Encaustic Cement- Catchy, No?
For examples of how to use fabulous, patterned tile, let's gaze longingly at the beautiful apartments and shops in Barcelona, shall we? The recurring visual is one of spectacularly graphic floors.
The stylish occupants of these buildings incorporate the strong colors and patterns right into whatever type of interior they desire. Modern or traditional, it makes no difference. The tiles are too gorgeous to tear up and have been there for decades, so they are like heirlooms passed from inhabitant to inhabitant, giving each new interior a legacy, right from the start!
Loving the way rugs are layered on top of the tiles with an elaborate, pattern-on-pattern effect, or how white walls and minimal decor permit the viewer to be dazzled by the decorative motifs, we have to look closer into the history, use and availability of these tantalizing tiles and they are called... wait for it... encaustic cement.
This is not the lovely, evocative name that one would think to ascribe to such exquisite pieces, but perhaps a bit of history, followed by some enchanting interiors and sources will let these beauties speak for themselves.
Design junkies in Europe, Southeast Asia, and Latin America know all about these encaustic cement tiles, but they are not as common in the U.S. market.They have been gracing the interiors of beautiful buildings from Cuba to Sumatra, and from England to Germany to Spain and beyond.
The beginnings of this particular tile-making process began in Medieval times, with potters traveling to monasteries and palaces to create the tiles on site. The process involved each one being hand-formed, then pressed in an embossed, carved mold. Colored slip, or liquid clay, was then poured into the pattern grooves, to make the motifs come to life. (Because the slip itself is colored, the color cannot wear away. The result is that even tiles that have been down for centuries, retain their vivid, original color.) After the slip has dried, the excess is scraped away to even the surface. Either the tile is ready to be fired, or it is time for the next color to be poured. Via starcraftcustombuilders.com
There are actually several other methods for making what is called an "encaustic cement tile" and sometimes they are referred to as "hydraulic tiles", as the term "encaustic", though not accurate, has become the most common term. Importantly, true encaustic cement is the only type that can withstand outdoor installations and varying climes, so check with the vendor to be sure you are getting the correct type of tile for your purpose.
The craft disappeared for centuries, to be revived in mid-19th century in England, France, and Spain and the tiles became ubiquitous throughout fine homes and public buildings, in multiple countries. Even Queen Victoria and Prince Albert commissioned Minton Tiles (a British designer and manufacturer) for their buildings.
We have spotted them recently in Paola Navone's interiors and the beautiful Israeli home feature in Binyan Vediur, but it is beyond time for them to be used lavishly in U.S. interiors! (They do appear, but not nearly enough.) What a fantastic alternative for modern kitchens and bathrooms to add some personality! Transitioning from indoors to outdoors, true encaustic cement tiles are perfect for vastly different climates and styles.
Fortunately, there are some wonderful sources (scroll down to the bottom of the article. Be sure to visit these sites, because they have so many spectacular images and ideas for using their products.
Below, we have a variety of images showing how to use them, from traditional to modern:
Interior Design Files
(A Few) Sources: