Ceramic Art Tile: Bringing Color and Tile Design to All Areas of the Home


Hand painted tile has been used for centuries in countries around the world. From brightly colored and thick Spanish tiles, to traditional blue and white Delft tiles, ceramic decorative tile has a number of uses.

What Defines Art Tile?

Art tile, from the Arabic azulejo, or “little stone” was first produced in the 14th century in Spain and Portugal. The tiles were first one color, and used in a checkerboard pattern for chess boards. Decorative patterns, pictures and murals were added and as the popularity of the tile grew, exteriors and interiors of homes began to be tiled with the decorative patterns.

ceramic art tile on bathroom

Today’s art tile is defined as any hand painted ceramic tile. Typically with a repeating, joining pattern, art tile varies in color and style by the region in which it was produced. French art tiles contain a great deal of blues and burgundy reds on a white background, while Spanish and Moroccan art tiles make use of deep cobalt blues, maize yellows, leaf greens and rust reds.

Where Can Art Tile Be Used?

Art tile can be used anywhere in or around the home. The use of each tile will be limited to its manufacturing and specifications. A thin, glossy wall tile, for example should not be used on a floor. A thick, stoneware tile, with a matte, or rough finish to the glaze can be used to tile walkways, steps and inlay floors, as well as decorate walls.

Many traditional Spanish art tiles are used as wainscoting in foyers, hallways and dining rooms to add interest and color to the rooms. Delft tiles are frequently used as fireplace surrounds and kitchen backsplashes, as well as baseboards to bring a touch of color to a room, while acting as a guard for the walls from wet mops.

French art tiles are the perfect accent and finishing touch to a French Country style kitchen. Try framing a sequence of the tiles behind the cooktop, while combining a row of the art tiles with a plain tile along the counters.

Bathrooms, mudrooms and family rooms are ideal places for thick, rough art tiles on the floor. For a more formal entrance or room, try inlaying art tiles into hardwood floors for a decorative look.

Where Can Art Tile be Purchased?

Art tile can be purchased at many tile retailers. Ask to see handmade, and hand painted tiles, as well as patterned tiles, and ceramic tiles made to create a mural. Vintage art tiles, salvaged from old buildings, can often be found in antique stores, and online at auction sites such as ebay. Vintage art tiles will often have old mortar still attached, or may have a haze from years of use, so speak to a tile restorer about having them cleaned before installation.

Be sure to keep the desired area to be tiled in mind when purchasing art tiles. If the area in question is a floor, be sure that the tiles are rated for floor use, and will not crack from pressure, or be overly slippery when wet. Thicknesses of art tiles can vary greatly, so be sure to keep that in mind when preparing the substrate, or combining art tiles with other materials.

Art tiles have a timeless look that can be incorporated into any home or home décor. Add just a few for interest, or use many for a visual affect full of life and color and brighten any space.

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