An Online Boutique for Trends in Tiles

People / Places / Products / May 16, 2012

Deborah Osburn has her finger on the pulse of tile design.

Through her blog, Tile Envy, she’s learned what’s hot and what’s not – and she’s assembled an online design boutique dedicated only to the tile designs she knows are in demand.

It’s called Clé – and it’s a source for affordable, fashionable and quality tile.

“We now have suppliers from all over the world, through the Internet,” she says.  “Instead of being curated by tile dealers, we’re introducing different artists and design studios to an enormous audience.”

Moreover, she’s able to introduce artists who produce work by hand to larger collaborators who can produce 50,000 pieces in a year.  Or steer a client in Africa toward the nearest source for a desired tile.

“Two sides kind of bubbled up for me as I worked with Tile Envy,” she says. “First, there’s the trending of products, and then there’s the nurturing of artists’ voices.”

Clé, which launches today, includes works by 12 artists from almost as many places, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Napa Valley, Pennsylvania, Italy, South Africa, Scotland, Canada and the United Kingdom.

The online boutique is a play on the English word for clay and the French for key.  “We hope to unlock new tile horizons,” she says.

Among the tile trends she’s identified and represented on Clé are subway tiles (once disappearing but now making a comeback with a hand-hewn, industrial-age look) as well as penny pounds (porcelain about the size of a penny, mounted on a net), and anything wood-grained.  “Glass mosaics are dwindling, though we’re willing to look if it’s interesting,” she says.

It’s all driven by a bottom-up demand, rather than a top-down offering.  “It’s what people want, not what designers and manufacturers are pushing.”

For more information, go to http://cletile.com/

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Michael Welton
I write about architecture, art, and design for national and international publications. I am the author of "Drawing from Practice: Architects and the Meaning of Freehand" (Routledge, 2015), and the former architecture critic for the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.




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