European Flooring

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Semi-Reclaimed Jerusalem Limestone at home in a Dutch Gothic Estate, Part 1

If you have ever been to Beverly, MA on the North Shore - you will know it's beauty.  Classic New England on the Atlantic Coast, the homes are nestled among one hundred year-old Pine Trees, and your eyes, wide-open, take in incredible private dwellings as your car meanders through the dips and valleys of this historic and lush ocean-side town.  François and I were cordially invited to one of our clients home in Beverly, to view before and after installation of our Semi-Reclaimed Jerusalem Limestone Flooring in a new kitchen addition.

Upon entering the property from a hidden, long drive - my heart skipped a bit.  I have seen many homes, but this client's home in Beverly evoked in me an emotion that filled my soul.  I didn't understand it then, but after doing a bit of research on this particular architecture, my emotions were not exaggerated.  Dutch Gothic.  Yes, this home is a Dutch Gothic jewel and according to Wikipedia, "The mathematical and geometrical nature of the construction is an image of the orderly universe, in which an underlying rationality and logic can be's characteristics lend themselves to appeal to the emotions."  This style of architecture flourished during the high and late medieval period, where many great cathedrals, abbeys, churches, castles, palaces and private dwellings can be seen throughout Europe.

But we were not in Europe...we were in Beverly, MA.  The juxtaposition of pure Americana intermingled with this elegant European dwelling, circa 1800, was like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.  It was beautiful enough to be among the great Pines, incredible foliage and salt ocean water in the air...but to view this historic fairy tale made me giddy.

Our hosts welcomed us warmly, and with camera in hand - François and I began an incredible tour of this astounding property.
From the infinity pool, the breathtaking landscape and ocean front views, the private beach and rose gardens - it was easy to forget why we were here. Our hosts were warm and charming, their passion for their home, the details they put into it, made this tour an adventure.  Using sea glass from the beach, the creativity of our clients had it placed beautifully among the natural rock surrounding the infinity pool.
The infinity pool overlooking the Atlantic Ocean...I am sorry to say I didn't take a close up shot of the sea glass!
 The passion for their gardens made my daughter believe she was in the land of make-believe - running to and fro, smelling roses to lavender.
The new kitchen addition overlooks beautiful white roses
The fairy tale stone stairwell leading to more ocean front views and lavender gardens.
Lavender growing along  stone stairs leading the eye to one my favorite details, the lovely balustrade mimicking arches in the terrace of this Dutch Gothic gem.
A more expansive view of just one of the many gardens on this property.
This angled view shows the presence of our clients' home as the symmetry of the arches in the balustrade and terrace contrast to the organic nature of the gorgeous stone wall cladding.
One exquisite detail I don't want to miss are the Rose Windows.  My clients, reconfiguring their property like architectural gymnastics, built a sublime entry way into the home by adding on a parallel structure to mimic the original facade.  The two Rose Windows look as if they were built together within the same time period - as part of the original structure.
Two Rose Windows...can you guess which one was the original and the other built into the new addition? An incredible and breathtaking detail.
So here I arrive to the point of my blog...before and after pictures of a new kitchen addition using Pavé Tile's Semi-Reclaimed Jerusalem Limestone Flooring.  I must preface these "before photos" with a comment our clients told to us during a lovely New England dinner on their terrace.  So passionate about their home, so private and warm, our clients have turned down many others who wanted to photograph and be a part of this magnificent estate.  I took that to heart and I am hoping with their eye to the beautiful, these before pictures of their new kitchen addition will soon result into a final blog...the "after photos" in all it's glory.  For François and I arrived before the installation has begun - which I think was yesterday.  We want to thank our clients so much for their time, their sincerity, and trust in us and in Pavé Tile.
The entry to their new addition is astounding - with the glass windows of the mahogany carved door leading your eye through the structure to the ocean views.  Who might you see in the windows?
Our clients chose semi-reclaimed Jerusalem limestone for this addition - a perfect choice in color and texture that plays off the indigenous stones from Beverly, MA. This floor is authentic, of the the highest quality, using the most advanced aging techniques from Israel to achieve a biblical floor in look and feel. Soon this kitchen addition will bask in historic glory intermingling not only continents - from Europe, America and now the country, Israel - but to centuries - from the Dutch 17th century to America 18th-21st centuries to the beginning of civilization in the 4th millennium BCE.  Open your mind, come inside and view the "before shots" that will be even more worth the view when you see the installation complete.
Entry into the kitchen that leads the eye to the ocean front views.
Using Pavé Tile's Old World Crackled Decorative Wall Tile, Pattern Lumiere in Sepia, the muted tone-on-tone colors will contrast beautifully with the rich colors of the Jerusalem Limestone floor.  The Lumiere Pattern was a perfect choice for this estate by the sea, having an almost compass rose feel.
Pavé Tile's Old World Decorative Wall Tile - Pattern: Lumiere, Color: Sepia is hand decorated onto a hand made terra cotta wall tile with a cream crazed glaze.  Inspired through historic contexts, the muted colors offered in either sepia or charcoal, adds subtly and elegance in prized homes.
Original stone cladding will juxtapose beautifully with the Semi-reclaimed Jerusalem Limestone Floor.  Our client will bestow upon the kitchen bar Walnut wood from his property that he has been drying for three years.
Let in light!  Facing South, this kitchen addition has views of the ocean front and sunshine all day long.  After studying the light, our clients determined that the strong summer light stays overhead until October, when one yearns for warm rays to enter into the home.  And this is what the sunshine will do...perfectly.

