Architecture and interior design duo Ruben D. Gutierrez and Katie Gutierrez of Errez Design — who designed this brilliant Miami high-rise — recently completed a kitchen renovation of a 1925 cottage in Coral Gables, FL, for a young couple. When they reached out to me with the project, I was absolutely charmed by the design: the project is refreshing and youthful yet sophisticated.
The element that blew me away the most was the patchwork of vintage handmade Cuban cement tiles on the kitchen banquette wall. I've never seen an installation like this, and I'm seriously coveting one for my own kitchen! I decided to grill Ruben and Katie for every last pinch of information they could offer to help us re-create the look in our homes. Read my interview for the lowdown!
CasaSugar: What resources can you recommend for finding similar tiles? Is there a place to buy them online?
Errez Design: There are several distributors that import similar tiles; however, we recommend Cuban Tropical Tile located here in Miami because they make these tiles by hand like they did 100 years ago. Watching the craftsman make each one is beautiful and inspiring. We love these particular tiles because the handmade quality adds a rich textural and unique quality to each one — it means that you’re not just buying a tile but investing in art. We used a mix of tiles that they had in stock from past projects, but they can customize any design or color combination.
CS: What are the dimensions of those tiles? Do they come in a range of sizes?
ED: The tiles are available in six-by-six-inches or 12-by-12-inches. We love the idea of mixing the two sizes together to add another layer of interest.
CS: Can readers install them themselves or should they hire a professional?
ED: We used a professional cement tile layer and would suggest to anyone that they do the same. There are two challenges to installing these tiles. First, the tiles are installed without grout lines. This means that the tile edges must meet perfectly together. Second, because the tiles are handmade they vary slightly in thickness, and each one needs to be leveled with mortar to perfectly match the adjacent one. The process sounds impossible, but a professional cement tile layer has it done in no time!
Keep reading to see the rest of my interview!
CS: When selecting tiles, do you recommend an entirely mix and match look? Or do you recommend a few repeats?
ED: We love mixing patterns to add a modern twist on the old classic patterns. When doing a mixed pattern, we recommend using all different ones otherwise matching ones will call attention to each other. If there is a pattern that you just love and can’t get enough of, try clustering them together to make a larger square of pattern within the wall. In this mixed pattern, we also used mixed sizes to add additional depth to the wall. We do love the repeated classic patterns using all one tile patterns; it is an understated beautiful way to add interest to any room.
CS: How do you decide which tiles to use in a mixed pattern?
ED: We suggest that you start with an overall idea of a look or feel you’re trying to achieve. Pick tiles that you love that fit into that category. We wanted all the tiles to be cheery (bright and colorful) so we tended not to pick darker tiles. When picking each tile, we simply went with what we loved.
CS: What sorts of rooms beside kitchens do you think would benefit from this wall treatment?
ED: These tiles work both indoors and outdoors and in a variety of spaces. We would love to see a repeated pattern used in a minimal modern glass house or in an outdoor garden. They would look absolutely dramatic in a bathroom too. The options are endless!
CS: Can these tiles be used on the floor?
ED: These tiles are traditionally used on the floor but using them on walls puts a twist on this classic installation. Unfortunately, the installation process hinders use on the ceiling otherwise we’d recommend that too.
CS: How should they be cleaned?
ED: Once installed, the tiles are sealed; they really require minimum to no cleaning or maintenance. On the floor, they can be mopped just as you would a sealed cement floor.
CS: And, I know this is a tangent, but I love the mix of throw pillows you used! What are your resources for those?
ED: Most of the pillows are from Anthropologie and CB2 and range from $50‐$150 each. The beauty of the mixed and matched pillows is that if you keep your eyes open, buy what you love, and just trust your heart, you will yield a beautiful collection.
Head here to see more photos of this kitchen design project!