A broader scope of mosaic design
September 15, 2009
Although the use of mosaics in design dates back centuries, the applications of this art form have become more commonplace in recent years. And while residential design had traditionally employed mosaics as an accent, they have now diversified into all areas of design. Homeowners, in particular, have become more in tune with the idea of using mosaics extensively in their residences.
“People are really going all the way,” said Sharon Brandt of Granite Connection, LLC in Potomac Falls, VA. “ I see mosaics being used in flooring as well as in other interior decorations. Mosaics are now used on entire walls in showers, in powder room niches and even on fireplaces.”
In kitchens, Brandt is noticing a trend of a glass mosaic backsplash being paired with honed stone countertops. “People see it on examples, and they want it for their kitchen,” she said, adding that a similar trend can also be found in bathrooms. “No one is doing the 4-inch backsplash [anymore]. “For fabricators to deal with walls that are not square, it’s easier to install a 4-inch backsplash, but the trend is now toward using mosaics from the counter to the bottom of the cabinet.”
Moreover, glass and metallic mosaics are allowing for more contemporary designs. And with the consumer demand of mosaics escalating, the availability of the product has also increased. “They’re really hot,” said Brandt. “Even in Home Depot I see them, where six months ago I didn’t.”
Brandt took many of these concepts and applied them to the renovation of a private residence in Washington, DC, where her company served as the tile installer and she also aided in material selection. Mosaics helped to achieve the objective of blending contemporary flair with modern comfort, she explained.
In the kitchen, a Spa Ohara Silk mosaic blend - manufactured by Lunada Bay Tile - was employed for the backsplash. The mosaics complement the antiqued Cambrian Black countertops, which were fabricated and supplied by R. Bratti Associates, Inc. of Alexandria, VA. “This setting offers a great spot for entertaining - with the cantilevered bar top,” said Brandt. “It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a cocktail before heading out on the town.”
The use of mosaics also is carried into the bathrooms in the home. For the “his” bath, Brandt explained that the client wanted a spa-like retreat utilizing cool colors, yet maintaining a masculine feel. “Originally, the client was thinking green, but everything I was pulling didn’t look right,” she said. “I was in Europa Stone, a local supplier, and saw a piece on the floor of a back supply closet. It was Antique Verde Electra, a beautiful, textured stone. [The client] loved it, and said ‘that’s it’ when he saw it. That’s an exciting part of my job.”
To harmonize with the Antique Verde Electra vanity top, Juniper mosaic tiles from Waterworks’ Georgetown location in Washington were selected for the walls and counter backsplash areas. “The mosaics are exquisite,” said Brandt. “The countertop and mosaics really complement one another.”
Since one of the walls of the “his” bath is rounded, Brandt explained that it posed challenges during the installation. “Once you have the 12- x 12-inch sheets and try to go by the radius, they would just pop off,” she said. “The tile installer had to cut them in strips and lay them like a necklace. He would take a little mallet and tap it to get it in place. It was a great installation. Each of those had to be laid perfectly straight with no sheets; only by hand.”
In the “her” bath, the client once again sought a relaxing retreat, but preferred warm colors and a serene setting. “The exquisite Waterworks’ Charlemagne mosaics comprised of Emperador Dark, Crema Valencia, Traventino and Renaissance Bronze natural stones were used in the arched niche behind the tub to create a tranquil surrounding,” Brandt explained. While the stone mosaics create a focal point in the space, they are also a suitable complement to other materials employed for the design of the “her” bath, such as the Jerusalem Gold limestone shelves and tub surround, which was installed and supplied by Rugo Stone of Lorton, VA.
The same neutral-colored mosaic blend found in the “her” bath also carries into the powder room of the home. “You can blend neutral tones and still give it texture, so it’s not bland,” said Brandt.
In total, the project took two years to complete under the direction of Recom Services of Easton, MD, and Barmes Vanze Architects of Washington, DC. From top to bottom, it was renovated in its entirety on the inside, including new studs. Brandt was there for nine months during the stone and tile installation.
“I was present at all installations for a period of time to ensure that the clients needs were met,” she said.
“The nice thing about the mosaics is that even though they can be difficult to work with, you can have really tight grout lines,” she continued. “You definitely have to know what you’re doing when installing [them]. Installation is key. You can choose the most beautiful material, but if you don’t have a good installer, it’s not going to work.”
