Origins of Lantern Tile

There’s no denying that lantern tiles are hugely popular. Not only are they among our top sellers, but they’re all over photos on Houzz, written up in blogs, and featured in a variety of décor magazines.  It’s strange though- even though it’s a prevalent style, there is still something distinctly exotic about them, even in modern kitchens.

Lantern Blue, available through Home Depot.

Merola Tile Lantern Blue, available through Home Depot.

The lantern tile as we know it today is crafted in the popular Moroccan style, which is a modern adaptation of a long tradition of the arches, curves (or ogees), vibrant colors, geometric patterns, and elaborate artistry that comprise Moorish architecture.  The Moors were conquerors of North Africa, Spain, and the islands of the Western Mediterranean in the 8th century, and their characteristic aesthetic, which evolved around the 11th century, was heavily influenced by the Islamic architecture found in the Middle East.  Islamic architecture is an amazing fusion of mathematics, structural design, and respect for the Quran, all three of which carried over into Moorish architecture.  The Quran forbids the copying of natural forms such as animals, humans, and flowers. To accommodate this, these styles developed geometric patterns heavy with stars, squares, crosses, crescents, hexes and octagons to express the importance of natural unity and order.  There is special emphasis on arches, carved masonry, and decorative tiles.

The Mihrab of the Great Mosque of Cordoba- Spain.

These pronounced styles have since been softened and updated to accommodate modern home decor, with wide use in the United Kingdom and the United States.  The selection of tile colors (red, blue, green, white, silver and gold) tend to stay true to the original looks from long ago, but updates in glazing methods and styles has resulted in an evolution of the look into multicolor glass mosaics.  As we continue to borrow more from ancient architectural styles, it will be interesting to see how we adjust the looks accordingly to suit modern décor and appliances.  As the 25th annual Coverings convention unfolds in Las Vegas, I’m sure new looks will pop up that answer this question- and I’ll report accordingly in next week’s post.


Sources: Here, here, and here.


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