So, that is it for now.  These before shots weren't too bad, B?  Don't worry...the "after shots" will be EXTRAORDINARY!
Please look for the second part of this blog mid-summer.  Until then...

À La Prochaine,
Emmi Micallef
Pavé Tile & Stone, Inc.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Legacy of Blue and White Delft Tile in Today's Kitchen

Pavé Tile's Cuisine de Monet - 18th Century Tile from Rouen

I love Pattern.  On the wall or on the floor - I find having pattern intermixed with more calming surfaces creates interest, making a too modern ambiance warm or adding authenticity to an historical decor. The kitchen back splash is the perfect surface to add this interest - and the choices of patterned tiles are nearly limitlessness.  Patterned tiles historically found their way to our shores through years of evolution, beginning where civilization began in Mesopotamia circa 600 AD when terra cotta tiles where first used for a building material.  This technique was developing also in China and eventually led to Europe via North Africa from the Moors in Spain, via Italy with their Majolica Tile and during the 16th and 17th Centuries via the Dutch East India Trading Company from China into Holland.

The colors of patterned tiles can be bold or quiet.  I find multicolored patterned tiles beautiful like Majolica tiles from Italy or  Moorish Tiles with Spanish and North African roots.  There are spaces perfect for these bold and multicolored tiles - and many who do them exceedingly well.  As for me at Pavé Tile, we could choose to offer these tiles and maybe one day we will...but for now - our passion resides more in Northern Europe where the influence of Chinese porcelain propelled artisans to recreate the luminescent surfaces of blue and white Chinese vases and plates onto tile.

Blue and White.  How lovely are these colors.  They are clean and quiet - yet warm all at once. Designing with blue and white - designers still have many options to mix in other glorious building materials - like a French Limestone Floor, a classic French Terra Cotta Tile Tomette Floor or a soft Reclaimed French Oak Floor.  Pavé Tile offers all these European flooring options - and once installed, make the Blue and White kitchen sing.

 Pavé Tile's Vieux Monde French Limestone Flooring Collection: St. Etienne, Finish: 14th Century

With the warmth of French Limestone, colors ranging from creams and cafe to golds and dove gray and the texture whether it be smooth and clean or aged with patina, the quietness of the floor will play off of a crisp blue and white kitchen.

