Terracotta floor tiles that inspire memories of the Mediterranean

Terracotta Floor Tiles

Terracotta derives from the Latin ‘baked earth’ and is essentially cooked clay. It has been used throughout the centuries to make pottery, sculptures, bricks, roof shingles and floor tiles. Underfoot, its rich brown and burnt orange tones create a warm, travel-inspired look – and a very forgiving surface in terms of foot and paw prints. Terracotta floor tiles are available in mellow shades and dark robust colours, with patterns to suit all room formats. This versatile material can also be used outdoors, to create a patio, pathway or pool surround with a distinct Mediterranean feel.

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Definitely enjoying a recent resurgence as a characterful interior design feature, terracotta is an ancient ceramic material strongly associated with roofing and flooring in the world’s hotter regions. So for those looking to put together a trending new look, rustic terracotta floor tiles offer a strong visual link between this colourful medium and traditional Mediterranean interiors. Terracotta is also developing a reputation for versatility, which means that, apart from applications such as terracotta kitchen floor tiles in a classic farmhouse-style setting, these tiles can also work well as a contrasting design element amidst modern features.

A traditional material

 The Italian phrase ‘terra cotta’ (literally ‘baked earth’) refers to the ancient method of making roof and floor tiles from certain natural red and brown clays. Once fashioned into the required shape or design and allowed to dry while exposed to the warm Mediterranean sun, this material was then fired in a homespun wood-fired oven, or perhaps in a combustion pit. This traditional process produced a hard and durable fired clay which was used for various purposes: bricks, pottery, roofing and pottery. It was also robust enough to serve as an excellent form of tiled flooring.

During the firing process, terracotta’s high iron oxide content reacts with the oxygen present creating the distinctive and highly prized terracotta finish with its warm red and orange colours. When other types of clay are fired, terracotta can also be produced in other colour variations such as brown, pink and grey. Though terracotta can be used and enjoyed in its natural form, it really requires additional protection such as glazing or sealing to prevent subsequent damage from staining and water penetration.

Protecting the finish

A natural terracotta floor in red and earthen hues is a work of real beauty but, unfortunately, without some form of sealing it will quickly acquire dirt and stains. The issue here is that, left in its natural state, terracotta is an extremely porous material which allows liquid to penetrate and seep down into the tile. Though burnishing the surface of floor tiles at the manufacturing stage can offer some protection, liquid penetration usually results in the appearance of stains and mould growth, causing irreversible damage to the flooring.

The traditional protection and treatment for terracotta floor tiles involves the application of boiled linseed oil followed by layers of wax. Floor tiles must first be saturated with linseed oil – a process which should continue until any water dripped on to the tile forms water beads. Once the floor tile is impervious to water, wax layers can then be applied and polished into the surface. This treatment creates a magnificent deep sheen which repels liquids and prevents staining.

Glazing the surface of terracotta tiles will offer similar protection. However, such glazing can adversely affect the visual appeal of a terracotta tiled floor surface, as well as partially muting the depth and vibrancy of its wonderful colouring.

Evoke memories of faraway places

The Indigenous collection of terracotta floor tiles offers a palette of warm colours which can be used to reference the ambience of distant lands within traditional or contemporary interior spaces:

Antique Pammets will be a great choice where the aim is to create an aged, traditional look. Dried out on a sunny mountainside, these terracotta tiles recall the deep colour of an exquisite summer rosé with subtle hints of chestnut and burnt orange, and once laid will simply mature beautifully in situ. Like all handmade tiles, their rustic appearance includes original features such as an extremely textured surface and ragged edges, as well as salt and lime efflorescence – never considered a defect because such elements are a natural occurrence in hand-crafted earthen materials.

Available in colours and shades which can vary from golden honey to rose-gold, Classic Terracotta tiles are first fashioned in a wooden mould by the hands of skilled craftsmen. Then, before firing, they are naturally air-dried in the Mediterranean sunshine. This creates a quintessential rustic tile fit to enhance any traditional interior setting.

Recovered from ‘Maison de maitre’ locations all over France, exclusive Reclaimed Terracotta tiles are the product of original 18th and 19th century workmanship. Expect plenty of tonal variation between individual tiles, and factor in the inevitable wastage which may occur with a reclaimed product.

Given their maturity and limited availability, these magnificently coloured tiles – which have a burnt rose appearance interspersed with ochre and flamed-earth highlights – are always very much in demand.

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