Wild for Tile: Jewelry for Your Kitchen

Tile in all of its glory -- glass, stone, metallic, you name it -- is all the rage in stylish kitchens. Here's why.

Tile has become kitchen jewelry that consumers can't get enough of — behind sinks, on countertops or floors, above stoves, on island fronts or kitchen carts, and even in freestanding wall hangings. "People are using tile in whatever way your mind can think of," says DeAnne VanHaaren, a designer at Ginivito Flooring in Petosky, Mich., which specializes in designer tile.

If tiles are the new kitchen jewelry, then glass tiles are its gems, often painted on the back and refired. "The colors are endless — from hot pink to bright blue, from bronze to metallic," says VanHaaren. And their uses are just as far-ranging: use liner bars — a thin pencil-like glass rail-like tile — to create an outline over the stove filled in with stone tile. Or mix glass with contemporary metal tiles. Try a few as an accent or paint the whole backsplash with glass.

"Although glass tiles have been around for a while, their popularity has exploded within the last five years," says Tisa Adamson, owner of Mission Tile West in South Pasadena, Calif. One of her favorite manufacturers is Bisazza, an Italian firm that preserves and reproduces traditional Italian Arts-and-Crafts vitreous mosaic tiles. Another favorite: Oceanside Glasstile in Oceanside, Calif., which offers seven glass tile product lines ranging from field tiles (tiles without decoration) to contemporary to gem-like minis, many made of recycled glass. Laurel True, founder and director of The Institute of Mosaic Art in Oakland, Calif., favors glass tiles from Trend, an Italian company that fashions a range of opalescent, metallic, gold and vitreous glass tiles.

Glass or not, the variety of colors available in tiles is also drawing buyers. "People are particularly interested in bright colors and the play of light," says True. "And people are mixing more colors." That's why field tiles are increasingly popular, says Adamson: "The trend used to be decorative tile. But people are now willing to buy a higher grade of field tile with better color or handmade tiles with exotic-looking glazes."

Small companies such as Syzygy Tile Works in Silver City, N.M.; Terra Firma Tiles in London; Trikeenan in Keene, N.H., sell tiles with an array of glazes, Adamson says. And Pratt and Larson Tile & Stone in Portland, Ore., offers 300 colors in 1,000 designs. True recommends the glazes offered by Heath Ceramics in Sausilito Calif. And she's a regular customer at McIntyre Tile Company in Healdsberg, Calif. "They make tiles to order so it's like getting fresh-baked cookies," she says. "And because they sell a high-fire tile, the work has a sophisticated glazed look."

Historically accurate tile is catching on as well, say Adamson. "A lot of people are buying 1920s-style houses, for example, and want historically correct decoration." The same is true for those with Spanish or Mediterranean-style homes who want traditionally accurate tile. Adamson recommends Tile Restoration Center in Seattle, where a handful of artists reproduce the work of well-known Arts-and-Crafts tile makers and design new Arts-and-Crafts-style designs; and Native Tile in Torrance, Calif., which creates more than 500 patterns in several styles.

Whatever the trend — intricate or simple, historic or contemporary, glass or stone — tile is all the rage. "When I got into the business four years ago, people didn't know much about tile," says VanHaaren. "Now, because of more shows and changed building trends, they are so sophisticated. And there's just so much more to see."

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