Moroccan-style tiles, also known as zellige tiles, are a hallmark of traditional Moroccan architecture and design. Known for their colorful geometric patterns and intricate mosaics, these handmade tiles have been used to decorate palaces, mosques, homes, and public spaces in Morocco for centuries. While undeniably beautiful, moroccan-style tiles also have some drawbacks to consider before installing them in your home. Weighing the pros and cons can help you decide if this style is right for your space.
Aesthetics and Visual Appeal
One of the biggest draws of moroccan-style tiles is their vibrant colors and hypnotic patterns. The tiles are hand cut into various shapes like stars, diamonds, and triangles, then pieced together in elaborate tessellations. This creates mosaics that are mathematical and symmetrical while still appearing organic and flowing. The designs are endlessly customizable, allowing you to create a look that is uniquely your own.
Some key benefits regarding the visual aesthetics of moroccan tiles:
- Vibrant colors – From rich cobalt blues, to sunny yellows, to earthy reds, the palette is colorful and saturated. This creates an energetic, lively feel.
- Intricate patterns – The mosaic patterns are complex and mesmerizing, often featuring fractal-like repetition and symmetry. This level of detail provides visual interest.
- Customizability – With limitless shape and color combinations, you can design patterns tailored specifically to your space. Get creative and make it your own.
- Artisanal craftsmanship – Each tile is hand cut, so no two tiles are exactly the same. This adds organic imperfection reflecting the human touch.
- Architectural element – The tiles become an artistic focal point and key architectural element in a space. They immediately draw the eye.
Overall, moroccan tiles create a gorgeous aesthetic that is artistic and exotic. They bring color, pattern and craftsmanship to any room.
History and Cultural Significance
In addition to their striking appearance, moroccan-style tiles hold cultural and historical significance. They have centuries of tradition embedded in their design. Some key historical notes:
- Centuries old – Tilework in Morocco dates back over 500 years, to the 1400s. The patterns and production methods carry on traditional techniques honed over generations.
- Prominent in architecture – Tiles have historically been used to decorate palaces, mosques, mausoleums, homes and public spaces. They are integral to Moroccan design identity.
- Regional diversity – Different regions of Morocco are known for different styles, like Zellige in Fes and Beldi tiles in Tetouan. The diversity adds richness.
- Artisanal production – The tiles are still handmade using processes passed down through generations of skilled artisans. This preserves cultural heritage.
- Motifs have meaning – Traditional motifs like the crescent moon and star hold symbolic meaning in Islamic culture. Patterns reflect Moroccan visual identity.
By incorporating moroccan tiles, you bring these cultural connections and history into your space. They add layers of meaning and tradition.
Great for Wet Areas
Moroccan tiles are an excellent practical option for kitchens, bathrooms, pools and other wet areas. When properly sealed, the tiles are water-resistant and stand up well to moisture over time. Here are some benefits for wet spaces:
- Withstand moisture – When properly sealed and grouted, the tiles resist water damage, making them great for kitchens, showers, and backsplashes prone to splashing.
- Good slip resistance – Unglazed tiles provide traction underfoot, minimizing slippery surfaces in wet areas. The texture gives good grip.
- Doesn’t show water stains – Tiles don’t absorb liquids readily, so water spots and stains are less visible compared to other surfaces like wood or marble.
- Easy to clean – The durable sealed tile surface just needs simple wiping to keep it looking fresh. No special cleaners needed.
Moroccan tiles offer a beautiful, practical option that works well in kitchens and baths where moisture is abundant. Their water-resistance keeps them looking pristine.
Challenging Installation Process
While moroccan tiles offer undeniable beauty and historic charm, they present some challenges when it comes to installation. Some key difficulties include:
- Irregular dimensions – Each tile is slightly different in size, which makes leveling and spacing difficult during layout. Extra time is required.
- Intricate patterns – The mosaic designs require meticulous placement to align edges and maintain symmetry of the pattern. This demands precision and care.
- Specialized skills required – Proper installation is complex, calling for experienced tile setters familiar with zellige patterns and techniques. Not a DIY-friendly project.
- Sealing is crucial – Multiple layers of sealant must be applied carefully to ensure water resistance. Skipping this jeopardizes durability.
- Long lead times – Tiles are handmade to order overseas. Plan for potential 12-16 week lead times for customized orders.
Achieving a flawless finished look requires hiring specialized artisans and allowing extra installation time. The cost and effort involved should be accounted for.
High Upfront Costs
Due to the artisanal production process and imported materials, moroccan tiles come at a premium cost. The specialized labor required for installation also adds to the total project budget. Key cost factors include:
- Artisanal production – Small batch handcrafting keeps costs relatively high compared to machine made tiles. Expect to pay $15-30 per square foot just for materials.
- Customization – To achieve ornate mosaic designs, ordering custom pre-arranged tile sheets is ideal, but the customization results in added costs.
- Shipping fees – Most tiles are imported from Morocco, incurring international shipping and potential customs fees which get passed on to the consumer.
- Specialized installation – Experienced tilesetters charge hourly rates higher than average to account for the intricacy of the work. Multiple days of labor may be required.
- Accessories add up – Grout, sealant, backing materials, and trim pieces also contribute to the total price tag which can easily be $100+ per square foot.
