5 Tips to Finding the Perfect Vintage Tile

Shannon Lee

Ceramic tile, particularly those made between the 1870s and the 1930s, were vibrant pieces of everyday beauty that graced common living spaces and public buildings. These intricate works of art are still available today if you know where to look!

Choosing Vintage Tile

Finding the best vintage tile can take some time, but homeowners who have used vintage ceramic tile for colorful accents swear the find is worth the effort. Here are a few things to remember as you start looking for the perfect vintage tile:

1. Research the companies. In the late 1800s, companies like the Trent Tile Company in New Jersey were creating ceramic tiles that now sell for hundreds of dollars. After the turn of the century, places like Moravian Pottery and Tile Works were creating tiles in hard-carved molds and the Batchelder Tile Company was creating unique hand-pressed tiles that cultivated quite a following.

2. Know where to look. You can find vintage tiles at salvage yards, auction houses, antique shops, and through private sellers. Tiles sold at auction are usually "as is" and might need a thorough cleaning or sanding. If you're on a tight budget, consider auction houses like eBay, where you can purchase vintage tiles for rock-bottom prices.

3. Understand the pricing. The cost of vintage tile varies depending on size, condition, style, and how rare the pieces are. A very rare Grueby frieze called "The Pines" has sold for over $50,000, while you can find a small set of 6-inch Trent tiles for about $500 at a salvage shop.

4. Consider the alternatives. If you prefer the vintage look but your budget doesn't allow for it, consider purchasing new tiles with historic patterns. Some companies, such as Mercer's Moravian and Pewabic Pottery, have been in business for over a century and still produce their old-fashioned tiles at budget-friendly prices.

5. Decide on your project. Vintage tile can be very expensive, so many homeowners opt to use vintage ceramic tiles as accents, surrounded by more budget-friendly contemporary tiles. Using vintage tile in a kitchen backsplash or on a stair riser can give you the classic look of vintage tile without cracking your budget.

The perfect vintage tile is vibrant, unique, and may have tiny imperfections that give it even more character. Take your time to find the best ceramic tile you can afford, and relish the traditional, vivid beauty they bring to your everyday space.


Amy R. Hughes • Joy of Vintage Tile, This Old House Magazine •

About the Author

Shannon Dauphin is a freelance writer based near Nashville, Tennessee. Her house was built in 1901, so home repair and renovation have become her hobbies.

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