Living History: The Antique Cement Floor Tiles of France


By now, regular readers will know the story of Granada Tile‘s founding—how Marcos Cajina first spied the brilliant cement tiles of Nicaragua as a 10 year old and then as an adult, with his wife, Melanie Stephens, rediscovered them, which led he him to experiment with concrete tile production with  a hydraulic press in his Los Angeles basement. But did you know that France figures into our story as well? As they began researching cement tile,  Marcos and Melanie traveled the country—considered by most to be the birthplace of concrete tile—seeing original tile installations up close and poring through antique texts in libraries to learn even more about tile design and the tile production process. From their travels in Latin America and Europe, the Echo Collection of cement tile was born. Over the course of their trips to France, Melanie and Marcos have amassed a trove of tile pictures that point to the beauty and durability of cement tiles. As a special treat, we’re showing you some of those tile photos today. Dating primarily from the turn of the last century, the cement tile designs are whimsical and fun—and have maintained their good looks for going on a century. First up on our tour of French cement floor tiles is the Paris restaurant Au Petit Margueryin the 13th Arrondissement.

The concrete tiles date from around 1900 and cover pretty much the entire floor of the restaurant—even into the kitchen as kitchen tiles, where they still look fresh and vibrant, considering the decades of spills and drops they’ve had to withstand. The tile design itself is a complicated pattern in a mix of blues, yellows and earthy reds. If you’re a dedicated tile-spotter such as Melanie and Marcos, you’re always looking no matter where you are. They spied a lovely tile floor with an Art Nouveau feel from behind a door.

The elegant tile carpet features a graceful tile design in shades of blue and gray. Needless to say, Melanie and Marcos were disappointed that they couldn’t get a closer look. Paris, of course, doesn’t have a monopoly on fabulous tile installations. One of the most exciting ones that Melanie and Marcos have seen happened to be in Chartres.

It’s a truly spectacular assemblage of wall tiles, with three distinct tile designs running in courses up the side of the building. There’s even an amazing three-dimensional effect provided by smaller tile bosses set against the background of larger tiles. For more tile pictures taken on our trips to France, be sure to check out our historic tile pages. If you’ve traveled to France and have taken your own tile photos, don’t forget to share them with us! Check back next week when we’ll show you how to get the look of France in your next tile installation.


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