Fired clay floor tiles, with origins stretching back 4,000 years to ancient Egypt, remain popular today. Rust-colored tiles were quite popular during the Middle Ages, with some still at use in the monasteries of England. In Spain and Portugal color was added by hand printing, creating bright hues to suit the sunny climate.
Modern technology, however, has taken the once-slow process of creating these tiles and brought them into mass production and into the price range of virtually everyone.
Perhaps the most popular version of the modern floor tiles are the reddish terra cotta tiles, which, with no pattern to wear or paint to fade, can also last a long, long time.
Tile can be found in a huge variety in pattern, size and color. A trip to a tile shop will give you an idea of the variety available.
The ability to create what you want with tile is not limited to the tile itself. The way the tiles are joined can create interesting patterns.
For example, if you want a patio with an Old World look, use a thick grout between the terra cotta tiles, allowing as much as 2 to 3 inches of spacing between them.
On the other hand, if you want to emphasize the tile more than the pattern, the grout should be minimal.
Another idea is to use a colored grout that contrasts with the color of the tile. You will end up with a checkerboard pattern in the room that will complement the rest of the decor.
Contrasting colored grout, however, should not be used with irregular edged tiles. The irregularity in the tile will cause an uneven grout pattern, which will look messy.
Another way to add interest to a tile floor is to create a border from different sized or shaped tile or to choose a border tile of a different color.
Where do you put the border? Anywhere you like. Try the border two feet in from the walls. Another thought is to border the furniture, perhaps in a circular pattern.
When dealing with tile, virtually anything goes, as long as you like it.
- Rosemary S. Friedman is a licensed interior decorator and winner of the Aurora Award for Interior Design.