professional attention to tile installations
With the backdrop of one of my favorite cities in the world, let alone Spain, setting the stage- Tile of Spain’s Passport to Creativity guests met for the first time on the scenic rooftop patio of Derby Hotel’s Claris Barcelona on the afternoon of Feb 3rd. Desipite long flights arriving just that morning the bubbling excitement of everyone was palpable, pairing beautifully with the free-flowing Cava. This would foreshadow the gregarious tone for the entire week. 

Rooftop Pool & Terrace of Hotel Claris
Immediately apparent to all, this was a highly intelligent group with as many big personalities as there were faces. Though it may sound like a recipe for disaster, nothing could be further from the truth- it was my honor and privilege to share a week with these beautiful people whom I believe felt likewise for everyone involved. So allow me to introduce my partners in crime this year- the cast of 2013’s Passport to Creativity

From the Press Crowd:

Jennifer Adams- Editor in Chief- TILE Magazine & Contemporary Stone & Tile Design
Olivia Farquarson- Assistant Web Editor- Interior Design Magazine
Elaine Markoutsas- Design Feature Writer- Universal Press Syndicate, Field Editor- Meredith Corporation (Better Homes & Gardens, Traditional Home, etc.)
Wanda Lau- Associate Editor in Technology- Hanley Wood Business Media (Architect, Eco-Structure, etc.)
Emily Hooper- Associate Editor- Contract Magazine
Megan Krause- Assistant Editor- Boutique Design

From the A&D crowd:
Cheryl Kees Clendenon- President/ Lead Designer- In Detail Interiors
Aneetha McLelland- Director of Interior Architecture- HDR Architecture, Inc.
Robert Scarano- President/ Chief Archtect- Scarano Architect, PLLC.
Steven Trott- Project Architect- Hnedak Bobo Group

From the Tile of Spain Crowd:
Rocamador Rubio: Trade Commission of Spain- Miami
Lori Dolnick- Vice President- Frank Advertising
Yours Truly- Curator of all things awesome that come from the earth & honorary Spaniard

The 2013 Grupo
My hat goes off to the Trade Commission and Frank advertising for planning and pulling off such an ambitious & rewarding trip & judging from the thank you letters, it will be a lifelong memory for all.

The realization that something special was happening was immediately apparent right from check in. The accommodations chosen for the first leg of the trip were as unique as the invited guests. Presiding over a corner lot in the trendy L’Eixample neighborhood of downtown, the Claris Hotel’s Façade proclaims to passersby the spirit of Spanish design- firm historic roots with an innovative spirit. The 19th century Façade of the Vedruna Palace has been beautifully restored and tastefully augmented with a modern, polished aluminum addition of the crowning two stories & rooftop terrace.
Hotel Claris Façade
East 47- The Lobby Bar
The surprises continue inside as the hotel takes the design term Period Fusion to the next level. The lobby bar, East 47 holds an original Andy Warhol and sprinkled through the rest of the lobby area are Egyptian, Roman & Buddhist art pieces from multiple centuries. This fusion of diverse time periods & locales requires a practiced hand but is at heart, the iconic style of the 21st century (as we would discover later at Cevisama) because it intimately tells the owner’s story to every guest in the space. No surprise that the Claris belongs to the exclusive Design Hotels- international brand.    

Junior Suite at the Claris
Freddie Mercury’s operetta duet named for the city proclaims- “Barcelona- Such a beautiful horizon. Like a jewel in the sun” and truly it was drawing us onward that afternoon despite a long day of travel for all.

With bellies full of canapés & cava the group hastened from the stunning rooftop terrace on to the bus for an architectural tour dubbed “The Tale of Two Parks” with a short four hours of daylight remaining. First stop- Parc Guell.

Iconic trencadis benches
Originally planned as a 20th century version of a luxury sub-division, the park contains only two homes, one of which Gaudi was forced to buy and live in for years. Although this is my favorite place for sunrise in the city, the late afternoon sunlight we found ourselves enveloped in did make for a beautiful setting for the start of our tour. With the group sitting on the iconic benches lovingly clad in Gaudi’s favored trencadis mosaics, we first heard a name that would be oft repeated throughout the trip, Toni Cumella. Cumella’s studio undertook a restoration commission of the ceramics in the park in the 1990’s.

