Bling-bling for the house
Glass tiles are the new jewelry for the home.
They're colorful, reflect light and add artful sophistication to the trophy kitchen, spa bathroom and areas that cry out for attention.
Architects, designers and do-it-yourselfers are going for the glass look on backsplashes, countertops and floors.
They're surrounding fireplace mantels and covering supporting pillars in high-rise condominiums.
Make no mistake - glass tiles are pricey.
Uninstalled tiles typically cost $30 to $60 per square foot and can go as high as $350 for custom applications. But diehard fans insist the result is well worth the cost.
“Glass tile is strikingly beautiful in so many different ways,” says Patricia Hart McMillan, a South Florida designer and co-author with her daughter, Katharine Kaye McMillan of the new book “Glass Tile Inspirations for Kitchens and Baths” (Schiffer, $20).
“It's a material that tile designers can work with to change the colors, textures and patterns. It has unlimited possibilities for constant invention.”
The design potential is inexhaustible. No wonder people are totally intrigued by it,” she said.
New technologies have allowed tile designers to produce it in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors and textures. The choices are as varied as decorating styles.
There's cast glass, enameled glass and fused glass.
You can find pastels, neutrals and jewel tones, as well as black and white.
Finishes are frosted, crackled, gloss, gold-flecked and opaque. Textures are fused, molded or tumbled.
Besides looking good, those made out of recycled glass are ecologically correct.
Jaime Eldridge, senior project designer at Expo Design Center's Davie, Fla., store, says about seven out of 10 of her customers ask about glass tiles.
“A few years ago it was used in bathrooms and kitchens as inserts, but now people are doing full walls of glass tiles,” she says. “Their first question is: Where can I put it? The answer is basically everywhere - in the shower, on the walls and on the floors, on backsplashes and countertops.”
Whether tiles should be used on countertops is up for debate. McMillan's book shows several applications on kitchen and bathroom countertops, but noted Miami architect Alison Spear disagrees.
Spear says she never uses glass tile on countertops because everything gets stuck in the grout lines.
If she wants the look, she uses sheet glass.
Spear used a graphic assortment of colorful circles last year in a retro kitchen design inspired by Lucy and Ricky Ricardo at the House Beautiful Designer Showhouse in Miami Beach, Fla.
The green and yellow glass mosaic tiles, which start at $133.38 per square foot, were designed by artist Erin Adams for Ann Sacks, a high-end company that produces stone, tile, plumbing, lighting and accessories.
“I use it all the time,” Spear says. “I find it to be indigenous, very Miami and very South Florida. It's very historic, has a lot of tradition and was used in a lot of old Miami Beach hotels. There is no limit to using it.”
Although glass tile can be used almost anywhere, Spear says if it's installed improperly, it looks bumpy and pops off the wall.
She suggests hiring an installer recommended by the manufacturer.
Eldridge agrees. She says the installer has to know the idiosyncrasies of glass tile.
Some tiles from Oceanside, for example, come with a paper backing that is on the front of the tiles.
The grout color can affect the color of the tile, McMillan says, and some manufacturers are developing clear grout so the final look is almost seamless.
If you are in doubt about the grout, she suggests testing the installation on a piece of wall board before you do the whole wall.
“Ask to see other work (the installer) has done,” she added. “Once the glass tile is up, it's not something you can rip out and redo easily.”
Although most professionals advise against do-it-yourself application, Jonathan Iovino was successful installing a glass tile backsplash in the kitchen of his Pompano Beach condo.
He used a combination of 3-by-5 running tiles, 1-inch mosaics and a half round border.
He had little problem with installation after researching techniques on the Internet, in books and magazines.
When he ran into varying opinions, he gave a heavier weight to advice from the manufacturers.
Even though he saved on installation, the materials still cost about $1,000.
“We couldn't be happier with the tile,” Iovino says. “There is no problem with durability and maintenance.”