Interior Design

How to Choose the Right Tile for Your Home

Flower-adorned fireplace inserts. Fox and grapevine mosaics. 3-D fish leaping across shower walls. Your imagination is the only limit.

By Sarah Hutchins October 16, 2019 Published in the Design Annual: 2019 issue of Portland Monthly

A few works in progress at Pratt & Larson’s Central Eastside Industrial District workshop and showroom


With more than 11,000 decorative tile dies (molds) in their archives and around 300 standard glaze colors, Pratt & Larson might offer too many options—literally millions of one-of-a-kind combinations.

At the nearly four-decade-old tile emporium at SE Third and Salmon Street, showroom manager Arthur Moloian plays tour guide—mosaics over here, brownstones over there—and then recommends tile seekers simply mosey around “with an open mind.” “Look for things that catch your attention because you might find something you never thought existed,” he says.

Every year, Pratt & Larson’s 100 artisans cast, glaze, hand-paint, and sell two million pounds of fired clay.


He’s right. Founded in 1982 by the eponymous husband-and-wife team, and run since 2017 by longtime employees Anthony Asch and Belle Iskowitz, Pratt & Larson makes ceramic tiles on-site and also sells porcelain, concrete, terra-cotta, natural stone, glass, and specialty tiles like metallic and mother-of-pearl numbers.

Every year, Pratt & Larson’s 100 artisans cast, glaze, hand-paint, and sell two million pounds of fired clay. Using 15 to 60 tons of pressure, hydraulic presses mold decorative tiles (carved dimensional designs) one at a time, yielding up to 1,000 tiles on any given day. In true Portland spirit, no clay goes to waste. Scraps reenter production or are recycled into asphalt paving. In the past decades, the company has made more than 11,000 custom color matches from client-supplied paint swatches, fabric, wallpaper, and even pet fur.

Ready to get tiling? Budget about an hour for a P&L visit, either walk-in or by appointment, so a staff designer can help hone your unique vision. (Inspiration filched from Pinterest or Houzz can expedite the process.) Can’t decide? Take-home tile samples ensure the shape, texture, and color complement your décor—or your pooch.


TAKE YOUR TIME Since custom, handmade tile takes time to create, plan a few months ahead to broaden your design choices.

MEASURE TWICE Small tilable areas have limitations, so bring designers specific measurements to offer the best schemes to serve the space. Moloian cautions: “Sometimes the most challenging projects are little ones like fireplaces, since you have to be creative in a very confined and dimensionally restricted space.”

DON’T BE AFRAID TO BE ADVENTUROUS —IN MODERATION Save your most eye-catching design for the kitchen backsplash, enlivening the room’s focal point with color and texture. With few corners or obstacles and a smaller footprint, the kitchen backsplash offers the most diverse array of choices and the fewest constraints.

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