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When designing the essential areas of a home, specifically kitchens and baths, designers and architects have been catering to the needs of those who occupy these spaces the most - the homeowners. And as trends continue to reflect lifestyle changes, kitchen and bathroom designs will reflect those styles, and stone and tile products remain the preferred materials to fulfill these latest requirements.
As for kitchens, the popularity of being a “weekend chef” has recently taken off, according to Shawn Graves of Interiors by Steven G in Pompano Beach, FL. “People are enjoying good food and wine at home and with friends,” he said. “Kitchen design is reflecting that. No longer is the kitchen detached and separated.”
To keep the kitchen part of the entire home, architects and designers will design the kitchen floor with stone and tile materials that can carry into other areas of the residence.
Graves has also seen backsplashes becoming a prevalent part of kitchen design. “Backsplashes are key features in showing texture or slick surfaces that accent the overall design,” he explained.
Moving into bathroom designs, Graves is discovering that porcelain tile - which he considers to be a clean application material - has grown in popularity. In addition, floor-to-ceiling wall tile is becoming the norm. “This creates a very modern, European look,” he said. “Clean applications are being used because the material now comes in so many great unusual sizes and mosaic sheets. Minimal design is moving to the forefront here, mostly because of the Zen-spa thought process.”
A Zen-like retreat
Recently, Graves had the opportunity to create a Zen-like design for a private residence in Miami, FL, which included several bathrooms and a large contemporary kitchen. The space was created with the intention of making a comfortable living space using natural materials that would reflect the owner’s lifestyle.
Graves remained true to that concept beginning in the master bathroom, which features 18- x 18-inch taupe, clay-colored shell stone floor tile. “This shows fossilized shells, and when you cut it, you get cross sections of sea animals,” he said, adding that the material was supplied by Keys Granite, Inc. of Miami, FL.
From floor to ceiling, every wall of this bathroom that has plumbing is clad in 1- x 2-inch hand-cut glass mosaic tile - manufactured by Oceanside Glasstile of Carlsbad, CA, and supplied by Innovative Surfaces - that went through a “favrille” application. “This is a French technique used in Tiffany glass to give it that opulent effect,” explained Graves. “It changes colors during the day, according to the light.”
A further feature of the shower is its limestone floor, comprised of 12- x 12-inch tiles, which are each grooved. This was done since the shower is an open application, according to Graves. “Instead of having a glass box, it’s an open shower room,” he said. “The floor very slightly slopes into the drain, and since each stone piece is grooved, that helps with all of the water drainage.”
Keeping the Zen-like atmosphere in mind, the kitchen also was given a clean, chic look. “Every room relates to the next,” said Graves. “You don’t feel like you’re in a complete different setting when you turn the corner.”
For the countertops, the design team selected a Smoky quartz, which was supplied by CaesarStone US of Van Nuys, CA, through Reyes Marble of Miami, FL. “We chose quartz for its function, resilience and consistency,” said Graves. “The seams are almost non-existent.”
Complementing the quartz countertops, Graves took a different approach for the kitchen backsplash. “We really brought in the unexpected,” he said. “For the backsplash, we hand set, piece by piece, iridescent tile that looks like a basketweave. Each 6- x 1-inch piece is laid piece by piece, like brick.”
Drawings for the project began in November 2006, and construction was complete in February 2008. “The client was, and is, one of our most special clients,” said Graves. “They have complete 100% faith in us. They really let us come up with a concept. As for selection and color, they were questioning on the direction because when laying the material on a table, it really didn’t come off as polished, crisp and modern. At the end of the install, they were shaking our hands. Here we are in Miami, on the ocean, doing very earthy colors - nothing vibrant. It was a stretch, but it really worked.”
A variety of different stone and tile products were also used to complete several rooms - including a kitchen and two bathrooms - for a private residence in Houston, TX. Much thought went into the material selection in each of these areas, according to Laura Michaelides of Four Square Design Studio in Houston, TX, which served as the designer for this project.
