Interior Design / Kitchen & Bath / Mosaics & Decorative Tile / Contemporary Stone & Tile Design Magazine

Classic and modern looks for kitchen and bath design

April 5, 2010
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Photo by Dave McDonald, Studio M Photography
Whether having a contemporary or traditional style, kitchen and bath designs often share a common thread through the use of stone and tile. An example of the latter can be found at the Westar Kitchen & Bath Showroom in Scottsdale, AZ, where a unique “Biscotti” granite kitchen countertop features an ogee edge detail laminated over a bullnose edge detail. Stone Supplier: Cactus Stone, Phoenix, AZ


The enhancements that stone and tile can offer for kitchen and bath spaces are no secret to designers. Providing functionality and at the same time, a “wow” factor, are just a few of the many benefits these materials present. Moreover, they are being used as a critical element for both traditional and modern design motifs.

For kitchen and bath areas designed in a conventional style, designers are specifying stone and tile products that offer a timeless aesthetic. This style often includes stone applications such as countertops in elaborate shapes with ornate edge details. On the tile side of the equation, traditional designs are utilizing materials with a more muted, non-polished finish. Very often, these elements are combined with rich woodwork to achieve the overall design goal.

In more modern design styles, the use of stone and tile can take on a different form. This is reflected in both material selection and the way the material is ultimately utilized. Stone kitchen countertops with crisp, rectangular forms and simple edge details can pair well with stainless steel appliances for a clean, chic look. As for the materials themselves, selecting tile products in bright, bold colors and varied shapes can give a bathroom space a unique, one-of-a-kind feel.

Designer David Mast of David Mast Design recently took a contemporary approach when designing a kitchen in California where Absolute Black granite countertops in multiple finishes are complemented by a metallic tile backsplash. Designer: David Mast Design, San Francisco, CA; Stone Suppliers: Walker Zanger, Hayward, CA, (Absolute Black granite side counters); All Natural Stone, San Jose, CA (Absolute Black granite island countertop); Tile Supplier: Porcelanosa, San Jose, CA

Given the prevalence of remodeling work in the residential sector, stone and tile can offer much-needed versatility for a project, as they can be adapted to fit existing placement of fixtures as well as space constraints.

For many designers, the process begins with understanding the client’s needs and desires for the design, the layout of the physical space and its practical requirements. Designer David Mast of David Mast Design in San Francisco, CA, does exactly that before starting any project.

According to Mast, the role of the kitchen over the past 20 years has dramatically changed in America. He noted that the kitchen is often the “soul” of a home. Whether the home is simple or extravagant, kitchens tend to always be the general meeting place for the homeowners and their guests.

“It’s important when I design that the kitchen becomes the conversation center,” he said. “The beautiful thing about cooking is that it has once again become a remarkable art form. Here in California, we have some amazing chefs, who have inspired home cooking. In design, the intention is to create a ‘feeling’ where homeowners can create in their own artistic manner themselves.”

Mast generally opts for a very clean, contemporary look in his designs, while also considering the functionality of a kitchen. “The placement of the sink versus the cook top, refrigerator, etc, all have a purpose,” he said.

Mast chose to build a 5- x 15-foot-long center island in the kitchen, allowing it to be large enough to accommodate guests as well as to have room to put two sinks. The island features Absolute Black granite with a flamed finish - creating a slight contrast to the honed side counters.

The designer recently completed three kitchen designs in California, and while two had the common goal of creating a space for cooking as well as gathering, the third was geared more towards entertaining.

Functional remodeling

For the first kitchen, Mast chose to build two sinks into a 5- x 15-foot-long Absolute Black granite island countertop with a flamed finish, which was supplied by All Natural Stone of San Jose, CA. “The first sink is a clean-up sink, and the other is for washing produce,” he explained. “From the refrigerator, you would put everything out to the island then put it onto the cook top.”

Mast noted that it was somewhat difficult to convince his client to do an island counter of such great length and with a flamed finish. “The flamed finish gives a rippling effect,” he said. “The client was worried about rolling pastries. It’s very easy, though, to incorporate a hard surface, like a cutting board, for such tasks, and once they did it, they were happy.

“As for having a 5- x 15-foot-long countertop, my client was mortified that it may be too big,” the designer continued. “She had her first family gathering, and called to tell me how happy she was that there was a place for everyone.”

