While mosaics have remained a popular choice in design for generations, the product lines themselves have evolved tremendously in recent years. Using tiny pieces of stone and tile to create intricately detailed patterns and motifs, advances in technology have stepped up the level of sophistication in mosaic design. Not only are the designs capable of being more elaborate, but the range of materials used to make mosaic tiles has increased as well.

Today, mosaic pieces not only come in stone and basic colors of ceramic tile, but in a glass, metal and customized shades of ceramic and porcelain. Further adding to the options are numerous finishes, including polished, honed, tumbled and sandblasted.

These newer mediums are allowing for mosaics to be used in more contemporary settings as well as the traditional or Old World style design. Examples include the shimmering effect of monochromatic 1- x 1-inch glass mosaic tiles in a bathroom, or the sleek look of metal tiles in silver, bronze or copper for a kitchen backsplash. Each of these designs provides a chic upscale look in a residence.

And for those who still prefer the classic look of mosaics for murals and other patterns, computer-generated programs are allowing for more complicated designs. No longer are designers limited to pre-made patterns picked from a catalog. They are taking their inspirations from nature, art and books, and custom designs are now possible for a broader scope of clients.

In this issue's article on mosaic design (page 40), one artist took her inspiration from the rain forest, creating a three-dimensional learning center for children at the Shelby County Public Library in Memphis, TN. In addition to creating mosaic borders, the design also features sculptures and other three-dimensional objects such as benches that are clad in colorful mosaic tile. The artist utilized technology that allowed her to choose 52 customized colors of ceramic tile for the design - ensuring that the colors were as realistic to a real rain forest as possible.

This project was just one example of the marriage between design creativity and modern technology - ultimately resulting in a one-of-a-kind space. These inspirations can be found in all design applications - whether they are commercial or residential.

Jennifer Adams