River House Tile – Choosing, Compromising, And Loving Our Ann Sacks Tile (And My Personal Favorite) – Emily Henderson

River House Tile – Choosing, Compromising, And Loving Our Ann Sacks Tile (And My Personal Favorite) – Emily Henderson

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What feels like years ago (because it was), Max and I set out to choose tile for the 4 1/2 bathrooms and the kitchen at my brother’s River House new build from Ann Sacks. Tile is hands down my favorite design element to pick out – and yet it’s likely the most permanent of them all (so passions and feelings can be high). You can re-stain wood flooring, repaint rooms and cabinetry, switch out faucets and lighting, but tile and countertops? You NEVER want to change out your tile.. if possible. So getting it right the first time is crucial and yet playing it too safe can be just as dangerous. Luckily, all of us know that we love neutrals mixed with blues and greens, quiet textures that catch the light, in a combo of contemporary + traditioal in a casual, cozy way. Now that it’s really coming together, the decisions we made 2 years ago are looking pretty incredible in every almost-finished bathroom.

Why Ann Sacks?

I pitched this home to Ann Sacks because, well, I love their product and always have – they have a huge variety of colors, shapes, and styles, many made right here in Portland. I didn’t want this house to be too similar to our farmhouse or mountain house, so highlighting different companies with different strengths felt good and right. It’s just incredibly high quality and special tile, with a billion options.

We took an inspiration trip to the showroom, played for hours, and then brought everything back to the house to actually get a sense of it in the space. Max and I did not always agree (also, surprise to me, turns out I have way more of an ego than previously predicted LOL) but our shared hope is that we have a more interesting custom home because of it. Compromises were made, our styles were stretched and we chose some things that I frankly would never have without him (in a good and slightly nervewracking way:)).

While Ann Sacks has everything, we knew that Ken/Katie didn’t want anything too trendy or too decorative. They (like me) play it safe with hard finishes and then want to go all out in accessorizing. This might bore some of you, but that’s fine – big colorful trends are fun to see/watch on the internet, but less fun to switch out in 10 years. So we relied on the colors that we all love (blue, green, white, gray, black) and created combinations that would look good for decades.

Did We Always Agree On Our Favorites??

HAHAHA…. NO. Sometimes I wish I were a bit more binary – like “this tile good, this tile bad”. If I were decisions would be so much easier. I think/know this drove Max nuts. But when everything is good in its own way and Ken/Katie were really drawn to something, I can see using it somewhere. Whereas Max is more firm on what he likes. Clear, concise, and not going to change his mind. I found it so enlightening and fascinating, saying “HUH. interesting,” all the time. Not in a judgemental way, but more envious, wishing I had really firm opinions that could help speed up the process. I wondered, is this potentially a woman thing? Wanting to be super accepting of every idea/thing? Am I too open to other’s ideas and too easily influenced? Listen, I’m also V opinionated, FYI, and often I can immediately choose the only “yes” in the room. But when there is so much goodness, I find making firm decisions harder. I know what I love, but maybe the issue is that I love the good of everything…

Another “life thing” that became really solidified during this process is how as interior designers we clearly have our “go-to’s,” our “moves” the things that we, individually, KNOW will look good because we’ve used a version of them before. For instance, I tend towards more simple, handmade linear tiles (rectangular shaped) and Max gravitates towards those plus squares, larger hexes, and mosaic tiles. It’s a reminder that there are no real rules and that every creative has a lifetime of experiences that inform all decisions. So it stretched us and was a good exercise in trusting the process, this time not necessarily just my own, and as we can see them turn out I’m LOVING them so much.

Each bathroom tells its own story, while the through-line is a cozy, clean, contemporary custom home with some very sweet/traditional elements floating through it (penny tile!). The combination of tiles and finishes is going to make this house better. My hope is that by working together we would: A. Not design the same house as the mountain house, B. Not design a typical “EHD house,” and C. Create a more textured, nuanced piece of art (in this case, my brother’s home). Max’s work is always so good and interesting, so I really tried to not shove my design formula onto him for this project and see where it went, even if we didn’t always agree and both made compromises. Our back-and-forth was pretty entertaining though.

One of our hands-down favorite tiles is the one I’m holding above, a ribbed high gloss brick-shaped tile that is so stunning in person now that it’s installed. In fact, I’d say that my favorite tiles in this house are simple in color and shape, but super textural which plays with the light so well.

Another thing that we love so much about Ann Sacks is how solid and heavy their tile is. There is a real heft to it which you’d think you wouldn’t notice because it’s applied to walls and floors, but like flooring or any other material – I swear you can really feel the difference. As a reminder, Max did my friend’s house on the Oregon coast with 100% Ann Sacks tile and it is quite possibly one of my favorite houses ever, with the prettiest bathroom EVER:

It’s just stunning and the quality of the tile and the detail work Max did made such an incredible difference. Every time I get to stay in this house I marvel at this bathroom. He brought experience to the table that I didn’t have and so many of the spaces highly benefitted because of him (I can’t wait to show you the simple but stunning dining room fireplace tile execution).

We made a few trips to Ann Sacks – First, two years ago, and then recently we went back to take all these photos with Kaitlin, recreating the process because we didn’t shoot it professionally the first time. I drug along my brother who is showing off a new style vibe that I’m digging here.

The “choosing tile” process is such an important and fun one. There is endless inspiration and ways to configure, and so many people have opinions on “right and wrong”. If you are hoping for some help, don’t worry I’ve got you with this house.

A Sneak Peek Into The Tile We Chose

This isn’t going to be one of those houses that mixes 4 tiles in a room, with borders and tons of color – that’s just not this house. We played it classic and beautiful and chose each tile specific to the design plan of each room. I’m VERY VERY excited to show all of them to you soon. A huge thanks to Ann Sacks for being generally wonderful at making tile. xx

*Photos by Kaitlin Green



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