“We looked for a long time at lots of different materials, and we purchased from a number of different resources,” she said. “The materials that were selected help to express the clean modern aesthetics of the house.”
On the first floor, the kitchen is the most important area where natural stone and tile is used, according to Michaelides. To add some variety and create contrast, two different types of stone were chosen for the countertops. While the main countertops are made from a Premium Black honed granite, 1¼-inch-thick Calacatta marble is used for the island counter and the backsplash. Both materials were supplied by Walker Zanger’s Houston, TX, location.
For the kitchen floors, the designer went with 24- x 24-inch Black Ash slate tiles from Thorntree International of Houston, TX. “This continues into the hallways and dining areas to give a continuous feel,” she said.
In the pool bathroom, which is also on the first floor, stone and tile make up what Michaelides describes as a “colorful space.” The bathroom floor consists of 12- x 12-inch Buchtal tiles from Knoxtile of Dallas, TX.
For the shower in the pool bathroom, the designer took that a step further. “We used a fairly complicated scheme in this space,” she explained. An accent wall - featuring “Spa Fountain” blend, which is a 1- x 1-inch glass tile mixture from Walker Zanger - is the main focus inside the shower. The remaining shower walls are clad in 6- x 6-inch Royal Mosa tile from Knoxtile, while 2- x 2-inch white porcelain tiles from Daltile, make up the shower floor.
In total, the house measures 7,600 square feet. The house was designed by architect Mark Oberholzer, AIA, with all interiors done by Michaelides. “We did the whole house from the ground up,” said the designer. “It began as an addition, but the original house ended up being torn down, and we ended up designing an entirely new house.”
Revamping with slate
The main objective in renovating a bathroom for a private residence in Kingston, PA, was to fit the needs of the client’s current lifestyle. “[The client] has a love for gadgets and natural materials,” said Carl J. Handman, AIA, of Eyerman.Csala.Hapeman & Handman Architects in Wilkes-Barre, PA, who served as the architect for the project. The stone of choice throughout the bathroom is an Unfading Green slate from Vermont, while a glass mosaic tile was selected to complement the slate’s coloring.
Although the bathroom resides in a 1925 residence, and historic preservation happens to be part of Handman’s practice, the architect explained that this was not the case for the project. “[The bathroom] had been not kindly treated by the various previous owners,” he said. “There really wasn’t much historic material to work with.”
When it came time to the material selection for the renovation, Handman explained that he has a preference for slate materials, and that the client also wanted to use natural products. “After having shown the client different samples, he was drawn to the Vermont green slate.
“There were no other stone materials considered other than slate,” he continued. “The owner liked the natural cleft finish for the tiles.”
Vermont Unfading Green slate in a natural cleft finish - supplied by Sheldon Slate Products of Middle Granville, NY - was employed for the bathroom floor and wainscot of the walls. “The floor is set in a 6- x 6-inch diamond pattern,” said Handman. “The walls are a wainscot of the same slate going up 4 feet with a custom-made bullnose.”
Glass tile from Porcelanosa is also incorporated into the design. “Once we had selected the slate, the interior designer wanted to introduce a contrast by using glass tile which picks up the greenish-grayish highlights,” said the architect.
A 6-inch wide accent stripe made of 1- x 1-inch glass tile moves across the walls of the bathroom. Additionally, it serves as the back surface for “cubby holes” in the shower to create a place for accruements, according to Handman. “This gives an illusion of depth since it’s only a 97-square-foot renovation,” he explained, adding that the opposite wall is mirrored to expand the space visually. “It really doubles the size.”
According to Handman, the biggest challenge came in minimizing disturbance to the house. “The tile had previously been mudset, so we had to replace it,” he said. “Getting everything to work properly was a challenge, but we had an excellent tile setter. It was a real pleasure to have him on the job. He used a leveling compound and an anti-fracture membrane mat to make sure we had no cracking going through.”
Handman explained that the owner is very pleased with the finished project. “He loves his gadgets with the natural materials featured throughout,” he said.