Prior to the early 1900s, tiles were only produced to adorn important public buildings and for homes of the wealthy. Today, tiles can be both affordable and luxurious for everyone and the design possibilities are endless.
Tiles have an illustrious history. Samples of early clay and mud tiles are dated at seven thousand years old. Decorative tiles found in Egypt date back to 4000 BC. The art of manufacture of tile was famously demonstrated by the Assyrians and Babylonians in Mesopotamian architecture. Throughout the next few millennia, the Romans, the Greeks, China, Persia, India, Syria, Turkey, Tunisia, among a few others, also became leading developers of the art; many glorious examples exist in-situ and in museums today. Here, we are speaking of highly decorative, man-made tiles. Concurrently, tiles and pavers hewn from marble and other attractive types of stone were also enjoying wide usage in grand structures.
At the same time as Islamic tile art was being perfected in the Middle East, the Chinese continued to popularize distinct styles and glazes which were widely adopted by the Dutch, the English, Spanish, Portuguese and Italians and in other European countries. Tile production quickly evolved in North and South America too from the efforts of European colonists. Mexico is still recognized today for the hand-made and painted tiles of its contemporary artisans.
In late 1800s colonial America, very expensive imported tiles were installed in homes of the elite; fireplaces were a popular application. Foyers, bathrooms and kitchens in mansions were being enriched with tiles at the turn of the century, with the idea of tile as a sanitary and hygienic product. Custom murals also weren't exclusive to just missions and churches anymore. Public spaces such as the Times Square subway station in New York City incorporated beautiful murals and "subway tiles".
Tile production wasn't just for small potteries and artisans anymore; tile factories were being built all over the world and advances in the industry were fast and frequent. In the 1920's, face-mounted sheets of mosaic tile were introduced so that setting small pieces individually by hand was no longer required. Higher kiln temperatures and simultaneous firing of glaze and clay created stronger tiles with more durable glazes.
The 1950s was a period of growth for ceramic tiles as they were implemented in homes everywhere. In North America the bathroom was the most typical room for glazed tiles in a residential setting. Europe and the rest of the world began utilizing affordable tile in residential kitchens, bathrooms, hallways and entries as well as exterior spaces, at that time. Eventually, Canadian and American residences were also receptive to the idea of tiles in other rooms just like the Europeans. Around 1980, North America became a very important market for tile manufacturers.
Tile from Italy
Since the middle ages, Italy has been at the forefront in the tile industry having borrowed and adjusted methods and designs from other cultures. Progressive Italian engineers and factories came up with innovations and designs that modernized the industry. In the last forty years, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Brazil, China and Mexico, along with some others, have followed Italian designs and technological advancements in order to try to become as successful at producing tile for the world. Interestingly, China is the largest producer and consumer of tile. Still, Italy remains the leader in design with over 300 factories situated in Sassuolo, in the Emilia-Romagna region.
In the last few years, many innovations have revolutionized the tile industry. Porcelain body floor tiles and white body ceramic wall tiles use digital ink-jet technology to achieve authentic stone appearances or very refined designs. Computers, machines and robotics in the factories do most of the work. Besides providing the world with a stunning variety of sizes and styles, European tile manufacturers are proactive in using recycled materials and taking other measures to preserve the environment.
Today, interior design encourages new trends and changes more rapidly than ever before. At Tilemaster, we aim to keep informed and educated so that we can bring the best selections to you from around the world.