Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pattern Inspiration

In a previous post, we talked about our custom designs and the availability of thousands of options that you can find by using our licensing partners.

Just wanted to mention - it's not all about murals.  You can find plenty of still lifes, landscapes, and wine scenes; country farms and roosters; New England seasides and Tuscan valleys.  But there are also patterns and motifs - and lots of them!

At Rosenstiel's website you can simply search for the world "Pattern" and you come up with results like this:

 Geo Mosaic
by Douglas

by Douglas

by Max Carter

by Max Carter

Or if you are feeling adventurous, search for the word "Abstract" to find things like:

by Carney

by Holman

by Hedy Klineman

by Lunden

by Lisa Butcher

If you are stumped as to how you would turn any of these patterns into a tile mural - contact us!  Our designers love the opportunity to be creative with such bold inspiration as the starting point.

Below is an example of our Zeal Tile Collection mixed with other materials like recycled metal tiles to create an eye-catching and colorful focal point with a modern feel.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How to grout StoneImpressions tile

One of the questions that we get asked most often is "How do I grout my StoneImpressions decorative tile mural or pattern?"

The short answer is this:
"Grouting is a matter of personal preference.  You should always talk to your installer to discuss how your tiles will be grouted.  And make sure your installer reads our Installation Instructions before starting your job."

And now you are thinking, "Okay, thanks for nothing. That answer doesn't help me at all!"  The long answer is what you need - so sit back, grab a drink and get ready to read for a while.  It isn't really so complicated but there are certain things you should know about the different options for grouting and how each will affect the look of your StoneImpressions decorative tile.

Grouting - Ceramic vs. Natural Stone

In general, grouting is usually done by smearing grout all over the tiles to get it in every joint and space between the tiles.  When you grout ceramic tile, the only place the grout can go is in the spaces between the tiles.  The ceramic tiles themselves have a smooth surface and do not have holes in the tile where the grout will fill in.

It is a different story for our natural stone tiles.  Depending on which type of stone you choose, these tiles can have naturally occurring holes, cracks and crevices.  When you smear the grout all over these tiles, it will not only fill in all the joints and spaces between the tiles, but every hole, crack, and crevice too.  With that in mind, let's talk about some options for how to grout our decorative tiles.

Option #1 - Smear Method
Spread grout over the entire image just like you do for any other tile.

This will fill the natural holes in the stone and can cause the image to become randomly spotted with grout.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  There are two points to keep in mind for this option:

1. What kind of stone are you using?  
Our Light Travertine has a lot of natural holes and pits in it.  It has a more rustic and aged look to it.  Grouting the Light Travertine using the Smear Method will result in many spots of grout.  But if you like the more rustic look, this might not be a problem for you.  On the other hand, our Tumbled Botticino and Tumbled Durango tiles do not have many natural holes or pits.  They do have some pitting, but not much compared to the Light Travertine.  When you grout the Botticino by spreading the grout all over, there may be some spotting, but usually not very much.  You can see the different stone types that we offer on our Materials page.

2. What kind of design is on your StoneImpressions tile?
If the design that you have chosen has a lot of dark colors, the light colored grout in the holes and pits will be very apparent.  If your design is a lighter color, the grout in the holes will not be as obvious.

light travertine wine mural with dark ink
This is a mural with dark colors on Light Travertine.  Notice the many holes and pits.  If you smear grout all over this mural, you will see grout spots in the dark areas - especially on the wine bottles and the grapes.

light travertine lemons mural with light ink
This mural is also on Light Travertine, but the colors are much lighter.  The grout will again fill all of the natural holes and pits, but the spotting will not appear as prominently.

durango mural with dark ink

This mural has dark ink, but it is printed on the smoother Tumbled Durango stone.  When you spread grout all over this mural, it might fill in some smaller holes, but not many. 

The same is true with our accents and listellos.  The listello shown below is on Light Travertine and has many holes and pits.  But the ink is a very light color, so grout filling in the hole might no be a problem for you.

light travertine listello with light ink

Option #2: Grout Bag Method
Use a grout bag to fill only the grid lines of the mural.

