How to Decorate with Handmade Tile

Arto Brick/flickrHandmade tiles are miniature works of art. Whether you haul a stack of them back from a vacation trip to Mexico or Morocco, fire them yourself, or simply order a supply online, you'll find that like snowflakes, each one is different. Put a grouping of them together and you've got the makings of an incredibly original decor accent for your home. Here is a list of tips for working with, installing, and maintaining stunning handmade tile.

Decorating with Handmade Tile

Kitchen backsplashes are featured in home fashion news of late; what better place to install tile that truly pops? Luxe bathrooms are also trending now, and a handmade tile vanity top would add just the right note. For the living room or den, tile your fireplace surround and/or hearth. Another possibility is utilizing the tile to adorn your stair risers.

If your tiles are fully vitrified (produced by a special process that reduces porosity and water absorption), they may be used as floor art, as well, perhaps in a personal spa-style bathroom or, for the brave, as part of the living room décor. You might even want to create a stunning open-air tile floor for your patio or pool surround, or line the bottom of your water feature; vitrified tile is frost-resistant and may safely be used out of doors.

We've seen handmade tiles used to elegant effect set randomly into a rustic stone garden wall, as well.

Cost to Install

The cost to install tile which has been carefully crafted by hand will naturally be higher than working with a factory made product. Be sure to choose a tile installation that you really love and will enjoy living with for years to come.

If your home decorating budget is limited (and whose isn't, these days?), consider confining your use of handmade tile to a single accent wall or a piece of wall art, perhaps in the foyer to create a fabulous first impression. This will also keep tiles with strong colors and bold patterns from completely overwhelming a room.

About Installation

Allow sufficient lead time for your tile order to be processed, especially if it is a custom job. Be prepared for minor irregularities in size, shape, and thickness from tile to tile. This is characteristic of an artisanal product. Just make sure that your tile contractor is experienced in laying handmade tiles and is prepared for the extra time and patience that the project will require.

To give definition and focus to the artistry of your tile, you might want to have it set in a frame made of a plainer variety of tiles or perhaps wooden molding. It will work best if the surrounding wall is a soft, neutral color, perhaps a muted gray or cream.

Although cement gray grout is traditionally used for handmade tiles, you may want to choose a contrasting grout color to add depth and liveliness. You can mix different shades until you get just the right hue to showcase your handmade tile install.

Tile Maintenance

Sealing your handmade tile will help to preserve its good looks and make it easy to maintain. Reseal occasionally according the manufacturer's instructions. You can purchase a dedicated sealant made for outdoor handmade tile installations.

Floor tiles should be swept regularly to remove grit that might scratch the surface. Never use a snow shovel on an outdoor tile floor, as the sharp edge can cause scratching.

In general, glazed handmade tile may be washed as necessary with hot water, a non-abrasive household cleanser, and a sponge, soft cloth, or mop. Avoid special grout cleaners, which could damage delicate tile.

Laura Firszt writes for

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