While the tiles bring beauty and value over the long term, be prepared to spend serious money to properly install them. Securing the necessary artisan skills also takes effort and planning.
To retain their beauty long-term, moroccan style tiles require some degree of regular maintenance and care. Their intricate nature makes them more work to keep looking pristine than an average tile. Key maintenance needs include:
- Sealing required – Sealant needs reapplication every 1-2 years to maintain water resistance. Sealers wear off over time.
- Grout needs re-grouting – The small grout lines are prone to staining and damage. Expect to re-grout every 5-10 years.
- Specialized cleaning – Vinegar-based cleaners help remove hard water stains and calcium deposits from grout lines. Harsh chemical cleaners should be avoided.
- Delicate material – Dropping heavy objects can crack tiles. They require gentle handling and care to prevent damage.
- Susceptible to scratches – Unglazed tiles show wear over time. Natural patterning helps hide scuffs but does not prevent them.
Preserving the beauty of moroccan tile requires an ongoing investment of time, effort and money. Improper maintenance shortens their lifespan significantly.
Difficult to Match Later On
When repairs or additions are needed down the road, it can be extremely challenging to find replacement moroccan tiles that match your existing installation. Some factors contributing to this include:
- Handmade variances – Since tiles vary in shape, color and size naturally, new batches will not be an exact match to previous ones.
- Custom designs – If you created a custom mosaic pattern, recreating or finding more of the same tiles is nearly impossible.
- Limited remaining stock – Tile companies may no longer carry the same colors, shapes and designs months or years later when you need replacements.
- Discontinued options – Patterns and colors go in and out of production over time. What you chose originally may no longer be available.
- Wears over time – Even if the same tiles are found, their condition will not perfectly match old tiles that have naturally aged and worn.
Unless significant extra tiles were originally purchased for repairs down the road,Extensions and repairs to moroccan tile installations often result in frustrating color and design mismatches.
Consider Other Factors
Beyond the main pros and cons, consider these additional factors when deciding if moroccan-style tile is right for your space:
- Small tile size – The mosaic look results from small tile sizes, usually under 4 square inches each. Make sure this scale suits your design vision.
- Better for backsplashes – The complexity suits smaller surfaces better. Use it selectively for focal walls or backsplashes rather than flooring.
- Requires planning – Measure carefully and order tile upfront. Last minute changes are difficult. Take time to design thoughtfully.
- Best for feature walls – Consider balancing intricate tile with simple surfaces like neutral walls and flooring to avoid an overwhelming look.
- Not ideal for floors – The grout lines and unglazed surface prone to scratches make it better suited for walls than floors with heavy use.
Carefully weighing your design goals, budget, and long term plans for the space helps determine if embarking on a moroccan tile project is right for you. The stunning results can fully transform a room when done well.
The Pros and Cons of Moroccan-Style Tiles
Moroccan-style tiles offer many benefits but also have some downsides to consider:
- Visually stunning mosaic patterns and colors
- Deep cultural tradition and artisanal craftsmanship
- Great for withstanding water in kitchens, baths, and pools
- Color and design options are highly customizable
- Challenging installation requires specialty skills
- Very expensive material and labor costs
- Matching repairs or additions later is difficult
- Requires diligent ongoing maintenance and sealing
Frequently Asked Questions About Moroccan-Style Tiles
What are the traditional color schemes of Moroccan tiles?
Popular traditional colors include bold cobalt blues, brilliant whites and creams, earthy terracotta reds, and sunny yellows. Accent colors like emerald green, rich turquoise, and deep violet are also common.
How durable are Moroccan tiles?
When properly sealed and maintained, Moroccan tiles are quite durable and water resistant. However, being made from clay, they can crack or chip if heavy objects are dropped on them. The unglazed surface is also prone to scratches over time.
What is the typical size of Moroccan tiles?
Authentic tiles are relatively small in size, usually ranging from 1 to 4 square inches. These miniature tiles are pieced together to form intricate mosaics. Larger format “Moroccan-inspired” tiles are also available.
Should the tiles be sealed before or after installation?
Sealing should happen after installation. The tiles must be sealed thoroughly on all sides and the grout lines sealed as well. Sealing prior to installation prevents adhesion of the grout and mortar.
How long does a Moroccan tile backsplash or wall installation take?
Once the tiles arrive, allow 3-5 days for installation of a backsplash or feature wall. The meticulous, intricate process cannot be rushed. Planning well ahead is advised.
Can Moroccan tiles be used outdoors?
Yes, Moroccan tiles work beautifully in covered outdoor settings like patios and pool surrounds. Ensure they are properly sealed and avoid exposure to harsh weather or freezing temperatures.
Moroccan-style zellige tiles undoubtedly provide showstopping beauty thanks to their vibrant colors, mesmerizing geometric patterns, and artistic craftsmanship. Their rich cultural heritage and history lend deeper meaning to their dazzling aesthetic as well. However, challenges like difficult installation and high costs require careful planning and commitment. Moroccan tiles also demand diligent ongoing maintenance to retain their beauty long-term. Weighing the pros, cons and considerations allows you to decide if embarking on a moroccan tiling project is the right choice to enhance your space with this captivating stylistic statement.