Pavé Tile's Vintage Mill 18th Century French Oak Floors in Cognac
If you are looking for more softness and country French authenticity, instead of using French Limestone, install a beautiful Reclaimed French Oak Floor or an aged French Oak Floor like in the photo above.  These soft textures and subtle gray and cognac colors of Pavé Tile's Vintage Mill French Oak Floors in Cognac will reveal incredible beauty when paired with a blue and white kitchen.
Pavé Tile's French Reclaimed Terra Cotta Tile Floors in Classic Provencal Tomette
If you have ever been to Giverny, France, to visit Claude Monet's home, specifically his "cuisine"- you will find yourself immersed in pattern.  Doing patten right is an art form and he did it splendidly - to no one's surprise.  Using 18th Century Tile from Rouen - a classic blue and white geometric pattern on the walls and backsplash, he installed another pattern on the floor - the French terra cotta tile tomette.  The reds of the floor and the patterns of the tomette enhance the cool blue and white geometric patterns on the walls.  Monet did not reinvent the wheel with this kitchen, he just did his research.  Patterned floors and wall tiles decorate homes throughout North Africa, Spain and Italy.  But what he did so well - was to bless it with the "je ne sais quoi" French touch.  In my mind, nothing is more beautiful and more French than a blue and white tile with a French Terra Cotta Tomette Floor.
Monet's Kitchen in Giverny France
So let's talk about these infamous Blue and White Tiles.  Pavé Tile offers two Collections - the 17th Century Delft Tile Collection and the Cuisine de Monet - 18th Century Tiles from Rouen.  Having a passion for narration and draftsmanship - I love Delft Tile.  Delft Tiles tell stories and they are little windows into what life was like in the 17th Century.  Capturing the countryside or ships, the children at play or the tradesmen in villages - the pictorials can be quaint and whimsical. Delft Tile gives a warmth of play to a kitchen while visually adding patterned interest to what was just a bare wall.

My desire to do our own Blue and White Delft Tile versus importing it from Europe was because I love painting.  I wanted to create a Blue and White Delft Tile Collection for Pavé Tile from my own hand.  Another reason, in terms of business, was that we wanted a Delft Tile truly stateside - easy to obtain and at a good price point.  Many Delft Tiles must be imported with incredibly long ETA's and at prices that cannot always allow a client to be generous with her walls.  Although we are still in process of producing our Delft Tile for the Market, I can show you some of my Delft Blue Tile paintings that will be hand decorated onto a hand made earthenware (or terra cotta) tile.  There will be numerous collections including: Blue and White Delft Tile Ships, Blue and White Delft Tile Children at Play, Blue and White Delft Tile Flowers, Blue and White Delft Tile Villageois, Blue and White Delft Tile Bourgeois, Blue and White Delft Tile Sea Creatures, and Blue and White Delft Tile Paysage.  The three photos I am showing below is just samples of what the Blue and White Delft Tile at Pavé Tile will soon be. These are some of the original paintings.
Pavé Tile's Blue Delft Tile Children at Play - Original Painting

At Pavé Tile, we are also going to offer our Delft Tile with or without the Delft Tile oxtails corner motif and with either a Delft Tile smooth surface or a Delft Tile crackled surface into the white double dip glaze.We look forward to finishing this Delft Tile Collection, and soon present to you an antique Delft Tile that will be lovely, stateside, and at a good price point.

The second Delft Tile like Collection Pavé Tile offers is "Cuisine de Monet - 18th Century Tiles from Rouen".  In the 18th Century in Rouen, France, ateliers set-up shop recreating in their own way, the Chinese porcelain that had been entering their country via Holland via the Dutch East India Trading Company.  Instead of concentrating on figures, the French manufactures of Rouen were taken with geometrics.  At the time, Monet lived 45 minutes south of Rouen, in Giverny - and thus the history began between Monet's Kitchen and the famous porcelain-like blue and white tiles from Rouen.  Pavé Tile will offer an array of geometrics for this Delft Tile like Collection - and although the designs originate from the 18th Century, there is a modern aesthetic that exudes from these blue and white geometric tiles.

As I was researching Delft Tile on-line, I found a blog from Attic Mag entitled: Delft Tile Kitchen Style, where she writes, "I keep expecting to read that it’s passé. Instead, iconic cobalt blue-and-white Dutch tiles continue to be chosen for kitchens whether the ceramics are made in Morocco, Texas, France or The Netherlands. While the look screams ‘traditional’ it always feels fresh. Plus, there are so many variations in the motifs – including genre figures, animals, florals, abstracts, geometrics, landscapes, Chinoiserie – it works with a majority of architectural and cabinet styles."

In another article from Big Bossy Color BlogAnnie Elliott has written an article following the South Beach Mondrian Hotel entitled: The South Beach Mondrian Hotel - the Dutch Thing. She writes," Marcel Wanders design for the Mondrian hotel in South Beach...apart from the fact that designing a hotel like a Mondrian painting would be well, kind of dreadful, the designer gives us the Dutch connection – and a wink and a nod – in another way. Mr. Wanders, from the Netherlands, pays homage to the artist Piet Mondrian, ALSO from the Netherlands, not through primary colors and right angles, but by exploding a quintessential Dutch design element: delft tile."

