Informal and functional appear to be two primary components in kitchen design today, and homeowners are also searching for a relaxing, simplistic space for their baths. Many consumers are straying away from sophisticated designs and are leaning towards more minimal looks - but overall, still inspiring. During this economically challenging time, many homeowners are also reaching for a sense of comfort - traditionally using safer paint colors and material choices - while also insisting on eco-friendly products throughout their kitchens.
Mark Lind, Senior Project Designer of CG&S Design-Build in Austin, TX, has discovered that many people are deciding to open up their kitchens to the rest of the house - integrating it with the dining area and family room in a large overlapping and interconnected series of spaces. “I believe that people these days generally want their kitchens to be more informal and functional - yet, of course, still impressive,” said the designer. “The kitchen has to support a range of functions beyond merely cooking and prepping foods.”
Because it is critical to a well-designed kitchen, the designer said that his clients are currently investing more on a high-quality lighting scheme, including the location and color of individual lighting components. Excellent illumination is also just as important in a master bath as it is in the kitchen. “In addition to general down-lighting at the vanity, it is important to have high-quality lighting on people’s faces, so we like to use lights on either side of the mirror instead of only one centered above it,” said Lind. “It helps achieve that ‘spa-like’ atmosphere that people are looking for.”
Another observation that the designer has made in bath design is that tile selection is an extremely important part of the process. “Homeowners want their master baths to have an emphasis upon simplicity, openness and light, and materiality - along with an accent element, which is usually natural stone that combines well with one or two types of tile,” he said. “There are a lot of options to choose from. I think people need a soothing, relaxing space that they can retreat to. Many of my clients are very interested in having their master bath emulate the commercial spas they have visited.”
Lind went on to explain that few other materials offer the dual characteristics of durability and design flexibility than stone and tile. Recently, the designer chose to incorporate these materials in the kitchen and baths of a private residence in Austin, TX. The stone and tile products created timeless and expressive designs in these main areas of the home, explained the designer.
“The overall design goal for this project was to preserve the concrete house’s unique characteristics, while adding to them with any new design or addition to the original home,” said Lind. With that, the client’s collection of mid-century modern furniture, lamps, art and furnishings gave the designer a clear direction for his work.
In designing the master bath, Lind proposed a unique idea. He felt that the best way to incorporate a large master bath was by adding one on the side of the home, adjacent to the master bedroom, and made of entirely glass. “The owners immediately liked the idea of contrasting the existing mass of the concrete house with the transparency of glass,” said Lind. “So the master bath addition became a room with three sides of glass block with additional daylight on all four sides, from clerestory windows raised above the existing roofline.”
For the floor of the master bath, 12- x 24-inch tiles from Daltile’s City View collection were selected in the shade “Harbour Mist.” The neutral floor tile is punctuated by 1- x 4-inch vibrant green tiles that run vertically at the vanity wall right below the countertop, supplied by Walker Zanger of Sylmar, CA. The countertop itself is made of concrete and recycled glass by Venice Art Terrazzo Co. of San Antonio, TX.
In the shower, a mosaic floor of 1-x 1-inch Pietra Jurassic stone pieces - manufactured by Coem and supplied by Schroeder Carpet & Drapery of Austin, TX - is complemented by 12-x 12-inch wall tiles from Daltile’s City View collection. The area is given further life through a feature wall that uses the same combination of materials found at the vanity - vertical 1- x 4-inch green tiles separated by a rail of concrete/recycled glass.
“The Pietra Jurassic mosaic stone tile was selected for its color - a blend which perfectly complements the Harbour Mist tiles that were used for the walls and floor,” said the designer.
The kitchen of the Texas home features a combination of materials, which adds to the overall flare of the residential design. Both the buffet and perimeter countertops are made of “Pebble” quartz - manufactured by CaesarStone and supplied by Boyd Tile & Stone. An elliptical-shaped center island - custom-made from concrete and recycled glass by Venice Art Terrazzo Co. - creates a focal point in the space.
In terms of tile selection, further contributing to the overall design is a backsplash featuring 3-x 9-inch gunmetal-colored handmade ceramic tile, which has a raised oblong pattern in the middle. The custom tile was supplied by Heath Ceramics of Los Angeles, CA.
For the guest bath, Lind opted for a different approach. The vanity top is fabricated from Mexican travertine, which was supplied by Boyd Tile & Stone, and accented by a backsplash and “pony” wall behind the toilet made of 1-x 1-inch Brownstone Ridge tile. “We used travertine in the guest bath as the stone top for the vanity primarily for the color,” said Lind. “It works well with both the tiles we had selected and the dark walnut wood of the cabinetry.”
According to Lind, the client was integrally involved in the selection process from the beginning. “Once the key materials had been selected, I recommended the other tiles as well as the paint colors as a package that worked well together and complemented each other,” he said.
