History of monochrome tile patterns in Australia


Verandahs & Pathways: Traditionally, when tiling, these are the areas that make a statement - that have a wow factor. The 'canvas' that you are working on is much bigger, therefore the patterns can afford to be bold, with a "look at me" quality. These are more open spaces, surrounded by lawn, colourful flowers & shrubs and not much else. Choosing a pattern in neutrals - black & white, has the effect of making the colours of the garden pop and look more vibrant.

Things to consider: Tiles need to be hard-wearing & safe, i.e. scratch resistant & slip resistant. They should also be easy to clean and maintain. Paths and verandahs that are predominantly light (white) or dark (black) are far more likely to reveal dirty marks, whereas patterns that are more or less equal parts black & white will tend to make the dirt marks less conspicuous. 

The strength of Australia's sunlight is an important design consideration. Colours appear more clean and vivid in our sunlight because of the higher levels of ultraviolet and our (relatively) clean air. Also, dark tiles absorb the blistering heat of a summer's day and retain that heat longer. Very light or white tiles can throw off a lot of glare becoming unpleasant to look at and dangerous when descending stairs. Therefore, a floor that has a balanced amount of light and dark tones is advisable. 

Appropriate designs: The Bath (checkerboard) is a classic pattern that is particularly well suited to Neo-Georgian/Regency & most Victorian architecture, especially Italianate. Available in 100x100mm, 150x150mm, 200x200mm. Centennial Park & Darlinghurst are also suited to these types of architecture, as well as late Victorian and certain sorts of Edwardian/Federation houses. Federation homes on a more modest scale are better served by simpler patterns like the Marais, Flowers 2, and the Killara, although this works best on the verandah mores than the path, unless the path is relatively short. The Killara is also ideal for Californian Bungalows. Similar in spirit to the Killara is the Houston, with it's simple but energetic pattern and 'Jazz Age' feel. It is ideal for homes with an Art Deco or Retro feel.

Entrances & Hallways: The design intention here is consistent with that for the verandah, but there is a need to co-ordinate the floor pattern with the architectural (doorways, staircases) as well as decorative (artwork, furniture) elements of the interior. Once through the front door, the home owner has the opportunity to foreground their personality and sense of style in the way they treat the various ingredients, especially the floor. While just as important as the verandah in terms of 'making a statement', and also requiring safe and hard-wearing tiles, some of the factors that shape decisions about external tiles do not apply, e.g. glare from the sun, heat absorption, atmospheric contamination - leaves from trees being just one.

Whether a traditional house or a mid-century modern apartment, the key to balancing all these competing aesthetic demands is to 'keep it simple'. Remember, simple is not the opposite of bold; simple is the opposite of complicated, and dull is the opposite of bold. 

Things to consider: You want a floor that will go with a variety of colours and styles of furniture, therefore choosing a monochromatic palette of 'black & white', and sticking with classic designs that have stood the test of time, will ensure a high level of success on all points. When choosing one of these patterns consideration should be given to the shape and size of the room, and the scale of the pattern being employed. It is highly advisable that patterns be laid on the diagonal (Bath, Stanmore Centennial Park & Darlinghurst). Not only does the diagonal line make the room look wider, but it draws the eye forward into the room thereby creating a more inviting and dynamic space.

Appropriate designs: Bath; Olde English pattern (octagon & dot) - available in 100x100mm, 150x150mm, 200x200mm; Stanmore - various sizes; Flowers #2 in 100 & 150mm hex; Centennial Park & Darlinghurst. 

Bathrooms & En-Suites: One of the things that distinguishes the bathroom/en-suite from say, the living, dining or bedroom, is that in this room the tiles do almost everything. There are no rugs, curtains, paintings or bright, seasonal coloured cushions to establish the style or create a mood. Apart from a vanity, a toilet, and maybe a bath, virtually the entire aesthetic tone is determined by the tiles, so the need to get it right the first time is absolute. 

These days, with the design of the bathroom frequently being of prime consideration when buying or selling a house/apartment, that need is even more important. The talk is about being "on trend", however fashions change rapidly, and the more in fashion you are today, the more out of fashion you will be tomorrow. Therefore, avoid the fashion merry-go-round altogether and stick with the classics. They're called classics for good reason - they never date; they are outside time and above fashion. Classics always look good, they always look stylish, and they go with just about everything.

