Think of tiled furniture and it’s possible the ubiquitous Moroccan garden table with mosaic top comes to mind. Or perhaps retro wooden tables inlaid with ceramic tiles from the 1950’s and 1960’s are more your reference point. Heals once sold a series embellished with tiles by the pioneering ceramist Kenneth Clark that can still be scooped up secondhand. But there’s a new momentum in tiled furniture emerging, with creatives in an array of disciplines designing artisanal pieces that feel thoroughly contemporary.
Ceramic artist Matthew Raw is happy to be part of the renaissance. His tiled cabinet for The New Craftsmen was just featured in the exhibition, Ways of Seeing, celebrating the link between maker and designer during London Craft Week and the Design Festival. It’s Raw’s first foray into making tiled furniture, having leapt from slab building to tiles after being frustrated by the limiting size of a kiln. “With tiles, you can make anything on any scale, you just have to repeat, repeat, repeat,” he says. So when The New Craftsman asked him to make a piece of furniture, he envisioned a cabinet sheathed in tile, both inside and out. Working with friend, woodworker Greg Wilson of We Are Flat, Raw’s handcrafted tiles dictated the cabinet’s shape, from straight edge pieces to interior and exterior corner pieces. Available in a bottle green colourway inspired by Victorian British buildings, Raw is also happy to work with designers and private clients on bespoke styles and colours. He’s currently developing his first pink glaze for a private commission and has ideas brewing for patterns and grids that could find their way onto furniture in the new year.
American interior designer Kelly Behun also embraced the transformative power of tile for her first collection of indoor/outdoor furniture—a series of coffee and dining tables wrapped in intricate, swirling mosaics of hand-cut stone. It’s truly a statement collection steeped in artistic tradition: the idea was spurred from a trip to Barcelona’s Parque Güell, the electrifying mosaic-filled complex created by Antonio Gaudi, that left a lasting impression on her. In that spirit, tables are offered in patterns of glistening blue quartz mixed with tala black, carrara and crema marfil marbles. But you can also go wild and order custom variations through The Invisible Collection, a London-based gallery that connects clients with designers for bespoke furnishings.
If streamlined and industrial is more your speed, look no further than Ikon København. Sisters Amalie and Sarah Thorgaard launched the collection of ceramic tiled cubes and waterfall-edge tables after friends fell in love with one-off pieces the pair created for themselves. Their hallmark style of repeating squares separated by distinct grout lines conjures up visions of the futuristic 1980’s film Tron (for Generation Xers out there at least). Handmade in Denmark, there’s a core colour collection along with limited-edition pieces which are made using tiles they buy in small batches. Bespoke orders are also welcome, like the configuration shown here, made in collaboration with Tableau, a multi-disciplinary concept store in Copenhagen. But perhaps most apropos, the tables sit on concealed wheels for easy repositioning—all the more relevant given today’s need for multi-functional furniture.
Photographs © The New Craftsmen, Kelly Behun/The Invisible Collection, Micha van Dinther