Encaustic Tile 101 client has asked you about incorporating cement tile into the design project you’re working on, and you’re wondering if cement is a durable and cost effective option. Your design solution is to seek encaustic tile. Encaustic tile is typically ceramic (although some cement options are available and typically used in tropical climates where freezing and thawing aren’t a concern). Be sure to discuss the composition of the encaustic tile with your supplier so that you are clear on what you are specifying to ensure it is appropriate for your design.

Encaustic tile in comprised of two or more colors of clay inlaid together to create a pattern. The decorative elements are pressed into a metal mold (watch video). The mold is removed and then the background clay is used to fill the remaining tile body. Thus the pattern is inlaid in the body of the tile and the design will remain crisp even as the tile is worn through use. Most often the tile is unglazed, however, glazed options are available in the marketplace. type of tile first enjoyed popularity as a handmade product in Great Britain from the 13th century through the Reformation years. Like much of our art, fine furnishings and lighting, these tiles would most often have been found in churches, castles and the establishments of only the most wealthy. Encaustic tile enjoyed a resurgence during the Gothic revival as craftsmen developed the means to mass-produce these tiles. But even at that time, they were not typically found in homes.

The most popular designs are available in neutral palettes of blacks, greys and ivories, which can be mixed and matched and, as a designer you can play for hours with these patterns. The tiles are available in a few sizes depending on the manufacturer and often coordinating border pieces are available. The patterns themselves, are both large and bold and intricate and detailed. Choices may convey extremely modern and geometric, playful retro, Victorian, Moroccan, Spanish Colonial, Nordic as well as a host of other “global” influences. Encaustic tile available in a wide range of colors (as many as six per tile). They make a striking statement when installed on a large surface such as a floor.

Consider these options also:
• as an inset in the floor, framed with other material
• On a fireplace chimney
• As a kitchen backsplash
• As an accent in a shower
• Staircase treads or risers
• Outdoor patio
• On a wall framed as “art”

There are many tile suppliers throughout the valley so contact one of your favorites today and ask them about their encaustic tile.

IMG_1655Robin Phillips is a South East Valley designer whose favorite design element is “juxtaposition.”  Yes, she is aware that this is not an actual design element, however, she grew up in a 200 year old house in the 60’s and 70’s and mixing styles was a necessity. Robin loves to take something that no longer works and reshape, restore, and rejuvenate it so that it becomes a family favorite. She is the 2015 Vice President of Membership for IFDA, so look for her at upcoming events featured on Designer’s Circle. She’s always happy to meet new people and will introduce you to other members of the design community. Robin can be emailed at

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