Brick tile

Manufacturing in the USA

by Julie, Inglenook Tile co-owner

Last night, before sleep, I began thinking about all the changes we have weathered with our small, growing company. When we started Inglenook Tile Design about five years ago, our original business plan was to use my experience in design and product development to manufacture our tiles in Asia.

I didn’t expect, however, that the factories wouldn’t understand why we wanted our tiles to look old. It was very difficult to communicate that we wanted a random, rustic look, with no two tiles being exactly the same. Our factory wanted to make products that look exactly the same – it is a sign of consistency and quality for them in a country where “new-looking” is synonymous with “modernity.” However, a uniform, modern look was exactly what we did not want. The search for a factory who could reliably create the antique look we wanted dragged on.

Frustrated by the slow progress, we turned to the Veteran’s Industries in Myerstown, PA. It was a sheltered work program for veterans from the Lebanon Veteran’s Hospital. We trained the veterans to make our tiles, and they were supervised by the facility manager, Dave, whose commitment to us and our products grew into a great friendship and boon to our company.

In 2005, when the government unexpectedly closed the workshop, we were forced to make other plans and move to our own warehouse space. The husband of one of our former employees from the doll company (our first company) owned a warehouse, so we signed a lease for a corner of it and moved into the echoing, unheated space.

Meanwhile, some Chinese friends found us a factory in Asia. We visited, trained the factory, provided them with molds, and began to import. The factory did a beautiful job, but we noticed several problems: first, it was hard to anticipate what to order ten to twelve weeks before the shipment would arrive. Would we need 4×8” tiles or 2×8” tiles? In what proportion would we mix the order? The factory only made a narrow range of products–if customers wanted special color variations, we had to make them ourselves. As a result, we found ourselves making more and more tiles in our chilly warehouse, bundled in overcoats, and standing in front of an anemic heat dish. The other problems arose, most prominently rising Chinese labor costs and high ocean freight costs. We realized that our manufacturing needed to come back to the US.

A couple of years ago, we brought everything back to our Pennsylvania warehouse. We enlarged the space, added insulation, and built out an office and break room space. Due to our positive experience with the Lebanon VA, we turned to the Coatesville Veteran’s Hospital for workers and contracted with their Work Restoration Program. (Read more)

Our relationship with this VA program and with our vets has been a great blessing and allowed our company to grow with the increasing demand for our brick tiles. This week, we were pleased to hire Billy, who has worked with us for 6 months through the VA and just graduated from their program, as our own full-time employee. We continue to expanding our workspace, buy new equipment, and hire more people as several of our past blog entries have chronicled.

I am a believer in the world community and global trade. That being said, when you see “buy American” slogans, it may or may not mean anything to you – but it has new meaning for me. As I tallied up who we are helping to support with our American-made tiles, I was amazed. One small business has such a far-reaching impact on other local businesses and individuals! For example, we make a difference to our friend/landlords by leasing space from them. Our business helps support US-based box companies, kiln and clay companies, and warehouse equipment suppliers. Even the local hardware store, where we buy paint for our warehouse floor, feels the impact of our decision to manufacture in Kinzers, PA. Then, there are utility companies, electricians, our employees, our veteran workers from the VA Hospital, and our driver, Heather, who takes them home. There are office supply stores, print shops and trade show promoters. As I thought through the list, the breadth of the others we touch by manufacturing our tiles surprised and inspired me.

Until I was thinking alone in a quiet room last night, I never realized how many people are benefiting from this one little company, nestled in a corner of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I went to sleep, proud to be paying our bills and sharing our prosperity with our neighbors.

Feature Project: Chimneys and Hearths

Inglenook is the Scottish word for “chimney” and is often used to describe a warm central hearth in the homes of Northern Europe. Therefore, it is only fitting that this feature project is a collection of chimneys and hearths, installed in the home of a customer in the Philadelphia area.

David and Margaret, our customers, live in a beautiful traditional-style home in mainline Philadelphia. They first contacted our company and came to visit our warehouse in Winter of 2007 to pick out and order tile for their home. Since then, they have ordered from us two more times for other areas in their home! David and Margaret found Inglenook Tile because of they were unhappy with the plain tiles they had installed in their entryway and had decided that brick tile might give them the look they wanted. Margaret told us when we came to visit, “Now that these (Inglenook tiles) are down, we just love it! We’re sending you a family friend who wants to use these tiles, too.”

