Karen Pearse is an internationally renowned expert on natural stone and surfaces, who founded Karen Pearse Global Direct (KPGD) in 1981. Since founding the brand in New York, NY, Pearse has worked with some of the world’s most prominent retailers, owners, architects and developers on prestigious projects globally, from large commercial and retail projects to hotels and luxury boutiques, including Neiman Marcus at Hudson Yards, Saks Fifth Avenue’s New York flagship store, Bloomingdale’s, The Time Warner Center, 360 Tennis Arena in Kuwait, Four Seasons in San Francisco and Macau, Thomas Keller Restaurant, DFS in Hong Kong Plaza and Louis Vuitton.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic that has been devastating communities all over the world, Pearse recently launched the Protect Collection, a vast array of antimicrobial porcelain tiles developed with Microban® technology. The tiles, which emulate natural materials such as stone and wood, are resistant to viruses and kill up to 99.9% of bacteria on surfaces using technology that is based on silver ions, which blocks the metabolism of bacteria, thus eliminating it and preventing it from replicating -- a potential game changer for the industry.

“What has always set us apart in this industry is our mission to find creative solutions that help fulfill both the vision and function of a project,” Pearse said. “In keeping with the new global awareness regarding health and prevention, we are working now on incorporating solutions for ‘healthier design.’ I think this will be a major factor in many of the new projects we see in the future.

“With this in mind, we just launched our new line of antimicrobial porcelain tiles, Protect Collections,” she went on to explain. “They are beautiful, with very sophisticated representations of actual marble, stone and wood, but they are also antimicrobial, resisting viruses, microorganisms and killing 99.9% of bacteria they come into contact with. It’s not a temporary fix or afterthought like a coating that would wear away over time; silver ions are infused into the material itself and their efficacy will never deteriorate.”

Tested by independent laboratories, the Microban technology applied to Protect Collections is the only antimicrobial method that guarantees protection 24-hour protection, with or without sunlight, unlike other technologies, which are only activated by UV light. Since silver ions are integrated from the initial process of firing the porcelain tiles, protection will remain at peak strength throughout the entire life of the product.

“With global awareness of hygiene and cleanliness reaching record heights, it is more important than ever that these principals be applied to creating beautiful, safer spaces,” Pearse said. “A balance of aesthetics and function are essential to intelligent design.”

In addition to domestic environments, the tiles are ideal for health clubs, spas, restaurants, airports, shopping centers and schools to prevent the spread and growth of bacteria and eliminate the odors caused by bacteria.

While most of KPGD’s team is currently working remotely because of the pandemic, Pearse has been in constant contact with them to ensure the business continues to run as smoothly as possible. “With computers, smartphones, incredibly easy video chatting platforms, etc., it is virtually impossible not to be productive from home,” she said. “We are at a great advantage as a firm. Our physical sample library of products and materials is one of the largest in the world and it is already digitally archived. With our materials library accessible online, it is still very easy for our clients to select exactly what they need at any time. Our fabrication center and offices in China have also re-opened now with business returning to normal. We know that the same will be true in the U.S. and other regions affected by the pandemic. We are working now on projects, which will launch in late spring, summer and fall.”