Balineum 'S' Series

Balineum tiles

Balineum is well know for its beautiful bathroom washstands and high end bathroom accessories from towels and linens to towel stands and lighting. Clever Balineum has now cleverly partnered up with Riccardo Barthelfounder of a very successful traditional tile business in Italy which have been in production for the past 20 years. This year Balineum has bought this huge range of tiles to the UK and I was very excited when they asked me to do a feature on them on my blog. The range is extensive and covers all fashions from bold and modern to the very intricate and traditional tiles which are so familiar in Italian towns and villages. Read on to see my interview with founder Sarah Watson and learn all about the traditional skills of making these handmade terracotta tiles;

What has inspired the Series S hand painted tile collection?

The spirit of the Amalfi coast – its colours and decoration. From my own travels in the area and around the Mediterranean, I have been looking for a partner or source of highly decorative tiles for a number of years now, so when I found Riccardo Barthel – it was a meeting of two tile loving souls. Riccardo of Riccardo Barthel, the Florentine company who make them, has been collecting tiles for over 40 years. Most of the tile patterns are from Southern Italy but over the years his collection has also been added too to include historical Dutch and Portuguese designs. These type of tiles have decorated the homes and buildings of Italy and the Mediterranean for years and the collection has slowly evolved and been added to as clients came asking to make new designs and/or match antique designs (when there aren’t enough tiles to tile an entire room).

When are the tiles official launching?

They are available now. They have been available in Italy for last 20 years. For English speakers, you will now find on our website a PDF catalogue of over 100 pattern designs. We picked patterns and colour combinations that we thought would work well together – but in fact, all of the designs can be made in 27 glaze colours – so the options are almost endless.

Where do the designs come form? 

Historical designs from around Italy and Europe - precisely from south Italy, the Netherlands and Portugal. But often are extrapolated and revisited drawings, enlarged or reduced etc. In other cases, it is the faithful reproduction of the classic designs.

Where are the tiles made and by who? 

Our Italian partner, Riccardo Barthel in Florence makes the tiles. Up until 5 years ago the kilns were actually in the their studio in central Florence – the Oltrarno district near the Boboli gardens, but recently for logistical and practical reasons the kiln is now in the Florentine countryside. Two lovely men – Franco and Mauro paint each tile. And when need be, they bring in other artisans to assist for larger orders.

What is the technique in creating the hand-painted tiles? 

The first step for making the Series "S" tiles is creating the terracotta tile base using moulds. These are made by hand and use Neapolitan clay (this clay is clearer and somewhat smoother terracotta clay, compared to the Tuscan one that is more red and porous).

The tiles are then fired for the first time in the kiln, bare.

After this step, the fired biscuit, is then enameled with the white background glaze, with a roller or "plunge". At that point, the tiles are left to dry. 

Once dried, the decorating process begins. This can be done with two different techniques: The simplest technique involves the use of one or more masks made of a metal sheet that has cut out the design. Resting the mask on the tile you pass the brush with paint that sticks to white only where there is no metal. If the design has more colors, then there is a mask and a step for each color. 

The other technique is entirely by hand, using just the eye of Mauro or Franco to paint detailing on the surface of the tile.

After the completion of the tile decoration they are fired again the kiln overnight before the cooled and packed. 

What is the general lead time of the tiles and can bespoke orders be placed? 

4 weeks for colour control samples. 8-12 for production order. Yes for bespoke. It pretty much never ending what we can do because they are made by hand. Choose any pattern, and any combination of the 27 glazes and we can create it for you.

This is not a sponsored post

All images are courtesy of Balineum