The Insider: 40 Years of MADE

When Ann Sacks’ hallmark MADE collection debuted in the 1980s, it was about filling a void in the marketplace. Decades later, it has become one of the crown jewels of the company’s curated offerings.

Written by Clinton Smith

10 minute read


At the time, Ann Sacks’ namesake founder would visit interior designers, and she realized that many of them were sourcing kitchen and bath surface materials for their clients from rings filled with hundreds of color samples of composite laminates. Sacks knew that she wasn’t getting nearly as many orders for countertops, so she asked her clients if they would consider an alternative if the company could offer as many color options… in tile. The answer was a resounding yes, so Sacks opened the MADE factory—referred to “Custom Color” at the time—which focused on offering tiles with handcrafted glazes in a dazzling array of colors. New shapes, sizes, and decorative forms soon followed suit.

Fast Forward

While the MADE aesthetic has evolved with the times and changed dramatically over the years—including the addition of star-studded designer collaborators, such as Barbara Barry, Robert Kuo, and Kelly Wearstler—the original spirit and ethos of MADE remains true today. The primary goal to fulfill clients’ needs and offer them unique handcrafted options continues to be the driving force. Another constant, nearly 40 years later, is that MADE tiles retain the true spirit of authenticity; each and every piece is still handcrafted in Ann Sacks’ hometown of Portland, Oregon.

“Once people take our factory tour and see that each tile is touched over 14 times by human hands during the process, they realize that this tile is different from your standard dry-pressed, machine-made tile,” says Director of Product and Development DeeDee Gundberg. “There is an incredible amount of craft in the way this product is made.” And no detail goes overlooked.

“When we develop new glazes, we try and try and try some more until we have the perfect combination of color and depth. Some glazes are meant to be simpler, and that is important to have in our offering. Others are meant to make you stop and stare.” Whether it’s a more straightforward approach (such as a slight variation or alternative to a subway tile) or a three-dimensional tile that encourages you to linger longer, designers and their clients continue to be inspired. “Our artisans are extremely talented and proud of their work,” notes Gundberg, “and this is evident in every piece of tile that they make.”

MADE for Real Life

For designer Christine Lin, principal of San Francisco-based interior design firm Form + Field, her passion for incorporating MADE and other Ann Sacks tile into her projects is evident in the studio’s swoon-worthy Instagram account, @formandfield. Several posts are accompanied by the hashtag: #IHaveThisThingWithTile. The postscript is duly noted—and Lin’s not kidding. Recent Form + Function projects reveal diverse installations ranging from eye-catching kitchen backsplashes to sublime baths. Many times, MADE tile is incorporated as the focal point; in other instances, it’s a quiet, albeit equally as enthralling, backdrop.

“I’m always thinking about how I can use permanent finishes in a more interesting way, and to have our designs be more integrated with the architecture,” says Lin. “That’s why I think about fixed finishes so much. We’re always trying to integrate what we do with the furnishings, with the design, with the architecture.”

For Gundberg, the MADE line is about offering versatility for myriad scenarios such as Lin’s. “The beautiful thing about textured tile is that is can be extremely subtle, or it can be a ‘wow’ feature wall, depending on the design and the color that you use,” she says. “A slightly textured surface in white or cream can be subtle and the perfect option for someone who wants visual interest but wants to avoid color.” Gundberg adds that creating a lasting impression with tile doesn’t have to be complicated.

“I often think that less is more, and the MADE Modern collection is the perfect example,” she says. “Just a few simple designs can create countless patterns, and this collection really allows designers to get creative and have fun.”

For Max Humphrey, a Portland-based interior designer, MADE was a natural choice for his clients’ Oregon beach house. The tile was made nearby, his clients were natives of the state, and both husband and wife were advocates for sourcing local artisans and makers. Plus, the range of offerings was perfect for the job.

“The whole color palette for the house was inspired by colors that we could see from the windows,” says Humphrey. However, this was not going to be a strict navy-and-white nautical-inspired seaside escape. Nuanced hues encapsulated everything from the western sunsets to misty mornings.

"“There are so many color options is the MADE line that it was great because we got to really pick interesting ones that you don’t see everywhere,” says Humphrey. “Each tile is slightly different, even though they’re pretty uniform. That handmade quality makes them special. There’s also a physical depth below the surface that comes through.”

While tile was integrated into the kitchen and baths in this house, Humphrey sees few limitations on where to incorporate it in other projects—from mudrooms to fireplace surrounds.

“There’s so much good tile, and I end up wanting to use it everywhere,” he says with a laugh. “I love the way it looks and feels, and so the more places I can sneak it, in the merrier."

December 7, 2021

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