Decorative Tile Brightens Kitchen, Bath

By Geracimos, Ann | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 25, 2001 | Go to article overview

Decorative Tile Brightens Kitchen, Bath


Geracimos, Ann, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Byline: Ann Geracimos

Tile, one of the oldest building materials in the world, also is one of the most versatile. So it wasn't entirely strange that Ralph Davis opted to put a handcrafted tile design behind the bar of the restaurant he owns in Arlington.

"A lot of pizzerias with wood-burning ovens have tile around them," he says, explaining how he settled on the decorative tile even though his Circo Pizzeria and Grill at 2300 Clarendon Blvd. is prevented by law from having such an oven because of its location on the ground floor of a modern high-rise building.

Still, Circo - "it means circus in Italian," he notes - has bene-fited from the piece designed and hand-painted by Liette Marcil, a Boston-based ceramic artist who has done custom work for Ademas tile in Alexandria for more than 10 years. On the advice of Alexandria decorator Florence Hawkins, Mr. Davis also commissioned the artist to do a whimsical sun, 18 inches in diameter and surrounded by molding, for an opposite wall.

"Without tile, the restaurant would not be as interesting," he concedes. "It's the focal point of the room." The idea came up during a recent renovation. "The bar area was a plain spot; we wondered how to jazz it up." A ruby-red, yellow and cream-colored tile background in harlequin pattern shows up the signature sun design to advantage.

Nothing in custom tile work comes cheap, however. Installation costs have to be considered, as well, and the prices of individual tiles vary wildly from as little as $10 a square foot for low-end square machine-made pieces to $100 for a single hand-painted scene in delicate blue shades from the famous Delft ceramic ateliers in Holland.

Ademas is unusual in being able to offer a complete range, including reproducing on tile any scene or even a portrait that a customer desires.

Jamie Haley of Potomac wanted an 18th-century kitchen scene in tile on the wall behind her stove, a space known in the trade as the backsplash. No problem, said Ademas designer Sara Bernheisel. In addition, Mrs. Haley had contracted through the builders handling her remodeling project to have the designer create original patterns for her pool house and walkway. The result was a portrayal of tiny frogs and grasses in pale green stone tile in the pool changing room. The pool house itself has a slate floor with leaflike inserts.

"I gave her some direction, and she picked the colors," Mrs. Haley says, full of praise for the finished product, installed this year.

The current trend in home design of creating elaborate kitchens and bathrooms contributes to the popularity of tile. This has happened partly because of an economic boom but also because of a change in people's lifestyles, says Barbara Sallick, the founder of Waterworks. The company does custom work with tiles for bathrooms and kitchens - for an average minimum of $8 to $12 per square foot - but, as the name implies, it also sells plumbing fixtures and accessories.

"Twenty-five years ago, the bathroom was about hygiene and privacy," she explains. "The evolution has come about with our increased emphasis on health and having a personal space where we can have quiet time." The company, headquartered in Danbury, Conn., has stores in 33 cities, including its Georgetown location.

Capitol Hill interior designer Beth Peacock says, "At Waterworks, I can acquire everything I need for a bath: tiles and fixtures, including towels, towel warmers and Jacuzzis. I can go in and in two days knock out five baths." Her firm, Peacock Co., also works closely with Ademas.

Mrs. Sallick, whose father started a plumbing business in 1925, describes her approach in "Waterworks: Inventing Bath Style," written with Lisa Light and published in May by Clarkson Potter/Publishers. The book includes information for the layman about various kinds of applied surface materials and how to use them. …

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