Inside the Mondrain Hotel, each room has it's own kitchen exploding with Delft Tile
In her caption under this photo, Annie says, "I don’t know whether Delft tiles originally were installed in such quantity, but putting this many next to the super-sleek white counter and cabinets looks fabulously modern, doesn’t it?"

Yes...thank you, Annie for seeing that!  Delft Tile is meant to be used in continuous pattern and can rival the sleekest subway tile of modern decor - for it's the whimsy and warmth that contrasts splendidly with the cool lines of contemporary aesthetic. There in lies the point of my blog - Delft Tile has a legacy - a continued legacy that feels at home in historic and modern decor.

To finish my blog, I will show you some final photos of various Delft Tile Kitchens I found along the way.
Quiet, contemporary kitchen becomes more warm and inviting with it's Delft Tile Backspalsh.

A Classic Americana White Kitchen, bianco carrara marble counterops, French oak flooring and Delft Tile back splash - so lovely.

La Cornue Range pops surrounded by the Blue Delft Tile backsplash.
However, I cannot finish this blog without showing you two kitchens that do French Reclaimed Terra Cotta Tile Tomette Flooring in the most breathtaking way.  In one photo, you will see a more warm rustic decor while the other is a fabulous mix of vintage and contemporary decor.  The creativity from designers today take my breath away.  We are a melting pot of cultures and time periods and these designers know how to take the best of so many styles to make it unique, imaginative, warm and beautiful. 
 A gorgeous French Reclaimed Terra Cotta Tile Tomette Floor with a patterned back splash motif - the legacy of Claude Monet?  And the reclaimed French terra cotta parefeuille on the ceiling - fantastic.  Texture and pattern done so right.

Mixing French Reclaimed Terra Cotta Tomette Tile with a sleek black and white contemporary aesthetic

Delft Tile has a legacy and Pavé Tile hopes to extend the historical significance and beauty of these Blue and White Tiles for more generations to come. Blue and white paintings on a hand made European terra cotta tile, our Delft Tile Collections will be lovely, stateside and at a good price point.  

À la Prochaine,

Emmi Micallef

Pavé Tile & Stone, Inc.



Wednesday, June 22, 2011


We understand at Pavé Tile how necessary it is to see and touch product for one's home.  Being on the web serves a great purpose, but now our clients will have a destination site.  Located in the heart of the Pioneer Valley, we are located in a quintessential New England town, surrounded by culture, art, universities and fine dining.  Just 45 minutes away from Tanglewood in the Berkshires, Pavé Tile is a destination to come see and touch French Terra Cotta Tile Flooring, Reclaimed French Terra Cotta Tile Flooring, Decorative Italian and French Terra Cotta Tile Flooring, Reclaimed Dalle de Bourgogne Flooring, Antique French Limestone Floors, Reclaimed French Oak Flooring including French Oak Wide-Plank Floors, Reclaimed French Oak Parquet Floors, French Limestone Flooring and Jerusalem Limestone Flooring.

Our showroom, just 3 hours from NYC and 90 minutes from Boston, is located in an historic mill from the 18th Century, southern exposure and filled with light to see the patina of our European Flooring.  We are in the renovation process, so please check back to view how our Pavé Tile Showroom is progressing!

À la prochaine,
Emmi Micallef

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Distressed, Aged and Gorgeous French Oak Floors

Pavé Tile's 18th Century Vintage Mill Wide Plank French Oak Floors in Ebene.
Distressed, aged and gorgeous...why when it comes to authentic old world European building materials - the dichotomy of distressed, aged AND gorgeous becomes a litany of adjectives we like to see in one sentence?  Gorgeous would be the word for our Vintage Mill 18th Century French Oak Floors - aged and distressed...pre-stained as well...these floors are such easy installs for the home builder.  No sanding on site, distressing or staining - it's a home owners dream floor because the color and textures are present as soon as the material arrives on site.  We had a recent photo shoot for our French Oak Flooring...enjoy the close up shots.  Notice the French grain, so elegant...and the knots adding character.  But most of all, notice just how old these floors look.  There is so much wood in America...but Pavé Tile's 18th Century Vintage Mill French Oak Floors are achieved by incredibly skilled European artisans - some of the best wood craftsmen in Europe. See for yourself from the recent photo shoot!