View of the city from the terrace
Parc Diagonal del Mar
The next park on the agenda was Parc Diagonal del Mar, designed by Enric Miralles. Near the ocean, in a previously industrial district this park was designed in what proved to be a successful opening salvo in a revitalization project for the area, now home to shopping centers and multiple condos. Once again trencadis mosaics are featured heavily, this time gracing the bulbous forms of hanging planters. On close inspection of the brightly colored ceramics, one notices they are all whimsical but recognizable representations of soda cans and lollipop wrappers. Once again, Toni at Ceramica Cumella did all ceramic work throughout the park.

Trencadis Planters housing local grapevines
One of the trencadis mosaic designs
Racing the sunset… and losing, we arrived at our final stop for the day at the Santa Catarina marketplace in total darkness. The renovation project preserved the 2 century old façade but redefined the structure with a modern undulating roofline clad with… you guessed it- ceramic tile. The now familiar names of architects Enric Miralles & Benedetta Taglibue working with the ceramicist Toni Cumella were given credit for the project. Sadly, without daylight, viewing the scintillating colors of the hexagonal tiles on the roofline was impossible but it had been a full day so everyone was ready for tapas & a caña or four.

Steve & I think it's time for dinner- Who else?
Day two of the trip will be saved for next time and believe me, it’s worth the wait! The day started out possibly being the most professionally inspirational of my life and turned into one of the most surreal experiences I think anyone on the trip has ever had. Check back soon!
It’s a little known fact that January 21st marks an enigmatic solstice-

The season of the tradeshow gypsies

Between January and May most of us in the design, blog or editorial field are on planes around the world with near constant regularity and living in so many different time zones we don’t have a chance for the jet lag to catch up till sometime in July.  As you know, for me this means another trip to Spain is imminent.

I know, rough life eh?

Night Scene from the rooftops of Barca
Tile of Spain hosts a media & design junket around the end of January each year to coincide with the international trade expo, Cevisama, held in Valencia. A group of six journalists and four design professionals are invited to share a week or so with us in Spain to absorb some passion for Spanish ceramics.

The purpose of the event is to immerse a group of influential North Americans in the Spanish ceramic industry. Ceramics are so much more than a building material there- like an extension of a Spaniards culture and history so there is no way a simple visit to the tradeshow will suffice.

Each year a different city or two are chosen in addition to Valencia. Thereby exposing the group to historical and modern architecture and as much culture as can be crammed in to 36-48 hours. With such a diverse history, each region in Spain breathes a kindred but unique flavor to the trip. Past trips have included cities like Bilbao, Zaragoza, Teruel, Granada, & Seville but this year’s incarnation dubbed “The Passport to Creativity” began in Barcelona.

La Boqueria- Sant Josep Merkat
Now, regardless of Barcelona being an amazing city with beautiful architecture, great food & a vibrant pulse- it has a very special place in my heart.

When I was a young boy, a family moved to Vancouver from Barcelona to open a Spanish tile importer business called Fontile, after the Font family name. My momma, or as you all know her Patti, was one of the first employees outside the family. Being the precocious and magnetic individual that I am- and possibly because of some guilt over robbing me of my mother for 18 hours a day- I was quickly adopted as a grandson or nephew to the 2 generations of Fonts. My connection to the family became so deep that when I was going into a life-threatening surgery, Mrs. Font’s face was the last thing I saw.

I owe some of my passion for life, design and in fact my very career to that wonderful family from Barcelona.

While most kid’s bedtime stories consisted of the 3 bears & Tom Thumb, mine were of Gaudi, Josep Lluis Sert & La Boqueria Market often told in English liberally sprinkled with Catelàn.

But I digress…
Las Ramblas
As you can imagine, you never know what you’re going to get when you cram 10 A-Type personalities of busy professionals into an intense tour with 16 hour days- before dinner

… Which usually happens at 10 or so & finishes around midnight with a few too many Oroujo de Herbas

I’m proud to say though that each year, like the cities we visit the invited guests bring their own flavor to the experience making it unforgettable and one of the most enriching experiences of my life. Too everyone that has shared this experience with me past or present- Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

This year was no exception. What promises to be lifelong relationships have developed between everyone and I think a deep understanding and appreciation for Spanish Tile & design came with it. I’m not sure but I think we even managed to broker a deal for a container or two thanks to the boundless personality behind Scarano Grupo, PLLC.

And now I leave you with some images of a city near and dear to me. But next time, expect a tale about a ceramicist that speaks the language of my soul, the history of ceramic production in Catalunya & lunch in a 15th century convent with some delightful Spanish penguins!

