Aside from traditional kitchen and bath installations, tile is now often being implemented for more unique features such as staircases, fireplace surrounds and full walls as well as the ever-growing trend of exterior façades. Because of the longevity and durability of tile, it is ideal for all sorts of applications, and designers and homeowners alike are now discovering new imaginative installations and incorporating them into residential projects more and more.
Division1 Architects of Silver Spring, MD, which prides itself on distinctive and innovative design solutions, is using tile for more interesting applications lately, especially for interior walls and exterior façades. "We don't think of tile as just a material that goes in the bathroom for shower walls," said architect Ali Honarkar. "For us, it's a design element.
"It's great to use outside because it's a fire resistant material," he continued. "With all of the beautiful porcelains on the market now, you can do whole walls in other areas of the home and not just in the bathroom. People in the U.S. are very conservative and think tile belongs in bathrooms and masonry belongs on exteriors, and by using some of our newly designed residences as showcases, we are trying to introduce these new ideas and show the vast creativity that is available on the market today."
Utilizing a Site's TopographyFor the recent design of a 2,800-square-foot private residence, Division1 Architects utilized tile for a variety of unique applications, making the space unique compared to surrounding neighboring homes. The residence features 12-by-24-inch porcelain tiles from Ceramiche Caesar for portions of the exterior façade as well as much of the interior, tying the two spaces together. In addition to conventional use as interior flooring and bathrooms, tile was used for the exterior façade, an exterior bridge, and for the wall of an indoor fish tank.
Ultimately, the architects selected approximately 2,000 square feet of Midnight porcelain tile from Ceramiche Caesar's Feel Collection. "We really liked the dark porcelain tile that Caesar offered," Honarkar said. "It shows up black, but has light blue streaks in it. It's a very attractive tile, and the color really worked well with what we were looking for."
According to the architect, porcelain tile was selected mainly for its durability. "The homeowners have two small children and so we wanted something that could take a beating, and this material was perfect. Also, on the exterior, we liked the contrast of the dark porcelain to the cedar wood."
The home's exterior is comprised of cedar wood and porcelain, while the interior floors are a combination of porcelain and hardwood. Additionally, the floor and walls of all three bathrooms feature white porcelain tile, also from Caesar. "The master bathroom shower alone is 6-by-12-feet," said Honarkar. "By selecting this white material for the bathrooms, which is also from Caesar's Feel Collection, it provided a nice consistency."
The site is located in an area known for its extreme topography, and the street is on a higher grade than the existing residence's roofline, according to the architect. "The rear yard of the property has a very strong drop in grade, which leads to a creek," he explained. "The project challenges include giving the house more visibility from the street, taking advantage of the rear yard views by engaging the building into the landscape and making more open and fun space in the interior. The proposed concept makes a strong, but modest statement from all sides.
"A large partition of the proposed program has been relocated to the basement/ground level, creating more open and larger spaces," he continued. "The rear yard deck has been removed and replaced with a much more friendly and useable patio, which leads one to the rear yard and creek."
Since tile is commonly used for exterior applications in Europe, Division1 Architects thought it would be a great feature for this project as a way of introducing innovative ideas to the area. "In this house, for example, the porcelain had a rectified edge so grout didn't have to be used like it does in the bathroom. For the wall with the fish tank, we didn't think any other material would look right, and so we used it to make the connection between the living room and the corridor. By taking the tile up the wall, the fish tank kind of pops and complements the tile really well. One thing that was important to us with this house was that the porcelain tile connects all the different spaces."
For this residence, the architects were the 2008 winners of the Ceramic Tiles of Italy Design Competition. "We feel that this contemporary design really complements the neighborhood, and it is in the spirit of what the neighborhood is all about," the architect explained.
Mediterranean-Style VillaWhen designing a private residence situated on the bay in Pt. Pleasant, NJ, Vanessa De Leon of Vanessa De Leon Associates based in Ridgewood, NJ, incorporated tile into a variety of unique elements such as an interior stairway and fireplace surround, as well as exterior stairs and columns. The overall design goal, according to the designer, was to create a Mediterranean-style villa.
"We tried to incorporate tile that mimicked the look of natural materials such as stone and wood," she said, adding that the homeowner didn't want anything to look too clean. "In addition to the tile, we also utilized some natural stone materials to create a more rustic and Old World feel."
For a staircase found in the main foyer area, De Leon employed 1-by-1-inch glass mosaic tiles from Bisazza's Madagascar Collection. "By adding the Bisazza tile to the staircase, for example, we let visitors know that the house is in fact very modern, but still features Old World materials throughout," she explained. To complement the hues of the glass mosaics, the floor features 12-by-12-inch tiles of Charcoal terra cotta slate from Artistic Tile of Paramus, NJ.
The same terra cotta slate flooring carries into the kitchen where it meets a variety of other tile elements, such as a unique backsplash that features several "green" products from Artistic Tile. The backsplash is comprised of 4-by-4-inch tiles of Maize and Grain-colored pieces in a checkered pattern. The decorative insert features a 1-by-6-inch Palermo liner with a mosaic blend of 1-by-1-inch tiles set on a diagonal. And, at the very center of the artistic rectangular design lies a 6-by-6-inch Santa Fico deco tile, which was also installed on a diagonal.
The designer also employed tile for a fireplace surround, which can be found in one of the home's bedrooms. "It's a very cool installation and was such as last minute idea," she said. "We were going to use granite, but I found some great inexpensive tile at Artistic Tile that I decided to use instead. We did a diamond shape tile going up the fireplace and underneath the TV. It's a really unique feature."
Another unique installation, according to the designer, can be seen in one of the six bathrooms found in the residence. This particular spa bathroom features wood-look porcelain tile from Porcelanosa, which was employed on the floor and walls in three different sizes: 4-by-26-, 6-by-26- and 9-by-26-inches.
"When people walk into this spa bathroom, they automatically think the whole room was done in real teak wood," explained De Leon. "It's a very unique look with the different sized tiles installed horizontally. People are shocked to find out that it's really a porcelain. The longevity of this tile will exceed the real teak material."
For another bathroom, De Leon selected terracotta from Daltile for the floor as well as the sink surround. Another creative aspect of the home involves the installation of tile for the exterior where 6-by-6-inch hand-painted Pratt and Larson deco tiles were employed for stairs and columns.
According to the designer, the homeowner says that the residence turned out even better than he expected. "We just used so many different colors and elements," explained De Leon.