Once relegated to inexpensive bathrooms and kitchens, tile is quite the rage today. But how do you choose from the myriad of styles available? Read on…Tumbled marble, often combined with hand-painted murals, is a popular choice for traditional kitchen backsplashes. Glass mosaics and embossed glass tile is very hot today particularly for contemporary spaces. Metal composites (they look like stainless steel, copper or bronze) are big sellers and are used typically as backsplashes and accents. Keep in mind, however, that many metal composites are heat sensitive. Before you purchase it to install over your cook top or as a fireplace surround, ask the sales person if this application is advisable.
Floor tile has gotten bigger. The trend for bathroom tile are sizes 12"x12" or larger. If you prefer smaller sizes, be sure the tile you have chosen is appropriate for this use. Many 4"x4"s' are meant to be installed on the wall and should not be used on the floor because they are neither sturdy nor scratch resistant enough for foot traffic. The formerly ubiquitous white, 3"x6" subway tile is now available in a full range of colors and sizes; it is a great choice for both contemporary and period kitchen and baths.
Many different tile manufacturers are jumping on the porcelain band wagon and nearly all major companies offer a good selection. Porcelain tile is made from white clay and fired at an extremely high temperature to create very dense tile. The stone look is very common; some manufacturers do such a good job of mimicking marble, slate and limestone, it is difficult to tell the imitation from the real thing. The popularity of porcelain is due in part because it is such a versatile material; many types can be used outdoors as well as indoors and are impervious to water as well as very break and stain resistant. Regardless of which type of tile you choose, make sure it fits your application.
Want to mix several patterned fabrics together? Vary them. Fabrics with small, medium, and large patterns, all in similar colors, will go together nicely. Throw in a stripe for variety. But if you group several patterns of the same scale together, they will fight for attention. Considering a new kitchen sink? Before you do anything, determine your countertop material first. Some materials such as plastic laminate require a drop- in sink. Under mount sinks are typically used with stone slabs. Also consider what type of faucet you want, along with any other functional needs. If you purchase a drop-in sink, it will come with pre-drilled holes. Obviously, if you want a filtered water dispenser, side sprayer and faucet, plus the obligatory air gab for the dishwasher, you will want a sink with enough holes to accommodate these functions. Have a collection that you wish to display? Find a specific location to exhibit them. A collection shown in one spot is much more effective than scattered throughout the home. Find it difficult to arrange accessories? A basic rule of thumb is that odd numbers work better together than even ones. For example, a vase on either side of a mantelpiece will look unbalanced (two objects). But throw in a painting or mirror in the middle (3 objects), and you have a simple, effective arrangement.
One of the new products we find intriguing is the trough sink. Kohler makes a long, rectangular sink (“Undertone, Trough”) that is available in lengths 22”, 33”, 43” and 60” and is 8” wide. It makes a nice design statement in a kitchen island and can be used as a vegetable sink. Elkay has a product called the “Mystic” sink. In stainless steel, it is 48” long by roughly 8” wide. It mimics the look of a meandering stream, with wonderful flowing curves and would be a fabulous focal point in a large kitchen island. Both sinks have great design impact but require a lot counter space and a rather large island to be practical.
Q. I love using tile. It can be beautiful, strong, and inexpensive. But I hate
cleaning grout. Any suggestions?
A.D., Palo Alto
A. Try the new epoxy grouts. They are more expensive and labor intensive to apply, but they are considerably more stain resistant than traditional grouts. Make sure your contractor is willing to use them however. Some contractors won’t because they take longer to apply or because they are inexperienced with the material.
Q. My mother-in-law is moving in with us. She needs grab bars installed in our
guest bath. Is there a solution which doesn’t require tearing up the wall?
A. There is a new product call WingIt ™. They have a fastener system, used for grab bars, which can be installed directly into sheet rock, tile, plaster, etc. They also make grab bars. Visit www.accessstore.com, and click on WingIt (fasteners) and WingIt (grab bars).
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