Architects, designers and skilled do-ityourselfers are going for the glass look on backsplashes, countertops and floors. They're surrounding fireplace mantels and covering supporting pillars in high-rise condominiums.
Make no mistake. Glass tiles are pricey. Uninstalled tiles typically cost $30 to $60 a square foot and can go as high as $350 for custom applications. But diehard fans insist the result is well worth the cost. 'Glass tile is strikingly beautiful in so many different ways,' says Patricia Hart McMillan, a South Florida designer and co-author with her daughter, Katharine Kaye McMillan, of the new book 'Glass Tile Inspirations for Kitchens and Baths' (Schiffer, $19.95). 'It's a material that tile designers can work with to change the colors, textures and patterns. It has unlimited possibilities for constant invention. The design potential is inexhaustible. No wonder people are totally intrigued by it.'
This ancient material new technologies have allowed tile designers to produce it in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors and textures. The choices are as varied as decorating styles. There's cast glass, enameled glass and fused glass. You can find pastels, neutrals, jewel tones and metallics as well as black and white. Finishes are frosted, crackled, gloss, gold flecked, iridescent, matte and opaque. Textures are fused, molded or tumbled. Besides looking good, those made out of recycled glass are ecologically correct.
No wonder many more homeowners are seeing their homes in glass tiles. Jaime Eldridge, senior project designer at Expo Design Centers Davie, Fla., store, says about seven out of 10 of her customers ask about using glass tiles. 'A few years ago it was used in bathrooms and kitchens as inserts, but now people are doing full walls of glass tiles,' she says. 'Their first question is: Where can I put it? The answer is basically everywhere in the shower, on the walls and on the floors, on backsplashes and countertops.'
Whether tiles should be used on countertops is up for debate. McMillan's book shows several applications on kitchen and bathroom countertops, but noted Miami architect Alison Spear disagrees. Spear says she never uses glass tile on countertops because everything gets stuck in the grout lines. If she wants the look, she uses sheet glass.
Spear used a graphic assortment of colorful circles last year in a retro kitchen design inspired by Lucy and Ricky Ricardo at the House Beautiful Designer Showhouse in Miami Beach, Fla. The green and yellow glass mosaic tiles, which start at $133.38 per square foot, were designed by artist Erin Adams for Ann Sacks, a high-end company that produces stone, tile, plumbing, lighting and accessories. (Spear and Adams collaborated on novelist Jay McInerney's house in New York several years ago.) 'I use it all the time,' Spear says. 'I find it to be indigenous, very Miami and very South Florida. It's very historic, has a lot of tradition and was used in a lot of old Miami Beach hotels. I use glass tile in bathrooms, on accent walls, on exterior projects. There is no limit to using it.'