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Vern Yip: What’s next after white subway tile?

April 19

Everywhere you look, in practically every American neighborhood, there is a visible thread of continuity that once culturally galvanized us: white subway tile.

It seemed that everyone, at one time, agreed that white subway tile (whether plain, crackled or hand-molded) was the clear, de facto choice for any renovation requiring wall tile.

As a result, for the past decade, it multiplied faster than rabbits. White subway tile, after all, was considered that magical combination of being both fresh and timeless. Now, after a decade of near-universal agreement that it would never go out of style, there are distinct rumblings for fresher alternatives, prompting design enthusiasts and weekend warriors to ponder: What’s next?

As it turns out, there’s a lot to talk about because there isn’t just one answer. As homeowners have steadfastly moved toward embracing individuality, and tailoring their homes to fit their specific functional and aesthetic desires (in lieu of accepting a “no-fail” standard), the demand for a broader spectrum of tile sizes, shapes and colors has dramatically risen.

Luckily, industry innovations in manufacturing — and increased accessibility to global artisans and materials — have translated to a never-before-seen array of new, beautiful tile offerings.

“Advancements in technology and our processes have allowed us to push the limits of what is possible with tile,” said Mara Villanueva-Heras, vice president of marketing for Emser Tile, one of the nation’s leading tile resources. “From intricate mosaics to thinner, large panel formats to easy-maintenance porcelains and ceramics that look identical to natural wood and stone, the options we can offer have never been greater.”

The dizzying array of options in the marketplace certainly underscores that there is seemingly something for everyone and for every style.

So for those feeling lost in a post-subway tile world and looking for direction, what is the latest and greatest? Though there may be limitless, new tile options, trendsetters are helping to advance a few ahead of the pack.

Whether you’re contemplating a renovation, or happen to be building from scratch, here is some insight into the most exciting tile developments to assist you in making your kitchen and bath spaces perfectly tailored to you:

Color: It’s hard to imagine that white tile will ever go out of style. After all, white typically signifies cleanliness, a quality most of us unequivocally seek for our bathroom and kitchen spaces.

More and more, however, other tile colors have been surging. Warmer toned neutrals, in particular, have risen dramatically in popularity. Warm gray, which has dominated the paint space for years because of its chameleon-like ability to accommodate any style, has now become a hot tile color as well.

Even having it incorporated into the veining of marble tile, or ceramic tile that emulates marble, is popular. Shades of beige, last seen many decades ago, are also in demand but in updated tones, new shapes and with new textures which up their freshness factor and add visual interest.

And for those wanting more definitive hues, a wide breadth of blue and green tiles (navy, turquoise, emerald and olive are sought after), in line with the blue and green kitchen cabinet and bathroom vanity trend, are available to infuse a pop of color as an accent or to help create a bolder, monochromatic look through an overall application.

Pattern and shape: Of all the areas of change, shape and pattern are perhaps the most visually impactful. Though the timeless rectangle (which gives the subway tile its identity) installed in a classic “brick pattern” will never be retired, newer shapes and patterns are helping to redefine the next generation of bathrooms and kitchens.

From simple hexagons, diamonds and triangles to more intricate arabesque and lantern shapes, creating a bold design statement through tile has become a practical way to simultaneously introduce art and durability.

In fact, intricate, full-room installations, showcasing honeycomb, herringbone and fish-scale tile patterns, have been dominating the Pinterest pages and Instagram postings of many design influencers. And in virtually every shelter publication, the presence of expansive top-to-bottom tile installations, featuring graphic shapes and overall patterns, further underscores that all-encompassing tile has emerged as one of today’s biggest interior design trends.

Size: As it turns out, bigger really may be better, especially when it comes to tile. Dramatically bigger tiles (imagine one big enough to cover your entire kitchen island) have begun to alter how and where it can be used.

At Emser Tile, large porcelain panels (each one measures 63 by 126 inches) in looks that are virtually indistinguishable from natural stone, represent one of their biggest areas of growth.

