Style Classic: Encaustic Tiles

The word encaustic derives from the Greek enkaustitos, which translates as ‘burnt in’ and alludes to the manufacturing process (the coloured design on the tile is, quite literally, scorched into the ceramic). It’s worth knowing that true encaustics cannot be made of cement – a common misconception (cement tiles never see the inside of a kiln).

Encaustic tiles are usually associated with clattering Victorian hallways, but they considerably pre-date this. Originally crafted by Cistercian monks, the earliest examples date back to medieval times – indeed, no 13th-century palace, abbey or monastery would have been seen without them. This fashion held sway until the Reformation in the 1500s and the dissolution of the monasteries. A second wave of popularity came with the 18th-century Gothic revival when a booming economy, demand for larger churches and an architectural passion for the Middle Ages set the stage for a comeback. By the 1830s, production processes had moved on and master tile maker, Herbert Minton, originator of many of the designs we see today, had pioneered a process to make multi-coloured versions. By the 1890s, encaustics had become a feature in entrance halls, public rooms and around fireplaces in the mostordinary homes. As with many heritage features, the majority of encaustic floors were covered over in the 20thcentury but once-forgotten fittings are now being rediscovered and restored.

Details: London Mosaicsells period, reproduction and contemporary tiles, plus offers a full restoration service of floors and period fireplaces.

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