This Old House TV: Milton house project
It all started with a visit to our showroom by This Old House producers Russell Morash and Bruce Irving. Unlike regular This Old House jobs, the Milton project had no homeowners, so Russ and Bruce decided to play the role when it came to the all-important choosing of tile.

Editing down was fairly easy: rejected out of hand were most of the Victorian styles, polished stones and modern ceramics. The tiles they wanted had to suit a house that was Colonial at heart, yet clearly renovated for the next century; the look they headed towards I would describe as simple, clean, "handmade," timeless.

With that esthetic in mind, it was time to match product with room, material with function. For the hard-working entranceway we chose slate—very tough, easily maintained and pleasantly variegated. The silver-green color was inspired by the giant hemlocks and lichen-covered field stone walls just outside.

We wanted to give the guest bath a slightly retro look, as if it had been redone earlier in the century. Polished concrete with its inherent regularities and smooth creamy surface achieved the desired effect perfectly, and we checkered the floor in 4 x 4 squares of subtle gray and green. It was one of my favorite rooms.

The stone we used in the master bath was, literally, full of life. St. Croix limestone has wonderful shell inclusions that add interest to its marvelously foot-friendly honed surface. Its creamy white surface worked well with "the givens": tub, wash basin, and the room's overall white color scheme. The availability of matching St. Croix slab stock for the double bowl vanity was a bonus that made this choice simple.

The wall tile was not so simple. Russ and Bruce homed in on a beautiful handmade crackled glaze tile from a California workshop—unfortunately, the lead time was a minimum of eight weeks, TV show or no TV show. We had to move to a replacement, a 6 x 13 off-white tile with matching trim which, though machine-made, was nearly indistinguishable from its handmade cousins. It was in stock and in place in no time.

Rub-a-dub-dub, the alphabet was around the tub in the children's bathroom. This room was great fun to create—as it should be. The animal alphabet tiles that encircled the bath tub added a touch of whimsy to the overall clean and simple look of the room. Designed by a children's book illustrator from Maine, they're molded and painted by hand in a small factory in Guatemala—maybe that explains why the 'Q' is represented by a beautiful forest bird called a quetzal.

Gene Walsh is a tile consultant at Shep Brown and Associates in Woburn, Massachusetts.
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