Design PRIME MAGAZINE — 28 July 2017
Cool – and cooling – design ideas using tile

By Charlyne Varkonyi Schaub

City & Shore Magazine

Love the look of stone but don’t want the maintenance? Join the digital revolution.  Digital printing technology has transformed ceramic tile into wood, stone or even fabric looks.

This is great news for those selecting tile for a new home or remodeling, but there is a caveat, especially for those over 55. Heed the advice of Shelley Siegel, founder and CEO of Universal Design & Education Network in Lake Worth.

“You want to be sure when you are selecting tile that you don’t choose the least expensive,” says Siegel, who President Obama named to the United States Access Board, an independent federal agency that promotes equality for people with disabilities and to develop accessibility guidelines and standards.

“Look for a non-slip surface. Smaller tile gives you more grout lines and more traction. Use smaller tiles in the bathroom; you can use larger tiles elsewhere.”

Eliminate rugs or buy one with a non-slip backing. Those prone to slips require a separate underlayment, especially by the front door. Siegel walked into a home of a potential client and recommended that the woman get rid of the rug at the top of the stairs. The woman refused because she said she loved the rug too much.

“A few days later she called me and said the rug is gone. She said she started to slip at the top of the stairway,” Siegel says.


Call of nature

The beauty of nature is the main inspiration for Marc Thee’s tile collection.

“The line was based on the discovery that for years we were using the five elements we find in nature – water, metal, earth, fire and wood,” he says. “We are most comfortable when those five elements exist. Fire can’t exist on the walls but mirror or a reflective surface can be water and the dance of reflective fire.”

A new twist is taking the tile beyond the bathroom and using patterns and elements on foyer walls, back of niches or behind a flat-screen television. This repetition is seen in the bathroom tile that is echoed in the metal fretwork of an adjacent room. It’s subtle yet powerful.

“I believe in the emotional power of trends,” he says. “Organic patterns like the waves or a retro large graphic pattern. Good trends last forever. I hope mine are classic patterns, some hound’s-tooth, retro looks or pattern overlap. I believe in spending money wisely – such as in 10 or 20 square feet – to make the space more comfortable.”

The styles are made in two or three colorways (a combination of colors available in a design) but clients can also request custom options. Neutrals are no longer just cream and beige. The options are divided into what he calls “menswear light” and “menswear dark.” “Light” is neutrals with attitude and a point of view, such as limestone, flax, pale beige and pale saddle. “Dark” is gun metals, bronzes and pewters.

“Neutrals are no longer cream and beige,” he says. “I believe in saturated neutrals. Measured doses make you always want more. Restraint always works.”


Trend Ideas

Eric Schigiel, co-founder of Opustone’s South Florida showrooms, says most clients who buy porcelain tile want to select one that mimics stone, but purists still prefer stone. Companies also are mixing fabric, cement, wood and stone together into one tile.

“The trend now is sizes are getting bigger and bigger,” he says. “The porcelain slabs are ½ to 1/4 inch thick and countertops are ¼ inch to 2 inches thick. Digital etching makes it look real with durability.”

Schigiel, whose company is currently doing a project of 100 condos in Coral Gables, is using 16 by 30 tiles. The norm used to be 12 by 14; the new normal is 16 by 30 and 16 by 32. He says a trend that started about two years ago is a thin panel that can create a book-matched on the wall.

Opustone is one of only five showrooms in the country to sell Mutina, an Italian brand Schigiel describes as “the most innovative and high-end porcelain in the world.” Mutina Phenomenon recalls the textures from the modern world to create a moving design. It combines small elements to create depth and width such as honeycomb, snowflakes, icicles and plant cells.

Opustone recently added a 25,000-square-foot showroom and slab gallery in West Palm Beach. Other showrooms are in Miami and Fort Lauderdale.


Mosaic matters

Sara Baldwin, founder and creator of New Ravenna, is known for creating unique high-end tile designs in glass, ceramic and stone mosaic. Her inspiration comes from growing up on Chesapeake Bay in Virginia and traveling around the world. Her latest collection is Legend, which she created with interior designer Paul Schatz.

“As I travel through open-air markets and exotic souks around the world I am enchanted by vintage textiles that exhibit a certain grace that comes with the patina of age,” she says. “These fabrics contain an artisan’s narrative within their seams and frayed edges that we wanted to evoke in mosaic form. We used the muted hues and striations in the stone to create the shadow of time.”

Another of her inspirations is Art Miami, to view contemporary art. She describes her Citta as “Miami meets Armani.” The textured stone mosaic is from the Dimensioni Collection.




Sara Baldwin’s New Ravenna Ceramic Matrix, 1250 Wallace Drive, # N, Delray Beach, 561-353-1449; 627 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale, 954-990-8605;

1333 N. Jog Road, Suite 101, West Palm Beach, 561-408-4000; 5301 Powerline Road, Fort Lauderdale, 954-652-2555; 3200 NW 77th Court, Miami, 305-594-4200;

Shelly Siegel
 Universal Design & Education Network, 9268 Palomino Drive, Lake Worth, 561-685-4149,

Marc Thee

Marc-Michaels: 850 E. Palmetto Park Road, Boca Raton, 561-362-7037 (Note: this number transfers to the Winter Park main office),

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