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Avant-garde tiles making a splash

By: Susan Jones

  |  Posted: Saturday, Mar 01, 2014 06:00 am

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  • TOUGH TILE – New tiles can make attractive looks, including a metallic look in the kitchen.
    TOUGH TILE – New tiles can make attractive looks, including a metallic look in the kitchen.
    Supplied photo
  • BIG TIME  Tiles can vary in size, which changes their impact. Large tiles can be very striking.
    BIG TIME Tiles can vary in size, which changes their impact. Large tiles can be very striking.
  • BATH BOOST  Tiles water resisitant properties can be very attractive for a bathroom, and quite beautiful at the same time.
    BATH BOOST Tiles water resisitant properties can be very attractive for a bathroom, and quite beautiful at the same time.
  • ANY ROOM  Tiles are available in concrete and lots of other materials and can have striking beauty suitable for virtually any room in the house.
    ANY ROOM Tiles are available in concrete and lots of other materials and can have striking beauty suitable for virtually any room in the house.

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If you can imagine a picture, it's likely such an image can be transformed into a piece of tile art on your bathroom wall, the feature wall in your kitchen or on the floor in the front foyer of your home.

New intricate mosaic tile patterns that hearken back to an artistry as old as that produced by the ancient Persians or Egyptians are more popular than ever. They are far from bland.

"Personalized mosaics may feature a picture of a child's hand or foot or they may be floral patterns or transformed from a photo you uploaded of your favourite celebrities," said interior designer Sheri Krug.

Commercially tiles have been used in the capital region to create a splash in many businesses, Krug said, but they may also be used on a smaller scale in the home.

"The feature wall in the Kyoto sushi bar is reminiscent of underwater coral. But I've also seen the arts and crafts-inspired tile designs, combined with a modernized look and minimal furnishings, used as a feature wall in a house," she said.

For reference, Krug cited www.Bisazza.com, the website for the Italian Bisazza Tile firm that specializes in artistic mosaics made from glass. The site features over-the-top designs that were used as art on huge walls in a variety of commercial settings. One, from a museum in Dusseldorf, shows a series of floor-to-ceiling panels depicting a woman with an orange and black tattoo of a dragon on her back. Another features huge Georgia O'Keefe-style floral designs that look like wallpaper, but are actually mosaic tile designs.

"Those tiles are available here but they are expensive. The sky's the limit if you have the budget for it," she said, suggesting that some mosaics could cost hundreds of dollars per square foot, with some designs imported from Italy.

Tiles can be made of almost any material including glass, cement, metallic materials, stone, marble or pressed ceramics, said Aaron Brown of River City Tile Company.

"People want tiles that offer 3D relief so there is more light play. That light play can be achieved with hand-carved tiles or tiles carved with water jets. They are tactile and you can't help but touch them," Brown said.

There's nothing square about tiles, Brown said.

"They can be circles, or rounded stones or glass. They can be huge. I've seen big porcelain flooring tiles three-feet by three-feet or larger and they can be thin. That thin tile was born out of necessity in Italy where they tile on top of tile on top of tile. It's also a weight issue because a single person can install a 40-inch-square tile himself, if it's thin," he said.

Cement tiles are also coming back, Brown said, because they offer a rougher look, but in addition, they are environmentally friendly.

"Cement tiles have been used for hundreds of years and every region in the world has its own style. They are very low cost and environmentally friendly because they are not fired in high-heat kilns and they aren't glazed. For the same reason wooden tiles, or even coconut tiles are making a comeback," Brown said.


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