Photo by Lindsey Turner (Lindsey Victoria Photography: https://www.facebook.com/LindseyVictoriaPhotography/timeline)
A few weeks ago I came to South Slope Pediatrics’ offices for a meeting with Matteo, and he showed me around the new lower level of offices. Bright and cheery, the space is beautifully laid out and decorated (as the entry level is)! Immediately what I noticed was an accent wall…this amazing repeat-pattern of wallpaper in bright pops of color. Then again in the kitchen as a backsplash…another modern and funky design. Matteo proceeded to tell me all about his good friend, Nicole Block, and the product line she designs, Tyles. Not only is she an innovative, smart and driven entrepreneur, she is a mom of 2 and patient of Dr. Cao’s!
SSP: How did you get inspired to start Tyles and what is your background?
First and foremost, I’m an artist. I am an illustrator by training — I graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in illustration. Since then, I’ve been doing graphic design and illustration in tandem, and finally started working for myself some years ago. I own and run The Nic Studio, which specializes in stationery, graphic design, and illustration.
My family moved into our apartment 3 years ago, which needed some renovations. When we finally finished the kitchen a year later, our backsplash was still bare. We were hosting family and friends at our home for our son’s 1st birthday, and I just wanted the kitchen *finished* by then! But we had run out of time, and funds, for tiling. I tried to find a temporary solution that would look great and would also come off without ruining the walls, but I couldn’t find anything that suit the bill. At 2am, an idea came to me (because all great ideas come to you at 2am). I drew out a pattern that resembled Moroccan mosaic tile, and then contacted a vinyl printer to ask if we could make it into a cut-vinyl backsplash for the kitchen. Within a week I had the backsplash pattern in my hands. When it was up, it looked so great that I posted a how-to and sent it over to Apartment Therapy, who ran it on their site. When I realized how many people loved the project and needed this as an option, I decided to make it into a product. And so Tyles was born!
SSP: What exactly are Tyles, and how/where are they made?
Tyles are a completely unique vinyl product designed in the spirit of tiles. They are not faux tiles, they aren’t meant to fool anyone — they’re a versatile, removable alternative to tile or wallpaper. I hand-draw every pattern myself, mostly inspired by Moroccan and traditional tile design, as well as otherwise mundane elements such as utensils or plates. It’s very important to me that the patterns have maximum visual impact. I want them to be original, I want them to feel stylish and upscale, and I want them to transform a space. After the patterns are complete, I convert the drawings to vector files and choose the colorways. And then I send them off to my production team in California.
Tyles are a cut vinyl product. It’s the same material that most wall decals are made from, but they are assembled in a very different way. Because it’s important that they are in a size and shape that is easy to handle and easy to apply, Tyles are cut and then assembled by hand onto individual 8×8″ square sheets. It’s actually quite a laborious process, so I’m grateful to have found a production team that’s able to make them for me. That was very hard to find!
SSP: Your designs can truly transform and re-energize a space. I LOVE how they look in South Slope Pediatrics’ new lower level. What are the most popular uses for these Tyles – is it a particular room or tending to a particular need?
Thank you! I love how they look at South Slope Pediatrics too!
Like in the staff space at SSP, Tyles were originally intended for use on a kitchen backsplash. It’s an area that’s so very lacking in beautiful, temporary, removable options that can still withstand grease, dirt, and cleaning. A few of my patterns are clearly geared towards use in the kitchen or another food-centric space, like a dining room. But when I made the original sets, i heard from several people that they would love Tyles for other rooms, such as bathrooms, entryways, bedrooms… really, any space where someone might want to change their style and environment, but may not want to — or be able to — commit to a long-term option. Of course, renters and business-owners are natural clients, but there are plenty of homeowners like myself who would want a designer temporary option.
SSP: How easy are these Tyles to apply (and how does one remove)?
They are super easy to apply! Each one comes in an 8×8″ square, and most are divided by “grout” lines into a pattern of four 4″ squares. Almost everything you need comes in the package — twelve 8”x8” Tyles, instructions, a plastic smoother for application, and a small test sample of the vinyl material so that you can make sure it sticks to your walls. As long as you have a smooth, clean surface, Tyles should stick without an issue — though, if your walls are painted, please make sure that the paint had been able to cure for at least 2 weeks before applying Tyles. The only other things you will need for application are blue painter’s tape to line up the Tyles, and scissors to cut the Tyles for tough areas, like in corners or around outlets.
To remove them, simply pull the vinyl up at the corners. They’re easy to remove, and don’t damage your walls — which is key! If you have any trouble pulling up the vinyl, simply use a hairdryer on hot for a minute or so, and that will loosen up the adhesive so that they pull up without issue.
SSP: I understand that they are temporary. How long should one expect the Tyles to last?
With proper care, they should last at least 3 years, if not more. I can tell you that the original Tyles have been up in my kitchen for just about 2 years, and they still look great.
SSP: Do you have a few designs that are top sellers, and can you share those with us and why you think they perform so strongly?
The same pattern that SSP chose for their staff kitchen, Renovated Souk, is currently my best seller. I think the colors and the impact of the pattern make it very popular. It’s cheery, feels a bit exotic, and just brings life to the space.
Citrus Plates and Marbled Starburst are also big sellers. I think they have broad appeal and work for a number of different home furnishing styles. But my personal favorite is the Utensils Cascade pattern. It’s just so much fun! It’s a little 70s, it’s a little bold, it’s more than a bit tongue-in-cheek… I just think it’s fun.
(see all Tyles patterns here: http://tyles.co/collections/tyles-patterns)
SSP: What do you hear most from clients as feedback?
Just how quickly it changes their space. The reaction is immediate. It takes very little time and effort, and even very little product, to make a huge impact.
SSP: Where does one purchase these?
SSP: I understand you are part of a contest on Martha Stewart! How does one learn more and vote for Tyles?
Yes!!!! I’m very proud to say that Tyles is a 2015 Martha Stewart American Made finalist! The American Made contest recognizes businesses that cares about well-designed goods being made in America. Voting is currently underway for the Audience Choice Award, and I need your vote! You can vote up to 6 times a day. Just go to my finalist page at: thttp://www.marthastewart.com/americanmade/nominee/104192/design/tyles-by-the-nic-studio
SSP: What is the future for Tyles? Anything else you’d like our readers to know about your company?
Oh boy… I don’t know. I’m just really excited to be making a new and totally unique product that’s really useful for people! And I’m doubly-excited that I can get to draw these, by hand, and that my drawings translate into this final product. I would love to grow Tyles as much as I can — make a lot more patterns, maybe employ a few people, and continue to make a difference in someone’s home or professional space. There aren’t a lot of options out there that cater to life as we know it in NYC — there are a lot of people who are lifelong renters, who move a lot, or who lease an office/storefront, and they deserve a space they can be happy in and proud of. I’m glad to provide a means to that end. =)
I personally could always find a reason to spice up and rejuvenate my apartment. I get so bored looking at the same thing, day in and day out, every day. Until now my solution has always been “buy new throw pillows for the couch”! Not a big investment, can be temporary and a way to introduce a new color or add energy into a room. Tyles seems to deliver the same thing but with a much larger punch. A new accent wall, a new backsplash, a new decoration for your (until now) uninspiring work space! For us NY’ers, especially renters, this is a super exciting new option. I know I personally cannot wait to see how I can introduce Tyles into our home!