Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Tile: it's hard in more ways than one

When I was first under pressure to choose tile for the house, I narrowed the possibilities to fifteen or so and Brent, our friend at the kitchen/bathroom store, ordered samples for us.  Pete picked them up on Friday and when he got home he mentioned it would probably take a few trips for us to get them up from the garage.

I didn't realize they were sending full size tiles!  Criminy - most of them are two feet tall, and one is three feet tall.  The condo isn't that big.

The better to get them out of our living space, I made short work of eliminating the easy stuff.

The two tiles on the bottom right of this shot are called 'snow' and 'white', so you probably can't blame me for thinking they would be something other than beige.  I put a white paint sample on top of them to illustrate how very much NOT snow or white they are.

(well, sometimes snow looks like that brownish one right before it melts and after a few mud storms, but who wants that look on their floors?)

Also, these 'variegated' tiles on the left looked a lot less busy on the tile manufacturer's website.

One thing this process has taught me about myself is that

a/ I appreciate calm spaces eNORmously, and

b/ I find very active unpredictable patterns to be the opposite of calm.

We are definitely not picking any of these for our shower area.  I couldn't take it first thing in the morning.

The thing is, we have two bathrooms with showers (but not tubs) in them and in a situation like that, the ideal no-brainer solution is a tile that is available cut into 2" x 2" mosaic, for the sloping shower floor, and also larger tiles, for both the shower walls and the main flooring for the bathroom.  That way everything matches and flows and the only variation is that things look a bit darker on a wall than they do on a floor.  Also, you only have to pick one tile - an advantage that is not to be underestimated!  The supplier we chose for convenience - Olympia Tile, they have everything - offers several different styles of tile that do this, but it looks like only one is viable for us now that we've cut out the beige and busy faux-stone options.

It's called 'Volkas', and it's a faux marble with really faint veining.  Can you even see it in this picture?

Faux marble was our original plan for our master bath, which we wanted to look like something you'd find in a luxury hotel, but then our preferred tile went out of production and we didn't like the replacement.  I have a bad feeling the replacement was Volkas but if so, maybe we'll like it better now that we've decided that it's Volkas or beige.

I'm just not sure I want this going into our basement bathroom and shower.  That bathroom is between our laundry room and guest nest/TV room, and I know it is going to see a LOT of use.  The window there is small so white would be nice and bright, but it'll also need constant cleaning to look clean.

Still, given that Pete vetoed the faux-lumber tile I was eyeing as a low-maintenance alternative (dang!) and neither of us want beige (poor beige, so unloved in our house), maybe I could embrace the idea of white being wonderful because you can see at a glance exactly where you need to clean.  I mean, I really hate cleaning but maybe white is really a shortcut.

I still need to choose something for the laundry room floor and I'm just not feeling love for anything for that room yet.  I am much more excited about the tiles we picked - effortlessly - for the main floor.

First, there's a simple 3"x6" white matte subway tile for the kitchen backsplash, of which I apparently forgot to take a picture.  It's so clean and vintage looking, I love it, even though it was my second choice when I was sorting out the sample list.

See I really really wanted this gorgeous 'Milky Way' marble somewhere...

... and I was worried that the kitchen backsplash would be the only site for it.  But when I sat its sample on top of the soapstone sample the two of them immediately started shouting at each other about who was better.  Not at all like the subway tile, which sat down and looked comfortable and asked when the first batch of bread was happening.  So I picked up the marble sample and looked elsewhere.

Elsewhere turns out to be in this context:

Paired with a milky-white floor and wall tile for the powder room, and with a black tile from the same line as the milky white one at the fireplaces!  I am SO happy about being able to put it into three of the five rooms on the main floor, I can't believe the luck of this working out.  In addition to the pretty subway mosaic, this tile is available in a 12"x24" size that Ray can cut down to surround the fireplaces so I get to look at it all the time. 

The black tile will also go into the front hall and at the side door.  The line is called 'Clay' and though it's meant to be a faux cement I find it's more of a misty tile in that each colour in it has a kind of wash of another colour.  In the case of the black, it's a subtle brown that makes a nice transition from the tiled area to the clear-stained maple hardwood we chose.

Not sure whether you can see the colour wash in this picture... the flash kept going off on my camera and leaving a sort of water spot!  Probably the images at the link above are better, assuming you have any tile tolerance left.

I'm not sure I do, so let's talk about paint colours - I have two sets of large-format paint samples from Maria Killam's site and who can resist trying out toys tools like that?  Well, straight away I noticed these two greens, already shortlisted because they go with our brocade sofa pillow fabric, picked up the same shade from the marble:

Okay, do these two almost-the-same paint sheets look grey on your screen?  Because when I looked up these colours online everybody who was using them referred to them as 'grey'.  In our condo, they totally look green.  A pale sagey-grey green, true, but definitely green, in all but the dimmest just-after-sunset light.

One is called Sea Haze; the other is Fieldstone, and unless something even better occurs to us, whichever one looks more attractive inside the house under the green-tinted light from the windows (sigh) is going onto all the walls on the main floor and probably the stairwell, too.  We have so many windows, and so much floor-to-ceiling custom cabinetry, there isn't a lot of wall so this green is a perfect choice - neutral but strong.  And definitely calming.  We really love both of them.

I didn't notice till I put all this together to share with you that all the hard finishes we're picking are very pale, or else black.  I don't know why that is really, because normally I like warm colours and our house used to be full of them.  But what I remember about that is how busy and cluttered looking the house got after a while as I kept adding things in.  This time I am aiming for very neutral backgrounds that will calm down the pretty and bright vintage things I will inevitably magpie into the kitchen and living room, heh.

And hey, if I ever develop a passion for Scandinavian design, we'll be all set!

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