Ahh the Mediterranean! No other word is capable of simultaneously evoking warm summer sunshine, lazy days by the beach, effortless al fresco dining, antique charm and casual elegance! No wonder the Med continues to be a source of inspiration for creatives in almost every area of art, design and craft. If you also find yourself dreaming of rustic maisons de maitre in Provence, or sparkling white Grecian villas, or desert-chic Moroccan riads, but know you’ll never actually get to own the real thing, then why not look to recreate a key Mediterranean style tile look in your home, starting from the floor up!
Here are our top five inspired Mediterranean tile ideas to help turn your dreams into reality.
Our Favorite Mediterranean Tiles
Roman style mosaic tiles
Mediterranean people have always had a flair for stylish homes, even as far back as ancient Rome! The richer Roman homeowners were able to commission stunning mosaic patterns to decorate their floors and walls – the bigger the size and more lavishly detailed the mosaic the more indicative of just how well-off the owners were.
Mosaic tiles were often used like a collage to depict scenes from fables and mythology, or with animal and flower motifs that had certain symbolic meanings, for example ivy was used as a symbol of longevity. Smaller mosaics were also used like store signs – for example a fishmonger would have had a small fish mosaic above his store doorway.
Mosaic tiles are still very popular today, and there are tons of different types of sheet mosaics to choose from, with endless finishes and effects. But to really emulate the ancient Romans you’re going to need to get creative by designing your very own statement mosaic image to inlay into your floor. Proficient DIYers can easily do this themselves, but there are also a number of wonderful artisans that will do amazing custom works for your home. This spectacular trompe l’oeil fishpond mosaic by artist Gary Drostle is a case in point – simply amazing!
Patterned encaustic/ cement tiles
Whether or not these colorful, patterned tiles are technically encaustic tiles or simply just cement tiles will depend on exactly how they were produced. That’s not really our concern, the fact is that tiles featuring wonderful floral and geometric motifs that appear to be inlayed into the tile itself are utterly desirable and have been widely used in Europe for centuries. Indeed, according to the team at Concrete Cottage encaustic tiles were super fashionable right up through to the 1920s:
“they were considered as high-end ultimate flooring that decorated the palaces of the Tsar, the mansions of the Côte d’Azur, Gaudi’s Barcelona and Berlin’s official buildings.”
It’s a look that is undergoing a massive revival at the moment, and thanks to the immensely diverse range of colors and patterns available, it is perfect if you’re looking to maximize impact on your floor and make a very personalized statement.
Whilst the overall feel of encaustic tile is somewhat retro, this vibe can be further enhanced if you go for a geometric cubic pattern mixed with sharp minimalist furnishings; whilst deliberately faded floral designs are a great mix with rustic décor. On the other hand, if you simply can’t decide which of these gorgeous patterned tiles to choose from, then going for a patchwork of encaustic tiles is a quirky design idea that is becoming increasingly popular. Imagine the tiles below in your living room or dining room.
Hexagonal terracotta tiles
Some friends of mine have a holiday home in the southern French city of Perpignan and I was lucky enough to be able to visit the house a while back, and ever since I have been completely fixated on the gorgeous hexagonal terracotta floor tiles that were laid throughout their lovely home!
These wonderful Mediterranean tiles are a quintessential southern French feature, but are also found in Spain, Italy and North African countries along the Mediterranean. In fact they have clearly been around for a long time – as far back as the late Roman Empire – and were introduced to the Americas during the 16th Century. In France, where the distinct honeycomb tiles are known as “tomettes”, they have become synonymous with the Provençal town of Salernes where they have been manufactured since 1830.
The good news is that hexagonal terracottas are also widely available in the US, so you don’t have to go all the way to France to get them! And the other good news is that you don’t have to pair them exclusively with the French Provençal farmhouse look – unless, of course, you want to! Hexagonal terracotta tiles go equally well with contemporary interior design, as demonstrated by this superbly refurbished Parisian apartment below where old meets new in a carefully considered combination of reclaimed hexagonal tiles, steel, wood, glass, voile, exposed stone and minimalist furniture – divine!
Moroccan/ Moorish arabesque shaped tiles
If you’re into the idea of shaped tiles, like the hexagonal ones above, then you might also want to look at the arabesque tiles that are most closely associated with Moroccan or Moorish interiors. In fact Moroccan tiles come in all kinds of shapes, and there are several Moroccan design ideas that we could have chosen, but the arabesque tile is such a wonderfully different shape – its curvy lines bring an exotic and sensual feel to any room that is very specific and very covetable!
It’s true to say that arabesque shaped tiles – sometimes also known as lantern tiles – are most usually seen as detail wall tiles, say for a kitchen or bathroom splashback; but they are an equally valid option for flooring too, adding texture and interest without overwhelming the space.
Plus manufacturers like Villa Lagoon are now creating them in durable cement, making them an excellent choice for flooring and allowing them to be made in a huge variety of colors. And this very versatile tile suits all kinds of interior design looks, as the team at Villa Lagoon neatly put it:
“this classic Moroccan shaped tile can look contemporary or ancient depending on your color choices and installation techniques.”
Black and white checkerboard
Most people might associate the black and white checkerboard floor with the all-American 50s diner, but checkerboard composite stone tiles have been around for ages and were also a very popular choice in southern Mediterranean tile flooring, especially in the post-war years when new buildings were being erected to replace those that had been lost.
Now a checkerboard floor is a very strong look and not for the faint-hearted as it does tend to dominate the room, but when done well it can also reflect the kind of confident elegance you would associate with chic Mediterranean floor design. If you like the look, but are daunted about having it throughout your home, then using the look as a feature in your entrance hallway or in the kitchen or bathroom is safe bet.
To get the full upgraded checkerboard floor look you’ll need to consider using tiles made of high quality materials like marble and granite, or super glossy porcelain tiles. Teaming the floor with classy furnishings and a minimalist or monochrome color palette, like this art deco bathroom below, certainly takes the checkerboard floor to an all-together more grown-up and sophisticated level. Adding a monochrome border around the edge of the room and laying the checkerboard on the diagonal axis will also add a touch of elegance.
Have you found and used any Mediterranean porcelain or ceramic tile? If you have any other examples of Mediterranean tile decor that you love or photos of diy projects please do let us know using the comments below or contact us direct.