Lovers of vintage tile — get ready to count the ways that this Friederichsen Floor & Wall Tile Catalog from 1929 illustrates the many patterns you can make with its decorative tile shapes and colors. Mosaics, pinwheels, basket weaves, plaids, geometric borders and much more eye candy fill this vintage catalog. Perhaps there’s a design here that you can replicate today, 85 years later?
Just look at the fancy tile job on these stairs — which are labeled non-slip safety stairs in case you’re wondering — and the way the tile was used as a decorative basebord molding. Even the tile borders on the stairs and floor create the feeling of a fancy rug — making this building feel more special. It’s fascinating to see tile work like this when you go into well preserved buildings from the first part of the 20th century — we see it in commercial installations even well into the 1950s — “mud set” — the real deal.
The above “wicker weave” tile patterns are called “basket weave” in today’s tile speak — and sadly, they aren’t readily available in nearly as many colors — and today, they can be very very expensive. Just look at how the different color combinations of the same tile shapes can create so many patterns. Amazing. And those borders — just gorgeous. A 1929 catalog? This must have been issued during the Boom. That came just before the Bust. We’re thinking that tile sales from this catalog were not … robust. Beware booms. If you don’t like busts.
The tile colors in this book are what really bring the designs to life. In the 1920s, color schemes for bathrooms were pretty much “anything goes”, according to Jane Powell in her essential-reading bungalow renovation book Bungalow Bathrooms (affiliate link). It was an exuberant time in terms of color and design… until the bust.
How many ways can we do checkerboard tile? Looks like a whole bunch to me. It is fascinating that the same pattern can be loud and graphic or calming depending on the color contrast and the contrast of light to dark tiles — as shown above in the last row. The black, white and green tile sample on the left is quite loud — the yellow green and black on the right is much more subdued. Same pattern — totally different feel.Above — the staggered checkerboard in grey, black and white is one of the more neutral/classic color schemes in the book — but it still wows with an eye catching pattern. If I had a 1930s bathroom — this would be my tile pattern of choice — with a dash of color mixed in to replace the grey. Pink maybe?
When I look at the tile patterns and colors in this book — I try to imagine what the rest of the room might have looked like. Stunning is my guess.
Another favorite — the border on the tile sample above — which reminds me of rick rack sewn on the edges of fabric. So cute. *Some therapy* to get this mosaic placed, wethinks.
Above on the left — this pinwheel tile sample was made to look much more random with a uniform border — which reminds me of a blended color rug. The sample on the right also looks very rug like — almost as if someone took a photo of a rug and converted it to pixels — then used that as a pattern for the tile. Could this be an early example of 8-bit?
The floor pattern above — double random — is near and dear to me — since this tile pattern was also popular in the 1960s and is my tile of choice to use in my master bathroom remodel. Yes, you can still get very affordable tile in this retro design — and from Home Depot, in six colors. We’re guessing, though, that this 1929 was porcelain, not ceramic like the the Merola tile I will be using. If you are researching bathroom floor tile, be sure to see all our stories about Bathroom/Tile here. Don’t forget World of Tile if you want authentic vintage, including replacements.
Friederichsen had quite a nice range of tile colors available — including three light pinks. It appears that back in 1929, the options for tile walls and floors in an array of colors abundant — something we wish were still true today.
Do any of you have an original tile floor similar to the patterns and colors shown in this catalog? If so, we’d love to see them.
To view the catalog in larger format, and in its entirety, see our slide show below.
Thanks to the MBJ collection and archive.org for making this catalog available via Creative Commons license.
Tips to view slide show: Click on first image… it will enlarge and you can also read my captions… move forward or back via arrows below the photo… you can start or stop at any image: