The California Coast boasts some of the most beautiful views in the U.S. With almost 700 miles of jagged sea cliffs, rolling hills and picturesque views, it makes California one of the most desirable places to live in the country.

At the bottom of the coast is San Diego, a major city known for its beaches and parks. Most of the homes along the sea in this area embrace a Mediterranean-like style to reflect the year-round climate. This was the case for one family in La Jolla, which sought to create a home reminiscent of both Mediterranean Revival and Santa Barbara-style architecture.

With the help of visuals provided by the owner, local designer Michael Ranson of H O M E + atelier Michael Ranson in San Diego, CA, was able to craft a new ambiance utilizing different shapes of handmade terracotta, ceramic and concrete tiles. “My client wanted complete and total durability because she has several children,” the designer explained. “She also wanted to make it visually interesting. We found the Arto product in a San Diego tile showroom that was offered in multiple shapes, patterns and sizes, so we were able to make the large spaces interesting and beautiful. The manufacturer also offered exterior concrete tiles in the same shapes and sizes and eventually the decision 
was made to extend the design to the outdoor areas.”

An arabesque-shaped tile from the Studio Field series was chosen in a leather finish for the interior to provide a more polished look. Various different patterns, shapes and sizes of tiles from the series clad the floors throughout the entire home. The main pattern featured in areas such as the kitchen and bedrooms is Arabesque 5B, which consists of 12- x 13-inch San Felipe and 8- x 10-inch Eye of Felipe tiles, two unique shapes offered by Arto Brick and California Pavers.

For the front entryway, a customized design was created to accommodate Arto’s Arabesque 2C star- and cross-shaped pattern. “We created a border there specifically so we would have nice half-pieces when we got to edge of pattern, instead of having small cuts,” said Ranson.

The custom rectangular- and square-shaped border was complemented with adjoining 12- x 12-inch diagonal-set tiles, which were also utilized in the game room and secondary bedrooms. Smaller 6- x 6-inch square-shaped tiles set on a diagonal were used alongside the 12- x 12-inch tiles in the game room and secondary bedrooms’ bathrooms.

For the master bathroom, 8- x 10-inch Eye of Felipe tiles were used. A more decorative mixed pattern, Arabesque 8C, was used for the powder room, with a 5-inch quatrefoil and a 6-inch flat cross ceramic base.

The two staircases in the home are a declaration of the design possibilities in the tile world. Each of the risers feature eight 5- x 5-inch hand-painted ceramic tiles from the California Revival collection, which complement the brownish tones of the terracotta stair treads. “The client and I chose several options that the manufacturer had,” said Ranson. “We had samples sent to us, then we narrowed it down to five different patterns, which are repeated on the stairs.”

Since the clients also wanted a seamless transition from the indoor spaces on both levels, they chose the same pattern that was utilized in the central areas, Arabesque 5B, in concrete form from the Artillo series, which was designed specifically for outdoor use. The tiles were employed in the color “Spanish Cotto.” “The center of the patterns starts at the double doors in the front entry and continues straight out to the patio,” explained Ranson of the first-level transition from the living room to the upper terrace overlooking the outdoor pool area. “It’s a seamless transition from indoors to outdoors. Where we stopped the pattern on the inside, we started again on the exterior with the exterior material that was same shape and size.” Similar transitions were completed on the upper level, from various bedrooms to an elongated outdoor terrace that lines the beachfront side of the home.

Ranson discussed the intricacies behind the downstairs hallway, which he and the general contractor had to completely reconfigure in order to accommodate the tile design. “Originally, it had straight walls all the way down with a flat ceiling,” he explained. “I created vaults, arches and pop-outs from the wall so there would be a sense of transition from one space to the next. I also had to work with the already placed doors that were there [for the bedrooms]; that was a bit challenging, but it worked out great.”

