Zellige is a handcrafted clay tile that originates from Morocco. Zellige tiles are known for their variations in tone, shine, flatness and depth of the glazing, its surface texture with irregularities as well as its variability in shape and size. If you’re thinking about installing the tile of the moment in your house, there are a few things you should know—from how to tell if it’s the real thing to why it’s not ideal for perfectionists.
Making Zellige Tiles Is Art
Why do these tiles cost more than many other? Making them is laborious work. To make traditional zellige tiles, natural clay (usually from the area of Fez, Morocco) is mixed with water, hand-shaped, dried, and then kiln-fired, often using olive pits. Enamel glazing is then applied to the fronts of the tiles by hand. As with prized goods in other parts of the world (Champagne, Belgian linen), Morocco recently required that true zellige tiles be made from a clay without lime or iron, both of which can damage the tiles, and labeled accordingly.
Because they’re hand-molded, hand-cut, and hand-glazed, no two zellige tiles are exactly the same. Another side effect of zellige’s handmade charm: it’s impossible to get a batch of zellige tiles in the exact same hue. If you’re opting for zellige tiles in your project, know that your backsplash or wall will be more ombre or pointillist than solid-colored. If you like a barer look, you can get natural, unglazed zellige. Just be sure to wet the tiles before installing to prevent a “veil” of cement forming on the tiles and use a grout with few additives. A good way to tell whether your zellige is authentic or not? Look for tiny imperfections or variants among your tiles—a sure sign that, like true zellige, they were made by hand.
a contemporary kitchen with stained cabinets, white stone countertops, white zellige tiles on the backsplash, a black hood
a customized white IKEA kitchen spruced up with neutral tan and beige zellige tiles covering two walls and adding color to the space
a fantastic kitchen with matte black walls, a gorgeous black zellige tile wall, a white kitchen island and black cabinetry
a fantastic navy kitchen with a white cooker and a hood plus fabulous mother of pearl zellige tiles for a soft touch
a gorgeous bathroom with a vintage feel, with neutral zellige tiles, a terrazzo sink, a white stone countertop and brass fixtures
Installing Zellige Tiles
Installing zellige tile is tricky and requires special care. For best results, seek out an expert familiar with the tile—someone who pays close attention to detail. Experts recommend that zellige tiles be installed as close together as possible—with no joint and no tile spacers. Most installations include prepping the area with adhesive cement, placing the tiles, then skim-coating with a thin liquid joint cement or grout and wiping away the excess. The final look appears grout-less: a plus for those who are driven to madness by dirty grout, but a downside for those who like the look.
a gorgeous kitchen with pink zellige tiles, green cabinetry, black appliances and fixtures, a shelf with some art and a potted plant
a grey kitchen with a neutral zellige tile backsplash, a white stone countertop and pendant lamps is chic and lovely
a light-stained kitchen with white stone countertops, a white zellige tile backsplash and stained shelves instead of upper cabinets
a lovely shower space clad with neutral zellige tiles and marble ones, with chic brass features for a touch of vintage in the space
a neutral bathroom with a shower space clad with grey zellige tiles, with a bathtub space done with grey marble is wow
Maintaining Zellige Tiles
To note when considering zellige tiles for an interior project: unlike manufactured, uniform factory tile, the handmade nature of zellige tiles results in imperfect, uneven shapes. Installed on a wall, the tiles appear more fluid or rippled than flat; corners and edges protrude rather than laying flush. This adds charm, but can make the tiles trickier to wipe down—and can also create a prime place for fabrics to snag.
If you are using zellige tiles on the floor (that is allowed only for low-traffic areas), walking on this floor (particularly with shoes on) may damage or scratch the tiles. Then again, it won’t be completely smooth and walking on it without shoes could be uncomfortable. Still, all these disadvantages are nothing when you see the beautiful textural look of these tiles, they are sure to add a unique touch to your space. Take a look at the ideas below and I’m sure that they will convince you to get zellige tiles.
a neutral bathroom with bathing spaces clad with green zellige tiles and the rest of the space done with usual white ones
a neutral farmhouse kitchen with planked cabinets, a dark green planked kitchen island and a yellow zellige tile backsplash
a plain dove grey kitchen with gorgeous mother of pearl zellige tiles covering the whole wall and the hood for more interest
a refined bathroom clad with neutral and pastel zellige tiles in the shower, with a curved space divider and a floating wooden vanity
a refined moody bathroom with graphite grey walls and a vanity, a grey zellige tile backsplash and a marble countertop is wow
a refined stained kitchen with white countertops, a black hood, a blush zellige tile backsplash for a textural touch
a stylish shower space with creative tiles
a sleek all-white kitchen made more eye-catchy with a grey zellige tile backsplash that adds both color and texture to the space
a vintage bathroom with grey zellige tiles, a black floating sink, a curved mirror, brass and gold fixtures and marble tile on the floor
a wabi-wabi kitchen with open cabinetry, a reclaimed wooden beam covering the hood, concrete countertops and a neutral zellige tile backsplash
an attic shower space clad with blush and tan zellige tiles, with suspended potted plants and black fixtures for a modern feel
an elegant neutral bathroom accented with neutral zellige tiles, with a free-standing sink and gold fixtures
an elegant white shower space completely clad with white zellige tiles, with gold fixtures and a small niche for storage
an eye-catchy attic bathroom completely done with green zellige tiles, with a skylight and a window plus black fixtures for a modern feel
an eye-catchy bathroom with a catchy teal zellige tile wall, a stained vanity, a rounded sink and a mirror in an ornated frame
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