A kitchen renovation provides the ideal showcase for a Portsmouth ceramic tile artist

Homeowners Brett Cooper and Tania Huusko transformed their 1950s-style kitchen by opening the space and adding a family room and back entrance.

As a ceramic tile designer, Tania Huusko incorporates beauty, symmetry and aesthetics into all her creations. When it came to designing her Portsmouth kitchen, Huusko combined that know-how with an inspired vision, creating a bright, open space that welcomes friends and family. Naturally, her beautiful tiles line the kitchen walls, the windows, even the vent hood over the stove.

Huusko's kitchen and others will be open to visitors during The Music Hall's annual Kitchen Tour on May 7. Featuring kitchens in downtown Portsmouth, this kitchen tour offers an opportunity to gather ideas and inspiration. It's fitting that Huusko and her husband, Brett Cooper, have opened their home for the tour this year: they own Portico Fine Tile & Design in

Greenland-together with Huusko's mother, interior designer Ann Pattison-and have sponsored the Kitchen Tour for many years.

"We were asked several times to be on the tour," Cooper says. "This year, we finally finished remodeling our kitchen so we could. It's the tour's twentieth anniversary and Portico's tenth anniversary, so it made sense to participate."

Transforming a "shaggy situation"

Huusko and Cooper bought their house in 2002 from its original owner. The house reflected its 1950s-era roots: onestory, small rooms, linoleum kitchen floors, and pink, green and orange shag carpeting throughout the rest of

the house ("It was a shaggy situation," Huusko notes). "The kitchen was the central part of our renovation. We

ripped out everything," Huusko says. (At one point, several months pregnant at the time, she literally sat cross-legged on the kitchen floor with Cooper, ripping out linoleum.) Fortunately, underneath the linoleum and carpeting was solid oak flooring in good condition, which is now part of the kitchen.

In 2006, the couple added 1,100 square feet to the home, which now includes a second floor. Huusko and Cooper knocked down walls to open up the kitchen, added a large family room and an entrance to the back yard. Despite the additions, the house has retained its cozy charm. It's not overly large and easily accommodates the couple's two children, Edie, 7, and Lucas, 4, as well as friends and family.

A showcase of talent


Huusko, who for sixteen years has designed ceramic tiles through her Dover-based ceramic tile studio Brittany & Coggs, acted as designer and general contractor on the home construction

project. The kitchen offered the perfect opportunity to showcase Brittany & Coggs's new Bristol tile line. The tiles are hand-painted in warm cream tones with details such as flowers and beading. (Huusko develops all the designs and glazes for her tile lines.)

Huusko also enjoys mixing and matching ceramic tile with stone: the hood over her Viking® stove is covered with a neutral-colored limestone with ceramic tile inserts.

"The tiled stove hood is very European," says Huusko. "I like the look of shiny tile with the natural stone."

The kitchen backsplash and the wall above the countertops are lined with undecorated rectangular tiles; crown moldings also made from tiles frame the kitchen windows.

Tying in with the kitchen's warm, cream-colored tones are custom-painted Cookshire birch wood cabinets from Area Kitchen Centre of Portsmouth; the granite countertops were installed by Bluefish Granite of North Hampton. An elegant, antique Chinese altar table from ABC Carpet and Home in New York City acts as a moveable kitchen island in the center of the room. The kitchen stools, by Ballard Designs in Ohio and covered in rich chocolate brown and green

fabric by JRenee Designs of Rye, can be moved to accommodate different numbers of guests.

The family gene

A New Hampshire native, Huusko has been interested in the decorative arts since her youth. After attending Parsons the New School for Design in New York, Huusko transferred to the College of Ceramics at Alfred University in New York. Her designs have been influenced

by her mother, an Englishwoman who collects eighteenth- and nineteenth century ceramics. Recognizing a customer need for high-end ceramic tile, Huusko and Pattison opened Portico

Fine Tile & Design in 2001. Cooper joined Portico in 2007, making it a true family business.

Standing in Huusko and Cooper's sunny, open kitchen, it's evident that creativity and design are also part of this family. As Huusko says, "Tile is our lives, and it's my passion."

Categories: Renovation