Pavé Tile's 18th Century Vintage Mill Wide Plank French Oak Floors in Cognac
Pavé Tile's 18th Century French Oak Floors come in Wide Plank French Oak Flooring, Traditional Sized French Oak Floors, Engineered French Oak Flooring. Reclaimed Engineered French Oak Floors, and Parquet French Oak Floors.
Pavé Tile's 18th Century Vintage Mill French Oak Floors in Gris.
When choosing a wood floor, the installation is as important as the floor of choice.  With Pavé Tile's French Oak Floors - installers will not have to sand, age or stain these French Oak Planks.  Aged, distressed and pre-stained one of five old world European colors, these gorgeous and aged French Oak planks, whether wide plank French Oak floors, traditional sized French Oak Floors or Engineered Reclaimed French Oak Floors, you as a home owner will be amazed at the ease of installation and the beauty of 18th Century French ambiance that fills your home. 
Pavé Tile's 18th Century Vintage Mill French Oak Floors in Natural Oak.

Comparing other companies with similar flooring, please ask some of our competitors just how the installation process proceeds.  Buying wood from Europe does not mean it's French oak...and having to hire their installer to sand, age and stain the wood in your home does not mean you are going to receive the floors that they so beautifully promote in their exquisite photos.  Then add up the cost...their wood untreated, uninstalled plus the hours of labor to then install the wood to make it look old...and you soon get the idea.  Pavé Tile works and has very close tiles with one of the best French Oak Wood suppliers and artisans in France.  It's all about the relationships - honest relationships that allow us to offer what we show.  We remain honest to our product and honest in our relationships.
Pavé Tile's 18th Century Vintage Mill Wide Plank French Oak Floors Old Bourbon.

Pavé Tile's 18th Century Vintage Mill French Oak Wide Plank Floors in Chocolate.  
We welcome you to come see and touch our French Oak Floors in Pavé Tile's new showroom opening soon.  By appointment only, we can give you our expert advice on installation and European design aesthetics when planning your home.  Located in an 18th Century Mill in Florence, MA - we are apart of the Pioneer Valley, 45 minutes from Tanglewood in the Berkshires, 3 hours from NYC and 90 minutes from Boston.

Finally, value is not to be forgotten in this equation.  Price out your floor with our French Oak Flooring, compare our competitors...and you will be pleasantly surprised.

À la prochaine,
Emmi Micallef
Pavé Tile & Stone, Inc.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Extraordinary Flooring - French Limestone as a Home Building Material

Vieux Monde or old world - at Pavé Tile, we love all that is old, a soft patina that conjures up past stories of lives lived long ago. Romance, heart ache, peace and war - it is the human condition that across time - we are still all the same. This human connection is perhaps one reason we seek out authentic materials to place in our homes. French Limestone is one of these authentic materials. Used for over 2000 years in France, this regal and durable stone has felt the hands of the Roman Empire in the South of France - who used French Limestone in building their arenas, theaters, and coliseums. During the Middle Ages - from the 10th to 12th centuries - French builders used their limestone to build Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. And during the French Renaissance - from the 15th to 17th centuries - French Limestone was the foundation for the Chateaux in the Loire Valley such as the Palais de Versailles. Working with one of the best French Limestone quarries in France, using the latest technology and most advanced techniques, they age, patina, chisel, brush or hone this historic stone. The colors of French Limestone, as seen all over France, are soft grays, creams, whites and golds.

Unlike Jerusalem Limestone that has many more natural color choices and textures, French Limestone is more subtle in it's color palette.  This is why the importance of French Limestone lies in skilled manufacturing techniques that, can not only quarry the highest quality of French Limestone, but to then age it in a variety of surfaces.  These finishes make a difference in bringing out the nuances of French Limestone. My blog today is about these French Limestone finishes - and how each surface can change the ambiance of one's home.

Of course, one must begin with quality French Limestone.  Just like in cooking, even the most skilled chef cannot succeed if she is using a rotten tomato!  At Pavé Tile, the quality of our French Limestone is unsurpassed.  Generations deep, the factory with whom we work in France is meticulous in their quarry techniques and simply rejects the limestone that does not pass the strictest quality tests for home flooring surfaces.