Below are the pictures of David and Margaret’s installations, a chimney, an entryway, and two hearths. (pictured above: their home. directly below: the beautiful hydrangeas in their front yard.) All the tiles shown are in Marietta color mix.

Click here to see a video of this installation.

It’s a little rough– our first time with our new video camera– but it gives you a feeling for the project.

We’ll start outside where David and Margaret used Lancaster Running Bond 2×8″ brick tiles and corner pieces to cover the outside of their chimney. You’d never know that it wasn’t full-sized antique brick!

Inside, we see the entryway that was David and Margaret’s first installation with Inglenook Tiles. They used Wright’s Ferry 4×8″ brick tiles in an offset basketweave pattern.

David and Margaret installed our brick tiles for two hearths as well. One of these hearths covers a large region around the hearth outlining a beautiful oriental rug. Both hearths used Wright’s Ferry 4×8″ brick tile.

First pictured is a closeup of the hearth. They used a herringbone pattern on the inside of the hearth base with a running bond border. The rest of the floor area is in a herringbone pattern. The second picture shows an image of the entire area. The final picture shows a clear detail of the herringbone pattern along the side of the rug.

The second hearth is smaller, using Wright’s Ferry 4×8″ brick tiles in a running bond for the base. The surround uses 2×8″ corner pieces to achieve the appearance of full sized brick.

Thank you, David and Margaret, for giving us the time to see your home and the beautiful installations! We really appreciate it!

Coming this fall: The Provence collection

Provence

Provence, a region of southeastern France on the Mediterranean Sea adjacent to Italy, is known for its wine, artists, and rich culture. Our Provence collection is rustic and welcoming, equally at home in a cheerful cottage or in an elegant chateaux. Combining soft earth tones and brighter accents, our Provence style captures the ambiance of Southern Europe, with its heart in the homes of the French and Italian countryside overlooking lush rolling vineyards, the blue waters of the Mediterranean, or the soaring peaks of the French Alps.

In the homes of the Mediterranean region, floors were historically made of natural materials—some wood, but mostly brick, stone and clay tile. Our other collections subsume several of these historic floor types—brick and repeating mosaic patterns.

Our Provence collection distinguishes itself with additional classic tile shapes –hexagons, rectangles, and squares– and the hand-stenciled motifs of Southern Europe, rubbed soft as though worn by hundreds of years of use.

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Provence Preview
To give you a peek at what we are working on right now, we’ve pictured two Provence collection tiles that came out of the kiln this Monday.

Corner Fleur de Lis: 6.5” square tile
This 6.5” square tile has a deep red clay body accented by corner fleur de lis designs in contrasting beige clay. The fleur de lis motif, a stylized lily or iris, dates far back in history, found in some form in nearly every ancient culture. In more modern history, the fleur de lis has become attached to European, and especially to French designs through its long-standing use on the heraldry of French monarchs. The Corner Fleur de Lis tile will be only one of our Provence tiles to bring this attractive and enduring design to your home.



French-Stenciled Hexagons

This tile design showcases our classic French hexagons, a tile style often found covering villa floors and rooftop terraces along the Mediterranean coast. Our hexagons will be available unadorned with attractive, natural variation achieved through kiln-flashing, and with stenciled designs, colored with clay slip, powders and oxides.

This hexagon design is the latter, decorated with a ‘snowflake’ motif and arranged in a pattern with other kiln-flashed hexagons. The wood ash, oxides, and other natural materials used in the design of these tiles give these handmade tiles a well-worn elegance, as though reclaimed from the floor of a French cottage.

See our plain mosaic hexagons in the Old World collection.

All of Provence tiles will be made to order—choose your stenciled patterns in white tones, black or darker red and personalize the design for your home.

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Watch for more Provence collection tile designs coming soon. Among the tiles in product development are some with floor designs created on 10.5” square tiles. Provence collection tiles will be available for sale starting this fall. Call to pre-order samples and to receive more information.

Soon, we will introduce our final new collection, the Castles and Abbeys collection, offering timeless interpretations of medieval tiles for your home.

