Although times remain tough and it seems like everyone is still “pinching pennies,” there are some people out there who are spending money. While they might not be making extravagant purchases or splurging on luxurious vacations, they are choosing to spend their earnings wisely by investing in their homes. Taking the time now to renovate a bathroom or replace outdated kitchen countertops for ones made of granite or quartz will only add value to a residence and pay off in the long run.

As the editor of Contemporary Stone & Tile Design, I am often contacted by architects, designers and even stone suppliers who are eager to share their latest projects with me. This is one of the favorite aspects of my job. I find it exciting to observe the newest trends in stone and tile design, and it is always interesting to learn the reasoning behind the designs. And then of course, I want to share these projects with our readers to inspire more fresh ideas.

And while I might not be hearing about as many new projects as I did a year ago, I do still hear of some, which is why I believe there are homeowners out there still investing in their living spaces - some even purchasing new homes. A few of these projects are spotlighted in this issue, which includes a feature on the use of stone and tile in residential design (page 16) as well as a feature on mosaics (page 28). While each living space featured in the articles has its own flare, they do share one common denominator - the extensive use of stone and/or tile throughout each design. These innovative designs are utilizing a variety of textures, finishes and formats, and they are also placing an emphasis on green building.

Another point of interest and demonstration of creativity in this issue is the recently built luxury hotel on the Marqués de Riscal “City of Wine” complex, which was designed by renowned architect Frank O. Gehry (page 40). The estate, which is just over 150 years old, sits in the heart of Spain’s Rioja Alavesa region in the medieval village of Elciego. To respect the historic area while still creating a fresh inspiring design, Gehry relied on a mix of traditional and modern materials to achieve the right balance. The architect combined a local sandstone, Beige Pinar (Pinewood Beige), with an extensive amount of titanium to develop a contemporary exterior facade that also complements the existing historic architecture.

So even though we are still feeling the effects of a recession, it is reassuring to see that new designs haven’t ceased all together. And as long as I keep hearing about new projects that have been completed, I will continue to feature them in Contemporary Stone & Tile Design to inspire and encourage other new developments in design.

And while I am on the subject of innovative designs, I’d like bring attention to the numerous design competitions that are held each year to recognize excellence in design and architecture. The last few years, I have felt honored to have been asked by the organizers of the Coverings trade event to be a judge for their Prism and Spectrum Award Competition, which honors excellence in stone architecture and tile design, respectively. This past year was particularly interesting, as the number of entries had increased tremendously. It definitely set the standards higher and made the decision of choosing a winner extremely difficult. All those entries put in to perspective just how many creative uses of stone and tile are out there.

The architecture and design community should take advantage of these competitions and submit their work. In addition to the Prism and Spectrum Awards, which are held annually, both Tile of Spain and Ceramic Tiles of Italy sponsor design competitions to recognize the use of Spanish and Italian tile in design. More information on the “Call for Entries” for both of these competitions can be found on page 10 of this issue.

Architects and designers dedicate a tremendous about of time to the creation and execution of their designs. I think design competitions such as the ones that I have detailed are an excellent way to honor their hard work. Everyone likes a little recognition from time to time, so why not take a few minutes to submit an entry? There’s nothing to lose - only to gain.