Assured of the French Limestone's quality, the only way now to achieve an exquisite array of French Limestone surfaces is through advanced technology, education and skill.  At Pavé Tile, we can offer these exquisite surfaces due to just that - the ability of our French manufacturer's skill and level of education - up-to-date on the latest manufacturing techniques - to provide, ironically, the best in old world French Limestone surfaces.

Upon first glance, Pavé Tile's Collection of Antique French Limestone certainly resembles each other.  However, have you seen Valentino's 2011 Haute Couture Spring Collection?  A dress is a dress, but the array of  dresses he creates using champagne organza silk is breathtaking.  Valentino dresses and French Limestone?  I do have a point.  If one does not have an eye for detail and quality, those Valentino dresses might appear...could I possibly say this?  boring???  Never.  Not to my eye anyway.  And this is the same idea with Pavé Tile's French Limestone Collection.  The surfaces are simply extraordinary.

I have finally arrived to the section in my blog where I can show the different and exquisite surface textures of Pavé Tile's Antique French Limestone.

Pavé Tile's Vieux Monde Antique French Limestone Flooring Collection:
This first photo is from our French Limestone Collection St. Etienne Series. The colors are soft gray, cream, wheat and gold - a perfect blend of  warm and cool colors lending itself to either a modern or vintage decor.  This finish is called "14th century".   Reminiscent of the stone and finish of the 14th century that defines the beautiful yet fortressed chateaux for protection against invading armies, it is a chiseled yet smooth patina - a handsome and masculine floor. There are many sizes available, but as seen in this photo are widths 8", 12" 16" by random length. Thickness is 3/4". 
The next Collection in our French Limestone Series is called Vendôme.  Here the colors are soft wheat, cream and gold.  Less color variation with warmer tones, this is a French Limestone floor perfect to offset cooler elements in a home. "Renaissance" is the finish. This is reminiscent of the stone during the Renaissance when France was a flourish in art and culture. It has a smooth patina texture with soft, undulating edge - it is  rustic elegance.  The sizes as seen in this photo are  8" x 8", 8" x 16", 16" x 16", 16" x 24" which is the classic Versailles Pattern. The thickness is 3/4". 
The third French Limestone in our Collection is called Orléans.  The colors are cream to creamy white, beige with hints of soft gray.  This French Limestone floor coloring is perfect for that contemporary decor. The exquisite finish is called "Chambord".  With a silky, creamy texture, fine edging and light chisel, this stone is reminiscent of Chambord's stairwells, that glorious château built by François 1er in the 16th century, an ultra elegant old world floor.  The sizes as seen in this photo are 8"x 8", 8" x 16", 16" x 16", 16" x 24", again that classic Versailles Pattern and it's thickness is 3/4". 
 If the colors look similar to one of the photos above - you are right.  This is again the French Limestone St. Etienne Collection with the soft gray, cream, wheat and gold colors, but the finish is different.  This lovely surface texture of this French Limestone is called "Château 15th Century". This texture is highly chiseled yet soft to the touch. It is  regal in appearance and authentically old world France. The sizes as seen in this photo are 8" x 8", 8" x 16", 16" x 16", 16" x 24", again the classic Versailles Pattern and the thickness is 3/4". 
Here we are revisiting French Limestone "Collection Orléans" again with colors ranging from cream to creamy white, beige and hints of soft gray. This time, with the "Renaissance Finish", the Collection Orleans takes on a rustic elegance as seen in countryside Manor homes from the 16th century in the Loire Valley. The size in this photo is the 16" x 16" octagon with 3" x 3" Nero cabochon. The thickness is 3/4". 
Creativity and beauty are seen with this classic French Limestone in "Collection Vendôme".  The colors are in the warm tones of soft wheat, cream and gold.   As for the finish, it's the "Château 15th Century", highly chiseled yet so soft to the touch. The floor is regal and authentically old world France.  This image shows the lovely 8" x 8" octagon with 2 1/2" cabochon. Thickness is 3/4". 
And finally, here we are again viewing the French Limestone Collection Vendôme with it's lovely soft wheat, cream and gold colors.  However, this French Limestone Collection has the surface texture called "Roman".  Like walking along a Roman path in Nimes, this stone has the deepest patina, revealing silhouettes of shells and pebbles engrained into the buttery surface.  It has a fine edging for an extremely tight grout line installation and designers and architects love this French Limestone floor for it's old world sophistication . The sizes as seen in the photo are 16" width by random size length and the thickness is 3/4".