Coming this Fall: The Old World Collection

With the Old World collection, we at Inglenook Tile have reached back into history, uncovering designs used by ancient European cultures where tile making was considered an art form. As we leafed through historic resources, we found an abundance of inspiration for the modern home: the clean lines and quality craftsmanship of Nordic ceramics, the lacey patterns of Celtic motifs, the fanciful designs of antique German chocolate and butter molds, and the tile patterns used in ancient European courtyards and banquet halls.

The Old World collection brings your home the best of Northern European design, rooted in history, yet timeless in essence.

Old World Plain Mosaics
The first designs in our Old World collection were tiles historically known as “plain mosaics,” repeating patterns of tiles that fit together to form broad patterns across your floor. These flooring tiles, not to be confused with Roman mosaics which are composed of tiny cubes, were popular in many parts of the world in ancient times for their simplicity and beauty. Plain mosaics also experienced a revival during the Arts and Crafts movement, 1880-1910, and found a place in this period’s bungalow-style homes.

To achieve an authentic aged appearance, we have painted our “plain mosaic” designs with thin clay slip or sprinkled them with oxides and clay powders, techniques similar to those used to achieve color variation in ancient times. Through the firing process, random color flashing produces beautiful variety of natural earth tones on the flooring.

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Old World Preview

The first of our plain mosaic designs came out of the kiln yesterday morning. We were excited to see how they turned out and are now excited to share a couple of them with you! To start, we have pictured the “Ell” plain mosaic and “Diamond point” plain mosaic in this post.

The Ell Plain Mosaic
The Ell plain mosaic creates several historic flooring patterns. The first pattern, known as “herringbone” after the symmetrical angles of fish bones, creates long, elegant rows across the floor.

The second pattern using the Ell plain mosaic is an interlocking rectangle

The Ell plain mosaic also pairs with 4×4” squares to create another historic flooring pattern. We stamped the pictured 4×4” tiles with woodland animals, but you can also use them in this pattern unadorned, relying on the natural color variation to create interest on your floor.

The close-up image pictures a mouse stamp on the 4×4″ tile.

The Diamond Point Plain Mosaic
The Diamond point mosaic tile also has a variety of potential installation options for your floors.

See two of these patterns, Diamond Point pinwheel mosaic (top) and elongated hexagons mosaic (bottom), pictured below:

Pinwheel

Finally, the Diamond point plain mosaic can also install as a hexagonal border around a square tile. Shown here with a darker firing.

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Old World tiles will be available for sale starting this fall. Call to preorder samples and to receive more information.

Watch for more Old World collection tiles, coming out of product development soon! Tomorrow, we introduce the Provence collection, our line featuring the tiles and motifs of historic Southern Europe.

Cleaning Thin Brick floors (and other unglazed tiles and stone flooring)

We often have potential customers wonder how to clean our brick flooring.

“Just like any other unglazed tile or stone floor– vacuum and wipe up occasionally,” we reply cheerily.

But what does that mean, exactly? How often do you vacuum or mop? And with what type of tools or cleaner? Is it easy or does it take a lot of time and work?

Over the next several weeks we hope to answer these questions for you through providing instructions, tips, and product reviews about cleaning brick floors. This posting is the first of these entries.

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Cleaning Inglenook Brick Tile

Many of our customers rave about how easy maintenance their brick tile floor is, especially as compared to its full brick counterpart.

Walt, from our blog’s feature project, Harvest Moon Farms, is a recent fan. “It’s so easy to take care of,” he said, “We just vacuum it.” Another customer, Debbie, let us know that she how thrilled she was about the floor’s easy clean-up. When her elderly dog had accidents, she said, she always hoped it would be on the brick tile floor because it easily wiped up with no mess or residue.

At home, we think our brick tile floors are easy care, too. We vacuum our front entry occasionally and are grateful that the floor does not show dirt well for the times in-between. For kitchen and bathroom floors, though, cleanliness is paramount.

Luckily, brick tiles can be kept spick and span, regardless of in which room they are installed.

Cleaning 101

Here are our instructions on how to keep your brick tiles clean day in and day out. These instructions apply to any unglazed tile, brick or stone floor, so these tips might be helpful in other areas of your home as well:

For routine cleaning, vacuum or sweep your brick tiles, as you would any other uncarpeted floor. Vacuum weekly or as often as you clean the rest of your home. Floor or wall interior bricks may be dusted with vacuum cleaner dusting attachments. After vacuuming, you can wipe with a plain water and damp mop, if desired. This step can help prevent dirt from building up on your brick floor.

