Coloured floor tiles have been around since at least 4000BC when the ancient Egyptians produced them in large numbers. Even before that the Chinese and ancient Greeks and then the Romans produced terracotta tiles. Terracotta tiles have been popular in France for centuries and remain so, and you’ll find them as flooring in homes throughout the country. But France also has a love affair with ceramic floor tiles, something that surprised Andrew Guck, an American who now works as an estate agent in the South of France.
Ceramic floor tiles in France
“Visiting houses as an agent for Leggett Immobiliier in the Aude department, I come across many gorgeous and colorful tiled floors with all sorts of magnificent designs and patterns. Since I had never seen these much before in the U.S., I was a bit curious to learn more about them and when they began using them here in France. I found they were invented around 1850 by a public works contractor named Étienne Larmand in Viviers in the Ardèche region, home to many cement factories at the time. The invention patent was granted in September 1851.”
“Until then, most floors were laid with stone, marble or other materials such as terre cuite (terracotta – cooked earth). These were quite expensive materials and not always the easiest to work with. When the cement tiles were invented, it was a much cheaper alternative and meant that designers could be creative.”
“The tiles are typically produced in a 20x20cm size. They don’t need to be baked, but are produced by a much simpler process involving water, which allows for mass production. The technique includes the use of a hydraulic press and a mold to separate the colors. The cement tiles are then left to dry in the open air after pressing. The major advantage of this new manufacturing process meant tiles which multiple colors could be applied in a single step. It was a ground-breaking leap forward in flooring. Cool in the summer, easy to clean in winter.
What I love about these tiles is the artistic touch they add to a house. Whether you are in a contemporary house or a luxurious old Maison de Maître, you can maintain a refined look while still having your own personal and creative expression. It’s rare that I see the same tile layout twice, so it also allows you to decorate in a unique way. Not all tiles are perfect and some are quite worn, but this just gives them more charm.”
“There is now only one company left producing tiles to this system. David Dalichoux relaunched the cement mosaic tile factory started in 1910 by his great-grandfather. In his workshop in Pézenas, he put the old balancing presses back into operation and brought out the old dividers to manufacture, piece by piece, the tiles that form stone carpets for the floor as well as wall tiles. He is the last manufacturer left in France to make these premier quality tiles following the ancestral processes that have been passed down to him, using natural pigments that resist time, just as his ancestor used to.”
See Andrew’s portfolio of properties, some with stunning tiled floors at: frenchestateagents.com/french-property-for-sale/agent/Andrew_Guck