“Round, round, round,
I get around…”
Given the economy these days, my summer travels have been taking me more to design blogs than to exotic locales. But design blogs are wonderful places too; you’ll find many of my favorite design destinations in the blogroll at right. Coincidentally, several of those blogs have recently caught my attention with posts on unusual round tiles.
Yesterday, I stumbled across this striking image on the Dornob blog. It’s a hotel entry where the floor has been paved with old copper pennies! An interestingly literal take on the idea of “penny-round tile.”
I’m not sure this application is entirely legal. Then again, I doubt that Uncle Sam would bother to go after these designers when he ignores all the tourists who are engraving little images of the Bay Bridge onto pennies with currency-crushing devices here in San Francisco every day. In any case, I’m sure that the cost-per-square foot for this hotel flooring was pretty easy to calculate.
I would love to try this with mixed coins. It would be a great accent for someone who did a lot of foreign travel. (Sigh. I recall a time when I came back from Europe at least once a year, my pockets loaded with centimes, pence, and lira – dozens of interesting coins too small to merit putting back through the currency exchange process. They would have made a very interesting floor.)
Penny Round Makes a Comeback
Penny round tile is a classic, and one that’s appearing in some modern new guises, in part thanks to some new materials, including ceramic, glass, stone, cork and metals.
Metals other than copper can add panache to round tile, as the version at right attests. These penny round tiles are created by wrapping a thin stainless steel around porcelain and then mounting it on a mesh backing that is forgiving of imperfect surfaces and makes for easy installation.
For its sheer beauty, my favorite round tile is a glass tile mosaic from Evit. This is high-end stuff and it comes with a high-end price tag. Because Evit is located in Italy (ah, to be in Tuscany this summer, or anytime, for that matter) their tile has to be shipped across the Big Pond. That means that it comes with a carbon footprint and it requires lead time to get here.
But, che bella! The mixed sizes of the round tile glass tile give this mosaic a fanciful bubble-like quality. The subtle blue-green hues handsomely accent the cool steel shades of the modern faucet in Evit’s bathroom design.
Round Tile from Recycled Materials
For creativity (sans currency) my prize in the round tile category would have to go to an organic winery in Western Australia that built a wall from more than 13,500 wine re-purposed glass wine bottles filled with water. The winery’s owner, Peter Little, a fomer architecture lecturer at Curtin University and long-time passive solar design advocate, noted that, “Water… can store more energy, heat, or cool than any material we know.” The winery received a government grant that has been used for a thermal imaging program that studies how the wall helps to control indoor temperatures.
Another interesting use of materials coming round to a second life is the recycling of wine corks into floor tiles. Although the corks can’t be used in wine bottles a second time, there’s no reason not to use them in flooring, and that’s just what Jelinek Cork does. The penny round cork tiles even come in a mixture of colors. Jelinek cuts the corks into discs about 1/4″ and glues them onto a special paper that is then afixed to a subfloor and grouted like tile. To seal it, the floor is covered with urethane.
More Round Tile Options
These choices barely begin to scratch the surface of the options I found when I made the rounds on the net, searching for interesting round tile.
Mission Tile offers a penny round mosaic tile called Emperador Dark Penny Round that is made of tumbled stone. The naturally mottled color of the slate gives this tile a handsome texture that would provide a handsome surface for bathroom floors or shower walls.
The Tile Store online offers a glass bubble tile, somewhat like the Evit tile featured above and at right. The Tile Store’s version comes not only in the red version shown, but also shades of green, blue and smoky grays. (Be careful about installing glass tile on floors; it’s easy to crack, and it’s also slippery. It’s much safer to save it for walls and back splashes.)
PennyTile.com offers both glossy glazed porcelain penny tiles in six colors, and matte porcelain penny tile in five more. (Porcelain is extremely hard and one of the most durable flooring materials you can install.) PennyTile also offers classic black and white versions.
Finally, this web walk-about would not be complete without mentioning the popularity of naturally rounded river stones and pebbles, which are now used as both flooring and back splashes. Because the manufacturers split them in half and adhere them to a backing, they can be installed and grouted with a reasonable minimum of fuss.
I’m seeing river rock everywhere. It’s being used for shower walls, bathroom floors, kitchen backsplashes, and fireplace surrounds. While I love the look, I would never recommend installing such an uneven surface as a kitchen backsplash (a cleaning nightmare) or as a shower floor (many tender-footed types would be unable to shower without wearing rubber thongs). It would be great on a porch, on a fireplace, or on a bathroom wall that isn’t in the shower. It seems to be widely available, even at Home Depot, and comes in a rainbow of natural stone colors.
A Round Robin on
Blogs Featuring Round Tile
- Dornob blog on the Standard Hotel’s copper penny floor installation
- Inhabitat – wine corks get new life as as flooring
- Remodelista blog on stainless steel round tile
- Remodelista blog on black penny round tile
- Treehugger on the Australian winery with bottle walls
- Vitreosity – a blog on houses made of glass bottles around the world (lots of great photos)
Where to Find It
- Comfort and Joy Home Design – the author’s remodeling and redesign firm
- Design for Less Outlet: Nice collection of river rock and skipping stone tile
- Evit Italian glass and tile
- Hakatai Tile – glass mosaics
- Interstyle – glass tile
- Natural Stone Tile Outlet – River stone and skipping stone tile in many colors
- Penny Tile – the source for penny round tile
- Mission Stone & Tile
- Subway Ceramics – historically accurate subway tiles and penny rounds
- Tile Store Online, Glass Bubbles – plus glass tile mosaics