Design Notes Archive

Blue & White Painted Tile

Blue & White Painted Tile

When interior designer Michael S. Smith swathed a California bathroom in Portuguese style tile several years ago, he unwittingly ignited a renaissance. The iconic blue and white tiles he sought were inspired by vintage examples at the Museu Nacional do Azulejo in Lisbon. Reproductions were not readily available at the time so Smith had them custom made. Wanting the installation to appear original, he specified that an antique-looking glaze be applied and he even broke a few pieces for added measure. “[The Portuguese] used them in a very distinctive, architectural way – as a kind of wainscot in a room,” noted Smith in his book Michael S. Smith Kitchens and Baths. Not afraid to pair different patterns together, his use of border tiles added instant depth.

Fast forward five years and Instagram and Pinterest are alight with vintage-looking tiles from across the Mediterranean. Interiors photographer Miguel Flores Vianna’s snapshot of a tiled floor at the Casa de Pilatos in Sevilla garnered over 2,000 likes. It’s not just the tile but also the way it contrasts with the rough plaster walls – a combination that Smith readily champions. Nearby in Andalusia, the famously old world Milanese design firm, Studio Peregalli, adorned nearly every room of an Italian couple’s vacation home with antique tile in a similar vein. In the bathroom they contrasted it with a modern black and white floor; in the master bedroom the installation frames a 16th century Florentine bed; and in the living room, blue and white tiles were applied to chair rail height in the spirit of wainscoting that Smith referenced.

As for us, we’re beyond excited to introduce our own collection of painted Mediterranean tiles launching next month. Hand-crafted in Florence and available in countless combinations of colours, shapes and sizes, the Series ‘S’ collection is inspired by rooms just like these. Now you can follow Smith’s lead without doing the legwork. We hope he’ll be proud!  

Photograph © Henry Bourne, Miguel Flores Vianna, Vincent Leroux