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Tiegs describes her Cambria Dover ™countertops as "very smooth, very zen."
For someone who has lived much of her adult life traveling the world to exotic locations with an endless barrage of flash bulbs illuminating her every move, it is perhaps understandable if Cheryl Tiegs tends toward a more grounded and subdued lifestyle when out of the glare of the public eye. Nowhere is this desire more apparent than in her thoughtfully designed and tastefully understated home in Bel Air, California. It is her oasis, the place where she can escape from the hustle and bustle of L.A. to meditate, where the closest thing to an entourage involves her two Labrador retrievers gamboling along behind her, and where her iconic status as America’s first supermodel takes a back seat to a much more important role—that of being a mom to her 17-year-old son Zack.
“I like the simplicity of the design of my house,” Tiegs says, while sitting comfortably in the midst of it. And despite the swirl of photographers, cameras, and lighting that she has graciously allowed in to document her recent kitchen renovation, Tiegs says her home’s design is all about producing a “soothing, calming effect.”
But befitting the eclectic, well-traveled nature of her life, her home’s design has never been about rigidly conforming to any one architectural moment, place, or style. Raised on a farm in Minnesota, Tiegs has posed on secluded tropical beaches, lived abroad for a time in Africa, trekked through Mexico’s Copper Canyon and above the Arctic Circle, and now embraces the environmentally conscious ethos of Southern California. Accordingly, Tiegs has modeled her house’s style on those personal experiences, blending together a number of different design influences—Traditional Country, Balinese, British Colonial, Eco-friendly—to create a harmonious and peaceful inner sanctum.
But, as many homeowners discover, striking just the right balance between what’s aesthetically pleasing and pragmatically possible, isn’t always easy. Recently, Tiegs confronted just this very problem when she found herself more and more frustrated with the elegant, yet exasperating, Italian ceramic tiles covering the countertops and floors of her kitchen.
“They looked good,” Tiegs readily admits, “but these days, because I live with two dogs and a teenager, we have an active household and so what becomes very important in my life at home is making things easy.” Her Italian tiles, she increasingly felt, were anything but.
“I would find myself agonizing over them all the time,” she explains. “If I had friends over and someone would leave a wine glass stain on the counter or if I was squeezing a lemon to make a salad for myself or if the dogs tracked in something from outside, I would just constantly be thinking, ‘I can’t leave any trace or that [stain] is going to last forever,’” she says. And no matter how diligent she was about keeping them clean, Tiegs says the tiles always seemed unkempt and dirty.
Occasionally, she would break down and hire an outside cleaning service to come in and spend a whole day scrubbing out all the stains and resealing the surface of the tiles. But the excessive cost to maintain their appearance—around $3,000 a cleaning—and the harsh chemicals used to seal them, simply made her kitchen more of a hassle than it was worth. “I didn’t want to end up a slave to my floors and counters, but that was exactly what was happening,” she recalls. “Finally, I said to myself, ‘what’s wrong with this picture?’”
Once she decided to replace the Italian tiles in her kitchen, Tiegs, along with her close friend, interior designer Martyn Lawrence-Bullard, turned to natural quartz surfaces to create her new kitchen countertops and flooring. Because of their non-porous nature, quartz products resist stains, which means no more worries about wine stains or dog prints (or costly chemical sealants) residing on her countertops and floors. And when it came time to choose which brand of quartz products to use, Tiegs’s choice can be traced back to her roots.
“I still go back to Minnesota quite a bit and I met [Cambria President and CEO] Marty Davis and his family a few years ago and we’ve become friends,” Tiegs explains. After accepting an invitation to tour Cambria’s state-of-the-art production facility in south central Minnesota, she came away impressed with its environmental sensitivity: The facility recycles every drop of wastewater back into the quartz production process. She also admired the products: Cambria’s 93-percent pure natural quartz countertops and floors are stain resistant, twice as strong as granite, and both Greenguard Indoor Air Quality® and Greenguard for Children and Schools® certified. Finally, she was impressed with the company overall, with its values, and with the people she came to know. So impressed, in fact, that in 2007 she decided to partner with Cambria.
