Floored by designs done in ceramic


February 20, 1994|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

In addition to being one of the oldest handmade home products, ceramic tile remains one of the most popular hard-surface finishes for floors and walls. In fact, ceramic tile may now be more favored than ever before because it so incontestably gives consumers their money's worth. Few design materials are tougher or easier to maintain, and none is richer in its decorative possibilities.

How unfortunate, then, that in homes in northern climates ceramic tile has been used almost exclusively in obvious areas like the bathroom. That unnecessary limitation is gradually breaking down, however. Ceramic tiles now appear more and more frequently in kitchens, foyers and other once-unlikely places. That's probably because this ancient material is now available in an amazing variety of finishes. Smooth and highly glazed, pebbled and textured, matte and crackled -- these are just a few of the options. Modern technology has also succeeded in making all these finishes impervious to stains.

But the fact that the technology is up-to-the-minute doesn't mean ceramic tiles can be used only in contemporary interiors. Indeed, today's decorative styles have an antique quality since they often appear hand-crafted and hand-painted.

For me, ceramic tile best fulfills its aesthetic potential when combined with color and pattern to form a design. Historically, such surface designs have also made use of other materials such as wood, marble and granite. And whether it's entirely random or strictly structured, a tile-based design can be very attractive as long as its components are properly arrayed.

With floors no longer being regarded mainly as backdrops for carpets, the use of different materials to form a finished floor surface has become fashionable. That's hardly a new development in Italy, where ceramic tile floor designs have been in vogue for centuries. The Italian example has, in turn, proven JTC influential among Americans who are taking up this rich legacy. But Italians themselves have always been intrigued by other cultures and have often incorporated foreign elements into their own styles. Thus we now see Italian-type tiles that feature ethnic themes such as kilim patterns and motifs associated with India.

The type of decorative floor design shown in the photo could be used in just about any home setting. It would certainly look good in a sun room or an entrance hall, depending on the overall style of the home.

This particular pattern is produced by three different tile designs, all of them manufactured by D'Agostino. Brick-shaped and -colored tiles make up most of the surface. What appears to be the lightest area is formed by off-white glazed tile with a multicolored flooring motif. The third set of pieces have been flamed to take on a bright turquoise glaze.

If you find this design attractive, perhaps you will consider choosing tile the next time a floor needs to be resurfaced. It's not as easy as installing a new carpet, but it will likely make a lasting impression.

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