The Makings of Terrazzo
A direct descendent of mosaic tiling, terrazzo has been in existence for centuries. While the material is largely believed to have originated in Italy over 500 years ago, there is archeological evidence of terrazzo being used as early 9000 to 8000 BC in the floors of early-Neolithic structures.
The key to terrazzo’s enduring appeal is its incredible versatility. The contemporary iteration of terrazzo has moved on from its initial period of retro resurgence to being recognised as a versatile modern material that can be styled in a myriad of ways, from understated monochrome minimalism to full-on maximalism.
Mid-Century Practicality to Eighties Art Form
As technology progressed and terrazzo production became increasingly mechanized, the material became even more prized for its practicality in addition to its aesthetic appeal. Mid Century Modern architecture often used terrazzo flooring in public as well as private buildings, a trend that continued throughout the 1960’s and 70’s. By the late-1970s, however, terrazzo flooring had largely become the province of hospitals, schools and other public buildings due to it being cost-effective and hard-wearing. As a result, the perception of terrazzo became increasingly polarized as either an architectural relic from bygone times or an uninspiring material found in largely uninspiring buildings.
The tide started to turn in 1982 when Japanese furniture designer Shiro Kuramata created ‘Star Piece’, a modern take on terrazzo that uses coloured glass pieces bonded with synthetic concrete. Representing the “debris of memory”, according to the designer, this experimental approach captured the imagination of the West as a playful and vibrant antidote to the monochromatic postmodern ethic prevalent at the time. In response, the world-renowned, forward-thinking fashion designer Issey Miyake approached Shiro Kuramata to design his store-front in Tokyo.
“I used to think of Terrazzo as 1970’s kitsch but the resurgence of this 500-year-old Italian material has made a come-back, mainly due to its durability, sustainability and versatility. My main reason for specifying this material on recent projects is due to it being eco-friendly – made up from a mixture of recycled glass and natural aggregates, such as marble, granite and quartz, which makes it one of the most environmentally friendly materials around, and it meets most budgets too”
-Helen Skea, Infinite Designers
Terrazzo: Practical, Durable, Versatile
Modern terrazzo is composed of naturally occurring aggregates such as marble, quartz and granite, combined with other particles including metal or mother of pearl for a subtly sparkling finish, and mixed with pigment to create different colour palettes. These components are poured with a binder of processed cement or epoxy, or a combination of both. The end result is a durable material that, once cured, is ground to a smooth finish and cast into small or large format tiles in all shapes and sizes, and slabs.
Today’s designers are breathing new life into the terrazzo trend with a variety of textures, colours and finishes, resulting in a plethora of choice and the flexibility to create truly bespoke solutions. With many collections offering variants of terrazzo’s distinctive speckled pattern – from small and subtle to large and defined- in a range of shades, layers of texture can be built up for a harmonious but striking aesthetic.
Terrazzo’s versatility is suitable for commercial, retail and hospitality projects through to residential builds and refits as terrazzo effect tiles are suitable for a variety of design styles. This also means that it is not limited to walls and floors; the material can be used for almost any surface including indoor bathroom countertops, shelves and furniture from the Alpine range. Alongside a plethora of choices for outdoor with our made-to-order dining tables to compliment slabs used for outdoor kitchens and bar areas.
Using slabs of terrazzo in the same toning of shades across furniture, flooring and walls – and even out on to the patio and beyond – creates an ultra-streamlined look that flows effortlessly throughout the space.
Get The Look: 2021 Tile Trends
As we move into 2021, terrazzo is a natural fit with the prevalent trends. After a year marked by unprecedented challenges and with more time being spent in our homes than ever before, the trend for more playful interiors with an optimistic mood is at the fore. A preference for pattern and colour is coming through, delivered with a quirky and individual edge driven by a growing desire for self-expression.
Terrazzo for Kitchens, Dining & Outdoors
A bold terrazzo, typified by large format patterns and strong colours, is the perfect starting point for a fierce statement. The densely textured Frammenti Nero Macro Matt is a strong option as a feature wall in the kitchen, particularly when offset by counters and cabinetry in jewel tones.
Take the look through to the kitchen countertops and even furniture with terrazzo slabs; we offer bespoke table customisations in the subtly speckled Terrazzo Grand or Coem’s earth toned Widegres, set on sleek Danli, Durham or Kata aluminium frames in white or charcoal, which work for both indoor and al fresco dining and lounging.
Opting for a terrazzo with a large defined pattern will automatically add interest to any room, particularly for large open-plan spaces that benefit from layers of textural interest without disrupting the flow. Likewise you can match a bold print against the subtly speckled design of terrazzo tiles to create new and unique dimensions.
Remember that wall recesses and panels can bring pattern to the walls in a more subtle sense, while solid blocks of terrazzo help de-mark specific seating and dining zones. Using terrazzo to create geometric patterns on flooring and walls is an authentic way to reflect its historical origins whilst making an on-trend interior design impact; Cir’s 120 x 60mm and 60 x 60 mm Venezia tiles in a fine speckle and contrasting colours are the perfect materials by which to create a modern masterpiece – especially when contrasted against the playful Showall Monkey tile.
We all know an easy way to style up a shower space is by using alternative brassware finishes; yet doing so can also accentuate the tiles accent colours. Our M-Line in Brushed Copper, will highlight the warm bronze tones within the framentti terrazzo, resulting in a cohesive design with depth.
Go with the Natural Flow
Biophilic styling is big this for both interior and exterior solutions this year; with a focus on natural materials, soft shades and textural layers. A finely speckled terrazzo in soft tones adds depth whilst maintaining the harmony of the look.
For a bathroom inspired by the natural world, terrazzo with defined marble particles dials up the organic element; Del Conca’s Stelvio range – for indoor and out – offers subtle natural shades in different formats, including a stunning mosaic option, while the Cir Venezia Palladio Lux’s defined crackle pattern is another great option for an organic luxe feel. Add Brushed Nickel brassware with the Tignes basin in Widegres for a tonal and tactile solution.
If there’s space to spare, a sleekly relaxing chair in organic materials – such Jati & Kebon Ritz in Teak – delivers the perfect finishing touch.
A minimalist bathroom in monochrome shades is a contemporary classic that will stand the test of time. Dial it up a notch with finely textured on-trend terrazzo in the soft muted tones of Del Conca’s Stelvio Bianco Lappato running through the walls and floors to create a relaxing space that soothes the senses. Simplicity is key for the minimalist ethic; the clean lines and silky finish of the M-Line Bagnoquartz Freestanding Bathtub in Matt White adds to the sanctuary vibe, complimented by the streamlined Bath Filler from Aquaeco’s new EX316 collection, available in high-grade stainless steel.
Don’t forget to explore Matt Black mixers or striking vanity units in darker dramatic shades for a modern masculine touch.