If you’ve come across remarkable examples of natural clay or stone tile and ever considered it for your home, you’re probably also wondering if it would work with the current style of your home, and which type of tile is right. In this article we’ll discuss three basic types of tile, but there are limitless choices when it comes to designing the perfect floor, patio, backsplash, or countertop.
Mexican tile can mean several different things. Mexican tiles come in unglazed terra-cotta, commonly used for floors; Talavera tile, which is a form of majolica pottery with a milky glaze; and ceramic tile, which comes in many colors and designs. Mexican tiles are handmade, and these colored ceramic tiles can be used on their own as backsplash or wall border or mixed with larger, terra-cotta pieces to create striking floor borders or stair risers.
Saltillo is unglazed, handmade terra-cotta tile from the city of Saltillo in Coahuila, Mexico. Depending on where in the kiln it is fired, saltillo can vary in color from deep orange to pale amber. These tiles may also have subtle shading, which is another result of the firing process. There are two types of saltillo: regular, which is carved out of the clay and has a rustic, slightly imperfect charm to it, and super, which is pressed into a wooden frame to shape it. Regular tiles are usually square or rectangular, while super tiles can have rounded edges. Because they are unglazed, these tiles absorb liquid easily and most retailers recommend professional installation and sealing. Saltillo is fairly inexpensive, so even with the cost of installation it can fit into most budgets. Once the tiles are sealed, they are no more difficult to maintain than other types of surfaces.
Travertine, often called travertine marble, is actually a type of limestone. It is one of the most common building materials in the world and was used in both the Coliseum of ancient Rome and the Willis Tower of Chicago. It is naturally filled with air pockets that create pits and troughs, and is available in this "unfilled" state or "filled," meaning grouted and polished to a glossy, smooth surface. Originally, nearly all travertine was exported from Italy, but these days it comes from Mexico, Peru, Iran, and Turkey as well. Travertine tile occurs in various shades of beige, gray, and even coral. These tiles work well as a patio or garden path surface but also for interior flooring and wall cladding.
Natural tile looks fabulous in a Spanish colonial or mission-style home, but it can do so much more. It pairs beautifully with ultra-modern glass and steel architecture; with French country décor, or with any open, Mediterranean-inspired building. Using tile as a kitchen backsplash or countertop brings warmth and beauty into a home without a major construction project. If you're ready to go further, tile flooring in an entryway or living room is invitingly cool on a hot day.
Terra-cotta tile, alone or accented by colorful ceramic tile, makes a stunning interior or exterior staircase. Ceramic tiles can create a backsplash or border. They come in many colors and designs from classical to whimsical to create a custom look that reflects your personality and style.
Travertine adds a fascinating texture and depth to the surfaces of your home. It can evoke high-gloss modernity, the ravages of time, or anything in between. Travertine's neutral palette can support any color scheme, and it looks as beautiful and timeless against rich textiles as it does bordering your lawn or flower bed.
A rustic-finished Saltillo brings out the beauty of a simply-furnished, unpretentious room, while a super Saltillo in an art deco motif can turn your living room into a sumptuous lounge. The combinations of color, texture, and pattern are truly endless. What's more, variations on the main design used throughout the house can really tie disparate looks together. Don't be afraid to experiment and dream of the possibilities.
Unglazed terra-cotta, ceramic, or limestone tile is a beautiful, functional, energy-efficient, and low-maintenance surface that looks great in several different home styles and complements nearly any decor. Best of all, with these tiles you can create your own personal design touches with patterns, colors, shapes, and textures.