“The large panels have a thinner profile, which allow for more creative designs and installations,” Villanueva-Heras said.

“Additionally, the dramatically bigger size means that grout lines can be greatly reduced, or possibly eliminated, leaving you with an expansive, seamless surface,” she added. “This makes porcelain panels an excellent option for floors, walls, countertops and even islands that incorporate beautiful waterfall edges. You can even install them over existing surfaces for an easy way to remodel a home.”

The days of cookie-cutter kitchens and bathrooms are, gratefully, behind us. Embracing our individuality has seemingly supplanted our desire to have what the neighbors have.

Like a suit that’s been tailored specifically to your body, bathrooms and kitchen designs are now being tailored to uniquely support us and reflect who we are and what visually delights us.

And, judging by the endless variety of what’s available, the tile industry is fully on board. Undoubtedly, there is life after white subway tile.

Vern Yip is a TLC/HGTV interior designer and host and author of the book “Vern Yip’s Design Wise: Your Smart Guide to a Beautiful Home.” Originally from McLean, Va., Yip is based in Atlanta and New York. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (all @VernYipDesigns). He writes occasionally for The Washington Post.

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Why These Armchairs Are Worth $12,500

The right pair of armchairs can make for a cozy perch—but is this duo worth more than $12,000? Indeed, says Katja E.T. Hirche at New York City’s Bernd Goeckler, who notes that similar models can go for up to $25,000 at auction. Here’s how she arrived at the price.

Name Recognition.

“People are looking for names, and Jacques Adnet was highly prolific in the 1950s and 1960s. He’s a modernist who invented a lot of new styles across a broad spectrum of design,” she says. The chairs were pictured as one of his standout works in René Hardy and Gaëlle Millet’s 2014 Jacques Adnet hardcover retrospective.

Innovative Material.

The chairs are made of leather-like skaï, which was “a novelty for the time,” says Hirche. “It’s a sign of the times. It was used in 1950s airports,” she says. In fact, this model was designed for the Air France VIP lounge. Meanwhile, gilt brass legs resemble bamboo. “Adnet was innovative by incorporating a bit of nature,” Hirche says.

Durability.

The chairs’ gilt brass legs can endure wear and tear. “The brass can always be polished no matter how many children or adults touch it. It stands up to the test of time,” she says. Meanwhile, the skaï is in like-new condition despite age, and the chairs are light and easy to move from place to place.

 

Jacques Adnet armchair available at Bernd Goeckler

“These are great lounge chairs, and they’re lower to the ground than a typical armchair. You can easily sit on them for a couple of hours,” she says. Plus, unlike many armchairs, they don’t have closed sides, which lends a unique touch.

Pro tip:

When buying chairs online, says Hirche, always feel free to call the dealer for more information or additional photos (of people sitting in them, to get a sense of proportion and fit). Always ask if chairs have been reupholstered—a newly reupholstered chair will boost comfort and longevity—and if the metal shows any nicks or sign of wear.

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Why These Armchairs Are Worth $12,500

The right pair of armchairs can make for a cozy perch—but is this duo worth more than $12,000? Indeed, says Katja E.T. Hirche at New York City’s Bernd Goeckler, who notes that similar models can go for up to $25,000 at auction. Here’s how she arrived at the price.

Continue reading Why These Armchairs Are Worth $12,500

Augmented Reality: the Latest in Real Estate Technology

Stephanie Small spent months thinking about what kind of countertop to get for a new wine bar she will soon open with a partner in Somers, N.Y., part of Westchester County.

Besides mulling over the durability and price, Ms. Small thought long and hard about how the 16-foot bar would look, not just in the inside, but through the window from the outside. “I spent hours trying to visualize things and I just couldn’t,” she said.

Then a friend who worked for Cambria, a countertop manufacturer based in Eden Prairie, Minn., told her about the firm’s new augmented reality app, which lays digital images on top of the real world when people look through a smartphone lens.

