Pattern Love: How A Quilt Specialist Created Her Own Custom Tile

By Clay Imports

We live in a very typical ranch house that was commonly built during the 70s in Austin. It’s a blank slate in terms of architecture, there’s no vaulted ceilings or “wow” features. When I was thinking about how I wanted to design the kitchen, it had to have the visual impact that was missing from the rest of our home. I knew I wanted to have a bit of a 70s Austin ranch house vibe, but also bringing in mid-century touches that fits our decor.

When we moved in 13 years ago, we knew we were going to redo the kitchen. Over the years, I kept a notebook in my kitchen and would write down all the features I wanted. A place for the pets to eat, a coffee cabinet to keep things off the counter, and custom tile. We love to entertain, and the kitchen is the heart of our home, so it was important to be functional and capture our personal style.

Before & After

Kitchen Before Remodel
12" Saltillo Hexagons tiles in kitchen

12" Saltillo Hexagons and Custom Tile

Pattern Love

My love for tile began as a young teen in the 80s. Growing up in New Jersey, my neighbor was a custom tile painter. I would watch her baby as she painted in front of a huge angled table or unloading her kiln with dozens of hand painted tiles. She had learned to paint in the Delft style from her Dutch father, but in the late 80s she was painting the idealistic country scenes that were in fashion at the time. Painted murals of baskets overloaded with fruit or flowers, herbs, and various kitchen still lifes.

Once she took me went to the Moravian Tile Works in Bucks County, PA, famous for producing tile during the Arts & Crafts movement. It is an active museum and tile factory, it was fascinating to learn about the tile produced here. My neighbor also brought me to one of the best showrooms in New York City, Country Floors, when she would meet with the sales team on painting custom tile murals for the famous. I would look over the showroom and, in my mind, pick out what I would choose for my own home. The floral mural style has long fallen out of fashion, but it created a love of handmade tile.

Now, many years later, I work in the sewing and quilting industry, which in some ways is not that different from tile. Colorful blocks brought together in a beautiful way to be used in the home. Function and form go hand in hand. Coming from a creative profession, I felt confident to make decisions on the design choices in my kitchen. And it helped I ran some of my ideas past my fabric designing friends!

Grant House Remodel Progress by Clay Imports
Grant House Remodel Progress by Clay Imports3

Custom Cabinets

The Design Process

I wanted to be sure the tile fit the house and our climate, Clay Imports was the obvious choice. I selected the classic Saltillo tile for the flooring. It was common in ranch homes in the 70s, but by keeping a tighter grout line I feel it brings it into the present day and provides lots of warmth, an Austin vibe, and a classic touch to the kitchen.

Our home has such minimal architecture features, I knew I wanted to make a bold statement over the range hood. Since we had Saltillo tile, Primavera Mexican tile was a perfect match. The biggest challenge was picking the pattern! We were really lucky in that Clay Imports worked with us to do custom colors for our tile. It would work seamlessly with the color palette in the rest of the house but gave us an affordable custom look. I was really lucky that our contractor found an amazing tile installer to get the math right. We didn’t cut a single tile in the hood installation.

We continued the tile on the back of the island, to continue on the visual impact. I keep the backsplash clean so that the hood tile was the main feature, I carried texture into our cabinets with cane that is repeated in our island chairs.

I designed my kitchen to be sure that the tile makes the room.