All about tiles

Guest Written by Sarah Blake (@blakey)

(I’ve been promising Jarred that I would do some posts as well – so this is long overdue!)

Jarred mentioned the many, many decisions needed when doing a renovation, and one of those has been tiles. As with many areas of the house, it’s easy to carried away by Pinterest (and amazing Swedish designed encaustic tiles), but then reality and budget hits.

And again, as with many areas of the house, months of research and choosing then rejecting ideas and options has really paid off with us getting some beautiful and striking tiles for our house. In fact, seeing some of the tiles now in really felt like a big step (for me) of the house becoming a home. The rest of the work has been mostly structural, and of course based very much on the vision of the architect (with our input). The tiles going in felt like the first of the decisions that we had made from scratch coming to life, and thankfully it feels like we made good decisions.

I’ve put a list at the bottom of this post of tile suppliers in SA that I would recommend based on the experience of this project. We didn’t get tiles from all of them, but they’re all suppliers that I will certainly keep on hand for future projects. (And a starting list like this would have been very helpful to us.)

We decided early on that we would like to do something quite striking with the new main shower, especially as it could become a feature that is seen from the garden or other areas of the house. (Although, given that it’s our shower, we might end up with screens so that it is seen a little less!) I also think that, if you have the space, a large bathroom that you love is a wonderful indulgence. We’d already chosen great fittings from OXO bathrooms, including a luxurious freestanding bath (can’t wait to have that installed – and then I think I will have bubble baths and wine every day ha ha). We wanted a beautiful shower to complement that.

We looked at getting custom tiles made, but the shower proportions are very generous, and the price of that quickly moved us too far along the indulgence scale. We had looked at encaustic (Moroccan) tiles in Johannesburg, but couldn’t find what we wanted. We briefly considered a long rectangular, off-white tile from Italtile, but when Andy the architect saw it and said “oh, metro tiles, everyone is doing those”, it fell out of favour with me.

Luckily we travel to Cape Town frequently, so I was able to stop in at Moroccan Warehouse on a trip. I got in touch with the owner, Kundra, and she very kindly supplied lists and images over email of the available tiles. I 3-D modelled some options for us, and we placed the order.

And now, they’re in and they look amazing. And they’re about the same square metre cost of the white tile from Italtile, but they’re bold, unique and distinctive. Watching them go in was great, and then seeing the colours getting more brilliant with the sealer being applied confirmed we made the right choice. We chose a hexagon mosaic tile to go of the floor.


The amazing shower in progress.


Moroccan tiles from Moroccan Warehouse in Cape Town

All of the builders have been commenting about our “special shower”, and I certainly can’t wait to use it.

Other tile choices:

From Tilespace, we chose rectangular tiles in three colours, which have been tiled in a herringbone pattern on the outdoor shower. Using a different pattern is a good way of taking “ordinary” tiles and turning them into something quite special.


A herringbone pattern for the upstairs shower

We surprised ourselves by choosing handpainted Mexican tiles for our swimming pool (still to be installed at time of writing). We were going for a plain black tile, but had some talavera tile samples we’d bought from Hadeda (a brief consideration for stair risers, until we realised just how many metres of stair risers we have). There wasn’t sufficient stock of the geometric tile, and someone suggested a mix of tiles. That’s what we’ve gone for, and they’re looking great. They are actually a good complement to the Moroccan tiles in the shower.


Laying out the tile mix for the pool

I’ve also learned more about pool coping than I ever thought I would want to know. Coping refers to the tiles around the edge of your pool, or on the edge of stairs. We had already chosen an outdoor tile, but were not happy with the coping options to go with the tile. Some extensive Google searching later, I came across Wilson Stone in Johannesburg. We went there to look at coping options, and realised that we preferred their tiles to what we had chosen. Luckily, no deposits had been made, and now have lovely, made in SA, tiles arriving this week.

Other tips / things I learned: There are a lot of grouting options (including glitter grout from Italtile if that’s your thing). Grout choice can really change the overall look. We’ve gone for dark grey throughout, which disappears beautifully with the Moroccan tiles, and gives a nice outline to plain colour tiles.

You can get black grout easily, no matter what Builder’s Express says. We found at several other hardware shops. (Black grout is for the pool.)

Likewise, the spacing between tiles can really change the look. Tile spacers start at 2mm, and go much higher.

Look at different layout options to create a different look and feel for your tiles. There are lots of references all over Pinterest.

You generally need to buy 10% more tiles than required to account for breakages, especially if there is cutting needed on the tiles. This can change depending on type of tile, so it’s worth looking at what’s needed and whether or not tiles can be returned. With large patterned tiles you might need more, depending on what areas need to be covered. With mosaic tile sheets you don’t need much extra.

You need waterproof cement for the pool. Buy this from a pool shop, or buy regular tile cement to which you add a liquid that makes it waterproof from a hardware store. It’s cheaper from the hardware store.

Tile suppliers

Handmade in SA

Southern Art Ceramic Design

Custom tiles made in South Africa. They are super helpful and quick to get back to you. Ask to look at surplus stocks for inspiration, or perhaps find the tiles of your dreams already made! Ships from Western Cape. I’m hoping that we might be able to get tiles for the kitchen from here.


Well priced and beautiful quarry floor tiles. New bespoke range of ceramic wall tiles in clean. modern geometric designs. Ship from Western Cape.

Wilson Stone

Outdoor paving and coping, made in South Africa. We are using these tiles on the outside deck and for the pool coping. Showroom: 157 Queen Str, Kensington, Johannesburg

Morrocan and Mexican Tiles

Hadeda in Johannesburg

Encaustic cement tiles (Moroccan tiles – made in Vietnam) and hand-painted Mexican tiles. All available tiles are listed on the website. We bought the tiles for our swimming pool here.

Moroccan Warehouse in Cape Town
Crnr Buitenkant & Commercial Street, Cape Town CBD, 8001

Phone: 021 461 8318

Kundra was so helpful, and emailed us lists of all tiles in stock, and coming on shipments, as well as helping us to see which patterns actually had sufficient stock for us. She arranged the shipping from Cape Town, and they all arrived quickly and with no breakages! Sealant and instructions came with the shipment. We bought the tiles for our main shower here.

Mexican Imports

I chatted with them online when we were looking at tiles for the pool, and they were super helpful. Ship from Plettenberg Bay.

The bigger guys – imports


Showrooms in Johannesburg and Cape Town. We discovered this store by accident (we were driving past it and went in on a whim), and we’re so glad we did. Large range of beautiful imported tiles, and very reasonably priced (like, 1/3 of what we were expecting based on Italtile experience). We bought the outdoor shower tiles here.

Douglas Jones
They really have the market cornered on mosaics, and are available through most large tile stores, including Italtile and Tilespace. We bought shower floor tiles here.