Monday, January 25, 2016

Tile Terms: What You Need To Know

Interior design is chock full of related specialties and sub-sets of specialties with their own world of nomenclature. Tilers are no exception and if you have ever talked to a tiler, you may have heard some unfamiliar words or terms.

When you pick a tile to go on a shower wall or kitchen floor for instance, the work is not over!

Before any tile ever goes down, a tiler must think about the area and what will be done there. Every application needs some sort of surface or substrate under the tile. This is called a sub-floor and in fact is not only used for tile but for any floor at all. Hard wood, laminate, and carpet all need to go on top of a sub-floor which is often made of plywood.

But special attention needs to be paid to wet areas like showers and tubs which need to protect against moisture and possible mold from the water that will be on and around the tile. This is usually in the form of what is often called backer board, a material that looks like sheet rock but is actually made from cement. Brand names include HardieBacker and DuRock by USG.

In showers, the next layer is often a waterproof membrane to further protect against moisture. A bed of mortar needs to be laid before any tile can be applied. This mortar is also called thinset and goes on top of either the waterproof membrane or onto the cement board. This is the glue that holds the tiles in place.

Now tile is ready to go down and another consideration at this point is how far apart the tiles can or should be. The space between the tiles is what will be the grout line. I personally like the smallest possible grout line--the point after all is the tile, not the grout!--so that means spacing the tiles as close as they can get. Tile spacers come in different shapes and sizes which allow for different grout lines. The most common tile spacer looks like a little plastic plus sign.

Here is a tile installation in a shower, showing spacers at the corners of the tiles, keeping them equidistant.

Part of the tile selection and plan should have been whether or not the edges of your tiled surfaces will have a rounded edge tile, called a bull nose tile, or if it will have some other kind of decorative edge detail.

Many tiles come in an edge style as well. This allows a nice finished look instead of seeing the ragged edge of a tile. You can see below how the rounded detail accomplishes this.

Bullnose tiles are quite traditional so if you are looking for something sleeker and more contemporary, you can use a Schluter edge which is a long strip of plastic or metal that sits partially beneath the tiles along the edge. The detail that is seen can be a color, or it can be a finish such as brushed nickel, oil-rubbed bronze, or even copper.

Here is an image of a Schluter strip being installed in a bathroom I recently completed for a client. This chrome edge caps off not only the filed tile in the shower but the decorative band that runs across the walls. It is a very convenient and clean way to finish off different kinds of materials at once.

We used this chrome edge not only in the shower but as a way to cap the same mosaic decorative band we used as a back splash at the sink. The entire project can be seen here in a previous post.

Once all the tile is set and the mortar has dried (it's usually best to wait at least 24 hours), the grouting process begins. This involves troweling on a paste that gets in between the tiles, sealing off the thinset and any access to the sub-materials that could cause mold or mildew. Grout comes in many different colors and can be coordinated with the tile so it does not stand out, or it can be used as a contrast. Choose carefully as this can be a make-or-break element.

Grout color can blend with the tile colors, giving a soothing appearance, like this luxury bathroom I designed for a client (previously here)...

...or it can make a tile choice stand out like this dramatic black grout on a traditional white subway tile.

I hope this helped to demystify tile, tiling, and tiling terms.

Happy designing!

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Essential Drink Table

A side table, an accent table, an occasional table, a drink table...this little workhorse is known by many names. But whatever it is called, it serves not only an aesthetic purpose but a practical one as well. They're often found in spaces where a full sized end table would be too much.

Such a smaller drink table can balance a seating area. It can be that exact, perfect little thing needed in a blank corner by a chair. And it can be a useful place to set down a drink, a cup of tea, a book...

Look at the little black drink table next to the golden chair in the home of Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent. Unobtrusive, yet it fills in a space, adding some visual interest while being useful.

And here are a pair of silver beauties--one is next to the Eames La Chaise lounge chair at rear left, and between the two chairs in the left foreground.

This purple ceramic table is a nice shape and illustrates how such a small addition to a room can bring another layer of color and texture. The sheen looks nice against the matte and organic materials in the space which offers a nice design counterpoint.

Spot the drink tables in the photo below.

A bit of shine brings life and glamour to a room.

Furniture designer Katy Skelton's One Drink Table is a perfect example of the versatility of a side or drink table. Her table has a 7" top, perfect for a single drink and glasses, or for a vase of blossoms to liven up a corner.

This is the stunning Roen side table by designer Craig Van Den Brulle. It is available in a high-polish bronze or high-polish aluminum.

Interlude makes this sweet little Argo drink table with a petrified wood top on a polished steel base. Because of the nature of the natural material, each one is fascinatingly different.

Tom Filicia designed the handsome Solvay table of balanced circles for Vanguard. It's available in a variety of finishes.

And this gorgeous specimen of marble and iron is the Celeste accent table from Arteriors. It looks like it could be right at home at the historic Glass House designed by architect Philip Johnson!

Now that I've drawn your attention to the ubiquitous drink table, you will probably see them popping up everywhere!
Happy designing!

Monday, January 11, 2016

A Cushion Is A Cushion Is A Cushion

Right? Well, not really. As usual, in interior design, there are so many terms and styles for things that seem like they should be simple. Take the humble cushion. If you've ever noticed the construction of a cushion you might have seen the following shapes.

The most common cushion or pillow type must be the "knife edge" cushion. One look at this style and it is easy to see why it has that name. A knife edge cushion can have just a simple seam where the fabric is sewn together, as seen below.

Or a knife edge cushion can have what is called a welt. Also commonly called a cord--or sometimes referred to as "piping"--a welt is a piece of rolled fabric that trims the edge of the pillow. A self welt is one that is made out of the same material as the cushion or pillow.

But look how fun a pillow can be with a contrasting welt. If done with light and dark colors, the effect can be very striking, looking like a bold outline.

A knife edge cushion can be a little plain so to add some elegance to a pillow, try a Turkish corner where the material is pinch pleated into a discreet fold. The overall look is softer and more luxurious.

Another common cushion and pillow style is the box edge. Instead of sewing two pieces of material together to form a seam, a box cushion has side panels that give it a top, a bottom, and four sides, just like a box.

A flanged cushion is one whose edge extends beyond the seam, as seen here. The flange can be of the same or different material.

Sometimes the material used for the flange can be gathered into a kind of ruffled look that lends a feminine or country appearance.

Pillows can also be trimmed or edged with a variety of fringes, tassels, and pom-poms.

A bolster pillow is mostly used for decorative purposes. It is usually seen at the ends of a sofa, or as part of a pillow arrangement on a bed. The example below in silvery velvet is a bolster with a darker welt and a button tufted end.

When you go cushion shopping, keep an eye out for these styles.
Happy designing!

Monday, January 4, 2016

White: A Blank Page Or Canvas 2016

As we begin a new year with promise and possibility stretched out before us, I am reminded of these words from "Sunday In The Park With George" by the great Stephen Sondheim: "White: a blank page or many possibilities." Here in the western world, white represents purity. It is basic, untouched, unformed. These are the qualities of a blank piece of paper or a painter's canvas, ready to absorb any ideas and to support whatever might be created upon it.

There are those in the interior design world who think that white is a lost opportunity for color, and being more of a maximalist myself, I might lean in that direction, but I can't deny the allure of the absence of color as well. White can be a bold statement as much as any hue and the following white rooms speak volumes.

Welcome to 2016--may it be a year full of happy designing!