Milwaukee/NARI Members Put Interior Design Focus Squarely on Tile

Jan. 4, 2010

The newest local trend in floor tile doesn’t look like floor tile, which might floor some traditionalists. Three members of the Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council, Inc., the area’s leading home improvement and remodeling industry resource for more than 48 years, offered advice on tile for homeowners considering remodeling their homes.


The Milwaukee trend that stands out is porcelain “planking,” which mimics hardwood and can be installed like a parquet floor. Kim Temkin-Taylor, owner of Temkin-Taylor Design in Mequon, says, “The random plank lengths make it look like a real hardwood floor. It comes in elongated lengths, and can be three to four inches wide by 12 to 24 inches long.”


According to Jim Swernoff, owner and executive vice president of Lakeside Stoneworks, LLC of Brown Deer, “The wood look is trendy now. Customers are putting it in their three-season rooms.”


The Milwaukee trend reflects evolution within the tile industry, observes Natalie Green, design consultant/architectural sales at Childcrest Tile & Stone in Menomonee Falls. “Manufacturers are trying to make people see tile in a new way. The planking is a linear look,” she adds.


Choice of Materials

While “ceramic tile” is a catch-all term for shoppers, many tile products are made of porcelain, glass, stone, and other materials, Temkin-Taylor notes. Various materials accomplish different goals. For example, workhorse tiles such as porcelain hold up in wet or high-traffic areas, including commercial buildings, laundry rooms, mudrooms, and kitchens.


Other tile use is famously ornamental rather than functional; glass can add sparkle anywhere. Stone could be featured on tabletops or as an inlay in a hardwood floor. Temkin-Taylor suggests using one material – porcelain tile that looks like stone, for instance – but combining it in varying sizes and shapes to create interest.


Porcelain has the advantage of hiding chips in the color. Temkin-Taylor explains, “The color goes all the way through the tile, so if it chips, you still see the color throughout, like you would in a carrot. With ceramic tiles, a chip shows the white color inside under the peel, like you would see in a radish.”


Practical Points

Swernoff reports seeing more tile used in houses overall because of its durability, and more porcelain used, for the same reason.


He states that homeowners who have experienced water in their basements have turned from carpeting to porcelain tile. “They can place an area rug over the tile for everyday use. If they get water in the basement again, they can toss out the rug if needed, and the tile is fine,” he says.


Swernoff emphasizes the importance of hiring a qualified tile installer to avoid problems with a nonconforming subfloor, which can lead to cracked grout and tile.


Budget Control

Temkin-Taylor praises the visual effect of tile in interior design. “You can get a lot of design bang for your buck with tile, even with just a few accent tiles,” she says.


Homeowners should consider where tile will be placed and assess the logistics, she recommends. Some tiles are tricky to install, and therefore might have more labor cost. Conversely, mosaic tiles on a mesh mounting are installed more rapidly. Stone tile made of marble, travertine (unfinished marble), or limestone needs to be sealed, so that adds cost, Temkin-Taylor notes.


Swernoff advises, “Pick something you like in the colors you like and find it in a material you can afford. If you can’t afford it in a stone, you can find it in a porcelain or a ceramic that fits your budget.”


Local Trends

Green mentions that Milwaukee homeowners are choosing patterns that are circular and repeat from tile to tile. She says tile is being used for accent walls that extend upward from a backsplash, while bar areas are gaining tile accents.


Swernoff observes larger tiles being used, such as a large floor space covered by 16- or 18-inch-square tiles.


Temkin-Taylor comments, “Milwaukee as a market is still a bit more conservative, but glass is being used on backsplashes, walls, shower walls, and borders for mirrors. It’s a recycled, green material.” She also lists look-alike animal textures, including crocodile and ostrich; textile effects, such as a damask pattern on porcelain; and porcelain tiles that look like bronze, copper, and steel.

Since choices in tile have multiplied, where should homeowners start? Green suggests,


“Showrooms can be a bit overwhelming at times. Prepare with ideas that attract you. Magazines are a great resource. Bring them along with you to the showroom, and also bring other furnishing materials that will relate to the tile. Take samples of the tile home to view in that lighting.”


The Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council was chartered in July 1961, as a Chapter of the National Home Improvement Council. In May of 1982, the National Home Improvement Council merged with the National Remodelers Association to form NARI – the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.


The Council’s goals of encouraging ethical conduct, professionalism, and sound business practices in the remodeling industry have led to the remodeling industry’s growth and made NARI a recognized authority in that industry. With over 900 members, the Milwaukee Chapter is the nation’s largest.


For more information on the Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council or to receive a free copy of an annual membership roster listing all members alphabetically and by category, and the booklet, “Milwaukee/NARI's Remodeling Guide,” call (414) 771-4071 or visit the Council’s Web site at

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