The hard-to-miss flooring at Isprava’s Igreha Vaddo—a colossal of six stunning villas in Goa—is visually striking. Developed in 2017, the flooring of the luxury holiday homes are designed from handmade art peculiar to Rajasthan and Karnataka. Designed by experts and handcrafted by artisans, the flooring of the villas uses handmade cement tiles and stones in different colours and patterns. Stones with checkered and brick patterns can be seen consistently around the house to make the space look vibrant, says Nibhrant Shah, owner of Isprava.
In 2016, when interior designer Tejal Mathur, Founder of Tejal Mathur Designs, decided to bring alive the charm of London’s marketplaces through cobblestone flooring at the British Brewing Company, a gastropub in Mumbai, she settled for customised handmade tiles. “As we wanted to create an ‘English feel’, stamped concrete or cobbled floor was just the perfect answer. We got the company to manufacture the tiles as thin as possible so that the surface doesn’t appear wobbly,” she says. Similarly, when medical solution provider Boston Scientific opened their office in Gurgaon in 2016, the flooring in its cafeteria comprised handmade patterned tiles creating a 3D-effect and rendering an uber-fancy cafe feel to the space. At the fine-dine restaurant, Punjab Grill in Hyderabad, the flooring showcases the herringbone pattern, again created using handmade tiles. With the new trend for authentic and sustainable products catching up, handmade tiles have made a great comeback and have started to cover floors and walls of trendy hotels, shops, restaurants and private properties all across the country. Once a popular flooring option around the world, cement tiles, also known as decorative encaustic tiles or concrete tiles, in bold traditional patterns are known to induce old-world charm to a contemporary space.
While incorporating the Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi, which focuses on finding beauty in imperfection, the handmade cement tiles lend the space a distinct characteristic of a natural product. “No two handmade tiles look alike. For instance, the lines may be a little bit blurred in one or the edges may not be exactly sharp in another. But that is the beauty of these tiles. Every piece tells a different story,” says interior designer Sarah Sham from Essajees Atelier.
A work of art
These tiles are 100 per cent handcrafted, one at a time, using mineral pigments, cement, a mould, and hydraulic press. The metal mould is handmade from design drawings, informs Firdaus Variava, Vice-Chairman, Bharat Floorings, whose recent commissions include Isha Ambani and Anand Piramal’s marital home in Worli, Mumbai. The nearly century-old company is among a handful today that are making handmade tiles. KG Tiles in Rajasthan and Royal Tiles in Gujarat, both of which were set up over 50 years ago, have continued the legacy. After the tile is cast by the artisan, it must be cured in water for some time and then air-dried before being shipped. It is for this reason that cement tiles have a longer delivery period than ceramic tiles. The patterns in cement tiles are not printed or painted. Coloured cement materials are hand-poured into divider moulds to create these patterns. Therefore, the patterns will last for long. Cement tiles are not fired; there is no glaze layer on the surface of the tile. They derive their durability from the combination of finely dehydrated ground Portland cement layer and a coarser layer of sand and cement. The pigment layer is hydraulically pressed into the surface and becomes a part of the tile. “There are many buildings where our tiles have been laid 80 or 90 years ago and are still very beautiful,” adds Variava. Bharat Floorings has been undertaking flooring projects for several iconic structures such as The Jewish Synagogue, The Royal Bombay Yacht Club, in Mumbai, and the Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad, among others. Bharat Floorings collaborates with designers every year to bring in innovation. “Every floor we envision and design is not just about another home, institution or any other space floored successfully. It is about our constant search for beauty, grace, meaning and idea. An idea with modern sensibilities depicted through colours and lines,” says Variava. Relatively, similar in cost, both, ceramic and cement tiles become more expensive per square foot or per piece the more detailed they become. Mathur says, “Of course, the processes are quite laborious but intensely gratifying because of the pivotal role that the karigar plays. We look to achieving a certain timelessness in all our projects.”
The latest trend in flooring is heritage tiles. This range has always been popular in the retail space as bespoke tiles are available in several colours and designs. There are floral as well as geometric shapes. Of late, abstract shapes are also becoming popular. Although people are going for new styles such as acid stained, micro-cement and epoxy floors, but the all-time favourites are still heritage tiles. If the trend is anything to go by, then the world of tiles seems to be moving towards more organic, and naturallooking products and handmade tiles perfectly fit the bill in this regard.