The most challenging aspect of this approximate 4,000-square-foot residence was getting the handmade Heath tiles for the kitchen’s backsplash to course out evenly with the existing windows and new cabinets, the designer explained. “We achieved this by literally drawing the tile grid on the wall,” he said. “I think we did this twice, in fact, otherwise we would have had to cut some of these tiles at the inside corner, which really did not work well with the kind of raised pattern in the center of each tile. This process was also complicated by the fact that as handmade tiles, each tile was slightly irregular.”
The project took about 14 months to complete, and according to the designer, the end result of the project has been very well received. “We are hoping to have the house on this year’s ‘Cool House Tour,’ so that it will be open to the public,” said Lind. “In addition to its unusual design features, the house also achieved a Five Star rating with Austin’s Green Building program.”
Experiencing the space
The versatility and aesthetic that both stone and tile can offer for kitchen and bath spaces is what attracts Principal Designer/Owner Mark Hermogeno of Hermogeno Designs in San Francisco, CA, to use these materials in many of his residential designs.
Hermogeno selected a variety of stone and tile products for the recent renovation of a 1,400-square-foot, two-story townhouse in Los Angeles, CA. The materials helped to achieve the objective of creating a contemporary, comfortable, stylish and flexible home for his active 77-year-old client.
“After 20 years living in the same apartment-like condominium, this retired engineer decided to purchase a new home for himself,” explained the designer. “The day after he closed escrow, I took his keys and told him he’d have his ideal home in less than two-and-a-half to three months. We named the project ‘The Polished, Contemporary Bachelor Pad’ in honor of our client who still dates.”
The color scheme of the renovation was decided to be blue, gray, beige and brown, which was uniquely based on the client’s wardrobe. In addition, the client’s age was a major factor in many of the design and functional aspects of the home’s overall design and layout.
According to Hermogeno, natural stone and tile were employed throughout the design of both the kitchen and baths, including the floors, countertops and shower walls, to name a few. All of the tile material was supplied by Foothill Tile & Stone, of Pasadena, CA, and Stone Master Granite and Stone, of Lake Balboa, CA, served as the countertop supplier and fabricator.
In the kitchen, the floor is comprised of 18- x 18-inch porcelain tile from the Color Blox series by Crossville Tile of Crossville, TN, in the shade of “Slinky.” Hermogeno explained that this tile was chosen for its neutral color and subtle shade variations. Moreover, Crossville Tile’s ½-inch x 2-inch mosaics from the Glass Blox Blend collection - in Blue Hazel/Ocean Air/North Sea - were used for the backsplash to add an accent to the space. “It was chosen for its colors, its reflective surface, and for its contrast to the other [kitchen] materials, such as the countertops,” said Hermogeno.
Further contributing to the overall kitchen design is the countertop, which is made from CaesarStone quartz surfacing in “Dusty Stone.” “This was chosen for its durability as well as for its concrete, but stone look and feel,” said the designer. “We wanted to steer away from granite for this project, and I had thought about using concrete countertops. However, quartz was a great material alternative.”
As for the master bathroom, the floor was tiled with Crossville Tile’s 18- x 18-inch porcelain from the Color Blox collection in “Mud Pie” because the homeowner enjoyed both the color and durability of the tile. The same material was employed for the shower floor, but in 4- x 4-inch format. The 18- x 18-inch shower wall tile is also from Crossville Tile’s Color Blox collection, but in “Tabby Cat Striped.”
A further feeling of elegance is added to the master bathroom with custom fabricated Nova Blue limestone that was used for the countertops, shower threshold and the shower seat top in a triangular 28- x 24- x 24-inch piece. “We chose this limestone for its subtle, masculine and contemporary tone-on-tone look,” said Hermogeno. “With a honed finish, it blended well with the tile finishes that were all unpolished.”
An assortment of tile and stone was selected for the palette of the guest bathroom. “This was a bathroom that would hardly be used, and mostly by visitors, so we wanted to use more playful and visually exciting features,” explained Hermogeno.
“[The tile] was chosen for the updated idea of ‘subway’ tiles,” said Hermogeno. “It was a different departure from the traditional idea of a subway tile - especially with the sizes used and the layout of the design.”
To complete the look of the guest bath, the vanity top - measuring 48 x 24 inches - was custom fabricated in Grigio Imperiale marble.
During the project, the homeowner viewed the overall colors and most of the tiles, but ultimately, he let Hermogeno and his design team make all of the final detail decisions. According to the designer, the most challenging aspect of this project was that this was his company’s first major remodel/design project in a different city. “Because of the timing involved, we wanted to work with a general contractor from Los Angeles, who was familiar with codes and hopefully had good resources for everything that we needed,” explained the designer. “So we put a lot of trust in referrals we received by the general contracting company and representatives from vendors we chose. We were working with new sources and installers that we had never worked with before, so we would check on the installation at least once if not twice a day on the days they were scheduled.”