Until then- Dos Besos hombrés

Merkat Santa Catarina
Unmistakable Facade of Casa Batlló
Interior Courtyard of La Pedrera
Roofline of La Pedrera- where the life of a chimney sweep is awesome
Trencadis signage at the entrance to Parc Güell
Catalunyan vaulted ceiling & rosettóns under the famous benches in the park
Bronze doors of Segrada Familia Cathedral
Cloister of Segrada Familia
I know, I know... It's been FOREVER and a day since I've written a post. Many of my friends and colleagues have been wondering if I died or something. 

Never fear, both Patti and I are alive and well. It has been an adjustment learning how to handle my work and travel schedule while managing to be an engaged and doting father though! Sadly, it hasn't left much time for blogging but that is changing now.

I wanted to share with you something we are both very proud of... Mom's newly completed master bathroom reno! Like most of our work for the past 5 years it was a collaborative undertaking and as usual, all the better for it.

View from the door with shower on the left, vanities on the right and tub & washlet ahead
I did the layouts and configuration of the space over three years ago and selected & ordered all the cabinetry and fixtures from Spain. The original tile selection was done at the same time but since it was an older collection, it was reselected this year by Patti. I was consulted but cannot, unfortunately take all the credit. 

Only now that her travel has slowed finally, was she able to tackle a project of this magnitude. I for one, think it was worth the wait!

Thanks to the clean and simple products Porcelanosa has to offer, I'm proud to say this is my favourite design project I've ever completed. And there couldn't be a more fitting space for this oasis than in the abode of the Queen of Tile herself Patti Fasan. 

After countless interviews she settled on a GC and got to work. Bob Walton and his crew from ProActive were instrumental in all phases of the process and an absolute delight to work with. Anyone that knows Patti understands that she demands a lot from herself and likewise of the people that work with her- the ProActive team were up to the challenge every step of the way.
The side-by-side 'Neo' Vanities by Gama Decor are unified with a seamless piece of Misty Cararra honed Caesarstone
The Gama Decor cabinetry is simple, timeless & still punchy in Roblé Brezo wood finish with lacquered Rojo Brillo inserts. All faucets in the space are a matched set from Noken's Irta collection
Irta tub filler with shower wand & the + shelves from Neo collection above the washlet
All slab fabrication and install was done locally by the Tolusso family at Atlas Stone.  Furnishing beautiful seamless slabs of Ceasarstone's Organic White with a simple eased edge. When Mom compromised and decided to forego the expense of buying two slabs of material and compromise on 2 seams in the tub deck, the Tolusso boys quietly acceded but then went ahead and did the right thing for the design by providing a seamless piece at their own expense. Tell me that's not the quality of service that you want on your next project. When the slab arrived in one solid piece instead of 4 it literally brought tears to a few eyes.

The multi-function washlet does for you more than most smartphones & dovetails perfectly with the squared-off modern style of the rest of the fittings in the space. For this little beauty Mom turned to Philippe Starck's third collection for Duravit
SensoWash seat from the Starck 3 collection by Duravit
I can't forget the tile can I!!?? The flat tile on walls & floor is Madagascar Natural in a 13x39" & 17x26" format respectively with the corresponding accent tile Ona Natural 13x39" on the tub skirt, shower accents and vanity wall.

The only natural stone used in the whole design is Mosaico Moon from L'Antic Colonial in Marmara Blanco for the shower base.

All tiles, fixtures & cabinetry were supplied by Fontile Kitchen & Bath, the distributor where both Mom & I got our start in this wonderful industry. Staying true to our roots in the industry I hooked mom up with my old tile setting crew where I apprenticed, Behren's Marble & Tile. Christoph Behrens himself did the install and was as meticulous as I remembered. The workmanship is exemplary.

The only heat-source aside from the towel warmer is a radiant heat system designed by NuHeat controlled by their programmable Tempo thermostat.
Marmara Blanco Mosaico Moon
KERDI-LINE Drain unit
The shower base is completed by Schluter System's KERDI-LINE drain unit to handle the torrential downpour created by the rain-shower's floppily-jillion nozzles.

The entire shower unit is based on Schluter's Shower System with KERDI-BOARD, seams & drain units all supplied by Ames Tile & Stone.

The afore mentioned shower is called the Imagine shower from Porcelanosa's System Pool

Of course all this work couldn't be completed without a highly accomplished plumber. Travis Molzahn from Groundswell Mechanical like the rest of the trades on this project went above and beyond to pull off this intricate design.