“I’ve found throughout my career, whether it was with Cover Girl makeup or my clothing line at Sears or my eyewear collection, it’s best to work with people that really care about what they’re doing,” she explains. “I’ve found that connection with Cambria.” And when it comes to endorsing a product or company, Tiegs is someone who clearly understands the stakes involved. Her clothing line partnership at Sears during the 1980s brought in an estimated $100 million in revenue in its first year and was so successful in reviving the moribund brand that it landed Tiegs on the cover of Time magazine. “But the real turning point in my decision to become a Cambria partner,” she stresses, “was understanding the company’s commitment to the environment.”
For Tiegs, environmental advocacy is no mere pose. She traces her eco-awareness epiphany back nearly 25 years, to the time she spent observing the wildlife while living in Kenya. Now an avowed recycler of pretty much everything (she even takes newspapers off of airplanes to ensure they don’t end up in the trash), her current home is a wealth of individual earth-friendly initiatives. Tiegs has installed both compact fluorescent light bulbs and light-channeling solar tubes to cut down on the use of electricity, converted her pool to a more natural salt-water based cleaning system, and now boasts of three low-emission vehicles in her garage (two gas-electric hybrids as well as an experimental SUV powered by a hydrogen fuel cell). And at the start of her recent remodel, she even had each of the Italian tiles in her kitchen painstakingly removed one by one so she could reuse them elsewhere. “We’re not a throwaway society anymore and that’s how it should be,” she says.
Tiegs' beloved dogs, Truffle and Bugs, greatly enjoy the eco-friendly salt water pool
Still, Tiegs points out that “it doesn’t make any sense to buy something that’s practical but still ugly.” On that account, she and designer Lawrence-Bullard, who has worked with other high-profile clients such as Elton John and Cher, were anything but disappointed. “Because of the different design influences in my house and because I was keeping my cabinets, I wanted my new flooring and countertops to match all that,” she says. “And I found it was really easy because of all the choices and designs Cambria offered.”
For her countertops, she and Lawrence-Bullard settled on a fairly monochromatic dusky tan color (Dover™) from Cambria’s Desert Collection™. Describing its look as “very smooth and very zen,” the extra-thick, blunt-edged countertop adds a subtle, modern touch to an otherwise traditional country kitchen. And its color, when joined with the pale-yellow backsplash, creates a light-colored horizontal beltline around the kitchen that balances nicely with the dark wooden hues of the cabinets and doors above and below.
For her kitchen floor, Tiegs opted for a more interesting look, going with a two-tone, octagon-and-diamond pattern (Dovertm and Hazelfordtm, respectively, from Cambria’s Desert Collection™) that mirrors the light tan and dark brown color pair in the rest of the kitchen. In fact, Tiegs says she was so dazzled by the way her kitchen floor turned out that she expanded her flooring renovation to include her guesthouse.
Previously covered with seagrass fiber flooring, the guesthouse’s living room, which her son Zack uses as a music rehearsal space, now has a cool, Fieldstonetm Cambria tile floor (left) that extends all the way into the bathroom and up and around the shower stall. “It’s beautiful,” Tiegs says. “Originally, I was going to stop at the bathroom wall, but then I thought, ‘Why stop there?’ and I did the sides of the shower in it as well,” she explains. “Because of that, the whole thing just kind of flows beautifully from one room to the next.”
One year later, Tiegs continues to be pleased with her kitchen and guesthouse renovation. “They’re more than just beautiful slabs of something,” Tiegs points out. “If I see a spill or a stain now, I’ll just wipe it up and it’s gone.” But even more important than how her remodeled spaces function or how they look, she says, is how her new countertops and floors fit within her home and lifestyle. Timelessly beautiful, eminently practical, and environmentally sensitive—her new renovations fit all of these to a tee, so much so that the cover girl proudly says of her rejuvenated home, “I’ve made it my own.”