Due to an inordinate amount of messages about our kitchen backsplash, I thought I would whip together a blog post with all of the details! I have to say, our Moroccan zellige backsplash may be one my favorite things in the home. As I have mentioned before, one of the greatest challenges with designing new construction was finding ways to bring character and personality to each space. Brand new homes simply don't have the character that you find in an old home! We tried to counteract this by installing products that have age, character, and celebrate imperfections.
Zellige tile is handmade from raw clay that is soaked in water, poured into a mold, then baked in the Moroccan sun. Then, each tile is individually shaped by hand, which results in a beautiful product with high variation, hairline cracks, chips, and irregular shapes. After ordering a dozen zellige tile samples, we decided to go withZia tile as we loved the tone of their color, Casablanca. We wanted a light color but didn't want white. Our perimeter cabinets are a soft putty color and the island is a warm wood. It was important to find a tile with warmth, but we didn't want it to be too beige as we selected cool Carrara marble counters for the island.
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After many hours of comparing samples, I placed the order for the Casablanca. Several sleepless nights followed as I became nervous about how the color would look with our marble! We were in California during the installation...I was anxious to come home for the reveal! I am happy to report that I absolutely LOVE the tile and how it works with the rest of the kitchen. It adds texture, warmth, and character.
There are certainly more cracks and chips than I imaged. Had I been there during the installation, I think I would have sifted through some of the tiles and tossed the ones with large cracks. In retrospect, I am glad I did not have the opportunity to do so as I think that the major cracks and chips are the best part! These imperfections are evidence that each tile was thoughtfully made by hand. If you are interested in installing zellige in your home, you'll have to decide if you want to sift through the tiles and pick out the exceptionally rustic ones. I would suggest keeping them! If you are going to pay for handmade, I say showcase it!
Zia's zellige comes in a square and brick shape. We installed similar 2x8 brick in the upstairs bathrooms, so I wanted to change things up and go with a square. We opted to install in a straight stack pattern (one tile directly on top of the other). I specifically told our installer that we celebrate the imperfections and wanted the tiles to be installed imperfectly. We didn't want an exact "grid." We wanted the grout lines to be imperfect which is true of traditional Moroccan zellige.
Some companies recommend zellige tile be installed without grout. Zia's suggests that grout be utilized as it helps protect the tile. They suggest matching the grout color to the tile as closely as possible. Had we done this, we would have selected a beige grout. Instead, we went with white. After looking at photos of zellige installations on Instagram and Pinterest, I realized that I prefer the look of grout that is a slight contrast to the tile. I love the way that the white grout accentuates the texture.
Zellige tile does not need to be sealed unless it is used in a wet application (like a shower). Our tile is not sealed as a kitchen backsplash is considered a dry application.
I received a lot of questions about how we finished the raw edges of the tile (like to the right of the shelf above). We had two options here. We could have asked our installed to miter the tiles. The edges of the backsplash would be mitered then grouted. The other option, which we utilized, was to use Schluter. We used 3/8" in color white. The result is very clean and minimal.
I will definitely be installing zellige in future projects! We have a fun one coming up...I'm thinking of using zellige in BLUE!