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Oh So Versatile – Sunday Independent

Sunday Independent

In the bleak mid-winter what could be more uplifting than injecting your home with a wash of Mediterranean colour in the form of encaustic tiles that evoke images of sun-dappled verandas, open-plan Moorish spaces and lazy, hot summer days?

Rob Whitaker, creative director of Dun Laoghaire-based Fired Earth, loves the evocative power of the Moorish-inspried tiles. “These designs have a timeless appeal. The colours and motifs have a warm and exotic feel that’s reminiscent of far-flung places. They will instantly lift any space,” he says.

“One of the fantastic things about tiles like these is their versatility and the fact that they work throughout the home. Blue and white Andalucian-inspired designs have a particularly fresh and vibrant look that makes them ideal for kitchens and bathrooms, while the more muted palettes of beautiful hand-antiqued tiles such as those in the Moroccan style are perfect for living room floors. There’s a general trend now towards using tiles through the home – rather than confining them to kitchens, bathrooms and hallways.”

London-based Irish interior designer Genevieve Hurley has just finished working on a house project in Dublin and placed this style of tile in the hallway to very striking effect. She has some great tips: “When searching for these tiles, you will come across interchangeable terms ‘encaustic’ and ‘cement’. Both are very durable – the pattern will never wear, as it is set through the depth of the tile. This makes them very suitable for high-traffic areas such as halls. The softly honed surface also means they are non-slip. So, practical and pretty.

“If you choose a brightly coloured version, a little goes a long way. It can work well to use them in a limited area such as a basin splash-back, shower recess or the risers of a staircase. If the livelier Moorish inspired patterns are too bright or busy, consider two-toned geometric patterns in a more neutral monochrome palette. These can be laid in larger areas of walls or floors. As well as bathrooms, they are great in hallways, kitchens and patios. Fit them in your hallway to create a dramatic first impression. In the kitchen, replace a soulless glass splash-back with a graphic focal point. If using on floors in a larger area, use them like a rug or runner and add a border of a plain tile or wood. A monochrome version on a bathroom floor is a beautiful foil for simple white ceramics and white wall tiles.”

These beautiful tiles also work well with under-floor heating but they do require sealing prior to and after grouting. Genevieve recommends that when grouting them you avoid a bright white grout, as it will jar with the handmade quality. And if the traditionally made encaustic tiles, which can be pricey, are out of your budget, you’ll find a range of cost-effective ceramic and porcelain versions with digitally printed patterns widely available.

Lizzie Gore-Grimes is a contributing editor to Image Interior & Living magazine

Malaga tiles, €80 per sqm

Inject a wash of exotic colour from the Tile Gallery at Versatile Bathrooms, Navan