Saturday, July 10, 2010

Adventures in tiling

The first time I saw my apartment, I immediately knew that while the brand-new kitchen was more that sufficient, there were 3 things that were just not to my taste—the cabinets, the tiles in the backsplash and the overhead soffit beams. Changing the cabinets was not an option (given the expense, and that they were brand new), so I decided to address the backsplash and soffit eventually. Finally, 1½ years after moving in, and frustrated with trying to get turmeric stains off of the unglazed tiles for the umpteenth time, I started researching replacement tiles.

I wanted a high-glaze ceramic or glass tile that could withstand my cooking splatters and be easily wiped down. My initial thought was glass tiles in a chic monotone palette. But as I looked at the cold mushroom-coloured quartz countertop, stainless steel appliances and super-modern cherry cabinets, I realized that the space screamed for something tactile and hand-made to give it warmth. Also, given that the kitchen, dining room and living room are all in one large open space, I wanted to pull some of the colours I used in decorating the dining and living areas into the kitchen. The answer—mosaic tiles.

I researched mosaic tiles from all over the world for an authentic and practical solution before I decided on Moroccan zillij tiles. A lot of designer tile companies like Heath Ceramics, Ann Sacks and Country Floors have beautiful selections of zillij and Moroccan-inspired mosaic tiles but nothing that I fell completely in love with. All these companies had options to customise the patterns, but the price was exorbitant. They also didn’t make the tiles themselves, but sourced them from Morocco. I finally decided to go straight to the source and tracked down three manufacturers/dealers of Moroccan zillij tiles in New York. After getting quotes from all three, I selected Mosaic House. They offered the greatest flexibility in customising and pricing, and had the friendliest and most helpful staff.

The Mosaic House showroom on 22nd street is mind-boggling—every surface is covered in glorious mosaic tiles of every imaginable pattern and colour—some modern, but mostly traditional and historical. I short-listed a few patterns and brought Peter back to help me make the final decision. Once we picked the pattern and colour combination, the staff made simulation drawings showing how the tiles would look in our space. We signed off on the design and made the deposit in end-March. Given that our tiles were all to be custom-made, we had to wait 12 weeks for them. They arrived, on-the-dot, in mid-June, and our contractor installed them in just 3½ days, bang on time for the July 4th long weekend. Here is a slideshow of the tiling process.

I’m so enamoured with the zillij tiles, that I want to re-do one of the guest bathrooms with them. But hubby will rip off his hair if he sees another contractor any time soon. Maybe in another 1½ years . . . !

[Click here to see the pics in a larger size.]


  1. Delightful! Love the ochre-yellow-mustard colours. Imagine the mistris in Cal working in a work bubble!! That would be true revolution.

  2. Beautiful! Can't wait to see it in person

  3. It's amazing what a difference tile makes. The original was definitely "developer chooses a bland, neutral look that will go tolerably well with anything the purchaser does."

    The new look is very "Shubhani lives here." :-)

    I love the backsplash, but I think I like the soffit tile most of all. (Prob because my color palette preferences and yours are a little different; I lean toward blues.)

    EXCELLENT choice on the grout color!

  4. I couldn't agree more with E. But this time it's a long lost "E."



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