After the completion of the home, the clients held a cocktail party inviting the entire team as a thank you, in addition to neighbors. “It was very kind of them to invite us to show our work,” said Brandt. “The clients were ecstatic about the final project.”
Creating detailed features
Similar mosaic trends can be found inside a private residence located in the suburbs of Chicago, IL. The home contains an extensive amount of stonework, including mosaics, and they are used throughout the interior design. “The client was trying to use a diverse range of material,” said Perry Liu of Bestview International, which supplied all of the stone for the project. “The home was definitely going to have some manmade furniture, but then we wanted to incorporate as much natural material as possible. With that came mosaics for some special applications.”
Mosaics, which are primarily comprised of marble, glass and onyx, can be found in all six of the home’s bathrooms, a powder room, the foyer, surrounding the home’s fireplace, on the kitchenette’s backsplash and bordering areas of the main flooring throughout. Typical size pieces include: 1 x 1, 1 x 2, 2 x 2 and 3 x 6 inches.
A special point of interest in each bathroom, including the master bath, is the Mother of Pearl mosaics that frame the mirror in each space. Additionally, the master bath features onyx mosaics that clad the tub surround and form a decorative inlay on one of the shower walls.
Another feature point of the home is the fireplace, which showcases a surround made of Mother of Pearl mosaics. And in the kitchenette, glass mosaics were chosen for the backsplash. The glass pieces are in shades of gray, copper and light blue - reflecting the colors found in the granite countertop. Liu explained that aside from the main kitchen, this room would be used for routine kitchen duties.
In combination with the mosaics, onyx was employed for flooring and walls throughout the home. The tiles range in size, including 4 x 4, 12 x 12 and 18 x 18 inches. “We made the flooring polished in the main areas and brushed in the bathrooms to make it less slippery,” said Liu.
Liu explained that the biggest challenge was making sure the materials kept their “identity” during the installation. “The different stones have different ways of being installed, so it works differently how you put them together without losing the individual features,” he said. “And then with using a wide variety of material - from glass to marble to travertine - you have to make sure to keep the designs related to one another so the overall design is cohesive.”
Liu spent an extensive amount of time playing with the layouts and working closely with the tile contractor. “There were a lot of hours spent supervising and working with the installation crew for the layout, design and to check the quality and see how the design showed off in the installation,” he said.
“The end result was very good,” he continued. “The client tells us that when they have guests, everybody really enjoys seeing the variety of materials.”
Influenced by India
Besides the residential sector, mosaics have also taken a prominent place for applications in corporate settings. For a recent corporate project in Pittsburgh, PA, mosaics played an essential part of the design for two executive restrooms, as they were used as flooring. A variety of colors were selected from Mosaico Italiano of Pompano Beach, FL, to suit the owner’s desires, and the remainder of the bathroom was designed around the floor. “[The idea was] to mimic colors from India that the owners fell in love with on their travels,” said Tina Krashna of Ceramiche Tile & Stone, Inc. in Pittsburgh, PA, which served as a designer for the project, working in collaboration with Bethany Demi of Lami Grubb Architects in Pittsburgh, PA.
“The overall design concept was formed and developed based on this flooring,” Demi added. “The owners enjoy traveling to India and have a passion and love for that country. They also have an appreciation for the beauty and art of that area. This project was our effort to bring that look and feel into this space. As soon as the owner saw this floor, he loved it and felt it captured that look for his space.”
Honey, Green and Copper Red onyx mosaics in a “fish-scale” pattern were selected for the floor of the 225-square -foot executive restroom spaces. Krashna explained that the only challenges came in selecting the materials. “There’s too many options available with a custom mosaic factory such as Mosaico Italiano,” she said.
Demi was on site to make sure the installation went smoothly and that other components to the restrooms brought out the best in the floor. “We kept a very close eye on the installation of this tile as well as every element of this project,” she said. “The owner is very detailed and expected nothing less than perfection. Because of the beauty and uniqueness of the flooring, other elements were kept simpler to not distract from it. All of the vanities were custom designed and hand-made, the wood veneer wall-covering flitch was hand selected, as were the countertops.”
Aside from the many months of design planning, the construction for the restrooms took a total of three months. “The clients loved the final result,” said Bob Krashna, also of Ceramiche Tile & Stone, Inc. “They’re thinking about doing some of the other bathrooms in the building.”