STEEL THIS TILE: Ideal for contemporary houses, this line of stainless steel mosaics is sure to jazz up any kitchen or bathroom.  Available in eight patterns -- including subway, hexagon, and diamond -- the line consists of 100 percent steel tiles, allowing you to match backsplashes with stainless appliances.  The tiles are arranged on a mesh backing measuring 12 inches by 12 inches.  Allstone Imports. 800-983-6188. www.kreana.com
STEEL THIS TILE: Ideal for contemporary houses, this line of stainless steel mosaics is sure to jazz up any kitchen or bathroom. Available in eight patterns -- including subway, hexagon, and diamond -- the line consists of 100 percent steel tiles, allowing you to match backsplashes with stainless appliances. The tiles are arranged on a mesh backing measuring 12 inches by 12 inches. Allstone Imports. 800-983-6188. www.kreana.com

WILD SIDE: The manufacturer believes ceramic can be exciting and has introduced the leather-like  Matouche to prove it. Unlike real leather, the tile has the typical  maintenance-free surface of ceramic, but boasts the looks of elephant, crocodile, reptile, and  distressed leather. It comes in 24-inch-by-24-inch  squares. Walker & Zanger. 877-611-0199. www.walkerzanger.com.
WILD SIDE: The manufacturer believes ceramic can be exciting and has introduced the leather-like Matouche to prove it. Unlike real leather, the tile has the typical maintenance-free surface of ceramic, but boasts the looks of elephant, crocodile, reptile, and distressed leather. It comes in 24-inch-by-24-inch squares. Walker & Zanger. 877-611-0199. www.walkerzanger.com.

GLASS FUSION: This hybrid tile is made from a crackled glass surface fused to a ceramic back, giving  users the translucency of glass with the easy installation of ceramic. The  line comes in five sizes, 13 colors, and 37 patterns. Trikeenan  Tileworks. 603-352-4299. www.trikeenan.com.
GLASS FUSION: This hybrid tile is made from a crackled glass surface fused to a ceramic back, giving users the translucency of glass with the easy installation of ceramic. The line comes in five sizes, 13 colors, and 37 patterns. Trikeenan Tileworks. 603-352-4299. www.trikeenan.com.

COLOR ME GOOD: Color Blox Mosaics meet the needs of buyers who want color in their homes. Available  in 20 colors, the 3-inch-by-3-inch porcelain tiles have shade variations  from piece to piece, offer a slip-resistant coating, and never need  sealing or waxing, the company says. A matching single and double bull nose  and a 3-inch-by-12-inch cove molding are also available. Crossville. 931-484-2110. www.crossvilleinc.com.
COLOR ME GOOD: Color Blox Mosaics meet the needs of buyers who want color in their homes. Available in 20 colors, the 3-inch-by-3-inch porcelain tiles have shade variations from piece to piece, offer a slip-resistant coating, and never need sealing or waxing, the company says. A matching single and double bull nose and a 3-inch-by-12-inch cove molding are also available. Crossville. 931-484-2110. www.crossvilleinc.com.

Considering your financial commitment, it's understandable that you prefer building with conventional construction methods and familiar materials. Working with tried-and-true systems brings certain assurances, but an unexpected product in the right application can help set your houses apart from the guy down the street.

For example, most builders stick with dependable ceramic tile for their homes, but they ignore the wide array of other materials that can add style to a home.

Glass is perhaps the hottest material in tiles. Durable, water resistant, and low maintenance, glass reacts with light to produce luminescent surfaces that are particularly vibrant. Although typically expensive—often upwards of $20 per square foot—glass can be used sparingly to give a custom look to a kitchen backsplash or shower surround.

Another option is stainless, which has all the same attributes as other steel surfaces—durability, easy maintenance, and water resistance. Offered by manufacturers such as Sylmar, Calif.–based Walker & Zanger and Chicago-based AllStone Imports, steel-tile usage has grown with the rising popularity of contemporary design, but it also can be used for accents in traditional homes.

For those who are even more intrepid, manufacturers such as Ann Sacks in Portland, Ore., now offer tiles made from wood, while other companies make tiles from a combination of cement, recycled glass, and fillers.

Trikeenan Tileworks in Keene, N.H., has produced an innovative new product by merging two tile classics. The company saw the growing popularity of glass tile but found that customers often avoided it because the installation could be challenging. So Trikeenan introduced a line of products that features glass tiles fused to a ceramic back. Now customers get the vibrancy of glass with the easy installation of ceramic, the company says.

For more product information, visit ebuild, Hanley Wood's interactive product catalog, at www.builderonline.com or www.ebuild.com.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Chicago, IL.