Brick tile

Built on Customer Service

We were proud to learn early this year that we were given a Best Of Houzz award, in the category of customer satisfaction. I can’t imagine a category that would make me more proud. After all, if our tiles weren’t beautiful, if I didn’t listen to our customers’ needs, if we didn’t deliver in a timely way, or if our customers were disappointed at all, there would be no satisfaction for Houzz to recognize. It is really about the total experience. Our customers wrote to Houzz to recommend us for this award, completely unsolicited. Thank you to those of you who sent in recommendations — you know who you are, even if I don’t.

Remodeling and Home Design

There are many things that are part of this avocation of mine. I work with many architects, builders and designers, as a kind of team. We all work with the same goal in mind — to make the home owner happy, and to create a space that is both beautiful and easy to live in.

Custom brick tiles in dog shower

Proud Airdale in his doggy shower with custom brick tile border

I was raised in a merchant family, growing up under my dad’s feet in the prescription room of his retail pharmacy. His customers were his friends, living together in our small Wisconsin town. At dinner, on holidays, and in the middle of the night, he would leave the house to open his store for people in our community, who needed their meds right away. Although most of my customers are in other states, my instinct is to create that same sense of community for them. It used to be that people knew who created their goods and services, instead of the disconnect that is part of our time. Like my dad, I live my business. When I am out of the office, I have call-forwarding to my cell. I pick up evenings and weekends, because sometimes people are in the middle of installing their tiles, and have a question. (Not in the middle of the night, please…I will be polite, but not happy!)

I don’t just sell tiles. I can be a resource every step along the way, from the design to the finishing details. When customers visit my office, they will often bring blueprints, cabinet doors, and pictures of how they envision their home. Sometimes they email me the room plans, photos, or drawings, and we use those to work together. I am an artist/designer, and offer free advice and consultations to my customers, when asked. If I think our tiles will not be right for a space, I will say so. I look at pictures of existing bricked parts of a home, and help make suggestions of which color mixes will look best with it. I know all about the installation process, and can help with grout selections and recommend sealers. I often help customers find installers, if they are working on their own, or talk with their installers on the phone. Sometimes people will ask where they can find certain historic fixtures, or other items for their homes, and many times I can pull a card from my Rolodex.

Dog prints in custom brick tile

Prints from customer’s dog in their brick kitchen floor

Our tiles are all made to order, and are custom. We have suggested color mixes, but those are just a guide. Most customers decide upon their own color mixes. Here is a recent picture of one of these mixes — the customer pulled the plastic back to take a quick, informal picture of the work in progress (foot and all). This mix has all off-white clay powder and wood fire ashes, fired into our red clay body. (I’m kind of in love with it!)

Brick tile with custom color mix

Custom color mix in text from happy customer

Often, people will ask for a particular size or texture for our bricks. I will make up a new series of molds, at no extra charge, for orders of over 1000 sq.ft.

I have also created special accent tiles for customers. Once we did floors in a restored pig house, and there were a few pig tiles made for the floors. Another customer wanted a raven tile, because their farm was named “Raven’s Den”. Still another had me make a cast of her grandma’s cow butter mold, and I made some tiles for her floor. We make stamps of pet footprints, or child hand prints. We stamp the names of children, or special dates, into the tiles. People have sent me plants from their garden, and we will fire these impressions into the bricks. When these plants, or stamped tiles, are part of the total order, I don’t charge extra — it’s just part of the fun.

 

Brick tile design from antique butter mold

Custom tiles made from an heirloom butter mold

Brick tile with custom pig design

Custom pig tile for renovated “pig house” turned guest cottage

Some customers have made arrangements to bring their children to my home/office, and I set them up at a table with damp tiles to decorate. We have a craft day, and they create their own pieces to include in the family’s wall or floor. If I’ve just baked, customers have been known to sit down for apple dumplings, brownies, or banana bread (and take home recipes).

Children decorating tiles

Children decorating Inglenook brick tiles

Children decorating tiles

Close up of brick tile decorating at work

Maybe this is why so much of our business comes from referrals, or even from homeowners who bought tiles from us before. Sometimes past customers come to see me when they are in the area, invite me to their homes, and send Christmas cards.

With most of our houses furnished with mass produced items, often imported, sometimes it’s nice to look around our homes, and feel a connection to the artisans who were part of them. It’s even nicer when we know that we were part of the creative process. There is a Latin expression, anima locus, which means the ‘soul’ of a place, or its essential personality. I like to think we are part of that signature in a home, and are somehow connected to the families who live there.

Featured Installation: The Mylin House

The Mylin House is a restoration project almost in Inglenook Tile’s back yard, on the park-like property of a well-known luxury retirement village.

