The Designer Den

The rise of the hand-produced encaustic cement tile has been remarkable. In the encaustic process, the pattern is created in a mould, with sections of self-coloured material, often mixtures of ground natural stone and cement, pigmented using natural minerals. The finished tiles aren’t fired or glazed, so the surface is matt and there’s a pleasing natural feel to even the crispest geometric motif. Though this traditional tile-making technique dates back to Victorian times, the current patterns couldn’t be more contemporary.
— The Sunday Times

In a remote and intimate workshop on the golden plains of the Alentejo region in Portugal, our artisans transform the native rose tinted marble into colourful patterned tiles. Paying homage to the Moorish legacy, each tile is handmade carrying subtle variations that reflect the crushed marble, the natural drying temperature and the unique flourish of its maker. 

crushed marble mixed with pigments
hand pouring marble tiles

A distinct colour palette

Our tiles go under the names cement tiles or encaustic tiles, but we call them crushed marble because of their key ingredient. They have been made in the same way since the 1800s; marble powder mixed with pigment is poured over a layer of cement to create the pattern, and is then pressed by a hydraulic machine creating each unique tile. 

The pale rose tinted marble is a feature of royal palaces in the nearby towns of Vila Vicosa and Estremoz. When mixed with pigments, the resulting colour is a unique blend which contains hints of the rose origins of its marble. 

cement tiles drying naturally in the sun


Batch dried and shaped by natural elements 

The tiles are submerged in water and left to dry in the Portuguese sun for up to two days. Depending on the wind, the humidity in the air and the temperature, the marble surface will acquire a subtle variation in finish. 

The lifetime of a tile can last hundreds of years and the effects of age only serve to increase the beauty of the surface as the marble regains its original hard stone sheen. 

Check out our gallery for more photos from the tile production process.