Construction on the renovation began in early August of 2010, and was completed by November 1. “Everyone that has seen the finished project - whether in person or in photos - has given us great positive feedback,” said Hermogeno. “The most important person was the client, whom even before we finished, had already started talking about having guests over to his new home - even inviting us to a Thanksgiving party where he would show his new place off. I always love it when a client invites us back to their home and experience the space in the way they do.”
Hermogeno also recently used an extensive amount of tile and stone for the kitchen and baths of a private residence in Hayward, CA, to express the diverse tastes of each family member. “The overall design concept was to create a contemporary home for a family of four, with two teenagers - all with different aesthetics,” said the designer. “The mother loves stainless steel and contemporary design, the father likes traditional designs, the son loves modern and urban design, and the sister is - for lack of a better term - a ‘girly girl’ that likes pink and lavender. I had to find ways to bring all the personalities together under one roof with the final product that is family and entertaining friendly, functional and aesthetically pleasing to everyone. To add in yet another element, the family’s Asian/Indian heritage influenced the selection of colors for many of the areas. The inspiration came from spices that the matriarch of the family used on a regular basis.”
For the kitchen of the 3,400-square-foot residence, 18- x 18-inch travertine tiles cover the floor in a diagonal pattern, accented by 4-x 4-inch fossil stone pieces. The neutral-colored floor tiles are complemented by a countertop and full-height backsplash made of Verde Butterfly granite with an ogee edge that was supplied by Pietra Fina of Hayward, CA. “By the request of the clients, they knew for sure they wanted granite for all countertops because of its durability,” said Hermogeno. “Specific stones were basically chosen for their color and aesthetics when combined with cabinets and other finishes.”
The kitchen’s large center island - also made from Verde Butterfly granite - provides ample seating for the family to comfortably gather within the space.
The powder room sports a more contemporary look, with a mix of vibrant blue glass mosaics for the floor and wainscoting. The 1-x 2-inch tri-color mosaic glass was supplied by Artistic Tile. “The overall design for the powder room was based on water, but was interpreted in a modern way,” said the designer. “The tile was chosen for its modern look and its ‘watery’ color scheme.”
According to Hermogeno, his clients - especially the wife - were involved in the selection process for the kitchen and bath. “We took her to different stone yards, tile showrooms and stores to pick out countertops and tiles,” he said.
Spending an abundance of time on site supervising the installation, Hermogeno said that the most challenging aspect of the project was that the owner of the home decided to be his own general contractor. “Sometimes working with installers and fabricators that a client hires creates problems, as I may have one idea and the client another,” Hermogeno said. “But in this case, the client put me in charge of managing the project and overseeing all aspects. So by gaining the client’s trust, and having the control over the implementation process, we experienced an extremely smooth process of installing tile floors and stone countertops.”
And the final result of the project received nothing but positive reactions, according to Hermogeno. “On the day of the ‘big reveal,’ the matriarch of the family began to cry as she entered the new home,” he said. “She literally had to sit down and was so grateful for the work. The powder room received Second Place in the “Wonderful Walls” category of the Envision Design Competition sponsored by Window Fashions Vision Magazine and Hunter Douglas.”
The unparalleled range of textures and colors that can be combined endlessly is the reason Shari Markbreiter of MH Studio in New York, NY, uses stone and tile for many of her interior designs, including a 360-square-foot space in a designer show house that was recently on display in Manhattan. The overall design goal for this project was to show the elegance, sophistication and full function of a designer in a small space, according to Markbreiter.
In the kitchen of the show house, the designer chose slabs of Black Canyon Silestone with a thickness of 3 cm, which was supplied by Cosentino USA. “We chose Silestone because of its color and finish,” said Markbreiter. “It also greatly complemented the custom-designed mahogany cabinets.”
Silverthorn honed limestone multi-plank from Thorntree Slate and Marble of Houston, TX, and supplied by Simon’s Hardware and Bath of Manhattan, NY, was used for the walls, floor and shower enclosure in the show house’s bathroom. According to Markbreiter, this type of limestone was chosen for its wonderful mix of lengths and widths of the planks.
In considering many types of materials before making a final decision, Markbreiter notes that nothing can be more difficult than when the designer is her own client. “I considered many options from numerous suppliers,” said Markbreiter. “As a firm, we are focusing more and more on environmentally friendly products, so Silestone was a natural choice. In addition, our clients count on us for keeping up with the newest offerings in the luxury market.”
Aside from being her own client, the designer explained that the most challenging aspect of this project in regards to the stone and tile applications was timing and inventory. “We had less than seven weeks to design, specify, order and install,” she said. “All of the vendors and tradesmen worked incredibly efficiently and at top speed. It was impressive.”
From start to finish, this project was completed in less than seven weeks, and has been very well received. “The reaction to this project has been incredibly positive,” said Markbreiter. The showroom has been photographed for Traditional Home Magazine, as well as been featured in several design blogs and on-camera interviews.