Wednesday, June 1, 2016

From Cork to Terra Cotta


My Tuscan Villa finally has some standing walls, so the next important step was to create the flooring. My first idea was to use travertine marble tiles, but I quickly decided that was a bit too formal for this farmhouse-turned-villa. Then I thought about gray sandstone, from which both the fireplace and the stairs are made. But that seemed like a lot of gray in a villa that I thought should have a sunny disposition. So my final decision was to lay terra-cotta tiles - reclaimed ones, taken from some of the outbuildings on the original farm. They were made in the old style, with a slightly beveled edge, so that they can be laid close together without the necessity of grouting. The tiles originated in different regions of Tuscany, and vary greatly in age; hence a colorful floor that creates its own sort of sunshine in my little villa.




 After much deliberation and experimentation, I found coasters made from cork. I liked the light weight, the texture, and the convenient size. I wasn't sure how paint and paint washes would affect the cork, so I painted two of them and waited to see what would happen.



Nothing happened. None of the adverse changes that I had foreseen - like curling or crumbling - actually took place, so I felt confident in moving on with the tile making. I painted the cork coasters with a variety of colors, including brown, pink, yellow ochre, coral, and a rosy brick color. 



Because the cork coasters measure 4" x 4", I had hoped to be able to cut 16 one-inch tiles from each coaster. I had overlooked the slightly rounded corners, which had to be trimmed away, so I could actually cut only 9 one-inch tiles from each coaster. That resulted in many leftover pieces to be trimmed away, but I felt sure they could be put to good use somewhere.



 The pile of one-inch tiles grows. I estimated that I needed around 650 tiles for the living room and the dining room. I found that painting, measuring, and cutting twelve coasters at a sitting didn't overtax my work space or my patience. But I was surprised at how fast those batches of 108 tiles were used up! I had to repeat the process several times. 



 I painted the floors to be tiled a terra-cotta color to blend with the tile color where there are gaps in the tiles. Then I began laying the tiles on a diagonal, starting at the center point of the living room floor. I secured the tiles by brushing Elmer's glue on each one as I laid it in place.



The job moves along, row by row...



 ...by row.



 Some trimming was necessary on some of the tiles to get a good fit, but they went together very easily, for the most part.



 Almost finished! The edge pieces, of course, needed to be fitted and trimmed individually, which took much more time. 



 Done!



 Except for applying a little Spice Brown paint and a bit of Taupe eyeshadow to recreate the aging process...



... and brushing on a light layer of satin varnish to simulate (hopefully) the linseed oil-beeswax mixture that would traditionally have been applied to the floor. Now the living room floor is officially finished - so...



...it's on to the dining room to repeat the whole thing! I used the same technique here, laying the tiles on a diagonal from a center starting point.



I added row after row, sometimes working on one side of center, sometimes the other side, just to avoid monotony. This was actually a very restful project; I was very much "in the moment" during all the tile laying.



Edging closer to the finish line!


 

And closer still.



And done! I used the same aging process and finish as on the living room floor.



I knew I'd find a way to use those scraps that I cut from the original coasters. But I didn't think the chance would come so soon! I decided to try a different tile pattern for the entrance area, since the scale of that room is much smaller than the other rooms - and there were all those pre-painted pieces just waiting for me. I needed only to cut the scraps to the size I wanted.




I worked out a trial pattern, although I changed it a little as I went along. (The tiles are not supposed to look so drunken - it was hard to keep the loose tiles in a straight line!) I used 3/4" tile squares for this area, and 1 1/2" x 3/8 " tile strips.



I divided the entrance floor into two sections - the front section from door to door, and the back section under the stairs. The two sections are separated by a double row of tile strips, which also edge the boundaries of the entire floor.



The front section is nearing completion.



Finished!



And I'm making progress on the back section.



Add on a few years of wear and tear and a bit of "linseed oil-beeswax."


 

At last! The villa has floors! This was the most relaxing, stress-free part of the villa construction so far. Although I spent many (and many more) hours on the flooring, those hours passed with no trials, tribulations, trauma or drama! I simply decided what I wanted to do, then I did it, and then it was done!



 The living room on the left, and the dining room on the right, were part of the original barn. The center area, now the villa entrance, gave access to the stone stairs, minus the protective railing, which led to the second-level living space for the farm family. The original barn floors were a combination of dirt, stone, and tile, depending on the designated purpose at any given time.





Most of the month of May brought rain, thunderstorms, tornadoes, hail (and hail damage) to Nebraska. We've had a few rare sunny days, and my six year old great-grandson, Junior, decided to take advantage of some dry weather to ride a pig. (Wilbur is a hard-headed pig, so he suffered no damage during the storms.) I have high hopes for a warmer and drier June with abundant sunshine, and I wish the same for you. Happy June!






18 comments:

  1. Fantastic work on your floor Marjorie. That was a LOT of work but well worth the results. I especially like that you mixed things up in the hallway. The beautiful stairs is highlighted beautifully now.
    Junior on that pig is so sweet!!
    Carol

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    1. Hi Carol - I'm glad you like the hallway transition; it just seemed too small an area to use more of the larger tiles. It was a little more interesting to do than the larger floors! Thanks for stopping by.
      Marjorie

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  2. Hi Marjorie! I Love Love LOVE your floor tiles! And to make them from cork "coasters" is just Genius! I can completely relate to your need to make more and more and gee, even MORE tiles! I made the tiles for my Castle Great Hall floor all made from sculpey, individually cut and hand painted in a variety of at least thirteen different medieval patterns. It took me a couple of years from when I started before I had enough to glue and grout them on the floor! (More than twelve hundred tiles in all!) But I wasn't working away at it steadily.... gee, maybe I should try that strategy! LOL! I used my leftover tiles for the Conservatory floor... but had to make a whole lot more to have enough for that project too! Your floors have just the right amount of antiquity and just the right amount of "richness" to suit this building! I LOVE it that you used the cut-offs to make a separate pattern for the hallway area! It just looks Gorgeous!!! Keep up the fantastic work! I can't wait to see more!

