The Cement Tile Reclaims its Nobility

In the bathrooms of the Costes Hotel, in the Royal Monceau restaurant, or in prestigious Provençal farmhouses, these little tiles, which had once fallen out of favor, have become fashionable once again.
By Elodie Liénard

At the beginning of the 20th century, their colorful and sophisticated motifs ornamented the entryways of the most beautiful bourgeois residences. Then, this “star” of interior decoration, made in the area around Marseille and Avignon , ceded its place to more noble materials. The last French manufacturer of cement tiles closed its doors in 1950 in Vaucluse, and what little remained of their production was moved to Morocco, under the French protectorate. The floors with colored motifs were progressively becoming pretty vestiges of the past… But that was before Christian Berthéas’ passion for the tiles inspired him to found the company Carocim, based in Aix-en-Provence. It was during a trip to Morocco that this architect—one of the first French designers of the solar house—rediscovered the beauty of cement tiles. “I believed in the renewal of this material and I started my business in 1986. Today, we work exclusively with two Moroccan manufacturers, using artisanal techniques.” One layer of powdered marble and siliceous sand coated with white cement is poured into a mold. Then, a divider, which looks somewhat like a brass stencil, is put in place, and the colored pigments for the motifs are injected. Then each tile is filled in with mortar, compressed with a hydraulic press, taken out of the mold, bathed and dried. At least 20 different processes are needed to make a cement tile. With the help of his painter-decorator wife, Martine Murat, Christian Berthéas now sells nearly 600 styles. “We continually reproduce traditional motifs. Martine also creates many modern, more stylized motifs (salamanders, birds, turtles, etc.). And we’re specialists in patchwork,” Christian points out. This is the favorite of Philippe Starck. The designer regularly solicits Carocim to embellish the floors of his different projects around the world with patchworks of cement tiles. Cement tiles have made a real comeback!

Discover
Showroom Carocim
1515, route du Puy-Sainte-Réparade
Aix-en-Provence
T 04 42 92 20 39
www.carocim.com
Provençal tiles
Provençal tiles
by Carocim
Photography Carocim

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