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Moroccan Tiles: All Your Questions Answered

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The art of Moroccan tile creation is a centuries old craft that continues to be taught and practiced today. These tiles offer a lovingly handmade touch to any design scheme, with a vast range of colours, shapes, textures and patterns on offer that will help you create a timeless and elegant look in your design.

WHAT ARE MOROCCAN TILES?

Made in Morocco, these tiles are often completely hand made using traditional techniques that have been passed down from one generation to the next. Skilled Artisans often start learning this trade at a very young age, practicing the creation of different forms of authentic Moroccan tiles such as Zellige and Bejmat. Thanks to their lusciously handmade texture, Moroccan tiles add a warm, earthy quality to any project and have solidified their place in the world of design and architecture as a classic and timeless material.

Made using traditional techniques in Morocco, our luxurious Arabian Handmade Tile Collection features all the spectacular elements of a true authentic Moroccan tile, from the unique irregularities and imperfections of the surface and edging to the wonderfully varied colouring of each individual tile.

THE HISTORY OF MOROCCAN TILES

Moroccan tiles have been traditionally made since as far back as the 10th century. These first Moroccan tiles were inspired by the intricate and highly detailed mosaic tile art prominent in the Byzantine and Roman empires. Although the colour options were not quite as vivid and varied as they are today, stylised geometric patterns were created using small mosaic pieces laid in repeating patterns. This form of decorative tile art quickly became a staple in ancient Moorish architecture.

Over the years, Moroccan tile art has evolved to include various colours, achieving brighter and bolder works. With the introduction of glazes in the 20th century, the traditional art of Moroccan tile making grew to include new forms and shapes. with the traditional simple square style being the most popular. This style of tile making continues to be practiced using rich clays that are shaped and glazed entirely by hand before being baked using a traditional wood-fire kiln for that authentically varied touch.

Our Archaic handmade tiles use a range of colours and patterns that are inspired by traditional Moorish architecture. Each piece features a hand painted pattern using bold, vivid colours with a vast range of striking designs to choose from. These spectacular tiles are best suited for wall applications, making for the perfect feature element in any design scheme.

HOW ARE MOROCCAN TILES MADE?

Authentic Moroccan tiles are completely handmade using traditional techniques that have been passed down from one generation to the next. Natural clays are sourced from Fez or Meknes in Morocco, areas which are renowned for their quality raw materials. These natural clays are then soaked in water in order to soften the material until it reaches a consistency where it can easily be manipulated by hand. Each tile is then individually shaped and moulded to create the classic styles often seen in Moroccan tiles. The tiles are then flattened out by hand in order to ensure that no air bubbles have been left behind within the body of the tile.

The tiles are left out in the hot sun to dry out naturally before being prepared for the baking process. An authentic Moroccan tile is baked in a wood fire kiln; as the heat is not evenly distributed in these styles of kilns, variations in the depth of colour of each individual tile occur, further enhancing the unique characteristics of these stunning tiles. If a colour and glaze is being included in the tile’s design, these are applied by hand just before the baking process in order to ensure a hard and durable surface finish that is impervious to water.

Inspired by the ornate patterns and vivid colours as seen in authentic Moroccan Tiles, our Marley porcelain tile collection offers a range of solid coloured options as well as pattern tile options that can be used as both a floor and wall finish.

MOROCCAN TILE TYPES

There are two key types of Moroccan tiles: Zellige and Bejmat. Steeped in rich history and tradition, each different type of Moroccan tile offers its own range of luxurious qualities to any project.

ZELLIGE TILES:

The term Zellige (also known as zillīj, zelige or zellige) refers to a traditional style of Moroccan tile art that is created using small, individual, hand cut chiselled mosaic tiles that are set by hand in a base of plaster and laid in ornate, colourful patterns. These designs often use a combination of bright, deep colours ranging from rich navy blues, turquoise, burnt orange tones, luscious burgundies and more. Each individual coloured piece is laid in a repeating pattern to form geometric motifs with this style most often seen in Arabesque or Moorish architecture and design.

These tiles continue to be handmade in Fez and Meknes in Morocco using Miocene grey clay. This style of traditional tile art has since evolved to include a larger range of colour options as well as an assortment of shapes (or tile formats). Taking a step away from the historic mosaic tile technique, Zellige tiles are now also available in small square or rectangular styles as well as more decorative octagons and star shapes.