In another kitchen design, Mast also opted for an oversized Absolute Black island countertop, which provides access on all four sides. The muted tone of the countertops is accented by an iridescent glass mosaic tile backsplash. “These pieces are extremely unique and complement the stone beautifully,” said the designer. “It gave some unique coloration in the kitchen, but did not overpower.” Designer: David Mast Design, San Francisco, CA; Stone and Tile Suppliers: Walker Zanger, Hayward, CA, (Absolute Black granite side counters, glass mosaic backsplash); All Natural Stone, San Jose, CA (Absolute Black granite island countertop)

The side countertops are also Absolute Black, but in a honed finish. They were supplied by Walker Zanger of Hayward, CA. “I tend to not always do the same stone in the entire kitchen,” said Mast. “I have a tendency to mix it up, so we don’t have all of the same surfaces looking alike.”

To complement the black kitchen countertops, Mast chose metallic mosaic tiles from Spanish tile manufacturer Porcelanosa for the backsplash, supplied through the manufacturer’s San Jose, CA, location. The shimmering metal mosaic creates an eye-catching effect when the sunlight shines into the space - a tactic Mast incorporates into his designs.

“That’s the whole thing about my design and why I select certain colors,” he said. “I look to see what colors are coming through any windows, [if there’s any] vegetation or stonework on the exterior.”

Another special feature of this design was the decision to have the middle cabinets pushed back, so another Absolute Black granite top could be used for cooking. “Countertops have a tendency to get cluttered in anyone’s home, so I try to create at least one functional top,” said Mast. “Some people like all of their equipment on the counter, so my challenge is to make a space that won’t clutter.”

For a client that sought a minor remodel for a third home, Mast convinced the client to pull out the original island and put in its place a 38-inch-wide x 10-foot-long countertop made from Blanco Maple Silestone with a leather finish. Extending into the former dining area, it rather gave the home a bar-style look. Designer: David Mast Design, San Francisco, CA; Countertop Supplier: Cosentino, Stafford, TX

Mast carried the same material palette to another recent kitchen remodel in California. The center island, which measures 12 feet long x 3 feet wide and allows for access on all four sides, is fabricated from Absolute Black granite with a flamed finish. The island is complemented by side countertops also made from Absolute Black granite, but with a honed finish.

Additionally, the kitchen features iridescent glass tile for the backsplash, which was also supplied by Walker Zanger. “These pieces are extremely unique and complement the stone beautifully,” said Mast. “It gives some unique coloration in the kitchen, but does not overpower.”

Maximizing a space

For a final kitchen that Mast worked on, the objective was slightly different. It was a minor remodel for a client where the emphasis would not be on creating a space for cooking, as it is a secondary residence. Rather, it was designed to make the most efficient use of a somewhat limited space.

Located on the 38th floor of the Infinity Tower in San Francisco, CA, the space has a remarkable view, according to Mast, and this helped inspire his design.

Atop the quartz counter, Mast inserted a large teardrop-shaped glass piece. It functions as part of the counter and allows for bar style eating if the entire counter space needs to be utilized.

Since the residence was originally outfitted with a Poggenpohl kitchen, Mast kept some of the original elements, but decided to modify where applicable, including the center island. “It was only 3 ½ feet by 24 inches,” he said of the island. “It looked anemic in the space.”

Mast convinced the client to pull out the original island and put in its place a 38-inch-wide x 10-foot-long countertop made from Blanco Maple Silestone with a leather finish. Extending into the former dining area, it rather gave the home a bar-style look. “The intention was to work with what I had and make it unique,” said Mast.

Atop the quartz counter, Mast inserted a large teardrop-shaped glass piece. It functions as part of the counter and allows for bar style eating if the entire counter space needs to be utilized.

Above, a decorative ceiling fixture mimics the shape of the glass teardrop piece on the counter, serving as a “ying-yang” feature, according to the designer. “The inspiration was the bay and waves,” said Mast. “The tear drops are a wave. The ceiling in the building is concrete, so we could not add any additional recessed light fixtures. We dropped the ceiling, created the waves and added these two crystal chandeliers. When you see the outside, you see that bluish-green color I wanted to pull into the space.”

