J. Von-Hughes of Renaissance Tile is, pardon the pun, a true Renaissance woman. A Manhattan lawyer in the early ‘80s, J. followed her passion for visual creativity and embarked on a three decades-long career in interior design, first in New York and now in Westerly. She’s also a photographer and painter. “My favorite form of art is natural stone, glass and porcelain and its application in design,” she says. “I think it’s important to surround ourselves with art in any form and my canvas just happens to be my clients’ interiors.”
Tile can be such an unexpected decorative element. Tell us about some creative uses and finishes.
One of my favorites is the use of ledgestone. This can be used in a bedroom, kitchen, living room or even outdoors with lighting directed to it on a dimmer. This creates beautiful texture and shadow, and brings a bit of mystique to any room. Another out of the box use for tile, particularly glass tiles, are in an indoor or outdoor shower. Use pebble stones on the shower floor for that spa feel, and a mix of frosted and clear glass. Try using two or three shades of soothing blues and sea grass greens.
Renaissance Tile has a gorgeous showroom that has inspired a lot of beautiful home décor. Tell us about your consultation services.
We have worked hard to bring a wellplanned 5,000 square foot showroom with products from around the globe. We are told time and again that we have the nicest showroom the client has ever been in. We offer free, instore, interior design consultation up to two hours per visit. Off-site consultation is available at a fee.
Do you recommend starting with tile first, or decorating the rest of a room?
I think the first step would be to identify what it is that you are trying to accomplish. I would recommend first, a visit to our showroom to view the vast array of tiles, identify what you are attracted to and from there we can make suggestions regarding your best options for cabinets, countertops, lighting, etc. that will pull everything together. It’s easier to bring a tile sample to the cabinet store or to match it up with your slab for the countertop. If you’ve already started making your selections always bring photos or, when possible, a piece of the cabinet and countertop or paint swatches with you to select your tile for the finishing touch.
You’ve got 30 years of interior design experience. How does that translate into what you do at Renaissance Tile Gallery & Design Center?
Tile, in all forms provides a somewhat permanent backdrop and should complement everything else in the room from the time it’s installed and well into the future. Basically, knowledge of what works and what is tried and true are essential in making the right selection. I think for the most part the majority of people want something that expresses their personality. As a designer, we can do just that; create a one of a kind design that suits the client’s lifestyle tastefully and uniquely.
If I’m remodeling a kitchen, how can I create a modern look without using trendy materials that will look outdated in a few years?
Use materials that are tried and true like Carrara Marble, Bursa Beige Marble, Crema Marfil, etc., and simply use a different layout. As opposed to the 4x4, 8x8 & 12x12 “square” tiles, use linear formats and mix up the finishes within. This is just one of hundreds of ways to accomplish a modern look with a classic spin.
Is it possible to custom design my own tile?
You can get extremely creative with designing your own tile. One example is portraits made from glass or stone mosaic. You can have a rendering done in any size with whatever you like, perhaps your favorite pet, a family portrait, or a picturesque setting.
How have trends changed? What’s totally over?
Trends will always be there and technology and competition between the manufacturers will continue to drive them. What is popular now are linear formats from mosaics, to large format tiles like a 12” x 24” or 36” format, to “plank” tiles. More and more people are using the “Wood Look Planks” in entire levels of their homes in place of traditional wood. The wood-look tiles are generally Porcelain, meaning they carry a heavy commercial and heavy residential wear when installed have the look of wood without the maintenance. What is totally over? The “square” tiles. I’m also seeing less and less for the “decorative band” that runs around the shower walls as an accent. Nowadays, people are primarily going for the focal point” behind a stove or on the shower walls. By grouping your favorite accent piece in one place and picture framing it, the room does not feel closed in.
Everyone hates cleaning tile. Do you have any expert tips?
First, if you have Natural Stone, make sure it is sealed properly and as directed. My best advice, like cleaning anything else, is keep up to it. It’s basically a matter of wiping down the backsplash as you clean countertops and keeping a squeegee in the shower to clear the glass and tile of soap and water after every use. In regard to grout, I recommend using Laticrete’s “Permacolor Grout.” The grout has Kevlar instead of sand in it and it is formulated to resist mold and mildew.
Do you work with any green/ecofriendly materials?
Yes. All-natural stone such as limestone, sandstone, marble, travertine and granite are quarried from the earth. Otherwise, we have recycled glass and other materials for the eco-conscious customer.
What are the benefits and downfalls of buying tile online?
In my experience, if it sounds too good to be true, it normally is. Discount stores and online stores are somewhat unregulated to offer “second hand” tiles that are not “dealer qualified.” Materials you buy at a dealer must meet certain criteria and standards set forth by manufacturers, importers, distributors and other organizations like TCNA (Tile Council of North America), to offer information about materials and protect the consumer. Feeling and seeing the tile and its color variations is an important factor. This is why our showroom is set up to feature “concept boards” that allow you to see different layout options and large boards that show minor to heavy shade variations.
Renaissance Tile Gallery & Design Center
271 Post Road # 7, Westerly