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Behind the Design: An Exclusive Interview with Suzi Portugal



Step into the world of tile design and manufacturing with our captivating interview featuring Suzi Portugal, Mosaic Companies Vice President of Design and Sourcing and Head of Design for Anthology Tile. As a seasoned designer passionate about pushing the boundaries of innovation, Suzi takes us from concept to finished product, revealing the creative process behind our most stunning and best-selling tile collections.

  1. Tell us briefly about your background and how you got started in the tile industry.

Design has always been a passion of mine and led me to study Interior Design in college. My first position in the tile industry was with Hastings Tile and Bath, a pioneer in the field.  I was fortunate to have a woman mentor in a comparable position to mine who spearheaded the introduction of an Italian company (Sicis) into the US market. Subsequently, I worked in sales under her mentorship for several years while simultaneously designing collections. This experience allowed me to expand my industry knowledge and effectively combine my design expertise with sales success.

  1. What are some current trends in tile design that you find particularly exciting?

I love the spa-like feel and natural elements we are seeing. The delicate tones are a perfect way to create ambiance in a room. For natural elements, incorporating wood and stone are an excellent approach to create a classic design.

  1. How do you stay inspired and develop new ideas for tile designs?

I don’t feel like it is a job to design, but an artful way of expression that is a part of who I am. I find inspiration in everything around me both while traveling and at home. Trade shows and plant visits are vital components to synthesize ideas and innovations which I use to create new products.

  1. Walk us through your design process from concept to finished product.

When I see something that sparks an idea for a concept or trend, I immediately think on how I can turn it into a tile or mosaic. From there, the pattern becomes a drawing, and colors are applied. Depending on the process, it may take several attempts for our partner’s capabilities and my vision to merge. This can be a long, iterative process, but the success of a design that sells well is a fantastic reward.

  1. What has been the most challenging project you’ve worked on, and how did you overcome those obstacles?

Launching our distribution company, Anthology was one of the most challenging, yet rewarding projects I’ve worked on to date. There were many hills to climb to get the company off the ground. However, the entire organization shared the same vision for the brand, making this newcomer to the tile industry the incredible success story it is today.  Personally playing a crucial role in Anthology’s success by designing all of the company’s products is an immensely gratifying experience which I am very proud of.

  1. What do you think sets Mosaic Companies apart from other tile manufacturers ?

We bring together a fantastic group of dedicated people and work together like a well-oiled machine. Mosaic Companies doesn’t wait for opportunities to happen; we create the opportunities and deliver on them.

  1. What do you think the future of tile looks like regarding design and materials?

I believe the key is durable and sustainable Design. As technology advances, these factors will continue to be a focus as we have more opportunity than ever to create products which fit these criteria. This means designing products from natural materials when possible and focusing on products which require minimal maintenance and cleaning. Design and trends will always be the guide but when combined with sustainability, our possibilities are limitless and will significantly contribute to future developments.

  1. Can you speak to any exciting projects or collaborations Mosaic Companies is working on? 

At any given time, the Design Team is working on tens, and sometime hundreds, of different projects. I think I can safely say look out for some big news on the horizon. We highlighted some of this work at Coverings 2023 in Orlando. Mosaic Companies’ R&D Studio division was presented for the first time ever, allowing the professionals and industry leaders to look behind the curtains and see what our team is working on.

  1. How do you balance staying true to classic tile designs while pushing the boundaries with new and innovative styles?

Classic and timeless design is the key to the future. However, I design for what Sales and industry trends dictate, not my personal taste. I work to keep up with new styles and use what I know about materials, processes, and industry technology to push the limits of what is now possible.

  1. Can you talk about a specific project you’re particularly proud of and what made it stand out?

One of my passions is my fur baby and really, all dogs. Mosaic Companies, as a member of TCNA, participates every year at Coverings in making a doghouse to raise money for local shelters. Designing this for the past 3 years has been my favorite annual project.

  1. What advice would you give someone just starting in the tile industry?

Learn as many facets of the industry as possible and work to accept every position in your journey. Sometimes you don’t always appreciate an opportunity at the moment. Still, when you look back, all these moments shape who you become both personally and professionally. This life lesson led me to where I am today.

  1. Can you speak of any challenges or opportunities for Mosaic Companies due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Like many companies during COVID-19, we faced various challenges that forced us to adapt our business practices. Seeing most of our partners are international, restricted travel was one we had to overcome. In addition, logistics and container shortages made it difficult to source and deliver products to market. A more intangible, but nevertheless important issue, was the ever-present fear of the virus and not knowing what was next.

On the other hand, opportunities were plentiful allowing us to reimagine our business and find new ways to succeed. The housing market was one like none of us had ever seen and homeowners were focused heavily on renovations as they were now spending all their time at home. My biggest takeaway was learning how to design in a virtual world and reach our customers through new and different mediums.

  1. How do you see technology playing a role in the future of tile design and manufacturing?

The advancement of technology is key to new and emerging products. As a designer, my goal is to create the next “best-selling” product. Technological progress allows me to use new tools, techniques, and materials to bring my visions to life.

  1. What are some of the most important considerations when selecting materials for your tiles?

Does the design speak to the consumer? Meeting the wants and needs of the end users is paramount. Durability, sustainability, and timelessness are the most valuable attributes in designing all new products.

  1. Can you discuss any unique or innovative techniques Mosaic Companies uses in its tile manufacturing process?

Mosaic Companies has many unique processes. Owning a handmade tile manufacturing facility in Mexico has opened up a whole new world of possibilities. We also have two proprietary glass processes used in our tile and mosaics. The first is molded glass, which allows for organic shapes which create a unique light transparency. The other is a pool-rated glittery glass. One of my favorite parts of designing tile is traveling the world to find the next great material, process, and/or technology to work with.

  1. How do you collaborate with other companies and designers on a custom project?

In contemplating collaborations, I believe coordinating fabric with mosaics in stone would be a home run. To bring this to life, I partnered with a fabric manufacturer to create a stunning and unique designer collection. The collection was introduced at Coverings 2023 in Orlando and was a special project of mine that I have many goals to expand on.

  1. What do you hope to accomplish in your role at Mosaic Companies over the next few years?

I want to continue to create beautiful designs that people cherish and appreciate. Enhancing spaces is my special gift and I’m thankful to be in a position which provides me with the tools to share it.