When more heavily soiled, the bricks may be cleaned using a mild detergent solution. Soap and water works fine, but you can also use commercially available detergents for tile or stone floors. Rinse them well, and wipe dry for greater sheen.

To save time, try putting 1 cup of vinegar in the water; the floor will shine without being polished.

Do not clean unglazed ceramic tiles with acids, strong soaps, or abrasives.

We recommend using microfiber mops rather than sponge mops, since sponge mops often do not hold up well on the texture of unglazed floors. Several customers report that the robotic mopper, Scooba, works with great success on their brick tile floors, as well.

Remember: Always seal brick tiles or other unglazed ceramic or stone flooring prior to washing. Unsealed tiles, bricks, and stones are porous.

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We hope this information is helpful to you!

We are going to be experimenting on our brick tiles in the upcoming weeks with different non-toxic cleaners, mops and other cleaning tools and reporting back to you on our success. At the end, I will compile all the reviews into one easy to use guide.

Check our blog often or subscribe via RSS or via email to keep up with the news.

Feature project: Harvest Moon Farm

This past weekend, Emily and Julie went to visit Harvest Moon Farm, the home of some of our customers. The beautiful horse farm is tucked back in the woods outside Coatesville, PA, and we were lucky enough to have fabulous weather to photograph indoors and out.

Harvest Moon Farm’s home, barn, and windmill:

Harvest moon homeHarvest moon backyardHarvest moon barnHarvest moon windmill

A few of their friendly horses.

Harvest moon horses-distanceHarvest moon horse-closeup

Brick Tile Installation

The Harvest Moon farm installation used Wright’s Ferry 4×8″ brick tiles in Marietta color mix, across their entryway, into a powder room, and throughout their kitchen.

Below, Julie, Inglenook Tile co-owner, and Walt, the homeowner, in the kitchen. Walt told us: “We love it, love it, love it! People who visit just can’t believe how much it has changed our home.”

We start looking in the front door at the brick tiles, their herringbone installation pattern stretching out into the kitchen area at the far end.

Looking in the front door

Here, a close up of the floor and a pair of riding boots.

Brick tiles and riding boots

A side view of the entryway, the front door, and a lovely wardrobe.

wardrobe and brick tile entryway

Part way down the hallway, our thin brick tiles make a foray into the powder room, where a horse rug complements the thin brick flooring. Also, looking back into the hallway from the powder room.

Powder room with brick tilesPowder room sink

The powder room door, made of reclaimed wood from the 1700’s, has a notch in it to allow the home’s Jack Russell terriers free access. The door molding and wainscoting are both from fences at Harvest moon farm, reclaimed for the house when they were replaced outdoors.

Dog door and brick tiles

Next, we walk into the kitchen, where Julie admires the thin brick tiles.

Julie looks at thin brick floor

Several views of the kitchen toward the island and its Inglenook brick floor:

Harvest moon kitchen thin brick floorHarvest moon kitchen thin brick floor

The kitchen table, overlooking the backyard, barn, and pastures and a closeup of our thin brick.

Harvest moon kitchen table

Inglenook brick tile kitchen floor

Finally, the transition from the kitchen’s brick tile flooring to the dining room’s wood floor.

Transition from thin brick to wood flooring

Thank you so much to Walt and Tandy for inviting us to visit your home. We’re so glad that you are pleased with your Inglenook Tiles!

Welcome to the Inglenook Tile Design blog!

Welcome to our new Inglenook Tile blog! We will be sharing useful information and our enthusiasm for historic buildings, innovative design…and our handmade brick tiles.

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Who would ever think thin brick tile could be so exciting?

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When we started our company in our front hall five years ago, we didn’t know how many people would share our high standards for an authentic-looking antique brick floor. When we attend trade shows, people rush into our booth and exclaim, “This is exactly what I have been looking for, and could never find!” Our customers call to tell us how great their projects look. They send us pictures — and also their friends. The relationships we have built have been a wonderful part of our Inglenook Tile journey.

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It has also been exciting to grow our business, as our lives have become infused with the life of our company.

