Due to the extensive range of tile products on the market, today’s kitchen designs are expressive and creative.
Tile Manufacturer: Bisazza

The approach to kitchen and bath design has changed dramatically over the years. While function and practicality still remain a priority, there are also a host of other factors for architects and designers to take into consideration. Many homeowners nowadays are making large investments in their living spaces, and although comfort is important, they also desire designs that look fresh and are showpieces to their family and friends. So to achieve these objectives, the design community is turning to the broad spectrum of tile products that are now so easily accessible.

In years past, the kitchen was primarily a place for cooking and eating - not entertaining. Formica countertops and linoleum flooring were the standard. But today, the kitchen is often the focal point of a home. Many homeowners are constructing expansive spaces - complete with built-in amenities such as bar/serving areas, fireplaces and home entertainment centers. The kitchen has become a gathering spot for family and friends to socialize while meals are being prepared for dinners and parties.

And because the kitchen now holds a significant value to many homeowners, they are willing to splurge on high-quality materials. Today’s kitchens are being furnished with sleek stainless steel appliances and rich wood cabinetry. Homeowners have become quite selective in their tastes, and they are being drawn to products such as shimmering glass, chic metallic and stone-look porcelain. It is evident that technology and product development are a driving force behind more creative and sophisticated decor.

Floral designs have become big this year. Adding a colorful mosaic wall mural in a bathroom creates a focal point and brings vibrancy to a room.

Similarly, homeowners are also indulging more when it comes to the design of their bathrooms - particularly the master bath. Monochromatic color schemes of blue, mauve or yellow, which included tiled walls and matching sinks and tubs, have long disappeared. The abundant product lines that are now available to homeowners offer inspiration and convenient solutions to satisfy all tastes.

Today’s baths are lavish, featuring dual sink vanities, large soaking tubs, steam showers and radiant floor heating. Many families have two working parents who are seeking relaxation after a stressful day. Bathrooms have become a retreat where homeowners can unwind and pamper themselves. And choosing the right tile products is an essential part in creating the desired ambiance.

Tile size, shape and texture are key ingredients in composing a bath or kitchen design. With the continual technological advancements in tile production, there are literally countless collections available. While overall, certain tiles are best suited for specific design styles, mixing and matching colors and finishes can create quite an eye-catching space. Whether traditional or contemporary, rustic or country, there is an abundance of tile material to meet each design style.

A sleek contemporary style can be achieved with large-format tile. For example, this ski house in Winter Park, CO, features 18-by-18-inch porcelain tile throughout the lower level of the home - including the kitchen. While the tile is attractive, it also provides the durability needed in areas where skiers walk with boots and equipment.
Architect: Michael P. Johnson Design Studio Ltd., Cave Creek, AZ; Tile Manufacturer: Refin, Italy

Choosing a floor tile

At the start of a kitchen or bath design, one of the most important decisions to be determined is the type of material to use for the floor. While aesthetics lays at the forefront in many circumstances, strength and durability are still important factors to consider. With the role of kitchens changing, these spaces have become high-trafficked areas. As a result, safety is still at the top of the list - especially in homes with children. Bathrooms also require a resilient floor material, since they are subject to getting wet.

One solution to meet these demands is slip-resistant tile. Ceramic and porcelain tile with a matte finish is more likely to provide a surface that prevents slipping. Additionally, tiles are being made to resemble the look of natural stones such as slate and quartzite - even replicating the rough cleft finishes of the materials. The uneven texture of the tile is another way to offer traction and avoid anyone from falling in potentially slippery areas.

Stone-look tile definitely remains a top contender among the assortment of flooring materials. While many homeowners still opt for natural stone, there are others that prefer the guaranteed physical characteristics of a ceramic or porcelain. Especially in busy families, less maintenance concerns is a bonus. And the production of stone-look tiles has certainly progressed tremendously in recent years. Tiles are showing more variation in color and veining - making it harder and harder to decipher the replicated tile from the real thing.

The same holds true for tile that is being made to look like hardwood. The quality and aesthetics of wood-look tiles has significantly improved in recent years. Colors and graining look more authentic, and the material is now available in a range of plank sizes. Wood-look tiles offer the appearance of hardwood but with the durability of ceramic or porcelain. They are ideal for wet areas such as bathrooms, because of the low-maintenance factor. Unlike real hardwood, scratching, scuffing and warping are not an issue.

And for those wanting to make a bolder statement in their kitchen or bathroom, there are numerous colors to choose from. Depending on the desired palette, there are deep hues of red or plum, vibrant shades of blue, green or yellow, or the sleek look of gray and black. Various finishes - including polished, honed or satin - are also now available, allowing for a more contemporary flair.

The Italian porcelain tile was carried into the master suite bathroom of the ski house and a radiant heating system was installed underneath the tile floor for added warmth and comfort.

Format sizes

Adding to the design options, tiles are no longer necessarily square, and they are certainly not limited to 12 inches in size. In addition to basic tiles of 4-by-8, 8-by-8 and 12-by-12 inches, there are now many sizes in between and beyond. These include short thin strips that are ideal for wainscoting and faces of bars as well as broken mosaic pieces that can form interesting backsplashes and floor designs.

Furthermore, product lines are promoting the use of varied-sized tiles in a single pattern to create modular floor and wall designs. Mixing three or four tile sizes in a design is a simple way of creating a more distinctive look.

Another alternative is large-format tiles. Sizes such as 18-by-18 and 24-by-24 inches are great for creating a more open and spacious feel in a kitchen or bathroom. Additionally, subway tiles also offer a variation to standard tile sizes.

Decorative tile accent pieces are an ideal way to jazz up a kitchen wall or backsplash.
Tile Manufacturer: Trikeenan Tileworks, Inc., Keene, NH

Decorative options

The use of mosaics has continued to surge full steam ahead in kitchen and bath designs. Employing iridescent glass mosaics for kitchen backsplashes or to clad shower walls or tub surrounds can result in luminous effects - especially in rooms with lots of natural light.

Moreover, fashion, fabric and elements in nature are heavily influencing tile designs - presenting limitless application options. Floral prints have become big this year. Decorative tiles depicting roses, sunflowers and lilies can liven up a space. They can be used as accent pieces in backsplashes or to create a mural wall such as behind a soaking tub.

Metallics are also another way to jazz up the design of a kitchen or bath. These gleaming materials, which are often available in gold, copper, silver and bronze, work great as accent pieces. The sheen of the metal can be complementary to stainless steel appliances in a kitchen or plumbing and lighting fixtures in a bath.

In addition to wall and floor tiles, manufacturers are now providing a selection of complementary pieces in each product line. Trim pieces, corner rounds and small decorative accent tiles work well to dress up a kitchen or bath space. With the wide range of tiles and accent pieces offered in the market today, any number of combinations can be used to spark an innovative kitchen and bath design while still meeting a household’s demand for function and practicality.