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The Sisters Behind Livden are Creating Sustainable Tile From Upcycled Materials

Black kitchen with black and white tile.

Courtesy of Livden

For Georgie Smith and Hilary Gibbs, tile is in their blood. Gibbs’s mother, Melinda Earl, patented printing images on stone back in 1994 when she was creating tile and other pieces of multimedia art from her makeshift garage studio. 

“I remember when I was a kid going inside the garage and she was always painting and experimenting with unique materials which I loved,” Gibbs says. “I’ve always been surrounded by that atmosphere.” In 2003, Earl founded StoneImpressions alongside Smith’s father, Greg, and since tile has been the family business. 

“I started working for StoneImpressions about eight years ago in a marketing role, and I had an amazing time getting to travel and work with different designers and dealers,” Smith says. That role allowed her to realize two things: that there was a growing need for eco-friendly tile and for more highly designed sustainable products. “A lot of what was happening in the eco-friendly tile market was basic. There was not a lot of color, and we set out to change that," she says. 

Tiled fireplace.

Courtesy of Livden

A lot of what was happening in the eco-friendly tile market was basic. There was not a lot of color, and we set out to change that.

While Smith’s background has been geared toward marketing, Gibbs takes on a more creative role, something which she attributes to all that time watching her mother work.

“I’ve seen what’s going on in the design industry and saw a lot of neutrals, grays, and understated tones, so the idea for Livden really happened organically,” she says. The sisters did years of prototyping and research before launching the website in March 2020. 

They use two different materials, PaperStone and terrazzo, for their eco-friendly tile brand. “We knew we wanted to work with manufacturers based in the U.S. that have a dedication to sustainability throughout their manufacturing processes,” Smith says.

The PaperStone is manufactured in Washington and is formed from layering recycled paper and saturating it with non-petroleum-based resin before it’s finished off in a heat press. “It creates this amazing hard dense tile,” Smith adds. “When you hold up pieces you can see all the layers of paper. It feels almost like wallpaper but it's waterproof and difficult to break.” Plus, it’s certified recycled by the Rainforest Alliance to the Forest Stewardship Council. 

Mint green cabinets and pink tile backsplash.

Courtesy of Livden

Livden's terrazzo, which is manufactured in Florida, comes from a factory that is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, creating terrazo with recycled materials like granite and glass. Their two terrazzo options, Crystallized terrazzo, which has larger gems, and Polar Ice, which has a much smaller grain pattern, are both great for wall application and low-traffic residential flooring. 

While all Livden’s tiles are made up of 65 to 100 percent recycled materials, the sisters shared passion for creating unique, colorful, and joyful designs is equally impressive.

“It’s been an experimental process,” Gibbs says. “Every design has always started with a sketchbook and either paint, acrylics, or watercolors.” 

Pink coral kitchen with pink tile backsplash.

Courtesy of Livden

Through hours of freehand, she comes up with varying designs, many of which pull in organic shapes and are inspired by her own upbringing in California, the colors of the ocean, sunset, and sunrise.

They each have different favorites as well when it comes to the collections. Smith loves the Honeysuckle collection, a PaperStone tile that comes in 12-by-12 and 16-by-16 options, as it’s so versatile and has six color options. “We apply a glaze to our PaperStone as well," she says. "It has a hand-brushed look, which I feel is very beautiful."

Bright colored tile behind office desk.

Courtesy of Livden

Another favorite is the Popsicle collection on their Crystallized terrazzo. Gibbs, on the other hand, is all about color and is a fan of the Puzzle Piece collection in Clementine. “While Clay—a warm terracotta color—is more popular, orange is just such an underused color that I love,” she says. 

For those looking for a more sustainable tile option, Livden is making waves in the tile industry.