Old House Journal - - Design -

“The project re­ally sings be­cause of the Span­ish-style tile, tile, tile,” says ar­chi­tect Ione Stiegler. [See pre­vi­ous story.] “And for that, home­owner Su­san Com­den gets all of the credit. “My firm has many vin­tage cat­a­logs from South­ern Cal­i­for­nia tile­mak­ers,” Stei­gler con­tin­ues, “as well as books on the sub­ject, so we were fa­mil­iar with the tiles Su­san was look­ing to re-cre­ate. But it was her tenac­ity on eBay and at an­tiques stores, find­ing the his­toric tiles, which is truly awe-in­spir­ing.” The Span­ish Colo­nial Re­vival house has some orig­i­nal tile, as well as vin­tage and re­pro­duc­tion tile added dur­ing ren­o­va­tion. “Cal­i­for­nia” tile, of­ten in styl­ized pat­terns in­spired by Is­lamic art, be­came an al­most uni­ver­sal gar­ni­ture of Mediter­ranean and Span­ish Colo­nial Re­vival houses of the pe­riod 1915–1930s. Be­sides His­pano–Moresque de­signs, styl­ized flo­ral and aquatic themes—fish, waves—were pop­u­lar in dec­o­rated tiles. “Su­san and Len’s project is an homage to Cal­i­for­nia’s rich tra­di­tion of tile mak­ing,” says ar­chi­tect Stiegler. Il­lus­tri­ous mak­ers in­cluded Catalina Pot­tery and Mal­ibu Pot­ter­ies, Batchelder tile in Pasadena, Cal­i­for­nia Clay Prod­ucts, and Gladding McBean. Vin­tage tile, when you are able to find it, is usu­ally priced at a pre­mium, es­pe­cially if you find it un­set (still in the box) and in any quan­tity. That was the case in­volv­ing a cache of un­set Trop­ico Tile that Su­san found at an an­tiques store in Pasadena. The tile types avail­able in the 1920s and ’30s have been re­vived. To­day’s of­fer­ings in­clude Span­ish-in­flu­enced Cal­i­for­nia tiles (Mal­ibu and Catalina), tex­tu­ral Batchelder tiles, and hand­painted Talav­era tile. Re­vived tech­niques— cuenca, cuerda seca, tube­line—are still used by small-batch ar­ti­sanal stu­dios as well as larger man­u­fac­tur­ers.

ABOVE Back and front iron gates, prob­a­bly dat­ing to the 1920s, came from a lo­cal an­tiques store. The tile in­serts dec­o­rat­ing the piers are orig­i­nal Trop­ico tiles col­lected by the home­owner, as “un­set” units pur­chased in a box of two dozen. LEFT In the more pub­lic down­stairs bath­room, tile is a stun­ning re­pro­duc­tion of a Mal­ibu Pot­ter­ies (1926–1932) de­sign found in the 1929 Adam­son House in Mal­ibu. OP­PO­SITE In the kitchen, an­tique tiles set into a generic field are Trop­ico (1920–23) tiles found by the home­owner.

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