Old Styles, New Tiles

For the look of antique tiles without the hassle of finding a full set of affordable pieces in good shape, numerous companies turn out new tiles based on historic patterns. Motawi Tileworks in Ann Arbor, Michigan, produces pieces inspired by Art Deco textiles, Dard Hunter's Arts and Crafts graphic designs from the early 1900s, and old children's book illustrations. Decorative 6-inch-squares start at $33. Other companies, such as Mercer's Moravian and Pewabic Pottery, which opened its Detroit studio in 1903, still produce original designs, at prices ranging from $12.50 (for Moravian's 4-inch squares) to $36 (for Pewabic's 6-inch squares).

Whether you choose new tiles with period patterns or century-old originals, there's no limit to the ways you can show them off. In the garden, decorative tiles can be set in a stucco wall, line the ledge of a fish pond, or break up the monotony of plain patio pavers. Interspersed with inexpensive field tiles, colorful squares can create a one-of-a-kind kitchen backsplash, breakfast nook chair rail, or bathtub surround. And matte-finish tiles can be laid in a geometric pattern on a mudroom or vestibule floor for a new twist on the welcome mat.

You Can Take It With You
Torn about mortaring treasured accent tiles into place, in case you decide to move? Surrounding them with a box of 1/4-inch wood stock or even thinner metal (this rare Grueby tulip tile, above, is outlined with copper) makes it possible to pop such tiles out of a grouted area without damaging their edges. Just be sure to mortar only the sides (and not the back) of the box during installation to make removal easier.

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