“The project really sings because of the Spanish-style tile, tile, tile,” says architect Ione Stiegler. “And for that, homeowner Susan Comden gets all of the credit.
“My firm has many vintage catalogs from Southern California tilemakers,” Steigler continues, “as well as books on the subject, so we were familiar with the tiles Susan was looking to re-create. But it was her tenacity on eBay and at antiques stores, finding the historic tiles, which is truly awe-inspiring.” The Spanish Colonial Revival house has some original tile, as well as vintage and reproduction tile added during renovation.
“California” tile, often in stylized patterns inspired by Islamic art, became an almost universal garniture of Mediterranean and Spanish Colonial Revival houses of the period 1915–1930s. Besides Hispano–Moresque designs, stylized floral and aquatic themes—fish, waves—were popular in decorated tiles.
“Susan and Len’s project is an homage to California’s rich tradition of tile making,” says architect Stiegler. Illustrious makers included Catalina Pottery and Malibu Potteries, Batchelder tile in Pasadena, California Clay Products, and Gladding McBean.
Vintage tile, when you are able to find it, is usually priced at a premium, especially if you find it unset (still in the box) and in any quantity. That was the case involving a cache of unset Tropico Tile that Susan found at an antiques store in Pasadena.
The tile types available in the 1920s and ’30s have been revived. Today’s offerings include Spanish-influenced California tiles (Malibu and Catalina), textural Batchelder tiles, and hand-painted Talavera tile. Revived techniques—cuenca, cuerda seca, tubeline—are still used by small-batch artisanal studios as well as larger manufacturers.
California Pottery and Tile Works
Malibu & Catalina tile traditions
California & Moorish designs, glazed thin brick, hand-painted designs
Malibu Ceramic Works
Malibu/Catalina, Hispano-Moresque, Batchelder-reproduction, subway tile etc.
Catalina Island Tiles
Colorful Catalina-style tiles
Mission Tile West
Large retailer of handcrafted ceramic & terra-cotta tiles in California/Southwest styles & more
California tile for fireplace, floor, kitchen & bath, fountains
Pasadena Craftsman Tile
Original & Batchelder-reproduction handcrafted ceramic tiles
California field & trim tiles, decos, murals, etc. for architectural applications
Tile Restoration Center
Restoration & custom work; reproductions of Batchelder & Claycraft tiles