Visiting Tile Shops

In a large metropolitan area, such as the Virginia Tidewater, there are a number of tile stores, some manufacturer specific and some representing several manufacturers. You’d think tile shopping would be simple but it is not.

Home Depot and Loews

They have about everything including tile. The thing to watch about the big box stores is that they may have tile from multiple manufacturing batches on the shelf. Colors can vary from batch to batch so if you buy from them, buy only unopened boxes and check that each box is from the same production lot.

The Local Stores

Florida Tile and Dal Tile (a Mohawk company) have local brand stores in the 757. The Florida store is the nicer of the two with attractive displays and attention to light color quality in the store. Both are frustrating because they organize the tiles by marketing series rather than in some useful way.

We also have Morris Tile, Mosaic Tile, and Triton Stone, two independent tile distributors and a stone yard that sell to the trade and to DIY. These shops carry tiles from multiple manufacturers but are very different in their approach to curating what they offer. Mosaic Tile is the shop that gets it right. What Mosaic does that the others don’t is to curate the tiles by look and color. For example, all the beige faux stone tiles are together. And the beige wood look and beige solid color, and beige granite, marble, and travertine stone tiles are together. It’s genius. So obvious but, in the 757, only Mosaic does it.

And for my project the winner is Mosaic

Mosaic where I made my selections. That said, my contractor hires the tile installer and the installer or contractor actually buys material. Both my builder and a retired kitchen designer friend suggested Mosaic and I’m glad I made the trip. Their shop is newly moved to former Hanger 9 flight simulator arcade near Lynnhaven Blvd in Virginia Beach. Mosaic remodeled this old warehouse building near Barrett Auctions to have a spacious layout that is greyhound friendly and allowed me to bring Missy and Nick in. The perimeter of the store has a number of example kitchen and bath installations that you can use for inspiration. The receptionist explained the store organization and turned us loose to browse.

It was easy to find the look i desired and the colors I was after. I was able to find a nice creamy faux travertine that would harmonize nicely with cherry finished maple cabinets and the likely granite contenders. Once I found what I was looking for, they made a record of my preferences, let me check out a sample, and sent me on my way with a data sheet that my installer could use to select the materials he needed to do the installation.

At the other shops it was hard to find the Goldie Locks tile, the one with enough color and pattern to be interesting but not boring and not shouty. What Mosaic did was to split each manufacturer series by dominant color so the gray one would be with the grays, the green one with the greens, and the brown one with the browns. The effect of this is to group a slice of the color wheel by look making it easy to find that Goldie Locks pattern.

Mosaic’s Sample Policy

One unusual thing Mosaic does is to take a $10 deposit for each sample that will be refunded when the sample is returned. They really want their samples back. But they make it easy by attaching a printed label to each sample identifying the specific material and listing the related sizes and colors. This label clearly identifies the sample as a Mosaic sample so you can take it back to the proper shop.

The samples are usually of one of the mosaic sheets from the pattern and color. Mosaic mounted these to Masonite to protect them from damage and attached the label to the underside of the backer. The mounted sheets are easy to handle and give a more representative idea of the colors and patterns than is seen in a field tile from modern HDP printed patterns. Modern patterns are designed to cover 10×20 feet without repeats. Because they are mosaic sheets made by cutting and mounting bits of field tiles, the samples are several times the cost of a field tile. It is one thing to give away a $1 field tile and another to give away a $10 mosaic sheet.

I’ve got a collection of several samples from the other shops and I can’t remember what came from where to return them. But I have no skin in the game so they probably won’t go back. And to find related items, I have to go back to the website or PDF catalog.

Again genius and so simple and so obvious a practice you’d think it would be common across the industry.