Style & Design

Style Guide: Encaustic & Encaustic-Look Tile

Trend alert: encaustic-look tiles are everywhere these days (they’re even one of our picks for kitchen trends of 2019!). And they’re not just for modern farmhouses anymore. From geometric to floral to old-world inspired, there’s an encaustic tile to fit your style.

What is Encaustic Tile?

This can get tricky, so stay with us! True historic encaustic tiles are made of clay. Today, we see two different types:

  1. Cement encaustic tiles are, of course, made of cement. These are sometimes simply referred to as cement tile or encaustic-look cement today. Cement is similar to stone in that it has to be sealed, and it is very long lasting. Cement tiles are thicker than average and made by hand.
  2. Encaustic-look tiles are made of ceramic or porcelain. These are a great lower cost option to achieve an authentic look that is still very durable.

Now that we cleared that up, let’s talk about how encaustic cement tiles are made.

How Are Encaustic Cement Tiles Made?

Encaustics derive their name from an old enameling process that created similar patterns. Cement encaustic tiles today are made from a combination of marble dust, pigment and cement. Similar to natural stone, each tile is made by hand and takes between three and five minutes to make. What sets encaustics apart from other types of tile is that the pigment is pressed into the surface in a patterned mold instead of just being a thin layer on top. This means the coloration penetrates the surface of the tile, so if it wears down over time, the color will still remain and the pattern will not be impacted. The video below is a great overview of this process.

History of Encaustic Tile

Encaustic tiles have had two large periods of popularity in history. The first was in the 13th century when encaustic clay tiles were referred to as inlaid tiles at the time. In the 19th and 20th centuries, this same style was revived but the products were made out of cement instead of clay because it was cheaper and more durable yet lent itself to the same colorful patterns.

Care and Installation Tips

Inspired to design a work of art with encaustic cement tile? There are a few quirks specific to cement tile installation that are important to know before you begin.

Historically Inspired Designs

Today, encaustic tiles take many forms and come in various materials. Due to their long and rich history, many designs seen today are based on those from the past. Explore some of our favorite historically inspired designs below.

The fresh, crisp colors below liven up this white kitchen.

The hand-painted look of the tile below adds to its authentic, old-world appeal.

Not ready to jump into all-over pattern? A backsplash highlighted with a frame is the perfect accent.

Modern farmhouse style is a popular look that benefits from the rustic appearance of cement encaustic tile.

Historically inspired designs don’t mean a space has to feel old. Fresh colors, a whimsical wallpaper and a contemporary lighting fixture transform this sweet space.

We love a fun shower space! This accent wall from floor to ceiling livens up this spacious shower.

Star design encaustic-look shower wall
Featured: London Mayfair Porcelain. Tile Design by The Tile Whisperer.

This tile design feels like it’s right out of an old European church. We love how Timber Trails Homes picked a shade of blue from the tile to paint the cabinetry, coordinating this mudroom from top to bottom. Sturdy porcelain is perfect for protecting the floor from laundry spills and tracked-in messes.

Think beyond the backsplash and shower. Cement tile takes this fireplace to another level and functions as a stunning focal point in this living room.

“A tiled fireplace is the perfect place to get a lot of bang for your buck in terms of style. A little pattern goes a long way!”—Kirsty Froelich, Tile Shop design manager

Star is one of our most popular tiles and for good reason! It’s versatile enough to pair with rustic wood-look tiles as well as contemporary hexagons while maintaining vintage appeal.

Contemporary Designs

As manufacturing processes evolve, so do designs. Now, the selection of cement encaustic and encaustic-look tiles is even broader than ever and encompasses many contemporary designs. If bold colors and geometric designs are more your style, explore some of our picks below.

This tile is definitely not one you would have found in 18th century Europe, and that’s one of the things we love about it. This thoroughly contemporary tile incorporates a geometric design and bright, bold colors.

A soft, contemporary grey patterned floor tile is the perfect complement to this preppy and traditional space.

We’re fans of a bold look, and this one fits the bill. This dramatic cement tile with its green leaf pattern creates an unforgettable floor.

Black and green leaf motif tile
Featured: Arwen Encaustic Square Pattern Cement

If you want to dip your toe into a cement encaustic without using an all-over pattern, mixing solid-color cement tiles with patterned tiles is a great way to get the best of both worlds.

“A checkerboard, random design or tiled rug are all attractive mix-and-match options for solid and patterned tiles.”—Kirsty Froelich, Tile Shop design manager

There’s something serene and calming about the ocean-blue hues of Blu Widow Hex.

Black-and-white tile is a design staple. Make it uniquely yours with this statement-making diamond pattern.

Combination

Do all encaustic-style tiles neatly fit into one of these two categories? Of course not! Some of the most interesting designs are a blend of old-world and contemporary styles, patterns and colors. Here are some of our favorites.

A black, white and grey color scheme updates a traditional design, blurring the lines between old world and contemporary.

A traditional design in unexpected colors lends a beautiful floral look to this bathroom.

There’s no shortage of interest in this arabesque tile. Soft traditional shapes combine with bold lines and hues to keep design lovers on their toes.

A historically inspired design plus on-trend wood look equal a stunning transitional style.

Ready to get started? Let our selection wow you in person—visit your local store today!

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