Imagine I'm your shower... It's easy if you try
Great shot of the fine grained stainless, offset by the accent detail in the shower
I hope you enjoyed the welcome back post and it's a fitting place to re-start my blogging for the world of ceramics. I am once again on my way back to Spain this week to visit Porcelanosa and the rest of the Tile of Spain manufacturers. Off to see their 2013 Novelties and then back to Valencia for the Cevisama Fair with ASCER, the Spanish Trade Commission and this year's contingent of American A&D professionals & journalists. I'm sure it will be another amazing trip filled with great food, people & TILE!

I can't wait to see what the industry has in store for us again this year and yes, I will make sure to share it with you all before another year goes by without a post from patti-tile. 

Thanks for sticking around and understanding when a guy's just gotta be a Dad and make that his priority. Claire is rapidly approaching 2 now and I'm finding my balance again so expect more from me in the coming months. 

...She says hi to you all btw
Spring has sprung! Warm days are just on the horizon and we can finally start planning our annual garden dinner party. An ongoing trend in design is creating a seamless transition; blurring the boundaries between interior and exterior living in our homes and creating sumptuous outdoor environments. HGTV designers like Kelly Deck and Jamie Durie are elevating this concept to captivated audiences on their shows “Take it Outside” and “The Outdoor Room”.

The perfect inspiration for an unforgettable evening in your outdoor haven is Tapas from Spain. This is one culture that really knows how to thoroughly enjoy the company of friends. Arguably, Spain has the most hospitable & civilized bar culture in the world; the cornerstone of this way of life is tapas.

Tapas - picturesque small bites that magically appear with every drink order no matter where you are in Spain. Tapas bars from San Sebastian to Granada are crammed to elbow-room only capacity. From noon until 2am daily you will be entertained by the most diverse crowd you can imagine. Grandmother’s brush shoulders with young business people, students chat amicably with gnarled fishermen and sprinkled through it all are clusters of impeccably dressed toddlers & children having a bite with their families.

Geografía de la Moda Española (click for link)
The theme for a Spanish inspired tapas night can easily start taking shape by infusing your patio décor with the palette of hot colours making headlines this season. Bold red, magenta, tangerine and rich golden saffron add warmth long after the sun has set. Take inspiration from the latest Spring-Summer fashion collections to dress yourself & your fresh-air sanctuary in sizzling color. Our inspiration came from the Catwalks and the stunning new table-top book Geografía de la Moda Española; Geography of Spanish Fashion.

Spanish Catwalk trends (click for link)
Diavolo Red Glass Mosaic
Another Mediterranean touch can be crafted by your guests. Supply some ceramic tile & invite guests to recycle some of their own broken china, mis-matched plates & crockery. In homage to Gaudi, trencadis or broken mosaics can be transformed into tea candles, flower pots or coasters for your friends to take home. To get everyone’s creative juices flowing create your own simple table runner of Diavolo glass mosaic, from Dune. It’s an elegant edition to any setting, and the hit of vibrant red is sure to heighten everyone’s appetite for the evenings star attraction; tapas!

Mosaic coasters
Regaling your guests with a few cultural tidbits about exotic destinations we all dream of exploring is story-telling at its best. The history of tapas is one tale to share. There are many different suggestions for the origin of this tradition. Some believe it came from King Alfonso X (The Wise), who suffered from exhaustion. His court chef treated this malady with a daily succession of small dishes helped along by a drop of wine. The king’s recovery was so remarkable that he promoted this philosophy to the masses; eating little meals, often throughout the day was his prescription for a long and healthy life. A less poetic explanation is that tapas comes from an amalgam of the Spanish verb tapar, meaning ‘to cover’ and potes, the name for traditional clay wine cups. Slices of Jamon Iberico (ham) or cheese were used to cover the drinks keeping any small flying intruders from sampling your vino. From these noble or ignoble beginnings comes the diverse selection of regional tapas we know and love today.

This magical relaxed atmosphere is easy to re-create at home in your garden with an array of bite sized morsels and a few bottles of your favourite Cava, Rioja or perhaps a jug of Sangria. Thanks to the food revolution we have seen in the past decade, traditional Spanish ingredients and wines are easy to find and most tapas dishes can be pre-made & put away so you always have things on hand if a tapas party breaks out. Pick up some Spanish roofing slate tiles and hit them with a food-safe sealer and you have amazing original serving plates on the cheap too!

To help get you started, here are some of my favourite simple recipes. They can be pre-made and waiting in the freezer or fridge at a moment notice or you can combine a few simple things from your pantry to make little bite-sized presents for your friends.

Click read more for some recipe ideas.