Award-Winning Design Gets ‘One Tile Fits All’ Theme

by WOHe

Award-Winning Design Gets ‘One Tile Fits All’

Some designs work because of an overall blending of different
materials and design elements. Others, however, take their appeal
from using one particular piece 
or design element to tie every-thing together.

The latter is the case with designer Michael Johnson’s
award-winning design, which recently took top honors in the
residential category of the Ceramic Tiles of Italy’s 2001 Design
Competition. Johnson, of the Cave Creek, AZ-based Michael P.
Johnson Studios, used a state-of-the-art, black porcelain tile in a
raised dot design by Vaccari to make a statement throughout the

“The client and I selected the black raised dot tile a 12″x12″
tile that is similar to Pirelli rubber tile,” Johnson explains.
“This tile has the same raised dots that the Pirelli tile has,
except that it’s a ceramic.”

The Italian tile was used for both the interior and exterior
floor surfaces, running from the 2,000-square-foot garage to the
foyer-art gallery, great room, kitchen, outdoor patio and pool
areas. “We didn’t want the living room to be any larger hierarchy
than the patio or the laundry room or the garage, so we had to
choose a tile that would work in all of those locations,” notes

Continuity was important to the designer and the client. “We
wanted to use the same tile throughout the home because, if you’re
sitting in the living room or the kitchen, the whole east wall of
the house is glass, floor to ceiling, so the continuity of surface
from one area to the other is important,” emphasizes Johnson.

The kitchen itself was custom manufactured in Italy, Johnson
notes. “The client selected the kitchen out of Italy, and showed me
catalog cuts of it,” Johnson comments. “I designed the
configuration of the kitchen, and then those drawings went to
Italy, and they put the kitchen together. When the crate arrived,
it fit like a glove.”

Johnson believes that the only way homeowners can have a custom
house today is through the design of kitchens and baths. “It’s the
only way people can express their individuality, other than in the
furniture they choose.”

In this client’s case, the fact that he lives several months a
year in France and shops regularly in Italy is reflected in the
clean lines of the Italian-influenced kitchen. The pale cabinets
contrast dramatically with the dark flooring, yet the whole look
ties together in a 
modernistic design. 

Because the house itself is comprised of only three building
materials, Johnson emphasizes, “anything we wanted to do, we wanted
to do minimally. And, of course, we selected black because the
house is pretty much black,” he continues. “The steel frame is all
painted black, and the glass is all black glass. 

“The bedrooms are all carpeted, and all of the other surfaces
throughout the home are tiled with this one tile,” he states,
adding that this amounts to about 7,500-square-feet of tile inside
and out. “The walls all have a vinyl wall covering that’s gray,
which sets off all of his artwork. It’s a very modern, contemporary
design.” He adds, “Because of the client’s acute interest in art,
the whole house is designed almost like an art gallery that he
lives in, rather than a house that he puts art in.”

Safety was a concern, especially with regard to the pool area.
“While we looked at a variety of surfaces, we felt that the raised
dot tile would be a safety factor around the swimming pool,” he

The outdoor car locations were also a consideration. “In the
garage area, many high-end BMW garages have used the rubber Pirelli
tiles because they’re easy to clean, and they don’t show much
dirt,” Johnson explains.

The client himself was very design oriented, and had a great
deal of input into the type of tile that was chosen. “Being in the
art world, his whole life is an aesthetic,” notes Johnson. “We
would discuss what we wanted to do, and then he would go out and
find the product.”

The Ceramic Tiles of Italy Design Competition, which recognizes
outstanding achievement by North American architects or interior
designers using Italian ceramic tile in commercial or residential
installations, is sponsored by Assopiastrelle, the Association of
Italian Ceramic Tile and Refractory Manufacturers, in cooperation
with the Italian Trade Commission. Both the residential and
commercial winning design firms received $10,000 and a
commemorative plaque at an international press conference that took
place during May’s Coverings 2001 in New Orleans. 

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