decisions, decisions: how to choose among our favorite white tile
by clé tile | published: Jun 24, 2021
Within our whiteworks collection of 60-plus white tiles, there are several that share a distinctive hand-hewn feel. These include eastern elements mochi, casale rustico, eastern earthenware’s rice paper, and our beloved zellige in weathered white.
The question often arises: how do you choose among them?
Like being asked to choose among our children, we can only say we love them all, but like children, each has a clear personality and set of talents and skills. And each creates a different mood.
It all comes down to what you want out of your design and the statement you want to make: funky and hand-hewn with considerable variation in the tile, or still hand-hewn but more uniform and predictable? Something in between?
Also consider who’s installing your tile. While we recommend professional installation for all of our tile, greater variation requires installers with a particularly careful technique and an artful eye.
Three factors to consider when picking a white tile
There are three factors to consider in choosing your tile. We characterize each of our tiles by how much variation they have (in terms of size, color, texture). We also characterize them by how “imperfect” they are: cracks, chipped edges, pitted glaze surfaces, crazing, and iron spots (naturally, we value the imperfections greatly: they’re the marks of the journey through the alchemical process that takes place in the kiln.) Finally, we consider how broad a range of variation you’ll find in any given order.
Let’s explore each in more detail.
There’s everyone’s favorite for several years now: weathered white zellige, beloved for its shimmering, glossy glaze offset by its hand-cut edges.
Weathered white zellige offers texture and variation in almost every aspect: thickness, size, shade, and color. In addition, because of the way it’s produced, you’ll likely find numerous marks of its journey through the alchemical process that takes place in the kiln: cracks, chipped edges, pitted glaze surfaces, crazing, and iron spots.
keywords: bright, romantic, exuberantly imperfect
bottom line: when you’re looking for a highly hand-hewn look and are willing to tolerate a high degree of variability: weathered white zellige will never produce a uniform look (precisely why we cherish it).
eastern elements mochi is–when compared to zellige–somewhat more uniform in tone, size, and texture. Fired in a gas kiln, it still has a moderate level of character-ful imperfections.
It’s also creamy rather than bright, with low-to medium textural and color variation with subtle hints of pink, grey, and blue to add depth and character.
keywords: subtle, creamy, accessible.
bottom line: ideal for a subtle but still textured, hand-crafted look with a reasonably straightforward installation process.
casale rustico is also a terracotta tile from italy, courtesy of our partners at fornace brioni.
Unlike similarly glossy zellige, it’s somewhat more uniform in color and size. Its texture, however, can vary, giving it that distinctively hand-hewn look.
What’s exciting about casale rustico is how it can be used: while we offer squares and rectangles, we also offer bundles (normale and misto) that offer a range of layout options (we provide the recipes — which still require an experienced installer), with misto being the more dynamic of the two, depending, in particular, on how you grout.
keywords: charming, rustic, unexpected.
bottom line: A glossy tile that gives a minimalist but stil rustic look with little color variation. The tile to pick when you want to create an impact, but without the drama of zellige.
eastern earthenware’s rice paper is the more artistic and temperamental cousin to eastern elements mochi.
Its personality comes from the way it’s produced: it’s fired in a wood fired kiln, with variation in heat, which leads to highly unpredictable results in color and finish, with distinctively different tones that vary wildly between kiln loads. At the same time, however, it’s more uniform in size than zellige.
Because it’s wood-fired, it’s also subject to moderate amounts of warping, pitting, and crazing.
keywords: warm, mercurial, textured
bottom line: Use this when you want a warm, distinctively hand-hewn look with high levels of variation.
Putting it all together
Here’s a handy way to visualize the differences between our different white tiles:
*Guild fundamentals are not discussed in the article, but we have included this tile in this chart for purposes of comparison.
In all cases, we strongly suggest you study our specific ratings for each tile on each respective tile’s product page and in the installation and maintenance guides for respective tile collection.