(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) The thought first hit him while sitting on a rug in his home.
For long, Hamed Abdullah Hamed al Amri had been witness to the gruelling cleaning, washing and vacuuming sessions his rugs and carpets had to be put through.
''To make sure that they always remained clean, we had to send them to the laundry once every three months. Not only was the process tedious, the rugs appeared dull and lighter each time they were returned to us after a wash,'' he said.
Though disheartened at seeing his rugs slowly turn to rags, Amri could not help it. For, carpets are breeding grounds for germs and infections. ''Especially in a house full of children, spilling water or dropping food on the rug is very common. One has to be careful.'' That was until Amri, the chairman of Al Ritaj Centre, struck upon a more manageable and feasible option to the traditional rug: Art tiles. The tiles, when pieced together, look like any rug or carpet, except for the texture, which is the give-away.
Al Ritaj Centre, a building material enterprise, showcased the tiles it manufactures at The Home Show that concluded recently at the Oman International Exhibition Centre.
Made of Chinese porcelain and covered with glass, art tiles can be washed and wiped with the stroke of a mop. The result: Your tiled rug looks new every single day of the year. ''We introduced these art tiles over a year and half ago. Unlike carpets, they are far more easier to maintain. Also the glass covering helps retain the shine,'' he said.
Most of the designs for these art tiles are inspired from the intricate patterns of Iranian carpets. ''We select the patterns and designs for these tiles here in Oman, but they are manufactured in China, from where they are shipped to our showrooms,'' said Amri.
According to Amri, art tiles need not necessarily be laid out on the floor; they can also be displayed on the walls. ''Many of my clients prefer to have these tiles on the walls of their drawing rooms instead of the floors. Preferences vary.''
Johnny Stephen, an interior decorator, who has been working in Muscat for over three decades now, and attended The Home Show this year, said that while art tiles are not a new feature in Oman and have been used to adorn drawing rooms, bathrooms and kitchens of most homes, they have rarely been seen as an alternative to rugs.
''These rug-patterned tiles are definitely new in the market. Since rugs and carpets are very common in Omani homes, it would be interesting to see how people take to it. Personally, it appears to be a more convenient and long-lasting option.''
Omani interior decorator Nidhal al Brashdi echoes similar sentiments. ''Although carpets may emanate a warm and comfortable feel, I personally prefer tiles due to their versatility and believe that they are a lot more practical for any home owner, as they are much easier to maintain and more durable. Nevertheless, tiles can always be accented with rugs to add a layered effect.''
Interior designing experts also believe that it would be some time before people warmed up to replacing rugs in their homes with tiles.
Having said that, art tiles have already caught the fancy of many Omanis. Only four months ago, Ahmed Nasser bought six pieces for his home. ''I got them fixed in every room of my house, including the entrance. They look nice and I don't have to bother much about cleaning them. They are like a rug, but so muc