We are currently working on an apartment project that includes interior furnishing. Last month, we recounted our collaboration with a ceramic tile manufacturer based in Foshan, Guangdong. Continuing this partnership, we once again visited their factories to find the right flooring for our residential units - in search of the perfect white!
It is important for architects to confront the reality of their materials, each material's "real-world glow." In our digital age of representation, elegance devolves quickly into kitsch when designers do not fully understand the subtle textures, tones, and underglows of their surfaces.
We sent to Foshan the architects who understand intimately each curve, facet, and intersection between wall, window, door, and floor. Those who determined the location of drop-ceilings, if windows slid left-right or up-down, or whether sinks were placed inside bathrooms. Only with that kind of total spatial knowledge can we make the best decisions.
But how to communicate our vision with the manufacturer? "A picture is worth a thousand words," the saying goes. In a factory producing over 35 product series and infinite colour combinations at our disposal, pinpointing the exact pattern in the right tone and finish could be a very long conversation indeed. Luckily, we are Professionals. And Professionals have Their Ways.
First, we narrowed down two patterns in which we were interested. One of a feathery grain, floating somewhere between folds of chiffon, wenge wood, and layered limestone. The other resembled a sort of loose ashwood.
The initial thought was that both designs needed to be compressed in scale for a more refined look. In looking at prelaid wall and floor sections, however, we realized that the pattern density was just right for covering larger surfaces. What mattered more was the colour contrast within the pattern - when muted, surfaces appeared more pleasing and less coarse. Too much texture heightened the feeling of being enclosed. As the units themselves were already quite tight, we wanted a greater sense of space.
Seeing the showrooms had another major advantage: weeding out patterns that didn’t serve our purpose. What works for a wall may not always work for a floor, and vice versa. Format is also a delicate matter. Square tiles do not always do justice to one design, while others absolutely demand 1:1 dimensions. Finally, the size of each tile is crucial to the overall effect. With these factors in mind, we were left with one standing champion.
The task was far from over. It is one thing to find a suitable design, another entirely to achieve the right tone and finish. Not only that, but to also ensure that it can accommodate different types of lighting as well as a wide range of furniture and aesthetic styles. We were on a mission to find a very particular shade of white!
We tiptoed around the descriptor, "yellow-ish." This led to some unsuccessful recommendations. Too green, too orange, too yellow... too red, too purplish, too blue... too grey! We could only point at samples and move towards the ultimate goal. Something like this, but not so purple. Like that, but not so dark.
At one point it struck me, your roving reporter, that perhaps "yellow," had put us on rather a backfoot. We were looking for more of a sandy, nude tone than what most people understand by the adjective "yellow." We wanted an eggshell white, specific tints of which are often finessed by makeup gurus. After all, when it comes to neutrals, they are the queens!
Through long exchange with our manufacturers, we set out a range to prototype. After two and a half hours of tea-drinking with our gracious hosts, we laid hands on our custom-made tile of eight colour variations.
The story doesn't finish here. While we could immediately see which shades were working, the final finish was still missing. Glossiness has a large effect on the reading of each slab, while the finishing process itself may impact the overall tone.
As we eagerly await the final samples, X-URBAN hopes that through this journey you have gained some insight into our design process. We put great effort into every decision, beginning with floor tiles. We are proud of our attention to detail, and this episode is only one of the many instances that X-Urban will go the extra mile to combine beauty and function - in real life as well as on paper!