Are Zellige Tiles Trendy Or Classic? And How To Use Zellige In Different Styles Of Homes (Plus A Roundup Of Our Favorites)
One must engage in some sort of some design fortune-telling in order to even try to predict what will still be “in” in 30 years when you are renovating. And it’s worth the time/thoughts because searching for timelessness is a valid goal that we should all be after. Luckily for you, predicting what design elements will look dated is an obsessive pastime of mine and it’s especially important when something reaches a certain almost peak level of popularity. It is my assertion that there are some things that just don’t date. That doesn’t mean that they are always as “in” or fresh as they might be at other times, but they are as timeless as possible. Is the Zellige tile one of them???
What Is Zellige Tile?
Today’s subject is the Zellige tile. The beautiful glossy, striking Morrocan tile that has been spread throughout the world (and internet). While it certainly feels fresh and “now”, it is not new and has in fact been around for over a thousand years – getting better every day. Why do we love it so much? It’s just so perfectly imperfect. They are traditionally hand-glazed in Morocco on roughly made special clay, fired in a particular way. This process from those materials come together to bring SO much movement and organic texture to a simple solid color. Every single one is different in both texture and color, even within the same color choice. They create a statement without any busyness – just movement. Additionally, these glossy tiles reflect so much light without feeling “glam”. They are easy to clean, can be configured many different ways, and are super versatile in their application – herringbone, parquet, horizontal or vertical, stack or stagger. In short, the Zellige tile is the far more exotic and beautiful older sister to the basic white subway tile. But as they are everywhere right now, are they truly for every house?? Let’s explore…
Is Zellige Tile Too Trendy?
FIRST OFF, I have a universal belief that most things that are well crafted out of high quality materials, and in relatively neutral palette/finish do not date (easily). I can give you a million examples of things that I don’t think are ever dated (should this be a blog post?) and this is one of them. Just because one thing is popular, it does not mean we should be over it – in fact, it’s popular for a reason. Terrazzo didn’t hit like this. Even the popular patterned cement tile hasn’t quite “hit” like this. The Zellige does have more of a universal appeal, in my opinion. When it comes to things that are super “trendy”, it’s only the cheap versions or knock-offs that don’t have the longevity and therefore can be avoided. But thus far I haven’t seen very many knockoffs of the Zellige because by nature it’s handmade in Morocco and hard to replicate on the cheap. Don’t believe me? Take the live edge dining table for instance – Sure you can find cheap and faux versions at major retailers, but that still hasn’t cheapened the BBDW table that launched the movement 15 years ago (and the use of live edge has been around forever). In short: Beautiful high quality materials and craftsmanship in simple materials have serious longevity. Period.
Can I Put Zellige Tile In Every Style Of Home?
YES, with some caveats. I had Zellige tiles in our English country house in LA in both our bathroom and the kitchen. Chosen in 2016 I’d say these tiles weren’t a secret then, but we were at the beginning of the Zellige tile dominance, at least on the internet. I still love them.
In fact, I have the same tile in the kid’s bathroom of our modern cabin in Lake Arrowhead – a totally different style, installed in 2018 (we actually had overage from the first time and then just ordered floor tile to match in a smaller scale).
One of my best friends has the same ones in her bathroom in her Uber contemporary home – square stacked in the bathroom. And another of my best friends just put them in her midcentury California-style home, stacked in the kitchen. (We shot both for the book so I can’t show you that yet :))
I think we all chose Clé tile in weathered white (which they literally can’t keep in stock right now) and all of us still LOVE it. Sure I see it a lot, but it’s just so good.
How I Would Install Zellige Tile In Different Styles Of Homes
Listen, you can do ANYTHING and if you do it right you can pull it off and it can look stunning. But if you want some guidance, here are my opinions on where and how to install Zellige tile based on your style of home.
If your house is traditional, colonial, farmhouse, craftsman, country/cottage I personally would lean on the more traditional brick shape (think subway, 2×4 or even better 2×6) and stagger it horizontally in a more traditional way. That’s what I did in our kitchen and it absolutely worked with the English cottage vibe we wanted. Again, you can totally stack it but for older (or older style) homes I’m still a fan of the stagger (we debated the whole stack versus stagger here).