Things to consider: First and foremost, when it comes to choosing tiles for the bathroom/en-suite, is "are they slippery when wet?" Secondly, "are they easy to clean?" "Do they need sealing?" The simple answers to these questions are, with regard to Winckelmans' tiles & mosaics: No, Yes & No.

When choosing a pattern consider the size and shape of the room, the amount of natural light available, the style of the room in relation to the style of the house, and who is using it. 

Most bathrooms in traditional & older style houses and early-mid century apartments do not have a large footprint, and en-suites are invariably small; some bathrooms may have nib walls or diagonals created by corner spas,  so choose a pattern that is appropriate in scale and layout to the room - something small (mosaic) to mid-sized. One of the many virtues of using mosaics is that they can be laid over an existing floor (particularly useful if you live in an apartment), and they are inherently slip-resistant, because of all the grout - a major consideration if you have young children or an elderly parent.

If there is limited natural light in the room (many apartments have bathrooms with no natural light), choose white or light colours, especially for the walls. Light colours reflect more light, whereas dark colours absorb light. If you are lucky enough to have a decent sized bathroom with large windows and a generous amount of light, you may like to consider a darker floor. There is a myth that a dark floor will make the room look small, because dark colours come towards you. While this is true for walls, it is not the case for floors. If your bathroom floor is dark, but your walls are white or light, the dark floor will merely have the effect of defining the space - a long narrow room, a big square room with one carved wall, etc. As long as the walls are light the room will not look small.

Style is a personal matter, and in a sense there is no right or wrong way when it comes to style, but there are some practical and technical points to consider apart from issues of safety and light. Good design is not about colours, textures, patterns or materials, but about harmony and balance, which are constant and not affected by the vagaries of fashion. Because building or renovating a bathroom is an expensive exercise, choose wisely. If the house or apartment is traditional or older in style, do you want the bathroom to reflect that style or simply acknowledge it in some subtle way, e.g. using rectangular wall tiles laid in a brick pattern, or mosaics for the floor? Is the bathroom being used by several people of varying ages, or just one person where their taste will be expressed? Remember, children grow up quickly, and their tastes are changing constantly, so their choices will need to be balanced with other considerations. Simplicity is the key.

Appropriate designs: Once again, it is hard to go past the Bath pattern for elegance and versatility. Apart from the sizes already referred to, this pattern is also available as a mosaic in 20x20mm & 50x50mm  sized chips, which produce a surprisingly Retro/Pop ambience. Other mosaic patterns worth considering are the Flowers #2 in 2 sizes, the Basketweave - particularly popular in early-mid century apartments in New York, Stanmore - a perfect choice where a more formal, traditional atmosphere is sought, the Hexagon & Triangle (Star) for something a bit more exotic and less Eurocentric, or the unique St. Tropez design. One aspect of all these mosaic patterns is their suitability for feature walls. Other patterns - Olde English 100 & 150, the Raglan & Marais, which all have as their foundation the octagon/dot. All of these patterns can be used with confidence in bathrooms from Victorian through to mid-century and beyond.

Kitchens: The kitchen is often referred to as "the heart" of any home. During a party it is usually where most people will be found enjoying themselves. Open plan design means that kitchens are, in reality, an extension of the living/family room, and not the dark, private cave hidden away from the public gaze.   

Things to consider: The kitchen is the room with the dirtiest floor, where most food and liquids are spilled, and accidents can happen. Consequently floors need to be strong and durable, easy to clean and maintain, but without compromising on style. There is a reason why so many busy restaurants and cafes in Italy, France and New York have porcelain mosaic floors - they work. 

Appropriate designs: Enjoying a more casual, relaxed and practical feel than the entrance, or even the bathroom, the choice of pattern for the kitchen floor should be equally practical and relaxed. Flowers #2 in the 50mm or 100mm format, or any of the classic options from OET's Mosaic Collection for that matter, would be an ideal place to start looking. Also worth considering are Marais, Raglan & Houston for their visual interest and their ability to disguise dirt marks - not that you want to hide a dirty floor, but neither do you want to see every crumb that lands on the floor. If the style of your home requires a slightly more formal look, the Stanmore, the Olde English 100 or 150, or the ever popular Bath in the 150x150mm or 200x200mm format are recommended.

Good luck with your design selection, and happy tiling.