Katrina Florio’s late husband was a tile man. And he gave her unlimited choices for every bathroom style she could have wanted.
But no matter what—be it ceramic, stone or the trend of the moment—Ms. Florio wasn’t happy with it for long. Not until she got her hand-cut, hand-crafted tile back.
In plain, basic white.
She is not alone.
Despite countless materials, colors and scales, East Enders tend to stick to the basics for kitchen and bathroom design: ceramic and marble in gray and white, according to Ms. Florio—sales associate at Bridgehampton Stone & Mosaic—in varying sizes depending on the house’s aesthetic.
“That’s what they like, gray and white,” she said last week during a tour of the showroom. “They put more neutral colors so you can put your own color scheme with it. And it’s better for resale, too, than having a blue bathroom. That hasn’t been since the ’90s. But, sometimes, trendy things do come back.”
Year to year, that simple formula does fluctuate, shifting with advancements in architecture, technology and, most notably, fashion, according to Laura Vivonetto, creative director at LaModa Tile & Design Studio in Westhampton Beach.
“The trends you see on the runway, three to four years later, hit home furnishings,” she explained last week during an interview in the showroom. “Fashion really dictates all other trends.”
“And it takes Long Islanders, sometimes, just a little longer,” laughed sales manager Lynn Bonanno. “Now, the trend really is going back to contemporary and modern. It’s cleaner lines.”
“However, in the Hamptons, there is always that classic ideology,” Ms. Vivonetto added. “It is very modern, but we have to balance the modern architecture with classic materials.”
Natural stone—such as marble and soapstone—and “subway tiles” are two core looks that will never go out of style, especially in sleek modern homes, Ms. Bonanno said. And the larger the scale, the better, no matter the size of the room, she added.
Big tiles means less seams, Ms. Bonanno. said. That is the closest a homeowner can get to a luxury finish—which is a single slab installation—without the luxury price, Ms. Vivonetto added. The company’s basic line runs between $5 and $15 per square foot, she said.
Here in the Hamptons, classic looks are perennial favorites, according to Ms. Vivonetto.
“I think something that never dies out here is people looking for a beachy, casual elegance,” she said. “For more modern homes, there’s vein-cut stones, and they have more linear veining to them, instead of a classic Calcutta Carrera, which has very busy movement and veining.”
One stone that never quite landed on the East End is granite, Ms. Florio explained, particularly east of the Shinnecock Canal.
“Up where I live in Ridge, everybody does granite,” she said. “It’s a different way of living up there than it is out here. The ‘New Jersey Housewives,’ they all have granite. And they live in these multi-million dollar houses. And we all say, ‘If those houses were here, they would all be marble.’”
Or, these days, porcelain. The tried-and-true ceramic is making a comeback, according to Ms. Florio.
“It’s what we’re standing on,” she said, tapping her feet. “This is made to look like a cross-cut travertine, and it does, but it’s porcelain. It’s man-made and it’s less expensive. And there’s really no maintenance to it. It’s gotta be half the price to buy. And it wears better. I love it. I have it in my house. At this point in my life, I just want to mop and walk away.”
Trends come and go, Ms. Bonanno explained. But right now, water-jet technology—used to cut and layer traditional ceramics and stones, as well as contemporary materials, such as glass, into custom patterns that range from $150 to $300 per square foot—is on the forefront of chic living.
“It’s total luxury. You could take a piece like this that’s not, typically, a modern design,” Ms. Bonanno said, gesturing to a sample hanging on the wall. “And if you use that in a way with other modern materials, it’s a very modern application. One full wall of this and then white glass everywhere. That is very impactful and very modern.”
Water-jet technology is ready to become a full-fledged craze. And it will not just be in kitchens and bathrooms, Ms. Vivonetto predicted.
“I think over the next few years, tile is really gonna start to come and play into all of the rooms,” Ms. Vivonetto said. “Even with the porcelains, they make wood porcelains, and that’s great for our market because people are coming in and out to the beach and they’re more cost-effective over time. They look just like wood for an entire floor. I think just tile is becoming a finish that can be specced for every room in a house.”