April 18, 2016
This floating wall divides the bed and sitting room, and features a tiled headboard reminiscent of Barcelona’s rich tile history

Open concept design has much going for it. For those who enjoy a feeling of space in their living quarters, even a tiny area will appear roomier if there are no barriers in the way. Many of today’s new condominium and small home designs utilize fewer walls to maximize the square footage. This leaves the living setup for each of us to devise. Furniture layout has become very versatile, with seating and tables arranged so that they do double duty. Dining and work surfaces co-mingle, sofas hide beds, storage fits neatly away under benches and ottomans.

There is, however, a demand for some kind of separation in open concept spaces so that we can at least partially shut down one activity and enjoy a singular, more cozy mood. You can set up an intimate conversation area facing a wall that is decorated to be a favourite focal point. It could be a fireplace wall, or an intriguing display of books, art and collections.

Another option is a room screen that can be moved easily to block out one area from another. Screens just have to be high enough to hide an area when you are sitting. These work well to partition off a work space, children’s play area, kitchen, or dressing room. Screens are easy to decorate with paint or fabric, and you can create entirely different looks on each side.

Here’s an alternative that is resourceful and striking. No longer just for the kitchen and bathroom, today decorative tiles are featured in more unconventional areas, including living and dining room walls and half walls, and on furniture. I discovered this floating wall in The Serras Hotel Barcelona. One side is tiled and serves as the bed’s headboard, while the side facing the sitting and dressing area is finished in a rich textured gray fabric.

Tile is the big story here. The hotel’s designer Eva Martinez, in tribute to Barcelona’s industrial past, has mixed a contemporary design style with the application of traditional tiles that characterize this bustling city’s streets and iconic architecture. Barcelona shows its history underfoot as their wide streets and laneways are paved in panots – decorative concrete slabs. Famed architect Antoni Gaudi’s signature ‘swirling under-the-sea’ themed motifs decorate expansive sidewalks. Gaudi’s naturalistic buildings feature coloured tiles on the exterior. Another famous tile design that shows up in courtyards and pathways is architect Puig i Cadafalch’s “The Rose of Barcelona”. You can create your own masterpieces on floors and walls as Barcelona-themed tiles are all available. Check out your tile store or search on line for inspiration. Although specialty tiles can be costly, they can be surrounded by less expensive plain slabs. The impact of a unique pattern is more dramatic with a simple frame.

Because there is such a variety in colour, design and style, tiles can be used anywhere inside or out. Escher’s 3-dimensional cube pattern in black, white and grey used on the headboard would make a striking backsplash in a modern kitchen. Switch in colours for a playroom wall. Go all natural for a garden patio wall. To keep up with the demand for ever more versatile design options, large format “thin porcelain tiles” are now available in 5’ to 10’ slabs. It’s a great time to show off your tile style.