What are the characteristics of terrazzo tiles?
- Terrazzo is a material made of marble chippings set in cement.
- Terrazzo originated in 16th-century Italy but has many applications even today.
- Terrazzo has nearly unlimited color and material options.
- Terrazzo is a sustainable decorating option.
If you’re new to the architecture and design industry, you might be unfamiliar with the word “terrazzo”. Still, we’re sure you’ve seen this material before, such that you’ll think, “Oh, that’s what it’s called!” once you see it.
Terrazzo tiles are, in our opinion, some of the most beautiful tiles that can be crafted by hand. This is simply because they are so dynamic and incredibly versatile, making for such unique pieces every time.
This article focuses entirely on terrazzo as a material and its application in the form of decorative tiles. We’ll be discussing what terrazzo is, its history, how it’s made, and what you can use it for.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
Terrazzo is a material made of marble chippings set in cement
The word “terrazzo” is derived from the Latin word “terra,” which means ground. Terrazzo is composed of aggregate chips that are usually set in cement. These chips can be pieces of nearly any hard material—marble, granite, quartz, crystal, glass, or even seashells. They can be set in cement or, as proven in more recent years, epoxy or other types of resin.
As you can see in this photo taken from our own Instagram page @machucatile, a terrazzo tile is composed of stone chippings scattered onto a tile mold, before being set in cement. It remains the most commonly used base for terrazzo tiles, while resin usually works for epoxy terrazzo flooring.
Terrazzo originated in 16th-century Italy but has many applications even today
Terrazzo is a long-standing material that not only lasts for centuries but also stays popular through time. These days, it’s very much on-trend because of its versatility, dynamic appearance, and many creative applications. Just take a look at this bench we put together for Balay Dako—, a far cry from your usual terrazzo floor, isn’t it?
These can be applied to nearly any kind of surface, whether horizontal or vertical, making them ideal for any building. It does have a bit of a Mediterranean feel and calls back a long, storied history. Still, modern applications have proven that terrazzo is a very flexible material that looks good no matter where it’s put.
Terrazzo tiles are even easier to apply since they’ve been precut and simply need to be installed. Whether indoor or semi-outdoor, for any room of the house, they make a great addition to the aesthetic and functional aspect of a home.
Terrazzo has nearly unlimited color and material options
As we mentioned above, the aggregate chips used in terrazzo can be pieces of just about any hard material. This in itself already allows a lot of variation in terms of color, but pigmented cement creates further room for customization.
At Machuca, beyond being known for our iconic floor tile designs, our cement tiles are also recognized for their vibrant colors. The secret behind this vibrancy is no secret at all you can read all about it on our Process page. It’s high-quality iron oxide pigments, which are both durable and striking to see. Just look at how these pigments make our tiles pop in the photo above, taken at El Union Coffee.
Terrazzo is a sustainable decorating option
Because it’s made using offcuts, terrazzo is a sustainable decorating option. Historically it’s been made out of recycled waste chips from slab marble processing. It’s also extremely durable and retains warmth effectively. It’s been used most commonly as a flooring material (see it in the photo above as part of The PULO House’s design), but as we’ve said before, it can be used for furniture and other decorative purposes as well.
Terrazzo tiles are unique in the sense that no two pieces are ever exactly alike, and dynamic in that each is a marvel to look at. They’re perfect for adding a European or Mediterranean look to your building or home, but it’s also been used so often that they can adjust to just about any style.