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Making Magic

Award-winning tile designer Deborah Osburn finds inspiration around the globe

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Deborah Osburn once dreamed of going to law school, but fate stepped in, and the interior design world is happy that it did. After starting a temporary job in a tile showroom, she fell in love with the medium, and has since gone on to help revolutionize the tile industry.

Today, Osburn runs Clé, her standout international tile e-boutique. Clé provides an innovative searching and shopping experience for designers looking for classic, ceramic and artistic tile. It has become an online go-to resource for adding textural and tactile experiences to virtually any environment. “Clé speaks directly to designers,” Osburn says. “We put our products into the hands of people with great aesthetic sensibilities.”

Armed with a fine art degree in sculpting, she spent the last 20 years designing, curating and manufacturing surface treatments for retail, hospitality and residential design. Drawing inspiration from her travels, she sees the creation of tiles as an art form. And as a lifelong window shopper, she has been greatly inspired by the small boutiques in Italy which, in her words, “make magic.”

A tile designer her entire professional career, Osburn has elevated and pushed the boundaries of the medium. At Clé, she has created five handcrafted collections and has curated the rest of the tiles available on the company’s website. The brand’s Watermark tile won a “Best of the Year” award from Interior Design magazine in 2014, and in 2016, its Cement Tile collection was named one of the “30 Most Innovative Products of the Year” by Better Homes and Gardens. In addition to her hands-on work with Clé, Osburn has also written a book titled “Tile Envy,” based on her blog of the same name, which she used to organize her favorite tiles and design inspirations. “I wanted to reach past an industry I felt had grown safe and homogeneous, highlighting the fact that tiles can … inspire so many different uses,” she says.

With a healthy respect for artisan craftsmanship, Osburn created a digital platform for designers seeking artistically rendered surface treatments. In her words, “We are doing a dance trying to figure out this digital world. We must understand that digital and physical must coexist.”

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