- What is the “sight line” of your pattern when a user enters the room?
- What is the relationship of the pattern to any entrance doors, windows or other architectural details of the envelope of the space?
- What are you centering the pattern on? The pattern might follow the outline of an island: It is then centered on the island, not the overall room. Alternatively, in a bath, it might be centered in front of a luxurious bathtub.
- What will be the pattern’s relationship to any adjacent centers of activity, cabinetry or other elements of the space? (This is why you need to lay out the entire floor in plan view and then superimpose cabinetry, furniture and other elements.)
- Is there any intersection between the floor and the mechanical elements in the room: baseboard, registers, openings?
- What will the relationship of the patterned surface and the field material be to the baseboard planned for the area? For example, when planning a bordered patterned focal point in a bathroom space, the designer must decide if the baseboard reverts back to the field tile (allowing the border tile placed on the floor to be “center stage”); if the baseboard is painted wood to match the other millwork; or, if the baseboard is to be finished in the same material as the border accent. This last choice is dangerous – it can make the tile pattern originally designed as a flat border three-dimensional as it creeps up the wall as a baseboard, overpowering the room.
- What grout can you use throughout all tiles? If you attempt to change grout to assist in differentiating between a pattern border or accent, you can have a very “ragged” edge as the two different grouts meet. For tight grout installations, this is not an important design challenge.
The same two approaches of material combinations work when creating a unique countertop. If you use different colors of one material, you’re following an Asian design theory. The Asian global modernism has led to spaces influenced by Asian design sensitivities: a style sometimes called “Pacific Rim.” These rooms appear, at first glance, to be very simple, however, upon closer inspection, they are complex. The concept of two philosophies, looks and beliefs that appear to be diametrically opposite to one another peacefully coexisting is a common theme in Asian philosophy.
I was recently invited to design the DuPont Surfaces exhibit for the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas. One display combined two new patterns of new Corian colors in a curvilinear kitchen space. Whereas there was consistency in the pattern, the curves added a complexity and interest to the space.
When considering combining materials that share a common manufacturer or fabrication technique, one of the first things to decide is will you have straight seams or curved seams? Both are possible – you will simply decide based on what’s “right” for the design you’re working on.
When combining the same materials (which is certainly simpler than combining dissimilar materials), you can also “section” the kitchen or bath project by changing surfaces. In another exhibit in DuPont Surfaces’ booth, I did just that with three new Zodiaq colors. The brightest countertop (a new blue) was tied along the back wall and supported by a mosaic glass tile. The more neutral finishes – one reminiscent of Crema Marfil marble and one with a sense of Cordova leather – were combined on the island. To prevent confusion, the darker brown surface was placed atop a cabinet of the same finish.
When combining different materials, decide what is the most important from a design standpoint, and how you will allow that material to take “center stage.” In this case, we changed the thickness of the material and the edge treatment on the back wall top, and allowed the material to extend beyond the cabinetry.
On the island, we used a thinner material, a minimal overhang and a simple eased edge. When combining different finishes in the same material, decide if you will delineate the color differences by changing edge treatments or material thicknesses, as well.
Other engineering details to be considered are:
- Combining a wood countertop section with any other material. The other materials might be easily scrubbed with a cleaning product, where wood needs to simply be wiped down. How can you make sure the two different cleaning techniques can be used on the two adjacent surfaces?
- Two materials that simply cannot have a clean, flush edge. The joint between various counter materials is a key engineering point. When introducing different materials – or even color changes in the same material – decide how the two materials will intersect one another.
- A flushed joint.
- A joint with a beveled detail to separate the two.
- A joint where one of the two materials is higher than the other.
Finishing stone against stainless steel is a good example. I would always have one or the other slightly higher. Or, I work hard to make sure my client understands the material will not be tightly seamed.
- Do the different materials have any different type of support requirements? A wood countertop might easily hang over an eating bar, whereas a solid surface, stone or other material may need brackets. Support the most delicate surface.
Next, we will look at material combinations featuring changes of surfacing between the countertop and the backsplash. We all know that the most economical way to create a beautiful countertop is to select a great material and install it on both the deck and backsplash. However, this monolithic approach to design may not lead to the personal design statement the client is so anxious to achieve.