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    1. Hello Betsy, and thanks for your lovely comments; I always value your opinion, since I'm such an admirer of your creativity. I also considered using Sculpey for the villa tiles, but, just as I did for the French Farmhouse, I'm making the villa's roof tiles from Sculpey and could not face making floor tiles as well! I obviously missed seeing your Castle Great Hall floor with the hand painted tiles, so now I'll have the pleasure of going back to some older posts and viewing them. It is amazing how much time is required to make such small things; but what better way to spend those hours (and weeks and years?)
      Marjorie

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  3. Preciosos suelos Marjorie,con una imitaciĆ³n perfecta de la terracota,tanto en tono como en textura!!!
    Besos.

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    1. Hello Pilar - Thanks for the nice comments about the terra cotta tiles in my villa. I'm glad you like the way I made them - it was, as with most everything I build, a sort of experiment! But they turned out as I hoped, so I'm happy with the floors, in spite of all the time spent on them.
      Marjorie

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  4. Hello Marjorie,
    STUNNING! The floor is stunning! The cork was a great idea! The texture when painted is really beautiful and it is one of the best interpretations of miniature terra cotta tiles I have seen. It adds the perfect touch of warmth to the rooms and looks very authentic. I know how long it is to cut and install tiles like that, but it was well worth every minute. I don't think you could have chosen a better floor for this house! Bravo!
    Big hug
    Giac
    N.B. Your grandson is adorable!

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    1. Hello, Giac,
      Thank you so much for your comments; I value your opinion and thoughts on my projects. Laying the tile did take a long time, but on the other hand, it was easy work, especially compared to some of the things I've worked on! Having finished the floors without frustration, I'm excited and motivated to move on to the next thing. (With tightly crossed fingers for good luck!)
      Marjorie

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  5. Hello Marjorie,
    As a new follower of your blog I've been so impressed by the miniature house you have created with styrofoam. This blog entry is amazing to read and it's hard to believe the beautiful floor you have created with cork coasters...love the effect of the diagonal pattern in the two main rooms with a different design connecting the two. It's been so well thought out and the effect is visually impressive...wow! Cheers, Alayne (in Winnipeg)

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    1. Hello, Alayne (What a beautiful name!)
      Welcome to my blog - I really appreciate your interest, and I'm always excited to have a new follower! Thanks so much for taking the time to post your encouraging comments on the villa floors.
      Marjorie

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  6. Wow Marjorie your floor is gorgeous. Cork coasters what a fantastic idea and they look super. I am looking forward to seeing more of this wonderful build. Your grandson is adorable.
    Hugs Maria

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    1. Hi, Maria - Thanks for stopping by. The villa floors were fun to do - definitely not fast, but fun! Now I'm excited about moving on to the next project. I hope you're doing well and that you've found some relief from your arthritis. Take care!
      Marjorie

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  7. That is one gorgeous floor! Worth all your hard work! :D

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    1. Hi, Brae -
      Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment about my villa floors; I always appreciate such encouragement! Please stop by anytime!
      Marjorie

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  8. Your terra cotta tiles look MARVELOUS Marjorie! I think that in every mini project, NOT HAVING A TRIAL is what keeps us hopeful, don't you? Especially when you can reap such Terrific rewards as these 3 new floors! :D

    elizabeth

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    1. Hello, Elizabeth - It was indeed a rare treat to start and finish a project without the usual jaw clenching and teeth gnashing. Not to mention trying hard not to say ugly words under my breath! Of course those things are usually to be expected (at least by me) and do not in any way detract from my total pleasure and satisfaction of working with miniatures. So now I'm hopeful about the next thing - hopeful that the sweat and tears will be kept to a minimum again! Thanks for your understanding comments!
      Marjorie

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  9. Hi Marjorie,
    I thought I would drop back to your blog to thank you for your encouraging words on mine. I am so glad not to be alone in the 'what comes in what order' camp. A friend asked me to explain so I gave the example of installing a wall light. You need to hide the wires under the wallpaper, so you need to put the light in first, but if you do this, then how do you neatly wallpaper around a light?! Lateral thinking and several cups of tea later, I realised that I could wire through the wall and run the wires down behind the wallpaper in that room - SO LONG AS THAT ROOM DID NOT HAVE A WALL LIGHT!!!
    Of course all this is extremely good for your minds and keeping us mentally fit. What I suspect will happen is that suddenly everything will come together and I will go from having a pile of bits of wood on my workbench to having a fairly advanced build!
    I know you have only scratch-built like me in the past. Don't know about you, but I much prefer scratch-building because you are much more in control. Hope your own build is progressing well. You have not posted for a while - hopefully because things are going well.
    Have a great weekend, Carol

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  10. For home furnishing, floor should be of a best choice. Terra cota is the best choice for home furnishing in inner side, i really like it. Find the direct distributor of cork floor tiles online at excellent price.

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