Making a Splash with Tile
Story by Glynis Ratcliffe | Photos by Kirsten McGoey
When you look around your home, desperate for something new, your first thought may be to change up the paint colours, or replace a piece of furniture. There is another way to completely transform your home, and that is by updating your tile. It could be an accent wall in your living room, a new backsplash, or fireplace tile. Whatever your decision, Whitby Tile owner Sandy Somers says, “you should know that tile is no longer made the way it used to be. Believe it or not, that’s a good thing – the quality is far superior, resulting in less damage and fewer incidences of leaks than ever before, and the choices available make personalization easier than ever.”
What makes Somers so sure? The knowledge of someone whose family-run business has been around for more than 30 years. Together with her husband Mark and two of her sons, Troy and Devin, they run a tile company that now has three locations across Durham and is open to the public seven days a week. That kind of longevity in the business has allowed the Somers family to develop relationships with some great designers and build a network of high quality, reliable contractors, all of whom they feel comfortable referring their customers to.
Because the quality of tiling has improved so much, you can expect that the tile you choose to refresh your home’s floors with, whether that’s in the kitchen, bathroom, or elsewhere, can be your “forever tiles.” Employees at Whitby Tile believe, for that reason, it’s better to stay away from trendy patterns. If you’re really itching to try something new out, Somers suggests heading to the laundry room for a funkier floor, because it’s smaller and not in a heavy traffic area. That said, changing up your backsplash or adding an accent wall can be less of an investment, and allow you to play a bit.
Whether you decide to go with a classic subway tile, or modernize your backsplash with an arabesque tile, Somers encourages customers to bring all their home design elements to an appointment, so employees can help you make the best decision for your home. “Think outside the box,” she says. “Try to keep an open mind and don’t rely on Pinterest for all your ideas! You’d be surprised at how wonderful a non-traditional combination can look.”
More than anything, she wants customers to trust that her employees will help you get to your ultimate decor vision, without it looking…well, terrible. What does that mean? Sometimes, homeowners don’t realize some element in the tile they’ve chosen for their backsplash clashes with their countertop. For instance, a busy counter and a busy backsplash will be overwhelming to the eye. Somers encourages clients to take a few tiles home so they can see it in their own space and espouses the motto, “It’s not what you want, it’s what the space needs.”
Whitby Tile is a great alternative to big box stores for so many reasons, one of which is the exclusivity of the tile designs they offer. Because they import directly from tile companies all over the world, they’re able to stay on the leading edge of trends. In addition, that direct-buy relationship eliminates the middleman, which ultimately brings the pricing down for tiles from countries like Italy or Spain, where the quality is traditionally higher.
Somers emphasizes that when homeowners want to install new tiling themselves, a big box store employee simply doesn’t have the knowledge necessary to help them accomplish a successful installation. “DIYers
often come in here for help, after getting products from a big store, and they’re shocked that the information we’re giving them is so different,” she says. In contrast, anyone can book an appointment at one of the Whitby Tile locations and learn (and purchase) everything they need to do it themselves.
These days, high-shine porcelain floor tiles are popular for both bathroom and kitchen, because of the clean, fresh look it gives rooms. Rectified tiles, a relatively new development which involves machine finishing tiles to help them line up more closely and give uniformity, are ideal for high-shine tiles. In contrast, accent walls or fireplaces tend to be more about texture, whether the material is dry stack stone or long wood planks.
Whatever you decide to install in your home, it’s clear just how important it is to have knowledgeable people to confer with. Whitby Tile appears to have grown as much as it has because of their reputation for knowing their stuff, and their willingness to share their expertise and connections when asked. The Somers family is, without a doubt, committed to making Durham more beautiful, one home at a time.
225 Brock Street North, Whitby