Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tile design in dreamtime

As part of an upgrade to our little basement apartment, we're creating a tile backsplash in the kitchen.  We wanted to incorporate some of our Mexican tile collection into it and the bluebird tile was what we chose.  About 20 years ago we bought  three boxes of tiles in Puerto Vallarta and brought them home as excess baggage on the airplane.  Over the years we've used them in kitchens, bathrooms, for tables and trivets and gifts--but we still have some left.

The top photo shows the first cut at the backsplash design that I pulled together in the tile store.  I found some tiles the same size and thickness as the Mexican tile and created a little pattern that would allow me to use the 14 bluebirds.  It looked great in the store and so I bought a supply and brought them home. 

The other day I set the tiles and it quickly became obvious that it was too busy for a backsplash in the tiny kitchen.  The first design element to go was the bluebird.  We set the rest of the tiles and went to bed.  The next day I awoke from an unsettling dream.  In the dream I was showing the backsplash to my friend Patricia who is a real estate agent.  Her response was an immediate shake of the head.  "Too much," is what she said. "It looks like a circus."

All morning I kept trying to make the design OK in my mind but it wasn't working.  The deep red tiles were overpowering the other colours and it was too much like....well, like a circus.  So we pried out all the red tiles and replaced them with the yellow ones.  And this is the result.  We still have to grout the tiles and finish them off but I really like it. It works with the blue counter top and is cheery and warm without being too strong. 

I think it was the dream that allowed me to make the final change of taking out the red tiles. Isn't it interesting how designs evolve?  Sometimes the decisions are conscious and sometimes they come in other ways.  I'm amazed at how often my night time ideas guide my day time activities.

Does this ever happen to you?


  1. hi joanna - i'm finally stumbling out of the swamp of year-end work to close my class down so i've got lots of catching up to do!! i see the tiles as doing well without the red also. lovely in fact. steven

  2. While I agree that the finished color choice is better for the purpose - I kinda like the 'circus' arrangement, too. There must be an appropriate place for those pretty bluebird tiles.
    Or is it like those holiday clothes which are perfect for Hawaii or Jamaica but just look garish in our weaker summer sun?

  3. Lovely the soft colors, very nice.

    I also had many Mexican tiles and have used them in various projects... and the blue bird tile (Paloma ?) is still one of my favorite.
    The backsplash is always very hard to do and I agree the red was way to strong.
    The bigger the tile the harder to visually work with, that is why we see so many single color backsplash
    Smaller tiles even with many colors seem to work better.
    Are you knee deep in snow yet ?
    We will be only 107 today...
    only I say.... hahahahahahahaaaa

    cheers, parsnip

  4. I like your process and your final choice. It should also allow future remodeling, whether just new paint or more extensive changes, to be easier to blend in. The problem with complex design is what happens when we get tired of it. Now if we could all channel professional advice through our dreams that would better than the internet. And just sleeping on things is a great thing.

  5. Hi Steven, I remember that year-end swamp. It will be over soon and then you'll have a summer.

    Stephanie, I agree that there may be a place for the circus look. Clearly I liked it, but it was just too much for a small room, especially a rental.

    Parsnip, it must be dreadful at 107 degrees. Just think of that cold snow. It's not actually on the ground here, just on the mountains and in fact this afternoon it got quite warm. Paloma must be the name of what I called the bluebird tile. It's so traditionally Mexican. I really do love it.

    Ches, thanks for the advice. You are quite right about those strong designs that wear out before they're finished. I had some curtains like that once. I liked them for about a month and then I had to live with them for four more years!

    Pay attention to your dreams, y'all.


  6. I like them both, but the finished design color choices are pretty. Nicely done!

  7. I like this color combination -soft on the eyes! Courageous of you not to give up when you didn't like it (my hubby would have a fit if he would have to pry some out!)

  8. Thanks Rudee.

    Jeannette, I was worried about telling Harry we had to pry out the red ones but he took it pretty well. It helped that the adhesive wasn't completely dry so they came out fairly easily.


I really appreciate your comments.