Italian tile and stone from around the world bring luxury to New Jersey estate
For the interior design of a 15,000-square-foot private residence in Alpine, NJ, a diverse palette — primarily consisting of high-end Italian tile and stone — was used to reflect the homeowners’ style and tastes
“The premier design strategy was to choose materials that suited the personal style of my client and utilize tile in a couture manner,” explained Fanelli, adding that it was also important that the material be maintenance free and eco-friendly. “My client is from Russia — and has many family members that visit from overseas — so she appreciates the beauty of tile. She travels to Europe extensively, and she is a lover of Italian clothing, art and design, so naturally the primary influence of materials in this massive residence is Italian tile. The tile selections took center stage in creating a theme of color in the home.”
In the kitchen, Fanelli chose 12- x 24-inch porcelain floor tile from Casa Dolce Casa’s Velvet Collection in the color “Oyster.” “The Italian porcelain was utilized to reflect the refinement of the space since the porcelain is soft and natural — truly representing the prized marble of Italy,” she explained. “The variation in the tile is superb and looks like a natural stone. I chose to lay this tile in an offset pattern to give one the illusion of a true European kitchen, and I wanted a bigger format for the tile to enhance the space.”
The soft natural color of the porcelain floor tile is complemented by granite countertops that are found on two large islands and the perimeter countertops. Consisting of rich warm tones of brown and gold, the granite further contributes to the overall sophisticated look of the kitchen. Moreover, a detailed custom tile backsplash further adds a touch of elegance.
The porcelain floor tile flows into the adjacent family room, but in a 16- x 16-inch format that was laid on a diagonal. “The family room is right next to the kitchen, which really looks like one open area, so I wanted the color hue to continue into this space,” said Fanelli. “I wanted a tactile feeling, so I changed the size format.” In total, 800 square feet of Velvet Oyster porcelain tile was utilized in the family room, and 900 square feet was employed in the kitchen.
Incorporating Russian tradition
A focal point of the family room is a custom tile fireplace on a 9- x 7-foot wall, which was designed by Fanelli. “In Russia, all ornate fireplaces for homes of this caliber are designed out of tile,” she explained. “I chose a custom tile, but the color of the flooring was key to the color hue selected for the fireplace.”
According to Fanelli, her client showed her a picture of a fireplace found in Architect Record of Russia. “I went to the house and looked at the empty wall,” she said. “The architect said that he would take my lead. My client came and picked out the handcast tile. For three days, I didn’t take any appointments. I meditated on it. It was a very ornate, large and different sort of project — going back to Russian history. I really had to focus and get inspired. I started sketching on the third day.”
The mantle was created with a molding piece, said Fanelli. “Creating this tile fireplace was truly a tile journey,” she explained. “It was a particularly challenging element.”
For the solarium — a large space with oversized windows — Fanelli’s client was seeking a porcelain floor tile that replicated the aesthetic of natural slate. It was decided to use 12- x 24-inch tiles from the Calabria Collection by Ragno USA. The floor tiles were laid in an offset pattern with a natural slate border created from ½- x ½- and 2- x 2-inch Desert Gold mosaics. “One cannot tell that this porcelain is any different from the actual stone mosaics,” said Fanelli. “The clear objective was that this area was to be maintenance free, since my client wanted to put beautiful plants in this area.” In total, 400 square feet of the floor tile was employed in this area.
A subtle contrast to the porcelain flooring, Pearl Beige marble with a polished finish was employed as field tile in the foyer and hallway. The 18- x 18-inch marble tile, which came from Turkey, is accented with a border of polished Rojo Alicante marble from Spain and dots of three different patterned stone etchings from Italy.
A luxurious retreat was created in the master bath with 12- x 12-inch white onyx floor tiles with a polished finish paired with full walls clad in both
6- x 6-inch tiles and mosaics of the same material. In between the stone floor tiles, which were laid on a diagonal, 1- x 1-inch mosaics were incorporated to add texture and visual interest. Additionally, 5- x 12-inch white onyx tiles were used for the base of the walls, and 1- x 1- and 2- x 12-inch of the same stone form a chair rail in the space. The shower walls consist of a mix of 1- x 1- and 6- x 12-inch white onyx polished tiles. “The space is very glamorous,” said Fanelli.
Morever, each of the homeowners’ sons has their own bathroom, and Fanelli carefully selected the tile palette for each. The flooring in the bathroom of the eldest son features the Landscape Valley Collection from Ceramica Sant’Agostino in 12- x 12-inch format, and the same material in 2- x 2-inch pieces were employed for the shower floor.
“In Europe, most bathrooms are full walls [of tile], so they are maintenance free and timeless, so my client wanted all of the interior shower walls to be encased in the dimensional and exquisitely shaded Ceramiche Sadon 3- x 6-inch Silk Honey in an offset pattern,” explained Fanelli.
For the younger son’s bathroom, 12- x 12-inch floor tiles of Unicom Starker’s Natural Slate series in the color “Autumn” were laid on a diagonal. The shower flooring consists of the same material in 6- x 6-inch format. The bathroom walls, including the shower, are clad in 3- x 6-inch subway tiles from the Desert series by Ceramiche Sadon in the color “Sand.” “The wall tiles were installed in an offset pattern to add texture and dimension to the space,” explained Fanelli. Both boys’ bathrooms include a feature wall and border made of colorful glass mosaics.
Varying combinations of stone and tile were selected to dress up the guest baths. A beautiful patterned stone floor was achieved in one of the spaces with “Jasmine Flower” — made of Calacutta Statuary and Jerusalem Gold limestone. The walls feature Jerusalem Gold limestone with a polished finish.
A crisp yet elegant design was achieved in another guest bath with white wall tile from the Hall Collection by Imola Ceramica. “This Italian modern influenced tile makes this unique space transitional,” said Fanelli. “The elegance of the textured white tile as a backdrop against mosaics transforms this bath into a chic and hip [space].”
Fanelli explained that her primary objective for the home was to use materials creatively. “You just have to know how to work with the pieces and be more creative with a budget,” she said. The designer recently was recognized for her work in the 2013 Ceramics of Italy Design Competition, where the project received an Honorable Mention in the Residential category.