Saltillo tile in Pennsylvania – a saga

Saltillo tile. What to do on the walls? Almost anything.
Saltillo tile floor. What to do on the walls? Almost anything…check out the color in author Sandra Cisneros’ house in San Antonio,Texas. I lived in New Mexico for 20 years and came to love the bright colors of the southwest. (Wish I’d been the colorist on this place!)

Client L has a rambling ranch house of Pennsylvania gray stone. I fully expected to cross the threshold and find glossy golden-oak hardwood floors, like usual ‘round these parts.

But no, my Danskos landed on a huge expanse of honest-to-goodness Saltillo tile in a deep red-orange-brown color. It was a whole houseful of Mexican Saltillo tile floors, uninterrupted by wood of any kind! Who knew?

After my  years of living in northern New Mexico, I have a great affection for the look and feel of the Mexican Saltillo tile and the crazy vibrant color sensibilities of Mexico in general. In my own tiny kitchen I have hung strings of papel picado and paper accordians all over the place. I have highly-collectible sardine can shrines to the Virgen de Guadalupe hanging from tiny gold nails on the wall. A 7-day saint candle, that I find at Wegmans in southeastern Pennsylvania, is always lit. The drawers and shelves are lined in orange Mexican oilcloth. Saltillo tile would be perfect in my kitchen.

Most of L’s house is painted in creams and pale earthy gold-ochres, that work with the Saltillo and the red oriental rugs in the living and family spaces.

In the kitchen, L wants to shift the vibe a bit. The cabinets were in a middle-tone blue grey, a tough choice for this house. That mid-tone blue-grey was intensely arguing with the floor; the colors were not getting along; those colors were doing each other no favors.

L felt the disharmony right away and that’s how I came to be at her place. A brief chat revealed that L has always loved a white kitchen, and that the grey idea had been a “maybe I should” and a “I am trying to like grey because everyone says how great it is” thing.

Avoid shoulding on yourself when choosing colors for your dwelling place. Choose what makes you happy. Your life will thank you.

I got the feeling, too, that Saltillo tile is not the flooring L would have chosen had she be in charge of building that house. As we all know by now, through long, arduous life trials, it’s always best to work with what you’ve got if it’s something that is not going to change, whether it’s your floor or your family.

I suggested to L that we don’t fight it. Let’s surrender to the Saltillo.

For L’s kitchen cabinets, I have recommended Chantilly Lace OC-65, the brightest, most pure white anywhere. This white will pop the pale gray/white marble countertops and will connect with the smaller diamonds of patterned Mexican tiles glazed with bright white backgrounds. Sometimes Chantilly Lace can be too stark a white, but the deep red-brown earthiness of the floor reflection will soften the Chantilly. 

For the walls, I’m suggesting either Balboa Mist OC-27 which is a pale warm grey-beige, or possibly Picket Fence CSP-370 a pale grey taupiness. These colors will work well with the floors, the white cabinets and creamy golds in the connecting rooms. And they will give L a bit of the 2016 look she is seeking.

There are many choices of colors that work beautifully with Saltillo tile. Bold colors are amazing with it. Teal. Aqua. A gorgeous periwinkle. Bright yellow. Orange. Coral. DEEP ROYAL BLUE. Be still my heart. Think Mexico, because Mexico slathers on and revels in astonishing color. Mexico is a fearless and joyful color warrior.

For a northeast USA sensibility, consider a subdued green, a deep mossy green, a pale coral, a pale clay adobe shade. A pale yellow ochre. Or a beautiful, clean White. Simply White is on the warm side, Chantilly Lace is on the cool side. Decorators White, Super White, and China White are very pale grey/whites, not my faves for Saltillo, but they can work.  

Want to know more about Saltillo tile?

Want to know a bit about the history of tile?

Here’s Rustico Tile and Stone, a Texas company that sells Saltillo tile.

And here is tile heaven.

Onward, into the Spring,


3 thoughts on “Saltillo tile in Pennsylvania – a saga

  1. I love your blog, creative, colorful, informative, and full of your lovely wit! I should take the train to Philadelphia sometime soon and meet you and Mrs. Iptweet for tea at the Museum. Love, KC


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