In Design: A Kitchen Renovation IV

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Permits nearly in hand, contractors lined up, cabinets on schedule, appliances ordered—we are finally about a week or two away from beginning the actual construction on our new kitchen. With that in mind, this past weekend was a whirlwind of last-minute decision making and ordering and the realization of a potential snafu: tile.

The Tile Design

Though we had selected cabinetry and appliances with decidedly clean, modern designs, much of our initial design inspiration had come from the aesthetics of old apothecary shops and the pre-war details of our building. Thus, we had decided early on that we wanted to use small hexagonal tiles Though the majority of the floor was to be tiled in one color, we were going to incorporate a band in a complementary color, around the perimeter of our kitchen and the adjoining hallway, to echo similar bands in the hardwood floors throughout our apartment.

The Tile Type

In several stores we’d found sample boards from two companies displaying just the type of tile we were looking for, in a range of colors. These were unglazed "color body porcelain" tiles, meaning that they were colored throughout, not just coated with color, as is the case with glazed ceramic tiles. We liked the idea of the unglazed, matte finish to reduce glare, provide some slip resistance and to add a subtle warmth and texture, and our research assured us that the rate of absorption for porcelain tile was so low that we’d have to let something like red wine or tomato sauce sit on the floor for quite a while before it left a stain. Also, because these tiles are colored through, chips and scratches only reveal more of the same color, making them virtually undetectable. So it seemed, we’d found a great functional and aesthetic fit.

The Missing Tiles

When we went back to one of the sample-board stores this weekend to place our order, we were informed that our tiles were "special order" and we'd have to wait until the store representative could contact the company during the week to find out how long it would take to get the tiles and, for that matter, if they would be available at all.

Hedging our bets, we went to another store to check in on tiles of similar colors, made by another company. There we were given the same news.

And, after discussing a number of other tiles of various materials and styles with representatives of these establishments (we’re going to redo the tile in our bathroom while we have the contractors here for the kitchen), it seems that this problem of availability is not specific to the hexi-mosaic tiles we’d chosen for the kitchen, but for all manner of other tiles, too.

On Monday, I received calls from both places: the tiles we had selected from both brands were either completely discontinued or indefinitely out of stock. Bad news.

In a last ditch effort to salvage our floor plans, I contacted an online distributor who claimed to have access to one brand of these tiles in both of the colors we’d chosen and guaranteed delivery in under two weeks. I was told that if the tiles were not available within the guaranteed window, I would be contacted within a day or so. Two days and no word, so fingers crossed, these guys can work some magic. If not, we’ll be faced with a last-minute compromise, probably working within the limited range of readily available colors—namely black, white and rust. It certainly wouldn’t be the worst that could happen in all of this, but next time (and let’s hope that’s a long ways off) we’ll know to check on a tile’s availability before we fold it into our scheme.

Related
In Design: A Kitchen Renovation
In Design: A Kitchen Renovation II
In Design: A Kitchen Renovation III

About the author: Amanda Clarke is a recovering restaurant pastry chef with a background in architecture. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she writes, tests, and develops recipes and works on freelance food-styling gigs between walkings and feedings of her two dogs and husband.

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