While mosaics have been around for centuries, there have definitely been some changes in trends through the years. Traditionally, mosaics have been considered an element of classical designs. Intricately detailed patterns and motifs consisting of tiny pieces of stone and tile can still be found in many historic buildings, such as churches and museums, around the world. And although traditional mosaic pieces such as these are timeless and still widely used to liven up a floor or wall application, more contemporary mosaic applications have gained widespread popularity.
Nowadays, monochromatic or multiple shades of mosaic tiles are being used to clad entire walls or floor surfaces in residential spaces such as bathrooms and kitchens. Additionally, they are also being utilized more abundantly in commercial applications -- especially in the hospitality sector, where the public areas of hotels, restaurants and spas are becoming sleek and sultry.
The scope of mosaics has expanded to reflect these trends. Honed and polished stone pieces are still commonly used, but today's market is also seeking shiny and muted metallics and shimmering glass pieces. Whether used alone or in combination with other materials, the numerous mosaic collections now available fulfill all styles of design.
"Mosaics are timeless," said Anna Marie Fanelli of Floor & Décor in Tenafly, NJ. "There are so many different forms. I like to mix it up. I think that is the key to creative design."
Fanelli explained that she often accentuates a design with mosaics. "I use a lot of glass and metals," she said. "I feel that the industry is very contemporary. I like to use bigger formats like 18 x 18 inches on the floor and then use mosaics as an accent.
"Traditionally, mosaics have been left to bathrooms and foyers, but I have to say, it's not just for the indoors anymore," the designer went on to say. "The outdoors is becoming very stylish. They are perfect for freeze lines of pools or excellent to put on stair risers or in front of barbecues."
An Innovative ApproachAnd while Fanelli often favors a contemporary look with glass and metal, she also incorporates a great amount of natural stone into her designs. For the New York Spaces design showhouse in Weehawken, NJ, the designer thought outside the box by using stone mosaics in a unique way for one of the bathrooms. "I wanted to give it a twist," she said. "Everyone puts weaves on the floor. I wanted to be different, so I put them on the walls."
The basketweave pattern of mosaics is comprised of Ocean Green and Crema Marfil marble with a polished finish. The pattern was capped with a chair rail made of Green Olivine marble. The designer also explained that she made her own base by cutting 12- x 12-inch tiles of Green Olivine marble down to 6- x 12-inch formats.
According to Fanelli, the mosaic pattern added to the overall Old World feel of the home. "It was very Old World, with winding stairs," she said. "In the bathroom, there was a stained glass window that was the focus. I picked the colors to go with the stained glass. I thought that since the piece was so dynamic, the design should be around it. [Also], I liked that we kept the history of the house."
Overall, the basketweave pattern on the wall created texture and depth in the space. "It's an overall soothing feeling and timeless," said Fanelli.
Complementing the mosaics are 12- x 12-inch Crema Marfil marble floor tiles, which are wrapped by a border of 5/8-inch Ocean Green marble tiles. The floor is further enhanced by a grid of the mosaic pieces.
Reflecting TuscanyMosaics were also an essential component for bringing an Old World style to Villa Milagros, a "Build for the Cure® Home" that was designed to raise funds to help fight breast cancer by benefiting the Florida Suncoast Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation in Sarasota, FL. The mosaics played a large role in creating an environment reminiscent of Tuscany throughout the interior of the residence, which spans more than 10,000 square feet.
"This was a Race for the Cure Breast Cancer home that was set up to raise money for the cure," explained designer Nancy Cameron of Nancy Cameron Interiors, Inc. in Sarasota, FL, adding that the home was built to sell. "With the scope of the design, we wanted to stay in the character of the home and use natural products. It was important to keep the integrity of the home and of the project on one level."
In selecting the material for the interior design, Cameron worked with Brigid Hewes of Tile Market in Sarasota, the stone distributor for the project. The mosaics were manufactured by Mosaico Italiano of Pompano Beach, FL. "We didn't want any man-made tile," said the designer. "We felt that marble was in keeping with the style of the house."
