prevalent of tiles in use today.

?Whether they?re porcelain or terra cotta base or even stoneware base, they call them all ceramic,? said Finks.

And ceramic tiles go way back to the Romans, who introduced tile making to Western Europe during their periods of conquest. The art was forgotten and revived in the 12th century when Cistercian monks developed the method of encaustic tile making and inlaid patterns for cathedral and church floors. After waning in popularity, tiles came back again in the mid-19th century when Herbert Minton revived the art of encaustic tile making in England. In America, ceramic tile flooring became very prevalent in the Victorian era with the production of decorative tiles from 1870 until the depression in the 20th century. At least 25 ceramic tile companies were founded between 1876 and 1894 with the industry expanding westward by companies like Batchelder, founded in Southern California. In the 1910?s and 1920?s, Batchelder became well known for arts and crafts tiles that can still be found in homes today?even Dallas homes. Replacing them became extremely difficult until a recent revival of that style, according to Finks. Today, homeowners may still have to replace all their tiles; but at least, they can keep the original look and flavor of the house.

Ceramic tiles come in many styles, including painted and relief, which means molded and/or carved out. In fact, relief tiles in neutral colors are extremely popular today.

?If you get a nice enough tile, the relief is so deep that you have shadows in your neutral color,? Finks said. ?When they put the glaze on, it runs off, let?s say a grape. The top of the grape is a lighter color cause the glaze runs down into the base of the tile, which is basically the bottom off the round grape. So, around the bottom is a darker shade?even if it?s beige.?

?Framing can make or break a picture,? Finks said. ?So, instillation of a tile can make or break the look of that tile. It?s important to have the right installer for the right job.? Check references and become familiar with the procedure peculiar to the type of tile being installed.

-by Dr. Oneida Cramer
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