'Tile guru' knows how to find the best fit for renos
AS A new arrival in Ipswich from Europe in the 1970s, Ivan Hansen was less than impressed with the range of tiles on offer when he went shopping one day.
Mr Hansen explained to the store owner that perhaps opposition was needed to provide more variety, to be told they would never survive in "his town".
So, with a background in retail and interior decorating, Mr Hansen started his own store three months later.
He introduced new European styles and others soon started to follow in his footsteps.
Now, more than 40 years after he started his first venture in the city in 1973, he is known around Ipswich as the "tile guru".
The 77-year-old "workaholic" still puts in 80-hour weeks and stocks close to 1000 different tile designs at The Ipswich Tile Shed.
Styles go in and out of fashion and property owners use more tiles in their homes than ever.
"The variety on the Australian market, now there would be at least two million different designs available at least," he said.
"Forty-five years ago, people would tile their kitchen splashback with just a standard little tile. The rest was vinyl and carpet in the house.
"The trend now is the total opposite; you tile everything right through the house. From a business point of view, we were happy when we sold a kitchen splashback 40 years ago of about 3sqm.
"Now the average sale is between 75 and 175sqm."
People tended to shop for tiles when they were doing up their bathrooms or kitchens, which generally had a renovation every 25 years.
"You don't buy tiles very often so a lot of customers will come into the shop quite nervous about what to look for and what to pay," he said.
"It's up to me to find out what they need, what they can afford and what I can do for them.
"It will be there for another 25 to 30 years."
Inspired by reality reno shows like The Block, people have lots of information available about approaching their own projects.
Mr Hansen said Ipswich was now as well equipped with goods and services as anywhere.
"At the moment, nobody wants blue or green. People are looking for neutral, high gloss, natural-looking in general, and big tiles," he said.
"New products are coming every day and products are discontinuing every day. It's a very exciting industry, that's what keeps me going.
"I've been in the game so long, the mum and dad I did something for... now I'm doing something for their kids."