Living with Ceramic Tiles

by Barbara Schwab

Historically, man has desired to create living spaces which were beautiful, durable, and comfortable. Ceramic tile has been made for 4000 years. Tiled surfaces have been found in the oldest pyramids, the ruins of babylon, and ancient ruins of greek cities. Decorative tile work was invented in the near east, and has spread around in the world.

Red tiles added to the exterior of the house between the arches.

George and I have come to have a small collection of ceramic tiles. Some have been gifts to us. Some have been added as decoration to our home and some have practical interior purposes. Here is a selection of some of the tiles we enjoy in our daily life.

A few years back we had the exterior house painted and after that,George had the great idea of adding tiles to the exterior of the house between the arches. This was to enhance the craftsman character of our bungalow. We also had a custom ceramic house number created for the house and added tiles insets into the façade of the fireplace to the same purpose by Raven Stone tiles.

At the same time we added the tiles we acquired several Stickley furniture pieces. We were moving towards a craftsman look in the style of the house. As George has stated before we are not true believers in that everything is not exclusively one style in our home. We have found Mid century and Danish modern furniture to be both compatible with our eclectic collection and in fact preferable to others, so we have since sold most of the Stickley pieces.

Mercer tiles hanging in our living room.

We have a small Mercer tile collection hanging in the nooks and crannies of our home. Henry Mercer was a major proponent of the Arts & Crafts Movement in America. He directed the work at the Moravian Pottery & Tile Works from 1898 until his death in 1930.You may still purchase handmade reissues of tiles and mosaics made in the American Arts & Crafts tradition from them.

Ceramic tiles can make a beautiful addition to the garden. We hang our St. Matthew Pulpit tile by William Daley on the patio in the summer and bring it in during the winter.

St. Matthew pulpit tile by William Daley hanging on the patio wall in our garden.

In other places we have tiles that are more usual, such as the teal colored glazed tiles on the backsplash in our kitchen. These tiles have been here for more than 20 years and I still like them. We bought an odd lot at the time and really got them inexpensively.

There are not a lot of tiles used in Mid Century Modern design. We happen to have a tile topped Danish coffee table in our shop. Table tops seem to be one of the more common applications.

Tiles were commonly used in brightly colored bathrooms from the 50’s most of which are being gutted and updated now with more contemporary designs and tile uses which are more to my taste.

We recently did a new bathroom and love the classic subway tile we selected for it’s clean, attractive and timeless look.

Danish Modern Solid rosewood coffee table with glazed ceramic tile top.