BEJMAT:

A variation of the traditional Zellige Moroccan tile, Bejmat tiles are often thicker and therefore sturdier than Zellige tiles which are most often used as a wall tile option. This quality means that they can be used as a flooring solution in residential and retail applications (depending on the specific tile collection; your Tile Consultant will discuss your options with you when selecting for retail or commercial properties to ensure the very best fit for your project’s specifications).

These wonderfully earthy tiles are most often made of terracotta which is made using iron rich natural clay that gives them their characteristic deep red colour. The tiles are hand formed and moulded into shapes before being fired in a kiln where moisture is removed from the tile, resulting in a strong and durable material. Most often left unglazed, Bejmat tiles are left in their raw form which does mean that the product is porous and will require sealing. Perini Tiles recommends an impregnating (or penetrating) sealer type which unlike other options, will still allow the tile to breathe and release any built up moisture, preventing mould or mildew in your tiles.

You can find out more about tile sealers in our in depth guide.

prato

Rich in character, texture and charm, the Prato Terracotta collection includes a range of handmade tiles in various shapes and sizes. These warm, earthy tiles can be used as a floor finish in the home for a rustic yet timeless touch. Being a hand crafted product, each piece is unique to the next, boasting variations in depth of colour along with small chips in the surface, adding to the character and charm of the tiles themselves. Being in their raw, unglazed form, these terracotta tiles are porous and as such, will require sealing in order to ensure the body of the tile is well protected against staining or moisture damage.

IMPERFECTIONS & VARIATIONS IN MOROCCAN TILES

What makes authentic Moroccan tiles so beautiful are the stunning variations in colour, texture, shape, finish, thickness and form. Machine manufacturing will produce perfect copies of a product whereas handmade tiles will show unique variations from one piece to the next as a result of the hand crafting process, creating a magical, highly tactile experience made up of shades of colour and varying textures.

Each tile is completely unique to the next with small chips and undulations in the surface of the tile. Colours on each tile are uniquely varied with some pieces showing a deeply saturated colour and others being lighter. These qualities in Moroccan tile finishes are what make these handmade products so popular and so well sought after in the design world as their distinct look and charm add a warm, earthy touch to any space.

HOW MUCH DO MOROCCAN TILES COST?

Authentically handmade Moroccan tiles will often fetch a higher price tag than machine manufactured options. This is a result of the time and craftsmanship that goes into each individual tile’s creation. You will find handmade Moroccan tiles will vary greatly in cost between different varieties or collections; some options are priced per tile while others are priced per square metre. Pricing for these timeless tiles often starts from approximately $10 per tile to $300-400 per square metre.

Glazed handmade tiles show a strong depth of colour, with each tile being slightly different for a luscious finished look. Handmade-look tile options are also available, offering a similar styled designer tile option in a different price point. Our Berber lantern Tiles for example are inspired by the traditional shapes, colours and patterns often seen in Moroccan tile collections, offering a similar look for the home.

In terms of labour costs, Moroccan tiles require an experienced hand to lay; these are not the types of tiles that can be used in a simple afternoon DIY project! As the surface and edge of each tile varies from the next, different types of spacers are required to ensure a uniform project. An experienced Tiler should have no trouble at all when laying traditionally handmade Moroccan tiles however, due to their smaller size and the attention to detail that is required in their installation, you can expect the cost of labour to be slightly higher in comparison to standard floor or wall tiles (for more information on costing factors to consider when it comes to tiling, our guide covers all the bases!).

HOW TO LAY MOROCCAN TILES

Due to their organic characteristics, handmade Moroccan tiles will require an experienced hand to achieve the best results when laying. It is recommended that tile boxes included in your order be randomly combined to ensure the perfect amount of variation in your newly tiled surface. As each tile is unique to the next, a “dry lay” process is also a great idea, especially where a specific pattern is desired; this involves combining several different boxes of tiles and laying them out on a sheet or other flat, clean surface to ensure you are pleased with the final look and amount of variations occurring in your tiled wall or floor, as well as their overall pattern. The tiles can then be properly laid using cement based grouts and suitable adhesives in the style and pattern you have planned out for the best result.

Authentic Moroccan tiles will include uneven edges, soft undulating surfaces and variation sin colours as a result of the hand-making process. These sorts of tiles will require an experienced Tiler who is familiar with the process of laying handmade tiles to achieve the perfect finish. 

DO MOROCCAN TILES NEED SPACERS WHEN LAYING?

