Those of you, who know me, know I have a tile fetish (probably easier to manage than one for shoes).Â Â I love the naturalÂ ingredients from which tileÂ is made; earth-dug clays, silica, sand andÂ water.Â I also love the fact that clay can be transformed by the human hand into an object of enduring beauty.Â It can be squeezed and molded into any shape and applied to manyÂ surfaces. Â And tile grids provide the opportunityÂ to configure a square or rectangle into impressive wall patterns.
Tiles have an interesting history.Â They have been used since antiquity as architectural fixtures and embellishment of walls, floors, and ceilings.Â They have lined the inner chambers of the pyramids,Â decorated churches and abbeys in medieval England, mosques and palaces from Seville in Moorish Spain to Central Asia.Â They are found inÂ Victorian butcher shopsÂ and English pubs.Â And we are all familiar with the beautiful blue and white delft tiles of Holland as well as the bright tiles of Mexico, SpainÂ and Portugal.
While the raw materials are nearly all the same, glazesÂ change the character of the tileÂ after firing by creating texture and shading.Â Glazed ceramicÂ tileÂ is aÂ material that feels inherently clean, is great for managing moisture and heat, and is durable and sustainable.
There are thousands of choices of ceramic tiles for your bath, kitchen, fireplace, pool or back splash. ToÂ help with yourÂ selection,Â you might want toÂ focus onÂ either hand-made or dust-pressed (machine) tile. Â Your choice of moldings and trim pieces, much like the wood molding in the rest of the house, will determine the success of the installation.
Yet beyond the type of tile you select, it’s the visual interplay ofÂ tone, pattern and texture that validates the medium as a decorative force.Â Color is always a factor in the architectural direction of a space and this is especially true with tile.Â There is oftenÂ variation in shade from tile to tile depending on the transparency of the glaze. Â The subtlety of the color shift and the skill of the installer in managing the shading can effect the end result.
Before you make yourÂ selection, take some time to educate yourself about the material, the finishing pieces and grout colors. Since it’s an architectural material and permanently installed,Â it’s important to make your choices early in the design process.
A final word; your tile will provide lasting pleasure only if the installation is meticulous.Â This means that grout joints are small, the tile installationsÂ are balanced withoutÂ unsightly cuts, the variation in color is well blended, and the grout is tested before it is permanent. Â The success will come when you have been part of the process and there are no surprises at the end!
I’m delightedÂ to share some of my favorite antique tiles and show you some beautiful installations.
Images courtesy of: Tiles: 1,000 Years of Architectural Decoration, Waterworks Inventing Bath Style,Â and the Westchester Dream Home 2009 by the Murphy Brothers.
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