Talking Tile: An Expert from BENDER Shares Tips, Current Trends, and More
"There's been an explosion of color, texture, and size."
Whether it’s because they’re colorful and fun or easy to clean, tile is a favorite with homeowners and designers. They can create that big impact you’ve been craving and brighten up any room in your home that feels tired or bland. However, there’s more to tile than just choosing colors and patterns.
Tile & Stone Director of BENDER, Sheri Snellman, is now sharing her tile expertise. A fourth-generation, family-owned company, BENDER opened its first showrooms in the 1980s and it is a fixture in the Connecticut decorative plumbing, kitchen and bath cabinetry and most recently, the tile and stone industry. They’re pros at what they do—when BENDER talks tile, people listen.
Let’s start with the basics. What are common tile materials and what are the benefits and setbacks of each?
The most common materials are ceramic, porcelain, and natural stone, as well as mosaics with mixed product combinations.
Ceramic tile is commonly used for wall application. Artisan-made or handmade ceramic tile is a special way to add your unique personality. While artisan tile is a work of art, it generally can’t be used for exterior purposes or for flooring. Porcelain tile, on the other hand, can be used almost anywhere, including in interior and exterior spaces, commercial applications, and countertops.
While the tile industry has come close to imitating natural stone, there is nothing like the real thing. Natural stone can be used almost everywhere. The challenges with natural stone are that it can be pricier, and the maintenance and care are a bit more involved than some other options.
Mosaics can be unique and striking. When considering the best application for a mosaic tile, it’s important to consider the materials of its entire composition.
What tile trends are you seeing across your many Connecticut showrooms? What styles are in and what do you see is going out?
There has been an explosion of color and texture in the tile industry. Last year, we saw hues of pink and blue trending after seeing grey for many years. Recently, we’ve been seeing green and gold becoming popular with many manufacturers. We’re also seeing a lot of patterned tiles that resemble wallpaper. With regard to size, we’re seeing the return of the 8 x 8 size.
Currently, we’re seeing fewer requests for glass field tile than we previously have. About five years ago, glass was popular for backsplash and bath surrounds, but now we’re primarily seeing glass tile in mosaics for design applications.
Are subway tiles here to stay or a fleeting trend?
To me, I consider subway tile to be classic and timeless. There will always be someone who wants that classic look, either in true 3 x 6 subway size or in any of the new interesting variations.
No matter if you want a retro or classic look, subway will always be the most requested go-to!
Tell us a bit about how the process normally goes when someone comes into a BENDER Showroom looking for tile. Where do you start?
We begin with one central question: Why are you remodeling your space or building a new home? The answer to this question guides our process so that the products and design fit the needs of each individual using the space, resulting in homes people love to live in. If they are purchasing their decorative plumbing (kitchen or bath), vanities, cabinetry, etc. from us, we want to make sure they incorporate their tile needs with their overall bathroom and/or kitchen needs, so we’ll want to see what style/products they are purchasing.
Depending on where they want the tile to go, our staff knows what type of style to recommend. Before clients come to us, we recommend that they have a budget in mind and bring in inspiration photos so we can help make their dream a reality. Ideally, we aim to surpass what they ever imagined.
How does Bender select which tiles to carry and how many options do you have? Does every showroom have the same offerings?
The selection process takes time because we work hard to source unique products that speak to our brand, some of which may only be found at BENDER.
We have thousands of options that fit every budget and design aesthetic. Most of our showrooms carry the same products, with a few exceptions. We just expanded the tile department in our Norwalk and Hartford locations, but there are significant tile selections in all of our showrooms.
What tips do you have for creating a bold effect with tile?
Be brave – listen to your gut. I have worked with many customers who were drawn to a certain tile that wasn’t what they were anticipating but that they found intriguing. When this happens, we advise them to take the product home and test it out, and it’s usually the winner! Being bold with tile is sometimes using it in unexpected areas like stair risers, a bathroom niche, or a feature in a non-tiled room like a front entry.
Do you give different tile style advice for different spaces? For example, how would you approach the tile selection for a mudroom differently than for a master bath?
We listen carefully to the customer and ask questions about how they will live in the space. Then, we show tile options that speak to their vision. Prior to an appointment at BENDER, we suggest sending in or bringing in inspirational photos so that we have a clear understanding of what they’re trying to achieve. For example, we likely wouldn’t recommend a white marble tile for a busy family’s common area, but we might suggest that same family using white marble in the parents’ bathroom.
Many designers and homeowners are becoming more eco-conscious when creating spaces, do you see a turn toward sustainability in the tile industry and do you offer eco-friendly products?
By its nature, tile is an eco-friendly product since it is made of organic materials like clay and minerals. Regarding sustainability, the tile industry often recycles unused material into new products in order to minimize waste.
With a wealth of knowledge and a skill for curating the most exceptional products, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what BENDER has to offer for your tile needs.
In their showrooms, BENDER marries function, budget, and design to provide the right solution for each customer. Visit benderplumbing.com to see more inspiration, explore the virtual showroom, or find showroom locations. Transforming your spaces with tile has never been easier.