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Patti Cowger

Two phrases come to mind when I think of designing with tile. “No guts, no glory” and “make it simple; make it significant.” A third also comes to mind, “go big or go home,” but you’re probably already there.

Tile is one of those pieces in a design puzzle that can make a dramatic impact to an overall space. Whether applied to a kitchen, bath, fireplace, a large surface or small, it can, and should define a style, or support and reinforce that style, or create a showstopping moment.

If you have a tile project on the horizon, this may all sound a bit intimidating. After all, I’m framing your tile choice as if it is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make in your home. Sometimes, it just might be. So help is on the way.

Besides the few examples I’ll give here, I’d also like to invite you to a tile seminar, hosted by Abbey Carpet and Tile later this month. During the seminar, I will describe the different types of tile – ceramic versus porcelain, for instance – and the areas to which they are best applied. I’ll show examples of good and bad design and leave you with a questionnaire to take home.

The questionnaire will help you focus on the most suitable choices for your particular project. You may have already started to browse through tile stores and wondered how you could ever narrow down your options.

While your eye might land on a glittery glass mosaic, something more rustic and subdued might be a better choice. Subdued? How does this word square with my opening phrases? It’s a matter of volume and placement, two key ingredients that leave many homeowners timid. But using the right amount of tile and covering the right amount of surface, along with the right tile choice, can create the significant and dramatic effect I’m encouraging.

Often times, homeowners use the least amount of tile to get the job done. For example, they’ll bring it up four to six inches on a kitchen counter backsplash. Their thought is that tiling higher would be too much, too overpowering, too busy. But a short splash cuts a line in the wall leaving you with two different surfaces (tile and dry wall in most cases). These two materials are busier than having just one (all tile).

I always recommend that a splash extend to the upper cabinets, typically 18 inches. And, when there aren’t any upper cabinets, I like to take it all the way to the ceiling. This is where I meet resistance, understandably so. But when clients agree, they’re always happy with the result and enjoy the ‘wow’ effect.

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Keep volume and placement in mind when looking at other surfaces such as shower walls and fireplaces. Think about tiling to the ceiling. Even if it’s a radical idea, the more you consider it, the more this idea might win you over. There are exceptions to everything, but at least mull over this possibility.

Clients often ask about painting an accent wall to jazz up a room. What about tiling it instead? This is a more serious commitment than even the most daring of paint colors, but if it makes sense with the architecture or other finishes in your home, it just might add the dramatic character that the room needs.

At this point, you’re either excited or dubious. In either case, I hope to see you at the seminar, Thursday, Sept. 27, 5:30-7 p.m. at Abbey Carpet and Tile, 1145 Jordan Lane. It will also be repeated Saturday, Sept. 29, 10 a.m. to noon. Refreshments served. RSVP to plcinteriors@sbcglobal and specify which day you’d like to attend. Please enter “tile seminar” in the subject line.

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Patti L. Cowger is an award-winning Napa-based interior designer and owner of PLC Interiors. For more information about her design services, visit her website at plcinteriors.com call (707) 322-6522; or email plcinteriors@sbcglobal.net. Demystifying Design appears every other Saturday.

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