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Timeless Designs

Most people are not aware of the different techniques available today for designing with tile and other hard-surface materials. New technologies, combined with old-world methods, have introduced a variety of design options that weren’t commonly available in the past.


Waterjet Design

Using a waterjet to cut tile into specific designs is one of the more recent additions to the tile industry. Gaining popularity within the last 15 years, waterjet cutting allows any design, including curvilinear or straight lined, to be produced and reproduced. First, the design is drawn, often by hand. Then a computer programmer transforms the design into a vector drawing, or computerized line drawing. Then the waterjet machine is programmed, and the design can be brought to life by the waterjet machine operator.


Medallions and Listellos  

Waterjet design is most often seen in medallions and listellos. A medallion is typically a smaller design that fits into a distinct space, such as an “area rug” made from tile. A listello is an accent border. Medallions and listellos can be used in residential and commercial applications.


Custom Murals  

One of the most unique applications of waterjet design is in custom murals or wayfinding patterns (directional arrows that help people get to a location). A designer can draw a custom pattern or a photo can be transformed into a mural created from tile or stone. For example, the lion on page xx was reproduced from a photograph. The photographer wanted a permanent keepsake from his close encounter.



With the aid of waterjet design, any shape can be designed into a repeat pattern to create unique mosaic designs. Interlocking designs with custom shapes, colors and sizes can be put together to create an infinite number of mosaic patterns. A customer may desire a custom mosaic as an accent wall, backsplash or placed anywhere in the home.


Old-world Techniques

Although technology is exciting, many old-world design methods still produce stand-out tile projects. For example, murals can be created from hand-cut stone mosaics, tumbled mosaics, broken mosaics and glass. The artist takes the concept and creates a full-size drawing and painstakingly hand places each piece to create the finished product.


The materials used in the project depend on the desired finished look. Polished or honed stone mosaics are created by cutting full tiles into the desired sizes for the mosaic. Pieces may be as large as 1 by 1 inch or as small as 1/4 by 1/4 inch. Combining honed and polished mosaics can create a stunning texture.


Tumbled mosaics are created by taking the cut pieces of stone and tumbling them with different abrasives to create an antiqued effect. The corners are slightly rounded from the tumbling process. Tumbling the stone often results in softer, more muted colors for a more subtle effect. The octopus on page xx is a tumbled mosaic.


Ceramics and porcelains can be cut into mosaic shapes, as well. Ceramics are well suited for broken mosaics. Just as the name suggests, the materials are broken into desired sizes at the site of the installation to create a pattern. Each piece then is set individually, like a puzzle. In the field, creating a broken mosaic can be a time-intensive process.


There is an option and some advantages to having a broken mosaic created beforehand. With an experienced broken mosaic artist, a remodeler will be able to specify the range of sizes a homeowner would like used in an installation. Preordering the project gives the fabricator more time and resources to control the design’s production. A remodeler can have input into the grout joint size, as well. Smaller pieces allow the most detail and can accommodate smaller grout joints. Larger pieces of broken tile don’t always fit together nicely. With larger pieces, a remodeler can choose between larger grout joint, adding smaller pieces to fill in some irregular empty spaces, or the larger shapes can be hand cut to maintain a smaller joint. Once the colors, sizes and layout of the mosaic are selected, a prefabricated mosaic can be assembled into sheets, which reduces the amount of time the installer is in the space.


Glass is another option that offers variety in color and size for mosaic designs. Keeping the joints straight and using a variety of colors creates a pattern. Designers also may incorporate the joints into the pattern. By incorporating the joints, much of the glass will need to be hand cut to fit the unique shapes.  


Other materials, such as stainless steel, brushed aluminum, polished brass and antique bronze, can be incorporated into a design to add an accent. Metal also can be waterjet cut into any shape to become an integral part of the design.


When it comes to tile and stone, today’s designers can create timeless patterns by waterjet cutting, hand cutting, breaking, hand placing or combining these techniques to provide homeowners with any design they can imagine.