Matthias Clark learned the tile business in the most fashion-forward of U.S. cities – New York. As an apprentice to venerable 4th generation tile installer Armand Agresti, he laid tile in glittering skyscrapers and high-end residences from 1982 to 1988.
Clark followed that up with a career as a tile installer that included working for tile maven Ann Sacks.
Today, Clark focuses less on installation and more on materials. He takes his New York City-derived yen for cutting-edge designs and applies it to finding new and innovative products for the San Luis Obispo tile showroom he has owned with wife Katie Franklin since 2002. Matt Clark Tile & Stone relocated to a new 3,500-square-foot showroom in August, featuring a wide array of tiles including ceramic, porcelain, decorative, stone and glass, as well as installation products.
Although San Luis Obispo County may not be the most trendsetting region, our style is evolving, said Clark.
“Starting around 2001, 18-by-18 travertine was all anybody did – it got done to death,” he said. “The Tuscan look has reached its zenith. People are coming in for something more contemporary.”
The hottest new trend, according to Clark, is large-format porcelain tile – something he has observed in chic Manhattan apartments and is just beginning to see a demand for in San Luis Obispo County. Large tile sizes, like 18-by-36 and 24-by-24, are cut with perfectly square edges to further minimize grout lines. They can be used for flooring, walls and countertops. The look is clean and modern.
Porcelain is more durable than ceramic tile and, unlike stone, is impervious to staining. It also offers nearly endless design choices. There are textured tiles evocative of bamboo or rattan. There are also high-tech metallic finishes with the look of stainless steel or rusted iron.
Another trendy material is encaustic cement tiles, but this product is far from new. It has been popular in Europe since the mid-19th Century. Encaustic cement tiles offer brilliant color and pattern, with more durability than painted tiles. Instead of decorating the surface of the material, artisans mold each tile, fill the depressions with tinted cement, then cure them. The motifs are Mediterranean in flavor, ranging from solids to geometrics and florals. Clark sources his handmade tiles from South America and Europe.
Some trends haven’t changed, according to Clark. Glass tiles, for instance, are still a hot material. New production techniques yield more intricate designs, such as the hand-poured tiles by tile manufacturer Lunada Bay.
“The color is folded into the glass in a molten state, which gives you a very organic variation in color,” said Clark.
And speaking of organic, customers are seeking environmentally friendly products more than ever before, and Clark and Franklin are more than happy to oblige. They offer numerous products made from recycled materials, such as Fireclay ceramic tiles made with up to 50 percent recycled materials, including curbside recycled glass. They work with “green” porcelain factories in Europe that offer a more environmentally and socially responsible alternative to stone.
“We try to put out there as many products and companies that are responsible and thoughtful toward creating a better future for the world,” said Franklin, who believes this is one trend that won’t be going out of style.
Matt Clark Tile & Stone is located at 181 Tank Farm Road, Suite 140, (805) 543-7600.