Artisan tiles: a revival

Handmade and artisan tiles bring a unique mix of colour, pattern and texture, adding instant character to kitchen walls and floors

Tiles offer the potential for colour, pattern and personality that few other surfaces can match. Decorative tiles fell out of favour for a while but they’re most definitely back, with a huge choice of forms and finishes for both walls and floors. Individuality is their greatest appeal, and you’ll find the best selection in artisan and handmade tiles. Thanks to the different materials, processes, firing temperatures, glazes and handpainting skills, no two tiles will be identical, which lends them warmth and character. From simple glazed, rustic squares that add texture, to dazzling Moorish patterns that grab attention, they make an intriguing foil to neutral colours and seamless finishes, enlivening your kitchen and making it uniquely yours.

One of the oldest surface coverings, tiles create a very practical finish. Waterproof and easy to wipe clean, they’re perfect for splashbacks and floors, and offer almost endless design possibilities. However, handmade tiles tend to be made of clay rather than porcelain, so are better suited to walls rather than floors, and their lack of uniformity makes them more difficult to lay so it’s important to use a skilled tiler.

Handmade and hand-decorated tiles are more likely to have shade variation than machine-made products, so it’s worth buying 10 per cent more than you need, in case some are damaged during fitting or if you need to make later repairs. Tiles from the same batch are likely to ensure the best match. It’s a good idea to lay your tiles out before fixing to walls or floor, to ensure the most attractive distribution of colour.

As a general guide, prices are usually between about £80 to £220sq m for handmade and artisan tiles. Expect to pay more, however, for those made with luxurious materials or with very high levels
of craftsmanship. But, depending on the size of your kitchen, you may only need two to three square metres of tiles to create your splashback, a relatively low investment to transform your kitchen.

KEY LOOKS TO BE INSPIRED BY…

Rustic Simple handmade clay-based tiles with uneven edges and gentle undulations, and tiny chips and cracks will create a natural rustic look, perfect for relaxed, vintage kitchen schemes, as they work especially well with faded colours and delicate patterns. Or, in bolder, more intense shades of plain lustrous colour, they’ll make an eye-catching feature, adding drama to the simplest kitchen design. Tiles by Waterworks

Handpainted Tiles can be handpainted by artists with an individual motif or a mixture to make a mural – possibly using inks or special enamels before firing and glazing to create a protective finish. Choose from delicate flowers, traditional delftware designs or vibrant, modern patterns. Tiles by Emery et Cie

Embossed Tiles with a raised design are usually made from clay set in moulds before firing and fettling (trimming by hand to removed excess clay). Sometimes the protruding sections are painted before the tiles are fired again and glazed. The same process is used to create mouldings, dado rails and end pieces. Tiles by De Ferranti

Metallic Cast-metal tiles or those finished with metallic glazes, including copper, gold and bronze or a more steely effect in inky greys, add a luxurious and glamorous touch. Use them in mix-and-match formats and different surface textures for added impact, then accentuate the gleaming effect with lighting. Tiles by Lapicida

Encaustic These Victorian-style tiles feature decorative designs stamped or burnt into the clay body. The impression is filled with liquid clay of contrasting colour and fused in its firing, so that the pattern on the surface is not a product of the glaze but of the different colours of clay – and as the tile is worn down, the design remains. Tiles by The Vintage Floor Tile Company

Moorish These handmade ceramic tiles originate from the the ancient Middle East, Morocco, Turkey, Spain and other areas of the Mediterranean. Made of wood-fired clay or pressed cement, and glazed with chips of enamel in jewel-like single colours – traditionally blue, green, yellow and red – they can also feature colourful handcut geometric or elaborate patterns. Tiles by Habibi

Digital Photos, graphics and patterns can now be digitally printed onto high-fired ceramic tiles with extraordinary results. Whether it’s for a splashback or feature wall, you can supply your own photos for a bespoke design, find inspiration from image libraries or choose from the exciting polychromatic ranges from designers. Pricing varies according to tile size, quantity, type of image (repeat or a mural) and its finish. Tiles by Dominic Crinson

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