I was reading Julia’s article about the villa used in the film Under the Tuscan Sun, based on the book by Frances Mayes. The home featured is not the real Bramasole from the book, it was the home nearby that was used for the film, but it’s been completely renovated to capture that perfect Tuscany aesthetic but with modern amenities, and throughout the villa the flooring is terra cotta tile.
The kitchen in the home I stayed in last week also had terra cotta tile floors (with radiant heat!), and loved how earthy they felt, especially since we see so many stark white spaces in design these days. Terra cotta is a material in its natural state has an warm orange base but when glazed it’s available in any color. “Earthy” is the perfect adjective to describe this tile since “terra cotta” literally means “baked earth”.
via hooked on houses
In Mediterranean homes, terra cotta tiles look absolutely perfect. They’re a unique style that pairs beautifully with plaster walls, wood beams, and arched entries often admired in that style of home.
design by laurel beebe
In a modern home, terra cotta tile floors are a more interesting choice, one of personal taste. They provide a warm and textural contrast to modern cabinets and appliances, and present a hint of Old World alongside the new.
Orange is the complement to blue on the color wheel, so terra cotta is a lovely accent in spaces decorated in blue hues. Doesn’t it also look fantastic with copper accents in this kitchen?
Blues and greens are mostly safe bets but because of its undertones, terra cotta orange can be trickier to pair with cool pinks, saturated yellows, or bright reds, they can clash if in direct competition.
Terra cotta is a transitional material, it can move from outdoors to interiors seamlessly. It’s also a perfect material to line borders, pathways, and pools in landscaped yards.
Some people are anti terra cotta tile as flooring because it can be uneven and a tripping hazard for the elderly (or clumsy!). I’ve tripped myself on uneven tile so I completely understand this sentiment.
Despite the potential for slight unevenness, terra cotta tile possesses a wonderful warmth that can offset a bright white space, like in this combined kitchen and dining space.
Aside from the look, installing tile is a question of practicality. In warmer climates, tile keeps a house cool, I know from living with them in the desert climate of Las Vegas. Tile is waterproof but hard underfoot, and less kind to your back if you’re walking around on it all day. Tile is also unforgiving on anything breakable, say goodbye to glass or ceramics if you drop them on tile floors, unlike wood or vinyl where they might stand a chance.
Some people argue terra cotta tile is a dated look, and I agree if absolutely everything else in the space (furniture and decor) is dated as well.
However, terra cotta floors are a timeless material that feels most at home in Spanish revival homes or spaces with a Mediterranean vibe. I’m a fan because terra cotta tile floors take me back to many of the places I’ve visited in Italy and France.
And as several of the above examples demonstrate, terra cotta tiles can warm up a modern space when used in a thoughtful way.
What’s your experience with terra cotta tile floors? Do you have fond memories of them in a relative’s home or in a sunny vacation spot? Or do they just come across as “ick” to you?