If your house is Mediterranean, Spanish, Moroccan, more bungalow-y, etc – you have far more leeway to take risks in shapes, orientation, and even colors (and adding borders and decorative details). Go for a hex, scallop, a mosaic, in addition to the traditional brick shape. This tile was crafted and designed to go in this style of home so it won’t feel out of place to have more fun with it. You can do a checkerboard or different colors and again I LOVE adding a border around the edge of a room in a contrasting shape/color to add an old world design element.
If your house is midcentury, postmodern (70s, 80s, 90s style), or contemporary then this can absolutely work for you, too. You can take the “old world” vibe out of it by stacking it horizontally or vertically, even switch those orientations (like 1/2 way up a wall for instance), play with color blocking them, and absolutely play with squares both big and small. I’d just keep it simple within there – don’t get too decorative with the details or mix too many different styles or shapes together. Mix it with wood and simple metals, for a warm but modern look (think mountain house).
Be Wary Of Tiles In “Risky” Colors…IMHO
Another one of my overall assertions is that certain bright colors have less longevity and universal appeal than neutrals, thus making them riskier to “date” and challenges their “timelessness”. In my experience with people, readers, and clients, 99% of people love neutrals (whites, grays, creams, and blacks) and most people really like muted blues and greens. A lot of people can handle certain tones of bright colors for sure but there are some colors (oranges, yellows, purples, reds, or any sort of crazy bright neon) that are riskier. I’m not saying not to do them, but I am saying that make sure you REALLY, REALLY love them and can see them and you in your house for decades. They are simply less guaranteed to be loved for as long, and by as many. Take risks in art, textiles, even wallpaper. But tile isn’t something you want or should “switch out” easily.
That being said, there is a good chance I might use a rose-colored tile in our powder room, but that’s because I know that it’s a color that I’ve loved and will love for a long time and it feels appropriate to the mood of the house (not in Zellige, by the way). But if you want to be super safe, stick to whites, grays, warm neutrals, blacks, and tones of blues and greens to ensure longevity and resale. Again, I’m NOT saying to not use that rust color, mustard, or aubergine Zellige tile – I’ve seen them done and they can be STUNNING, but if timelessness is your goal then just know you are taking more of a risk (check out this bright yellow – SO AMAZING I WANT TO TAKE A SHOWER IN AN ALL YELLOW SHOWER SO BAD).
Like with most things that are “classics” it’s not “if” you should use them because they are so popular, it’s how you put your spin on the room. How you design with that classic yet popular element to represent your personality and home. Often with something so simple like a weathered white brick tile, it’s all the other less permanent accessories and textiles that can make it look totally unique while still being timeless.
A Few Warnings About Installing Zellige Tile…
- Check the thickness of the tile because it is thicker than most. This is fine if you know early on, but we’ve run into problems with this where the plumbing didn’t stick out far enough past the tile, or the door to the bathroom had to be shaved up because the thickness of the tile made the floor higher.
- Mix your boxes. One of the things we love about this tile is its unpredictable colors and textures but you want to make sure you open up all your boxes and mix them together. You want it to feel random, not 3 quarters up the wall to all of a sudden turn into a different color, looking like a total accident or like a different “dye lot”. Open all boxes and insist that your tile installer pull from them equally while installing.
- Zellige can be slippery so go for smaller scale on the floor so the grout lines provide traction. We have them on our floor in the 2×2 and it’s totally fine.
I feel like I just wrote a love letter to Zellige and yet there is an 80% chance that we aren’t even using it in our farmhouse (mostly because I’m leaning into a different handmade vibe). But no love letter to a design element is complete without a roundup of where to get your hands on these tiles. We’ve historically loved and used Clé tile so I want to give them an extra shout-out. We love Clé tiles. But we also want to provide other places that might for you in color, size, style, and budgets (but be warned, Zellige is not a budget tile, nor should it be). Here you go…
1. Idris by Ait Manos Mosaics | 2. Iron Grey – Zellige | 3. Authentic Zellige Tile | 4. Steel Hex | 5. La Riviera Rose | 6. Battled Armor Square | 7. Black – Zellige | 8. Idris by Ait Manos Mosaics | 9. Moroccan Mosaic Solid Color Off-White | 10. Cloe 5″ x 5″ Ceramic Tile in Green | 11. Natural Bejmat | 12. Square La Riviera Rose | 13. Natural White – Zellige | 14. Vintage Rose Square | 15. Sea Green – Zellige | 16. Montauk Sky 4×4 Ceramic Wall Tile | 17. Snow – Zellige Hex | 18. Weathered White Square