Local Designer Series: Tile Trends with Julia Thomas of Tile Gallerie
The Freedom Millwork team often collaborates with local designers and vendors to bring homeowner projects to life. This is the first of a series of blog posts where we sit down with our favorite local experts to capture their insights on trends and best practices to help you create the home of your dreams.
To kick off our series, we met with Julia Thomas, designer and owner of Tile Gallerie in Dublin, PA. With over 23 years of experience, Julia specializes in handmade, handcrafted, and custom tiles, featuring a huge range in the showroom. Tile Gallerie works with major builders in the area as well as with individual homeowners with a tiling project, making Julia an ideal source. Let’s dive into the current trends in the world of tiles and some essential tips for your next tiling project.
Embracing Color and Decorative Tiles
The first trend to note is that color is back in a big way. For a few years, the trend leaned towards minimalistic gray and white tiles, creating clean, sterile-looking spaces. However, that trend has evolved, and people are now gravitating towards more handcrafted and unique products. Demand for color and decorative tiles is on the rise, with hand-painted tiles gaining popularity for their intricate designs and rich colors.
“We’re seeing beautiful, nature-inspired patterns—almost like William Morris designs—and we’re using them as more of a wallpaper effect,” says Julia. “We’re beginning to do whole decorative walls of tile, and it’s more about an overall treatment than a single panel.”
Tile designs are not one-size-fits-all; their popularity can vary dramatically based on the region. For instance, California’s rich history of mission-style architecture and Mexican-inspired designs has led to a strong tradition of handcrafted and terracotta tiles. In contrast, the Bucks County and Doylestown area where Julia works is steeped in history with old farmhouses and converted barns and leans towards more eclectic and handcrafted options. In metropolitan areas like New York and Philadelphia, sleek and modern designs dominate the scene.
The Personal Touch
Julia notes that clients are now more interested in decorating and design, often coming to her with vision boards and pictures for inspiration.
“Today, people are more design-savvy than when I started, thanks to platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and travel experiences,” she says. “Traveling and staying in unique accommodations expose people to inspiring design elements they want to recreate in their own homes. Homeowners are putting more thought into their home improvement projects, wanting to bring their vision to life.”
Julia consistently goes above and beyond to understand her clients’ preferences, even anticipating their needs before they express them. In addition to noting vision boards and photos, she pays close attention to the colors people incorporate into their clothing and their overall personal style, which often serve as valuable clues about their ideal tile choices.
Getting the Results You Want
“Renovating kitchens and bathrooms can be expensive, but if you do them well, they can also give you the most return and value for your money,” Julia says. Tiling plays a significant role in the success of any remodeling project. Drawing on her experience, Julia recommends homeowners plan their projects carefully to ensure they get the results they’re looking for:
- Balance trends with timelessness
Julia points out that tile trends typically last five to ten years. “Initially, unique suppliers introduce innovative designs to the market. Designer firms then embrace these trends, followed by mainstream tile companies,” she says. “After about five years, big-box stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s catch on, making the trend accessible but less unique.” Beyond the ten-year mark, the trend may persist in designer and high-end tile lines, often undergoing reinvention.
When selecting tile colors and styles, prioritize longevity, especially in projects like bathrooms where tile replacement is a significant undertaking. Unlike easily updated paint colors, tiles are a more permanent fixture. Earth tones, blues, greens, and natural textures tend to endure, and blending trendy tiles with classic elements prevents your space from dating quickly. Drawing inspiration from your surroundings ensures a lasting appeal.
- Consider your surroundings
Julia also encourages homeowners to consider how new tiling will work with the rest of the house. Creating a harmonious flow throughout your home promotes comfort while mismatched styles can make spaces feel disjointed and uncomfortable. For example, if you live in a farmhouse, an ultra-modern bathroom might not blend seamlessly with the rest of your rustic surroundings.
Tiles also tie spaces together in your home, impacting the overall flow and energy. For example, in open-plan designs, ensure kitchen, living room, and other area tiles harmonize for a cohesive and visually pleasing environment.
Another consideration when choosing your tiles, is compatibility with existing decor. Julia recommends opting for tiles that complement your home’s style rather than clash with it, allowing other elements like artwork and rugs to shine.
- Marry aesthetics and functionality
While aesthetics are essential, tiles should also serve a functional purpose. The choice of tile material, size, and color should align with the specific needs of a space. For example, a sleek, white kitchen may look stunning but may not be practical if you do a lot of cooking, and high-heat appliances may cause some tile materials to crack or deteriorate.
Tiles are not one-size-fits-all, and their suitability depends on the room they are intended for. If you have pets or young children, durability is key, and you should avoid light-colored tiles in high-traffic areas to prevent staining and damage. Another example would be choosing tiles that prioritize slip resistance in areas like showers or mudrooms.
- Choose the right installer
While Julia and Tile Gallerie will work with homeowners on everything from tile selection and design to installation, they’re equally happy to work with and advise other contractors.
- Review previous work: Before hiring an installer, it’s essential to view photos of their previous projects, preferably those similar to the one you’re about to undertake.
- Have detailed discussions: Don’t hesitate to ask questions and seek clarification since redoing tiling work can be both expensive and time-consuming.
- Use quality setting materials: It’s unwise to cut corners when it comes to setting materials. Ensuring that your installer uses the most suitable setting materials for the type and location of the tile will significantly contribute to durability.
Partnering with Freedom Millwork
Julia often oversees whole renovation projects and emphasizes the importance of collaborating with skilled professionals like plumbers and electricians to ensure every aspect of the project is handled with expertise. She also has a strong working partnership with Freedom Millwork, who she often calls on for input on color schemes and cabinet styles for her clients’ projects.
“They’re great at space planning and suggesting layouts,” she says. “But they’re also really knowledgeable about different ways you can structure your cabinets: suggesting things like a pullout in a bathroom for your hairdryer, or an appliance garage for the kitchen.”
Tiling projects are more than just choosing tiles; they’re about creating spaces that reflect your unique style and serve your practical needs. Throughout our conversation, Julia’s passion for her work shines through. Her dedication to delivering quality results and her commitment to helping homeowners make informed choices sets her apart in the industry. For her, collaborating with Freedom Millwork means working with professionals who genuinely care about the outcome as much as she does.
Ready to start your home remodeling project? Contact the Freedom Millwork team today for expert guidance and personalized designs, and contact the Tile Gallerie team to find handmade and designer tile for your project.