Far from the hustle and bustle of fast-paced home-improvement stores are a few local companies that team up with artisans and creatives to create bespoke tiles for clients who are looking for something special. I dive deep into the world of carefully curated tile selections that offer customers unique collections sourced from exotic destinations and our own backyard. I got in touch with a few of the top bespoke tile suppliers in South Africa and asked them everything you need to know about the creative world of decorative tiles.
Since 2017, Opia has been the exclusive supplier of handmade, concrete and zellige tiles in South Africa. Their products are designed by internationally renowned creators and handmade by artisans in Morocco. They define their selection through three main values: timeless design, sustainability and fair-trade. “For each interior, we bring an ancestral tradition where durability, timelessness and elegance are both proven and shared across cultures. “We believe that luxury can only be achieved when people, materials and processes are respected and celebrated,” says Ghizlaine Menebhi co-founder of Opia Design.
Hadeda is another well-known and much-loved brand and supplier of bespoke tiles in South Africa. Hadeda started 30 years ago and three decades in the business has taught them to keep up with trends and more importantly, find new items that are different and not available locally. “It has been our philosophy since day one to concentrate on goods that are hand-made and strive not to import items that can be made in South Africa”, says Des Armstrong, founder of Hadeda.
Established in 2009 by Petro van Zyl, De Kleipot creates a wide variety of high quality, hand-crafted, hand-painted tiles. Their tile collections feature diverse colour palettes, styles, shapes and sizes, with ranges to suit different décor moods and trends, from vintage to modern.
In the foothills of the Wolkberg mountain range in Limpopo, two like-minded Industrial Design students conceptualised a company that creates unique concrete products. Realising their whimsical idea was on the brink of reality, the team approached Ramielle de Jager to join the Wolkberg team in their endeavour. Her passion for innovation and business know-how added a new dynamic to the team. Ramielle has more than 10 years of new product development and product management experience with some of South Africa’s leading brands.
Mexico, Morocco or Art Nouveau
Trends come and go but if you are willing to invest in beautiful tiles, the best option is to go with timeless designs that will bring joy for many years. As interiors become more comfortable with less clutter, people are choosing timeless designs and colours that will suit their home for a lifetime. I asked about tile trends first.
Opia: “Probably covid related, but we saw a lot of customers going for the zelliges – traditional Moroccan tiles. Because the whole effect resides in its colour reflections, nuances and movements, it makes a statement that won’t go out of fashion. More generally, we saw an uptake on the zelliges all over the world for its aesthetics, sustainability and easy maintenance.
Hadeda: “Colour! During times of uncertainty and anxiety, people turn to colour in both their environment and their homes. Colour has become very important, particularly to spend a lot of time at home during the pandemic; alterations to homes have become a big trend”.
De Kleipot: “We have seen that the dark bottle green and mint tiles are very trendy at the moment. Our Nouveau range tiles come in various colours, and we have launched pre-packed splashbacks. The dark green picks up colours like maroon and yellow to create a bold focus. Another trend is an understated blue “washed” look tile in various patterns. These fashions are a much softer look that adds to an interior theme.
Wolkberg: We have found that in 2021 designers and homeowners are being bolder in their choices. There is more incorporation of semi-precious metal accents like brass and copper on floors and walls as well as on furniture. The homeowner is embracing the use of feature tiles on backsplashes for kitchens and bathrooms. We also noticed that simple shapes and tessellations in single colours over large spans are doing well in hospitality and this is sure to spill over into residential”.
The Creative Process
The creative process behind tile design concepts is like any other in the creative field. Working closely with interior designers is important to identify a client’s needs. Take me through the development of a new idea or design. What is the creative process?
Opia Designs: “We work closely with interior designers and other professionals in the industry; with their help, we identify their needs and possible market gaps. On the other hand, we are continuously working with tile suppliers to identify suitable products in line with our values of fair-trade, sustainability and being design-oriented. Once a new product is identified, we discuss it again with our closest clients before distributing it in the country”.
Wolkberg: “As designers, we take new product development seriously. The process is quite solid however still very creative and fun. There are stage gates and it starts with; ideation, preliminary investigation and concept validation and idea reiteration. We then only decide if we will start a project. It then moves on to costing, prototyping, manufacturing, market trials, the launch and then a market follow-up.
Playing the Muse
Continuously finding inspiration in home interiors can be exhausting – never mind coming up with the next big design. How do you stay creatively inspired?
De Kleipot: “To continuously try and test new patterns and designs. We keep our eyes open for any inspiring compositions and make them into designs. Looking for inspiration is a very convenient excuse to travel. We love drawing inspiration from historic sites with timeless designs and ideas. Putting a modern spin on ageless composition is a nice challenge and not as easy as you would think. The result is that we release new designs very often. Experimenting with a new design is a very time-consuming process and we are very finicky when it comes to colour, design and layout. We will go through the process multiple times to ensure a perfect design”.
Opia: “Research, research, research. We keep ourselves informed of what is happening in South Africa and globally. Not only in the tile space but also interior design in general as it helps us foresee which tiles would complement future project requirements”.
The Buyer Experience
Starting the bespoke tile journey will take some know-how on what and who is trending. Any advice for people wanting to find the perfect bespoke tiles for their home – What is the buyer experience like?
Wolkberg: “We love assisting people to make their choices and we can assist in finding the right match for any client. I would suggest checking out our IG and other designers IG and other platforms to identify what catches your eye. Come to us with those inspirational images and we can help further hone those down to choices. The experience is always one to remember as we are great collaborators”.
Hadeda: “Daily, we give customers advice, and assist them to choose from our vast range of tiles. We also have pre-packed boxes of tiles – which we call Chosen For You, taking the guesswork out of trying to choose from our 150 designs”.
When it comes to custom-made tiles, can customers DIY or is it best to get a professional to lay the tiles for you?
Hadeda: “We prefer that these handmade tiles be laid by a professional tiler and have a list of preferred tilers who we recommend to clients. However, like with any tile, anyone with tiling experience should be able to lay our tiles”.
Wolkberg: “If you want a seamless installation and you are not already a handy person, we would suggest getting a professional tiler. This will ensure an installation is worth the money spent on the tiles.
Go Say Hello
Opia: If you are based in Johannesburg, all their products are on show at the beautiful Studio 19 showroom.
Hadeda: The showroom is located at 40 Bompas Road, Dunkeld, Johannesburg. Look out for the Mexican Blue Wall.
De Kleipot: Situated on a farm; Aan de Doorns, just outside Worcester on the Viliersdorp road, visitors can stop by on appointment only. They also meet a lot of their customers at the Potters Market, which takes place twice a year in Rondebosch, Cape Town.
Wolkberg: They welcome visitors to their Ruimsig Factory and find that when other creatives visit them there, they are always inspired and come up with the best ideas.
by Marion Nowak