Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Decorative Tile in Commercial Design


While I prefer the quiet residential neighborhoods for my morning walks in Los Angeles, crossing commercial swaths and busy streets can't be avoided in California's most populous city of 3.8 million people. Surprisingly, I've discovered some stunning uses of decorative tile in commercial design on the storefronts and facades of many buildings that pay homage to this state's romance with tile during the early 1900s.

Decorative tile adorn this commercial building on Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills
Decorative tile adorn this building on Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills
An up-close look at the pattern details of a commercial tile facade.
An up-close look at the pattern details of the tile facade.

You may remember last month's post, A Book Recommendation for California Tile where I review California Tile: The Golden Era 1910-1940: Hispano-Moresque to Woolenius. An example of California's love for tile, specifically for commercial or business use, can be found on page 172 of the publication with this vintage advertisement for Glendale, CA-based Tropico Tiles by Tropico Potteries.

Tropico Tiles Ad showing the influence of Decorative Tiles in Commercial Design
Tropico Potteries advertisement from The Building Review, June 1922.
Courtesy of the Tile Heritage Foundation Library.

Further illustrating the expansive use of richly patterned tile, or faience tiles as they were commonly referred to about a century ago, can be found along quaint storefronts along South La Brea Avenue, where each business boasts its own unique decorative tile design.

Spanish and Moorish designs influence the border patterns.
Spanish and Moorish designs influence the border patterns along this storefront.

The strong Spanish and Moorish influences are seen in the border pattern motifs and use of terracotta colors in the main field.

This original commercial tile installation can be found on S. La Brea Ave. in Los Angeles, CA
This original commercial tile installation can be found on S. La Brea Ave. in Los Angeles.

A true testament to the durability of tile is not just time; but, their ability to withstand harsh urban environments, as well as repeated abrasive cleaning of graffiti in this urban locale.

Tiles stand the test of time and graffiti in L.A.'s urban locale.
Tiles stand the test of time and graffiti in L.A.'s urban locale.
The use of bright orange, yellow, black, turquoise and aqua colors are tell-tale signs of the optimistic color palette commonly used in the early 1900s.

Bright colors on the tiles date the tiles to the early 1900s
The bright colors date the tiles to the early 1900s.
You can see how classic tile patterns and design are always being re-interpreted with updated colors, such as the bright yellow and turquoise, mixed with new designs, such as the triangular accent strip.

The designs you've seen thus far were all found on storefronts – below the window panes, down to the sidewalk. They are reminiscent of a slower time when folks walked the boulevard for their needs. Unfortunately, these commercial installations are nearly invisible now as we zoom past storefronts in our cars, making sure to meet deadlines imposed by a harried schedule.

Lastly, I want to share a rather unique installation that perfectly illustrates how a classic pattern and color palette can remain nearly unchanged from a pattern still available today.

Tiles create interest in this unusual commercial application.
Tiles create interest in this unusual commercial application.

In the image above, you'll notice that the tiles create a cascade-like effect below the Spanish Baroque architectural details of this structure. The tile design flows up from below the ground level to just below the second level. The tile pattern, which has the look of water, effortlessly draws attention to the details.

Tile ribbons cascade from the Spanish Baroque window details.
Tile ribbons cascade from the the Spanish Baroque window details down to the ground where solid-colored field tiles are placed.

Tile ribbons cascading from the Spanish Baroque window details emulate a trickling stream.
Tile ribbons start and end with a classic Spanish tile pattern.
Upon closer look, you can see that the tile ribbons start and end with a classic Spanish tile pattern.

Decorative Tiles in this historic installation match a pattern Avente sells today.
The decorative tiles used in this historic installation match a pattern Avente Tile sells today. How's that for timelessness?

The hand-painted tile that you see in this design looks very similar to our Barcelona Design Quarter San Jose tile.
Avente Barcelona's San Jose Tile Design Quarter

There's something to be said for classic tile patterns and colors – even in commercial design. Do you agree? For Spanish Tile Design inspiration, see our extensive collection of Hand Painted Spanish Tile Design Ideas.



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