Alike the master bathroom, Ranson utilized the 8- x 10-inch Eye of Felipe tiles for the majority of the hallway’s flooring, which are framed with a custom rectangular border. “We added the border to make it variable and so no odd-shaped tile pieces were cut,” said Ranson. “We worked pretty intensely to get that all laid out and working correctly, but it’s so rewarding when it comes together.”

In total, around 8,000 square feet of tile was utilized, which was supplied by San Diego Marble & Tile in Encinitas, CA. The installation was completed by San Diego Bath & Tile, Inc. in Poway, CA. “When it came time to install, I had several additional meetings regarding the more challenging layouts,” said Ranson. “It was helpful to do mock-ups and see how the material would work in the space.”

“There were definitely many different layouts,” added Josh Fischer, president of San Diego Bath & Tile, Inc. “Almost every room or hallway had its own unique layout. Getting the stairs to work using a tread tile that was double the floor tile thickness was also a challenge. However, the most challenging aspect was the logistics. There was very little onsite storage for materials. We used more than 100 pallets of tile and rough material, so we had to keep track of the different types of tile, quantity, shipping ETA, etc.

“Also, the grout joint width was 1/2to 5/8inch,” he went on to say. “In order to ensure no shrinkage or cracking accrued, we modified CBP Polyblend grout with CBP mortar admix and 30 grit silica. I was impressed with the cured grout hardness. We did not have any grout cracking.”

The floor level also needed to be adjusted in many areas to accommodate the new tile. “The entire house had existing wood floors, that when removed, revealed Saltillo tile,” explained Fischer. “On the ground level floor, all Saltillo tiles were removed. Unfortunately, all of the existing mahogany doors (to remain) were undercut 1 1/2inches+, so we had to float the floors for tile to meet the undercut door height, which varied throughout the floor and were not level. On the second floor, existing Saltillo tiles were installed over 2-inch-thick lightweight concrete and were to remain. In order to have a flat continuous surface, we installed Uzin’s 150 self-leveling cement over all the existing Saltillo tiles. Due to the nature of the floor tile patterns, only minor height adjustments could be made, which meant all floors had to be very flat for tile installation.”

In addition to the Uzin NC 150 self-leveling cement from Uzin Utz North America, Inc., a range of other products were used to complete the installation, including Laticrete’s Hydro Ban for all interior and exterior horizontal surfaces, Laticrete’s LHT mortar for the exterior concrete pavers, Laticrete’s 253 Gold and Permacolor Select for all interior floors and walls, Custom Building Products’ MegaLite mortar, Custom Building Products’ Polyblend Grout for interior and exterior floors, Custom Building Products’ Thin-Set & Mortar Admix, Miracle Sealants 511 H20 Plus Sealer for the exterior concrete pavers and Quikrete’s Deck Mud.

There was a team of six to 12 installers onsite at all times for the duration of the project, which took around one year to complete, with nine months set aside for the installation. Since its completion, the home has received very positive feedback from both the owners and their visitors.

“The flooring surfaces of this home truly demonstrate how a single material used in multiple sizes, shapes and patterns can create an interesting and elegant design,” said Ranson.

Private residence

La Jolla, CA

GENERAL CONTRACTOR: MBB Construction, Inc., San Diego, CA

DESIGNER: H O M E + atelier Michael Ranson, San Diego, CA

TILE SUPPLIER: San Diego Marble & Tile, Encinitas, CA (Arto Brick and California Pavers)

TILE INSTALLER: San Diego Bath & Tile, Inc., Poway, CA

INSTALLATION PRODUCTS: Custom Building Products, Huntington Beach, CA (MegaLite, Polyblend Grout, Thin-Set & Mortar Admix); Laticrete, Bethany, CT (253 Gold, Hydro Ban, LHT, Permacolor Select); Miracle Sealants Co., Arcadia, CA (511 H2O Plus); Quikrete, Atlanta, GA (Quikrete Deck Mud); Uzin Utz North America, Inc., Aurora, CO (Uzin NC 150)