The phrase ‘Everything old is new again’ is often attributed to Mark Twain or Winston Churchill, but it could just as easily have been coined in reference to encaustic tiles. This type of tile has seen a major resurgence in popularity recently, and it’s easy to see why; not only are they beautiful, but they also have the durability to last for centuries.
Unlike standard floor and wall tiles, where a design is applied to the surface of the tile, encaustic tile patterns are built into the tile itself, which is then fired and sealed. This makes them much more durable and resistant to scratches and stains than other types of tiles, which means they’ll stand the test of time.
When laying your encaustic tiles, it is important to take special care when handling them, cutting and positioning them. You should always wear gloves when touching them to prevent staining your hands, and it is also advisable to use a spirit level to check that your tiles are lying flat before you grout them. This is because if your tiles are not sitting properly, the final product will be uneven and unattractive.
Once the encaustic tile production process had become established, other manufacturers started to produce their own versions of the tiles. One of these was William Godwin of Lugwardine, Hereford, whose tiles had a more authentic medieval feel than Minton’s and became extremely popular for churches, monastery floors and even humble homes. As the production of these French encaustic tiles spread around the world, the designs started to get more localized according to the materials available in each area and were often adapted to suit local tastes.
The beauty of encaustic tiles is that they can be used in many different ways and will look just as effective when laid outside on a patio or deck as they do in the home on the stairs, in the kitchen or as a feature wall. If you want to create a more dramatic effect then choose bold patterns and dark colours as these will make your space really come to life.
Encaustic tiles can also be a beautiful choice for fireplaces, where they will add character and charm to the room. They can be used to create a feature wall behind the fireplace or to surround the whole hearth area. They are also a lovely choice for exteriors, as they will blend in perfectly with the natural surroundings and age beautifully.
With their huge range of colour choices and bold patterning, encaustic tiles can be quite greedy in terms of taking centre stage. Therefore it is a good idea to keep other surfaces neutral and simple in order to allow the patterning of your tiles to really sing. Think of them as the Shirley Bassey of patterned tiles; you don’t want another belter on stage with them, otherwise they won’t get their moment to shine.