A grout bag is just like a pastry bag that is used to decorate cakes.  You fill it with grout and then squeeze the grout through a tip which allows you to put the grout only where you need it.  

You use the grout bag to grout only the joints and spaces between the tiles.  That way you avoid getting grout filling in every hole and crevice in the natural tile.  This can be more time consuming than the Smear Method.  If your installer uses the grout bag for a single mural, then it is probably no big deal.   If you expect your installer to use a grout bag on twenty or fifty square feet of tile - you should also expect to pay them for the extra time it will take.

This method gives you the best of both worlds.  You get the sealing and protection that the grout provides, and you avoid spots of grout showing up throughout the design and detracting from the overall look.  In many cases, this would be the ideal way to grout your decorative natural stone tile.

More information about how to use a grout bag.

Option #3: No grout at all.

You can place the tiles right up next to each other and skip the grout.  This is the best way to keep the design of a mural intact - it displays the image without spaces in between that can interrupt the design or pattern.  This option will result in some gaps between the tiles depending on what type of stone you are using.  Stone with very tumbled edges will leave gaps where the four corners of the tile meet.  Like this:

example of tumbled botticino marble tile in 6x6 size
The gaps are not gigantic, but they are there.  Click on the picture above to see a close up view.

If you are using stone with a straighter edge, like our Micro-bevel Durango, you will not have many gaps. See picture below:
example of micro-bevel durango tile in 6x6 size

Leaving the gaps and spaces without grout could create difficulty in the future, because dirt, dust and moisture can accumulate in those holes.  This is one of the main reasons that people use grout in the first place.  It seals the spaces in between the tiles to prevent any accumulation of dirt and moisture which can eventually damage the wall behind the tile.  You should consider where the tile is located to decide whether you want to use this method.  If you are installing in a room in your house where you don't expect much moisture, this method might work for you.  You could also try using the grout bag to apply grout only to the bigger gaps between the corners of the tumbled tiles.  That will give you some protection.

If you are thinking about the no grout method you should definitely talk to your installer first.  There are many things to consider and a knowledgeable tile installer will know what questions to ask to determine the best course of action for you.

Grouting wrap-up

We hope this information will help you in deciding how to grout your StoneImpressions tile.  And perhaps you can understand why there is not just one simple answer to fit everyone.  Your taste, your stone choice, your installation location and your mural or pattern design will all be factors to consider when determining how to grout.

Let us know in the comments below if you have any grouting tips for us or additional questions that you'd like us to answer.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

Kitchen cabinets - how to choose?

dark wood kitchen cabinets with decorative stone tile backsplash

Kitchen cabinets are an absolutely vital part of any kitchen remodel or kitchen design.  We at StoneImpressions are wise enough to know when NOT to give advice.  We do not have the knowledge or expertise in this area and wouldn't dream of trying to educate you on this.  But we have found some links that are worth sharing.

You should always be the cautious consumer and keep in mind where this information is coming from.  A company that sells stock cabinets might overstate the longer lead times or ordering challenges in custom cabinetry.  A custom cabinet company might exaggerate the quality issues with stock kitchen cabinets.  No matter what information you find on the web, look closely at who is writing it and try to understand what their biases might be.

Cabinetry Comparison Guide by

Choosing Kitchen Cabinets at

Sorting through Kitchen Cabinet Choices at

Custom Kitchen Cabinets: What you need to know by The Kitchen Designer 

That last link comes from The Kitchen Designer blog which we love!  Susan Serra is a Certified Kitchen Designer who is passionate about kitchens.  Her blog is a great mix of technical and design knowledge along with tips on the latest trends and ideas in kitchen design.  She shares her real world experiences as a working designer and often features great new products as they come out.

If you follow her blog, you will start to understand the enormous value a Certified Kitchen Designer can bring to the table.  There is so much more to good kitchen design than picking out tile and appliances.  Definitely recommended reading.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Imitation is the best form of flattery...or is it?!

