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A framed mosaic pattern backsplash creates visual interest in this kitchen. Photo courtesy of Karen Berkemeyer Home.

Today, distinctive design and innovative tile dominate kitchen and bathroom walls and floors. “It’s about creating an artistic statement. Designers are leading the trend by combining size, texture and shape to create a truly special look,” explains Tyra Dellacroce, vice president of interior sales and marketing at Connecticut Stone () in Milford.

“With the variety of porcelain and ceramic tile products on the market, you can achieve virtually any aesthetic — country, rustic, modern, traditional, transitional. People are drawn to the durability, the price, and a tighter range in variation than natural stone,” Tyra says.

Textured porcelain and stone tiles are used on bathroom shower walls, floor-to-ceiling walls, and floors; mosaics, glass and stone combinations are used in backsplashes. The largest bathroom trend Tyra has observed is a departure from wainscot: “In high-end residential construction, the trend is to apply tile from floor to ceiling. It’s a cleaner look. Many designers are using wall and floor tiles in a stacked application. This has a very quiet, organized, modern look.” Tyra also notes the use of porcelain slabs more as decorative wall covering than for practical reasons. “As a result, texture plays an important role in creating an interesting wall application,” she adds.

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Large Carrara marble tiles were laid on the diagonal for the floor of this master bathroom. The walls feature large-format subway-style Carrara tiles with metal detail and Carrara ‎crown molding, and the shower has an inlaid panel of rectangular mixed-mosaic stone and glass tile. Designs and materials were chosen by Tamara W. Kilmurray, of Tamara K Designs; Peerless Construction built the home.

More designers are opting for large format tiles (24” x 24”-plus) that require less grout and maintenance. “Max Fine porcelain comes in 30” x 30” tiles and full-size slabs,” Tyra says. “It’s one of the hottest products on the market today. The color options are made to look like luxury marbles, but they’re 100% porcelain so they’re extremely durable.”

Jim Sun, manager of  iTiles & Kitchen () in Fairfield, agrees that new designs are transforming kitchens and bathrooms. “They’re now seen as spaces where you can add your personal touch, and tile plays a large part in this point of view. No longer are there simple ceramic 4” x 4” or plain mosaic tiles to choose from. … With today’s endless options, creative tile design ideas for both kitchen and bathroom walls and floors are unlimited,” he says. “Most large format tiles will visually expand the size of the room, so small and medium-sized kitchens work well with larger tiles on the floor.” Jim noted that stain-resistant glazed ceramic tiles work best on bathroom and kitchen walls exposed to high humidity, while dense porcelain is scratch-resistant and is best for floors.

In his projects, Jim uses bold colors. “In a bathroom or kitchen, the countertop tile, backsplash tile and wall tile will become a central part of the décor. When you’re using tile in a small area, choose tile color the same way you’d choose a piece of art — let it stand out,” he says, noting that copper, stainless, hardwood, and glass tiles are trending for a modern look.

A class act

According to Karen Berkemeyer, president of Karen Berkemeyer Home (www.karenberkemeyerhome.com) in Westport, timeless and classic are the buzzwords. “Ten years from now you should still love what you’ve done in the kitchen and bathroom,” says Karen. However, she notes that homeowners are seeking new ideas. “In master bathrooms, they often choose a beautiful stone or natural marble with elegance to it. In kitchens, porcelain is best because it’s durable, but you can get creative and use ceramic tile or stone with a mosaic or glass to make an artistic statement.”

Tile can be used to create a different type of feeling. “Tile can be sleek and modern, which sets the tone for a more contemporary house. Also, there are traditional tile patterns, like herringbone and basket-weave. We’re stacking large format and rectangular subway tiles to create a sleeker, simpler look,” Karen says.

For a more organic look, wall tiles mimic limestone, marble, brick, and aged wood. “In master bathrooms we’re using wood porcelains that look like a wood-paneled wall. It’s very interesting. On the floor we’re using tiles that are level stone pebbles.” Karen emphasizes that gray is the new neutral. “We’re seeing white and taupe, stainless steel appliances, and simpler cabinetry to offer a transitional look,” she says.

Joanne Carroll, president of JMC Resources and publisher of Connecticut Builder magazine, notes that tile colors are right out of a Restoration Hardware catalog, with sepias, grays and whites predominating. “However, splashes of brighter primary colors are beginning to be used as accents,” she observes, noting that transitional design has tipped into modern. “Grout is being used in a variety of colors to create more impact and dimension.”

For Lisa Friedman, owner of Lisa Friedman Design (Lisafriedmandesign.com) in Westport, there’s beauty in simplicity. “I like clean lines and very neutral colors in tile because these are rooms of permanence. Kitchens and bathrooms are the foundation to the home, so I give them a fresh, current look using monochromatic tones and a linear design,” says Lisa. “Tile can be overwhelming to the average homeowner. There are so many new looks and designs; consequently, tile choices should be taken seriously. There should be an ease to the overall design. Real aesthetic beauty is in the details that aren’t obvious to the eye. Think of balance, scale and harmony.”

Lisa uses marble on bathroom walls and floors, as it never goes out of style; however, she often introduces porcelain to enhance her modern aesthetic. “Marble is art in its purest form,” she says. “It has existed since ancient times. It’s natural, classic, yet sophisticated. It’s one of nature’s gifts to beautiful design.”

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‘Kitchens and bathrooms are the backdrop to the rest of the house, so I give them a fresh, current look using monochromatic tones and a linear design,’ says Lisa Friedman, owner of Lisa Friedman Design in Westport.