Metal tile products, such as accent dots, liners and metal murals offered in Questech's Sandgate Collection, can complement stone and tile when used for applications such as kitchens and baths.

In fashion, jewelry and other accessories are often used to add a bit of glitz and glamour. When it comes to interior design, there are also certain products available that are great for “accessorizing” an application. Metal tile, in particular, has grown in popularity in recent years - offering many options for spicing up a design.

“There are small borders and decoratives that add a touch of coordination to a space such as a kitchen,” said Gary Marmer of Questech in Rutland, VT, a manufacturer of metal tile products.

Marmer went on to explain that 10 years ago, there essentially was no metal tile category in the tile industry. “You needed a metal worker to install [a piece of metal],” he said. “The founder of our company, Roger Questel, invented a lightweight metal tile. We partnered with Crossville early on, and together we created the metal tile category. We provide [metal tile collections] to many manufacturers, and we also have our own lines.”

Over the last decade, Marmer has noticed a shift in what many homeowners consider a dream kitchen. “Ten years ago, it was all about making your kitchen look commercial,” he said. “Today, people want warmer and softer [materials]. Yellows are really hot now. Our metals are evolving too. We have intentionally warmed them up. They are much more in tune with what people want in their home.”

When producing new metal tile lines, Questech takes its cue from hardware and appliance manufacturers, according to Marmer. “We are strongly influenced by the home hardware and home accessory business,” he said. “[Our products] are physically designed with that in mind.”

Today, metal tiles are being used as decorative applications to create subtle texture and interest as accent pieces. But accent pieces do not necessarily have to be limited to small accent dots or liners, they can be used on a slightly larger scale too.

Another development that is being seen with metal tile and accessories - although it affects all tile and home hardware products as well - is anti-microbial protection. “Our protective coating serves two purposes,” said Marmer. “It resists water and abrasion so the metal won’t rust or scratch, and it is anti-microbial, which is beneficial especially in a kitchen or bath situation, fighting stain and odor-causing bacteria and mold.”

Metal veneer tile are available in different metals, including bronze and aluminum, and they can basically replicate any design. Photo courtesy of Metalmorfik.

Customizing Metal Tiles

For homeowners and designers looking to add a unique touch to their interior spaces, customized metal tiles are an ideal option. “Our tiles are metal veneer,” explained Dennis Fox of Metalmorfik LLC in Franklin, MI. “It is a process that involves putting a surface on pretty much anything. In the case of tile, we can do very dramatic and interesting designs.”

Fox explained that Metalmorfik has been making metal tile for about five years. “I have been doing metal work for 35 years, and I have always aspired to do larger objects,” he said. “I developed the process for metal veneering over the last eight years. It’s just been so much fun. It has opened so many avenues.”

Because the metal veneers do not need to be fired like ceramic tiles, the turn-around time is quick, according to Fox. “It makes it easier for us to do custom tile,” he said. “Veneers are very versatile and flexible. People come into our studio and leave and say they are overwhelmed with what they saw.”

The veneers are available in different metals, including bronze and aluminum, and they can basically replicate any design. “For example, a 24-inch-square tile was taken off an antique wood tile, and we recreated this amazing tile,” said Fox.

Right now, fireplaces are a popular application for the metal veneer tiles, according to Fox. “We are able to make the tiles to fit exactly,” he said. “If there is a 61-inch span, we can make the tile to fit equal so there is no cutting.”

In regions such as the Sonoma Valley wine country, brass grape decos such as this one from Florida Tile, are in demand.

Influenced by Local Surroundings

Cyndi Burkey of Marin DesignWorks has noticed that the metal tile products that she sells at the company’s showroom in Sonoma, CA, reflect its serene environment. “We are in the middle of wine country and also close to the Pacific Ocean,” she said. “We sell a lot of designs that are actually geared towards the wine country, such as grapes and grape leaves.”

Another popular seller at Marin DesignWorks is a bronze tile that looks like a Tsunami wave, according to Burkey. “They are used as decos in fireplaces,” she said. “[Also], a bronze nautilus shell that looks like a fossil sells well, as well as Celtic designs - both in bronze and pewter.”

Overall, Burkey finds that metal tile accents are being used most in kitchen designs. “Demographics really dictate what is going to be sold in a particular area,” she said.