Moroccan tiles (also known as zellige, zillij or zellij) are complex art pieces offering one-of-a-kind appearances and huge impact when used in interior design. This style has become popular not only for flooring but also for kitchen splashbacks and even walls.
They feature colourful geometric patterns and designs that look almost hypnotic in their complexity. The intricate lines and shapes are believed to have their origins in Islamic culture. It was against Muslim law for artists to paint living figures and so they opted for line work and shapes instead.
Traditionally the process of creating these unique tile pieces was a time consuming and labour intensive task. It started with a piece of clay, which is shaped by hand and then glazed in a variety of colours. A skilled maalem could produce around 400 tiles each day using a traditional technique. This work is considered to be an ancient craft and today Fez in Morocco is the centre of Zellige production and it is still a largely handcrafted industry with a few modern tile makers utilising this beautiful ceramics to create their own ranges.
The beauty of this decorative tile is that it can be paired with almost any decor and it can be very effective when incorporated into a Moroccan theme. However, it is important to remember that these are not ordinary terra cotta tiles; they have a much more distinctive colour and texture than their mass-produced counterparts. They are made from a harder material called senegal clay and have been fired in an earth-fired kiln. This results in an incredibly hard and non-porous finish which requires no sealer. This means that the tiles can be wiped down, which makes them perfect for use in kitchens or bathrooms.
If you are using Moroccan tiles as a focal point in your design it is recommended that you keep all other accents subtle so that the tiles can take centre stage. This way they won’t be overshadowed by other decorative features and you will get the best possible look and effect.
A defining feature of Moroccan tiles is their colour. The traditional tiles are typically coloured in earthy tones of browns and greens. This gives a warm and inviting feel to any space. However, it is possible to find modern interpretations of the Moroccan tile trend that are coloured in bright shades. This allows you to create a more personalised design and still stay on theme.
A good place to source authentic Moroccan tiles is through a company that offers a direct partnership with the maalems. They are phenomenally proud of their work and it is this passion that has kept this art form alive. Purchasing these tiles through this type of organisation helps to support the artisans and bring a beautiful piece of history into your home.