Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Designing with Tile: Fireplaces & Hearths

An ever-increasing back-to-basics philosophy is leading homeowners towards the path of refreshing and renewing the look of their living areas. Be it a fresh coat of paint, updated flooring, dramatic lighting, and so on, the need for a soothing environment trumps even the most prudent of budgets.

Happily, along with this desire for something new and different, fireplaces are also enjoying their place in the renewal process with the limitless decorative possibilities of handmade cement tile, porcelain tile, glass tile, ceramic tile, and mosaic tile.

An inviting fireplace with charming handpainted tiles
An inviting fireplace with charming handpainted tiles

The increased awareness of tile’s long-lasting beauty has not only made kitchen and bathroom backsplashes a showpiece, but the same theory has held true for fireplace hearths and surrounds as well. With a surge in home remodeling projects and newly built homes, homeowners are looking for something different and more personalized to their taste, character and lifestyle. Designers, bloggers, and design-oriented publications have dutifully observed this trend, and have embraced the use of decorative tile fireplaces.

Tile offers flexibility to the architect and designer like no other material with its expansive color palette, sustainable properties, and timeless patterns and designs. Let's first look at handcrafted cement tiles, which provide both long life and distinctive beauty.

Using a gray-scale color palette, or any other monochromatic color scheme, creates a look that is understated, yet beautiful. Consider a two-tone color scheme (shown below) if you'd like to pair cement tile with natural stone. Although not one piece will stand out over another, all aspects of the space work together to create a cohesive design.

Yuna cement tile fireplace
The gray and white tones of the Yuna traditional cement tiles frame this fireplace and perfectly coordinate with the marble hearth and mantle.

Further, the versatility of cement tile as a building material is not restricted solely to indoor spaces. You can transfer the same rich and silky feeling of cement tile to the outdoors where you and your guests can experience a new environment.

Remember, although cement tile can be used outdoors, it cannot be used in frosty environments. If your project is located where frost or freezing temperatures are common, then you should use a porcelain or vitreous tiles for your project. Here are some wonderful examples of indoor/outdoor tile fireplaces.

Outdoor living area with a fireplace featuring a ceramic tile Pomegranate mural
Outdoor living area with a fireplace featuring a ceramic tile Pomegranate mural.


Spanish ceramic tile outdoor fireplace
Spanish style fireplace with imported ceramic tiles.
Image via Studio H Landscape Architecture.



The firebox was built off the floor so the fire could be visible from the bed. Moroccan tile from Urban Archaeology.
The firebox was built off the floor so the fire could be visible from the bed.
Moroccan tile from Urban Archaeology. Image via House Beautiful.



A mid-century modern, two-sided fireplace featuring tile by Heath Ceramics. Image via Apartment Therapy.
A mid-century modern, two-sided fireplace featuring tile by Heath Ceramics.
Image via Apartment Therapy.



e right at home with the terracotta floor pavers, stone molding and black granite mantle and bench.
Hand-painted Albacete Spanish ceramic tiles are right at home with the terracotta floor pavers, stone molding and black granite mantle and bench.


Bruce Palmer Interior Design used glass mosaic tiles by Walker Zanger to create a contemporary fireplace. Image via Houzz.

Which type of tile would you use for your next indoor or outdoor fireplace or hearth project? Do you prefer to make your fireplace a focal point of the room, or would you rather it blend in?




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