How Words Define Your Tile Style
Updated: Feb 11
(Originally published in the Napa Valley Register)
Luxury. Serenity. Harmony. Words my clients had used to describe their vision of a new master bathroom. Countless design possibilities came to mind. And then they added two more words, “Carrara marble”. This favorite stone of Renaissance sculptor, painter, and architect, Michelangelo Buonarotti, helped me understand what they had in mind.
The project was near and dear to my heart. Not only do I have a long-time crush on Michelangelo, but my family, who hails from a hill town just south of Carrara, has sculpted this marble for generations.
Envisioning my clients’ goal came easily. Listening to the operatic passion of “La Boheme” while I sketched set the mood and inspired me further. Carrara innately exudes luxury, and for the full five-star effect, I used it en masse. Its cool, white appearance with wisps of black and grey naturally conveys a calm and serene ambiance. Now that the luxury and serenity requirements had been met, how did I address “harmony”?
I had a few strategies up my sleeve and chose the simplest. Specifying Carrara as the one - and only one - tiled material in the room guaranteed a harmonious composition. Using Carrara slabs for the vanity countertop and tub deck reinforced the cohesive intent.
With so many new and innovative products on the tile market today, it was tempting to add accent colors and decorative trims. A clever metal liner or a blend of glass would add a little pizzazz. Right? Not always. Although Carrara marble can be complimented in many ways, restraint was its best companion in meeting my clients’ sophisticated point of view. Adding such accents to the mix would have diluted and disrupted the quiet elegance – and harmony - of the design.
Admittedly, I made one exception. An all-white room needs an anchor – like a touch of black. Another marble, Nero Marquinia, fit the bill. On the floor, it is combined with Carrara in a mosaic basket weave format. Each marble contrasts and enhances the qualities of the other, and at the same time, the basket weave creates an interesting rug-like pattern.
“Harmony” also calls for mindful attention to scale and proportion. The shapes and sizes of Carrara used in the room follow classic Vitruvian principals which are most accepted by the human eye and thus interpreted as harmonious. On a practical note, two-inch mosaics were used on the shower floor and Carrara was also placed on the shower ceiling. That is to say, the mosaics required more grout which, in turn, decreased the likelihood of slipping. And, by tiling the ceiling, plumbing for a steam sauna could be enjoyed.
Carrara comes in a variety of sheens. Polished, honed, or tumbled. Although the polished had a luxurious quality, its glossiness did not project serenity. And, the roughness of the tumbled stone did not project luxury. However, the velvety honed Carrara met all criteria perfectly.
Does this Carrara bathroom rival Michelangelo’s Carrara statue of David? Not exactly, but it is a timeless design with classic proportions that rises to my clients’ vision and satisfies their words.
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