Designer Mary Lindsey Wilson, ASID, recently completed a residential bathroom remodel in Katy, TX, for a house built in the 1970s. To achieve a captivating bath design, the designer decided to clad the entire exterior of the shower in Voguebay “bubble glass tile” in shades of greens and blues. Designer: Live Beautifully, Houston, TX; Tile Suppliers: Voguebay, Newport News, VA (glass bubble tile); Daltile, Houston, TX (porcelain tile floor); Tile Distributor: Daltile, Houston, TX 

Mast further explained that the walls are painted a brown/gray to complement other aspects of the kitchen. One white wall is additionally done in Venetian plaster that the designer describes as “having movements like waves that are going across the walls,” he said.

Creating a “wow” factor

In the area of bathroom design, Designer Mary Lindsey Wilson, ASID, of Live Beautifully (www.livebeautifully.net) recently completed a residential remodel project in Katy, TX, for a house built in the 1970s. In doing so, she preserved the original footprint, keeping fixtures such as the toilet, sink and shower in the same place.

“This is a guest bath,” said Wilson. “The homeowner has a lot of nieces, nephews and other guests. It hadn’t ever been updated, and I wanted it to be more modern, more functional and have a ‘wow’ factor, while being user-friendly at the same time.”

To achieve a captivating bath design, Wilson decided to furnish the entire exterior of the shower in “bubble glass tile” in shades of greens and blues. The unique, festive tile is from Voguebay of Newport News, VA, and was distributed through Daltile of Dallas, TX. According to Assistant Design Consultant Crystal Darneal, ASID Allied, of Daltile, a range of solid color tones were combined to get the desired blend.


The designer further explained that the bubble tile was unlike anything she had seen in the past. “I do a lot of tile work,” she said. “This was a new, unique product. I’d been in Italy in the summer and had seen some round tiles, but nothing quite like this. I was really intrigued. I loved the bubble effect.” 

The use of bubble tiles carried onto areas of the backsplash to tie the bathroom design together. “When you walk in and see the bubbles, they inspired the shape of the shower,” said Wilson.

The designer further explained that the bubble tile was unlike anything she had seen in the past. “I do a lot of tile work,” she said. “This was a new, unique product. I’d been in Italy in the summer and had seen some round tiles, but nothing quite like this. I was really intrigued. I loved the bubble effect.”

“It’s a very angular bathroom, a basic box,” Wilson continued. “There’s nothing round or curvy about it. Once I saw the bubble tile, it inspired us to turn the basic tub and shower into an oval with no door. I think it’s sexy. A lot of the glass [tile] looks very modern and creates a lot of impact.”

The inside of the shower features 2- x 2-inch glass tiles and “teardrop” tiles around the shower wall fixtures as well as on the ceiling. “Mary wanted to have a wall with a broken glass effect in two styles that would naturally blend into each other,” said Darneal. “We used a ‘teardrop’ mosaic for this, which is a small glass mosaic made up of irregular shapes that resembles the look of shattered glass.”

The use of bubble tiles carried onto areas of the backsplash to tie the bathroom design together.

Other areas inside the shower feature greenish-blue 1- x 1- and 2- x 2-inch glass mosaic tiles, all of which, including the “teardrop” tile, came from Voguebay and were supplied by Daltile. The glass mosaic tiles additionally were employed for the backsplash - surrounding the bubble tiles.

The floor of the entire bathroom consists of an off-white maintenance-free porcelain tile from Daltile in mainly a 12- x 12-inch format. “The porcelain tile looks like a stone,” said Wilson. “I love the stone look, but it wasn’t going to be practical to have a stone in this application. I also really didn’t want to call too much attention to the floor. The shower tile is so spectacular. I wanted that to be able to shine.”

The shower floor is also done in the same porcelain tile, in a brick pattern. “We offset the tile for a brick feeling to bring it up-to-date as a design element,” said the designer.

The floor of the entire bathroom features an off-white maintenance-free porcelain tile from Daltile in mainly a 12- x 12-inch format. “The porcelain tile looks like a stone,” said Wilson. “I love the stone look, but it wasn’t going to be practical to have a stone in this application. I also really didn’t want to call too much attention to the floor. The shower tile is so spectacular. I wanted that to be able to shine.”

Wilson explained that during the installation, nothing went to waste and there were also design modifications that took place. “By this time, we had invested a lot of money in the tiles,” she said. “Some areas required more tiles, and we had to be creative and ended up using the ‘teardrop’ in the center width where the shower opens.

