At age 10, Marcos Cajina used his mother’s sewing machine and an old pair of jeans to create a Kung Fu-style backpack and set off to explore his native Nicaragua. He had heard about the country’s giant lake with tiny islets and wanted to explore them for himself. During his adventures, he first spotted the spectacular historic tile floors found throughout Nicaragua. Today, as founder and president of Granada Tile, Marcos uses those same qualities of creativity, daring and passion to craft cement tiles using a 150-year old process that originated in Europe and came to Central America through trade routes.

Marcos and his wife and partner Melanie Stephens rediscovered these sensational cement tiles on a visit to Granada, Nicaragua. This stunning colonial city is bursting with historic cement tiles from early 1900s. Despite their age, they are in great shape and take center stage in every setting.

Marcos started Granada Tile in 2001 when he built a hydraulic press in his basement while living in Los Angeles and working in the non-profit sector. He spent several months learning how to replicate the tiles by experimenting with a variety of methods and materials. Soon, the ever-adventurous Marcos set off to France with his wife and partner Melanie Stephens to further research the origins of the tiles. They visited public buildings and old estates to see the works of art in person and also dug through specialty libraries to find texts about the origins of the cement tile production process. In 2004, Marcos set up production in Nicaragua with his nephew and general manager Ronald Mejia Cajina and hired skilled master craftsmen to create the Echo Collection.

Beautiful and environmentally responsible, Granada Tiles have become increasingly popular throughout the United States and are installed in numerous fine homes, hotels, commercial venues and public buildings. You may have seen them at Chef Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Beverly Hills or at 1534, a hip bar underneath Jacques restaurant in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood. "Not only are these handmade cement tiles strong, durable and scratch and stain resistant, they have a vintage beauty that can be very versatile," says Marcos. "The tiles’ bold patterns and dynamic colors can look just as beautiful in a historic mansion as in a new loft."

From their home base in Los Angeles, Marcos and Melanie work directly with Granada’s many architect and designer clients to help capture their creative vision though decorative tile. Constant innovators, they travel to Nicaragua frequently, continuing to draw from the land’s natural beauty and diversity for new styles, designs and methods.

To compliment the Echo Collection, Granada Tile has added two new lines: the Andalucia Collection features thin, hand poured cement tiles like glazed ceramic only stronger and more organic; and the Minis Collection introduces small sized, big impact cement tiles inspired by Moroccan zellige shapes that are perfect for a variety of design applications.