Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Vintage Tile Tour of Original Los Angeles Spec House


Recently, I had a rare opportunity to tour a house with tiles installed in almost every room including some stunning tile murals and Royal Delft decorative tiles. Located in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles, the home tour was arranged by Joe Taylor and Sheila Menzies of The Tile Heritage Foundation for a collector. The small, unassuming corner lot house is a treasure trove of original Dutch cloisonné tiles and mural from the 1920s.

A resplendent Art Deco tile fountain
A resplendent Art Deco tile fountain

As soon as you pass the entry gate, you know this is no ordinary home. You are immediately greeted by an Art Deco fountain in the courtyard. Created entirely of tile on a concrete base, every detail is tiled including the spitting-fish fountain heads and intricate bead-work molding and trim.


Spitting-fish fountain tiles and exquisite beaded trim tiles are part of the tiled fountain design
Spitting-fish fountain tiles and exquisite beaded trim tiles are part of the Art Deco-tiled fountain design.

Open the mahogany door and dappled light spills onto this glazed tile mural in the entry. The mural exhibits rare craftsmanship because the glazing appears to have the same detail of a hand-painted oil painting.

Tile mural in the foyer of the 1927 Los Angeles spec house shows amazing craftsmanship
Tile mural in the foyer of the 1927 Los Angeles spec house.

Our host, and owner of the home, Robert Smaith, explains the home was originally the spec home for all the homes built in the area. It's where home owners would go to select tiles and other finishing details for their home. Once you enter the home, you can't help but notice the beautiful tiled fireplace.

Tile Fireplace with Royal-Delft cloisonné accents
Tile fireplace with Royal Delft cloisonné accents.

Hound and Stag cloisonné tile is the focal point of the fireplace.

Dutch cloisonné tile with trim and field tile
Dutch cloisonné tile is enveloped with trim and field tile.

Joe Taylor, whose encyclopedic knowledge of tile and tile history is impressive, explains that Royal Dutch cloisonné tiles were only made by one factory in The Netherlands. The process, which uses a mold to keep the glaze colors from mixing, is not all that different than how cement tiles are made. Of course, cloisonné tiles must be fired; but, the mold forms the patterns and maintains the colors in the decorative tiles you see.

Moving along to the sunny south-facing breakfast nook, I was amazed by the small format mosaic on the floor and the stunning murals of Montserrat. According to our host, the owner's of the tile factory had a home on the Caribbean island.

Breakfast nook mosaic floor and tile walls include a mural
Breakfast nook mosaic floor and tile walls include a mural.

One of two murals in the breakfast nook featuring a landscape of Montserrat
One of two murals in the breakfast nook featuring a landscape of Montserrat.

The floor-to-ceiling tiled kitchen includes some amazing tile work that I have never seen before, including a tiled pantry, bread-making pull-out, and a California cooler.

The kitchen includes floor-to-ceiling tile
The kitchen includes floor-to-ceiling tile.


A tile pantry with pull-out bread-making counter
A tile pantry with pull-out bread-making counter.


Tiled California Cooler
Tiled California Cooler


A tiled mural from a Dutch painting the laundry room above sink
A tiled mural from a Dutch painting graces the area above the sink in the laundry room.

Next week, I'll finish this fantastic tour with a glimpse of the  master and guest bathrooms, more Royal Delft cloisonné tile, and a tiled telephone niche. If you love historic tiles, then this is a rare chance to see some of the most well-preserved tile trends from 1920s vintage Los Angeles.
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