Whether you’re looking for a floor or backsplash that will grab attention, or simply bring a touch of history to your home, encaustic tiles are the answer. They are hard-wearing and incredibly easy to clean, making them perfect for high traffic areas or busy kitchens. They are also great for walls, splashbacks, island fronts and hearths.
Encaustic tiles were once a common feature in European cathedrals, palaces and other large buildings. These days they are regaining popularity in the new construction and renovation market. While many cement tile patterns evoke an old-world feel, there are plenty of options that would look equally stunning in a modern renovation or new home.
The beauty of encaustic tiles is that each one is hand-made, which means that every element of the design comes to life as you install it. It’s a process that requires the use of cement, mineral pigments and a stencil-like mold to create each unique piece. This allows for a wide range of eye-catching colors and designs, from intricate Victorian patterns to delicately pigmented hexagonal tiles.
This method of tile-making was made famous by Herbert Minton in the mid-19th century, who developed a pattern book with 62 encaustic designs based on original medieval inlaid tiles. These were then glazed with a simple lead glaze made by boiling up scraps of lead from window and roofing production, skimming the lead oxide that formed, and adding it to the clay tile body.
MSI’s collection of encaustic tile features both patterned and unpatterned options, with a color palette that includes cool tones like blue, green, purple and warm tones such as red, pink and orange. This wide range of colors and patterns, along with the fact that encaustic tiles are thick and durable, makes them ideal for a range of interior uses.
For those who want to give their home or commercial space a touch of history, pressed porcelain encaustic tiles are a great option. This style is similar to the original encaustic tiles, but it is made using a different manufacturing process. This produces a tile with a more consistent surface and more even color distribution.
The truest form of encaustic tile has a natural, handmade feel, which is why it works well in both traditional and contemporary homes. The key is to balance the patterns and colours with other materials and finishes in the room, and to remember that no two encaustic tiles will be exactly alike, so small chips, tonal variations and slight imperfections are all part of the charm. This is especially important if you’re working with a larger-scale pattern. For a more subtle look, Marish suggests pairing your patterned tiles with subway or textured tile patterns that won’t compete for the attention of your eye. You can also create a subtle blending effect by selecting an encaustic tile with a neutral surface finish. This will allow the pattern to become more of a backdrop, allowing it to blend in and become part of the room’s fabric.