Ask the Experts: The Tile Guy

Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

How can you breathe new life into a kitchen?
Update the floor or backsplash with new tiles. If you’re laying a new floor over the old one, that’s a relatively easy fix. The same is true with the backsplash.

Can it be a DIY project?
You have to have the right equipment to cut the tile. And there’s a level of expertise required to grout it afterward. It’s not brain surgery, but you’ve got to know what you’re doing. You certainly can’t do a countertop in slab by yourself.

What are the hardest tiles to clean?
Those with porous surfaces, such as limestone. As a general rule, less porous materials like marble and granite are easier to clean, but there are some exceptions. For instance, cedar and Jerusalem limestones are very dense and almost as hard as marble, so they’re not difficult to clean.

What’s trending in tiles these days?
Grays and whites. Sara Baldwin at New Ravenna Mosaics is so genius in using those colors in her new designs. She has an incredible aesthetic with her Silk Road collection. It’s almost completely gray and white, but it’s interpreted in an extremely poetic way.

What color tiles do you hate in a bathroom?
It’s not a good idea to make a bathroom dark if you use it every day. And don’t go too green.

How can you best use mosaic in a small bathroom?
Do one great feature in the floor, using twenty square feet of material. It should be something that’s wild, that says the homeowner is creative. Go with a design that’s bold, something that will make your guests say, “These people are far out.”

Like what?
For the mosaic floor in my pool house, I took a design I saw at the Taj Mahal and did it in Mediterranean colors.

Suppose you have a tight budget, but want big drama.
Do something that’s stocked and not custom. It’s like buying a Gap turtle-neck and putting a beautiful piece of jewelry on it. And don’t do 50 square feet—do 20. If it’s $20 a square foot, then it’s only $400. If something is detailed correctly, it can look really expensive.

What if you’re worried about growing tired of it?
Don’t go for anything too trendy. Make sure it has a neutral palette and a quietness to it.

Besides the kitchen, bathroom, and your Taj Mahal–inspired pool house, where else is a great place for tile?
Entranceways, foyers, and vestibules. When you walk into a home, it should make that grand impression.

Trick of the Trade
“Use mosaic on your bathroom floor to make it less slippery. The grout creates a nice grip.”

Ask the Experts: The Tile Guy