After downloading the app onto her cellphone, she pointed the device to where the counter would be installed. An image of the bar appeared in its intended spot and she quickly realized that one of her most recent picks — a dark gray marble top — would look too much like the concrete floor. “It was remarkable to see it in the real space,” she said. “It changed my whole vision.”

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Pandora Reality, an augmented reality developer, builds tools for brokers and developers who want to show the potential of an unfinished space. CreditPandora Reality

Although the technology behind augmented reality has been around for years, the average consumer had little to do with it until last summer, when Apple released ARKit, a tool kit that allows developers to make augmented reality apps. Then Apple also made its latest operating system augmented reality compatible, suddenly allowing millions of people to use any augmented reality tool available through the app store.

Tim Merel, managing director of Digi-Capital, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based augmented and virtual reality adviser, predicted that by the end of 2018, there could be as many as 900 million smartphones and tablets capable of supporting augmented reality apps created from tool kits like Apple’s ARKit, Google’s ARCore and Facebook’s Camera Effects. And that number could grow to more than three billion by 2021.

At the moment, developers are creating simple tools. For example, MeasureKit is essentially a digital ruler, while PLNAR helps a user take dimensions of a room to create a floor plan. And Homesnap, a real estate search engine, has a “Walk the Property Lines” tool that shows the property lines around any home.

When you’re able to swap or move images at a push of a button, you can convey the “what-ifs instantaneously” to clients, making the decision-making process quicker, said Matthew Miller, the founder of StudioLAB, a Manhattan architectural and design firm.

With new technology, it’s all about the ease of use, said Brian Peters, chief marketing officer at Cambria. “I made sure both my 12-year-old daughter and my 41-year-old wife were able to use the app,” he said.

Augmented reality is also helpful for home-goods manufacturers who need to send out samples or swatches, Mr. Peters said. “We think our customers will be able to narrow their choices further on the app, before requesting a sample.”

Michael Schroeder, the director of virtual design and construction at SGA, an architectural and design firm with offices in New York and Boston, said that augmented reality could also help fill a major data gap for developers. For example, a tool could be created to show traffic patterns at a building site, or another could depict the texture of various building materials, which a developer could then quickly change on an iPad as while walking around a raw space.

 

“There’s a lot of data that architects and builders need to assess at the design phase and changes are made constantly,” he said. “If I’m able to stand at the site and see the shadow impact a building has on the surrounding area, it might alter the height of the building.”

To help builders and engineers, Daqri, a Los Angeles-based augmented reality firm, has been promoting its Smart Helmet, where augmented reality glasses are part of the construction helmet. The helmet allows the user to see data about machinery, including a generator’s rotation speed and when it was last inspected. It also has a thermal camera, which shows the temperature of pipes. Colleagues in a remote location can also see a repair as it happens and send instructions, if needed.

Clelia Warburg Peters, the president of Warburg Realty, thinks augmented reality has the possibility to become a key tool in the home-buying process. Virtual reality, which has been used by brokers to entice customers to buy homes in faraway cities, conveys what the builder wants to show. However, augmented reality puts the buyer in the actual space, which can take people from the, “‘what is’, to the ‘what it could be,’” she said.

“Buying a home can be very emotional. If you can change and personalize things, it can help with the decision-making process,” she added.

Pandora Reality, an augmented reality developer based in New York and Istanbul, builds augmented reality tools for brokers and developers who want to show the potential of an unfinished space. Alper Guler, Pandora’s head of operations in the United States, thinks real estate marketers could use technology to help keep their client’s attention.

“Home buying is a weekslong process. You can keep clients engaged with augmented reality much more than a link to a website,” he said.

One current drawback, experts said, is the lack of realism of the computer-generated image. They still look too fake, Mr. Miller said.

“I think augmented reality will find a large audience when people can’t tell the difference between the real thing and the computer-generated image,” he said. “But I’m sure that’s right around the corner, like all things tech.”

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