“The sink was brand new from Kohler, and it had just come out of K/BIS,” Wilson continued, adding that all of the plumbing products came from Kohler. “Some of the backsplash couldn’t be designed until the sink arrived. We had to build a very special backsplash, [almost serving as] a shelf. We wanted it to have a very clean look. The Seagrass Stone on the counter repeats the same edge design of the sink. Great design is always in the details.”

The project was completed at the end of 2009. “The client was very pleased and surprised,” said Wilson. “It has a little different flavor than the rest of the house. They felt we executed it beautifully.”

Photos © Cole Hairston/Courtesy of Through the Lens Management
Stone and tile created a more traditional effect for a new residence in Austin, TX.  The family sought a “Santa Barbara style” home, but in a more subtle color palette.
Architect: Vanguard Studio, Inc., Austin, TX; Designer: Mallott, Inc., Lakeway, TX; Stone Supplier: Alkusari Stone, Austin, TX; Tile Supplier: Tabarka Studios

Designing with a Spanish flair

Stone and tile created a more traditional effect for a new residence in Austin, TX. The family sought a “Santa Barbara style” home with extensive use of tile, but in a more subtle color palette than is traditionally associated with this approach. This is especially reflected in the home’s kitchen and master bathroom.

“The homeowners were looking for a family-oriented home that would provide a beautiful backdrop for entertaining and their growing young family,” said Ron Malott of Malott Design, Inc. in Lakeway, TX, the designer for the project. “They expressed an affinity for the relaxed atmosphere and casual elegance of a tile style home and wanted color but in a more muted palette.”

To achieve this look, waxed terra-cotta floor tiles with an antique stain from Alkusari Stone of Austin, TX, and hand-painted tiles from Tabarka Studios - that use color washes and antique glazes to achieve patterns that are both colorful and subtle at the same time - make up the backsplash in the kitchen design. According to Malott, the materials are much more subdued than typical hand-painted tiles of the 30’s and 40’s when this style was at its height. He also echoed the colors in vibrant paint finishes on some of the furnishings to help incorporate the tile into the home environment.

The design intent is especially reflected in the home’s kitchen, which features waxed terra-cotta floor tiles with an antique stain from Alkusari Stone of Austin, TX, and hand-painted tiles from Tabarka Studios for the backsplash. The Tabarka tiles complement the kitchen’s ornate wooden cabinetry as well as the lighting, tying the look of the kitchen together.

The Tabarka tiles complement the kitchen’s ornate wooden cabinetry as well as the lighting, creating a cohesive aesthetic for the kitchen and extending into other areas of the home, including the living room. “The biggest design challenge was bringing a human scale to the double height volumes in the kitchen and living room, which is where the Tabarka product really shone,” he said. “Deciding to tile the entire kitchen wall arch at the range hood created a wonderful texture with the tile and enhanced the architecture at the same time.”

The Santa Barbara style was also carried into the master bathroom where “the clients wanted the Spanish tile to continue but not as vibrant in color or tone,” said Malott. “The master suite always needs to be as inviting and comforting as possible.”

Photos © Cole Hairston/Courtesy of Through the Lens Management
In the master bathroom of the Texas residence, Crema Marfil marble tiles were chosen for the field of the bathroom floor and are accented by insets of Sea Green marble - both supplied by Alkusari Stone. Larger pieces of the same green marble were employed for the bottom half of the shower walls, topped by hand-painted Tabarka tiles with a soft decorative pattern. The two intricately shaped vanity tops and a tub deck in Sea Green marble further contribute to the luxurious feel of the room, while the decorative iron mirrors and lighting work to create a soft glow.

Crema Marfil marble tiles were chosen for the field of the bathroom floor and are accented by insets of Sea Green marble - both supplied by Alkusari Stone. Larger pieces of the same green marble were employed for the bottom half of the shower walls, topped by hand-painted Tabarka tiles with a soft decorative pattern. The two intricately shaped vanity tops and a tub deck in Sea Green marble further contribute to the luxurious feel of the room, while the decorative iron mirrors and lighting work to create a soft glow.

“I always try to give the master bathroom suite a resort feel and to incorporate hand-painted tiles with marble to keep it soft and subtle,” said Malott. “Sometimes marble can be a bit formal but we kept it soft.”

The inside of the shower features “teardrop” tiles around the shower fixtures as well as on the ceiling. “Mary wanted to have a wall with a broken glass effect in two [styles] that would naturally blend into each other,” said Assistant Design Consultant Crystal Darneal, ASID Allied, of Daltile in Houston, TX, which served as the tile distributor.

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