Handmade by medieval craftsmen
Though archaeological finds show tiles existed much earlier, the technique of producing patterned floor tiling took a major step forward in the thirteenth
century with the appearance of inlaid tiles. These designs employed two or more colours and quickly became a popular decorative feature used in churches,
cathedrals and other religious buildings, as well as in the homes of the aristocracy. Inlaid tiling continued to be in great demand for three centuries
until Henry VIII’s English Reformation finally brought its heyday to a close.
The arrival of the Victorian era brought the Gothic Revival and a renewed interest in medieval crafts – including patterned floor tiles. With the industrial
revolution in full flow, mechanisation in the form of tile pressing machines ensured the work of Victorian artists and interior designers was made
available at affordable prices. Thus patterned flooring became popular once more, and England developed into a major exporter of floor tiles throughout
the Victorian and Edwardian periods.
Encaustic tiles for authentic patterned flooring
The art of inlaid tiling died out with the demise of the medieval industry, at least until it was rediscovered by the Victorians. Unlike glazed tiles where
the pattern is merely painted on the surface, so-called encaustic (inlaid) patterned tiles were produced by a process of layering two or more coloured
clays. This created a far more durable tile (many examples of which still survive today) in which the surface pattern remained intact even when the
tiled surface was subject to intense wear.
Modern patterned tiles are handmade products in which the pattern is inlaid into the body of the tile using a mould. The colours employed in the design
are first loaded into the mould cavities, and when this stage is complete the colour chosen for the backdrop is then laid on top. After this stage,
two further layers of sand and cement are required before the finished tile is pressed and then left to cure ready for washing and sealing.
Victorian signature designs
The Indigenous range of patterned floor tiles includes several handmade examples inspired by classic Victorian designs:
The traditional black and white Chess Board pattern oozes cool sophistication and would not be at all out of place among the pages of Lewis Carroll. As
its name implies, the Kaleidoscope motif depicted in pastel shades of blue grey and white recalls the transient reflections created by mirrors in this
tubular toy which was a great favourite of Victorian children. And for a setting which demands something altogether more calm and reflective, the Greco-Roman
inspired Vine tile offers a gentle, flowing pattern of classic elegance.
Around the globe, patterned floor tiling has been a feature of many vibrant cultural traditions. Some examples will demonstrate the range
of options offered by the Indigenous collection:
Almeria is a resonant, Spanish pattern with distinct Moroccan influences. Its soft blues,
yellow and white combine to produce an image which would be most pleasing on the eye in any interior setting. Meanwhile,
Gijon is a much more swirling, florid pattern which uses blues and black to
striking effect. And for a restrained Moorish influence, the intricate
Zaragoza tiles in black, grey and white offer a tastefully detailed pattern
of exquisite appeal. In fact, these would be a great choice as patterned bathroom floor tiles.
Modern geometric designs are also well represented, and the Indigenous range can offer many tiles which will work well in a contemporary interior:
Labyrinth is a stylish, understated design which employs an interlocking white
pattern against a grey background. The image has a contemporary feel and would work well in a modern interior space, without being too dominant. By
Solitaire is a stunning geometric design in sky blue, white and gold.
Slightly more assertive, this pattern is developed from a simple diamond shape and would work well combined with more traditional elements, to create
an eclectic look.
Vector Sulphur is a bold, angular vector array with a strong visual presence
which combines a variety of grey tones and sulphur yellow. Undoubtedly stylish and modern in outlook, this pattern could perform the anchor role
in a stunning contemporary interior space.