Encaustic tiles have been used in architecture and design for many years, offering durability, longevity and an impressive sense of character. Often characterised by the intricate repeating patterns and dusty colours used in their design, encaustic tiles can be used throughout the home for a luxurious and colourful design element. But what are encaustic tiles exactly? We explore the history of these beautiful tiles as well as modern interpretations.
What are Encaustic Tiles?
Traditional encaustic tiles (also referred to as concrete tiles or cement tiles) are often hand made using a combination of coloured cement and marble that is poured into a stencil. Patterns can also be made freely by hand to achieve a completely unique look in each and every tile! Unlike porcelain tiles or ceramic tile options, traditional encaustic tiles are not kiln fired; once the shape and pattern of the tile is created the wet cement mixture is left to set and is then compressed with a hydraulic system that distributes an immense amount of pressure onto the tile, removing any air holes and effectively setting the concrete tile.
Our stylish Atlantic encaustic tile range includes an impressive variety of traditional and modern concrete tile options. The collection is created by world renowned Bisazza Design Studio in collaboration with several different prominent designers to offer a selection of options in assorted colours and patterns to suit every interior design style.
The process is a highly specialised technique with some manufacturers using machine equipment to create these elegant tiles while others continue to employ authentic hand making processes. In these traditional tile studios, the stencils too are often made entirely by hand, adding a further unique and distinct quality to the finished product.
A History of Encaustic Tiles
Although the term now refers to a specific type of concrete tile, the original iteration of encaustic tile is very different to what we are used to! The term ‘encaustic’ actually means ‘to burn’ in Ancient Greek and specifically referred to a technique of painting that used paints made with a beeswax base and then set with heat. Moving forward through time into the medieval era, inlaid tiles became a staple in architecture, being a prominent feature included in the design of places of worship and also in the homes of the wealthy. These popular tiles were created using various colours of clay which would be laid in specific patterns and designs before being set and hardened in a traditional fire kiln.
Offering a modern interpretation of encaustic tiles, our Molokai concrete tiles are created using traditional techniques with each colour used in their unique pattern showing up right through the entire body of the tile.
A unique quality of inlaid tiles and perhaps one of the reasons why they were so popular at the time was that as the tiles wore down, the vivid colours and intricate patterns would still be present. Unlike many modern tile options where colours and patterns are only present on the surface of the tile, inlaid tiles were created in such a way that the colour and pattern would run right through the entirety of the tile’s body.
Moving further forward in time, concrete tiles became popular in Victorian era homes. These tiles appeared similar in style to the Ancient Greek encaustic artwork and tiles while also employing the techniques used in the creation of medieval inlaid tiles where the colour and pattern would run through the entire body of the tile, leading to the creation of what we now refer to as an encaustic, concrete tile.
Modern Encaustic Tiles
Encaustic tiles continue to be created using traditional techniques in a vast range of styles and designs. Modern encaustic tile designs draw inspiration from classic concrete tiles to create an exciting new approach. You will notice a larger variety in colour options available as well as more modern patterns and styles that use colour blocking or geometrical designs to create a contemporary look, making encaustic tiles an excellent fit for modern as well as classically designed schemes.
Greg Natale’s Pavimento concrete tiles offer a dynamic option for the home that can be used throughout your interior spaces for an elegant and timeless touch.
It is important to note that as encaustic tiles are often handmade, one can expect to see variations in colour, thickness, size and pattern. This quality creates a unique look and adds to the product’s charm and aesthetic appeal. Furthermore, you will also find that cement tiles will often develop a slight patina along their surface over time, once again adding a strong sense of character that makes these tiles such a popular choice.
Caring for Encaustic Tiles
Encaustic tiles are porous and as such, will require sealing in order to assist in the prevention of liquids or dirt seeping into the product and causing staining or discoloration. Upon receipt of your cement tiles, they should be thoroughly cleaned, dried and then sealed prior to installation. Tile adhesives and grouts can cause discoloration or staining on unsealed tiles making sealing the products prior to installation a crucial step! Once laid, these tiles should be sealed every few years or so in order to best maintain the material.
The Beach Club concrete tile collection includes a selected range of retro-inspired tile patterns and colours adding a warm and rustic quality to any interior design project.
When it comes to cleaning concrete tiles, mild cleaning products should be used and any harsh or acidic products are best avoided. These tiles are often not suitable for use as a floor tile in the shower as ingredients used in soaps and shampoos for example can cause damage to the material.
Visit our Resources page for more information on caring for encaustic tiles along with specific cleaning product recommendations.
Encaustic tiles certainly have a long an interesting history! These classic tiles offer a timeless choice for the home that can be used in a myriad of ways to enhance your interior design scheme, adding colour, pattern and energy to your home.
Our team at Perini Tiles can guide your through our Richmond tiles store as you browse our immense library of concrete tile options. We will also assist you in the creation of the perfect colour palette for your next project while also offering you the best tips and advice on how to care for your new tiles.