Telling a Story Through Tiles

Words By Steven Kurutz, New York Times News Service

 

“If I could, I would tile the world,” Gerry Eisenberg said. “Because I think it is the most wonderful medium.”

Eisenberg has not yet paved the streets in 1-inch-by-1-inch squares. But last summer, she did install a large mosaic in her master bathroom. Spidery tree branches rendered in stone tile are accented with 24-karat gold glass pieces incorporated in the form of delicate leaves. The mosaic design, executed by the company New Ravenna, takes up the entire shower wall, with a unifying ribbon of leaves encircling the room.

After renovating her historic 1920 house in Aiken, South Carolina, Eisenberg saved the bath project to do in a special way. “What is more wonderful than mosaic? What is more traditional?” she said. “But mosaic with gold glass to give it that modern zip.”

 

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Mosaic work in the master bathroom of Gerry Eisenberg in Aiken, S.C., Jan. 31, 2018. Mosaics, some with 24-karat gold accents or hand-crafted patterns, prove an antidote to silent white walls. Image: Kate Thornton, The New York Times

 

Tile mosaics, often associated with churches and the Roman Empire, are hardly modern. But with the current maximalist insurgency in the design world, with the entirely welcome return of colour and pattern and idiosyncratic interiors, elaborate tile installations may soon follow wallpaper as an old-fashioned adornment updated and rediscovered.

“In these handcrafted mosaics, you get pattern on pattern on pattern,” said Cean Irminger, creative director for the Virginia-based New Ravenna, which recently unveiled a new collection of designs, including “Mod Palm,” a tropical motif that blends glossy and matte glass. “It can be super intricate and detailed.”

 

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Mosaic work in the master bathroom of Gerry Eisenberg in Aiken, S.C., Jan. 31, 2018. Mosaics, some with 24-karat gold accents or hand-crafted patterns, prove an antidote to silent white walls. Image: Kate Thornton, The New York Times

 

Eisenberg’s tile installer lived in her guesthouse for seven weeks. Together, they laid out the large wall mosaic tiles on the floor like an interlocking puzzle, so she could see the full-scale design and make any changes (she added more gold leaves and some highlights).

But like many homeowners who take the risk and pay the cost for a glass-tile mosaic, Eisenberg is beyond thrilled with the way the bathroom mosaic brings colour and light and a sense of artistry into her home.

“Every time I go in there,” she said, “it’s enchanting.”

 

Featured Image: Frank Oudeman, The New York Times