This will depend on the exact types of tiles selected. Some types of Moroccan handmade tiles will only require a sort of wedge rather than a traditional spacer between each tile during the laying process while others will not require a spacer at all, allowing for minimal to zero visible grout lines between each tile. Due to the handmade tile’s uneven lines, the edges are not intended to line up precisely as would be the case with a machine cut tile. Your Perini Tile Consultant and Tiler will offer their best advice specific to your tile selection; it is recommended that authentic Moroccan tiles be installed by an experienced Tiler that is familiar with the product to ensure the very best results.  

DO MOROCCAN TILES NEED SEALING?

This depends on the type of Moroccan tiles you select. As a general rule of thumb, glazed tiles will not require sealing whereas unglazed, raw Moroccan tiles made of terracotta will require sealing. The glaze on these sorts of tiles forms a glass-like finish on the surface of the tile that protects it from moisture while also making for a simple to wipe down finish. Unglazed options are often porous, meaning that the small pores present in the tile’s material can absorb liquids or moisture. 

flounder

The Flounder collection displays a vast range of colour options in the popular fish scale and subway tile formats. This collections offers a handmade-look alternative option that includes a luscious glaze on each tile’s surface. Glazed ceramic wall tiles such as these will not require sealing as the glaze itself acts as a protective barrier. 

Sealing these types of tiles will ensure they remain protected; seal your tiles prior to installation, after installation and then every few years or so thereafter to ensure the product is properly protected over time. 

Some modern tile collections are made of porcelain instead; although these tile options are not an authentic Moroccan tile but rather, are specifically designed to replicate a true Moroccan style, they are not made of porous materials such as unglazed terracotta or ceramic. Porcelain tiles are baked at extremely high temperatures, higher than that of other tile varieties. This process results in an incredibly hard and virtually non-porous tile that does not require sealing making it an excellent choice for designs where a low maintenance finish is desired. 

dolce valencia

The Dolce Porcelain Tile collection is inspired by the traditional repeating patterns and colour schemes used in Moroccan tile art. Being a porcelain tile, the collections does not require sealing, offering a low maintenance alternative option for the home. 

HOW TO SEAL MOROCCAN TILES

Traditional and modern Zellige Moroccan tiles will often include a sleek glaze that is applied by hand onto the tile’s surface. This glaze is baked onto the tile, forming a glass-like surface finish that creates a water and stain resistant barrier, acting as a strong and durable protective sealant across the tile itself. These glazed handmade tiles will not require sealing at installation or at any time throughout their lifespan 

although it should be noted that in applications where a cement based grout has been used, the grout itself will require sealing to ensure it is adequately protected.

In the case of traditionally handmade Bejmat tiles which are left in their raw, unglazed form, an impregnating (or penetrating) type of sealant is often recommended. This type of tile sealer seeps into the tile to protect it from moisture, marking or staining. In comparison to other types of tile sealers, this type of product will not clog up the tile’s natural pores, allowing the material to breathe and release caught humidity rather than trapping it inside the tile. 

For more information on the process of sealing tiles and the products we recommend, visit our guide to tile sealers.

HOW TO CLEAN MOROCCAN TILES

The process of cleaning Moroccan tiles will be dependent on the specific type of tiles you choose. Smooth tiles with a completely flat surface will be simpler to clean as they can be easily wiped down whereas handmade tiles that feature rough, uneven surfaces may require just a little more elbow grease! 

prato

Ridges, chips and slight imperfections in the surface of traditionally handmade Moroccan tiles add to their authenticity and character. These tiles are often no more difficult than any other type of tile to keep clean and maintain but will require a little more attention to ensure dirt does not adhere itself to the uneven surface finish. 

When making your tile selection, take note of what material the tiles are made of; this information will dictate the cleaning products and techniques that are best suited. Porcelain tiles for example, will usually only require a simple mop down with a gentle cleanser ( such as our Lithofin KF Active-Clean) or warm, soapy water. The same can be said for glazed ceramic tiles however, unglazed, raw terracotta or encaustic tile options will require specialised cleansers to ensure the perfect clean. Products such as bleach, vinegar and any other harsh, acidic cleansers are best avoided when cleaning authentic Moroccan tiles as these may cause damage or discolouration to their luxurious surface.  

Perini Tiles stocks a range of cleaning products that are specific to different materials; you will find more detailed information in our tile cleaning guide. 

MOROCCAN TILES FOR KITCHEN SPLASHBACKS & FLOORING

Moroccan tiles in kitchen design schemes are becoming increasingly popular as these rustic and charming options can tie in well with just about any interior design style. From contemporary kitchen designs to country styled homes, Moroccan tiles have the ability to complement any interior style and pair well with a range of trending materials such as timber, concrete and natural stone. 