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The historic Mylin house is used for special village functions.The grounds surrounding the house are landscaped as garden plots. They are beautifully maintained by residents of the community.

In 1787, Martin Mylin III and his wife, Barbara Baer Mylin, built the existing stone farmhouse, above, where they raised their eight children. Martin Mylin, the first owner of the land on which the Spring Run community now resides, received the property as a land grant from William Penn in the early 1700’s.

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The property stayed in the family for over 100 years. In 1926, it was sold to Christian Herr, the founder of Herr Potato Chips, a well-known Lancaster County snack company. Herr’s first potato chips were made in a barn on the property. In 1998, the property was acquired by the retirement community. 

After walking in the front door that was hand-crafted by a local firm, our brick tiles are immediately visible from the main entrance. The foyer opens into a large meeting room, with our brick tiles on the floor.

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The first striking feature of the room is the unusual colors of the walls. The vivid paint tones are not what one would expect in an historic building, but the use of bright colors was common in early homes. The property manager explained to me that when they scraped the walls, these were the colors at the lowest levels. 

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The other striking feature is the woodwork and built-in corner cupboards — all original to the building. Inglenook brick tile complements these historic features beautifully.

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We are delighted to have our thin brick tiles gracing the floor of the Mylin house. We know that the strength and durability of Inglenook brick tile will ensure the floor will maintain its timeless look many more generations in this beautiful historic building. 

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Hearth and Home — The Fireplace

Kirk Fireplace

Anyone who has started a business will smile at the memory of selecting the name. The name is important, and sets the tone for the future. What is this child you are creating? What are your hopes and dreams for this new creation? What would you like to offer the world, when you give this gift of a name?When my daughter, Emily, and I brainstormed names for our company, we wrote down many ideas. We liked the name “Lions’ Gate tiles,” because of the massive female stone lions at the main gate of the ancient city of Mycenae. My major was Classics in college, and the image of these guardians was a favorite of mine. But there was already a film company by that name, and it seemed confusing. We liked the name Shakti, because of the “girl power” meaning of the word. However, it sounded too Indian, and we are made in America.We settled on Inglenook Tile Design. During one of my university “vacs” in England (many years before), I stayed in a cottage named “TOAST,” belonging to my friends Linda and Ralph. When Ralph ripped out a wall of the cottage, they found a huge, walk-in fireplace, covering the entire back wall. You could walk inside, and one could imagine an old granny nodding in the stone seat within the side wall. It was the heart and center of the home, where you prepared food, told stories and kept warm. This was the kind of home energy we wanted to emanate from our little company. So Inglenook Tile it was.

True to the spirit of the name, our brick tiles now grace many fireplaces and chimneys. The Kirk fireplace pictured above is the creation of our customer, David Kirk. He wanted a fireplace in the family’s basement family room, but there was no chimney. He used our tiles to create the ambiance of a fireplace wall.

Another customer  created a fireplace wall, with a mantel, for their wood stove.  The built-in alcove provides storage for their wood. In addition, the brick tile absorbs the heat from the wood stove, and radiates it back into the room.

Brook’s Kitchen

The Hanleys also used our tiles as a focal point for their wood stove.This clever hearth is part of a brick tile floor. The hearth area is marked off with a frame of tiles set in a different pattern, and then the herringbone pattern is continued into the firebox. The result sets the hearth aside from the rest of the floor. Another fireplace surrounded the wood-burning firebox with a soldier course of our brick tiles, and created a slightly elevated hearth. Still another created a similar, traditional fireplace for their pre-fab gas log insert.

Hanley Wood Stove Enclosure

Other customers like the warmth of a fireplace in the kitchen.  Here are two pictures of kitchen wall fireplaces. Brook used our tiles on his kitchen floor, and also on the fireplace wall, adding warmth to the seating area.  The other wall fireplace encloses a gas insert, and a small alcove was also created beneath the firebox, to simulate an opening for wood storage.

Brook’s Kitchen

Kitchen Wall Fireplace

Our tiles have also been used on the outside of the house, to create the look of an exterior chimney, where a full-thickness brick could not be used.

Lauhoff Chimney

The uses of our brick tiles aren’t limited to use in the home — the Lorien Hotel and Spa, in Alexandria, Virgina, built a tall pizza oven wall in their dining room.  This created a traditional Mediterranean ambiance for the restaurant. Many of the floors in the common areas of the hotel are also our tiles.

