Square is Square

I once used that phrase as a tag line for a tile I was importing from Italy.  It was wonderfully thin and rectangular, instead of square…a bit of a revolution at the time, but I couldn’t resist it.  I’m partial to 90-degree angles, but had grown tired of plain squares.  Unfortunately, my rectangular tiles were so unusual that folks in the US were too perplexed by it.  Of course now, most every tile showroom carries several similarly rectangular tiles and that plank shape has become a new classic.  Oh well-

These days tiles continue to push the limits of everything imaginably tile.  But what used to be out of the “norm” doesn’t hold a candle to the newest art tiles. And – as usual (or unusual) - I’m very drawn to them for that.

So today, I thought it would be fun to show some of the recent tiles I’ve encountered that I think win the award for being the most unusual, provocative and, really lovely tiles.


Architecture + Design Surfaces by Odegard

Architecture + Design Surfaces by Odegard

Handcrafted tiles from wood & marble, I loved these tiles as much for their negative spaces as their positives.  How to install these- you might ask?  I don’t have a clue- but I do have a call out to the Odegard team to see if I can get more information on these most beautiful tiles.  I especially love the one crafted from white marble and will definitely be adding that to my “white tile” favorites.

My own Hearst Castle Collection by Tilevera will be featuring carved wood panels, tiles, and bronze works  reproducing some of the amazing choir stall and ceiling panels from Hearst Castle.  Look for these in 2010!  Some of these tiles will also reveal “open” spaces.  So it was good to see more designers playing with this concept.  Ours have been designed to install over  stone tiles or mercury glass- both featured as well in our Hearst collection.

Robert Kuo





Traveling through China many years ago, I had the opportunity to tour the Empress Dowager’s Summer Palace. It was serene and very feminine with one of the most fascinating uses of carved stone that I’ve ever encountered.  Along the palace shore sits a two-story marble boat.  It is a life-sized sculpture carved to appear “floating” along the shoreline.  But upon closer inspection it is actually a wooden structure painted to look like marble.  It is quite a curiosity steeped in historic politics.

Sculpting stone is an age-old tradition in China and artist Robert Kuo is a designer who originally intrigued me with his cloisonne tiles crafted in China.  He has returned to China to create hand carved stone tiles utilizing the same skills used to carve pieces for Buddhist temples.  I found these tiles so tactile, and pleasingly imperfect.  Presented by Ann Sacks- Robert Kuo’s carved tiles are both beautiful and mysterious.

Tactile Geometrics





The porcelain magicians of Tactile Geometrics hail from Brooklyn and their tiles were enthusiastically introduced to us by our friend Therese from Ceramic Tile Design in California.   Recently featured in Ceramics Monthly (the bible for all potters and ceramic artists) Ruby Levesque and Neil Amon sculpt tiles that are mod in color and shape, and coated in oh-so smooth matte glazes.  I can love a tile as much for how it feels as for how it looks.   I couldn’t keep my hands off these!!

Their various tile shapes remind me more of the genome project with their astoundingly geometric shapes, at once other worldly,  even as they are of this world.  If that’s not the definition of the quintessential “unusual” tile- what is???



I would have to feature a series from Tilevera, of course.  And of course this most unusual of series happens to also be my very favorite tile series of all the tiles we paint.  That’s a pretty big statement considering we create 1000′s of tiles.

I have other favorites such as our Hearst Mercury Glass- but since I really love hand painted tiles- designing Elizabeth was  an exercise in using a few of my favorite things.

When we debuted this series along with a myriad of other large format tiles, I kept the photos of Elizabeth in my binder and only brought them out if I thought the interested designer wouldn’t look at me cross-eyed (kind of like a kid sharing his prized salamander with only the most discerning neighborhood kids).

We were surprised by the resounding approval for this line and now as I reflect on that- I realize just how far we all have come from the days of my rectangular tiles!