112 patterns of mosaic floor tile — in amazing colors — Friederichsen Floor & Wall Tile catalog, 1929

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Let's-decorate-1929Lovers 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?

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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.
1930s-vintage-wicker-weave-tile-patterns-and-colors

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.

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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.

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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.Staggered-checkerboard-black-and-white-vintage-tileAbove — 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?

pinwheel-tile-patterns-1930s-ceramic-tile-floor

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.

vintage-yellow-and-white-1930s-tile-floorAnother 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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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:


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Comments

  1. Sara says

    Ummm…LOVE! Drooling here. Someday when I can afford it, I’ll be re-doing my bathroom. I’ll be looking back at this post for inspiration!

  2. Cynthia says

    Very beautiful! Such lively colors! The wicker weaves are my faves. As for color names, I wonder what “Enc. Buff” and “Vitr. Buff” mean?

    • Amanda C. says

      I believe those names differentiated “encaustic buff,” for which the entire body of the tile would’ve been colored through, from “vitreous buff,” which would’ve had a the color (in this case, buff – usually used to describe a sort of off-white or fleshy tone) applied to the surface in the form of a fired- or melted-on (vitreous, as in glass) glaze.

  3. Janet in CT says

    These are gorgeous but I will bet that few of them ever survived if used in a commercial building. I remember a movie that I loved, I think back in the late seventies or early eighties, called something like “The Fixers”. It was a fantasy and the subject was about these little robot like aliens who came in and repaired things at night. They saved one building slated for demolition and it showed them repairing an elaborate tile foyer like this one. I remember that tile distinctly and I swear it had to be one of these because it was this same idea and really stunning! I would bet most of them have suffered the ravages of time and are long gone. And as noted, probably were expensive and weren’t produced for long. Very inspiring indeed!

    • Mary says

      Janet, was the movie “Batteries not Included”? I always think of that movie because of the line “Peoples is peoples.” :)

  4. ann says

    It seems to me like these kinds of tile floors held up VERY well. There is one in the foyer of my grandmother’s 1910 home in Rockaway Beach NY, that still looks new, and there is one in the bathroom of my 1950s cape in Rockaway as well (we kept it when we redid the bath). And I have seen plenty of stairways in NY apartment buildings that are still rocking these tile patterns.

  5. TappanTrailerTami says

    Love all of these tile designs! Happy to see some earlier catalogs since the 20’a thru the 40’s had some great things going on. As for enc. and vitr. I believe that stands for encaustic (unglazed) and vitreous (glazed).

  6. Rebecca prichard says

    This is wonderful. I love seeing the designs of days past. Just beautiful •. Looks like it would be the floor in The Fisher Building in Detroit.

  7. says

    We just bought a pre-war apartment in Forest Hills, Queens, which has it’s original 1938 bathroom with pinwheel tiles. But I have yet to see the actual pattern here (or anywhere) online. The rectangle tile is light grey, but the center tile is made up of 2 triangles (white and dark grey). The whole bathroom has a dark grey border that might have been painted at some point. The walls are light greenish square tiles with a dark grey border. We’re hoping to restore/refinish the tiles, although I’m having a hard time finding the replacements. I can’t find anything on this site about cleaning/restoring tiles that are kind of grimy and gross. This bathroom really needs a once-over deeeeeep scrub. Additionally, a couple of the bullnose corner tiles are cracked and some of the triangles have been replaced at the high traffic areas – I can’t find the small triangles anywhere (my best bet is American Restoration Tile, and I’ll call them tomorrow). Have you ever seen this version of the pinwheel pattern? Great site – thanks for all the resources!

  8. Matthew Siegmann says

    Those are great tile floor samples! While these are from the 1929, I’ve seen several of these exact same patters in the buildings (bathrooms) on Missouri State University campus that were built in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. I wouldn’t shy away from using any of those patterns (with or without the border) in any house up through the 1970s. I’ve seen a 1956 bathroom (original untouched) in Ellis Hall with Filed No. 11 (exact same colors minus the border), and a 1970’s 3rd floor men’s bathroom (exact date unsure, but original and untouched) in Craig Hall with the Field No. 901, minus the border. The 3rd floor women’s bathroom, without entering, but glancing in, had the exact floor as the men’s but in pink tiles, but more of a three tone pink than Field No. 901B.

    I hope this information helps those unsure of if these designs are appropriate or not for later period houses (I wouldn’t be surprised if these designs are found in some later model houses).

    Warm regards,

    Matthew

  9. Liz T says

    I purchased a house about 2 years ago that I’m told was built about 1945. Unfortunately, someone did a really, really bad, 1980’s renovation on it and removed all the wall and shower tiles. The one thing they did leave though, is a beautiful, solid, tile floor (oh, and the original tub in biscuit). It looks almost exactly like Field No. 804 (page 11) as shown in the pics. The only difference is that there are 4 square center green tiles instead of the 2 shown. It’s always so much fun to find out things like this!

  10. Lorraine says

    Oh I’m drooling. Been looking for flooring EXACTLY like these porcelain patterns for my kitchen reno in my 1943 cottage. Would love to know a source for something similar. Anyone???

    • pam kueber says

      See my stories on World of Tile (use the Search box). You can also create your own pattern using Daltile’s mosaic creator — again, use our Search box, and read the comments on this one too — local retailers may not know this even exists, but it does…

      • Lorraine says

        Thanks Pam

        I checked out world of tile and Daltile.
        I’ve been leaning towards Daltile’s 1″ porcelain hex tiles. They just don’t have the color selection like the beauties in this story. I’ll post if I find any other sources

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