Our Arcade porcelain tiles feature repeating geometric patterns in a range of bold, dusty colour tones. These tiles are specifically designed to replicate the look and feel of traditional encaustic tiles, another reinvention or branch off Moroccan tile art. 

Unglazed Moroccan tiles for kitchen backsplash areas may have the potential to become stained or marked over time if they are not properly maintained and sealed. Glazed Moroccan tiles for wall use are most often recommended in these applications instead as their glass-like hardened glaze creates a surface finish that is simple to wipe down and keep clean. Furthermore, these wall tiles will not require sealing, once again ensuring a low maintenance option for the home kitchen. Another alternative is porcelain which will offer the same low maintenance qualities of a glazed ceramic tile while also being able to withstand extreme temperatures, making it an ideal splashback tile solution around a gas cooktop. 

MOROCCAN TILES FOR BATHROOM FEATURE WALLS 

Making for the ultimate feature tile selection, Moroccan tiles in bathroom design schemes add character, colour, texture and timeless elegance to the space. These tiles can make for the ultimate feature wall in the bathroom, providing a luxurious, rippled water effect in the space as a result of the undulating, glazed surface finish in traditional glazed Moroccan tiles for bathroom wall use. 

Arabian handmade tiles

Moroccan wall tiles can be used to create bold, enigmatic feature walls in the bathroom, being especially popular as a wall finish within the shower thanks to the sleek glaze that allows soap to easily slide away.

Glazed Moroccan tile options are most often used in the often humid environment of the bathroom as their hardened glaze creates a surface finish that is simple to wipe down and keep clean. This glaze also does away with the added maintenance of sealing the tiles every so often, as the glaze itself acts as a water and stain resistant barrier across the tile. Although Moroccan tiles for floor applications (such as the unglazed Bejmat tiles for example) can be used as warm finish to your bathroom flooring, it is important to note that as these tiles are porous, they will require regular sealing in order to help in protecting them against staining, marking and water damage.

Our Oliver porcelain tile collection offers a sophisticated, modern interpretation of the traditional patterns and styles of old world Moroccan tile are in a durable porcelain material. Simulating the soft, matte surface finish of an encaustic tile, the collection includes a selection of solid coloured as well as pattern tile options that can be used as a floor and wall finish in the home. 

MOROCCAN TILES FOR GARDEN & OUTDOORS

The timeless and earthy charm of traditional Moroccan tiles make them a perfect fit for outdoor spaces, from patios and walkways to alfresco spaces and even as feature pool tiles that can be used as a decorative touch on a pool surround. Specific types of Moroccan tiles can be used in a large variety of ways; your Perini Tiles Consultant will be able to offer advice on the best options to suit your intended application, helping you to create that perfect touch in your outdoor design scheme. 

HOW TO USE MOROCCAN TILES ON STAIRS

Offering a decorative feature for the home, Moroccan tiles can be used to clad the risers on your staircase for a colourful and timeless touch that adds warm, earthy charm and character in your design scheme. A glazed ceramic tile is often chosen for these applications thanks to the vast range of colours and patterns available as well as the glossy glaze itself which allows for ease of cleaning. Scuff marks and dirt can be easily wiped away from these glossy tile options, ensuring the best possible decorative finish for your home’s staircase. 

ARE MOROCCAN TILES TRENDY OR CLASSIC?

Finally, are Moroccan tiles a passing trend or are they a timeless classic? Steeped in rich history, these tiles have proven themselves to be a timeless material choice, having well and truly stood the test of time. These delightful tiles have been used in interior design and architecture for centuries, showing up in designs right across the world. There are many variations or interpretations of this classic art of tile making, further ensuring that there are Moroccan tile styles to suit every taste and budget. 

Moroccan tiles can be used throughout the interior and exterior spaces of your home to add a strong sense of colour, texture and timeless character. These tiles have evolved over the years to include many different options, from stylish mosaic tile art, glazed and unglazed ceramic tile solutions, encaustic tiles and much more! With so many exciting options available, you are sure to find the perfect solution to suit your own unique design flair!

Our Richmond Tiles Showroom is constantly being updated with the latest in tile design, showcasing the best pieces sourced from all around the world! Visit our showroom or schedule a free online design consultation to start exploring your options as our experienced team assists and guides you in the creation of the perfect colour and material palette for your next project.