Choose the plainest white tile for wainscot or backsplash, or opt for brilliant color, mosaics and multi-tile murals, deco tiles to punch up a field, or handmade Arts & Crafts tiles that become the focal point of the kitchen. Different tiles suggest different moods, and are associated with different eras.
Tile is a durable finishing material that approaches a true art form. Perhaps that’s why tiles old and new have become collectibles today. But wouldn’t you like to see these beautiful works of artistry in such everyday places as your kitchen backsplash, or as a focal point in a breakfast nook or over the stove?
Handmade art tiles are among the hottest decorative finishes in homes today, whatever their style or era. Choices include glossy tiles in every color palette under the sun (with or without special effects like crackle glazes or aged patinas); matte, slip-glazed tiles in diverse and earthy field colors; and decorative (called “deco”) relief tiles that depict a motif. Revival tiles include De Morgan and Low style Victorian tiles, accurate reproductions of Arts & Crafts Batchelder tiles from California, boldly colored Moorish Revival decos, and cuerda seca and tube-lined tiles.
Manufactured ceramic tile has gone far beyond the 4×4 square. Choose from hexes, octagons, oblongs, diamonds, and rhomboids in sizes that range from ½” and 1″ dots to field and deco tiles of up to 6″ or 8″. Mesh-mounted basket-weave and herringbone tiles update early 20th-century tile patterns in a host of fresh colors.
Composed of tiny pieces of stone or glass called tesserae, mosaics can be laid in almost any pattern, from a simple border to a full-blown mural with many nuances of color and depiction. Metal tiles make another cool accent, perfect in the kitchen or as a decorative effect on walls anywhere in the house.
Geometric and encaustic tiles, those Victorian favorites for floors, are durable, matte-finish tiles that can be designed into colorful, kaleidoscopic patterns. Although these floors were most often used in public and commercial spaces, and in vestibules and conservatories, they are a good choice for kitchens; they’re wet-proof and they camouflage dirt and spills.