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In the last 5 years, there have been many changes. From the first production at our home, we moved it to Veterans’ Industries, a work facility of the Lebanon, PA VA Hospital. Our tiles were made by veterans in rehabilitation at the hospital. When they closed Veterans’ Industries, we moved our equipment to a warehouse in Kinzers, PA. We made some of the tiles here, and some at a factory we trained in Asia.

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Last year, we stopped importing, and began making all of our tiles here in Pennsylvania. We are proud to be again employing veteran workers, this time from the work restoration program at the Coatesville, PA VA Hospital. We continue to add equipment and to enlarge our work space. Recently, we acquired a big old tile press, and will be using it to create additional floor tile designs…maybe even some historic-looking clay roof tiles.

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We keep raising the bar on ourselves, by both improving our ability to produce and by adding new colors and designs. Tell us what you are looking for! We are always listening to you and your suggestions, and most of our new products have been added at your request.

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As we grow and change, we will be keeping our blog updated weekly. Watch for information on an upcoming article in Architectural Digest, showing one of our floors in a renovation. A project in Philadelphia recently received the Preservation Alliance award for the renovation of an historic row home – and our brick tiles are in the kitchen! We are proud to have been a part of these projects.

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How can we do better? Call us with any ideas of what you would like to see covered on our blog, or any tiles you would like to see us offer. Visit often for new postings, products and ideas!

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Visit our website: www.inglenooktile.com or call 717.442.0514 for more information.

Introducing Color Mixes!

In our past 5 years of business, we’ve noticed that customers order similar color combinations for our brick tiles. We’d ask: “Do you want wood ash? How about some black or fire-scorched tiles? Any white? Or do you want them more plain? Are you interested in more red or more brown tones?”

The number of choices seems daunting, yet time after time, our customers settled on the same handful of color combinations. In order to simplify the selection process, then, we’ve organized these common choices into “Color mixes.” All color mixes are available on all styles of our brick tiles. Indeed, in the color mix photographs below, 4×8″ Wright’s Ferry, 4×8″ Traditional Antique, 4×8″ King Street, 7×3.5″ Summer Kitchen, 7.5×3.75″ Rutherford, 2×8″ Lancaster Running bond, and 2×4″ Flemish bond brick tiles are all pictured (see brick tile types in parentheses).

Each color mix is described below, named for a town in central PA. Click on photos to enlarge.

Interested in samples?

Visit our website: www.inglenooktile.com or call 717.442.0514 to request them.

Marietta: Marietta color mix embodies the classic color combinations of Inglenook brick tiles. Wood ash and blackened tiles complement our standard brick red colors to achieve the ancient appearance of antique brick. (Wright’s Ferry)

Old Strasburg:Named for the salmon tones of the brick homes in historic Strasburg, PA, the Old Strasburg color mix stays in the warm red tones of our standard brick tiles. (Lancaster Running Bond)
Old Strasburg color mix
Elizabethtown: Elizabethtown color mix combines equal amounts of the standard brick red tone with the blackened look of our “fire-scorched” tiles. (Traditional Antique)

Honeybrook:Honeybrook combines the best of our brown, earthy tones. Brick tiles from gas kiln reduction firings are added to browned-standard bricks and sprinkled liberally with wood ash to achieve this antique look. (Summer Kitchen)

Honeybrook Color mix

Providence: From the belly of our new gas kiln, Providence is the newest color mix for our brick tiles. With natural hues created by a reduction firing, the Providence is a rich spectrum of browns and earthy reds, burnt deeper along the bricks’ edges as though exposed to open flame. Luminous white tones on several tiles in each box complete this historic look. (King Street)
Providence color mix

Mount Gretna: Mount Gretna color mix contains the palettes of Providence color mix, but without the white tones for a deeper spectrum of earthy brick colors. (Rutherford)

Mount Gretna color mix

Savannah: Savannah, as the only color mix named for a town outside central Pennsylvania, honors the stately brick homes and riverfront buildings of Savannah, GA. Savannah celebrates the chipping white paint adorning many of these tiles as well as those found in other areas of the South. Savannah is typically mixed with our standard brick red tones. (Lancaster Running Bond and Flemish Bond)

