If a room or two of floor tile seems like an unusual souvenir, think again. Vacationers mingle with the locals in the showroom of Buckhannon Brothers Tile in Mount Pleasant—and often make the decisions they’ve been putting off at home.
Owners Ryan and Sonya Buckhannon are pleased that their six-year-old showroom- based business now has clients from East Coast to West. “So many people vacation here,” says Sonya. “They’ve got their downtime. Here, they can make an unhurried decision, place an order, and we can have it drop-shipped from the vendor to their home.”
For a split second, it’s easy to mistake the Buckhannons’ showroom for an art gallery. The tile samples are neatly and artistically spaced across the walls. Despite the thousands of options, from graphic and bold to soothing and classic, there’s room for the eye to rest.
Some customers arrive with a helpful starting point—a photo, a texture, a color. “Websites like Houzz and Pinterest have really helped our clients find what they like,” says Sonya. But what if a shopper is starting from scratch? “We’ll work with the client’s taste, whatever their style is, from contemporary to coastal. And if we don’t carry a particular product, we’re happy to help find it.”
Many of the showroom’s lines feature the up-and-coming, the geometric, the hard to find. Stone tiles and their beautiful porcelain look-alikes lean against the wall in categories. Tiles of copper, bronze, stainless steel and lightweight concrete offer intriguing textures and finishes.
Elegantly grained planks of hardwood flooring actually turn out to be porcelain tile. Distinctive shapes take their place beside traditional squares and rectangles. Tiny glass tiles sparkle on freestanding displays, a stark contrast to enormous pieces of individual floor tile measuring five by ten feet.
Here, interior decorators and designers regularly bring their clients to find unique, quality pieces. One local designer, Michele of MK Interior Planning, recently completed two tile projects at her own marsh-view home on Daniel Island. Her new multilevel swimming pool uses a horizontal glass mosaic tile that mimics the rippling of moving water. A custom glass mosaic of an octopus reigns over the upper pool, a fountain pouring from its mouth.
Inside the home, a powder room was designed around an exceptional blue-gray floor tile from the Tayla Collection. It looks three-dimensional—as do many of the newer tile lines in the Buckhannon showroom— but the marble mosaic was actually cut with water jets, making it exceptionally smooth. The homeowner exaggerated the tile’s graphic quality by using silvery gray and white wallpaper.
A remodeling project in Hobcaw, carried out by Tidewater Builders, reflects that home’s serene view of water and marsh. Initially unsure of what she wanted, the homeowner fell for a 9×18-inch aqua glass tile that became the starting point for her master bathroom. For the flooring and half-walls, Sonya helped her select champagne- colored limestone that’s surprisingly soft to the touch.
For their son’s clean-lined black and white bathroom, they settled on 18×18-inch black porcelain tiles for the floor and 4×16- inch white ceramic tiles for the shower stall, accented with strips of brushed aluminum.
The great-room fireplace project was an unexpected add-on after Sonya suggested updating the old, dark green surround. The new one is a vertical glass mosaic done in blues, tans and grays. But the real conversation piece is the hearth. Made of 12×24- inch vein-cut limestone cut on a 45-degree angle, it looks like a length of solid stone.
While the Buckhannons opened their first showroom six years ago and moved into their current larger building in 2011, they have sixteen years’ experience installing tile in the Lowcountry.
The company limits installation work to East Cooper, Daniel Island and downtown Charleston, with Ryan riding a daily circuit among all current projects. “I have a good full-time installation team,” he says. He brings their field experience into the what outside installers need to know about new product lines and materials on the market.
It’s what clients don’t see that helps beautiful tile work stand the test of time. Ryan is a stickler for thoroughly prepping the installation surfaces, especially anywhere near a water source. In shower stalls, for example, “we recommend waterproofing everything so thoroughly that you could take a shower in there with no tile at all,” he says. He’s a student of grouts and epoxy resins, and keeps current on the tile industry’s ever-lengthening list of professional standards.
“We follow all the standards of the National Tile Council,” says Sonya, noting that the manual has grown thick with so many types of tile on the market. “And we warranty our work.”
But it’s the extensive collection in the showroom that has expanded the company’s client base far past the Lowcountry. After Superstorm Sandy, a New Jersey couple who had vacationed here and faced a lengthy wait to order from their local sources traveled all the way back to Buckhannon Brothers to select and order their tile.
The company also recently shipped samples to a designer in California and had 5,000 square feet of Jerusalem stone drop-shipped to a home in Arkansas.
“We have lots of fresh ideas,” says Sonya. She, Ryan and the staff stick to one proven formula: Start with what you love and install it to the highest standards.