J

Jeff identifies the mystery sculptural tiles in Cody’s bathroom — and we identify three designs in all

franciscan hermosa contours line tileFollowing up on last week’s story about the beautiful dimensional tile in Cody’s bathroom, my hypothesis on the tile’s maker was proven wrong by reader Jeff, who has identified the tile. He has photos showing proof marks: They are  Franciscan Hermosa Tile and even more specifically, the company’s Contours line.  That’s Jeff’s bathroom vanity above — he has the same tile in his bathroom as Cody. In this story, I also tease apart company brands: Gladding McBean… Franciscan… Hermosa… and Interpace — all conglomerated by the early 1960s, it seems.

franciscan hermosa contours tileJeff wrote:

Hi Pam. The dimensional tiles look like some Franciscan Hermosa/Gladding McBean tiles that we have used. See attached photos. I *think* that I have an unused spare. If it’s useful, I can find it and photograph the back.

franciscan hermosa contour tile mark

Above: And indeed, Jeff found the spare and sent us a photo of markings on the back. Thank you, Jeff!

midcentury sculptural tile contoursTo be clear, though, the markings are on the back of what Jeff calls a slightly different “Mercedes Benz” tile, as he calls it. Photo above. He said:

Here are the blue M-Bs.  All of the info is from the back of a single tile (and appears on each tile).  The dimensional tiles certainly are fun.

Third design of Franciscan Hermosa Contours dimensional tile:

midcentury modern sculptural tile contours line

And to further add to the identification story, Cody sent me the photo above with yet another design dimensional tile in his 1964 bathroom. He calls it his “birdwing” design. I found this exact tile for sale on ebay and its markings on the back indeed say Franciscan Hermosa Contours. (affiliate link)

Interpace, Gladding McBean, Hermosa Tile, and Franciscan Tile all associated entities or brand names 

Digging around an hour or two on the internet, best I can piece together is that “Contours” was the name of a line of dimensional aka sculptural tiles available from various related tile brands — Gladding McBean, Hermosa Tile, Franciscan Tile, and Interpace. This wiki-type (I think) history starting with Franciscan Ceramics seems to lay out the corporate associations. The story says that Contours was its own distinct brand or line of tile.  

Finally: Even though I/we still can’t find markings to 100% verify that the tiles in both Cody and Jeff’s bathrooms are from this same Contours line, I’ll bet my bonus they are, since they were found in the same home with other tiles from the same line.

So, thus declared: Mystery solved! And, now I have a better understanding of the how these tile brands were related.

Thanks, Cody and Jeff, for launching me down this (lovely tiled) rabbit hole!

More stories about famed 20th Century tile brands:

  1. lynda says:

    How nice to identify your mystery tiles with help from your readers. They are all beautiful tiles. I don’t remember the tiles from my past. However, the Franciscan dishes were very popular in the mid sixties when I got married. I had lots of friends that received the dishes for wedding presents. We bought our through a neighbor that worked for the company.

    1. Erin says:

      My mother received a set of Desert Rose dish ware (some new; some likely bought second hand by my grandmother given that the dishes bear several different markings) when she and father married in 1965 as a wedding gift from her parents. Growing up, those were our “nice” dishes that were used for holidays and celebrations along with my mom’s pink and green Depression glass.
      Fast forward to 2008, and not only did my mother pass along her Franciscan dishes to me when I married, but my cousin and aunt went on eBay and purchased more of the U.S.A.-made pieces to add to the set as their wedding gift–including the beautiful teapot that I’d coveted since first spying it in a Betty Crocker catalogue when I was a teenager.

      1. Mary Elizabeth says:

        Erin, how wonderful that the set was passed down to you and that your cousin and aunt supplemented the gift with eBay finds! One of my favorite things to do for my friends is to find the missing pieces to their flatware or dishes and give it to them as gifts. That teapot is a real beauty, and I have admired it myself.

  2. Allison says:

    Interesting!

    Gladding-McBean and Franciscan are probably better known for their dishware than their tiles.

    There were so many ceramic companies in California; not surprising that they bought each other out and merged lines over the years that that West Coast ceramics were really hot,

    Nowadays, hard-pressed to find something not made in China.

  3. mary says:

    I remember seeing bathroom tiles like this that were made of plastic. I always thought the pale pink tiles were so beautiful. Just pair it up with the plastic shower curtain-perfect

  4. jc says:

    That is really cool. Details like that could be found in fairly modest houses in the 40s, 50s, and 60s (houses that today would be regarded as “too small” for a family of three, even though at the time five people would live there and consider themselves prosperous), but today the houses that cost close on to a million dollars are trimmed with nothing you can’t find at the local big box store.

    I’m afraid that at least in housing, progress is no longer progressing.

    1. Pam Kueber says:

      “Dimensional Tile” is popular again today, including some somewhat similar to these. Such as these Saul Bass-for-Pomona Tile-inspired Heritage Tiles (my first guess at what was in Cody’s bathroom. Dimensional tiles made today usually come at a high price point, but I think I know of a few “relatively” more affordable options, although there is always the research required re: is the price difference worth it for quality reasons? I need to do a story!

  5. Wendellyn Plummer says:

    Such beautiful tile! I remember when my mom and dad built their home in 1959 the bathroom was the only room that had tile. That tile was a mother-of-pearl plastic with a black trim tile. I don’t now why they chose the plastic, but that tile was still rockin’ the walls until they sold the house in 1999, making it through four children, 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

    1. Mary Elizabeth says:

      There were two reasons our 1950s homeowners chose plastic tile. (My 1959 ranch still sports it!) First, they were way cheaper than ceramic tile. Second, if you weren’t a tile mason, they were a lot easier to install. You simply spread a mastic over the sheetrock and glued them on. No grout needed.

  6. Sarah Johnson says:

    Pam, my Dad was a carpenter and when the “old barn” fell down we found boxes of left over tiles from different projects he did in the 60’s and 70’s. My favorite are a dozen spring green (light avocado green) tiles with cream colored damask pattern from Crown tile company. I have looked all over the interweb and alas have found nothing about Crown tile. Have you ever in your research heard of Crown tile and if so, please send me the link to what you found. I’m saving the little gems for someday when I own my own house and can redo as I please.

    1. Pam Kueber says:

      Hi Sarah, I have not heard of this brand. Back in the day, there were lots more tile companies, I think — regionally and locally. Very cool find!

  7. Jonathan says:

    Hi-
    I’ve got a mid century house I am selling in Miami Beach. Aside from the kitchen, I have meticulously maintained the original bathrooms and terazzo floors. Designed by renowned Architect Carlos B. Schoeppl. Having trouble finding someone who appreciates these kind of baths. Any ideas?
    Thanks…
    Too see the baths, click on “Facts & Features” and then “Virtual Tour”
    https://www.zillow.com/homes/560-W-51st-St-Miami-Beach,-FL,-33140_rb/43889160_zpid/?view=public

Leave a Reply

Commenting: Information

All comments are moderated, generally within 24 hours. By using this website you are agreeing to the site's >> Terms of Service, << which include commenting policies, and our >> Privacy Notice. << Before participating, read them in full.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.