22 July 2010

Summer rerun: A whole new take on bathroom mosaics

This post ran originally on 25 November 2008.

Christoph Niemann is a former New Yorker and now Berlin-based artist who writes a blog for the New York Times. Niemann's Abstract City is always an interesting read. He talks a lot about his family and their transition to living in Germany. In a post he wrote in August, he talked about his bathroom renovation project.

According to Niemann, he'd always had a dream of doing abstract pixel drawings of masterworks using nothing but colored 4x4 ceramic tile. 4x4 is the default size for bath tile and it's something I chase people away from under normal circumstances. After having seen Niemann's handiwork, I doubt I'll be so quick to dismiss the stuff anymore.

Check this out. Here are two David Hockneys. And next to each is how Niemann interpreted them in 4x4s.

In some kind of a play for my sympathies, he took on a Rothko and it has me swooning.

Now, he's using layout software to draw a grid and then he's assigning each square a color from a palette. I'm really floored by what he did here. I mean, who could imagine taking boring old 4x4s and turning them into this? Certainly not I.

So after playing around for a while, he settled on a Warhol.

Using Andy Warhol, who was himself doing an homage, in a bathroom makes prefect sense and here's the shower stall he ended up with.

I have never seen anything like this. I'm used to looking forward at new stuff that's coming down the pike, I never think to stop and re-evaluate what's already here. These tiles are everywhere and he probably paid a dime apiece for them. I go through my normal working life thinking that wall tile that costs $35 a square foot is cheap. 4x4 ceramic is so far below my radar that I can't even see it. Pardon me, my paradigm just shifted.

So with the master bath done, Niemann turned his attention to the bathroom shared by his three sons. He relates that his sons are obsessed with the New York subway system, so he turned his interpreting skills to an MTA map.

His plan was to tile the entire bathroom, so he imported his layouts into a 3-D renderer.

So with his layout rendered, all that was left to do was install the tile. Check this out:

Mr. Niemann, I owe you a thank you. Several thank yous actually. I read the New York Times every day because I like to stay informed and I believe that the Times keeps my horizons expanded. Sometimes, and this is one of those times, they get expanded so far I don't recognize them anymore. Wow.


  1. Boy Paul,
    I am a little dizzy from looking at the last one!.. Fun projects though. Lot easier on the hand to for the artist who is makeing the pattern.
    Have a great weekend-

  2. Thanks Laura! What's amazes me most about this guy's work is that he's a writer, not a mosaicist.

  3. This might be the only thing that has ever made me glad that our downstairs bathroom is still a faux marble disaster that needs to be torn out. Maybe we could incorporate a crazy tile interpretation of a favorite painting!

  4. What a great idea, I think this kind of creative materials use is the sort of thin that makes a house a home. Go for it!


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