It was about 50 years ago that glass tiles started to appear in fashionable homes, only to fall out of favor soon thereafter. With the exception of a brief reprise in the 1970s, these beautiful home accessories didn't hit the scene again until the turn of the millennium.

Now competition for glass tiles is at an all-time high, with tiles in every conceivable shape, size, color and quality being imported from Italy, Mexico and China. And, true to the form of the Rogue Valley, local residents have their finger on the pulse.

"Glass was just coming into people's consciousness in tile format in 2002 — we'd have an occasional inquiry," says Susan Kramer-Pope, showroom manager and design consultant of DesignWise Studio in Ashland. "In the past two years, though, it has really come into the forefront."

One of the subliminal attractions of glass tile, says Kramer-Pope, is that they're elemental; like stone and metal, they are made from natural material and therefore work well with other elemental items. This makes glass tiles perfect accents for contemporary interiors.

"From a design point of view, the cleaner lines complement a subdued Asian style, while the imprecise, edgier tiles give a little more surprise, a little more pop and whimsy," Kramer-Pope says. "The more refined, softer edges lend themselves to a little more quiet or reserved look."

Mark and Rebecca DeBoer chose the shimmering, soft blues, greens and neutrals for the glass tiles in the downstairs bathroom in their East Medford home. Light bounces off the glass, reflecting the coordinating colors around the room. The natural elements work well with the hand blown sink, warm wood and brushed chrome metals in the room.

Most often seen as kitchen backsplashes and bathroom décor, glass tiles can be applied to vertical and horizontal surfaces, depending on the brand. The most popular size seems to be 1-inch by 1-inch tiles, either set straight or on a staggered, offset joint. Glass tiles are also commonly available in 1-inch by 2-inch, 2-inch by 2-inch and 12-inch by 12-inch sizes.

Companies offer a series of templates, allowing homeowners to incorporate anything from a herringbone to a pinwheel to a basket weave pattern. Color choices are even more wide-ranging.

"The colors that stay consistent are the aquatic-themed, blue and green blends for pools and showers and baths," says Ann-Britt Malden, marketing director of Hakatai Enterprises in Ashland. "The browns and neutrals that a couple years ago weren't popular are coming in."

Making more waves are custom color blends, created by pointing and clicking through a series of on-line swatches.

"Using the blend tool, you can mix any tile that's the same size," Malden explains. "It's very easy, you just pull in the colors you want, choose the percentage of each color you want and it gives you a digital simulation of what your blend will look like."

Combining different colors and/or opacities can also replicate the visual effects of other textures such as aluminum, granite, wood and even Victorian wallpaper, says Malden.

When choosing glass mosaic tile, be sure to ask the supplier for the best material for any given purpose. While a backsplash or shower ceiling or swimming pool walls would look perfect with a non-iridescent solid color, a shower floor needs an iridescent tile that provides more "friction coefficiency" for non-slippage, counsels Kramer-Pope.

And don't forget to be just as choosy with the all-important grout that goes between each tile.

"A general rule of thumb would be choosing a similar color or one a little bit lighter than the tile you're installing," says Malden. "With a blend, go with one of the lighter two colors."

Complementing rather than contrasting the grout with the tile will insure your tile gets top billing — and that's what this trend is all about.