This SF-Based Tile Brand Looks At Their Past And What’s Ahead


Blue and white tiled wall with oval framed artwork of birds and green bench

Blue-and-white patterned tiles from cle

Deborah Osburn has had a lifelong fascination with tile. In 2008, while operating her second tile business, she started her blog, Tile Envy, to field client questions. Soon, tile designers were requesting that she feature their products, and homeowners were inquiring where to buy them. Osburn ultimately combined these ideas—e-commerce and editorial—and launched Marin-based clé, which turns 10 this year.

What was your initial vision? Clé was meant to feature tile artisans, but as an artist and designer myself, I began to add my own tiles and curations. When compared to the construction-based—and largely mass-manufactured—tile industry, this made for a very distinctive offering. We showed that tiles are an art form, not just a construction material.

What’s new with clé? Clé’s Cinema Collection is an embrace of cement tile and all its expressive possibilities. Whether it’s color, pattern, shape or dimension, this collection will change the way people look at cement tiles.

Any goals for the next 10 years? In other countries, tiles are used to clad all surfaces, inside and out—not just the kitchen and bath. I’m hoping that in the next decade, clients will take their cues from such places.