It's no accident that Baltimore's new Country Tiles store is located in Federal Hill, that hotbed of old homes being transformed into new. Ceramic tile is one of the quickest things to add to update a kitchen or bath or give quiet sophistication to an entry or sun room.
This store, which opened just after Christmas, is the fourth Country Tiles, joining one in Philadelphia, and two in New Jersey -- Westfield and the original store in Stockton. The owners are two sisters, Virginia Ford (nicknamed "Charlie") and Margery Paxton.
They decided to open in Baltimore after noticing that a large number of people from Baltimore and other parts of Maryland were traveling to the Philadelphia store (as well as to a Delaware branch that has now closed) to buy tile.
Country Tiles features both domestic and imported hand-painted and handcrafted tiles, according to manager Ken Gaza. The two-level showroom on Light Street has literally hundreds of different styles and colors of tile in displays from floor to ceiling.
There are Delft tiles from Holland, terra cotta from Mexico, French limestone, marble, hand-painted Italian and Spanish tile, relief tiles and hand-painted murals from the United States. They have sinks in copper, pewter, brass and ceramic (with a line of accessories including mirrors that match the ceramic sinks). They also have a number of chandeliers that are made to order.
If customers don't find patterns or colors they like among the tiles displayed, they can order custom hand-painted tiles, which are available from 10 American ceramic studios. The murals can also be customized. Design services are available and there are idea books scattered throughout the showroom.
Country Tiles is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays. The store is located at 801 Light St. at the corner of Montgomery Street. The telephone number is 685-1300.
Contemporary artists have taken hold of the quilt and shaken new life into the old-fashioned bedcovers.
The resulting new forms -- which can include such things as Fiberglas mesh, beads and found objects plus paint and photo transfer techniques -- can be seen at "New Quilts: Interpretations and Innovations," an exhibit at the Textile Museum in Washington starting Saturday.
The 45 contemporary quilts in the exhibit were selected from more than 1,100 works submitted to the sixth biennial Quilt National, a juried competition created to promote quilt making as a modern art form. The works came from fiber artists throughout the world.
In conjunction with this exhibit, the museum will hold a one-day festival of quilt making, "The Art Quilt Express," on Feb. 2 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The festival will include discussions, demonstrations of art quilting, workshops and readings from the play "Quilters." There will also be a showing of the video "The Silver Needle" about mother-and-daughter quiltmakers Elizabeth and Joyce Scott of Baltimore.
The show runs from Saturday through April 28 at the Textile Museum, 2320 S St. N.W. in Washington. The hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. The museum is closed tomorrow and all other federal holidays. Admission is free but a $5 donation is suggested. For more information, call (202) 667-0441.