High among the mountains of North Carolina’s Highlands, the Skyline Lodge nestles among the pines like a cool run of jazz on a hot day. The instant you see it you know that you are looking at a piece of history — a design from an era when discoveries seemed to happen every day, optimism was boundless, and Ella Fitzgerald’s smoky voice filled the air (along with the scent of bootleg gin).
Built in 1929, the lodge’s long, angular lines were designed by the famed architect Arthur Kelsey, who was one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s apprentices. And Wright’s design influence echoes not only in the exterior lines, but also in the interior design.
“The owner, Larry Spelts, who is the president of this project, is a part of The Indigo Road Hospitality Group, which is known for their five-star hospitality, and this property is no exception,” explained MAPEI’s Sales Representative David Kocienda. “Set in a picturesque location with the ability to provide guests with off-property experiences such as scavenger hunts and off-road excursions, this will be a crown jewel in their portfolio.”
In fact, the property is in the process of a remodel to bring the nearly century-old wooden structure up to their exacting standards. “The interior is being built out and decorated with pieces that are period-correct, right down to the fittings,” he said.
Just as Frank Lloyd Wright designed furniture to fit his properties, so too do the furniture and accessories in the Skyline Lodge match the design ethos: Jazz Age meets Modern Luxury. Sleek lines and lots of wood abound. “But the one period-correct element that was giving them pause were the tile floors in the bathrooms,” Kocienda stated.
Each of the 40 guest rooms features a bathroom with heated tile floors: period-correct design combined with modern comfort. “Unfortunately, the heat mats that were originally specified could not be used with the penny round tiles that the owners wanted to install. Penny rounds are not typically used with uncoupling membranes,” he continued. “That is when Derick Hipp, the owner of Tile-It, Inc., the installing contractor, reached out to MAPEI. He knew about our Mapeheat system and wanted to know if it would work with the penny rounds.”
“A tisket, a tasket, MAPEI is in your basket…”
The owners want their guests to experience Jazz Age luxury, with all of the modern amenities, but they were unwilling to forgo either point – the penny rounds or the heated floors. But, as MAPEI Corporation’s Director of Architectural and Commercial Projects, Mike Granatowski, always says, “MAPEI has never met a job for which we could not devise a solution.” And, this was a perfect case in point.
Hipp reached out to Kocienda and MAPEI Sales Representative Tim Irvin, sending the specification to MAPEI’s Technical Service Department to find the exact solution. As expected, MAPEI provided a system solution to keep the project moving forward – and to keep the bathroom installations as specified: penny rounds with heated flooring.
“The specified system was designed to address not only the situation with the penny rounds, but also the wood floor substrate, which was not in great condition,” Kocienda stated. “In fact, as some of the floors were removed, unexpected damages were discovered. But remember, we’re talking about 100-year-old wooden bathroom floors.”
A 10-man crew from Tile-It Inc., addressed the bathroom flooring issues by first applying ECO Prim Grip, a multi-purpose, bond-promoting primer designed to enhance the performance of self-leveling underlayments. Next, they applied Mapelath, a lightweight, non-corroding, alkali-resistant synthetic lath.
On top of the primed wood and the lath, the crew applied Ultraplan Easy, a high-performance, quick-setting, easy-preparation, self-leveling underlayment. “The great thing about this SLU is that it only needs a clean, primed substrate before it is applied,” said Kocienda. “It is designed to be used with or without surface profiling, is low-VOC, and is very quick-setting. Tile can be installed in as few as three hours.”
With a flat, even surface, the crew used Keraflex Plus, a professional, extra smooth, large-and-heavy-tile mortar with polymer, to install the Mapeheat Membrane. Part of MAPEI’s Mapeheat radiant floor heating system, the Mapeheat Membrane is a lightweight uncoupling, crack-isolation and waterproofing membrane designed for electrical floor heating. Each membrane is cut to size to fit the parameters of the room. The membrane features rounded square reliefs into which the Mapeheat heating cable snaps. “Once the heating cable was snapped into place, the crew applied Ultraplan Easy at least 1/4” above the membrane,” Kocienda stated. After the SLU had cured, another level of Keraflex Plus was installed on top of the Ultraplan Easy, along with the penny rounds and the grout and sealant. The crew used Ultracolor Plus FA, rapid-setting, all-in-one, grout replacement for sanded and unsanded grouts. For the sealant, they used Mapesil T, a 100% silicone sealant to seal all of the joints.
This installation featured the Mapeheat Thermo Touch thermostat, a seven-day programmable thermostat that includes a 3.5″ (9cm) color touchscreen display for accessing the super-intuitive user interface and energy use monitor.
“It was a real Dagwood sandwich of a solution,” Kocienda explained, using a term straight from the comic strips of the 1920s. (Note: A Dagwood sandwich is named for Dagwood Bumstead from the “Blondie” comic strip. Dagwood always enjoyed a sandwich comprised of a half-dozen meats and cheeses, as well as pickles and vegetables. In short, a lot of ingredients make a delicious sandwich.)
Using a combination of products in a precise series of steps, MAPEI’s Technical Services had created the perfect system solution to the heated flooring dilemma. Because it was a complete MAPEI system solution, it qualified for MAPEI’s Lifetime Warranty. “The warranty even includes the Mapeheat Cable,” Kocienda explained. “Most systems cover the membranes and not the cables.”
Now, when guests return to the Skyline Lodge, the sounds of Ella Fitzgerald will once again waft through the halls. The clink of ice cubes and the splash of gin (albeit legal now) will accompany their laughter as the guests enjoy the gorgeous mountain views. And, when the mountain air starts to bite, the chill will leave the penny round tile flooring, to be replaced with warmth and comfort, thanks to the Mapeheat radiant floor heating and MAPEI ingenuity.