It's extraordinary how education can open one's eyes to details that one may have never noticed before.  Taking a class in classical music - one's ear would become fine-tuned to hearing the difference between a viola and a violin.  It's these fine details that make life more interesting, in my opinion.  I hope this blog on French Limestone surface textures will open your mind to seeing the details and variety one can achieve in using quality French Limestone and skillful techniques.  I always believe contrast, like in nature, makes the most beautiful spatial elements.  And this time, this contrast - or really the dichotomy of 21st technology with quarried French Limestone formed a millennia ago, makes extraordinary flooring.

À la prochaine!
Emmi Micallef
Pavé Tile & Stone, Inc.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Why European Terra Cotta Tile Flooring for the Home

I will never forgot doing a trade show maybe 10 years ago, when a  majority of attendees were asking me if our French terra cotta tile flooring was a stone product. Suffice it to say, that trade show was not a huge success.  Flash forward to today, I am happy to report that I rarely hear the phrase, "what kind of building material is that?"  Many consumers today know of terra cotta tile flooring - but Pavé knows only half the battle is won.  Where in Europe, terra cotta tile is as prevalent as wood floors are in America, a European who installs terra cotta tile flooring knows they will receive an incredibly durable, practical and beautiful floor.  The majority of terra cotta tile sold in Europe is by far a superior terra cotta tile than those that are fabricated in other countries around the globe for there is a correct and incorrect way of making hand made terra cotta tile.  I imagine if Europeans had to install the inferior terra cotta tiles, terra cotta tile flooring would have a shady reputation as well.  No one wants a floor only to shale, crack, pop and crumble within a 5 year period.  Europeans knows that once installed - their tile floor will last generations to come.

There are factories in other parts of the world who are just sloppy, not caring about their work.  They don't sift and knead the clay properly, they don't place their tiles in precise hand-wooden molds to get a consistent size and thickness of each tile, the air-drying time is reduced and they don't wood-fire at extremely hot temperatures for at least a 3 day period to receive a less-porous and more durable terra cotta tile.

For many of our customers, they come to us for French Reclaimed Terra Cotta Tile Flooring.  They choose this product for their beauty, durability and sense of history.  But do they know why they can chose this product in the first place?  This product is salvaged from Chateaux and Farmhouses around France because over 100 years later, it can be.  The process 100 years ago of making European terra cotta tile flooring is the same process today - and French Reclaimed Terra Cotta Tile Flooring is the proof that there lies an incredible technical durability to this building material.

Pavé Tile's French Reclaimed Terra Cotta Tile Flooring - Parefeuille Mirambeau

However, as many clients know, there are caveats when installing a French Reclaimed Terra Cotta Tile Floor.  The truth, is that the product is more difficult to find.  The popularity of the product makes finding larger square footage more challenging and often one must mix lots to receive the quantity needed.  Mixing lots will add to the variation of thickness, size and color.  One can expect a range of 1" - 1 1/4" in thickness requiring a mud-set installation and a larger grout line to achieve a flat floor.  The texture can be rougher and at times, extreme color variation,  BUT....this is also the beauty of French Reclaimed Terra Cotta Tile.  Add to that the  artisan, over 100 years ago, hand-molded each tile - a tile that you live with now everyday - there is a kinsmanship that binds us through time, and we do love that.

For many clients who come to us for French Reclaimed Terra Cotta Tile, they are adverse to anything but that, due to the shady reputation that terra cotta tiles have earned in America.  However, clients are becoming more savvy and just like cars, homes and perfume - quality can vary greatly.  With proper education, clients are realizing that Pave Tile's European Terra Cotta Tile Collections are just not to be compared to the sloppier versions of the product.  It's like get the idea.