Savannah color  mix

Clinker: The Clinker color mix originated for our 2×4” Flemish bond brick tile. Clinkers were used in brick buildings in the 18th and 19th century in the classic Flemish bond pattern. Originating from Dutch klinckaerd, the word literally means “something that clinks” (referring to the sound produced when one was struck). The brick firing process burned the ends of bricks closest to the heat creating very hard, darkened clinkers with a slight sheen caused by melting sand. Our Clinker Flemish Bond brick paver designs capture this burned effect for historic flemish bond patterns and other decorative brick veneer installations. They are typically mixed in with other Inglenook tile color mixes. (Lancaster Running Bond and Flemish Bond)

Clinker color mix

Feature Project: “Primitive Hall”

Every now and then, we plan to pick out a special project and feature it on our blog. This is the first of these posts. Click on images to enlarge.

Primitive Hall exterior

This “New Old Home” project is a historic reproduction of a building called “Primitive Hall.” The home is located in Chester county, Pennsylvania, an area steeped in antique homes and historic sites, such as Valley Forge, where Washington’s troops weathered the winter in the Revolutionary war. Like many of our customers, this family loved the look of an old home but wanted to avoid the constant maintenance often associated with them. Inglenook Tile was their choice for several areas of their home, including in the sunroom, dining room, and hallway and on a custom kitchen backsplash.

The first picture captures the sunroom where”Traditional Antique” 4×8″ brick tiles are installed in a classic herringbone pattern. Primitive Hall has “Old Strasburg” color mix for all its Inglenook brick tiles.

Sunroom

From the sunroom, the brick tile flooring moves into the dining room. The graceful transition between herringbone pattern and the dining room’s running bond is marked by a step.

Transition to dining room

Inside the dining room, the antique corner cupboard and table set complete the authentic historic appearance.

Dining Room

Outside the dining room, the “Traditional Antique” 4×8″ brick tiles continue into the hallway.

Hallway

Inglenook Tiles also find their way into the kitchen, taking a prominent place on the stovetop backsplash. The custom backsplash design uses 4×4″ brick toned tiles bordered by 2×2″ tiles. Our Vegetable accent tiles, taken from antique German candy molds and glazed in “Fern” glaze, punctuate the design. The image below shows a close up of the backsplash design.

Backsplash design

Visit our website: www.inglenooktile.com or call 717.442.0514 for more information.

New Installations

Before installations are put on our website, we will be posting them here, giving you a first look at new projects. We are excited to share these nine recent installations with you!

Click on images to enlarge.

Wall Installation: Lancaster Running Bond 2×8″ brick tile: Custom color mix including many white and fire-scorched pieces.

Wall installation

Arched Ceiling in a Home Bar: Lancaster Running Bond 2×8″ brick tile: “Old Strasburg” color mix. Second photo shows a closeup of the arched ceiling.

Arched Ceiling

Arched ceiling closeup

Sunroom floor with Accent Tiles: Wright’s Ferry 4×8″ brick tile: “Marietta” color mix. Second photo has tile accent piece detail. This project used a wide grout line with its herringbone installation pattern.

Sunroom Floor

Floor accent detail

Entryway floor: Wright’s Ferry 4×8″ brick tile: “Old Strasburg” color mix. This installation in running bond pattern extends through the hall into the front vestibule.

Hallway installation

Kitchen Wall and Floor: Wright’s Ferry 4×8″ brick tile laid on the floor in Basketweave pattern: Marietta color mix. On the wall, Lancaster Running Bond 2×8″ brick tile: “Marietta” color mix.

Kitchen installation

Wall installation

Kitchen Backsplash and Gas Fireplace surround: All portions of the installation use 2×8″ Lancaster Running Bond brick tile in a custom color mix.

Kitchen backsplash

Fireplace surround

Fireplace Surround

Kitchen Nook: 2×8″ Lancaster Running Bond brick tile: “Marietta” color mix.

Kitchen cubby wall

Kitchen floor: Wright’s Ferry 4×8″ brick tile: “Marietta” color mix. Second photo shows the transition from the brick tile to the dining room’s wood floor.

Kitchen Floor

Floor transition

Mudroom: Wright’s Ferry 4×8″ brick tile: custom color mix. This installation left grout in the tile texture, adding to the mudroom’s rustic look. Notice the great “dog shower” in the back left hand area!

Mudroom Installation

Visit our website: www.inglenooktile.com or call 717.442.0514 for more information.