Tolentino terrazzo tiles

Timeless Terrazzo

It is widely accepted that what we Brits call Terrazzo originated in Venice in the 16th century. Although the technique can be traced back to Ancient Greece, Venice is the place where the craft developed and flourished. Initially, it was nothing more than crushed terracotta probably recycled from demolished buildings, which was then mixed with lime and known as Pavimento alla Veneziana. Today most Italians would refer to this simply as Veneziana; sometimes also called Seminato, particularly when the fragments within the binder are smaller pieces. This original Terrazzo format is manufactured entirely on-site, created by skilled craftsmen who apply the chips into the mix. A layer of lime cement is poured on top covering everything. After a few weeks of wait, the area is polished to create a stunning finished floor of a single continuous surface, unmarked by joints or gaps.

Terrazzo in Bologna

Bologna Terrazzo

The general look can be seen widely throughout Bologna in the north of Italy, as the pavements and walkways beneath its famed porticos mostly utilise Terrazzo in one form or another, as seen above. For reference, when larger chipped fragments of marble or stone are utilised this is sometimes called Palladiana style, in case you hear that name-checked in relation to this style of floor.

With our love of this Italian design style firmly in mind, we have created real Terrazzo but in tile form by partnering with a small business. Based near Ancona in the east of Italy, the atelier has vast experience having produced the material over generations. Using a method of true recycling, the tiles we offer contain around 50% content using stone, marble and even other Terrazzo to form the collection we named Tolentino, after the local area of production within the valley of Chienti near the coast.

Using a method of true recycling, the tiles we offer contain around 50% recycled content using stone, marble and even other Terrazzo

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For practical reasons tiles that replicate the traditional style of Terrazzo but are produced in porcelain are much admired, and at Claybrook we are big fans of this variety. For hallways, bathrooms or kitchens the dynamic design and wide choice of colourways make it a great go-to when laying out a mood board or samples. This may be because it can add visual interest and decoration without being overwhelming. The subtle random style pattern also allows for some additional colour on the walls, as the two elements can work in tandem and not against each other. Trousdale, seen below, was based on the floors of mid-century homes we saw in California, replicating the more classic style of Terrazzo in a variety of updated shades.

Trousdale porcelain terrazzo tiles

Trousdale porcelain terrazzo tiles

Meanwhile, we can’t get enough of our Chunk series particularly the Big Chip option in the Sand colourway which replicates the aforementioned Palladiana style of flooring, where larger fragments were used alongside smaller ones. This neutral coloured tile works brilliantly for walls or floors, and pairs with any number of other shades.

A style of decoration that, while not being in any way frivolous or fleeting, feels joyous to the eye and lends an element of the unexpected to interiors

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We mischievously named our Chunk collection in order to describe the pieces that make up the pattern, a somewhat literal name but fun. This, in a way, is something that sums up Terrazzo; a style of decoration that while not being in any way frivolous or fleeting, feels joyous to the eye and lends an element of the unexpected to interiors, and for that matter some exteriors.

Colour is a fantastic way to add decoration, as can be seen in this dining room that utilises a mix of our porcelain Cornucopia range in a series of shades. Popular for decades across Europe, encaustic cement tiles meanwhile, are known for their durability as well as their stunning patterns and pigments. With a top layer of fine sand and marble pressed into a Portland cement base, the feel is authentic and distinctive, as the room above right indicates. The base shades of our Kajagoogoo encaustic tile are soft grey, creamy white and blush pink, beautifully interrupted by the speckles of golden yellow, pearly white and straw. When laid the pattern created is lattice-like, with a repeating motif that shows off this Terrazzo cement style to spectacular degree.