Beautiful Iznik tiles are a stunning display of bold pattern, geometric form and dazzling symmetry. Defined, amongst many features, by the prominent use of strong blues, bursts of reds, white, and often turquoise, this colour palette was originally an homage to the Turkish craftmakers’s Oriental neighbours, China, and the Ming dynasty ceramics.
The tiles immediately conjure dreams of a romantic, Arabian era, of lavish Ottoman palaces, exquisite decoration, and rich, ornate surroundings. Created with endless repetition giving artistic scale and impact, the mosaics adorned the floors and walls of Istanbul’s most exuberant mosques, palaces and mansions.
To closely survey the finish is to untangle the intricate, repeated swirls of design and colour. At the centre of the bespoke embellishment, is the very simplest of floral forms. The tulip.
Though so intricately linked to Holland, with its fields of blossoming harvests, the tulip is a Central Asian flower, cultivated in Eastern Asia and most significantly in Turkey, where it was for some time revered and celebrated. To mark this significance, the flower was used by artisan painters and crafts workers to decorate ceramic display tiles and pottery, and indeed became a symbol of Turkey.
The exquisite hand painting was honed in the small town of Iznik, Turkey in the 15th and 16th century, and was so valued by Turkish rule, the ornaments were the official gift of the Ottoman Palace, Topkapi, itself amazingly adorned in the ceramic motif.
The lavish impact of the décor ensured it was widely used across the Ottoman empire, to embellish many imperial buildings, and their use became synonymous with Mosques throughout Turkey and the Middle East. A wonder of Islamic architecture, some 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles were used to create the astounding ceiling detail of The Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.
Who would have imagined the rich and coloured history of a simple, polychrome, square cut, high gloss, tile?
In modern works, interior designers have drawn inspiration from the dazzling effect, which brings functionality and cleanliness along with colour, glamour and intrigue.
In one of my all-time favourite interior design schemes, and featured in Architectural Digest, at the New York townhouse of author Andrew Solomon, legendary French designer Robert Couturier chose to adorn the master bath with antique Iznik tiles. The green and moss tones, and the delicate repetition of the pattern, contrast wonderfully with the high gloss, white tiles. A delighted nod to the Hammam’s of the Middle East.
In other interesting design schemes, the Arabian theme has also been created to dramatic effort without the use of tiles. American designer Miles Redd created this astounding living room with the incredible Iznik panelled wallpaper from Iksel Decorative Papers.
Combining tones and shades of blue with the traditional Iznik motif creates a perfect mix of colour, pattern and material in this bright, spacious living room. It is clear Redd had great fun sourcing playful, complimenting fabrics, eclectic furniture pieces, incredible art and beautiful ornaments.
D-tale is a series of interior design stories, the tales of splendid and fascinating places where history meets creativity. Follow me on Instagram.