Tag Archives: Seward Park

Traditional Moroccan Mosaic Tiles & Contemporary Interior Design

At first, the title of this article may sound like an oxymoron. How could handmade Moroccan zellige (=zillij) tiles, which have been around for hundreds of years, possibly play a role in contemporary interior design? If one looks at the design trends of the last several years, one quickly realizes that many interior designers have obsessively been pushing towards minimalism and futurism. So how is it then that such an historic product is finding its way into more and more contemporary, cutting-edge construction and remodeling projects? The answer to that question can be found in two facts: A. The adaptation of color schemes, and B. the growing consensus that modern design must not bring about a total absence of humanity and warmth.
Traditional Moroccan tile patterns have been quite popular in the context of rustic Mediterranean architecture for a while now. One just needs to look into the bathrooms and kitchens of many Spanish homes and Tuscany style villas in Southern California or South Florida, and one will frequently find colorful examples of these ceramic tile patterns, which the Moorish kings themselves have been using to decorate their palaces for a long time now.
More recently forward thinking interior designers have started to consider Moroccan mosaic tiles as feasible applications in their contemporary design projects. There is a certain timelessness in the beauty and quality of these products, which makes them suitable in almost any design context when chosen and adapted correctly. Unusual and non-traditional color schemes have started to emerge, especially in the Pacific Northwest and Northern California. These regions, which are known to be very progressive and which have arguably flourished the most economically due to the recent boom in the financial and technology sectors, have also produced some of the most intriguing and forward thinking architecture of our time.
One such example is the Southpaw residence in Seward Park, Seattle, WA (), for which Replinger Hossner Architects received an AIA Seattle Honor Award (). Here, the architects and designers were able to successfully complement contemporary architecture with traditional design elements. The Moroccan floor tiles by Le Mosaiste used in the entry way, with their custom made color scheme (), are a perfect example of how an old world product can be adapted to fit into a contemporary living space. Traditional Moorish color schemes often rely heavily on contrasting colors. In this case however, the designers chose a more contemporary, subtle approach with colors mostly coming from the same family. They also decided to spread out the colors in a way that only makes sense on a larger floor area with the colors seemingly being arranged in an almost random order. According to Valerie Easton, writer for the Seattle Times, the Moroccan floor tiles, chosen for their traditional pattern that looks almost high-tech, were originally designed to wrap a column.
How often have we seen contemporary structures and minimally designed interiors with large empty spaces that exert a sterile coldness and make us feel unwelcome? Initially many of us were drawn to this new and radical way of building and designing, but time and experience have taught us that function is not the only criteria we should follow, because function and utility alone do not promote the necessary warmth and well-being to make a space livable.
As a result, more and more forward thinking interior designers have started to reintroduce some patterns and textures into their projects. Its as if we are relearning that form also plays an important role in design. Sophisticated clients seem to want more of a balance between form and function nowadays, something thats not only strictly pragmatic but also aesthetically pleasing. In her article Modern is made family-friendly in this intentionally eclectic home, Valerie Easton declares: From the intricately patterned Moroccan tiles in the entry to the colorful swirl of floral wallpaper in the powder room, Lisa’s (client) choices warm up the hard-edged palette of steel, glass and concrete (). The hottest trends in design right now seem to be sustainable and eclectic.