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In Style: Hard Finishes - Tile

Interior Designer Blog: Hard Finishes from Holly Dennis Interiors

One component of my work that I particular enjoy is the selection of “hard finishes”. Hard finishes in interior design would consist of the materials applied to the following: flooring, walls, ceilings, cabinetry, and countertops. These are the “permanent” aspects of the interior design. The furnishings and soft goods would be considered “non-permanent”.

I enjoy this part of the design process primarily because these materials set the tone and lay the foundation of my design concept. The shape, dimension, texture, color, tonality, and composition of the material is the “base” of my interior design process. Without these essential components to accentuate the structure, I believe the full potential of the design concept cannot be realized.

So much can be expressed through the implementation of the hard finishes. A regional design can be emphasized with just the right materials and translates the design into an “authentic” space.

In this first of a series of hard finishes blogs, I’ll highlight some of my favorite looks in porcelain and ceramic tile. I attend several trade shows annually to stay abreast to the latest trends in finishes, but I have found that developing professional relationships with my suppliers has been essential for me to offer my clients the newest looks. Here in Florida, I have a very good relationship with Design Works and Chris is always making sure that he shows me new product every time I frequent the showroom.

Wood-Look Tile

This is the #1 seller in porcelain tile and the material itself has become very realistic in appearance. For value, durability, and maintenance; it is hard to beat wood look porcelain over real wood flooring; particularly in harsh environments, such as Florida. I like real wood too, but sometimes, for instance, properties right on the beach, it may not be the best flooring choice. Many manufacturers are introducing stylish wood looks from very rustic to clean-line modern in versatile colors that meet just about everyone’s taste.

Photo: Kertiles, Montana collection

Concrete-Look Tile

I really love the minimal look of concrete floors. I am drawn to concrete’s subtle movement and natural “patina” that gives concrete its unique quality. Sometimes real concrete may not be an option, but now you can get the same look with porcelain tile. Some manufacturers have very large formats, such as 24” x 48”. These large formats are just right for using in modern interiors and architectural design for dramatic impact and where less grout joints are desired.

Photo: Kertiles, Mercado collection

Terrazzo-Look Tile

I have a 1950’s mid-century home with original terrazzo floors, which I had restored. I’m very lucky that my floors are in great shape, but others are not so fortunate. There floors were covered up with other flooring, which may ruin terrazzo. Real terrazzo is very special, and in my opinion, it’s the perfect finish for Florida, which is why it was so widely used during the mid-century. Terrazzo is also very expensive to pour and it has almost become a lost art, so finding craftsmen who truly know what they are doing can be difficult or simply cost prohibitive. The introduction of terrazzo look porcelain is a game changer in modern interior design in achieving that iconic look for both residential and commercial application.

Photo: Atlas Concorde, Marvel Gems and Marvel collections


Regular geometry is becoming the predominant trend in tile, particularly in decorative tile. It’s a welcome change to see some consistency in form and shape in tile and can be translated in just about every style, whether it is traditional or modern. The hexagonal shape has become a very popular, but there are other geometric shapes that are dominating the tile industry.

Photo: Terratinta, Hexa, Ocean Wave

Photo: Lunada Bay, Watercolors

Photo: Stones and More, CZG301CD

Cement or Encaustic Hydraulic Tile

True encaustic or cement tile is handmade using the same technique since the 1800’s. These tiles are made using a three-layer process: The first layer is the wear layer consisting of Portland cement, powdered marble, and natural pigments. The second layer is a mortar of fine sand and Portland cement. The mortar layer is essentially a “reinforcing” layer. The third layer is cement which has been hydraulically pressed under high pressure, soaked in water, and then cured, just like concrete would go through a curing process. These beautiful tiles started making a comeback in the last few years, and I admire their versatility.

Photo: Kertiles, Hydraulic Cement Tile

Photo: Kertiles, Hydraulic Cement Tile

*Disclaimer: I have not received any compensation for product and supplier mentions in this blog.*

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