The tile – beloved of suburbia for generations. Warm, reassuring, trustworthy – dead. Or, if not dead, at least wheezing in a disconcerting fashion.
Flick through glossy interior design magazines and the traditional tile is eyeball-strainingly hard to spot. Oh, there are tiles. But they’re leather, they’re wooden, they’re huge, they’re tiny. Traditional, they are not. And the alternatives; the young upstarts only too happy to speed the demise of our tired tile? Well, they just keep on coming.
There are 3D panels made from the fibrous residue of sugarcane, there is high-pressure laminate (HPL), there are leather pieces in geometrical patterns, there is that most adaptable of materials – PVC, there is modular stone cladding Walls exist now, not so much at the edges of our rooms as at the edges of our imagination. Our need to immerse ourselves in our immediate environment to the point where it becomes a tangible, touchable, visible extension of what is quintessentially us has never been greater.
Modern materials address that need – the need for individualism in the sense of a creative life standing alone and away from the monotonous, the uniform, the uninspiring; what Oscar Wilde called the “tyranny of habit” and the “slavery of custom”. The world-weary traditional tile, with its uniform size, its uninspiring looks, its inflexible shape and its unaesthetic grouting in need of constant scrubbing seems a little adrift in this sea of the possible.
Often, as with HPL or PVC, flexibility is matched by practicality. Clean, cool surfaces require almost no maintenance, adding instantly to the modern ambience of calm that minimalist architecture strives to achieve. The kitchen user can look around and feel balance and order where once was clutter and moldy grout. It is a fittingly neat example of function as beauty. The very qualities that make coverings such as PVC or HPL cladding versatile and practical are also those which make them aesthetically pleasing and spiritually calming. They require virtually no maintenance and create virtually no clutter – helping create the utilitarian utopia so many of us now crave.
This article was written by the team.