While the majority of the foyer walls feature a Venetian plaster finish, a portion does include honed Calacatta Gold subway tile accented by an architectural inlay of harlequin-shaped mosaics. The same material was carried into the kitchen, where a matching backsplash of Calacatta Gold subway tiles is accented by an architectural inlay of diamond-shaped mosaics centered above a state-of-the-art gas stove.
"We were all inspired with what was happening in the design aspect," said Cameron. "We wanted to do something that was unique and different."
Calacatta Gold was also employed in the bar area. The marble was used in a 12- x 12-inch format for the backsplash -- forming a field for a decorative piece made of Calacatta Gold and Verde Luna basketweave mosaics.
Among the more luxurious focal points of the home is a bathroom with a gigantic walk-in, dome-shaped shower with walls consisting of clipped corners of 6- x 6-inch Rosso Verona marble tiles adorned with tiny Crema Marfil inserts. Further enhancing the shower design are a matching Crema Marfil mosaic patterns on the ceiling and floor.
"I prefer using stone over porcelain because I love the beauty of stone," said Cameron. "There is a quality of stone that you just can't duplicate -- every piece is different than the next. [Also], I like to use mosaics 'here and there' for a touch of elegance."
With this in mind, the designer created a fresh design in the guest bath by using large basketweave mosaics for the floor. The bathroom design also includes Giallo Reale subway wall tiles and polished pencil moldings.
"Selecting materials was an ongoing process," said Cameron. "We came up with the conceptual plans, of course, and initially did presentations. [Overall], it took about two weeks."
According to the designer, the $8.9 million house was built quickly. "They had a lot of people in at once to get the project moving," she said, adding that it took about 15 months to complete. "It was a spec house, and since the goal was to raise money for breast cancer awareness, a lot of the vendors donated a portion of their proceeds or time. When the house is sold, a percentage of the profits will go towards the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation."
As the mosaics producer, Mosaico Italiano was pleased to have been involved with the project. "We're excited to have our products be part of a house that will benefit such a worthy cause," said Matteo Valcavi, vice president of Mosaico Italiano. "They call it Villa Milagros, house of miracles. Hopefully, the contributions of all the manufacturers involved will help make those miracles come true."
Modern AppealMosaics also played a significant role in the master bath of a modern loft in Phoenix, AZ. The homeowner desired a fresh unique look to make the room, which measures a little more than 110 square feet, a one-of-a-kind design.
"It's a very modern loft with exposed duct work," said Libby Copeland, ASID, of Copeland Interiors, Inc. in Phoenix, AZ. "It was a remodel, and the bathroom itself was completely reconfigured. It's for a single man who wanted a wonderful master bath. It was very important to him. He wanted a big shower."
To create the contemporary, masculine bath design, the homeowner chose various-sized tiles from GranitiFiandre's GeoDesign technical porcelain collection -- including a waterjet-cut mosaic pattern. Ardesia Blue 24- x 12-inch tiles were employed for the wall. Mosaic "wave" tiles create an accent wall in the shower as well as by the vanity. Further adding detail to the shower design are 1- x 1-inch mosaic pieces that form the floor.
"I had used GranitiFiandre tiles before, and I like their properties, and the way they look," said Copeland. "I also think it is practical."
The designer explained that her client selected the decorative mosaics from a photograph in a catalog. "We wanted to do something to make the space interesting, and he saw the tile in a book and said, 'Let's do something like that.' We started with the shower wall. I thought that it was such a distinctive pattern that we should repeat it on the other side of the bathroom near the sink."
To further enhance the design, white grout was used in conjunction with the wavy mosaic pieces. "We used a different grout color to add contrast and make [the mosaic tile] stand out more," said Copeland. Meanwhile, a colored grout was chosen to match the larger tiles.
In addition to the mosaic tile, another highlight of the master bath are 12- x 12-inch GranitiFiandre Cobalt Blue Luminous Panels low-voltage LED light tiles. The lighted panels were used on a wall near the shower as well as for accent pieces on the floor in the entry hall of the loft.
"[My client] was very impressed with them," said the designer. "They lay like tile. They have the same thickness." Overall, he was very happy with the final design, according to Copeland.