A Touch of Glass for Your Kitchen Design

Decorative glass tiles add a new dimension of creativity to your kitchen decor

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By: Rose Kennedy

When Ann Sacks Tile & Stone started marketing glass tile 20 years ago, it was seen as a pretty, but eccentric, kitchen decoration. "It used to kind of scare tile installers," says John Hurt, the Portland, Ore., company's chief merchandising officer.

Today, glass tile is a hot kitchen trend and Hurt says it's finding its way into backsplashes, feature walls or surrounds on bars or islands and — one of his personal favorites — inside the pantry. "That's a surprising delight, to open up and see beautiful glass," he says. Here are some ideas on how to bring that beauty to your own kitchen.

Clear Advantages

In any application, glass has practical advantages, says Leilani Norman-Young, an artist who founded SpectraDecor in Seattle, a maker of glass tile and drawer pulls.

"Glass is durable and easy to maintain," she says. "And unlike certain types of natural stone, if it gets messed up all you have to do is wipe it off and it looks as good as it did when it was new. I like that."

Glass tiles in particular can help you make a very personal statement without going overboard, she says: "There are so many colors available and the properties of glass — clear, opaque, transparent — offer such dimension and beauty."

The designer says she's striving for more sophisticated patterns and colors with her recycled and fusion tiles.

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"These are not the same as traditional molded glass with its heavier look, or the primary colors that used to be the mainstay of glass tiles," she says. "People are hungering for green, sophisticated choices. And it's becoming more and more important to them that glass is a sustainable material."

Oceanside Glasstile, for instance, offers several glass tile lines made from discarded glass bottles, some using up to 85 percent recycled content. Oceanside employs molded relief patterns on its glass tiles, such as the raised clam pattern on its "Decos" tile, part of the Casa California line.

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Injecting a Little fun

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While he says glass tile is not so exotic anymore, Hurt of Anne Sacks is also quick to point out that it's an easy way to add a fun element to the kitchen, something a little unexpected.

"Glass tiles offer a wonderful chance to express your individuality, which is something you can't really do with a cabinet or stainless steel refrigerator," says Hurt, "There are so many colors, more than 50 to choose from on some lines. Other designs such as our Erin Adams collection of glass mosaics are genuinely unique, with each installation made to the customer's order."

Complex Basketweave with Escher Border and Offset Mosaic are just a couple of the Anne Sacks patterns that can be made in any color combination.

Another fun, new trend is metallic glass tiles by such companies as Maestro Mosaics. By backing glass tiles with metallic paint, a three-dimensional effect is achieved in the semi-smooth 4" x 4" tiles.

Giving Tradition a Lift

Even in a more conservative design, colored glass tiles have their place.

"A glass backsplash can play off the traditional white kitchen — give it a little lift, give it a little fun," says Martha Gargano, a designer at A Matter of Style in Cheshire, Conn., who tends to employ glass tiles from Waterworks.

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"Kitchen designs in New England still tend to be very traditional, but we've done several jobs using jewel tone glass tiles, turquoise, magenta and purple," she says.

Norman-Young also recommends glass to enrich the coldness of today's popular stainless steel counters and appliances. "It provides a beautiful juxtaposition, particularly if you direct lighting onto the glass," she says.

Layered glass tiles that combine opaque and transparent glass in mod designs are a popular offering from SpectraDecor, and Norman-Young says she's seen a lot of demand for the tiny tiles to use as accents for larger, basic glass tile creations. All are made to order by artisans in her Seattle studio.

Practical Pointers

No matter what the application or how sophisticated the design, though, glass-tile consumers should keep a couple of practical tips in mind, says Hurt of Anne Sacks. "Smooth glass on a backsplash is easy to keep clean and resists heat," he says, "but if glass tile has been sandblasted it can hold on to oils."

Unlike 10 and 20 years ago, professional tile installers are no longer fearful of glass tile installation, but a homeowner should still be wary, says Hurt.

"You can get a special cutting tool, but I'd generally recommend an experienced installer for glass tile," he says. "It doesn't lend itself to a do-it-yourself project like ceramic tile does."

Resources

Martha Gargano, designer for A Matter of Style

Ann Sacks Tile & Stone, www.annsacks.com

Maestro Mosaics, www.mglasstile.com

SpectraDecor, www.spectradecor.com

Waterworks, www.waterworks.com

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