Columbia River Tile & Stone’s stunning black and white marble bathroom
In 2003, Jeff Occhipinti, owner of Columbia River Tile & Stone in Portland, Ore. – and winner of the 2018 Coverings Installation Design Award for Residential Stone Installation – started working in the tile industry, learning from many stellar tile setters. He developed a specialty in flagstone work, explaining, “It is challenging, but you can be very creative with it,” he said.
After three years, Occhipinti became a licensed contractor and went out on the road for the next four years building new hotels until the economy dropped and being on the road was no longer feasible. At that point, Occhipinti said, “I was determined to build my business locally by giving our clients the best possible service. In 2017 I joined the NTCA, and became a Certified Tile Installer – #1354.”
Columbia River Tile & Stone has grown to six employees including Occhipinti – all of whom have been hired with no previous construction experience. “We take pride in the fact that we are training the next generation of tile setters,” he said. “We believe heavily in education as we participate in local training events as well as being active in NTCA University. It is an exciting time right now in the tile industry. We are true artists and craftsmen in our work, and are proud to be contributing to the growth of the industry.” In fact, Columbia River Tile & Stone is a member of the newly formed Columbia-Oregon Tile Trades Training Trust, which starts its initial apprenticeship class next month (TileLetter July Training & Education feature).
The winning project – black and white marble bathroom
Occhipinti describes the installation process of his prizewinning project, for a previous client.
“The homeowner unfortunately had a fire at their house that required a complete tear-down to the studs. This included the previous work that we had done. The homeowner had a vision for the rebuild of their 1929 home, and we were fortunate to be a part of that vision. The upstairs bathroom had a tub surround with alternating diamond shaped Blue Celeste marble and White Thassos marble, the floor was 3” hex and borders of the same materials. The kitchen floor, backsplash, and fireplace were Spanish style tile. For a vanity wall we installed a smoky mirror mosaic tile.
“The master bathroom was the centerpiece of the project. A combination of Nero Marquita and White Thassos marbles comprised the majority of the materials used. The concrete slab was recessed to accept the curb-less entry mud-set shower. Everything was waterproofed with a liquid-applied, thin waterproofing anti-fracture membrane and the niche and bench were constructed out of wedi. The bathroom floor had Schluter Ditra underlayment and the bathroom floor and shower floor were both heated with SunTouch WarmWire. The job was finished with urethane grout and a penetrating sealer was applied to the marble.
“Layout was critical on this project. We were able to continue the diamond pattern on six walls creating a true wrap-around effect. We were able to achieve full tile at all of the focal points including the bottom and top cuts, the vertical outside corner, and against the arched entry way. The stained glass window also has the pattern continue to the other side, in addition to having symmetrical cuts on both sides. The shower floor and bench top are centered and balanced. The floral patterns are also perfectly placed with one of the florals landing centered on the tiled shower drain.
“This project definitely had its challenges. Right from the start we realized that stacking the diamond- shaped tile was going to require some special steps to keep the tile aligned properly. We modified our 1/16” T spacers to have a Y shape. This worked pretty well. The use of straight edges at the diagonal runs was crucial and helped keep the tiles from sliding out of alignment. The mitered outside edge also took some patience since White Thassos marble has a tendency to crumble when it is cut. There were quite a few attempts to get the perfect mitered edges for this focal corner.
“Overall this timeless beauty was another great project for us,” Occhipinti concluded. “We are honored to be recognized for the work that we have done.”