For over 11 years at Pavé Tile, we have only been using European Terra Cotta Tile for all our own collections.  It's our canvas upon which we produce incredibly old-looking terra cotta tile with decoratives that are subtle and elegant.  We romance the product and have discovered secrets to achieve a patina that looks even better than it's reclaimed brother.
Pavé Tile's Montmartre French Encaustic Terra Cotta Tile Flooring

Pavé Tile's St. Tropez French Terra Cotta Tile Flooring

Pavé Tile's Villa Raffinato Italian Terra Cotta Tile Flooring

 For many, terra cotta is a word they have heard, but not truly understood.  According to Wikipedia, "Terracotta, Terra cotta or Terra-cotta is baked earth. It is clay deposits from the ground that exist around the globe in numerous countries. Throughout centuries, cultures have used clay as a primary means of expressing their culture in terms of sculpture and art as well as for building construction. From vessels and water pipes to surface embellishments - such as a portico over a door or covering the surface of a floor.  Covering the surface of a floor in terra cotta tile - or baked earth - has been in existence since the beginning of civilization. In Mesopotamia 2800 B.C., terra cotta bricks and tiles were made for defensive city walls, floor coverings and wall decoration of important shrines. Some archaeologists believe that the invention of firing clay into tiles and other art forms came simultaneously from the Chinese and the Sumerians from Mesopotamia."

Phew!  A little history first to underline how incredible terra cotta tile is for a building product.  Like our beloved trinity of French terra cotta, French Limestone and French Oak - one cannot be installing more green of a product than from our perfect French triad of natural building materials.

The last part of my blog are photos from one of the French factories that make our terra cotta tile and the process of making superior terra cotta clay tiles.

It must begin with the clay.  This lovely lump of clay looks like churned butter for the artisans have properly sifted it from impurities and kneaded it to release air pockets making the clay buttery smooth and malleable.  This is the first finished step before it's placed in hand-made wooden molds.

Hard work, the artisan knows just how much clay to place in each mold and for how long to manipulate the product to get a precise thickness once the tile is fired.

Various textures can also be achieved at this stage of the process.  From smooth to rough - depending on the techniques that the artisan employes.

A seasoned terra cotta tile artisan, this gentleman and his family has been making terra cotta tiles for over 2 generations.
The tiles are left to first dry in their wooden molds.  From there, they are placed on the ground for another 4-6 days to continue the drying process - and then vertically to finalize the drying process.  Important steps not to be missed to achieve a quality terra cotta tile.

The 3rd and last step of the drying process where the greenware clay tiles are stacked vertically to dry.

Finally, the terra cotta tiles are ready to be fired.  There a various ways to fire terra cotta tile, and within our factories, the artisans use wood.  Wood has so many benefits artistically and technically.  A hot wood fire - for a period of 3 consecutive days - makes the tiles more durable and less porous. In wood-burning kilns, the temperature of 1800 degrees Fahrenheit is achieved using a mixture of olive pits and their branches. The fire has to be continually stoked and artisans will sleep over night and take turns in shifts at the factory to keep a watchful eye on the temperature of the wood. Artistically, due to the wood firing, the temperature will vary in degrees and depending on where each tile is placed in the kilns, the final colors will vary from rose and red to ocher and moss.  
The photo above is one of the cavernous wood-burning kilns used at this factory to produce our terra cotta tiles.
The natural color of the clay is sublime and Pavé will introduce two new collections soon that will highlight this beauty.  Europeans understand the beauty of the natural color of terra cotta tile - and know their terra cotta tile floor will darken and patina over the years as they wear their floor.  However, many Americans want the "patina in a bottle" - and that's why Pavé Tile has been working for over 11 years to achieve terra cotta tile flooring that once installed, already looks 100 years old.

I need to end this blog with a final thought - "Wear your terra cotta tile well".  Pavé Tile's European terra cotta tile flooring is not "a bull in a china shop" situation.  This is one the best work-horses of building materials you could install in your home.  Life is messy and fortunately it's the mess that makes a terra cotta tile floor even better.  The texture will become more leather-like, the colors will deepen and any surface knicks or stains will become a part of the floor.

In that idyllic French farmhouse where they reclaimed terra cotta tiles, the living conditions were - well  - not like ours today.  Chickens and pigs in and out of the house, mud from the fields, wine spilled from too many family gatherings - and your are worried about your kids?????  Living of course with our own product installed in our home, I have watched through the years as my floor has darkened.  Installed in the front entry as well - in New England - years of mud, slush and snow have just made my floor even richer.  It cleans up so well - stains that I thought I saw are just now characteristics of my floor.  I love that floor.

À la prochaine!
Emmi Micallef
Pavé Tile & Stone, Inc.