If you're the type of devoted amateur who collects images and information on interior design, have I got a book for you! It's called "Designing With Tile." The author is Carolyn Coyle, and it's published by Van Nostrand Reinhold.
This is no oversized coffee table decoration. Instead, it's a practical guide to one of the most durable surface elements ever fabricated for use in interiors. Through illustrations and text, the author covers the selection, installation and maintenance of ceramic tile in the home while also listing sources for purchasing the material.
The accompanying photo, taken from the book, shows that ceramic tile can be used for decorative as well as functional purposes in parts of the home other than the bathroom. Here it has been given a featured role in the remodeling of an old kitchen.
The tiles give the area around the counter a new and distinctive look. Without them, the eye would focus on the usual glass-door upper cabinets that have been painted in a high-gloss white. The new brass hardware, however, does provide a nice added touch.
The back-splash is a combination of plain and decorative tiles with a sculpted rope-like border. Notice that the same motif was used in the arch above the window. It's cheery enough to obviate the need for any further window treatment -- a big plus in most kitchens, since natural light is often a precious commodity.
One of the great things about ceramic tiles is that they're so durable and so easily maintained, making them ideal for water-splattered surfaces. Most grouting, too, is now impervious stains and to water. It's also available in a wide variety of colors.
Keep in mind that some of the more glossy tile finishes, while stain-proof, are vulnerable to scratching. For counters, therefore, would choose a matte or textured finish.
As for the pattern itself, black-and-white checkerboards with fish may not be to your taste. Think then of fruits and flowers; or perhaps a contemporary, possibly abstract pattern would be more to your liking.
As a glance at the book will confirm, there's no shortage of options.
Ceramic tile is one of our oldest and most fundamentally produced residential materials, made with three of the four elements: earth, water and fire. Today's technology, however, offers design possibilities that were previously impossible to apply on tile.