exploring zellige tile look-alikes: stylish alternatives for any room

by clé tile | published: Jun 11, 2024

bright teal zellige tile bathroom wall with white sink and gold mirror

clé zellige 2x2 in fired opal. design: cecy j interiors / photo: kayla schmah

over 25 years ago, clé founder deborah osburn met a moroccan tile producer whose work was perfectly imperfect, complete with jewel tones, iron spots, and chiseled edges. the tile, as you may have guessed, was zellige — and it has since taken the design world by storm.

as beautiful as zellige tile is when it graces kitchen backsplashes, bathrooms, swimming pools, and other spaces, it’s important to remember: zellige is not for the faint of heart. the noticeable variations, inconsistencies, pits, and crazing that make this tile so seductive are the very same qualities that may give some homeowners and interior designers pause. (those who appreciate consistency, for example.)

if you love the appearance of zellige but find yourself considering alternative options, you’re in luck: we’re exploring our favorite zellige tile look-alikes down below.

why explore zellige tile look-alikes?

you may discover after diving deep into the world of zellige tile that zellige isn’t right for you. and that’s okay. some people, for example, find that their design calls for more uniform color and texture that what zellige can offer. others realize that zellige isn’t well suited for where they are planning to install tile. here’s a deeper look at just a few reasons a zellige tile alternative could be your perfect match.

bright neutral colored kitchen with white terracotta glazed tile backsplash, black cabinets, and wooden bar area

eastern elements 4x4 in rice paper. design: sarah sherman samuel / photo: stoffer photography interiors


zellige tends to come at a higher price point compared to more mass produced types of tile. after all, it’s handcrafted entirely by hand in morocco using centuries-old techniques. this includes shaping locally sourced natural clay, leaving the clay to dry in the sun, further cutting and shaping the tiles, and then dipping the tiles in glaze before allowing them to fire in the kiln overnight.

all of these artisanal touches are what give zellige beauty like none other. but if you’re looking for something more cost effective, there are other excellent options that remain striking while coming in at a lower price point.


true moroccan zellige tile can be difficult to find. the clay used to make it must derive from the fez region of morocco in order to be considered authentic zellige. this is the only type of zellige tile we sell here at clé tile.

there is one other factor to consider here: finding an experienced tile installer who has the skill (and patience) necessary to work with this very special artisanal tile. if you can’t find a contractor with the right experience, or if your contractor is more skilled at installing other types of tile, you might be better off going with a zellige tile alternative.

wider range of colors, patterns, or finishes

zellige tile already comes in a vast array of colors, patterns, and finishes. but maybe you find that you prefer the color range or shapes of glazed terracotta. or, perhaps you prefer a 2.5” x 8” size glazed brick tile over a 2” x 6” size zellige tile. these are other valid reasons you might seek out an alternative to zellige tile.

installation options

zellige tile is immensely versatile. we’ve seen it grace shower walls, bathroom floors, kitchen backsplashes, fireplace surrounds, and other interior surfaces. in warmer climates, it’s suitable for the pool waterline as well.

that said, it isn’t suitable for every project. if you want a tile for, say, a patio or a floor that will see heavy commercial traffic, you’ll want to look into zellige look-alikes that are rated for these uses.

durability and ease of maintenance

glazed zellige is relatively easy to clean, thanks to its smooth surface. generally, a gentle ph neutral cleaner is best for keeping spills, dust, and dirt in check. that said, zellige can benefit from regular sealing, especially when installed in wet-prone areas like showers, bathrooms, and kitchen backsplashes.

if you’d prefer to worry less about sealing, or if the natural cracks and pits in zellige tile make you nervous, you might prefer a more mass produced tile such as glazed ceramic.

burnt orange glazed terracotta tile on bathroom backsplash and counter

eastern earthenware 4x4 in temple urn. design: willow house / photo: michelle nash

walk-in shower with rectangular green glazed terracotta tile on floor, walls, and ceiling

clé guild new california 2.5x8 in bracken. design: marie flanigan interiors / photo: julie soefer

zellige tile alternatives to consider

there really is nothing quite like authentic zellige. every tile shows the journey of its craft, and no two tiles are exactly alike. but if you want tile options that offer a similarly varied aesthetic, with perhaps a different set of advantages, here are some great options to consider.

glazed terracotta tile

technically speaking, zellige is a type of glazed terracotta tile — albeit one that’s formed by artisans from moroccan clay, cured in the sun, hand-cut, and then glazed before being fired in ancient bee-hive kilns. a tile made any other way cannot be considered true zellige.

still, glazed terracotta comes in a beautiful array of options we’d happily line our walls (and even floors) with. take our eastern earthenware collection, where every tile is wood-fired for extraordinary richness and depth. or our eastern elements collection, which explores three unique glazes on the white spectrum.

glazed brick tile

if you’re drawn to rectangular zellige tiles, you’ll be pleased to know that glazed brick tile can offer a similar aesthetic. the tiles in our new california collection, for example, vary in color and texture from tile to tile — and even have iron spots to show for their journey through the kiln.

glazed ceramic tile

while many varieties of glazed ceramic tile are famously uniform in color and texture (we’re looking at you, subway tile) there are other options that have an intentionally varied look. our casale rustico collection is a striking example, pairing the hand-hewn rusticity of white zellige with a modern and streamlined aesthetic.

unglazed terracotta tile

was it natural, unglazed zellige that first caught your eye? if so, you’ll be drawn to the many options found in the world of raw, unglazed terracotta tile. although its palette falls much more in the realm of dusty pinks and deep burnished oranges, it offers the kind of timeless, earthy look that probably drew you to zellige in the first place.

bright kitchen with white ceramic tile backsplash and light blue cabinets

casale rustico normale bundle in white gloss. design: storie collective / photo: stacy zarin goldberg

what’s the best zellige look-alike tile for the bathroom and shower? 

glazed tiles are a great option for the bathroom and shower, as their smooth surface tends to be more resistant to water. (unglazed options can work as well, but they tend to need more attention in the way of sealing, and cleanup will be more involved.)

if you’re looking for a zellige look-alike tile for the bathroom or shower, consider glazed ceramic tile, glazed terracotta tile, or glazed brick tile.

what are the best zellige tile alternatives for the kitchen?

if you love the look of a zellige tile backsplash, you’ll find excellent options in the worlds of glazed ceramic tile, glazed terracotta tile, and glazed brick tile. just be sure to look for imperfections such as color variation and iron spots. these small details will go a long way in giving your space an artisanal look.

if you want the look of natural zellige for a kitchen tile floor, try an unfinished terracotta such as le sol, which also happens to be handcrafted in morocco. the color palette will be different, but it’s rustic and timeless nonetheless.

what are the best alternatives to zellige tile for outdoor applications?

speaking of our le sol collection, it’s suitable for outdoor applications as well. (it’s even rated for climates that see freeze-thaw cycles.) in general, unglazed terracotta tiles are a solid choice to consider if you love the authentic look of zellige but can’t use it outdoors.

pantry pavers are another classic option, though it’s worth noting that they are a natural stone tile, rather than a tile shaped from natural clay.