Actually it’s tile. Thanks to clever new processes, tile surfaces are creating a new generation of wall coverings.
When it comes to fabric-looking tile, you can take your pick from a slew of options: linen, brocade, corduroy, even an Argyle pattern.
Think of it as Textured Tile 2.0 – a way of making tile look strikingly similar to what you might hang around your window, or wear, or sit on.
The benefit? Practicality, says Tucson interior designer Lori Carroll. “It’s tactile and interesting, yet you can use is in a bathroom.” In other words, you get the look of fabric without getting your wall soggy or grubby.
Among the tile manufacturers Carroll favors – particularly in powder rooms – is AKDO. It calls its Glow, Pelle and Fibra collections “thru-body porcelains”. A mix of pressing processes and surface glazes achieve the look, and a little bit of the feel, of fabric, says Kate Donofree, AKDO’s marketing director.
Another of its collections is called simply (and aptly) Fabric, and features corduroy, Argyle and Balmoral plaid patterns. With those, small cut natural stone tiles are fitted together to created the patterns, says Donofree.
Elizabeth Miller, owner of Fractured Earth Tile & Stone in Tucson, says a company to watch is Spanish-based firm Dune. “This company is really innovative. Most Spanish tiles are pretty ordinary – your basic ceramics and porcelain. Dune has managed to do a brocade look on tile, for example, which is fabric looking but has a durable surface,” she says.
The technology doesn’t stop at stone. Tile manufacturer Interstyle, also stocked by Fractured Earth, fuses decorative prints on glass tile to give the striated look of linen and the patterned floral look of Damask.
How do they do it? You’ll be lucky to find out. Kate Donofree was the only one willing to share some of the manufacturing tricks being used – and even those were vague. That’s because competition is intense in the world of fancy tile. Says a source: “The companies do not want to give their trade secrets away. The Chinese are trying to knock off everyone.”
Prices for the lines featured here range from $35 to $75 per square foot, so if you’re on a budget, best to tailor your tile/fabric statement to small, contained areas. But according to 3 Story’s own Madeleine Boos, selected use of this tile is kind of the point. It’s appearing in unexpected areas, adding personality to a home, she says.
“Tile is stepping out of the bathroom and kitchen and claiming other areas of the home, and I don’t mean in drag as stone,” says Madeleine. “Tile has its own personality and it’s own design opportunity. My clients are loving the linen and ribbed look and moving towards the bolder patterns and glamorous graphics in unexpected areas, like headboards for instance.”