Lorien Hotel Pizza Oven Wall

Use your imagination to create the warmth of a home fire in your own castle.
Fireplace Surround For Gas Fireplace
Fireplace Hearth
Fireplace Hearth (set within a brick tile floor)

Updated List Of Brick Tile Styles

There are a number of brick tile styles that are not yet on our website. I would like to introduce you to our assortment of brick tiles!
We have three styles that are roughly 4×8″ :
Wright’s Ferry
Tumbled sides and textured surface
Traditional Antique
Straight sides and textured surface
King Street
Straight sides, smoother surface
We have four styles that are slightly smaller than  4×8″:
Rutherford
Makes a good basket weave. 3-1/2×7-1/2″, straight sides and smoother surface, like King Street
Summer Kitchen
Just like Rutherford, but 3-1/2″x7″
Wimers Mill
The same size as Summer Kitchen, but with a textured top and rugged sides
San Sebastian
3×8-3/4″, straight sides, smoother top.
We also have 2×8″ and 2×4″ style for the “side” view of bricks. These sizes are most commonly used on walls, chimneys and other vertical surfaces, but they have also been used on floors and even arched ceilings.
Lancaster Running Bond
2×8″, tumbled sides and texture like the Wright’s Ferry
Watch for our next post with side-by-side comparisons of our various styles of tiles!

Featured Installation: “Pig House” — a guest house renovation

Concept of Lea projectJake and Gretchen Lea bought their lovely farm in Berks County, Pennsylvania, in 1972, and raised their twins there. The twins grew up, and the Leas decided that they needed a more private place to stay when they visited their childhood home with their families. 

Gretchen is a designer, and saw our tiles at the Historic Home Show, in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. She and Jake were planning a guest house on their property, and knew right away that our tiles would be ideal for the floors. Gretchen is full of imagination, and could see the possibilities in the touches of whimsy we could provide for her floors. In her work, she likes to include little “surprises” in the rooms she designs…which makes her a kindred spirit to Julie, owner/designer at Inglenook Tile.  

Jake enjoys piloting his small plane, so one day he and Gretchen flew to a small Lancaster County airport to see the tiles again. Julie picked them up at the airport, and brought them to the warehouse, so that they could see the full selection of styles and colors, and customize their order.  

In 2007, Jake and Gretchen decided to level the old pig sty on the property, where they raised pigs when the children were young. On the site, they built a new “pig sty” guest house, designed to complement the other buildings on the property. It has two bedrooms, a powder room, a full bath with a washer/dryer, a kitchen/dining room, a living room, and upstairs hallway. When Gretchen was planning the floors, she wanteFloor details lead a few tiles of pigs, to reflect the history of the old pig house that once stood on the site. We created a brick tile with an inset pig sculpture, to be placed randomly in the floor (see detail picture). 

Now when the twins visit, they stay in their own guesthouse. There are other guests that also enjoy the “pig house”; for example, a director from California recently took up residence there for a month and a half, while he worked with a local non-profit theater. Visitors can fish in the pond, swim in the pool, and walk the 2 fields of wildflowers on the Lea’s eighty acres of Berks County farmland. They have allowed their property to be used as a site for Geocaching (www.geocaching.com), and sometimes they enjoy seeing families digging for the “treasure” in their woods. Gretchen’s creativity is not yet satisfied with the “pig house” — she has plans to create additional living space in the tower silo.  

Lea kitchen

When asked how she feels about the tiles, now that they are installed, Gretchen says, “They fit in beautifully, and gave us a rustic look at a reasonable price.” She added that, as a designer, she appreciates working with companies that take pride in their work. 

Lea stairway 

If you are interested in working with Gretchen, she can be reached at glea316@ceinetworks.com, or at 610-367-6773. Her website is www.gleainteriordesign.com .

Home Office Installation

 These installation pictures feature an interior wall in a home office. Our customer, Steven, wanted brick shelves incorporated into the walls for candles and other accent pieces. Lancaster Running Bond 2×8″ brick tile and custom brick tile shelves created the effect he desired.

 Steven said the following about his experience with Inglenook Tile Design:

“The tiles I purchased from Ingelnook were great.  Their customer service is excellent and all the advice and guidance on how to complete the project was very much appreciated.  Everyone loves this wall in my home office.  I get compliments from everyone that walks in.  I’m very happy that I went forward with this project and Ingelnook was a great choice.
I’m definitely going back to Ingelnook for my next tile project!!!”

Watch for more new installation photos, coming soon!!

Installing Tile over a Vertical Surface

Kitchen cubby wall

At Inglenook Tile, some of the most dramatic installations of our brick tiles have been on walls, ceilings and chimney boxes. Brick tile can be installed on all of these surfaces without needing to pour concrete footers or otherwise add extra support, one of the major advantages of brick tile over full-sized brick.

