I am in love with handcrafted decorative cement tiles. Every time I comes across a photo of a bathroom wall or a courtyard floor outfitted with these gorgeous Moroccan-style tiles, I immediately bookmark it into one of my "favorite images" folders. (Or, as it's more informally known, my "One-day-I'm-going-to-have-a-house-and-some-money" folder.) I love how this look, no matter the application, completely stands on its own. A room with these tiles doesn't need a lot of other stuff in it. And as it turns out, authentic handmade cement tiles are pretty green, too, as I discovered when I started reading up about them.
A History of Handmade Cement Tiles
Traditional cement tiles, also known as encaustic tiles, are created using cement, marble powder, and natural pigments in an artisan manufacturing process that hasn't changed since the 1850's. Since they are made of cement (often sourced locally) and not ceramic, the tiles do not need to be fired. Instead, they are formed with a hydraulic press and mould and then air-dried, a process which clearly uses much less energy than traditional firing. Cement tiles are extremely durable, easy to clean, non-flammable, non-polluting, recyclable, and naturally insulating, helping to keep surfaces cool in the summer and warm in the winter. And of course, they're absolutely beautiful!
For more inspiration, check out Rosa Pomar's amazing photo slideshow of old hydraulic cement tiles.
Where To Buy
Cement tiles are handmade by artisans all around the world, from Morocco to Nicaragua. The following tile retailers offer a wide variety of handmade cement tiles, as well as more information about the history of the tiles and how they're made:
- Granada Tile
- Mosaic House
- Mosaic USA
- Saint Tropez Boutique
- Amethyst Artisan
- Sahara Designs
- Popham Design
- Villa Lagoon
- Imports from Marrakesh
(Images above jump: 1. Popham Design; 2-3. Design Tegels; 4. Mosaic USA; 5. Design Tegels; 6. Decor8; 7. Design Tegels; 8-9. Mosaic USA; 10. Design Tegels. Image below jump: Light Locations/AT:Boston. Originally published 2010-11-23)