Award-Winning Design Gets 'One Tile Fits All' Theme

Award-Winning Design Gets 'One Tile Fits All' Theme


The latter is the case with designer Michael Johnson's award-winning design, which recently took top honors in the residential category of the Ceramic Tiles of Italy's 2001 Design Competition. Johnson, of the Cave Creek, AZ-based Michael P. Johnson Studios, used a state-of-the-art, black porcelain tile in a raised dot design by Vaccari to make a statement throughout the home.

"The client and I selected the black raised dot tile a 12"x12" tile that is similar to Pirelli rubber tile," Johnson explains. "This tile has the same raised dots that the Pirelli tile has, except that it's a ceramic."

The Italian tile was used for both the interior and exterior floor surfaces, running from the 2,000-square-foot garage to the foyer-art gallery, great room, kitchen, outdoor patio and pool areas. "We didn't want the living room to be any larger hierarchy than the patio or the laundry room or the garage, so we had to choose a tile that would work in all of those locations," notes Johnson. 

Continuity was important to the designer and the client. "We wanted to use the same tile throughout the home because, if you're sitting in the living room or the kitchen, the whole east wall of the house is glass, floor to ceiling, so the continuity of surface from one area to the other is important," emphasizes Johnson.

The kitchen itself was custom manufactured in Italy, Johnson notes. "The client selected the kitchen out of Italy, and showed me catalog cuts of it," Johnson comments. "I designed the configuration of the kitchen, and then those drawings went to Italy, and they put the kitchen together. When the crate arrived, it fit like a glove."

Johnson believes that the only way homeowners can have a custom house today is through the design of kitchens and baths. "It's the only way people can express their individuality, other than in the furniture they choose."

In this client's case, the fact that he lives several months a year in France and shops regularly in Italy is reflected in the clean lines of the Italian-influenced kitchen. The pale cabinets contrast dramatically with the dark flooring, yet the whole look ties together in a 
modernistic design. 

Because the house itself is comprised of only three building materials, Johnson emphasizes, "anything we wanted to do, we wanted to do minimally. And, of course, we selected black because the house is pretty much black," he continues. "The steel frame is all painted black, and the glass is all black glass. 

"The bedrooms are all carpeted, and all of the other surfaces throughout the home are tiled with this one tile," he states, adding that this amounts to about 7,500-square-feet of tile inside and out. "The walls all have a vinyl wall covering that's gray, which sets off all of his artwork. It's a very modern, contemporary design." He adds, "Because of the client's acute interest in art, the whole house is designed almost like an art gallery that he lives in, rather than a house that he puts art in."

Safety was a concern, especially with regard to the pool area. "While we looked at a variety of surfaces, we felt that the raised dot tile would be a safety factor around the swimming pool," he offers. 

The outdoor car locations were also a consideration. "In the garage area, many high-end BMW garages have used the rubber Pirelli tiles because they're easy to clean, and they don't show much dirt," Johnson explains.

The client himself was very design oriented, and had a great deal of input into the type of tile that was chosen. "Being in the art world, his whole life is an aesthetic," notes Johnson. "We would discuss what we wanted to do, and then he would go out and find the product."

The Ceramic Tiles of Italy Design Competition, which recognizes outstanding achievement by North American architects or interior designers using Italian ceramic tile in commercial or residential installations, is sponsored by Assopiastrelle, the Association of Italian Ceramic Tile and Refractory Manufacturers, in cooperation with the Italian Trade Commission. Both the residential and commercial winning design firms received $10,000 and a commemorative plaque at an international press conference that took place during May's Coverings 2001 in New Orleans. 

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