We should be flattered, we know.  To have someone blatantly rip off our designs shouldn't make us upset, right?  

These are our original designs, created by our talented design department.

Cynara still life mural on tumbled durango showing basket of fruit, pears, plums, artichokes
SL000414 Cynara Mural shown on 6x6 Tumbled Durango

Amarone wine mural on tumbled durango showing wine bottles, wine crates, glass of red wine, cheese, bread and purple grapes.
SL000421 Amarone Wine Mural on 6x6 Tumbled Durango

See if you can find the knock-offs on this page:

They didn't even bother to change the name on one of them!  At least they have a bit of taste - these are two of our most popular designs. 

There is definitely some soap opera drama to this.  Presenting the not-ready-for-daytime mini-drama

"As the Tile Turns!"

We were once happy together.  They bought our product and sold it to their eager customers.  It was a blissful time.

 We discovered the knock-offs of our designs on their website over a year ago.

Oh the betrayal!  One of our own customers!  How could they?  

We tried to appeal to their better nature.  We asked them very nicely to stop ripping off our designs.  They declined. 

We had to break it off entirely.  The separation was unfortunate, but necessary.  

 We moved on to other, more healthy, relationships.

Later, we hear through the grapevine that they went out of business. Karma, anyone?

And then it happens. While innocently skipping through the land of Twitter, we come upon a tweet about hand-painted murals.  We follow the link and HORRORS! 

 The same stolen designs!  A website that looks suspiciously similar to old one!  

Could it be?! 
Has an evil twin come to town?!

[Cue dramatic music - dun, dun, dunnnn!]

Will our heroine ever be free of this copycat?
Will the evil twin try to pass himself off as an upstanding citizen?

Tune in next week for the next thrilling episode of 
As the Tile Turns!

By the way, the Audrey Hepburn images used in this blog post are from the 1956 film War & Peace and the 1963 film Charade.  And more importantly, they are in the Public Domain.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Real life Top Gun

If you happen to call us today, you might hear the roar of jets in the background.  We are located less than a mile from the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and they are practicing for the weekend's Air Show.  We had a bright blue sky this morning, but now the clouds have rolled in.  We can still hear the jets, but can no longer see them.

By the way, MCAS-Miramar is where the classic film Top Gun was based.  Can you believe that movie came out 23 years ago?!  (Great. Now we feel old.)

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Elegante tile pattern - versatile and beautiful

You were introduced to GG200218 Elegante mural in a previous post. This is one of our favorite designs, but it has often been overlooked and definitely under-appreciated.  This is completely our fault.  We'll admit it.  We gave it one little picture on page 65 of our catalog and neglected to show all of its potential and versatility.

It is a simple and elegant example of how you don't have to overdo it with color or design on natural stone tiles. The colors are neutral and blend nicely into the stone. The pattern is simple with just enough intricacy to make it interesting.  The natural beauty of the stone shows through - with its inherent variations in texture and shading, it greatly enhances the overall look.

The Elegante tile design is also quite versatile.  Below are some examples of the different ways you can use this design.  Click on any of the pictures to get a larger view.

The original tile mural looks like this:
Elegante tile design mural on 4x4 tumbled durango stone
8" x 20" on 4x4 Tumbled Durango tile

Here is the same design, just slightly shorter and wider:
Elegante tile design mural on 6x6 tumbled durango stone
6" x 18" on 6x6 Tumbled Durango tile

Here is the 6x18 size installed as a repeating pattern in a powder room:

Elegante Tile design installed in a powder room

Various color options are available for the Elegante design:

Elegante tile design color optons - verde, black, sepia

These accent tiles are a great complement to the Elegante design:

Elegante tile design accent tiles

Elegante design elongated and connected so the pattern flows without any breaks:

Elegante tile design elongated pattern

And finally, a completely different look was created by taking the center portion and flipping it sideways.

Elegante tile design variation

So many options from just one pattern!  As always, let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.