Kitchen: Telling a Story Through Tiles


Words By Steven Kurutz, New York Times News Service

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.

Annie Elliott, an interior designer in Washington, has been trying for years to get clients to embrace glass tiles for more than an accent strip in a bathroom or kitchen. It’s an investment not only of money, but also of structure and permanence, she said, and many homeowners are concerned about resale value or a design choice they’ll later regret.

‘I understand it is a commitment,” Elliott said. “But when a client is bold enough to use glass on a whole wall, the effect is stunning.’

Elliott followed her own advice. Inspired by Gracie, the firm known for hand-painted chinoiserie wallpaper, she commissioned an artist to create a reverse-painted glass backsplash that is 8 feet wide, runs the length of her kitchen wall and replicates the look and fine detail of Audubon bird illustrations. The art glass, made up of three sections, gives her backsplash wall depth and brightness of color.

‘I wasn’t nervous about it,’ Elliott said. ‘My only concern was, if I spray Windex, is it going to get in the cracks?’ (It doesn’t).


In an undated photo provided by Jenn Verrier, a mosaic kitchen backsplash by Annie Elliott, an interior designer in Washington. Mosaics, some with 24-karat gold accents or hand-crafted patterns, prove an antidote to silent white walls. Image: Jenn Verrier via The New York Times


Kim Wozniak, who runs WitsEnd Mosaic, an online tile store that sells to both artists and homeowners, said glass tile is surprisingly adaptable. ‘Everybody thinks of this old Byzantine style,” she said. “But it can really be anything you want it to be’ — or go anywhere, not just in bathrooms and kitchens. ‘Foyers, for example. You can do it like a rug, but it’s inlaid in the floor.’

Featured Image: Hasan Almasi, Unsplash