Installing brick tile vertically, however, can pose a conceptual challenge to many customers– how exactly do you install it? How does the surface need to be prepped? Are there differences between indoor and outdoor installations? How does the installation process change if the tile is being laid over wood-framed walls, cement block, or drywall?

To help answer some of these questions, we turned to Jim Glessner, a very knowledgeable installer who has laid numerous Inglenook Tile projects. These directions and tips apply to our brick tiles as well as any other unglazed tiles that you might use on a vertical surface.

Directions: Installing Brick Tile on a Vertical Surface

Depending on the surface type you install over, these steps will be slightly different. Read more details in the surface-specific sections below.

  1. Prepare surface by screwing backerboard firmly into the wall studs, if this step is necessary for your surface. Cover the entire wall area that you intend to tile with backerboard.
  2. Jim emphasizes the importance of taking the time to lay out your tiles properly before you begin to install. Take careful measurements and lay out your tiles, keeping 1/4″ grout lines in mind. You might want to draw out the final lines on the wall.
    • Pay special attention to the final, highest row when laying out the tiles. You don’t want to be left cutting a small sliver of tile for the final row at the ceiling– it ruins the illusion of full-brick. If the final row lays out as a less than the full tile height, split the difference between the first, lowest row and the last, highest row. This way, you will have the appearance of full-sized brick for the entire wall.
    • If you are installing with corner pieces, as for a chimney, horizontal layout is also crucial to avoid cutting a much shorter tile piece immediately before the corner piece. As with the vertical wall layout, plan ahead and spread out the cutting between two or more tiles so that they are all a similar size.
  3. Once you have laid out the wall installation, install the tiles using standard mastic and 1/4″ spacers. Start at the bottom and work your way up, row-by-row. Be very careful to keep the rows plumb as you install tiles across the wall area.
    • For small wall areas, you may choose to use speedset thinset instead of standard mastic or thinset. You will need to work quickly if you choose to use speedset.
  4. Allow 12-16 hours for the mastic to cure for standard mastic; 4 hours for speedset thinset.
  5. After the mastic has cured, pull out the spacers and prepare your grout or mortar.
    • Jim recommends mixing mortar in a bucket with a 1/2 inch mixing drill
    • The mortar should be a thick liquid consistency, much thinner than the mortar used to install tiles on floors. You should be able to scoop up mortar and pour it into joints with a trowel.
  6. Grout in-between the tiles and strike the joints. Jim strikes the vertical joints first and then the horizontal ones.
  7. Allow 24 hours for the mortar to dry.
  8. Seal the tiles and mortar with a penetrating sealer of your choice to allow easy cleaning and protection from water.

Installing Over Drywall

For installing brick tile over existing drywall walls, Jim tells us that you have two options depending on whether or not you want to remove and re-install your trim or wainscoting.

Option 1: Lay tiles directly on drywall

The first option is to leave the trim in place and install the tiles directly over the drywall. Our brick tile and most other tile is thin enough to lay flush against standard trim without an unusual transition from the trim to tile. This option has the disadvantage of being less resilient. For instance, as Jim explains, if the wall were to have a hard impact, such as a 2-by-4 hitting wall with some force, the tiles would go through the drywall. If you choose this option, start at step 2 in the above directions and then follow as given.

Option 2: Lay tiles on backerboard over drywall

Installing the tiles over backerboard makes the wall more resilient to impact, but requires the removal of all trim from the wall area before installation. You then screw backerboard through the drywall, making sure to hit studs. You might wish to glue up the backerboard and then screw it in. Follow the remaining directions as given above. After sealing the tiles and allowing them to dry, reinstall the trim over the tile wall.

Installing Over Wood-framed Walls (New Construction)

For new construction, you generally will be starting your installation project with a wood-framed wall. Installing over a framed wall simply requires screwing the backerboard into the wall studs, exactly as the above directions detail.

Installing Over Concrete Block

Concrete block is simplest surface over which to install brick tile. You can stick the tiles directly to the concrete block with mastic or thinset. Skip to Step 2 above and follow the directions as given.

Interior vs. Exterior Wall Installations

The technique is the same whether you install tiles indoors or outdoors, but the products you use will be slightly different.

  • When installing exterior walls or chimneys, Jim recommends laying tiles with mastic that has a much higher portland cement content. This type of mastic is more expensive but is much more pliable, allowing the tiles to move with the movement of the building once installed.
  • Make sure to seal exterior tiles to protect against rain. Use a sealer designed for exterior use.
  • Only use tiles that have been tested for freeze-thaw resilience if living in an area with cold winters. Inglenook brick tiles have been successfully tested for freeze-thaw resistance by the Tile Council of America.

Not interested in installing yourself and live in central Pennsylvania? Jim can be contacted at 717.672.1987.