Design Notes Archive

Tiled Patios

Tiled Patios

Outside our work with UK-based artisans, Balineum has a deep connection with Italian craft thanks to our creative partners in Tuscany and Campania. Inspiration seems to present itself at every turn. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than along the Amalfi Coast, where richly tiled patios are ubiquitous. Indeed, they were the inspiration for our hand painted Series S tile collection. A new book, Amalfi Houses by Ana Cardinale, celebrates this region’s vibrant homes with pages of captivating tiled spaces, many of them photographed for the first time.

Take the arresting blue balcony that once belonged to mid-century designer and ceramist Ernestine Virden-Cannon, left. It does what all good patio design should do and draws a connection to its surroundings—in this case referencing the rich blues of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Made in collaboration with Matteo d’Agostino, who had a ceramics factory in Salerno at the time, the tiles are a classic example of the pennellato technique that was popularised by potteries in Vietri sul Mare, wherein broad brushstrokes are used to create striations in colour. The process lends an artisanal feel to what would otherwise have been just a solid wash of blue glaze. Ernestine and d’Agostino’s work often referenced natural elements and eventually led to a partnership that was championed by none other than Gio Ponti, who tapped the duo to create the now iconic blue and white tiled floors of the Hotel Parco dei Principi in Sorrento—many of which extend outdoors, tying the hotel’s white façade with the blue seascape beyond.

In choosing tiles for a patio, it’s crucial that they have a sense of place like this, whether their design is naturalistic or geometric. Designer Annarita Aversa, founder of Architetti Artigiani Anonimi, looked to the rugged landscape of Amalfi’s Vettica region when selecting the hardscaping for a farmhouse patio renovation, right. Intertwining native basalt stone pavers with custom Vietri Scotto tiles—that she designed based on local plant motifs—Aversa managed to create a modern installation that is rooted in both local history and horticulture. “The floors are a figurative and material interpretation of the nature surrounding the compound,” notes Cardinale.

These spaces are a case study of tiled patios along Italy’s famed coastline, but examples reign supreme throughout the country. A few years ago, Balineum’s founder Sarah Watson, was enchanted by the 100-meter-long tiled terrace of the Palazzo Butera in Palermo. The green and white majolica installation, completed in 1812, references the lush planting lining the pathway whilst also providing a graphic contrast to the building’s Baroque architecture—all the more apropos, as the newly renovated palazzo serves as an innovative museum and cultural centre blending historic and contemporary art and artifacts.

That’s not to say all tiled patios belong near the sea of course. Just consider the way La DoubleJ founder, JJ Martin’s patio in Milan references the urban environment with deeply saturated, inky blue penny tiles and an almost Brutalist-style built-in banquette. It’s a sleek and surely sultry backdrop for gatherings in the fashion capital.  

What all these locales do have in common of course, is their temperate climate—it’s something to take into account when considering ceramic tiles for outdoor installation. Dramatic swings can cause ceramics to crack so do be mindful of your area’s highs and lows and be sure tiles are sealed and rated for outdoor use. A matte or textured finish is also helpful for preventing slips after it’s rained.

Photos: © Amalfi Houses: Architectural Gems on the Italian Coast by Ana Cardinale; Photography © Matthieu Salvaing, Rizzoli, 2024