Mission Tile West

Embrace a Hidden Chapter of LA’s History with Batchelder Tile

Adding Batchelder tile to your home or business is a charming way to reference an important chapter of LA’s architectural history.

Embrace a Hidden Chapter of LA’s History with Batchelder TileWhen we think of Art Deco architecture in LA, exterior facades of buildings like the Bullocks Wilshire and the Pellissier Building typically come to mind first. But, these machine-age Art Deco constructions are actually the inheritors of an older tradition typified by interior spaces covered in the handmade tiles of Ernest Batchelder.

Up until recently, some of the finest examples of Batchelder tiles remained sealed up and forgotten behind protective plywood. For example, it wasn’t until about 8 years ago that renovations to the El Dorado Hotel revealed a stunning Batchelder tile lobby. Unfortunately, these tiles vanished during the lengthy renovation project and are believed most likely stolen.

Another amazing example of a Batchelder tile interior can be found in “The Chocolate Shop ” at 217 West 6th Street in downtown LA. The space, which was originally designed as a soda parlor in 1914, contains a wealth of custom handmade tile including 21 Batchelder murals on the walls and tiles covering every inch of the groined ceilings and columns. Though this is considered by many experts to be the best example of Batchelder tile in LA (even though the original tile finish has been painted over), it too was hidden behind plywood for many years. Today the future of the space remains uncertain as the owner struggles with building code requirements.

What Makes Batchelder Tile Special

Batchelder tile is beloved both for its handmade craftsmanship, its unique motifs, and for its engobe finish. Rather than using glazes to give the tile its color and finish, Batchelder used colored slips, which pooled in the recesses of the tile, adding color to the background and leaving the raised design elements the color of the natural clay. This engobe process allowed the tile to be finished with one firing and provided a very distinctive look.

Using Batchelder Tile in Contemporary Design

Today, Batchelder tile is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance in popularity. You will frequently see real estate listings advertising “Batchelder” fireplace tile, though in most cases “Batchelder-like” tile would be a more accurate description.

Batchelder tile isn’t just for historic properties or for those who want a vintage look in their home or business. It can also blend well with more contemporary designs. The earthy tones of the tile and the handmade look of the design help to humanize and moderate otherwise stark contemporary interiors and prevent them from looking too sterile.

If you like the general look of Batchelder tile but are not really interested in murals, one interesting option for incorporating Batchelder into your design is to use frieze or trim tiles to cap off or break up an expanse of plain tile.

To see our collection of Batchelder tile for yourself and get more design ideas, please visit our showroom soon.