Ask any addict and they are sure to remember their ‘first fix’. Tile addicts, it seems, are no different. I can trace my life-long obsession to tiles back to two events. The first, which I will cover later in more detail, was a press trip to the Minton Hollins factory in 1983 to discover the secrets of traditional encaustic tile production at first hand.
However, it was at Cevisama in 1999 that I first knew I was truly hooked. I had already been a regular attendee at Cersaie, Cevisama and Coverings at this point. While I enjoyed getting to know the world’s leading tile manufacturers and their diverse ranges, nothing I had seen to date had really fired my imagination. Silk-screen printed marbles, watersplash patterns, plain small format glazed tiles, terracotta simulations, hippo decals and bright listelli of many different hues were all well and good, but I wanted manufacturers to really start exploring the possibilities of ceramic tile as a surfacing material in its own right.
Then I came across Flandes by Diago Ceramicas. The rest, as they say, is history. Over the proceeding two years Diago Ceramicas had established itself at the cutting edge of tile design; a fact underlined when the Diago Gallery sub-brand was unveiled at Cevisama.
Thankfully, Cevisama was also where the judges of the Tile UK Awards 1999 met to assess the shortlisted designs and pick the winners. As Chair of the judges, I knew that our search was over as soon as I saw, and felt, Diago’s new Flandes range. Fortunately, my fellow judges agreed, and so this 300 by 600mm satin-finish rectified tile was chosen as the Wall Tile of the Year for 1999.
At a time when the majority of rectified tiles were limited to marble imitations and plain whites, Diago gave rectification a fresh new twist. Flandes initially came in two colours: rich ochre and cobalt; followed shortly by a pale creamy beige. The colours were characterised by subtle tonal variations. The overall appearance was most unusual. In fact, at first glance, it was hard to believe that Flandes was a ceramic product at all; it looked more like polished plaster or even high quality vinyl. Neither did it feel like a normal ceramic tile, being very smooth and ‘warm’ to the touch.
Cool, contemporary and very chic, Flandes was, quite simply, a ceramic design classic and a worthy winner of Tile UK’s inaugural Best New Wall Tile Design Award for 1999.
This item first appeared in Tile UK, 1999.
Flandes at Little Dodges
Joanna and Paul Mantle bought Dodges Oast 24 years ago when Paul was managing its adjacent fruit farm. This unusual Oast house was derelict, but has since undergone an extensive and sympathetic restoration.
Dodges Oast is tucked away in a little corner of the “Garden of England” enjoying extensive views of the surrounding countryside. Equidistant from the villages of Horsmonden, Goudhurst and Marden, it is ideally situated for renowned local gardens, such as Sissinghurst and Great Dixter, as well as Leeds, Scotney and Hever castles.
Across the drive from Dodges Oast sits Little Dodges: a self-catering cottage forged from a redundant stable and a barn in a poor state of repair. With help from friends, Joanna and Paul were able to transform this detached character building into a warm, cosy three-bedroom holiday home for families from all over the world, including Australia, New Zealand, Africa, USA and Europe.
The kitchen features an elegant 300mm splashback formed from the two darker colours in the Flandes range, together with one of the range’s simple cut-piece decors. 16 years later, these Spanish designer tiles look just as good as the day they were first laid.
Unable to find a photograph of Flandes in my archives, I remembered that my friends Jo and Paul had used the very tile in the conversion of Little Dodges. So thanks, Jo and Paul, for these photographs of your beautiful self-catering cottage.