In landscape design, “hardscape” elements consist of patios, walkways, pool decks, stone walls, and fire pit features. In Interior Design, our “hardscaping” comes in the form of architectural features, but also in the design elements created from tile and stone. Often it is these hard, textural and visually rich materials that make an entire room really “pop”! Often, in the same way a piece of artwork can become the focal point and the foundation for the color palette of a room, the dynamic use of tile and stone can be a great way to create a dramatic statement in a space.
The image above shows the whole, integrated palette for a kitchen renovation. The light grey cabinetry is offset by a beautiful gray/green soapstone (for the countertops) and the cream, black and ochre tile became the gorgeous visual “wow” factor as the backsplash material.
Of course, the use of a decorative floor tile can be all a room needs to transform it from ordinary to amazing! In the image below, this small mudroom area was given great definition with this eye-catching black and white tile– providing just enough contrast and visual interest to spice up the white walls and (otherwise) simple details.
In the interior design world, we are trending back into using dramatic, luscious color again. After years of the popular grey and white world of interior spaces, we are seeing a resurgence of brilliant, bold, sumptuous color! And, don’t we all need it after over a year of the intense psychological challenges of a global pandemic and environmental and political unrest? So, I am personally delighted to see a departure from a rather plain, almost monochromatic way of detailing space to a world of uplifting color!
This recent bathroom renovation was simply done–with only a few different material choices. The deep, emerald green subway tile, however, does everything it needs to do in creating a dramatic backdrop of color that pulls you right in, and provides a wonderful contrast against the dark brown wooden bench and lighter brown wood flooring.
I also love using tile combinations in a single color. This monochromatic approach can look incredible, but the trick is to use both different sizes and different textures of tile to create the necessary visual “punch.”
In my client’s home, we transformed a tired, dated bathroom into a luxurious, spa-like bath, by using a predominantly single color palette of a beautiful silver taupe porcelain. This silver travertine look was repeated in all the materials, but the overall effect became very dynamic with the use of tiles of multiple different shapes and proportions. The top third of the shower is a hexagon mosaic, below which we installed large brick shaped tiles. The flooring, also in the same material, is a square, basket-weave type pattern. Despite all being the same material, tiles used in this way create interior elements that are serene, sophisticated, yet still visually appealing and interesting. We added a little extra visual “eye candy” by using a ceramic floor tile with a beautiful design in white, black and taupe.
One of my all time favorite uses of unusual tile is the undulating, wave patterned stone wall I created in my client’s basement space. The basement renovation was extensive, as we were building and detailing what was originally a raw, completely unfinished basement space. Every detail and material was meticulously chosen for maximum effect.
As the project was progressing, my clients weren’t happy with the idea that people would be immediately confronted by a plain wall, as they came down the stairs to enter the basement. Design Dilemma!! We embarked on a hunt for something fabulous that could easily be incorporated into the existing structure and space. We found it in the form of this dynamic, fluid, dramatic wall tile (made up of 2’ x 2’ limestone tiles, all pieced together to form this ocean-like impression!) Now, everyone LOVES entering this ground floor space!
In this same fabulous basement, another unique tile choice was selected to cover the wall of the kitchenette space, located along the bumped out, angled section of the foundation. This linear glass tile, sourced from Italy, creates a luminosity and cool texture that adds just the right amount of glamour and gorgeous color to the back bar of the bar area. Wouldn’t you like to hang out here?
Tile and stone can be used wonderfully to evoke a sense of place or evoke a certain mood, as well. In the bathroom below, we created the new bathroom space based on a “zen” relaxation room concept. Natural elements were essential to reinforce this idea, and create the feeling of a serene, outdoor inspired space.
Here, a pebble type mosaic was installed around the perimeter of the lovely oval bathtub, so that the bather both feels and sees the lovely texture of the stones when coming in and out of the tub. For visual continuity, this same pebbled mosaic was used for the shower floor as well. Although this bathroom was created several years ago, it still stands the test of time, and looks and feels just as fresh and lovely today as it did when it was first completed.
In the images of the new kitchen and dining space below, I used two different mosaic tiles to offset and highlight the two different areas of the kitchen. In the hutch image (below) the backsplash tile is a stunning pattern of interlocking and overlapping circular shapes, created with a combination of grey, white, and black marble. This tile gives the new cabinet presence and added visual drama, while also “announcing” that it is set apart from the rest of the “working” kitchen space.
In the other part of the kitchen, the perimeter cabinetry is highlighted by the use of a dazzling white thassos tile with glass and mother-of-pearl detail. The abstracted floral pattern of the tile also adds to the overall light and glamorous feel of the kitchen.
I also love using tile and stone to create dramatic focal points. In the image below, a curvy, swirl shaped mosaic (a combination of stone, ceramic, and glass tile) creates a stunning “waterfall” effect in this master bath shower. The soft beige of the subway tile creates a nice, quiet counterpoint to the waterfall effect. Dramatic and fun!
In this more traditionally styled marble bathroom, a basketweave mosaic has been used to create an eye-catching “feature” for the back wall of the shower. The classic carrara marble used throughout is elegant and clean, with the handsome design of the basket weave patterned tile acting as the visual focal point in the rear wall of the shower.
Both the varieties and ways tile and stone can be used to create vastly different (stylistic) looks and impressions can be seen in the many different images we have seen.
In my client’s home in Hingham, an incredible, rare stone slab from Brazil was used for the kitchen countertops and island countertop. This gorgeous natural stone makes an incredible statement in color and form. Looking like an abstract painting, swirls of moss green, slate blue, cream, grey and copper all come together to form a fascinating canvas. In this kitchen, you literally cannot take your eyes off it!
In great contrast to the color in the kitchen above, we have a much more graphic, more limited (black, white, brown) palette in the kitchen shown below. With the recent trend of (primarily) white and grey kitchens, I love using tile to create high contrast, depth and visual richness. In my client’s new kitchen, a hand painted tile was used throughout the entire kitchen backsplash area. The result, I think you would agree, is just fantastic–the black and white of the tile ties into the white cabinetry beautifully, while adding necessary contrast. The soft ochre color in the painted tile pattern resonates and leads the eye back into the soft golden browns of the floor and wood countertop of the island. Balanced, and visually delightful!
Whether you enjoy a more subtle, limited color combination in your home design, or love incorporating lots of color, the use of stone and tile is a fantastic way to enrich and create visual texture and interest. As we saw in the use of the large, wave shaped pavers, the incorporation of tile and stone doesn’t have to be limited to kitchen countertops and backsplashes and bathrooms. Discover what is out there, explore different materials, and don’t be afraid to use them boldly and creatively!