We love hearing about all of the cool things our neighbors are doing and Nicole Block is no exception. The Brooklyn-born designer has come up with an innovative way to decorate your walls without making any permanent changes.
We took some time to chat with her and learn more about her product, Tyles, which is a finalist for Martha Stewart’s American Made contest.
KBK: Tell us a bit about yourself and Tyles.
Nicole Block: I am a born and bred New Yorker, and graduated with a BFA in Illustration in 2000 from Syracuse University. For the past nine years, I’ve been running my small studio from home, specializing in illustrated stationery (wedding and card/retail) as well as corporate design work.
Tyles is a new product for the studio — a completely unique, temporary vinyl wall product, designed in the spirit of tile. Tyles offers a stylish solution to finishing your untiled walls in the kitchen, bathroom, office — without commitment. Made from cut vinyl, Tyles are easy to apply and easy to remove, without any damage to the wall. Perfect for renters, businesses, and anyone who wants high style with high flexibility.
How did you get into this business?
Two years ago, we finally finished renovations on our Kensington apartment’s kitchen. The backsplash was supposed to be tiled, but we’d run out of time and money. I wanted it done before the holidays, but I didn’t want to use something on the walls that would ruin them for the eventual tile. So I came up with an idea for a temporary option. I designed a Moroccan-tile-inspired pattern and had it cut in vinyl to apply to my walls. The result was lovely, and I knew I had come up with something that so many could use. Especially my fellow New Yorkers! And so Tyles were born.
What was your process for creating this product?
As with all of my work, I draw and design everything from scratch. My inspiration lies in traditional tile design — especially Moroccan tile — as well as everyday things, such as food, cutlery, etc. I draw the pattern out first by hand, then clean it up, according to how the product needs to be cut and assembled for production. Finally, I choose the color(s) for the pattern from the swatches of vinyl material available from the manufacturer. The final Tyles are produced in California, and I assemble the packages here.
Why did you decide to start Tyles?
I just couldn’t believe there wasn’t a product out there like this! Something temporary, that renters and owners alike can use, without damaging their walls but still providing a chic decor option. There is temporary wallpaper, which is lovely, but is often cumbersome to handle without help. There are flat vinyl printed tiles, but they are fake — images of real tiles scanned and printed to trick someone. Until you go up and look closely, or touch the wall, of course. Ha! And there are completely fake tile backsplashes, made of plastic to look like glass tile and grouting.
All of these options work for different people, but what if you want something simpler? More modern? Something with the spirit of a tile — the way a tile may break in its design, the way the pattern changes when you flip a square around — but not trying to be something its not. Something that can afford you to shine a spotlight on a small space, or transform a room with just a small application. Tyles solve a problem, give an ease of application (and removal), and are completely unique in design and style.
Why did you settle in this neighborhood?
I was born in Brooklyn, though I was moved out to Staten Island when I was young (probably against my will, even then!). After college, I moved back to Brooklyn, and lived in Cobble Hill for six years.
When my husband Dave and I were looking to buy a place big enough to start a family eight years ago, we decided to move here! I knew the neighborhood to be safe, family friendly, and diverse. We originally moved to an apartment on Webster Avenue, and three years ago we moved down to Ocean Parkway and Ave C. Our kids have only known this neighborhood, and we’re all very happy here.
What is one of the neighborhood’s hidden (or not-so-hidden) gems?
Ocean Parkway! Not at all hidden, but often overlooked. I love everything about it. I love to walk down and meet the variety of people sitting on benches, the old men playing dominoes and chess in all seasons. I love to watch our kids draw on the malls. I love that it stretches from the parkway all the way down to Coney Island, and you can watch the neighborhoods change as you drive or walk down. And I love the miles of trees — shade in the summer, color in the fall and the spring, arching over the parked cars.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
Simply to keep doing what I love, because that will always help carry you through. Even when things are rough, I know I love what I do. And it keeps me happy.
Tell us a little bit about the Martha Stewart American Made contest.
Martha Stewart’s American Made is a nationally recognized program that celebrates new rising stars of the growing nationwide maker community who have turned their passions for handcrafted, well-designed goods into small businesses and proudly make their products in America.
Tyles, has been selected by Martha Stewart and her panel of judges as a 2015 Martha Stewart American Made finalist. Voting for the Audience Choice Award is currently underway, which could mean $10,000 to the winning business, and Tyles could truly put the money to use! If you have a chance, please vote for us! You can vote six times a day, every day.
What does the future have in store for Tyles?
I don’t know! I hope anything and everything. Right now, they’re only available for purchase on our website. I’d like to expand our line, perhaps wholesale Tyles so that retail locations can carry them. But really, I just want to get the word out to people that Tyles are available to them — renters, owners, businesses. I’m 100 percent sure Tyles would change their space as much as it has changed mine.