What is Zellige tiles

What is Zellige tiles

The mention of Moroccan tiles immediately conjures up some kind of vividly patterned fantasy. This is only partly true. Today, a quieter version of Moroccan tiles with the mysterious oriental name of Zellige is being actively developed in interiors. Despite the vintage flavour, the new tile trend looks very relevant in any stylistic modern spaces.

  1. History of Zellige tiles
  2. How is Zellige tile made?
  3. Advantages of Zellige tiles
  4. Where to use Zellige tiles?
  5. Installation of Zellige tiles

History of Zellige tiles

In Arabic” Zellige “means” tile “in a general sense. The name comes from Persian, which means “blue stone”. Zellige belongs to a large family of traditional Mediterranean ceramics.

Each region uses similar, but specific methods, as they relate to the quality of the clay. Thus, in Morocco and, in particular, in the city of Fez, Zellige developed according to a very specific technique: the tiles are fired and enameled only in 11 x 11 cm format and then cut into different formats and put together.

The technique of making zellige has not changed since the 12th century: firing in a wood kiln and cutting with a hammer by master craftsmen .

The traditional motifs of Arab-Andalusian origin represent a very complex and systematic universe: each little tesserae has a name and a different geometric assembly that forms a sentence . It is a rich and ancient poetic universe whose meaning is still known only by a few Moroccan artisans, in the same spirit as the Berber carpets whose patterns have a forgotten symbol “.

How is Zellige tile made?

Zellige is a unique phenomenon. Traditionally, such tiles not bigger than 3×3 or 6×6 centimeters, i.e., often almost a mosaic, were made of clay by hand. They were painted, fired and covered with multicolored enamel. In Morocco, master tile masters have always been highly valued; they took a long time to learn and their work was worth a lot. Today, of course, the Zellige is most often produced in factories, and the process is automated.

Creating Zellige tiles requires five basic steps :
clay extraction, mixing, forming the biscuit and then drying it in the sun, enameling at 900°C, Then it is hammer-cut to 11 x 11 cm, the edges are beveled to allow edge-to-edge mounting.

There is a related technique: Beimat. It is a 5 x 15 cm enamel or natural matrix (hence the name, matte beige). Without re-cutting, installed with a fine seam of 1 to 2 mm “.

Zellige tiles on kitchen

Advantages of Zellige tiles

Zellige is a precious and attractive material, each tile of which is different because it is shaped by hand. It transports humanity to our purified universes! Each tile benefits from its own nuances through the firing process. In a wood-fired kiln, the arrangement of the tiles inside makes each tile unique.

The Zellige tiles can come in a variety of shapes: square, cross, rhombus, octagonal, hexagonal, and triangular. The traditional Moroccan four-leafers are very popular, but they can be larger in size. Zellij is usually a rich selection of colors, and entire panels and compositions are often assembled from such tiles.

Zellige is mostly installed on the wall, in the kitchen tiling and bathroom and requires little maintenance . It can also be used outdoors and becomes susceptible to frost from -15 ° C. It is a very durable material that has worked well on the walls of palaces such as the Alhambra and on the esplanades of many mosques.

Zellige tiles bathroom

Where to use Zellige tiles

Completely for finishing the walls of the bathroom tiling, bathroom and kitchen Zellige is rarely used, only if the tiles are neutral enough. Otherwise you will get too colorful interior. But as a bright accent Moroccan tiles are indispensable. For example, to dilute the neutrality of kitchen furniture as a bright finish on the apron. Or to highlight the area above the sink in the bathroom, framing the mirror, a colorful panel on the background of the rest, quiet finish, staircase treads, facing the fireplace portal and so on.

On Moroccan tiles you will not find images of people and animals, it is forbidden by Islam. But geometric and floral patterns are very widely represented. They are not always depicted on the tiles themselves, which, again, are traditionally small. More often, the pieces of mosaic are arranged in a complete composition.

Today, to buy a real, handmade Zellige tiles is difficult. Yes, and are worth a lot of such products because of their exclusivity and the long manufacturing process. Therefore, more often than not, lovers of the oriental style buy factory products. With the laying of Zellige there can be problems too, because the creation of a panel or repeating pattern requires a preliminary layout. However, if you buy a Moroccan tile 6×6 centimeters with an already applied pattern or monochrome, then the laying is carried out in the most ordinary way.

By the way, Zellige is also used in landscape design. For example, to create an oriental fountain bowls. Or decorating the curb, allocation and decoration of recreational areas. Such tiles are not afraid to use in the open space.

Zellige tiles on frontyard

Installation of Zellige tiles

A true non-back-to-back grout requires special quartz-filled grout. The color of the grout must match the color of the tile or be a shade darker. The porosity of zellige is so great that it can leach dye from the grout and discolor the edges of the tile itself.

Zellige tiles

Amazing Zellige tile is a great way to let eastern touches into an interior without overly ethnic overload. The shimmering tones and halftones of the tiles make the space unusual and attractive, while at the same time leaving it calm and harmonious.

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